Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Matter Of Life And Death - Book Review

I was sent a copy of Paul Carroll's debut novel, A Matter Of Life And Death, earlier in December, and I thought I'd give you a little book review.

It's weird writing that phrase. I feel like I'm back in secondary school (I'm OLD, they weren't called High School when I went. And mine's a flaming "academy" now), and I'll have to write 200 words on the main character's motivation & feelings, and what the author was trying to tell us.  And basically retell the entire story to prove that I've read it, or Mrs Jones will have a go at me.  But in real life, book reviews aren't like that. If I did that, I would have comments of SPOILER!!SPOILER!! there would be no point in you reading the book, and no-one would like me any more.  So this is a real world book review, not a GCSE.

Paul Carroll's A Matter Of Life And Death is, well, all about death.  It's a dark comedy, taking on the public mourning that seems to be growing ever more commonplace since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and just takes it to the seemingly inevitable extreme.  Sideswipes at the government, reality tv, twitter, and celeb-crusaders keep it light, despite the subject matter.

For a debut novel, I was actually really impressed.  The style of writing, and the approach to the subject matter was very reminiscent of Ben Elton, and the way of bringing a seemingly unconnected selection of characters to a joined up finish was really well written.  I love that way of writing, and spent a lot of my reading time trying to second guess how the characters were connected, and the significance of certain events.

I might be devoted to my kindle, but there's something about an actual printed book that feels so much better.  And with a real book, I can share it with Squeaky Daddy so much easier.

If you're intrigued, and want to a copy of your own, A Matter Of Life And Death is available on Amazon, or if you're all spent out after the sales, you could win yourself a copy on this very blog. Go win a book! But be quick, the draw closes on 31/12/12!

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the book free of charge for the purposes of this review, and further copies for the linked giveaway. I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own. Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Calling All Fellow Lovers of Fashion - Daxon

Daxon is a pretty new name to me, but they're part of the world's 3rd largest home shopping network, and a sister company to the ever stylish La Redoute & Vertbaudet brands, which gives me a feeling that they're going to be worth trusting, and very tempting to buy from.  And Daxon are on the look-out for fashion-loving bloggers to be a part of their blogger network!  How could I possibly resist?

If you've met me, you'll know, my sense of style can be summed up with the word "convenience".  I buy a lot of my clothes in the supermarket, because it's so easy to throw a top into the trolley alongside your pizza and washing powder.  But if anything, home shopping has to be even more convenient.  There's more choice, and they'll bring the clothes to your door! No need to leave the house in this never-ending rain.

I'm already eyeing up this striped top for work...  only £27 in the sale.

The clothes have that hint of French style that is so familiar to La Redoute & Vertbaudet shoppers, little touches of style that you don't always see on the UK high street.  It's always nice to feel that you're less likely to bump into someone wearing the exact same outfit as you, if you've bought from somewhere outside of the same few shops in town that everyone visits.  (I spend the next few hours muttering to myself "I look much better in that than she does", whether it's justified or not!)

I'm also quite taken with these Mary Janes.  I haven't worn heels in a very, very long time, and cute flat shoes can be hard to come by. At £39, they're very reasonably priced, in my opinion.

Daxon don't just stock women's wear, they also have a great range of menswear and homewear.  So you can restyle the man in your life (if you dare!), and pick up some beautiful new bed linen at the same time.  They also have an extensive and stylish Plus Size section, with clothes actually designed for a fuller figure, rather than standard designs made larger.

If you'd like the chance to join me as a Daxon blogger, and earn yourself a £50 voucher for your time, then pay the Daxon blog a visit for all the info you need to know.

Whether you want to be a Daxon blogger, or just want to go shopping, why not pop over to their website and have a look around. They've got up to 70% off in their sale, so you might grab a bargain if you're quick!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. It's still interesting though, and the items I have chosen, I genuinely like.  I have not been told what to write and all opinions are my own.

