20 Sep

Great Explorations – Glow in the Dark Stars

I’ve always been a big fan of Glow in the Dark Stars – the kind you stick on your ceiling and they really come to life once it’s bedtime and the lights go out.

In fact, were you to go to my mum’s and into my old bedroom, you can still find the odd one or two up there – mind, I’m not sure what this says about my mum’s lack of decorating for the last 25 years!!

milky way from AustraliaWhen we were offered a chance to review Great Explorations Glow in the Dark Stars, I jumped at it – while H does have a selection of stars on her ceiling already, we recently went to Australia and were out in the bush where there is no light pollution, and just the stars and the milky way – something I had forgotten about and something which H found amazing. In fact, when we went to Scitech I bought the Great Explorations Milky Way – which has 200 self-adhesive stars which we are using alongside these stars.

glow in the dark stars

The glow in the dark stars are very straightforward – various colours, 50 stars in varying sizes, plus you get putty supplied with it. The Milky Way set are simple self-adhesive stickers – and there are 200 of those. You also get a map so you can plan out a proper galaxy.

sticky glow in the dark stars

Of all the glow in the dark stars we own, these ones have come up the brightest and best – I’ve been really impressed. We found the green and blue stars show the strongest and brightest, whereas the pinks and oranges are a bit more subtle. The stickers are a nice bright clear shape and you can make out what everything is. Sadly, photographs are proving impossible to take, so you’ll have to take my word for it – it’s definitely worth spending a bit more to get as good a quality glow as you do with these.

You can buy Great Explorations Glow in the Dark Stars and Milky Way from Amazon and all good retailers. Their range of products start from £3.99 upwards.

The Glow in the Dark stars were sent for the purpose of review, the Milky Way was bought by us beforehand.

15 Sep

Back to School – A Digit-ill Guide

I am a firm believer in your child getting as many of the illnesses you can out of the way as young as possible – if only to build up their immunity for school. However, there are still things you can catch repeatedly, and I’m here to tell you more. Boots UK have put together a Digit-ill Healthy Guide which has some handy hints and tips for anyone starting out at school.

Digit-ill – get it? Let’s face it, most of us have touch screen tablet kind of things at the moment – how often do you wipe the screen clean? I know H’s one gets grubby to the point I’m almost ashamed. Those germs! This has certainly made me be a little more conscious where I could be making more of an effort.

Boots Digit-ill guide

Here are our (non digit-ill) additional ones:

Last year at H’s school there were three big things which spread around – headlice, threadworm and verrucas.

Headlice, we’ve covered so many times on here already, but it’s all about being sensible. We’ve found Tea Tree helps keep them away, with various types of creams to get rid of them. A comb through at hairwash time, and a comb through with an electric comb in between helps a lot. They’re horrible little things and anyone who gets them has my sympathy.

Threadworms are awful. Even if you don’t think you have it, if your child catches it (and it’s VERY contagious) you have to take the medicine. This is a medicine which doesn’t agree with me at all, and made me quite ill. One preventative measure is to keep washing your hands at every available opportunity (and of course to wash all clothes and bedding well!) – we bought H a Method Mickey Mouse soap to make sure she remembered, which worked. That and having a scrubbing brush handy, and keeping nails short. Boots also have a great pump for cleaning hands when you don’t have any soap near you (like when you’re out and about).

Verrucas are a less common one, but still crop up. H caught hers at swimming, and we were able to successfully Bazooka it over three months – but it didn’t occur to me that children will do PE barefoot at school occasionally, so I didn’t let them know. If your child has a verruca, make sure you let the teacher know, if only to help prevent it spreading.

With the three I’ve mentioned above, you can still go to school. I know scarlet fever was doing the rounds, and indeed one of her classmates has it at the moment, so we’re not over that one yet… it is easily treated with antibiotics, and the child can go back to school once they feel well enough again.

