Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Heated Gloves For Cold Days

My daughter Ella suffers from Reynaud's Syndrome which means that when she gets cold, the circulation to her hands becomes restricted making her fingers go blue and black.  She has used it to her benefit in the past to get out of outdoor PE lessons and at the same time terrifying unsuspecting teachers unfamiliar with the extremely disconcerting digital discolouration of the condition!

Hopefully this year, she won't have to suffer anywhere near as much as we have been sent a pair of Heated Thinsulate Gloves for her to try from

Thinsulate, Paramountzone

Good for keeping hands warm at temperatures down to -20 degrees, these fleece lined, water resistant gloves have a concealed battery pack which operates built in heating.  Optimum temperature is reached within minutes and the warmth keeps hands toastie for hours.

Each glove takes a D battery which makes them a little heavier to wear than ordinary gloves (but possibly useful for self-defence!)  If we get a cold snap this year, everyone will covet these heated gloves.  Perfect for the elderly, people who enjoy winter sports and those like my daughter who suffer the cold!  They would make much appreciated Christmas gifts, bringing the gift of snuggly hands whatever the weather!

They are priced at £11.99 for a pair of men's or women's gloves.  Find these and a whole host of other funky gift ideas at great prices, perfect for Secret Santas or stocking fillers at Paramountzone!

Soreen Toastie Loaf

One of the products in the Soreen range is the deliciously squidgy Toastie Loaf, bursting with yummy fruitiness! You can eat on its own or spread with your favourite topping. It is low in fat and just 116 calories per slice making a healthy option for a tasty treat.   Soreen's Toastie Loaf makes a great breakfast or a perfect snack for anytime of day.  

Soreen, breakfast

We were sent a couple of loaves plus a funky yellow toaster to toast it in!  The pre-cut slices are perfect for popping straight in the toaster.  No need to try to cut it yourself (which can prove tricky due to the squidgy nature of Soreen)!

Soreen, malt loaf

They toast up really well into manageable slices that are deliciously gooey when eaten.  My husband and my daughter are totally addicted to Soreen Toastie Loaf with butter, but are equally happy to grab a slice straight from the packet.  It is extremely versatile and can be topped anyway you like.

Buy Soreen Malt Toastie Loaf from Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrison's.  RRP £1.39.

Halloween On A Budget 1996 Style!

Nowadays, the shops are filled with so much fantastic Halloween merchandise that we are spoilt for choice.  With a range of Halloween costumes to fit the tiniest tot through to an XXL sized man, we can become anything we can imagine from the world of horror and the macabre.  There are literally hundreds of pre-made costumes to choose from.  Whether you want to be Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, a vampire, a zombie or Frankenstein, it's easy to pick up a costume and look the part without any effort other than paying for it!

Back when my two eldest children were younger, we did not have the benefit of all the Halloween outfits and accessories that can be found so readily in store or online today.  We had to get creative on a shoestring budget, using household bits and bobs and our imagination to dress up our little monsters!

Back in 1996, we used cheap, black, plastic bin bags and cardboard to make costumes for my kids.  Megan's witch's bin bag outfit was fashioned using tape to make an off the shoulder dress and a hat from a cone of card.  Sticking on a few plastic toys, back combing her hair and adding some make-up completed the look.  Joe was a zombie with a raggedly cut bin bag over black trousers.  We spiked his hair and used talc to make both his hair-do and his outfit look aged and distressed.  We used some face paint to complete the look.  The best thing is that the kids get involved and help design and fashion their costumes, which is a fun activity, lost when using a ready made outfit. They both looked great and got into the Halloween spirit as you can see from the photos below!


Our eco-friendly Halloween didn't stop there as we used the flesh from our carved pumpkins to make pies and we roasted the seeds to make munchy snacks!  We put tea lights in old jam jars that had tissue paper ghosts glued to the outside casting spooky shadows and sang scary songs around a bonfire.  It was a much simpler sort of Halloween free from today's commercial offerings.  We partied at my sister's house with the cousins and had a wonderful time.  Take a look at this group of little monsters all modelling handmade Halloween chic!

costumes, fancy dress

The total cost of the costumes was literally pennies, using household bits and bobs and a few props and make-up.  Economy bin bags are 78p and are a fab base for any number of outfits.  Old clothes can easily be adapted into a costume which is a great form of re-using unwanted stuff to make an outfit on a budget.  Halloween needn't be expensive and by being creative you can guarantee that your outfit is unique.  No turning up at a Halloween party to find three other people wearing an identical outfit to you!! 

