Friday, 30 August 2013

Parragon Book Buddies - Children's Books Summer 2013

Way back in the height of summer, when the days were long, and I had a suntan, I went to BritMums Live.  And I met the lovely people from Parragon Books, who asked me if Squeaky & I would like to be part of their Book Buddies group, and help them reviewing new books.  Yes, they asked me. As if I'm going to say no to the offer of New Books, with that lovely New Book Smell.

So, we received 2 books for Squeaky to look at, and we'd like to tell you a bit more about them, once she's finished reading, naturally.

The first book is the utterly adorable Things You Never Knew About Dinosaurs, by Giles Paley-Phillips.  I won't spoil the story for you, but suffice it to say that dinosaurs didn't really die out, they're all around us, doing amazing things.  We love this book, the rhymes, the pictures, the silly story, it's just so much fun.  So much so, that when I was chatting to a story-telling librarian last week, I recommended it to her to add to both the library's collection, and her story-telling selections.  Even Daddy has enjoyed reading this one, but I've been told I have to read the last page quietly and not in a silly scary loud voice like I'd rather.

No nail polish, again!
The second book we received was Goodnight Little One, by Margaret Wise Brown.  This is a more traditional bedtime story book, a rhyming story as the little donkey on the cover, and his various baby animal friends settle down to sleep, and encourage your little one to do the same.  Squeaky settled down really quietly with this one, and cwtched up with me, but if anything it finished slightly too soon for her. She's at that awkward age where the easy to read bedtime stories are too short to be read to her, but she can't read them herself yet.  Soon, though.  Soon.

The simplicity and repetition of the rhyme is great for early readers, and young listeners, and given a couple of readings, Squeaky will happily join in with the "Little Donkey, close your eyes" refrain.  The illustrations are beautifully soft and restful, and you almost want to stroke the animals, to ease them off to their dreams.  (No inside photos of this one, I'm afraid. I can't disturb her beauty sleep).  You know what I think this book would be really great for?  Older brothers & sisters reading to their little siblings with parental help.  It's great to share that kind of experience, and the words are easy enough to do that, as well as the message of the story.  Reading practice and sibling bonding in one.

Things You Never Knew About Dinosaurs is definitely our favourite of these two books, and a regular on our bedtime story list, but we love them both.  Both books are published by Parragon, and available from amazon and other retailers.

Disclosure: I was provided with copies of both of these books free of charge as part of the Parragon Book Buddies programme.  I was not told what to write and all opinions remain my own.  Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme and will not receive reward for their use.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A little walk

I take my camera out with me a lot, especially since I had a bout of gadget envy and replaced my dying compact camera for a swish & snazzy bridge camera with more functions than I can understand.  And I love to spot the details, things that people don't normally notice because they're too busy going about their everyday lives.

We live in Merthyr Tydfil, in the heart of the South Wales Valleys.  You've heard of it, the town gets a lot of negative press for being full of benefit claimants, scroungers and underachievers. That's not actually true.  The town's got its difficulties, but really, I wouldn't move (aside from the fact I can't afford to).  Let me show you some of the sites, with a bit of help from Squeaky.

Joseph Parry was born in the row of little cottages just along from my street.  He's known for writing "Myfanwy", apparently.  He's also quite useful for giving people directions to my house, because the cottage he was born in is a museum, and there's plenty of little brown tourist road signs.

I'd take you to town, but honestly, it's not that exciting, unless you want to see the shop that used to be Woolworths, a selection of charity shops and a couple of guys asking if you've had an accident in the last 3 years.  So instead, we'll walk the other way, up the hill to the castle.  Yes, you heard me right, the castle.

It calls itself a castle, anyway.  This is Cyfarthfa Castle, home of the Crawshay family, who owned the local ironworks.  They liked to remind their workers how much richer they were, and built their own castle.  Daddy & I got married in here, it's partly a museum, and partly the lower school base for the local secondary school, until they relocate next year.  The castle is set in a huge park, all open to the public, with a lake, fountains, and a playground (that you're not allowed to take photos in or the park police will get very cross with you)

Squeaky likes to look into the fountains.  They're quite unusual for fountains in the UK.  Not because of their design, the cherubs, or the fact they're actually switched on quite often.  But the fact that this is a pool of standing water in a public place, but people don't feel the need to throw money in it.  I've never understood that.  A real wishing well, yes. But any old fountain, pond or underground lake & people suddenly start emptying their pockets. 