We were asked if H could have her picture taken to show what she thinks germs look like – with a little help (from me!) this is what she reckons! I had to chant ‘digit-ill! digit-ill! digit-ill!” in the background while it was being taken – and she has never watched Dr Who (I felt quite like a Dalek…)

germs
We were sent a selection of Boots vitamins and cold remedies (already in use…!) for the purpose of this post, all packaged lovingly in a sparkly satchel. 

14 Sep

Storytime Magazine

I recently popped into WH Smiths near work to pick up Storytime Magazine. It comes from Luma Creative, the people behind Magic Belles and it’s a lovely, back to basics traditional storytelling magazine. Read on to find out more!

Storytime Magazine

Storytime Magazine is fabulous. In an age of children’s magazines being bright colours, free toys, adverts and an entire aisle of plastic and lots of “BUY ME ME ME” I didn’t know where to start looking for Storytime. Fortunately it was around the corner – away from all those kids magazines. I know there are campaigns to remove magazines with boobs away from children’s eyes, but I’d like the majority of children’s magazines toned down too.

The first thing I noticed were the lack of adverts inside. This is a great thing – Storytime is a magazine we will love alongside H’s Okido subscription which also has no ads and no free gifts – just fun things to do and plenty of facts.

Then there’s the stories – we have a lot of story books; indeed quite a lot which are covered in here; but as H progresses as a reader I’m a firm believer in her reading the same story in as many different ways as possible. The length of stories in Storytime are the kind she would read on her own with no trouble.

Storytime Magazine Owl

Issue 1 has The Hare and the Tortoise, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Alice in Wonderland, The Owl and the Pussy-cat, Aladdin, The Fairy Bride and Perseus & Medusa. There are also puzzles and activities.

You can subscribe to the magazine and will save 25% on the cover price – as well as getting delivery direct to your door.

If I was to compare it to any other magazine, remember the Story Teller ones back in the 1980’s which included a free cassette, and featured classic stories? It’s like that without the cassette. That’s more than okay with me.

If you’ve been missing a magazine which is one you’ll keep going back to with plenty of stories, then please consider Storytime Magazine. We love it, and I’m going to subscribe to it – in fact, I believe this kind of magazine should exist so I’m going to buy one for H’s school as well to help spread the word.

Storytime Magazine is available now in WH Smiths and all good supermarkets. All libraries have been sent a copy of Issue 1, and they offer subscriptions for schools and libraries too. As well as this, you can subscribe digitally via the App Store.

Their official website is here with extra printables and activities based on the stories in the current issue. Issue 1 has 50 pages and sells for £3.99.

09 Sep

Wemb-er-lyyyyyyy!

The England Women’s Football Team play Germany at Wembley on Sunday 23rd November – I’ve just bought us tickets. £10 for adults and £1 for under 16’s – AND only £2.50 postage on top – no fees.

If only all events were like this!

I’m so excited to take H to Wembley – she kind of has been, but she was in my tummy at the time (when York City made the playoffs back in 2009)

We’re excited, anyway!

The Early Bird offer is on for the whole of September, or until tickets sell out.

08 Sep

Big Fish Little Fish Are Back!

After a summer break and a busy Camp Bestival, Big Fish Little Fish return to South and East London – here’s everything you need to know!

big fish little fish tshirts

September (theme – Pirates!)

14th – The Bedford, Balham with DJ Food
20th – Canary Wharf Spiegeltent with Joe Muggs
21st – Shapes in Hackney Wick with Tayo

October (theme – Halloween!)

12th – The Bedford, Balham with Terry Farley
19th – Shapes in Hackney Wick with the London Readers Wifes

On the 19th October, Big Fish Little Fish are hosting a group meet-up of Out With The Family, an organisation that arranges social events for LGBT parents.

Tickets for all the events except the Spiegeltent are available here: http://www.wegottickets.com/bigfishlittlefishproductions

 

We’re going along to Balham this Sunday for a little dance and a drink and a fun afternoon (and I expect newly-turned-5-H will want to try her new Oyster card) – and we’ll be reporting back! I’m particularly looking forward to trying out my new camera! Oh, and talking like a pirate of course… arrrr!