I'll be trying another Homemade Halloween costume later on today to see if I can replicate the simpler Halloweens of the past without resorting to the ready-to-wear shop bought scary Halloween costumes.  If it works out I'll be posting pictures.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Christmas Planning

It's hard to believe that we have reached the end of October already.  The year that has been 2012 has flown by making a myriad of memories.  With a matter of mere weeks before Christmas comes, I am starting to make mental lists to ensure we have a fabulous time as the year comes to an end.

We have spent many recent Christmases holidaying away from home, which is something we love.  We enjoy having our Christmas meals made for us, we like having a range of activities available for everyone and we like that holiday feeling adding to the togetherness of the season.  This year, because my grandson is due on the 18th December, we have decided to stay at home ready for when the call comes to tell us that the baby has been born.  So I am having to think hard and make plans to ensure we have a wonderful Christmas.  I am quite excited about having a change.

Food is a big part of our family traditions at Christmas.  We love eating the festive fayre that is available at this time of year.  Being vegetarians means that we have to be a bit more creative with our Christmas dinner but there are some traditional foods that we love as much as the next man!

Cheese and Christmas go together perfectly. There is nothing as evocative of Christmas than a cheeseboard, loaded with fabulous blue cheeses like Stilton and Shropshire Blue, alongside a smooth Brie and Camembert, a tangy goat's cheese, a traditional Cheddar and a crumbly Lancashire.  I also love Austrian smoked cheese which reminds me of being a little girl at Christmas.  It was always my favourite and my children now love it too.  Add some top quality crackers and a bunch of grapes and you have the perfect Christmas tea time treat.

Waitrose, Christmas
A Premium Cheese Selection from Waitrose

A fruit bowl is also synonymous with Christmas.  I love buying a crate of Satsumas which still have the leaves on, making them somehow more special!  I also buy the usual assortment of apples, oranges, bananas, grapes and plums, which the kids can dip into whenever they fancy a fruity snack.  It's much healthier than having mountains of chocolates and sweets permanently accessible!

I love baking for special occasions.  At Christmas, it is wonderful to make traditional gingerbread with the children, yummy frosted cupackes and festive muffins.  It is lovely to cook together and even lovelier to enjoy the spoils of a day's baking while sat down together enjoying a Christmas family movie.

I've definitely got lots to look forward to this year and I'm excited about making my plans to ensure we enjoy lots of fun activities together.   Having my family around is what really makes Christmas special, sharing traditions and indulging in the finest festive fayre.  Plus I'm about to be a doesn't get much better than that!

How Much Fun Can You Have With A Milk Bottle!

There is a whole new breed of milk bottle on the market.  Through years of research and development, Nampak has created a new Infini Bottle which is lightweight, super strong and better for the environment giving out fewer carbon emissions.


The bottle really is very light but it doesn't compromise on strength, so it will handle whatever the family throw at it at breakfast time, ensuring they'll be no crying over spilt milk!   We were sent a bottle to see for ourselves how strong and light it is, plus we were given some extras to make a fun ball catching game!  You can re-use your milk bottle and have some fun before consigning it to the recycling bin!

milk bottle, re-use

How To Make a Milk Bottle Ball Catching Toy

Simply cut your bottle in half and decorate the top half with stickers.
Tie a ball to a piece of string and secure it inside using the bottle lid.
Try to catch the ball in the bottle!

(The bottom of the bottle can also be used as a handy storage pot or a plant pot!)

It's a great way to re-use your household waste before recycling it and is a fun project for the kids to do over half term.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Stampin' Up - Hand Crafted Goodies For Halloween

Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble


Treat your little goblins this Halloween with Stampin’ Up!’s Ghoulish Googlies sweet bags. Simple and easy to make, they are the perfect trick or treat gifts to help put a personalised touch on your spooky celebrations. Fun for all the family to get involved with, these are ideal for customising with all of your favourite treats.

gift bags, Stampin Up

For £15.95 you can buy a bundle to make 10 treat bags to keep the ghosts and ghoulies away!

We were sent a set of bags, stampers, ink and glue dots so we could make our own bags ready to use for Halloween, packed with some yummy chocolatey treats.  The kit we received contained everything needed to make ten beautiful hand crafted gift bags.  The Halloween themed stampers feature cute, spooky characters that will be fantastic for all sorts of Halloween craft projects, beyond the gift bags.  They made lovely clean, ink prints with super detail.  the stick on googlie eyes and the autumnal coloured thread really do complete a very professional looking finish.

Halloween, Stampin Up

I was so impressed with the quality of the products and the design was excellent.  I also liked that the ink stampers fitted back into their plastic box for storage.  We were very pleased with our end result and can't wait to give out our gorgeously ghoulish gift bags stuffed full of Trick or Treat goodies!

Stampin' Up also sell a huge selection of inspiring craft products and sets for all seasons.  Their Christmas range is wonderful with kits for making hand crafted cards, gift bags, decorations, gift wrap and labels that  will be fun to make and lovely to share with loved ones (who will be delighted to receive them).  