I love having the park on our doorstep, it's only a ten minute walk away at Squeaky's pace, 5 minutes at grown-up pace.  Aside from the museum, playground, ducks, etc, the park is also used to host events.  The council's firework show is held there every year - we could probably get away with not going & just look out of the back bedroom window to tell the truth, as well as fun days in the holidays, the fair, concerts and all sorts.  Status Quo and Donny Osmond have held concerts there (not at the same time, I hasten to add).  We're just about far enough away not to be disturbed by the events when they're on, but it's great having so much happening on our doorstep if we want it.

I might do some more of these posts, show you some of the other interesting places around where we live. I can't promise how often, or how exciting they'll be, but it's almost like visiting, right?

Alli Diet Aid, 1 month on.

If you've been paying attention, you'll have noticed at the start of the month, that I posted about Alli diet aid tablets, that I had received to review.  Well, I've kept on taking them, and here's the second stage of my review.

If you remember, after a fortnight, I'd managed to lose 5 pounds, by a combination of willpower, exercise and Alli tablets for that extra boost.  However, the last few weeks haven't been quite so successful.  Real life has got in the way on a few occasions, and I've found myself choosing to skip the tablets in favour of being able to eat what I choose without suffering the consequences.  And that has affected how effective the tablets are.

They're not a magic wand.  Sadly that doesn't exist yet.  If you carry on eating rubbish and take Alli, at best they won't work, at worst, they won't work & you'll spend most of your time sitting in the bathroom.  If you skip tablets for a meal, or a day, to indulge yourself, they simply aren't as effective for the next few days.  This means that over the last couple of weeks I haven't lost any more weight, I'm stuck at the 5 pounds I lost in the first couple.  I've got no-one to blame but myself, and now I've got to get back to eating better, avoiding the pizzas, and treating myself better.  I think I'll stick with them for a little while longer, because they do work when you use them right, and I could do with the boost to get me back on track.

The instruction booklet in the Alli pack says to take a daily multivitamin, in order to ensure you're getting all the appropriate nutrients, seeing as some of your food isn't being absorbed.  This is a habit I'd got out of after I stopped breastfeeding Squeaky, so it's been a good thing to get me back to taking vitamins regularly.

Alli is an over-the-counter medication, and can only be bought from a pharmacy.  You can find it in most high street pharmacies, and certain registered online pharmacies.  The pharmacist may ask you questions to ensure that it is suitable for you.  Alli is only suitable for adults with a BMI of 28 or above.

Disclosure: I was provided with Alli tablets 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 convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Walkers Mighty Lights Review

Mighty Lights, not Tighty Whiteys. Get your minds out of the gutter, there are other bits of internet for that!

Mighty Lights are the newest addition to the Walkers Crisps family, out just in time for the new school year, and the inevitable lunchbox battles that come with it.  We were sent not one, but three multipacks of Mighty Lights to try out in Squeaky Towers.  Yes, that is pretty much like letting me loose in a shoe shop with someone else's credit card, but hey, I'm not gonna argue.

Om Nom Nom.
The crisps arrived in a great big box on Tuesday, via the local Sorting Office, who officially think I'm crazy.  I managed to wait a whole day before breaking in to them, at least partly because I was in work, and if you think I'm sharing with the gannets in my office, you're deluded.  Sorry, any gannets that are reading this, but there's serious taste testing to be done!

I tucked into a pack of the lightly salted flavour first, perfect with a glass of Soave and some trashy television on a Wednesday evening (my Friday this week!).  And, they're cool.  The ridges are tinier than I expected, I've become accustomed to the Walkers Max style big ridges, so the tiny ones took me by surprise, but they're kind of cute.  The flavour, well, it wasn't quite what I expected.  Lightly Salted means slightly milder than normal Ready Salted in my expectation, but they were, I don't know, slightly sweet?  Maybe it's the taste of the potatoes coming through, but yeah, it was a little bit unexpected. Not unpleasant, and actually quite enjoyable, but not quite what I anticipated.  The crunch was right where it should be, they tasted like crisps, just not quite ready salted.  I can't describe it, you'll have to make your own mind up.

Not quite Ready Salted, and a glass of dry white.
Squeaky doesn't mind that though.  She tucked in to a packet with no concerns whatsoever, just a slight look of confusion, "WHY is Mummy encouraging me to eat crisps, and how did they magically appear out of her handbag?"  This isn't normal.  (I checked, for quality control purposes, hers tasted exactly the same as the packet I had, not quite ready salted, in an odd but edible way.)  She enjoyed them, and that's what really matters.

