09 Nov

I’m Reviewing a Samsung Galaxy S5!

Yep, you heard me. I’m reviewing a Samsung Galaxy S5, courtesy of Three. I’ve been extremely excited about it, and indeed walking around with two phones has been quite interesting. It has been a week now and I’d normally leave it longer before writing about something, but there are a few reasons why a short-term review is needed.

1. I am planning on leaving my network and switching to Three as soon as my contract allows (I thought it was December, it seems to be January).
2. I am a Samsung Galaxy Mini S3 user, so I’m already familiar with the phone and like it.
3. I take a LOT of photos on my phone, the S5 has a much better camera on it, so the chance to try it out was a no-brainer.
4. I am an Apple user – so does the phone remain compatible with my MacBook Pro and so on?

From Samsung Galaxy G5 test

I’m not normally one for filters – I’ll try them out but often find they’ve a novelty value. Not so for the Galaxy S5 – they have a fabulous one, Selective Focus which will blur out the background of your picture and focus on something (which has to be 50cm from you) towards the front. There’s also a Dual Camera option which uses both cameras at once – my head on a postage stamp, the only time that will ever happen.

I like my Macro photography and couldn’t find where to switch for good close-ups, so zoomed in instead to see what the quality would be like – and I was staggered – it’s brilliant and up there with photos I’ve taken on my good camera, possibly even better.

From Samsung Galaxy G5 test

Writing this up and then not showing you what I’ve taken which is share-worthy so far would be daft, wouldn’t it? With the Galaxy S5 being an Android phone I’ve uploaded it to Picasa, and you can find a selection here.

So far a week in and I’m really impressed. I’m finding Three as a network much more reliable than my current one, and having a chance to try a phone I’d go for on a network I want to use is proving to be a really positive experience. I haven’t tried connecting via Kies yet.

Oh, and if you want to see my pictures on Instagram, I’m the only fool who has tagged them #samsunggalaxyg5 because I didn’t spot what my fat fingers were doing. Well done me – this is why Swype would be a good thing on the phone – I can spot my mistakes better. @mumfriendlyjo is my username on Instagram anyway.

The biggest downside? It’s only on loan. I may become too attached to it. Read more about the S5 handset here.

05 Nov

Stage 2!

H has had swimming lessons since she was a baby. She has been awarded various badges in the last four and a half years, starting from the Duckling Award scheme ; she has Duckling 1-5, as well as Stage 1. Tonight H got her certificate for Stage 2, which also means moving up to the Yellow Hat classes, into the big pool for lessons.

stage 2

We’re lucky, as H’s teacher takes her class into the main pool for a jump and swim at the end of their lesson each week which got them used to the difference in pools. H had a trial earlier in the year but panicked when she got in, as the big pool is colder and deeper. I knew she had the skills, we just needed to work on her confidence. She can swim on her back fine (you don’t have to think about breathing then!) and just needs to work on her front, which seems to be what Stage 3 is about anyway – getting the correct breathing techniques in place.

ASA swimming awards

I’m so proud of my little girl and her swimming achievements – this is something she’s achieved on her own through hard work and confidence. Swimming lessons are a good thing too – they teach a child to listen and learn – something they’re going to have to do at school anyway, so may as well get those skills started as early as possible. Mind, she still doesn’t listen to me..!

So, what does ASA Stage 3 bring? She’ll learn to…

1. Jump in from poolside and submerge (min depth 0.9m)
2. Sink, push away from wall on side and maintain a streamlined position
3. Push and glide on the front with arms extended and log roll onto the back
4. Push and glide on the back with arms extended and log roll onto the front
5. Travel on the front, tuck to rotate around the horizontal axis to return on the back.
6. Fully submerge to pick up an object
7. Answer correctly three questions on the Water Safety Code
8. Travel 10 metres on the back
9. Travel 10 metres on the front

ASA swimming hats

and to be honest, she’s probably done a few of these already. Bring it on! Next week can’t come soon enough!!

05 Nov

Save Our Paws with BEAR and WWF

We’re big fans of the BEAR snacks in this house – H loves them, and we always have a supply ready in the cupboard for after school snacks. BEAR have partnered with the WWF on some special WWF Save Our Paws packs to help protect the world’s most endangered paws and other species – with 5p from each individual pack and 25p from multipacks.