All Stampin’ Up! products are available via a network of demonstrators. Visit for more information and to find your local demonstrator.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Poundland's Halloween Challenge

Walking into the Halloween aisle of Poundland, I was spoiled for choice with the incredibly eye-catching range of spookily spectacular Halloween merchandise!  With everything from face-paints and costumes to table decorations and bakeware, Poundland stocks everything needed to host the perfect party.  With everything costing just a pound it is easy to keep a check on your budget and buy exactly what you need with no scary surprises at the till!

We decided to create a perfect Halloween table which will be the highlight of our celebrations this year.  The black, lacey skull design tablecloth was the ideal start to set the scene.  The Halloween tinsel is fabulous for wrapping around staircases, photo frames or for decorating the table.  I popped one of each of the designs, pumpkin, skulls and spiders, into my basket to add some sparkle to my decorating!  Adding the string of spider lights and the green spider's web really added a touch of arachnoid adornment to the table.  I love the paper plates, cups and napkins with the cute ghostly Boo design that the little ones will adore.  The packs contain 12 plates and 12 napkins or 40 paper cups so there is plenty for all your guests.  A pair of black plastic rats scuttling across the table are a fun addition.  The haunted house table decoration is a really effective centrepiece that casts an amazing spooky shadow on the wall.


To create the perfect creepy atmosphere the Sound of Horror CD has 60 minutes of spooky sounds which will keep everyone in the Halloween mood.  The party poppers are great fun and will fire a shower of confetti.  My kids love them!  The Halloween Juggling Balls will provide hours of entertainment as guests learn a new skill using the sparkling , metallic set of balls.  My husband reckons he's a bit of an expert so he'll love entertaining the kids!

Trick or Treaters are definitely in for a treat when they come knocking at my door.  The big Halloween designed bowl can be filled with sweets from the incredible selection which includes Haribo, Fruitella and Swizzell's.  Their Fright Nite range has some really spooky confectionery like Oozing Eyeballs and Body Parts.  Being individually wrapped makes them perfect for when the little monsters come knocking!

Halloween, Poundland

Being able to buy everything I need to set the scene and create the right ambiance from Poundland is so convenient and offers great value for money.  Everything is fun and colourful and will be a great hit with my party guests this year.  

Take a look at the full range here at

Also if you spend £12 or more on Poundland products you can save £2 by printing out the voucher found at!

As a Poundland Ambassador I was challenged to create a Halloween scene for £18.

Children In Need Pudsey and Blush Teddy Bears

Build-A-Bear Workshop have partnered with Children in Need for the fifth year running and they have their own Pudsey and Blush bears available, with £5 from the sale of every bear going to the Children in Need charity.  Kids will love having their own furry friend and knowing that they are helping other children less fortunate than themselves.

Children In Need, Build A Bear Workshop

The BBC's Children in Need appeal is held each year on a Friday in November. The focus of the appeal is the Children in Need telethon, a whole evening of entertainment featuring various celebrities, but many other events and fundraising activities take place around the country.

Since 1980, Children in Need has supported children's projects in the UK by raising over £500 million.

This year's Children In Need is on November 16th.  

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Take A Box Of Eggs

When I was a child, I remember my mum getting the Dairy Diary every year from the milkman.  It was a much trusted and regularly used book filled with recipes for dishes that my mum would make.  I have fond memories of pouring through the pages and I'm sure that was the basis for my love of cookbooks that I have now.  I love the glossy pages, the images of delicious food, the culinary inspiration and the promise of great meals!

Take a Box of Eggs is the latest in the Dairy Cookbook series and contains 100 triple-tested egg recipes of varying degrees of difficulty – from classic boiled eggs through to Spanish omelettes, creme caramel and souffl├ęs.  As a vegetarian, free-range eggs are an important part of our diet, so I was pleased to see so many interesting ideas for using eggs!

The book features lovely colour photography of every appetising dish and all recipes have a QR code linking to an ingredients shopping list. The book includes colour coded sections including a dedicated Vegetarian section and a lovely, tempting Bakes section.  The wire ring binding, which keeps the pages open, is a godsend when following a recipe and the red, ribbon page marker makes it easy to mark your favourite page.

The book is £9.99 including P&P but there is a special offer where you can buy it for £7.49 during October at  The website also includes a selection of the recipes including my favourite Eggs Au Gratin, a wholesome, hearty dish!  Plus there is a competition to win one of 100 of the Take A Box of Eggs cookbooks...but hurry it closes on October 31st 2012.

Daddy, I'm A Zombie

Dixie is an angsty, rebellious teenager who is unhappy with her life. She is a misunderstood Goth who feels that the whole world is against her. She wants to be different, but doesn't realise just how different she is about to become!  One night during a storm, something happens that sees Dixie transformed into a zombie!