For the sake of completeness, I've tried both the Roast Chicken and Cheese & Onion as well.  These taste pretty much exactly as you'd expect from Roast Chicken or Cheese & Onion crisps.  Not too strong, and no lingering aftertaste. There's nothing worse than being able to taste your crisps all afternoon - smoky bacon does that to me the most.  They're not overly memorable, but they fill a corner and go crunch in a satisfying manner, and really, that's all I want in a crisp.

All three flavours are suitable for vegetarians, even the roast chicken.  And they have 30% less fat than standard crisps, making them a good choice for the smaller people in your household.  I wouldn't go so far as to say they're mighty, but they're much more crisp-like than previous lower fat crisps, and there's no loss of flavour or crisp-ness, these are real slices of fried potato with flavours on them.  All in all, I'm pretty impressed.  Previous healthy crisps have been pretty disappointing, but these are real crisps, and I can't tell the difference.

Walkers Mighty Lights are available in supermarkets nationwide for around £1.79 for a multipack of 6 bags.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I have received compensation for my time, and the packets of crisps as detailed above for the purposes of this review.  I have not been told what to write and all opinions remain my own. Links are provided for convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Friday, 23 August 2013

She's Like The Wind

Sorry for the earworm, but some thing have to be shared.  If you're not humming the Patrick Swayze song now, you should be ashamed of yourself.  And if you don't know what I'm talking about 1) you're too young to be on the internet, and 2) watch this video. Then go outside and play.


I'm sitting in Dizzy Kidz soft play in Tredegar, writing this post Old Skool, with a pen and a piece of paper (and again, if you don't know what that means, GO OUTSIDE!)  That's the kind of girl I am.  That and the fact that I hate the Blogger interface on my phone & make so many typos you'll think I've been hacked by a badly trained chimp.  But yeah, sitting in soft play with a mug of coffee, marvelling at Squeaky haring around like a lunatic, climbing, sliding, bouncing and chasing around with a bunch of children she's never met before, and probably never will again.

This is a new soft play place to us. I found a Groupon for it a couple of weeks ago, and I'm not one to turn down a bargain, especially the sort that means I can sit down while Squeaky burns off some excess energy & thinks I'm Mum Of The Year.  I'm actually quite taken with this place, as far as soft play goes.  I mean, yeah, it's a unit on an industrial estate, like most, but it's less of a grubby aircraft hangar.  It's clean, seems very well maintained, and not too screamy.  We've been here almost an hour and I haven't had to reach for the paracetamol yet.

Trampolines are not great for photography. But they are fun!

Yesterday, we were at a different soft play place, on another industrial estate, meeting up with some friends for a long overdue gossip & cwtch of a new baby.  Despite the fact that Squeaky's been there plenty of times before, we were sat on the most visible table in the place, and she's been here with these friends before, she spent the whole visit alternating between clinging to my leg like a limpet and whinging that she'd got "no-one to play with" (errr, except your friends, silly girl)  Grrrr.  What's the change in 24 hours?  Not being able to play in somewhere you know, with people you know, to being able to race around & play with complete strangers?  I don't understand this child at all.

I swear, she changes her mind, and her preferences, like the weather - hence the title of this post.  Seemingly the only constants in our lives at the moment are Disney Junior and pepperoni pizza, and even I can't survive on those indefinitely!

It's frustrating. I want to start saving, and shopping, for Christmas (There! I said it!) but I know that whatever she's in raptures over today will be completely forgotten about by next week when a new advert crops up to stretch my patience and bank balance to breaking point.  This is the first year we're really experiencing the pester power effect of advertising to children. It's only August but the contenders for this year's big Christmas toy are already filling the screens, and as we seem to be a Disney Junior & Nick Jr household, there's no escape.  I'm wondering about the Star Trek model partwork advert that's cropped up this week though - either they've finally realised that geeks have children too, or Disney Junior was on a package deal with the Sci-Fi channel, but at least it's a reprieve from Pig Goes Pop & Cillit Bang.

I'm sort of jealous of Squeaky, to be honest.  Jealous that the world is still so exciting and new; that passions and obsessions come & go with the turning of the hour.  My wishlist has stayed the same forever, and no-one buys me the new car, winning lottery ticket, diamond earrings or private jet that I so crave, whereas someone will almost certainly buy Squeaky whichever lump of plastic takes her fancy.  In fact, no-one even buys me the new pillows that my back would so love.  *sigh*, such is the life of a blogger.