Save Our Paws

We were sent a selection of the snacks, as well as a fabulous world map, and some party activities so H could have a little 5th Birthday Celebration as BEAR snacks are now 5. She’s quite happy about this as it means she’s slightly older than them (this may be a fallback from being the youngest in Year 1 and reminded of this a lot) – so she quite enjoyed celebrating.

Six of the eight bears of the world are threatened with extinction – that’s pretty scary. BEAR wanted to celebrate their fifth birthday and help address this, so partnered with the WWF to help try and make a difference – which is Save Our Paws.

BEAR’s founder, Hayley Gait Golding, says: “BEAR started because we wanted to help people get back to nature – both in terms of the food that they were eating, but also in getting them really excited about the world around them. Working with a partner as special as WWF is a real privilege. Together we want to help get young children really engaged with these magical animals – about where they live and what makes them unique- and for them to feel excited that they have made a difference.’

bearpaws-1

Nicky Day Director of Corporate Partnerships at WWF-UK says: “WWF is really excited to be partnering with BEAR, a company that shares our values in respecting the natural world.  Through working with BEAR we will be able to engage with families and children about our work safeguarding the world’s most iconic and threatened species whilst raising vital funds for our conservation work around the world.”

BEAR snacks are available in four varieties – Dino Paws (strawberry and apple), Jungle Paws (apple and blackcurrant), Arctic Paws (raspberry and blueberry) and Arctic Paws (raspberry and blueberry) and are Vegetarian and Vegan-friendly. Each pack also contains five paw prints from animals that live in that habitat.

Don’t leave it too long – the Save Our Paws celebrations are only happening until early November!

We were sent a lovely package from BEAR nibbles to help celebrate their 5th birthday and promote the WWF snacks. 

04 Nov

My Songs – A Spotify app for Children

My Songs is a new Spotify app from USM Junior which has carefully selected songs for children sorted into playlists.

My Songs app

My Songs can be found on Spotify here – there are several genres playlisted, including pop – which is where H’s latest direction seems to be heading.

Casting my mind back to the summer holidays in Australia, we would be driving around listening to Triple J, and they’re so less conservative than us Brits – you would occasionally get songs with bad words – and now H can read and takes in so much more, she asks questions about the lyrics. Some lady was talking about how her boy did bad things which she picked up on right at the end, and asked us questions. PHEW we thought, as the song finished, only for James’s ‘Laid’ to be the next song… uuh.  “This bed is on fire with passionate love, The neighbours complain about the noises above, But she only comes when she’s on top” – we changed channel.

This made us wish there was a radio station for children, but that had music which was tolerable for us parents too – a sort of pop music for everyone channel rather than songs about steamy love stuff. (and there’s only so many times you can listen to the Frozen soundtrack before you ban it for a few hours, for the sake of your own sanity)

This is where the My Songs app comes in handy. Much as I love that I’ve passed my love of musicals on to H, I do need a break from them. These days you can stream Spotify on your phone, and even my phone plugs into our new car stereo – so when the radio lets you down there is another alternative, and it isn’t annoying!

We’ve been looking at the Pop playlists, and pretty much everything on there is a track H likes – I know I can leave her with the music running and not have to vet the songs, making sure there’s nothing too dodgy (a bit like you can with musicals!).

USM Junior

On the launch of the My Songs App Karen Meekings USM’s Creative, Media and Digital Executive comments-

“We are delighted to be launching the first UK based music discovery app for children and their parents, available exclusively on Spotify. The animated App is easy to use and offers the best in children’s music with perfect playlists for every occasion from popular TV themes for the under 5’s through to current party hits for older children. Whatever their age the app offers a fun experience in a secure environment–it’s music fun for cool kids”

USM Junior also has its own YouTube channel called My USM Jr which already has over 2,000 subscribers and over 3 Million video views.

I like that the hard work has been done for you so you know what you’re playing is safe for young ears – and would highly recommend My Songs – give it a try!

We were sent a CD from USM Junior who are the people behind this app. All opinions are our own.

