Sunday, 22 December 2013

Winter Itch Relief with Grahams Skincare

I know I've written before about Squeaky's itchy skin.  She's following in my footsteps with eczema in the summer and winter - we get a little light relief in the spring & autumn, but not as much as she or I would like.  Well, the kind people at Grahams Skincare got in touch with me, and asked if Squeaky would like to try out a couple of their products to help her with her winter itchies.  What parent could say no?

We received the Eczema Cream and Bath Oil to try out.  Unlike most of the brands we've tried in the past, these are very natural products, which makes me much happier to use them on Squeaky's delicate skin.  The bath oil contains Olive Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, and the cream includes Colloidal Oatmeal, Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter & Olive Oil.

Let's start with the Bath Oil.  Being an "oil" oil, rather than one with other stuff in it, it doesn't disperse very well in the water, and sits on the top.  That makes it cling to the skin really well - and the bath.  It's a definite case of clean the bath straight after, and be very careful as it's slippy.  The oil itself has very little scent, you'd barely know it was there, but it leaves Squeaky's skin feeling so soft & smooth, I'm tempted to try it out in my bath as well!

And the cream?  Well, honestly, I'm in love.  All that good stuff, and it smells of cocoa butter.  It's absorbed really easily, and somehow counteracts the slipperiness left by the bath oil, so she's not so greasy I can't catch her when she decides that running round naked as the day she was born is a really good game.  I'm definitely impressed, the cream's thick enough not to fall off your finger, but easy to rub in, and the squeezy tube is handy with a trainee escapologist in the house!

To give you some idea, I don't know the precise cause - it was either swimming pools or different washing powder, but Squeaky had a major eczema attack a fortnight ago, while we were away for a couple of days.  On returning home she was grouchy and itching like crazy on her arms, legs & back, all red & sore.  We broke out the Grahams, and while the patches haven't completely gone, I'm not being asked for scritches 24/7, she's not complaining about it, and the redness has gone away.

Grahams Skincare is available in the UK through their online shop.

Disclosure: I was provided with the products as detailed above 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 only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Ding dong! Santa Calling!

This year, Squeaky has been lucky enough to receive a special message from the big man himself. The great FC, Father Christmas.  He's called her from his Portable North Pole to give her a personal Christmas message!  What a lucky girl she is!

Ho ho ho!

Well, I say she's had it. She hasn't just YET, because right now she's in her bed (or at least she should be, but a cheeky face has appeared round the corner of the door at least 4 times this evening, and she's heading rapidly towards Santa's naughty list!), and I'm keeping the video back as a special surprise for tomorrow.  I'm mean like that sometimes.

I've watched the video though, after creating it, and I was spellbound. It's so cute.  I was able to check the pronunciation of Squeaky's name (clue: it's not actually Squeaky!), add photos, personal information, and her own challenge of the year.  Ad the premium version adds even more options.  There's choices for adults as well as children, both of the naughty and nice variety.  I'm tempted to make one for Squeaky's daddy, but I'm not sure which list he's on!

Has Squeaky been good enough for the Nice List?  Well, you'll have to join Santa's elves & wait and see.

Oh, the suspense!
You can create your very own personal video message from Santa at PNP - Portable North Pole, and make Christmas magic for a child (or adult!) in your life.

You can even get a 20% discount off digital items on the website until 1 January 2014, using my code BLG20BKP.

We also had a play with PNP's other release for the year - Santa Sprint.  This is an app which we downloaded to the iThing, featuring Santa's helpful elves collecting cookies & other Christmas items in return for a story from the Big Man Himself.  The self same Santa (being the only one, it would be!) reads a special Christmas story - though this one's not personalised.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin
Much as I love the content of both the personal video, and the Santa Sprint game, I've got a couple of little niggles, though they might say more about my technical ineptitude than anything else.  It took me a good couple of attempts to create the video - so much so that I let my upgrade code expire because I just couldn't make it work.  And even now, having managed to successfully add the Santa Sprint app to my iThing, I can't actually give you a link to it in the app store, because I simply can't find it!  I know it's there, I know it exists, but it must be in a kind of electronic Bermuda Triangle, as I can't see it anywhere.  If you do find it, let me know!