I purchased an entry ticket to the soft play centre via Groupon. I have not been asked to write this post, or mention the centre, I have chosen to do so as it is a venue we have enjoyed.  I ahve not received payment or compensation for this post. I have not provided a referral link to Groupon as this would compromise my status relating to affiliate links.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

A visit from the Happy Badger

No, I've not been drinking. Honestly, I've got to go out in an hour, and it's either blogging or watching Dog The Bounty Hunter to keep myself awake.  Lucky for you I chose blogging.  What's this Happy Badger thing all about then, you're probably wondering to yourself?

Well, the Happy Badger is the latest lovely visitor from, Appliances Online to you & me.  And the Happy Badger is visiting blogs across the internet spreading happiness and warm fuzzies by making £50 donations to the charities that bloggers choose.

Actually, this was the really hard bit.  Which charity to choose. There's so many out there. I work for a charity, and we get so much help and support for our work and our clients from other charities.  Plus you add in the issues that have affected our family over the years and it becomes almost impossible to choose.  I mean, where would that £50 make the most difference?  Could it be the hour in a lab that helps to find a cure, could it be the support for a homeless young person, the rescue and care of a mistreated animal?  Could it be the emergency care parcel to help a refugee who has lost everything, the lifesaving injections for babies in the third world, the friendly visit for an elderly person who can't get out?  It's everything, and a drop in the ocean.  And a really difficult decision.

Eventually, I came to a conclusion, though not after a considerable argument with myself.  My £50 is going to go to  Without the work they do, the research they've carried out through the years, I probably wouldn't be sitting here writing this blog, so I've got a lot to thank them for, and the Happy Badger's kind donation goes a small way towards that thanks.

If you want to know more about the Happy Badger, or want him to pay a visit to your blog with a gift for a charity close to your heart, pop over to and register.  Then watch out for a visit.

Disclosure: I have not received payment, but a donation will be made to the charity I have chosen to support in return for my writing this post.  I have not been told what to write & all opinions remain my own.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Speaking with Confidence

Yes, speaking, not squeaking (that said, I nearly typed squeaking a few times, it's such a habit now!)  In a former life, I used to be a training officer for a local authority, and even in my current job, I'm pretty much the go-to person if we need to give a presentation to groups of service users or other people.  Apparently I've got the knack, and I quite enjoy getting up in front of an audience, sharing some information & helping people go away with a bit more knowledge than they had earlier.  Giving a short presentation is getting more common as part of recruitment now as well, and can make or break a job interview.  I know a lot of people find it difficult to stand up and talk, whether it's giving a best man's speech, a work presentation, or generally sharing information.  So I've put together a handful of hints & tips that work for me, to make sure you give the best you can.

Image courtesy of  jscreationzs, /

Dress For Success
Look the part - smart but comfortable.  You don't want your clothes to distract from your message, and you don't want to be put off by an uncomfortable outfit.  Think about when & where you're speaking - if you're giving a Best Man's speech, then a suit is probably going to be order of the day, but if it's a group of your work colleagues who normally see you in jeans & a faded t-shirt, they're going to wonder why you're dressed for court!

Know Your Stuff
No matter how familiar you are with your subject, always prepare your presentation properly. Don't just turn up & try to busk it - it will show.  Prepare notes, even if they're just bullet points.  They act as a confidence boost, a check to ensure you've covered all the important points, and can help you get back on track if you get sidetracked by an interesting question or anecdote.

The Techy Bit
You don't need a flashy Powerpoint presentation, unless you're told otherwise, but it can be helpful to keep your points in the right order.  If you do use Powerpoint, or something similar, make sure you know how to use it properly.  Keep the slide transitions simple (and silent!), restrict animations unless they're vital, and make sure your text fits the slide.  And PLEASE know how to actually use the slideshow!  I sat in a training session where the trainer had created a Powerpoint show, but didn't know how to use it at all, and I missed half of what she was saying by being so distracted by the poor use of the programme.