Finding herself in a strange new world, Dixie accompanied by her new friends Vitriol, the wise zombie sage, Isis, a highly superstitious Egyptian mummy princess, and Gonner, a pirate cabin boy, Dixie must now travel across the land of Azoth and defeat the evil zombie witch, Nubulosa, to find her way home!

Nubulosa is seeking a mystical item which will open a portal between the world of the living and the dead allowing her to invade the living world with her zombie armies.  Will Dixie and her zombie friends save the day and will she get a second chance at life?

Lionsgate, DVD

Kizzy, who is 10, really enjoyed this film.  It is quite dark, but older kids love that sort of thing!  The animation is really quirky and there is a lot of humour in this film.  Kizzy loved the ending which is quite heartwarming!  It will be a great movie for Halloween!

UK Cert: PG
Run Time: 79 minutes
Price: £6.99

Avaialble to buy now at good retailers such as

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Hello Kitty For Halloween!!

Build A Halloween Bear!

We are big fans of the Build-A-Bear Workshop.  Everyone of my children has made their own bear which has become a much loved member of the family!  We adore the outfits, particularly when they get in a new seasonal range.  Halloween is a particular favourite time of year for us and seeing the mini Halloween costumes hanging on their little hangers in store really is a treat!!

This year there are also some special Halloween toys to add to your collection.  There is a cute Pumpkin Pal Teddy with pumpkin print fur and a pumpkin for a nose. There is also a rather spooktastic Orange Hello Kitty, that Kizzy was sent, courtesy of the Build-A Bear Workshop. The 46cm tall Hello Kitty teddy looks fabulous with her black leather-look bow and her textured, shimmery bright orange fur.  She has a Hello Kitty logo inside a pumpkin  embroidered onto her paw. She also has the iconic facial features with  embroidered whiskers, black button eyes and a yellow button nose.

Halloween, Build A bear workshop

The Spooky Hello Kitty has her own funky outfit consisting of a Halloween skirt and T-shirt with black patent bow heels available to buy separately to complete the spooktastic look ready for any Halloween celebrations.


This toy is part of a limited edition run of 57, 000  (we have #24,480!)

Kizzy loves the Hello Kitty teddy and adores how soft and cuddly she is.  It is a much bigger toy than the usual Build-A-Bear teddies, but as the extra size is all in the head, the clothes do still fit her.  

The Spooky Hello Kitty will make an excellent Halloween gift for someone special and will help keep those ghosts and ghouls away!  She is priced at £20.

Find out more about Build-A-Bear at

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Have Fun Dressing-Up

Dressing-up is one of childhood's most precious activities.  When children put on a costume they are instantly transported into a world of  role play where they can take on the guise of whoever they want to be.  The props and clothing add that extra element of play value that helps to create the scene and fires up the child's imagination to completely embrace the game of make-believe.

Having a dressing-up box filled with fabulous outfits and accessories is a wonderful addition to any home and it needn't be expensive.  Old costume jewellery, hand me down clothing, bits and bobs from charity shops or even lengths of old material can be a treasure chest of fun to a young child, inspiring them into an imaginative game.   

With Halloween fast approaching, fancy dress is an important part of the proceedings as children dress up and embrace the fun of the season.  I love the excuse to get dressed up myself and enjoy entering that imaginary world that I create when I put on a fancy dress costume.

There are some great companies out there producing some wonderful, ready to wear costumes. Whether you are celebrating Book Week, going to a party, Trick or Treating or just having fun at home, there are some fabulous outfits on the market.  How about this brilliant outfit that Freddy is wearing?  It brings history alive as he becomes a knight, a prince or a king with his sword, shield, crown, cape and tunic.

great pretenders, role play

His outfit is from Great Gizmos' award winning Great Pretenders label, which opens up a world of fantasy with its gorgeous range of costumes for children aged 2 - 8 years old.  Their latest line in historical, royal themed outfits for Autumn 2012 are out of this world.  The King outfit and accessories that Freddy were sent are absolutely beautifully made and quite simply stunning.

He immediately embraced his role as King Freddy The Great, slaying dragons (which were actually my legs) with his sword, wielding his shield and swishing his cape!  Everything fitted really nicely and he loved the shiny fabric that looked very dignified and noble!

role play, Great Gizmos, king outfit

Girls can also dress as royalty with a turquoise Marie Antoinette gown (just be sure they don't lose their heads!) or a sumptuous red and gold Elizabeth I dress that is fit for a queen!  If your little one is more superhero than royal family, the reversible superhero hood and capes see little crime fighters switch between Batman to Spiderman in a simple flip of their outfit.  The reversible  Fairytale pinafore allows little girls to act out fairytales transforming between a bright yellow frock to a pink and white pinafore.  Double the play value!  The Fairy outfits are amazing with matching wings and flower headdresses making your little fairies look very fanciful and very beautiful.  The whole range of outfits and accessories would make much loved gifts that would be treasured by any child.