 

Big-Fish-Little-Fish-September-pirate
02 Sep

Monkey Music Beats Fundraising Target!

Monkey Music, the UK’s favourite music classes for babies and young children, is 21 years old this year. To mark the anniversary, Monkey Music classes across the UK have been raising funds for national charity partner, Nordoff Robbins music therapy, together with a selection of local charitable causes. Although Monkey Music set an original 21st birthday fundraising target of £21,000, to date a remarkable £30,000 has been received!

Nordoff Robbins

Among many activities, Monkey Music raised funds through a Birthday Card Colouring Competition that offered prizes from Monkey Music’s national corporate partners – including an iPad, a holiday and more. Then, when the coloured in cards were handed in at Monkey Music classes, parents were encouraged to put a donation in with their children’s artwork. In this way, funds were raised, both for Nordoff Robbins nationally and for a range of charities operating near individual Monkey Music classes – these included Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, the Haven Children’s Hospice and the Neonatal Unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Monkey Music’s national charity partner, Nordoff Robbins, is a music charity dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable children and adults across the UK through music therapy.

Receiving a cheque for £27, 359.14 from Monkey Music Founder, Angie Coates, Nordoff Robbins CEO, Dr. Marcus Stephan, said;

“We’re so very grateful for this generous donation from Monkey Music and from all the many Monkey Music classes and families all over the country. It really will make a difference to our work.

“Nordoff Robbins and Monkey Music both understand the power of music to transform lives. It’s great to be working together and we look forward to a long relationship. Happy Birthday Monkey Music and thank you!”

Monkey Music Founder, Angie Coates, said; “The success of Monkey Music’s 21st Birthday fundraising has been a fantastic demonstration of the family spirit that exists at Monkey Music, not just between our teachers and franchisees, but with our children and their parents, our corporate partners and, or course, our local and national charities partners too.

“We’re so proud of what we have achieved and the fact that it’s all been done by children, adults and organisations all sharing their love of music.”

Donations are still being received for Monkey Music’s 21st Birthday and, with record results predicted for the organization’s franchisees, Monkey Music’s 21st year looks like an amazing ‘coming of age’ for the business.

If you’d like to know more about working with Monkey Music, visit the Business Opportunity website at; www.monkeymusicfranchise.co.uk

Or, you can find the public Monkey Music website at: www.monkeymusic.co.uk

Monkey Music: Nurturing a Lifetime of Music.

02 Sep

Back to School!

Phew, the Summer Holidays just flew by, and all of a sudden I find myself getting H’s uniform ready again – Year 1 beckons tomorrow, when she’s back to school!

I did an End of Year report on the various bits of uniform we bought over the year at the end of term, but as anyone who has a child at school knows, it isn’t just about uniform – there’s a few other bits too.

Matalan Uniform

Take for example, H’s water cup. We started the year with a Poppet Moshi Monsters one from Sainsburys which lasted for a while, although the cap broke, so it had a sharp part where you open it. Fortunately they were reduced so I bought another. That lasted a while again, until I spotted a Minions cup, which I bought. On the last day of term she came home with someone else’s Minions cup! I was gutted, as ours was a few days old – the one she came home with was dented and leaky, and most importantly of all, didn’t have a Bandino Cup Band on it! The Bandino Cup Band has been one of the best things all year, as far as missing cups go.

It has happened a couple of times, and her cup has turned up back in her class the following day – there was no need to put it in Lost Property. I can highly recommend Bandino  – so much so I bought more as with losing ours on the last day we needed one for Holiday Club. They’re a bargain, really hard wearing and make identical cups easily identifiable.

Matalan Uniform

We have just had a big delivery of School Uniform from Matalan, as we’re Matalan bloggers. I chose uniform in a size 6 or 7, as she’s grown a good couple of centimetres over the holidays without me realising – so she’s going straight back into bigger clothes already.