02 Nov

A Healthy Me? October

I realise I’ve not updated in ages on my weightloss attempts, and actually, I’m doing terribly. I tried really hard to eat well but in the last month tiredness and illness got the better of us all – and more often than not, food wasn’t as fresh as I’d have liked.

Add to that a week we’ve just had in North Yorkshire with far too many meals involving chips, and I’m stepping away from the scales for a few days – my clothes are telling me everything I need to know.

Having said that, I got the dress to fit! So I’m doing something right somewhere – I did read that travelling to a different time zone can play havoc with your weight as you eat more (I know I do) to compensate for the mealtimes you’re missing that you’re used to.

With illness I haven’t been swimming, though we did lots of walking around Yorkshire when we were there which has hopefully worked off some of the chips and fat! I’ve had the flu jab, so I’m going to see if that makes a difference to my overall resistance to being ill. Shaun has had it too and has been constantly unwell.

So let’s get back to each section I’m working on.

Swimming – could do better. I feel a lot better and ready to restart. Revisit – although I am thinking about doing cycling in the gym upstairs for the days I don’t feel like swimming – then I don’t need to wait before I eat.

Being Active – I am going to wear the Fitbug Orb again and start tracking again. We’ve definitely got an active life – most weekends are booked up now until the end of the year so I need to find ways which involve walking to get there where applicable rather than driving.

Getting Out – we do plenty of that.

Food – needs some work, although right now Shaun is dairy-free so our diet has been adjusted a little bit where we all eat. Sandwiches at work have been a bit hit and miss, and with being so tired and ill I haven’t used the Yumbox as much as I should. That is going to change next week. We’ve had lots of nice vegetable curries though!

veg-curry

Weight – I think the 12 stone 11 was a freak measurement as I’ve never hit it since (and I did try twice when it came up)  so we’ll revisit that at the end of this month.

The chips tasted good though. I’m now looking for good Air Fryer deals as I think that’s the way to go. Don’t deny myself, just make them healthier (and use other vegetables).

25 Oct

Grandad, Me and Teddy Too at the Polka Theatre

We’ve just got back from Grandad, Me and Teddy Too at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon, a lovely new play by Sarah Argent, targeted at 2-5 year olds.

grandad me and teddy too

Grandad, Me and Teddy Too is a wonderful charming play – and is all about the distance a child, Mia, has from her Grandad, and how they connect, both in person and online.

This appealed to me, as H’s grandparents are in York and Australia – we have nobody close by. The internet is our main means of communication to stay in touch; we have regular chats over Skype and Facetime with Shaun’s mum and dad, whereas I tend to talk to my mum over the phone.

Grandad, Me and Teddy Too has just the two characters with a nice simple set on stage, and plenty of dialogue to capture a child’s imagination. Katherine Carlton plays Mia – a girl of approximately four, five or six years old, and Gordon Warnecke plays Grandad.

I liked that Mia had the exact facial expressions that H often pulls – I was giggling away at some of them – it’s an adult observing a child and doing it well. Mia speaks to Grandad every night on the computer, counting down the sleeps until he’ll be visiting her. Grandad lives in Argentina, so he has a bit of a way to travel.

Once he arrives he joins in Mia’s games, but often doesn’t quite play them as she would like, making her a bit cross. Again, I have seen those facial expressions myself, I’d say very accurate! They go for a ride on a magic carpet to the South Pole as well! Unfortunately he can’t stay and soon has to go back home again.

Grandad, Me and Teddy Too is at the Polka Theatre in the smaller Adventure Theatre (capacity 30-50 people), lasts for approximately 40 minutes and runs from the 8th October 2014 until 8th February 2015. This means you have seats around the edge for adults, and children are encouraged to sit on their own in front of the stage.

grandad me and teddy too Frozen ticket

As well as this, children are encouraged to bring a teddy or toy along with them – if you happen to take a picture of your teddy or toy on the way to or from the Polka Theatre, make sure it has the hashtag #BYOBear and that the Polka Theatre are tagged on Twitter (@polkatheatre) or Facebook (/polkatheatre), and each week their favourite photo will win a prize!

We were charmed by Grandad, Me and Teddy Too – and I felt sad we’re so far away from all our relatives. We’re lucky these days computers make it so easy to stay in touch. H loved the play, and when I asked her about her favourite part, she loved the section with the balloons. I would highly recommend going to see this, especially if you have long-distance relatives. It was a really lovely show which resonated with me in so many ways.