Stockists include

dressing up, king, royalty

Freddy was sent his King's outfit for the purpose of this review.

Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker

Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker, a DVD for young children ages 3-6, has just been released in the United Kingdom for Christmas 2012. Enjoy the Birmingham Royal Ballet performing excerpts from The Nutcracker, narrated especially for children by a cartoon fairy-ballerina. Dance along to fun ballet step demonstrations featuring students from the School of American Ballet, the official academy of the New York City Ballet. Created by two ballet-loving mums from the USA, this show appears annually on American TV during the Christmas season.    
It's never too soon to introduce ballet to children, especially when it is as wonderful and accessible as the scenes from The Nutcracker.  This is such a child friendly DVD which makes children want to join in and dance along and is a lovely introduction to this classical ballet.  
The story of The Nutcracker is explained through the fun narration of the cartoon fairy (and the fairy talks with an English accent) so even the youngest children understand the story behind the performance.  
The introduction to simple ballet moves is an interactive element that the kids really enjoy.  They will be performing a passe and a pirouette before you know it!!  The DVD has some fun festive extras too.

ballet, The Nutcracker

Best friends Stephanie Troeller and Mary Kate Mellow are the women behind Prima Princessa.
“Taking a young child to the ballet can be not only expensive, but it is difficult for toddlers to sit still for a 3-hour performance. Our shows are designed to expose 3-6 year old children to classical ballet through a fun interactive, animated, and educational experience, where they are encouraged to get up and dance along,” says Stephanie.
It can now be found on for £5.99. For ballerina coloring pages, on-line ballerina games and more visit

Monday, 22 October 2012

Special K Cracker Crisps Review

Guilt Free Crisps That Don't Compromise On Taste

crisps, snacks, diets

Just because you are trying to cut the fat and calories from your diet, it doesn't mean that you don't still want to enjoy the occasional snack.  At just 95 calories a serving and with 3% fat, this potato and wheat savoury snack will satisfy your cravings for crisps without leaving you feeling guilty.

In Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar, Sweet Chilli and Sour Cream and Chive flavours they are available in individual bags or in a sharing box.

We were sent some of the Cracker Crisps to try out.  They were quite moreish and flavoursome.  My husband called them "Skips for grown-ups!" which I think sums up the texture quite well.  We had a sharing box to try out and you have to resist the temptation to scoff the lot in one sitting if you are watching what you eat and find yourself alone with a box.  21 crisps is a portion and the box contains five portions worth.  With the kids helping out, we enjoyed the snacks while watching TV and they were a good alternative to regular crisps or savoury snacks.

Find Special K Cracker Crisps in the Crisps aisle in all major supermarkets and convenience stores, priced at £1.99 for a 100g box or 60p for individual bags.

A Wonderful Weekend To Celebrate Family

This weekend has been really lovely.  Megan came home so Ian could fix her car using precision instruments a big hammer to knock the front of the car back into alignment and replace the broken headlights and re-attach the bumper.  It may not look pretty but she is now safely back on the road after her accident.  I was really shocked by the state of her legs following her crash.  They were purple-blue from above the knee down to her ankles, literally covered with big bruises.  Her back has been twisted and jarred and is painful but she is a tough cookie and being so positive. I am so proud of her handling this ordeal in such a mature manner.

Megan has also just been accepted to be a member of Radio Lollipop, the radio station that operates in Manchester Hospital.  She will be part of a volunteer team who works on the long stay children's wards with the kids, planning activities and chatting to parents.  She will also be presenting on the radio doing her bit as a DJ!  I'm sure it will be immensely rewarding, sometimes heartbreaking and ultimately life changing for my daughter.  She is also volunteering as an usher at the local theatre.  Her job with the charity Hand on Heart is taking her to great places, meeting famous and inspirational people and helping raise money to purchase defibrillators for schools in the UK to help prevent the deaths of young people from sudden cardiac arrest.  I am really proud of the contribution she is making to the community and know she will go on to great things.

At The Salford Business Expo With The Aptly
 Named Manchester Giants Basketball Team.
Meanwhile, Ella is flourishing at her new college, doing well in her subjects and coping with all the recent changes she has had.  On Sunday, she played at the Bandstand at The Quarry Park in Shrewsbury.  It was a very chilly but beautiful autumnal day.  Ella performed beautifully even though she was going blue with cold!  After her performance we were approached by the Principal of the college inviting Ella to perform at some future events.  He said he loved the tone of her voice and that she was very talented, which is lovely to hear!  One of the events is being held at the prestigious Severn Theatre which will be an amazing opportunity for her and a wonderfully proud moment for me and her dad.

singing, guitar
Ella performing her songs.