PNP - Portable North Pole, and the Santa Sprint game are really adorable, and I'm sure you know a child or two who would love their own message.  As long as you're not as technologically incapable as me, I'm sure you can make Christmas magic for the believers in your life.

Disclosure: I was provided with a free download of the Santa Sprint app, and an upgrade code for the PNP - Portable North Pole video (unused) 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 only, I will not receive reward for their use, nor use of the discount code featured in this post.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and like each night that week
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Squeak

Tucked up in her bed, with a new picture book
I couldn't help myself but to take a quick look

An old rhyming tale, about meeting Saint Nick
With bright colourful pages, she fell in love quick

Words from Clement C Moore, drawings by Henry Fisher
Each page illustrated with a beautiful picture

Santa and reindeers, she knew each one's name
And asked me "where's Rudolph", I had to explain

He was feeling quite poorly, nose snotty and red
When Henry drew these pictures, he was sleeping in bed

Now after that rest, Rudy's feeling alright
Ready to guide Santa's sleigh through the night

She started to yawn, her eyes closing too
A fabulous sight for a parent, it's true

So I tiptoed away, and left on the nightlight
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book free of charge as part of the Parragon Book Buddies programme. I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own, as is the very poor rhyming, inspired by Clement C. Moore's poem, as featured in the above book.  Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Elf On The Shelf, TV, Sideboard, etc

I suppose I should be grateful that our Elf On The Shelf didn't join our family until AFTER Christmas last year, thanks to the vagaries of Royal Mail.  He made a couple of out-of-season appearances throughout the year, but Steve (our elf has a distinctly un-elfish name, I know) has mostly stayed in touch using the magic bath phone.  Known to you & I as the shower attachment.

But now he's here.  He's taken up residence in our house, and of course, being an Elf On The Shelf, he has to move around & be in a different & entertaining location each day.  But less than a week in, and I'm running desperately short of ideas.  He's not going in the fridge, there's not enough space in there for food, never mind artistic elf installations.  I don't trust Squeaky not to disturb him if he's within reach, despite the dire warnings of the book.  So after the clock, the bookcase, a wreath on the mirror, the top of the tree, I'm running out of ideas.  In fact, I'm quite glad that we've got a few days away, so at least I can get away with not having to move him for a couple of days (though relocating him between Squeaky leaving the house & going back in could be a whole new challenge)

Elf on the Tree
I'm glad to have Steve, and he's added a nice new tradition, and a reason to rush out of bed in the mornings that doesn't just involve chocolate advent calendars, but it's one more thing to have to remember to do before bed, when my brain isn't at its brightest anyway.  He's going to have to move on from the living room soon, there's not many more places he can sit in here.

Acrobat Elf
Do you have an elf?  Where do you put yours?  Help me out here, I need inspiration, or I'll have to donate him to school for next year & they can deal with him!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Scooby-Doo Adventures - The Mystery Map Review

Time.  Progress.  It's a weird old thing, getting older.  Things you thought you knew just aren't the same any more.  Not just Wagon Wheels getting smaller, the whole world moves on.  I thought I knew what Scooby-Doo was about, and then we received a copy of Scooby-Doo Adeventures - The Mystery Map to review!

Rather than the animation of old, with Casey Kasem's dulcet tones for Shaggy, The Mystery Map is a whole new departure for Scooby-Doo & pals.  They're puppets!  Actually really really well animated puppets, and more Sesame Street than I was expecting.  They definitely look like the original characters, so there was no trouble distinguishing who was who, to Squeaky's demands of "who's that?" for the first ten minutes or so.  It was good to see Daphne & Velma develop a bit of actual personality, though Fred was still a bit of a drip.  More importantly than that though, I am happy to confirm there was no Scrappy-Doo.  Let me say that again, No Scrappy-Doo.  This is vitally important, and I know there are many people who will be greatly relieved to learn that.

At just over an hour, it was the perfect length to keep Squeaky's attention, and the film would comfortably break up into two separate episodes, as the story divides quite nicely into two distinct parts, so if you're not so good at staying still for an hour, you can split it up to match the attention span of your mini audience.

