Monday, 31 October 2011

Testing... testing Leapfrog Tag Junior - Scout

Moving house always creates some hassle with the post, even when you set up a redirection - letters and packages often slip through the net. 

I was assigned Tag Junior Scout to test  for the Rainbow Awards, but when I finally got the parcel from my previous address it was too late. Then the half term loomed and I thought it would be a good chance of testing it at our leisure and keep my little one occupied.

Recommended from 1 to 4, Michela was a bit on the old side at 4 and a half years, but as she can't read yet, she really got into it (as you can see from the video above). She even learnt the little jingle by heart. 
Getting it ready
When you get Tag Junior Scout out from its packaging, there is a bit of set up to do as you need to download an application and then the book's audio, plus you can customise this cute puppy (different book pals are available to buy) to say your child's name when it's switched on and switched off. You will need two AAA batteries too. So if you are planning to gift this for Xmas, you better do the 'homework' first to avoid disappointment.

Once switched on, Scout's base is rolled around the book page to discover sounds, hear what the characters have to say or read the story (no parental input needed and no funny reading voices!).

More books
You can buy more books, which retail at £9.99 each - however, click here if you want to take advantage of an offer of £2 off each book. The only niggle I'd have (and other parents have commented on this online) is that more memory would be nice - if you have more than five books you have to rotate them, which in practical terms means unscrewing the back of the pal and connect it to a computer.

What is Tag Junior for?
Tag Junior has been designed to encourage toddlers to acquire preschool skills through fun stories and playful activities revolving around a variety of books. Each Tag Junior book pal (there are other pals to be had, aside Scout) can store up to five books. Each book introduces a different preschool skill, such as the alphabet, counting or social play. 
And if you want to see how your child is doing, you can connect the Tag Junior's pal to the online LeapFrog Learning Path to see your child's progress and get printable activities for more educational fun.

Tag Junior's RRP is £29.99, click here for stockist info.


  • Tag Junior Violet Book Pal has won the following awards:
  • 2011 Top Toy Awards Pass Award
  • 2011 Toy Talk Awards Best Educational Toy
  • 2010 Mother and Baby Magazine Mother and Bay Silver Award
  • 2010 Right Start Best Toy Awards, Highly Commended
  • 2009 Right Start Awards Highly Commended
  • 2009 Practical Pre-School Gold Awards
If you want to try before you buy, click here.
Introducing the next stage....
Highly commended at the Rainbow Toy Awards, Leapfrog's Leapster is suitable from 4 to 9 years. Available from Amazon, Argos and Toys R Us, it retails at £49.99. Below is some information and the testing notes from the Rainbow Toy Awards.

More information 
The future of gaming is captured in the one-of-a-kind handheld that brings mobile learning and educational gaming to children.  Aimed at kids aged between four and nine, Leapster Explorer allows for a truly personalised learning experience with over 35 licensed titles to choose from and an innovative video camera accessory.
The testers said “Very robust, it’s been thrown and dropped on numerous occasions and we’ve had absolutely no problems” and “The play value of the games is endless! “ plus “The ability for parents to follow, track and even help their child’s progress is a fantastic move, overall a great toy”

Testing...Testing Arm and Hammer Spinbrush

My Way! Spinbrush for girls
Buying toothbrushes for a preschooler or school-age child is a tricky business. You might feel a bit out of your comfort zone as most children's toothbrushes that are clearly labelled with an age range are designed for babies or very young toddlers.

For a while I bought toothbrushes that were labelled as 2 years +, then I tried some generic children's toothbrushes, which proved a bit big headwise. 

Michela is now four but she hasn't a big mouth. So I was delighted to be offered the chance to try My Way! Spinbrush, an electric toothbrush that comes with 141 stickers! I was sent two samples, one for girls and one for boys (the head and base have blue details and the stickers are more boyish, but they are similar). As I have a small mouth we both had a go - I used the boy toothbrush, of course!