Friday, 21 December 2012

A Fair & Merry Christmas

Just a quick message this one, while the shops are still open before Christmas.  I know this is the season of giving & goodwill to all, but do me a little favour?  Think about where your Christmas comes from, and if you can make one little change, do one little thing to make someone else's Christmas & New Year a bit brighter, do it.  FairTrade is a very easy way to make a difference in people's lives, by choosing fruits, coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, or even clothing that carry the FairTrade logo, you know that a fair price has been paid for produce.  How good will your Chrismas cuppa taste knowing that?

Here's a little message from some of Fair Trade's farmers, just for you...

I've been a FairTrade supported for a very long time, and have bent people's ears about certain products for as long as I can remember, because they really are very very good.  FairTrade products are available in all the major supermarkets, and don't add any great cost to your weekly shopping bill, and you get an extra warm & fuzzy feeling that you've done something for someone else.  Go on.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, but one for something I believe in.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

CLOSED A Matter of Life And Death - Book Giveaway



If, by Christmas Day, you’ve had enough ‘festive cheer’ for one year, then fill your stockings with presents with a darker edge.

If woolly jumpers, over-indulgent hampers and a box of old-lady soaps are not your thing, then how does ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ sound?

This must-have debut novel by Paul Carroll is a satirical reflection of contemporary Britain. A witty, black comedy with a thought-provoking core.

Paul draws upon the age-old saying: “Everybody should be famous for fifteen minutes. After they die” and questions if society has gone too far.

Both entertaining and shocking, this book is a perfect present for those looking to add a bit of depth to this year’s Christmas stocking.

For a chance to win a signed copy of A Matter Of Life and Death, simply tell us the name of the debut author in a comment below, along with a way to contact you (email or twitter):
  1. Paul Carroll
  2. Caroll Paul
  3. Lewis Carroll
For a bonus entry tweet: "Stuff the tinsel & glad tidings, I wanna #win a copy of A Matter of Life & Death with @meedja & Squeakybaby" and leave me a second comment to let me know. Max 2 entries per person.

For more information visit

Closes 31/12/12, at midnight - as the fireworks go off!  3 copies to be won.  Standard terms & conditions apply, see the above tab.

Disclosure: I have been provided with a copy of this book free of charge, review to follow!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Jordan's Super Berry Country Crisp Review

Good morning!  How are you today?  Is the coffee piping hot?  OK. Now what are you having for breakfast?  If you're anything like me, you know you should have a healthy start to the day, but if you're lucky, it's a jammy dodger grabbed as you run out of the door on the nursery/school run before another day at work.  Well stop right there!  Make a bit of time.  Because I've got a bowl of loveliness to share with you!  Jordan's Super Berry Country Crisp, in fact.

Are you hungry already?  Country Crisp is made up of baked oat clusters with freeze dried blackcurrants, cranberries & blueberries.  All those lovely anti-oxidants waiting to jump into your bowl, and fill you with goodness!  I love the cluster type cereals, they stay crisp in milk far longer than flakes, and you don't get so much dust at the bottom of the box, so I was very happy to give these a try.

I tucked in to a bowl, just look at those berries!  It's not often that the reality looks as good as the picture on the box. (These bowls are HUGE by the way, that picture is very deceptive!)  The fruits have got so much flavour in them, even with the milk added.  They soften up a bit, so there's a good contrast between the fruits and the crispy clusters.

There was one little issue for me.  One that could be quite a big issue for other people.  We're a nut-free household by choice, not by necessity.  That means I don't have to scour labels for nut warnings, but I do avoid products that state they contain nuts on the front of the box.  I was surprised to find chopped roasted hazelnuts listed in the ingredients, when cereals usually make good mention of the presence of nuts on the front.  You can't really taste them, which suggests to me that they don't add anything, and I slightly wonder why they're there.  To be honest I'd rather they weren't, and I'm glad we're only nut-free by choice.