After her performance we had a walk in the park and Freddy played in the play area.  It was such a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  We followed this by a well deserved lunch out before heading home.

Quarry, park
Catch Me Daddy!

My Girls x

Here is Ella performing a cover of Read All About It:

I love weekends with the family.  I have a lot more family events to look forward to too.  I am taking Meg on a much deserved two day break to Champney's Spa later this week (thanks Parentdish!) Then we have Megan's 21st birthday family meal to celebrate which we'll be sharing with our close family.  It'll be wonderful having my loved ones all under the same roof again.

We Sing 80s

I was a teenager in the eighties and so this era holds a very special place in my heart.  So when I was sent a copy of We Sing 80s, the latest title in the UK's no 1 Wii singing franchise, I was pretty excited about belting out some of my favourite tracks!  With artists such as Spandau Ballet, The Human League and Simple Minds featured on the playlist, I was ready to get into the groove and recapture this fantastic decade of my youth!

Features of the game include:

  • 30 unforgettable 80s hits!
  • Four mics, four singers together!
  • Iconic 80s tracks, including 21 worldwide No.1 hits!
  • Solo, Party and Karaoke modes
  • Eight Multiplayer modes
  • Original artists and videos included
  • Singing Lessons
  • Replay your performance
  • Rap Scoring / Star Notes
  • Jukebox / In-game Awards
  • Easy, Medium or Hard modes

As with all the We Sing games, I love how they get everyone up and singing, they really do create such a fun, party atmosphere.  Four people can sing at once, so there is no need to feel shy!  The scoring is clear on screen.  The range of songs on We Sing 80s means that everyone instantly knows a few of the songs.  Even my 10 year old was able to join in straight away with the chart topping hits and very quickly 3 year old Freddy began singing along to a few of the catchy choruses.  I love that the original videos play on the game which was a big dose of nostalgia for me!!  The karaoke mode allows you to sing without the original vocals so you can practice your party piece and feel like a real pro!


Kylie Minogue - I Should Be So Lucky
Roxette - The Look
Spandau Ballet - True
Musical Youth - Pass the Dutchie
DeBarge - Rhythm of the Night
Smokey Robinson - Being with You
Yazz and the Plastic Population - The Only Way Is Up
Cyndi Lauper - True Colors
Tears For Fears - Shout
Yazoo - Only You
Lisa Stansfield - All Around the World
Paula Abdul - Straight Up
Simple Minds - Alive and Kicking
Baltimora - Tarzan Boy
Toto - Africa
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - The Power Of Love
Starship - Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
The Human League - Don’t You Want Me
Sade - Smooth Operator
Lionel Richie - All Night Long (All Night)
Cameo - Word Up!
Queen - I Want to Break Free
Dexys Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen
Duran Duran - Rio
Tiffany - I Think We’re Alone Now
Blondie - The Tide Is High
Sabrina - Boys (Summertime Love)
Culture Club - Do You Really Want to Hurt Me
The Bangles - Eternal Flame
T’Pau - China in Your Hand

I love the selection of songs and it includes some real favourites from the era.  We Sing 80s is perfect for parties or for families or for those moments when you fancy a solo sing-song.

We Sing 80s is out now to buy from retailers such as Amazon.  (Playing requires the use of compatible microphones.)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Autumn Fun

 Country Kids

I love Autumn and remember, as a child, the joy of stomping through the fallen leaves.  Today watching Kizzy enjoying the season was really wonderful.  Kicking up the crisp, brown leaves and throwing them in the air, she embraced all the fun of playing in the autumnal landscape.  It took me back to my childhood!

fun, kidsautumn


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Silent Sunday and #Project 52

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Friday, 19 October 2012

Ecover Adds To Award-Winning Range

Ecover is a favourite cleaning brand in our home with its plant-based products which make sustainable living easier and more convenient.  They tackle tough jobs by the power of green cleaning!

They have added three new products to their range: Non-Bio Laundry Gel, Multi-Action Wipes and their revamped Oven and Hob Cleaner.  They also have a Festive Cookie limited edition Washing Up Liquid.  I was sent all four to try out!

Ecover, eco-friendly cleaning

Ecover Non-Bio Laundry Gel is made from plant-based and mineral ingredients without the nasties found in conventional laundry products.  I really liked the easy to open bottle with its leak-free cap to avoid spills.  It is accredited by the Good Housekeeping Institute which inspires confidence!  It is designed to be tough on stains with its cleaning power.  The gel has a nice consistency and definitely did a good job even in  my favourite low temperature quick wash setting.  It comes in bottles containing 18 or 28 washes, helping to make your laundry greener! (Expected price £4.99 for 630ml.)

