27 Nov

Samsung Galaxy S5 Teddy Bear Tea Party

So as I previously mentioned, we were sent a Samsung Galaxy S5 phone to try out – just for a couple of weeks, mind. It was long enough to help me make up my mind about what I’m going to do when my current contract runs out – I’m switching to Three, and I’ll also be getting the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini (I like a phone that fits in my pocket!).

From Samsung Galaxy S5 test

So it was a breezy Saturday in November when H and I got on the train and made our way to Oxford Street – an easy journey from here, thankfully. This was also a perfect opportunity to take as many pictures on the phone as I could before I had to hand it back!

We were invited to a Teddy Bear Picnic at Build a Bear, Hamleys – and despite us living in London, I don’t get into the West End that often, so for H this was a whole new experience (despite the fact she has been there before – she just has no recollection). Build A Bear, however, she’s been to several times! We met up with the other bloggers and the lovely ladies from the PR company, who took us upstairs – where the children were encouraged to be as noisy as they possibly could thanks to our fabulous party leader. H was a bit shy until she saw the ‘bear’ she’d decided she wanted – Olaf from Frozen. I got the chance to play around with the filters on the camera in the process which kept me happy!

From Samsung Galaxy S5 test

Oh, and to add to this, Olaf has ‘In Summer’ embedded onto a disc and placed in his paw from the ‘Pick A Sound’ booth. We were assured it wasn’t too loud, something I put to the test on the train on the way home, where the entire carriage wondered what on earth was going on, while I tried to smother Olaf to muffle the noise.. oops! Let’s just say, we know when H is awake if she happens to press Olaf’s foot… she makes sure we do.

From Samsung Galaxy S5 test

Finally, the children were all given hearts which would live inside the bear, and given various things to do to make sure the heart will keep a happy bear – or indeed, rubbing it on your knees so you can run faster.

From Samsung Galaxy S5 test

I can’t remember what they were doing here, other than rubbing it on their nose!

From Samsung Galaxy S5 test

The children all started to forget us adults were there (which was kind of nice, I could stand back, take photos and watch her enjoying herself) and played a few games – including ‘Dress the Reindeer’ – where they were encouraged to get whatever they wanted from the racks to dress up two Build a Bear Reindeers – they missed a trick here, surely? There should be a Sven!!!

From Samsung Galaxy S5 test

Anyway, the kids looked to be having a brilliant time, and us adults were all laughing along too, despite it being the middle of the day in Hamleys on a Saturday so pretty rammed!

I liked using the S5 for indoor photography – often I’ve found that pictures can be grainy, but I found the ones taken were really clear. My Picasa album has lots of pictures in there, with a selection in here.

H was happy to have another Frozen themed bear to add to her collection – the two she got when she was at holiday club have Elsa and Anna dresses as well.

From Samsung Galaxy S5 test

After Hamleys, we jumped into black cabs and headed to Scoff and Banter in Covent Garden for afternoon tea. I have a confession – I have never had afternoon tea, ever. I had no idea what to expect. So when this arrived and I was told this was my vegetarian selection, I had to work out where to start!! It was delicious – and I couldn’t finish it.

From Samsung Galaxy S5 test

Luckily as one blogger had to leave early there was room for Shaun too who had come into Central London to meet us! Scoff and Banter was lovely, H really enjoyed the food, and LOVED the milkshakes – she polished off a strawberry and a chocolate one pretty quickly!

From Samsung Galaxy S5 test

We chatted, ate, take photos and tried to convince Elly that I hadn’t laden down the S5 box with scones, and there really was a phone in there… Just kidding! Before long it was time to say our farewells, the phone and I. I gently wiped it clear of all my photos and fingerprints and sadly handed it back. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a very lovely phone!

In fact, the biggest downer was walking through Covent Garden afterwards, and taking photos of the Christmas decorations, knowing that the pictures would have been so much better with the S5. We headed to the Tower of London to see the poppies afterwards, and I had to switch to using my camera – I do wonder how the S5 would have fared.

All in all, it was a brilliant day, and we had a wonderful time. I loved trying out the Samsung Galaxy S5, and found it easy to use (I have an S3 Mini at the moment) once I’d worked out how to get Swype going. Three as a network are definitely better signal-wise than my current provider – and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to try the phone and network to help make my mind up.

We were sent a Samsung Galaxy S5 to try and take photos at the event, as well as a bear from Build A Bear (or rather, a HAPPY Snowman!), and food afterwards – thank you Three & Samsung! 

24 Nov

Comfortchew from Cheeky Chompers

Cheeky Chompers designed the award-winning Neckerchew which you may have seen on Dragon’s Den. They have a new creation, the Comfortchew; read on to find out what we think.