Michela loves brushing her teeth with me so she can copy what I do. At four, she is keen on learning to do it herself, so I'm teaching her to go up and down, right at the back, underneath... I wasn't sure if she was perhaps a bit too young for a vibrating toothbrush, but after introducing My Way! Spinbrush just before the half term, she has been requesting it every day, leaving her usual toothbrush parked in the mug. This is so reassuring... when I was growing up, dental hygiene was not as promoted as it is today, so I have a mouth full of fillings. 

The manufacturer claims that children brush up to 38% longer with the Arm and Hammer My Way! Spinbrush.  This makes sense to me, after all children love gizmos - a noisy toothbrush that moves around your mouth and can be customised with stickers is certainly more fun than a plain, no-frills toothbrush.

My Way! Spinbrush is suitable from three years. Children under three years can use it under supervision. It's priced £5.99 at Boots and Tesco.


Testing, testing.... OXO gravy/fat separator

OXO, which in the past year has launched products aimed at babies and tots, has brought out a range of kitchen tools to make Christmas a doddle for busy parents.
The new OXO range includes:
  • a stainless-steel flour sifter, around £12, which is perfect for a keen baker and is child friendly too if you want to involve your child in making some yummy cakes
  • a Y stainless-steel, soft-grip peeler, around £5, perfect for peeling not only potatoes but carrots and parsnips
  • a digital instant read thermometer, around £15 - a nifty gagdet you can insert into your turkey and easily read the digital display. The storage sleeve includes readings for recommended internal cooking temperatures - great for added peace of mind
  • a pro masher, around £15, which will make mashing potatoes easy peasy. It also features silicone side wipers - handy for mixing
  • a six-piece measuring spoon set, around £5 - essential for precision cooking and baking, it also features bright colour-coded numbers so your little ones can have a go!
  • silicone locking tongs, from around £10 for 9in size, a useful piece of kit to handle hot food, unless you have asbestos hands!
  • a medium spatula, around £7, Rudolph red and heat resistant up to 600F/315C, so it won't melt, warp or discolour
  • a gravy/fat separator, from £10 for 2-cup size - an ingenious piece of kit that can easily cut the fat for superior Christmas gravy!
 My partner and I tested the versatile gravy/fat separator to make two family favourites: curried chicken pieces, and lamb and spinach curry. While cooking the meat for these dishes you always get heaps of fat, which we previously tackled by using a needless syringe - a slow, greasy and offputting process!

The OXO separator, which comes with a strainer and a stopper, worked a treat - shaped like a jug, it makes it easier to pour in meat juices and dispose of unwanted fat. The fat rises and stays at the top, while the delicious gravy settles at the bottom. Easy to assemble and disassemble, it was much easier to clean too!

If you are impressed by this kitchen tool range, click here to check out the award-winning OXO Good Grips range, launched in 1990, which offers over 200 stylish and practical tools for the home. For stockist details visit or call 0114 290 1455.

Happy Halloween

Carved pumpkin and Halloween candle
We are not celebrating Halloween - perhaps my daughter is too young to be excited about it and in previous years she was scared of masks! That said we'll see what happens when I collect her from school, where they do celebrate all sort of festivals and traditions.

When we were living in Rugby, we did carve pumpkins and put them in the porch so children living in the street knew they were welcome to ring the bell and collect sweets, but Michela got really scared and she has just about stopped having issues with masks.

This has been tricky as many children's workshops or activities at children's centres revolve around making masks.... Now she really likes them and we make them very often, so if your little one shares her previous fears, don't worry... it's just a phase.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Testing, testing... Comfort fabric conditioner + colour fashion tips

As mentioned in a previous post, my daughter started school in September. Between uniform kits and after-school clothes, the washing pile has doubled up. So when I was sent two samples of Comfort fabric conditioner (one for brights and one for whites), I thought it was very timely indeed.