The story is a great Scooby-Doo adventure, with all the features you'd expect - Scooby Snacks, running round randomly & screaming, hiding behind curtains, and the all important un-masking, complete with "I would've got away with it if it weren't for you pesky kids", which of course kept Daddy & I in stitches.  Squeaky just looked at us as if we'd gone mad.  Maybe we had!

For an easily scared child, as Squeaky is at present, it still wasn't too scary, and so full of silliness any momentary worries were quickly forgotten when the next laugh came along.  A great choice for curling up on the sofa on a chilly winter's afternoon, with a bag of popcorn.

Scooby-Doo Adventures - The Mystery Map wa released on 21 October 2013, and is available from Amazon and other retailers.

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the DVD 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 only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Giovanni Rana Fresh Pasta

I might have mentioned once or twice in the past about our love of pasta in Squeaky Towers.  I don't pretend to be the greatest cook in the work, but we do enjoy a nice bowl of something Italian, with a chunk of garlic bread on the side.  (Note how I resisted the temptation to make the obvious joke about liking a hot, rich Italian Dish, and including a picture of Gino D'Acampo.  I'm expecting my Mature & Responsible Adult medal in the post any day now)  Well, the chance arose to try out some of Giovanni Rana's fresh filled pasta range, and who am I to say no?

We received the Giant Ravioli with ricotta, baby spinach & marscapone, and the Tortelloni bolognaise.  Two great traditional flavours, though the range also includes sauces, plain fresh pasta, and fillings including chicken, and a very intriguing gorgonzola & walnut.  These, I think were just right for me, I'd've been a bit wary of the gorgonzola without someone to tell me what to expect!

First up, we tried the giant ravioli.  And yes, GIANT is the right word.  You really only need about half a dozen per person for a meal.  We went quite traditional with these, keeping it simple with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika for colour, and a rustic chunk of focaccia.  Perfect comfort food for these grotty evenings, and great with a cold glass of whatever takes your fancy. (Stop thinking about Gino! I can read your mind!)

GIANT ravioli!

Next up, the tortelloni, which I completely forgot to take photos of as I was positively starving after a day at work.  Keeping with the bolognaise style, I tossed them in some passata which I warmed through in a separate pan while they were cooking.  I was even generous enough to share a little with Squeaky herself.  For once, she was in a more adventurous mood and tried them, and even admitted to liking them.  Though she did then say she preferred her spaghetti hoops on toast! That's three year olds for you!

While I was mooching around my local Asda, looking for some garlic bread to go with the pasta, and checking out the reductions section, I did spot that they stock a whole load of the range - and check out those rollback stickers! Even better value.  So I thought I'd share this photo of Giovanni Rana pasta in its natural habitat, the chiller section!

Giovanni Rana has been making fresh, gourmet pasta for over 50 years, and has become an Italian staple, known for great taste & great quality.  For me, the fact that the pasta is ready in just a couple of minutes means I can get a healthy and tasty meal on the table after work without any hassle.  Compared to a lot of other filled pastas I've tried in the past, these kept their shape and their seal really well so I didn't have filling spilling out into the water & soggy pasta.  A definite 10 out of 10 from me, and a new addition to my shopping list.

Giovanni Rana pasta is available from Asda, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Booths, Ocado and other retailers, priced on average between £1.99 and £2.49.

Disclosure: I was sent the pasta as detailed above free of charge for the purposes of this review. 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.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Simple Christmas Craft - Rudolph prints

You will need:
  • Light brown paint
  • Dark brown paint
  • Red Paint
  • Card or paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue
  • Baby wipes
  • A child (or more than one if the mood takes you!)

 What you need to do:
  • Paint one of the shades of brown on your child’s foot.  Print this onto the paper/card to make the reindeer’s face.
  • Clean the foot!
  • Paint the other shade of brown onto each hand, and print this onto the paper, at the top of the face/foot print to make antlers.
  • Clean hands!
  • Paint red paint onto a thumb, and print this onto the face to make a red nose.
  • Clean hands!
  • Glue googly eyes onto face

Great for personalised cards, or decorations.  What grandparent could resist?  And it's a lovely way to watch your child grow, making a new Rudolph each year and measuring their hands & feet against the previous ones.