There was something VERY cool about the Super Berry Country Crisp though, that really made my morning.  Do you remember when you were a kid, how exciting Coco Pops were? Not just because you were allowed to have chocolate at breakfast time, but because they turned the milk chocolatey? That was even in the advert!  Well, I can go one better!  Super Berry Country Crisp doesn't give you brown milk, it gives you LILAC MILK! Honest! That's not a spoonful of yogurt there, that's semi skimmed at the end of a bowlful.  How cool is that? Seriously, lilac milk, if that doesn't start your day with a smile, I don't know what will.

Jordan's Super Berry Country Crisp is available from Waitrose & Tesco (and probably others) for around £2.69 for a 500g box.

Disclosure: I was sent a box of Country Crisp free of charge for the purpose of this review. I was not told what to write & 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, 11 December 2012

La Roche-Posay Skincare Review

I had this hope that for a time in my life I would have neither spots nor grey hairs.  Sadly the grey hairs started appearing when I was 16, and 20 years later, the spots still haven't gone away.  They might be slightly less frequent, but there they are.  So when the lovely folk at Escentual were looking for people to review the La Roche-Posay skincare range for sensitive & blemish-prone skin, I knew I was the woman.

I was amazed to receive a whole bundle of different products to try out, just have a look at this little lot!  We've got Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel, Astringent micro-exfoliant lotion (or toner to you & I), a whole selection of different moisturisers, Physiological micro-scrub, and a thermal spring water spray.  Wow! Where to start?

Actually, that's a difficult question. Because these are trial size products, they don't have all the instructions, so there was a little bit of guesswork involved. However, I'm plenty old enough to know how to wash my face properly, like the beauty experts say I should, so I hit the bottle(s)!

La Roche-Posay is a brand I hadn't heard of before, they're a  French company, and all their products are formulated with water from the thermal springs at La Roche-Posay. They're recognised as a leading brand for sensitive skin & dermatological experts.

I've tried out pretty much everything you see above.  I'm no expert on moisturisers, but the Effaclar Duo was my favourite, light enough to wear under make up, but left my skin feeling soft & smooth.  The cleansing gel was light & effective, and easily rinsed away, the astringent toner did what it said, which came as a bit of a surprise as it's been years since I used toner.  I love the spring water spray, this is going straight in my handbag, I love these for travelling, and it's small enough to be allowed as hand luggage on a plane.

After my first use, a little cluster of new spots cropped up very quickly. I'm not surprised, it happens quite a lot when I change brands, just working out some that would have appeared over the coming days/weeks anyway, bringing out the imperfections.  They cleared up pretty quickly and weren't followed by any further outbreaks in a week or so of use, so I'm happy.  My skin is noticably smoother, and despite a momentary tightness on using the toner, it settles nicely & feels really comfortable.  People with sensitive skin will understand, that's not an everyday occurrence.

With prices ranging between £5 -£25, the La Roche-Posay brand are comparable to other products at the better end of the high street, and they certainly seem to work for me.  The only one I wouldn't buy again is the Physiological micro-scrub, as reading the ingredients it contains polyethelyne, see my previous post about plastics in beauty products for more information.  I found this a bit strange as La Roche-Posay state a commitment to the environment on their website.  I'd love to see a more environmentally friendly version added to their range.

You can buy La Roche-Posay products online at, or in person from their store in Wellfield Road, Cardiff (one of my very favourite shopping streets!)  You can also follow Escentual on twitter and facebook.  They have lots of competitions so they're well worth following!

Disclosure: I was sent a range of trial products free of charge for the purposes 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 and will not receive reward for their use.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

If it sounds too good to be true... just might be.  I decided to treat myself recently. It's been a long year, and I've had some serious gadget envy going on, so when I saw a tablet pc with a shedload of accessories on the KGB daily deals website, for the princely sum of £74.99, I was pretty quick with my clicking finger.  I've bought from KGB, and other group-buying discounters before, and aside from a bit of hard sell from a photographer, I've never had any problems.  In fact, a couple of my colleagues had purchased a similar deal from a different supplier a couple of weeks earlier, and were really pleased with their buys, so I thought I was in safe hands.