The Oven and Hob Cleaner is a powerful cleaner that doesn't use the harsh chemicals found in other similar products.  It comes in a handy trigger top bottle which is recyclable.  It cuts through grease and smells really nice!  You can use it on any cookware too to help shift baked on stains.  It is also good for cleaning BBQs (not that we are having BBQ weather at the moment!!) (Expected price £3.79 for 500ml.)

The Multi-Action Wipes are bio-degradable, anti-bacterial, multi-purpose wipes with a Pomegranate and Lime fragrance.  They are a convenient way for tackling little cleaning jobs.  Although wipes are generally not the most environmentally friendly product on the market, there is no denying that they can be very handy at times, and these ones benefit from their all-important eco-credentials. (Expected price £2.19 for 40 wipes.)

The new products are available online at Ecover Direct or from major supermarkets.

The  Festive Washing Up Liquid is definitely going to make my Christmas dishes more enjoyable to wash because it smells good enough to eat.  The cinnamon, cranberry and gingerbread scented liquid conjures up the deliciousness of Festive Cookies.  The Ecover washing-up liquid does not foam up unnecessarily as it is foam-booster free but that doesn't mean its cleaning power is reduced.  It will available at Ecover Direct and Ocado in a 500ml bottle, which is totally bio-degradable, priced at £1.85.  It'll definitely add some winter warmth to the festive period!

Disney Princess - My Fairytale Adventure

My children love Disney.  Disney toys, Disney DVDs, Disney board games, Disney clothing, Disney name it, we have it.  So adding the new Nintendo 3DS Disney Princess - My Fairytale Adventure game to our Disney collection made my children incredibly happy.

Disney, Nintendo 3DS

The game, that was launched earlier this month, is available for the Wii, 3DS and Windows PC/Mac.  It is an interactive game that immerses players into the enchanted worlds of Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Tiana and gives them the power to wield a magic wand and save the day!  We were sent a copy to try out.

Players take the role of an apprentice to the fairy godmother.  The apprentice can be customized to look exactly how you want her, my children made one with long pink hair!  She has accidentally set off a series of events that have caused friendly sprites to transform into mischievous imps who need to be rounded up and transformed back into their original form.  The chaotic imps have made their way into the worlds of the Princesses and they need to be found before they can cause any harm.  The apprentice has to use her magic wand to cast her own brand of sparkly magic to return them back in their original form to the Magic Kingdom.

Each of the Princess's worlds include quests, mini-games, platforming and puzzles.  Freddy who is three was able to enjoy some of the challenges independently before passing the 3DS to his older siblings to take on the trickier bits!  Along the way you get to meet and interact with other Disney characters who help guide you through the missions.  We loved meeting Flounder in Ariel's underwater world which is our favourite level.

As well as the main game, players can collect gems to trade for items in the wishing well store.  The room in the Fairy Godmother's castle and the apprentice avatar can be personalised with items purchased.  There is also a secret garden which can be tended to make the flowers bloom using the special tools.  This kept Freddy occupied for some time as he fed and watered his flower.  These extra bits really added to the gameplay allowing young children to get creative and design things just how they want them to look.

The game is a real treat for Disney fans with its lovely locations based on each of the Princess's films.  The scenery and the characters are enchanting and it is great to immerse yourself in the world of Disney.  The gameplay is very intuitive and includes elements that are designed for younger players alongside more challenging aspects for older players.  This makes it ideal as an interactive game for all the family to enjoy together.

Rated PEGI 3+ Disney Princess - My Fairytale Adventure is now available to buy from good games  retailers such as Amazon, for the Wii, 3DS and PC/Mac.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

When You Can't Be There To Give A Mummy Hug...

As a parent, we want to be there when our children need us.  When Freddy falls over and hurts his knee, it's me who will dry his tears and give his sore leg a gentle rub.  If Kizzy falls out with a school friend I offer the advice that she wants to hear and let her know that regardless of what someone at school may think, I know that she is an amazing human being.  Teenagers' problems bring their own brand of parenting skills that are  needed to weather the storm, and Ella always knows that I am right here, fighting her corner and ready with a cuddle whenever she needs one.  I just want to see my babies happy, and I'll do whatever is in my power to try and make them smile again.

When your children grow up and become adults the dynamic of the relationship changes.  They leave home and start on their own paths through life.  I am no longer the first person there when my grown-up children have a problem. I may be at the end of the phone but I'm not physically there for them at that moment when they need me the most. 