We were given complimentary tickets for the purpose of review – all opinions are our own.

21 Oct

Dinosaur Beach by Frann Preston-Gannon

Dinosaur Beach by Frann Preston-Gannon is out now – we received a copy to review. Last year we reviewed a lovely book by the author, ‘How to Lose a Lemur’ – which we enjoy reading a lot too, so knew we’d enjoy this one.

dinosaur beach by frann preston gannon

Dinosaur Beach by Frann Preston-Gannon is a lovely story. H is currently on gold level at school as far as reading goes (she has just turned five), and we’ve been working on expression and punctuation which this book gives great examples of. I feel this book is ideal for space and expression.

It is a book of few words, but those that are there are engaging – and the pictures tell the story too. H read it on her own to start with, and I asked her questions about what happened. Her understanding of the book and the story was perfect, she was able to describe everything and even used a little bit of numeracy in there (there are ice creams and lollies bought, she worked out the total).

She could identify each dinosaur and found what they did funny – we read it together afterwards and she could barely read it for giggling! Her expression while reading (between giggles) was perfect too.

dinosaur beach by frann preston gannon

Dinosaur Beach tells a simple story with beautiful illustrations, is funny, has a font which is good for reading (NOT comic sans!) and is available now from all good booksellers.

Frann Preston-Gannon was the first UK winner of the Maurice Sendak Fellowship where she spent a month working with him.

We were sent a copy of this book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own. We also have Frann Preston-Gannon’s new book for review, ‘The Sloth Slept On’ coming very soon! This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

19 Oct

We Came, We Saw, We Conker Pie’d…

Sorry, terrible pun. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll see we’ve done a few bits with Higgidy pies, the latest being to let you know about their latest competition, to design a pie for them, as part of the Higgidy Recipe Hunt. Obviously we don’t get out of it, and lucky for us we were sent a Lakeland pie dish and blackbird, as well as a personalised rolling pin. So I can now officially reveal, our pie is a conker pie!

A conker pie?!” said most people, as we all know conkers are poisonous. So my disclaimer is, this pie does not contain conkers anywhere AT ALL. But H liked the name, and I’m sticking with it and it’s meant to look a bit like a pie which resembles a conker rather than actually being one.

Shaun is currently doing things dairy free, so you can adapt the Conker Pie recipe accordingly.

Conker Pie

For the pastry –
250g Plain Flour
110g Trex
a pinch of salt
some cold water.

Put the flour and salt in a bowl, and add the Trex (or butter) to the mixture, getting it into a breadcrumb-like consistency. Once you’ve achieved this, add the water to bind it all together, roll into a ball and wrap with clingfilm. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to allow it to rest.

For the filling –
2 sweet potatoes
3 carrots
one bag of chestnuts – I got Gefen whole chestnuts which come roasted and peeled.

peel and dice the sweet potato and carrot and lay on a baking tray. Roast for around 15-20 minutes. I sprayed them lightly with some Frylight. Slice the chestnuts and put into a frying pan, adding some light curry powder, some cumin and a bit of garlic. Stir together, and once the other vegetables are finished in the oven, add those to the mixture. Finally, get a tin of lentils and add to the mixture, making sure they’re well drained. (you could also use split peas – I forgot to soak them, so I’ll try that next time)

Roll out the pastry. I found it was quite crumbly, possibly due to using Trex instead of butter. Paul Hollywood would not be happy. Actually, we found ourselves saying many times “what would they do on Bake Off?” and remembering. I rolled it to around 0.5cm thickness, with a lot of patching together as it was fairly dry and crumbly.

The filling is ready, but don’t forget the blackbird – put it in the middle of the pie dish to let steam out while cooking, and add the filling around it. Place the rolled out pastry on top, and carefully trim the sides to fit the dish. We also did the fork pattern around the edges for extra conker pie prettiness.

Conker PieFinally, brush the top with milk (we used soya milk) and for the conker-like appearance, lightly fry some pine nuts in the frying pan used for mixing the vegetables until they’re slightly toasted, and put them onto the top of the pastry. Some stuck up and some fell over, but they had the spiky conker-like effect we were looking for.