The alleged deal.
That looks great, doesn't it?  £74.99 for all that. Notice the "perfect pressie" label too?  Sure you know someone who'd love to find this in their Christmas stocking.  Well, back in the first week of November, I agreed.  They called it a "premium piece of technological genius".

I sat & waited.  And waited.  And waited a bit more.  In fact, I never actually received a confirmation email from the supplier, Bo-Vida, and I had to chase it up through their contact page.  Allow 28 days for delivery it said.  And after 24 days, I got an email.  Not from Bo-Vida.  From another customer, who had received an email with around 200 customers' email addresses on, including mine, giving excuses for delays.  Now I'd not actually received that email, spam filters, maybe, but over the next few days, I received over 30 emails from complete strangers on the subject of Bo-Vida, their orders failing to be delivered, and problems with the tablets when they arrived.  I was starting to get twitchy.

But never mind the twitchy.  Think about what I just said.  An email was sent out to customers with around 200 customers' personal contact details on it.  Not hidden, not encrypted, just sent as a mass mailing.  That's a breach of the Data Protection Act.  Seriously. They've just broken the law right there, and fines for Data Protection breaches can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.  (It's fairly easy to avoid this if you have ANY tech savvy, you put your own email address in the "to" box, and everyone you're sending the mass mailing to in the "bcc" box, that way no-one sees anyone else's address)

Right. Back to the story.  Data Protection breaches aside, we've now reached 26 days since my order was placed. I try to log onto the website, only to find that my password wasn't accepted. I tried to reset, and no email ever reached my inbox, or spam filter to allow me to do so, so I can't check on the delivery status.  Fortunately though, I still have that email confirming my order, direct from the customer service team, as I didn't get the order confirmation.  Remember that?  Well, I replied to that, asking what's going on, and highlighting their data protection breach, and asking what they're going to do about that.

The reality
I got a reply pretty quickly, saying my order was ready for dispatch next day, allow 2-3 days for delivery. No mention of my other point.  Ho hum.  2 days comes and goes, as does 3 and 4.  Five days later, yesterday, my parcel arrives.  Hooray!  I opened it up, and found...  No SD card, one stylus, rather than 2, and no headphones.  All advertised as part of the peripheral bundle.  Ah well, I can pick an SD card up for not much cash, I've got a couple of spare styluses (stylii?) knocking around with the DS, and my hearing's crap anyway, I probably wouldn't use the headphones.  Let's fire this baby up.

Plugged it in (that cable's very short, you know!), pressed the power button.  All looks good so far.  Loading screen, lock screen, yeah.  Unlock the screen, and I'm greeted with CLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICK. Non stop.  It slows down to something like the Countdown clock when the power cable's not plugged in, but sounds like Desert Orchid on the home straight when it's plugged in.  Not sounding good, really.  I turned it to mute, but that makes no odds, it's not a sound like an email "beep", it's a physical noise, something's clicking away, and it's something to do with the power.

Oh yeah, and the power.  It came half-charged, fairly normal for techy-things.  Enough to fire up & have a little play, but wants a proper charge before you use it.  So I left it last night for an overnight charge, in the hope this damn CLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICK might shut up when it's charged properly.  No such luck though.  How much battery life do you think it has, considering it's a brand new piece of kit, and has just had a full overnight charge?  It's a mobile device, meant to be used on the move, not tethered to a wall, remember.  20 minutes.  Let me say that again, in bold. 20 minutes! That's not even going to get me to Cardiff on the train, never mind occupy me on jaunts to That London. It's barely long enough for a trip to the loo!