All the uniform pieces were very reasonably priced – and we’ll be testing them out over the coming weeks – her new summer dress is ready for tomorrow. I’ll go into more detail once we’ve had a proper chance to test them out – H is set to fall over several times this week I’m sure, so we’ll see how they fare. The summer dress we bought last term from Matalan is going strong, although getting a bit short (sigh, more growing..).

Matalan Uniform

That’ll be ready thanks to me stamping her name on them – living my inner librarian with my Stamptastic Stamp Pad, still going strong and still really impressed with them. The ink is still doing well – although I would like to find a method of removing the ink once a piece of uniform is too small, as I donated loads to our local Children’s Centre for them to sell, but they’re all still named! Stamptastic do PTA deals as well, so check them out.

We don’t need anything else right now, I don’t think. Can we really put our feet up, knowing we’re all set to go back to school?

We were sent all the above items for the purpose of review – all opinions are our own.

31 Aug

Crisp Sandwiches

It is National Crisp Sandwich week. This is a big deal for me, as a crisp sandwich is something which the Brooks family have as a tradition. Seabrook Crisps, my favourite ever brand of crisps have sent packets to bloggers in order to show off their own fabulous creations. This is mine.

Crisp sandwiches are for Tuesdays. This may sound a bit odd, but that’s how it is. We had a kind of routine with our food, passed down through the generations (well, two that I know of, anyway). These days Tuesdays are stir-fry days and I’m letting my northern roots down big time.

However, talk to me of a crisp sandwich and I’m taken back. My grannie (who died in 1985) used to swear by them, and indeed my Auntie still carries on the tradition. I think they’re both brilliant, and so while this doesn’t win any prizes, really, truly, this is the only way to make a crisp sandwich.

So what do you need? Simple. Two slices of freshly made bread, buttered. Lay the crisps on top evenly, and squash together. That is your sandwich. You don’t need more or less of that. It’s the simplicity of the crisps and butter and bread, the crunch. If you want flavour, choose Cheese and Onion. In my world there are no additions to this sandwich, as tradition dictates. If your crisps are a bit squashed that makes it even easier to cram more on to the bread as well.

crisp sandwich

Seabrooks were our main source of crisps back in the seventies in York. Sure, there were other brands, but us northerners knew which way our bread was buttered (and which potato snacks to put in them).

When a group of us from York moved to Bristol with work back in 1992, we ensured our vending machine had a supply of Seabrook crisps too, so I was able to continue the traditional crisp sandwich at work – you couldn’t buy them in shops in Bristol back then.

I remember being taken to a Cash & Carry in York by my mum and being greeted with a wall of Seabrooks. Obviously I bought a box, and my crisp sandwich addiction continued for as long as they lasted (so not very long at all). While some people are trying to modernise the humble crisp sandwich (by adding cheese and lettuce, guilty as charged), I feel it should be taken back a step, that tradition should continue as it was meant to be. Let the young ‘uns carry it on however they choose, but let them know where it began.

crisp sandwich

So here is my humble crisp sandwich. Unchanged over the years, probably kept the same since 1945 when Seabrooks first existed. No frills, no fuss, no fancy, but plenty of taste. The bread was freshly made this morning – you need your bread to be soft and fluffy and fresh for the maximum crisp sandwich experience. Yum! Oh, you could always serve it with some hummous, carrot and cucumber if you’re aiming for something a bit gourmet… maybe?

crisp sandwich

Happy National Crisp Sandwich week!

We were sent a pack of Seabrook Crisps for the purpose of this post. Everything written is completely true, much to my husband’s disgust. Tsk.

31 Aug

Purple Parking Meet and Greet

Looking for a parking solution when you’re travelling away for your holidays? We got to try the Purple Parking Meet and Greet service recently, read on to find out what we think!

Purple Parking logo

Purple Parking Meet and Greet services are a new twist on their regular parking options – rather than parking away from the airport, dragging your cases to a shuttle bus (and remembering where you’ve parked) and getting to the airport, you can now park within the airport and go.