Image courtesy of   AscensionDigital, /

Annoy your family, friends, pets.  Stand in front of a mirror & annoy yourself.  What ever works best for you.  But make sure you read your speech through, out loud until you're comfortable with it.  Check for any words that you struggle to say, or accidental tongue twisters, and make sure it all makes sense.  This is a good chance to check your timings as well.  If you've been asked to speak for 15 minutes, and you've only got 5 minutes of content, you might need to add some more.  Or if you've got 40 minutes of speech & a 15 minute slot, some editing might be a good idea!

Slow Down & Breathe!
Let's get scientific. When you're nervous, your body produces adrenaline, your heart rate increased, and your reactions speed up.  For speaking, this means you're likely to speak faster, in an attempt to get it over with.  Don't.  Your audience won't understand you, and they'll either drift off into a daydream, or ask you to repeat so much you're there twice as long.  Instead, take a deep breath.  The oxygen will slow your heart rate, reduce your blood pressure, dilute the adrenaline, and make you feel calmer.

Embrace the Nerves
Feeling nervous is normal & natural (see above).  A little buzz of nervous excitement is a positive thing, it'll make you seem interested and energetic.  If you're too calm, because you've done this a million times before, you will come across as bored of your subject, and people will be less inclined to listen.

Keep to the point
You might have a million things you'd like to say, thousands of amazing anecdotes & insights to share, but be sparing.  People only have a limited attention span, so the longer you talk, the less they'll listen.  Check with the organisers how long they want you to speak for, and aim for that. If you run short, you can always take questions.  If you absolutely HAVE to fill 2 hours, be prepared to get your audience involved, standing up, moving around & joining in, interaction will keep them engaged.  Or give them biscuits!

Give it a go!
One thing I've learned from blogging is that everyone's got a story to tell, and while it can be easier to do so from behind the anonymity of the internet, people can make a career of being after-dinner speakers, motivational speakers, or trainers.  And you don't need to be famous or successful to do so.  I thought after-dinner speaking was all about former sports people & celebrities, until I thought a bit harder.  People like the local Lions Club, Women's Institute and the like, meet regularly and have speakers at almost every meeting (don't believe me? Have a look in your local paper), so whether it's your collection of mediaeval coins found in your own back garden, the trials and tribulations of being a Wolves supporter, or the truth behind being a blogger, everyone's got a story and everyone can have an audience.  Why not give it a try?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, for which I have received payment. I have not been told what to write, all opinions and content remain my own.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Teetering on the edge

It's the middle of August.  In just 16 days time, Squeaky will be facing up to her first day at Big School without Mummy or Daddy to hide behind.  There's big steps out into the Real World, and they're happening at a rate I can hardly comprehend.  I mean, she's 3 1/2, and barely 3 foot tall.  OK, it's only half days, and a very loose definition of half days at that, 2 1/4 hours a day for the first half term.  But my baby isn't a baby any more, she's on the edge of being a "schooley" - the word they use at pre-school for the kids who use the wrap-around service, or who come for the holiday club.  How is it even possible?  It only seems like five minutes since the longest wait of my entire life before a midwife finally handed my wriggling, but still silent baby to me, and persuaded her to latch on for a first feed.

And now she's teetering on the edge of a whole new phase of life.  A schooley.  Half of her uniform's here.  I've had an email today to say the rest has been shipped.  It's suddenly all so real.  I've got a proper grown-up girl, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.  She's still my baby. She still wants to play babies, and cwtch up in bed with me in the mornings, still looks for a cuddle and reassurance when she's facing something new & scary. But it doesn't get much new & scarier than school, does it?

She's smart. She'll love the stimulation, the input. the challenges.  It's more me, I'm sure.  I'm just not quite sure I'm ready to let my baby go out into the world quite yet.  If nothing else, I've got a whole lot of labelling to do in the next two weeks!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Doritos Mariachi Madness

Crazy Football Fans in Cardiff
We spent our honeymoon in Mexico.  Sadly I can't share photos with you, because my camera decided that a couple of days into the holiday of a lifetime was the perfect opportunity to break down beyond any chance of repair.  My memories are strictly that, sadly.  But one of my clearest memories was heading out of the hotel for a stroll, finding ourselves a nice quiet bar & sitting down with an icy margarita, only to encounter a genuine passing Mariachi band, walking the other way up the street in full costume, with a big guy playing a tiny Vihuela Guitar, a really tiny guy with the enormous Guitaron, and some very entertaining moustaches.  Completely unexpected, and very cheerful.

And last year, when we went to see the Olympic football in Cardiff, I didn't spot a Mariachi band, but there were a lot of crazy Mexican fans, in costume, singing and having a fantastic carnival time, which made our whole experience so much more enjoyable.