I've had a look on Bo-Vida's website, they'll only refund the p&p, because I bought through KGB.  They've got a lovely returns form, which I've printed & filled in, and it says to send to "the freepost address".  Except there isn't one, anywhere, on their website.  Or even a non-freepost address.  You know, one I'd need a stamp for.  Even if I find it, that's only the £7.99 delivery charge.  There's still the small matter of the £74.99 I paid to KGB.  Who have an entirely separate returns policy, and tell you everything but how to actually claim a refund.  I swear, I am going out of my tiny mind.

All I want is my money back, I don't even want the flaming tablet any more, it was just a way to get my phone back from Squeaky & her obsession for the Peppa Pig games on it.  Actually, KGB's registered office isn't far from here, if I can't find Bo-Vida's address by Tuesday, I'll just go down there in terrifying person & scream until they pay me to go away.  Anyone want to join me?

Note: Should I receive responses from either company involved, I will happily update this post, allowing them to have their say.  The details given above are true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, I would not publish them otherwise.

UPDATE 11/12/12
I have now had responses from both companies, but only after I drew their attention to this post. I have received a return address, and an assurance that my refund will be processed on return of the tablet, which went off recorded delivery today.  Bo-Vida have also reported the DPA breach themselves to the Information Commissioner's Office & put safeguards in place to ensure there is no repeat of the breach.  I wish everyone else caught up in this mess good luck, and await my refunds.

UPDATE 30/12/12
I've realised that some people are still struggling to get a returns address from Bo-Vida.  As I managed to obtain an address, albeit not the freepost one they mentioned on the returns form, I thought I'd share it.  The address to return your faulty tablets (or any other faulty Bo-Vida items) to is:
Bo Vida
The Forge
11 Wycombe Lane
Wooburn Green
High Wycombe
HP10 0HD

Update 14/1/13
I was told that my tablet was being Quality Checked in December, all checks should be complete by 13/12/12. Heard nothing, so I contacted Bo-Vida AGAIN last week, and was told that my tablet was being Quality Checked, and should be completed by 16/1/13. Hmmmm. And then?  Who knows?

And for people hunting for the returns forms, Bo-Vida hide this very well on their website, but it's at

Update 25/1/13 (hopefully the last)
My tablet has now completed testing, and my postage & packing has been refunded by Bo-Vida.  I've also had an email from KGB saying the refund from them should be received within 4-5 working days. So hopefully by the end of next week, I should be back where I started, slightly older, slightly wiser.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Perfect Christmas Breakfast Competition

A sprinkling of magic over your corn flakes?  Smoked salmon on toast?  Or are you just going to overdose on chocolates?

Christmas dinner is the main event, there's no doubt about that.  But what keeps you going until the turkey is carved?  How do you get the energy to tear through all the wrapping paper, and phonecalls to Auntie Maureen to thank her for that talc & hanky set?

That's what the Russell Hobbs blog team want to ask.  What makes your perfect Christmas breakfast?  Or who?  (I'd love to see what Heston would make for Christmas breakfast, I'm just not so sure I could eat it!)

You could win a toaster and kettle in this very cool competition.  All you need to do is tell the Russell Hobbs team what makes your perfect Christmas breakfast, who you share your Christmas breakfast with, or some of your favourite Christmas breakfast memories.

Send them off by email to by 9am on Monday 17th December 2012, and you could be in it to win it, as Dale Winton would have it.  Entries will be judged & a winner announced on the 18th December.  You could be toasting up a storm in time for Christmas day!

For full details and terms & conditions, please see the Russell Hobbs website.

Or, in fact, please don't!  My toaster and kettle are both showing their age, and I could really do with winning this one myself.  Think of me this Christmas, and let me win!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

My Car Step - An Interview!