What is a Comfortchew? A soft, soothing, stimulating blankie which has all the essentials together – a comforter, a teether, tags and the softness of a teddy – all things which babies love. It also has a loop which can be fastened to baby’s wrist, cot, car seat or buggy – handy as I know H often threw things onto the floor and I often wished I had a way of fastening things to the buggy when we were out.

I also love that there are two designs – and both are unisex – none of this blue for boys and pink for girls thing is going on here. There are also two Neckerchew (a dribble bib and chewy teether combined in one) designs available which co-ordinate with these.

comfortchew

Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning, Julie and Amy who founded Cheeky Chompers appeared on Dragon’s Den – but didn’t secure investment. Fortunately us parents saw sense in what they made, and they’ve since smashed sales targets!

I love the functionality of the Comfortchew – the teether is a brilliant idea, as we only really used the refrigerated hippo style ones with H, and had nothing we could take out with us. I would have definitely used this, had it been around.

So how much does a Comfortchew cost? It isn’t cheap with a rrp of £17.95, but considering what I’d pay for the separate parts, it doesn’t seem an unreasonable amount. The Comfortchew is machine washable at 40 degrees, BPA and phthalates free, and 100% safe to chew on – and it’s made in the UK too. When I buy something for a newborn, I like to make sure there’s plenty of use for it – while clothes are great they have such a short time they can be used – and I would say this would last a good couple of years thanks to the different uses it has.

Julie and Amy answered some questions about their business, as we wondered when you can consider it a business and not a hobby. Fortunately they knew they wanted Cheeky Chompers to be a business and saw the gap in the market. When they showcased the bib at The Baby Show and got some brilliant feedback, they realised they had something worth pursuing.

As far as anyone who might try to copy what Cheeky Chompers are doing, the products are unique and the first of their kind so it would be noticeable. The idea has been patented, so should help deter any imitations. They also want to develop a strong brand identity so that parents can trust and come back, knowing what they’re getting – they’re not going to be chasing after copycats so it takes over their lives!

Advice to mums thinking about going into business, and getting the work-life balance is a struggle, especially when you’re running your own business. Most of the time they conduct their business when the kids are in bed!  Also, don’t feel guilty when you’re taking time away from the kids to work. Having office space helps too, as you’re doing business things when you’re in the office. They both spend three days in the office which gets much more done. Also, having family members and friends who don’t mind babysitting is key, so that you can focus on your work!

You can buy the Comfortchew direct from the Cheeky Chompers website over here

We were sent the Comfortchew for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own. 

24 Nov

A Healthy Me? November

I think as far as November and health goes, it’s a big fat FAIL.

Last week I developed a cough, similar to the one most of my friends have had with the flu – looks like the jab worked, but I’m just not immune from the cough at the end. So far I’m eight days in with around one to three hours worth of sleep every night – I am not a pretty sight. I even had four days off sick last week which I haven’t done in a very long time. I felt rough.

Add to that a rather violent cough which then put my back out – you couldn’t make it up. I have a new Osteopath who looks on the body as a whole rather than just sorting out the back, so I’m currently taking her advice. One of the things I said was how annoyed at myself I am for giving in to easy food and putting my weight back on so easily. She suggested eating apple and pineapple for lunch every day, and from making that change I now weigh 13 stone 2 – which isn’t too far off the 12 stone 11 I hit initially. I haven’t tried the dress recently either – too tired.

So, let’s break it down.

Swimming. Sadly, nothing. I have to stop doing breast stroke because of my back – it isn’t any good. I can’t do front crawl (I need to learn), so I’m going to take an induction for the gym and do cycling and cross training which are both okay for my back, as well as some gentle weights.

Being Active. I wish. We’ve been out and about but when the cough started I’ve pretty much stayed at home, weekends in my pyjamas. See also – getting out.

photo-3-1-300x225

Food. I’m making improvements. At Blogfest we did the Unilever plate to eat all our food, and I’m thinking of ways to make sure all our food is used and we don’t throw things away needlessly, which seems to be working. I’m still not sure how showing an empty plate helps spread the word, but I did it anyway. I’m eating better for breakfast and really letting this cold get out of my system. Apparently my immune system isn’t that good, and seeing as I’ve been keeping myself awake for the last week coughing I invested in a Vicks Humidifier which will hopefully help. In turn, I’ll probably eat even better as I’ll get my energy back. I have not had a scrap of energy to prepare a Yumbox the night before work.

Weight. Pretty happy with that, could lose a bit more, that’ll come once I’ve picked myself up and we’re back on track. Next month? Eek. This time next month it’s CHRISTMAS EVE. Cripes.

So yes, a week and a bit of poorly time, and now I’ve a billion and one blog posts to catch up on….

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.