With this in mind, I've been loving the new Doritos adverts with their very own Mariachi band, and their very special Mexican take on I Love Rock & Roll.  And even more than that, I'm completely jealous of the lucky folk who were at the Wireless Festival in London last month, who got to see the band performing live in a giant jukebox.  Seriously, how much fun is that? Giant dimes to choose songs, a whole field full of people feeling a little Mexican love, and getting spicy in the sunshine.  And Doritos as well, and I'm sure I don't need to tell you how addictive they are.  (If you want to send me some, I'm a Cool Original kinda gal!)

If you're still wondering what I'm talking about, take a look...

Wouldn't you just love them to turn up at your work, and start playing? I know it would brighten up our office no end!  The people I work with think I'm crazy, but we all need a little Mexican fun in our lives, and I'm sure I'm much more productive with a smile on my face.  I hope this video has made you smile too!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post as part of the Spreaditfast network.  I have not been told what to write and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Mmmondays with St David's Centre, Cardiff

I love shopping. You know that, don't you?  And food.  I definitely love food.  So what better way to make me happy than to combine the two?  And I don't mean going food shopping.  Every Monday in August, St David's shopping centre in Cardiff is hosting Mmmondays, a tasty celebration of all things food.  We popped along this week to find out what it was all about.

I registered on their website before going, and received a voucher which gave me discounts in many of the cafes and restaurants in the centre, as well as access to other special discounts & treats, including 20% off in Hamleys (very welcome, one of our favourite stores).  The vouchers and offers change each week, so it's worth checking what's on offer before you go.  It doesn't matter if you hadn't got a voucher beforehand, as there was a stall in the centre of the main arcade where you could register and get your voucher on the day - handy if you weren't expecting anything going on.

We started out with a spot of lunch in Prezzo, a restaurant I hadn't visited before, but one taking part in the promotion.  They had 2 different children's menus, depending on the age & appetite of your child. At 3, Squeaky opted for the smaller meal, and the garlic bread, pizza & ice cream were just her size.  It makes a refreshing change for her to get through a whole meal out, and the combination of the right foods, and the right portion sizes made a big difference.  They even gave her child sized cutlery, a big plus in my book.  I had goat's cheese bruschetta & penne arrabiata from the adults' set menu, and there was so much I couldn't even finish it - unknown for me!

Then off we headed into the main shopping centre.  There was a definite carnival atmosphere to the Mmmondays experience, with a Test Your Strength game, where you could win prizes from various restaurants (we won a free drink from Nando's), a picture postcard posing place (I don't know... there's probably a word for it!), and a spin the wheel game, where you could win Krispy Kreme doughnuts or packets of sweets.  All really good fun, attracting lots of attention, but not too distracting from the important job of shopping!

Shopping, ah yes, shopping.  As I said, there was a discount in Hamley's, and loads pirate activities, which they've got going on throughout the holidays, yarrrrrrrr.  We made the most of the opportunity to play on some of the toys they have available to try out on the shop floor, even though it did take quite a battle to get Squeaky back out of the store again.  And the Disney store opposite were promoting their latest film, Planes (which Squeaky is now desperate to see), as well as generally being the sparkliest, spangliest place on the whole planet and a three year old's idea of bliss.  Squeaky bought herself a Minnie Mouse helicopter toy with the Tooth Fairy's gift (and a bit of help from Mummy, because the value of money is still a mystery)

We hit a few shops, and spent as much as my wallet could take when it's still a fortnight til payday, and then made our way to the treat zone.  Treat Zone?  Yep!  If you spend more than £10 (in one transaction, as some were finding out), you can take your receipt to the Treat Zone, and choose from popcorn, snowcones or candy floss as a way of saying thank you.  Candy floss for me, every time!  Not sure Squeaky was quite so convinced, but then again the candy floss was bigger than her head.

Want to see more?  St Davids have put together a little film to tell you all about it.

If that's whetted your appetite, maybe we'll see you there next week, there's still 2 more Mmmondays to go!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend this event and provided with a complementary meal on attendance.  I was not told what to write and all opinions remain my own.  Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Tooth Fairy

I can't remember if I mentioned it at the time, but about 2 years ago, Squeaky decide to test gravity, and flew from the top of a toy car face first into the metal frame of our sofa.  Cue lots of tears (from both of us), and a flying visit to the dentist, as she broke half her bottom front tooth off.  Not a lot could be done, and the tooth seemed relatively stable.  Earlier this year, it started to get wobbly, so another quick trip to the dentist, just for advice.  He said it would come out sooner rather than later, probably while eating an apple (the man clearly does not know my daughter!)