Pop into the oven for 25 minutes at 180 degrees.

The Conker Pie should be a nice mixture of flavours and crunch without being too overbearing. The only thing I’d say went wrong with ours was the pastry – next time I’ll buy ready made which should make things a bit simpler. But overall it was a delicious pie, dairy free, and full of vegetables! Oh and it made for a nice Sunday dinner too… and there’s enough left for more tomorrow.

Conker Pie

We received some goodies from Higgidy for taking part in this challenge.

13 Oct

It’s a Higgidy Recipe Hunt!

A couple of weeks ago we were sent some goodies from Higgidy as they’re on a recipe hunt. While we’re not quite ready to share our creation (and you’ll know about it when we are), it only seemed fair to let you all know about it too.

Higgidy-logo

The Higgidy Recipe Hunt is on! Head over to Higgidy’s website to find out more

I think it’s pretty exciting – create your own pie, and submit it to Higgidy. Higgidy will then shortlist all the entries into a final three which you can vote for. The winning pie will be available from Sainsburys next spring! The terms & conditions are here.

The best thing is, you don’t have to be able to cook to enter the Higgidy Recipe Hunt – if you have a combination you always wished you’d tried, you can do just that. All you have to do is pop your entry idea onto the form on the page above.

Don’t leave it too long though – you only have until the 26th October, which isn’t very long at all!

We have been sent some pie-making goodies to submit an entry – which will follow very soon! 

 

12 Oct

Singalonga Frozen at Hampton Court

In the last year our lives have very slowly been taken over by THAT film. Last Christmas we took H to see Frozen, and in the months since it has become her latest obsession. When it was announced Singalonga Frozen would be coming to Hampton Court, and would go ahead whatever the weather, we bought tickets.

Singalonga Frozen

Singalonga Frozen was at Hampton Court and has been doing a tour around loads of interesting venues (alongside other films) with The Luna Cinema – the last night of the season at Leeds Castle tonight (Sunday 12th October).

So what do you need to know? Here’s my handy checklist:

Singalonga Frozen

It is October – it is COLD. Take fleeces, blankets, waterproofs, warm things. There was one tea stand which was reasonably priced, but the queue was long. I’d suggest taking a flask.

We took camping chairs for everyone – even though once the film started the girls all sat on our knees – this was a good thing as it was getting so cold I thought I might faint (this happens a lot) – we warmed up quickly, so it wasn’t so bad.

We also took a picnic. Some people brought in Pizza Express takeouts, but you really could take anything in there.

Benefit makeover

There was a Benefit stand as you walk in – you get your photo taken and if you’re lucky you can win a chance to sit in the VIP inflatable chairs just in front of the blanket area. We missed this, as it wasn’t completely obvious, but it wasn’t a problem.

Ah yes, the seating areas – there’s a flat bit at the front for people with blankets, the inflatable chairs, the VIP areas (approx £25 per person) then the area everyone else can sit. H could see in our regular seats, but sat on my knee and could see even better.

You get the words to the songs! This is good as obviously even though your child will probably know them off by heart, you can bluff your way around it too.

Singalonga Frozen

The only food option was hot dogs – fine if you’re not a vegetarian. If you are, take some food in! They had some granola for sale with the coffee which I did buy, as well as crisps and popcorn.

Merch. There was plenty – I bought H a ring for £1 and a purse for £2. There was pricey stuff and the cheaper ones too, so a good balance.

Benefit were one of the sponsors – you could buy sample sizes of the cosmetics for £2 with all money going to Refuge – I bought a bag. Benefit were also offering £1 makeovers which the girls all had done as well.

Singalonga Frozen

Follow the Luna Cinema on Facebook for information about more events – they’re planning next year already, and I know it’s something we’ll do again. The girls loved it, and despite the cold it was a brilliant night – plus they got to get their photos taken with ‘Elsa’ – we missed ‘Kristoff’ though (I haven’t dared tell H!).

Tickets came in around £15 each, with loads of options available. I’d definitely recommend it if you want to do something a bit different – especially if you’re already a fan of the film! We were also able to wander around the grounds prior to the film starting, although it was the girls who ran around a bit more than we did!