I have now used up the bottle for brights (most of my daughter's clothes are very colourful) and I can confirm it makes garments feel soft and leaves a lovely, lingering fragrance. Comfort Bright Colours is suitable for use on all colours, from pastels through to deeper shades, and even stripes and patterns. I washed a few sets of stripey sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases too and I couldn't stop sniffing my pillowcase - there is no greater pleasure than clean and soft bedlinen that smells fresh. I haven't noticed any fading so far, which is great news as repeated washes can take their toll on textiles. 

I haven't used up the Comfort Bright Whites fabric conditioner, but I must admit it has surpassed my expectations. After just one wash, my partner's t-shirts and my smalls came out dazzling white. Apparently, this is thanks to the Pro-White formula, which counteracts yellow or grey tones that can cause dulling and discolouration. The only thing that slightly surprised me is that the conditioner's colour is purple, like the Bright Colours version.

Pricewise, Comfort fabric conditioners are around £1 more than a supermarket's own conditioner but are more concentrated, have a longer-lasting fragrance and an eco-friendly bottle (redesigned to cut down packaging). Available nationwide, Comfort fabric conditioners (Whites and Brights) retail at £2.25 for 750ml (21 washes) and £3.88 for 1.5l (42 washes).

Colour Confidence tips from Colour Me Beautiful
Comfort has teamed up with colour image consultants Colour Me Beautiful to offer women fashion advice to suit all complexions and hair shades. I'm a DEEP, what type are you?

  • If you have light blonde hair, fair pale skin and very light coloured eyes, you are a LIGHT.  Your eyelashes and brows may need to be tinted to stand out. Your overall look is light and delicate.      Always wear white or a light colour near your face – darker colours will create shadows. Strong colours will overwhelm you, so keep these to the bottom half if you can. When wearing a medium to dark shade, always add a light contrasting colour, this can be in the form of jewellery or scarf
  • If you have dark hair, and dark eyes – and whether your skin is light or dark, you are a DEEP.  Your eyebrows will be dark and defined. You will look good in strong, richer colours (deep purples, damson, teal, emerald green for example). If you like pastel shades, wear them as a contrast with darker colours.   Wear white with dark shades – you look great in strong contrasts. In the summer, wear the brighter colours in your palette near your face and forget about taupes or beiges. Use accessories to lift a head-to-toe colour if this is a look you like.
  • If you have red-tones to your hair, from strawberry blonde to auburn, with green, brown or blue eyes, you are WARM. You will most likely have freckles! Your overall look is warm and golden so choose colours with a yellow undertone (e.g. daffodil shades, terracotta, khaki, lime green, turquoise and for neutrals warm greys, creams and browns). You can wear your colours either tone-on-tone, or contrasting. Wear white together with warm tones to keep you glowing. If you wear navies and greys, make sure you combine them with warm golden shades. Banish any blue-based pinks in your wardrobe and make-up bag. Make the most of your fabulous hair colour with good conditioning and a current hairstyle.
  • With rosy skin tone, grey, ash, salt and pepper, or platinum tones to your hair and blue or grey eyes, your colouring is COOL. Make the most of your striking elegant colouring – pinks and blues are your best friends. Ban anything with a yellow undertone from your wardrobe – and make-up bag too. Contrast your darker shades with brighter, lighter colours. Wear white with cool blues to stay looking fresh all summer long. Brown and beiges should not feature in your wardrobe.
  • Do you have dark hair, and piercing blue, green or topaz eyes?  If so, you are a CLEAR.  If you are dark-skinned, you will have a strong contrast between the white of your eye and the iris. Vibrant colours are perfect for you. Your striking appearance is best matched with clear, bright and jewel-like tones, in particular near your face. Avoid wearing pale colours by your face, unless you can contrast it with a stronger, brighter one. Wear White always with brights for super-flattering contrast. Mix your colours in a dramatic contrasting way for impactJust don’t wear dark colours on their own. Go for bold colours in your accessories.
  • If your eye colour is blended or muted, and if your hair is mousy or highlighted you are a SOFT.  You will have a medium skin tone. Blend colours together rather than wear clothes with high contrast. Choose colours from the same colour family for a blended look. Lift darker shades with colours one or two tones lighter. Wear white with medium tones to avoid unflattering contrasts. Go for tone-on-tone accessories. Add highlights to mousy hair to lift your look. Go for textured or matt fabrics – nothing shiny or light-reflecting.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Mid-life crisis or a touch of Shirley Valentine?