Fast forward to today. A perfectly normal day, filled with pizza, an artificial beach, and plenty of fun.  And then some wailing that her wobbly tooth hurt.  A quick peek in her mouth confirmed that the tooth was definitely on the move.  A big cuddle, some hushed adult conversation about how best to get the tooth out before bedtime, and then all of a sudden more wailing that her tooth had gone & she'd spat it out.  Cue five minutes crawling round on the floor & looking under the (new) sofa, only to find the offending tooth stuck to her t-shirt.

So now we're anticipating the arrival of the Tooth Fairy, in all her sparkly glory, and hoping that Squeaky is asleep enough to let her collect the tooth without disturbance.  (And then wondering how to hide said tooth and have a subtle conversation with the dentist as it appears the root had snapped.)  Squeaky has written a letter to accompany her tooth, and I'm lead to believe that the tooth fairy leaves a little "Well Done" card for the first tooth, as well as the customary £1 coin.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Glitter Pavement Paints - Pinspiration & #cbias

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and their client.  I have not been told what to say, all opinions are my own. Links are provided for convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive payment for their use.

I was given a shoppertunity challenge, and a free reign.  "Find something you want to do on Pinterest, and do it!"  So I took to my "Things for Squeaky" board, and once I realised I couldn't buy up the whole of Ikea, I opted for homemade glitter pavement paints based on this recipe from The Imagination Tree, as the weather's still reasonable, and it sounds like something different to do.  You can have a look at my shopping expedition here.

No nail polish! Shock! Horror!
The paint recipe was very simple - cornflour (or corn starch to those in the US), mixed with an equal quantity of water, gel food colourants, and loose glitter.  The glitter caused me the most headaches, I chose my supermarket by the one that normally has the best supply of craft stuff, but they didn't have any glitter. I called at 3 other shops that are normally really good for crafting, but still no loose glitter. Plenty of glitter glue, glitter paints & glitter pens, but no loose glitter. I ended up asking around at work & someone gave me a hint so I was able to get a stash of multicoloured glitter.

Cornflour is brilliant stuff.  I couldn't get Squeaky all that interested in the paint-making process, but she was still confused by the solid/liquid state of the cornflour & water mix.  I'm sure I've mentioned my fascination with Non-Newtonian fluids before (thanks to a couple of episodes of Brainiac), but the way the mix reacts to being stirred is just crazy.  It thickens up as you stir it, and then goes back to being liquid again when you leave it alone. To the extent that I could pick up a solid chunk of paint, and then let it pour back into the container.  I'm easily amused.

Adding sparkles
I made up the colours, mixing the food colourants to make 6 different pots of paint, and added a healthy shake of glitter to each paint pot, then headed outside with Squeaky & her friend Pirate Girl, who had come round to join in the painting fun.  It was a lovely sunny day, so just right for fun in the garden.

Investigating the paints
Old clothes on, and out for some fun.  I'd rearranged the garden to give us as much patio space for painting as possible.  As the paints were food based and non-toxic, I wasn't really worried what the girls decided to paint, as I was confident it would all wash off with a hosepipe. Or shower if it was the girls themselves.

Good job really, as they quickly decided to paint themselves.  It's the freedom of being allowed to do the daft things you're normally told off for.  But that's part of why I chose this activity - a chance to explore colour, texture and art in a different way.  You want to paint your face? Go ahead.

Or your feet.  Strange girl.

And my garden chairs.  As you can see, the paints dry to a chalky kind of effect, and while they run a bit, they're much neater than traditional paints, as they were quite thick.

It wasn't just mess though, we did make some bits of real art.

It's tricky stuff to get used to - it was quite hard to paint as you'd normally do, as the tension of dragging the brush on the floor made the paint thicken up (non-Newtonian again). So it was easier to dab than to brush, which is where the sponges came into their own.  I think I'd make the paints slightly thinner next time, they might be easier to draw with that way.

The girls insisted I made a second batch of paints, a couple of slightly different colours this time, so they could carry on painting themselves and every available surface - including a couple of slightly confused balloons.  What those poor balloons had done to deserve such treatment, I really don't know.