A couple of weeks ago, I braved the Cardiff Baby & Toddler Show, with a free ticket.  I tried desperately to convince myself that the free ticket was because I am some kind of Super-Blogger-Hero that they just couldn't possibly hold an event without my glorious presence, but the reality was, I went last year & my name was on a list, with everyone else's names.  I'm not as special as I think I am!  Before I went along, I had a browse at the list of exhibitors, to see whether I'd see any familiar faces, and who else would be there. Among the list was an entry for My Car Step, and I was intrigued.  I decided to myself that this was the one stall I really wanted to see.  Some ideas are so simple, yet so clever, you have to find out more & see it for yourself.

And I did!  I met Sally, the inventor of My Car Step, and I was really impressed by her, and by My Car Step itself.  So much so, that I'd like to introduce her to you.  Sally kindly agreed to answer my questions, and despite me not really rivalling Jeremy Paxman in the interviewing stakes, here's what she had to say...

How did you come up with the idea for My Car Step?
My little girl Jessica is now 4, but when she was 18 months old she started to get agitated and upset before every car journey.  She wanted to climb into her car seat herself but physically couldn't do it because she wasn't big enough to reach the seat.  So either myself or my husband tried lifting her in, often with her kicking and screaming or crying, out of frustration.  This kept getting worse rather than better and every car journey was very stressful to say the least. 

I started to look on the internet for a solution – some sort of step that Jessica  could use to climb into the car seat herself.  With no luck finding a product, I started using a foot stool.  However it kept getting in the way, taking up space in the footwell – plus of course it wasn't secure, wobbling precariously when Jessica tried to use it.  So I had what only can be described as a 'brain wave'.  

When Jessica first started using the prototype, she got super excited and felt really independent and grown up, plus of course we could all enjoy heading out in the car without anxiety of an impending tantrum.  The problems started again when I had to take MY CAR STEP out of the car (while applying for a patent), Jessica would have a tantrum because she wanted 'MY CAR STEP' back in the car again. 

Initially I was going to use MY CAR STEP just to help me, but then I noticed other people struggling to get their young children into their car seats – from pregnant woman who couldn't lift and twist, to 3 door cars, to grandparents who couldn't lift and twist.  After researching back pain and discovering that most back problems occur from lifting and twisting children, I thought lets see what the general public think about MY CAR STEP, and I was really pleased and pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  
My Car Step, in use

What's been the biggest challenge so far?
Because I have no experience in running a business, the hardest part for me has been trying to get it off the ground. Especially knowing how to approach the right people and how to communicate with them. In my profession as a teaching assistant, I know what I'm talking about, and am confident in speaking about it, but this is completely out of my comfort zone, so it's been finding that confidence to approach people.

And what's been the best thing that's happened in the My Car Step journey?
All the fantastic feedback that I've had from the public has been the best thing so far and makes it all worthwhile. There was one occasion that has stuck in my mind over others though, and that was when I had the safety test results back. Finding out that MY CAR STEP had passed all the relevant testing was a relief and a moment of celebration.

Was this your first "big invention", or are you a really clever person with great ideas springing out all the time?
I'm far from creative and inventive! But because this was causing me a problem I came up with a solution, so this has been my first big invention. But trust me — if I can do it, then so can anybody.

What advice would you give someone else starting out in their own business?
There'll be a lot of struggles, ups and downs, but if you believe in your product and business then stick with it. Don't be afraid to ask people for help, and do your research!

Is there anyone in business you'd love to be seen as "The New ..."?
Honestly as long as people like and enjoy using the product, that is good enough for me. I want to be as successful as I can and grow the business the best way I can. I would love to be the next Mandy Habberman or Cara Sayer (snoozeshade) — to see what these women/mums have done with their product in the space of time that they've achieved it, is honestly remarkable.  

My Car Step

My Car Step is available to buy online through the My Car Step website.

I'd like to say a massive thank you to Sally for agreeing to talk to me, and a big apology for me being so slow to get my act together.  I wish her lots & lots of luck with the business, and I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Disclosure. I have not received or sought payment or products in return for this post. I simply believe that this is a product and business worth promoting, and I am happy to do so free of charge.