We had a few options to get to Heathrow (bus, car, taxi), however, I hurt my back six weeks before we went, so dragging a case anywhere wasn’t an option – I had almost 24 hours of flying to do and the slightest twinge could make the experience uncomfortable.

For Purple Parking Meet and Greet you turn up at your Terminal, leave your locked car there, hand over the keys  to the Chauffeur at the Purple Parking stand, and head off for your holiday. We were offered a full wash and valet for £18 on dropping the car off which we declined – mainly as Shaun had given the car a thorough clean inside once we’d heard the word ‘Chauffeur’ being mentioned!

Purple Parking Meet and Greet

It really is as simple as that – and the convenience was something which appeals a lot to me. I was able to get a trolley for our cases, Shaun got them from the car and loaded them up, we handed over our keys and got a booking slip (keep it safe as you need to show it when you return to get your car back!) then all we had to do was make our way to departures to continue our travels.

On our return I spotted our car immediately. We headed back to the same area of the Terminal 3 car park and were dealt with quickly and efficiently. The parking ticket in the car park is validated by Purple Parking so you don’t pay to leave the airport.

I would say we spent no more than ten minutes at the Purple Parking Meet and Greet area – it was extremely efficient and is something I will definitely use again. It’s the ideal service if you want someone else to park your car and bring it back. Given I’m the kind of person who often forgets to write down where we’re parked (I’m thinking Stansted 2004 when we spent two hours wandering around the car park trying to find our car at 11pm), I highly recommend Purple Parking Meet and Greet and we’ll definitely be using it again! I would also say it is a service to consider when you’re travelling with children – the ease of transfer from car to airport takes away a hugely stressful part of the journey.

We were given free parking with Purple Parking Meet and Greet at Heathrow for three weeks for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

21 Aug

On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking

I’m very short on time daily. Since going back to work five days a week I’m missing my day off to get things done – one of those being baking. On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking is a new book I’ve been sent as part of the Parragon Book Buddies group I’m in – which suits me perfectly due to the aforementioned lack of time!

On the Table in 30 minutes - baking

On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking has sixty super speedy recipes. H and I looked through the book with plenty of ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaah’ and ‘mmmm!’ kind of noises until we agreed on what we’d like to bake. I changed my mind when I bought blueberries earlier today – our recipe of choice was to make blueberry scones.

I’d never thought about making them before – and we eat a lot of blueberries too and have enjoyed making scones in the past. I know they’re quite easy to make, so thought it’d be a good place to start. You need –
250g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
85g butter (chilled)
70g golden caster sugar
115g blueberries
1 egg
100ml buttermilk
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp demerara sugar

Grease a baking tray. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the butter and get the mixture to a breadcrumb like-consistency. Stir in the caster sugar and blueberries. Beat the egg and buttermilk and add that. Roll mixture into a ball (mine was pretty wet so I added more flour). Knead gently and shape into an 18cm round. Cut into eight slices and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes.

Voila!

baking at home

H enjoyed making these as it involved mess and she got to wear a pinny. I didn’t get to take photos as they involved mess. I like On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking because it tells me what to do and breaks it up into small sections so I don’t get distracted.

Blueberry Scones

So how long did it take? I would say a little over 30 minutes – but mainly due to having H read the ingredients out to me, and help me count them on our scales. Once everything was measured it was pretty quick from there. I can see On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking being a book we’ll get a lot of use from – for the speed of the recipes and the variety in there. The recipes are broken into sections – Quick Cookies, Speedy Small Bakes, Fast Family Cakes and Bars, Presto Pastries and Desserts, plus lots of useful information at the back of the book, and plenty of delicious looking photos which inspire you to give it a try.

We’ve actually tried a few more recipes since I wrote this – all with great success!

I received my copy of On The Table in 30 Minutes – Baking for the purpose of review – all opinions are my own.