Brit Mums: parent bloggers united

After seeing the poster of SJP's new movie I Don't Know How She Does It, I posted a discussion called How do you do it? on Brit Mums's forum, looking for tongue-in-cheek and genuine time-saving tips.

My contribution was: "I work from home, do charity work and look after a four year old. I tend to be minimalist with housework and personal grooming. For instance, why shaving my legs when I’m not wearing a skirt or I can wear cover-up thights? Why wearing full makeup if not any? It only makes me look older. Housewise: clean laundry and dishes get precedence on dusting (I have a few old pieces of furniture – it’s amazing how dust improves patina)."

Here are the frank, funny and very useful time-saving tips I got:
Troubles Mum: "Housework in our house is seen as optional. As long as the basics are done and we don’t get food poisoning, then all good. And I haven't ironed a full garment for about five years at least. No-one has ever really noticed."

Jo: " Get a breadmaker (with a timer), a dishwasher, and a coffee maker (with timer) – that way you can have your breakfast ready for you when you wake up, and clean plates and cups to eat/drink from – oh and the house smells good too :-) Now if only we had a washing machine with a timer that hung itself out on the line too…"

Ellen Arnison: "Not sure if it’s totally relevant, but here’s how I got out of the house to work yesterday morning:" Read this and be glad if you have just one child, are working from home or are a full-time parent!
Me as Shirley Valentine

As I was collating my fellow bloggers' time-saving tips, my inbox was buzzing with emails from life coaches offering me to ditch my boring, surely unchallenging everyday life and live the dream. I suppose it's partly my fault for subscribing to inspirational newsletters, but they did hit a chord.

In the past weeks, I have been mulling on my professional and family life and wondered why I feel trapped. I work from home, I have a flexible work life, lovely daughter and partner, plus I'm out of renting and enjoying my new home. Where did this negativity come from?

I can blame Eat, Pray, Love and even escapism classic Shirley Valentine for putting ideas into my weary head, but perhaps it's also he realisation that I'm too old/busy/tired for certain things, like going to clubs (I still love dancing though), travelling around the world or simply having a night out without childcare complications.

One of the seductive life coaches' emails revealed that there are heaps of women in my shoes, even younger and with better career prospects (so obviously, they must be stuck in a well-paid job they loathe). So I ask myself: Am I going through an early middle-life crisis or is it a touch of Shirley Valentine?
Go on, be Shirley... download and paste your face in the blank spot!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Testing, testing... Green People's Children's Bath and Shower Citrus and Aloe Vera

I tried Green People's products before (see here), and was delighted to be able to test a gorgeously smelling wash called Children's Bath & Shower Citrus & Aloe Vera. The  200ml tube retails at £7.75, which is more expensive than your usual supermarket bath/shower wash, but again, as with other Green People products, a little will go a long way. 

The fragrance is irresistibly zesty, containing essences of ylang ylang and mandarin, and the composition is free from nasty chemicals that tend to irritate delicate children's skin (SLS/SLES, Parabens, phthalates, artificial fragrances...)

As your child transition from toddlerhood to preschool and then school, you might well think that they have outgrown baby products. However, I find that my daughter's skin is still sensitive and some 'grown-up' products do cause rashes. Of course, if a child is prone to eczema or psoriasis, you have to be careful when choosing any product that gets in contact with their skin - pure, organic products are then the best choice. Another thing to bear in mind is that the Children's Bath & Shower Citrus & Aloe Vera is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Personally I'm not a loyal brand buyer so I either buy a baby wash (a bit bland and my daughter is starting to dislike products aimed at babies), a really mild family bath/shower product or opt for an organic option. To be honest, I buy products according to promotions - cost for me is an issue, but it doesn't mean I'd buy a brand I don't trust qualitywise just because it's cheaper.