Our finished sunshine, and accompanying raincloud.  Quite appropriate for the Welsh weather really.  I think we might have a new Sian Lloyd on our hands with these two.

The glitter didn't show up quite as much as I'd hoped from the amount that you could see in the paints. It was quite subtle once the paints were used.  But I like the effect, and I think if there had been much more glitter involved, I would have struggled to clean up.

As it was, the patio cleaned up really easily, given 5 minutes with the hosepipe, the chairs much the same.  The windows took a little bit more work, because the paint had smeared on them a bit, but even there, we're not talking a lot of effort.  The girls cleaned up just fine with a handful of wet wipes & a quick dip in the bath.  In fact, by the next day, the only way you could tell we'd been up to anything was the food colourant which had stained my fingers while I was mixing the paints.  I'll wear gloves next time.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Alli Diet Aid Review - 2 weeks in

I'm heavier than my doctors would like. That's the polite way to put it.  I'm like most women, I guess, on a constant search for a.weight loss that works for me.  Well, about 4 years ago, I bought some Alli diet aid tablets, but then fell pregnant with Squeaky about a week later so never got to try them out.  So when I was given the chance to try them again recently, I went for it. I've just reached my pre-pregnancy weight, but not.from the direction you'd expect, so something's got to be done before I get mistaken for Nelly the Elephant.

When I first heard about this opportunity, Daddy reminded me what happened last time & said he hoped it wasn't an omen. And when I told the girls at work, half wanted to know where their samples were & the other half took great delight in telling me horror stories of digestive disturbances caused by combining Alli with Gregg's sausage rolls!

Alli, if you didn't know, is a diet aid tablet.  Designed to be combined with exercise and dieting, the tablets reduce the absorption of fat in your diet, meaning you can lose around 50% more than just by dieting alone.  I'm giving it a month's trial to see how it works.  You take 3 tablets a day, one with each meal, and eat a sensible, low calorie & low fat diet, and the tablets can help you lose weight faster.

The Alli kit
I had a look on the Alli website before I started, and was impressed to find a recipe section, promoting healthy eating, rather than just reliance on the tablets.  I think that's a big part of the Alli programme, educating yourself to eat better, and make better food choices, which to me is missing from some other diet plans where your choices are very restricted.  You don't have to change your diet, but if you're taking the Alli tablets, trust me, you will want to!

The online programme has a load of support & information, and there's even a community message board to share questions, support & success stories.  I think this is quite a nice touch, as it is always daunting starting out on something new, especially on your own.  That said, the forum does seem quite quiet, and I'm sure that there are similar & more active forums elsewhere if you look.

There's a section in the information booklet that comes with the tablets about side effects, and "common" side effects, especially during the early days of taking the tablets include wind, sudden bowel motions and abdominal pain.  As far as I can tell this is because the fat in your diet is being blocked from being absorbed, and instead is passing through you like, well, a dose of salts.  I'll be honest here (those of a nervous disposition should look away now), I've had the cramps & wind, but fortunately, nothing worse.  If you limit the amount of fat you take in, there's less to have to come out, and so you avoid the side effects.  The programme advises that if you limit the fat intake in a meal to no more than 4g, then you shouldn't have the side effects, so it's a learning curve.

I have had to make choices a couple of times.  I went to visit a friend last week, and had my Alli tablets in the little blue shuttle, but we decided to order in a take-away pizza.   Now, I'm not daft, so I didn't take a tablet before that meal, or for the rest of the day. While I could have done with limiting the calories, the side effects would have been too much, and I firmly believe a diet is more likely to be successful if you allow yourself the occasional treat.  And there was a point over the weekend where I had quite uncomfortable cramps, and did say to myself that if they didn't go away, I would quit the tablets.  Luckily, they went, and so I've carried on.

I'm not going to tell you my starting weight, or my finishing weight, come to that. There are some things that are too personal to share.  But after almost 2 weeks, I've lost 5 pounds, and my stomach has pretty much settled down to behaving normally.  I'm going to stick with the Alli tablets, and let you know how I get on.  Let's see if I can lose some more!

Alli is an over-the-counter medication, and can only be bought from a pharmacy.  You can find it in most high street pharmacies, and certain registered online pharmacies.  The pharmacist may ask you questions to ensure that it is suitable for you.  Alli is only suitable for adults with a BMI of 28 or above.

Disclosure: I was provided with Alli tablets 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 convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.