Today, my 20 year old Megan had a crash on a dual carriageway in Central Manchester during rush hour on her way to work.  My poor shaken daughter was thankfully not hurt in the collision that left her car immobile in the middle of the road and smashed the front of the Volkswagen that she collided with.  I thank our lucky stars that she is safe.  We can get the car fixed.  We can pay for the damage on the other car.  As long as Megan is OK that is all that matters.

Ian went to her rescue and managed to get her car back to her house after doing a few repairs roadside, although there is a lot more work needed to get her car roadworthy again.  Meanwhile I sat at home wishing I was there to give her a cuddle and celebrate the fact that despite everything she was still in one piece.  I want to hug away the thoughts of what might have been and help her and me get through the ordeal together.  But with Freddy at nursery and the girls at school, I can't just drop everything to fly to the sides of my older children.  We have to schedule a visit which means that I am not always there when I am needed.  I can listen to my child crying down the telephone and not be able to wrap my arms around them.  It is not easy.

My son is just nine short weeks away from becoming a dad.  It pains me to think that I won't be at his side when his baby comes into the world.  I'll be at home waiting for the phone call which will be followed by a two hour drive to get to my son and my new grandchild.  I know what an emotional, stressful and tiring time is can be following the birth of a baby, but it won't be me there if Joe needs a shoulder to cry on or some advice at 3am.  

I think it is the 'letting go' part of parenting that is proving the hardest to deal with.  Mostly I am fine and I am so proud of Megan and Joe and their achievements, their ambitions and their ability to make lives of their own.  I enjoy them being independent and love being able to visit my grown-up children and feel a  part of their new lives.  No longer in control, no longer making decisions on their behalf, but there because we love each other and want to spend time together.  It is when I know they need their mum that it hurts me to not be there. 

Today on Facebook, a very wise and lovely friend said something in response to a conversation I was having regarding having grown-up children who need us when we can't be with them.  She has been through the same thing and understood exactly how I was feeling.  She said:

It is horrible, but at least they know we'd like nothing more than to give them that mummy hug xx

As long as my kids agree with that statement, I know I've done my job.


Mad Muttz

He scratches himself.  He burps.  He farts.  He snores.  No I'm not complaining about my other half, I am talking about Mad Muttz, the new interactive toy from 50 Fifty Gifts.  The scruffy puppies really have no manners and whenever they sense anyone coming close they let rip with their own brand of chaotic mischief.

dog, interactive toy, 50 Fifty Gifts

We were sent one to see what we thought.  The Mad Muttz made Freddy giggle, they also had his almost 80 year old grandparents in stitches, especially when he lifts his leg to break wind!!  The built in sensor means he can be used as a room guard.  It is a fun, novelty gift that will make a great gift idea for the person who has everything!

Also available are Krazy Kats for fun loving feline fanciers!  Both are available for £15 RRP and are suitable for ages 3 and up.  They are available at  Find out more at

Woo Woos, Martinis and Other Cocktails!!

I don't often go out with my husband on our own.  Even though I have my older children who are willing and able to look after Freddy, I don't like seeing them as built-in babysitters.  I put their social lives above my own and anyway, we tend to do things together as a family more often than not, which I'm more than happy with. However, occasionally they insist that I take advantage of their kindness and so when I received the chance to go to Frankie and Benny's for dinner and cocktails, it was an opportunity they wanted us to take together.  So last night Ian and I headed off to our local F & B's without the kids in tow!

Frankie and Benny's have a new cocktail menu and although I am usually tee-total, I thought it was a chance to jump off the wagon for a couple of hours in order to sample their own brand of mixology!

Frankie and Benny's
Which One To Choose?

We started off with a WooWoo and an Espresso Martini which looked fabulous and were served with a smile by our waiter.

cocktail, mixology

Archers Peach Schnapps, Eristoff Vodka and Cranberry Juice shaken with fresh lemon juice and sugar.


Espresso Martini
Fresh espresso, Eristoff Vodka and Kahlua Liquer.

My Woo Woo was very refreshing and very easy to drink!  It looked so very pretty in pink.  The Espresso Martini had a far more grown-up taste of strong coffee and alcohol.  It looked amazing with coffee beans floating on top.

Our main courses arrived very promptly and we had the Mediterranean Vegetable Burger and House Fries.  The veggie options are a bit limited, consisting of two pizza dishes, a pasta dish, a wrap, a calzone and a burger.  I'd love to see something a bit more fancy for vegetarians that would compete with the premium meat based dishes on the Specials menu.  However, the burger is really good especially with a side of onion rings!

We followed our dinner with a couple more cocktails.  I went for Strawberries and Cream and Ian had a non alcoholic smoothie.


Strawberries and Cream
Disarrano Amaretto and Strawberry Liquer blended with strawberries and cream.

My strawberry cocktail tasted like a cross between a strawberry milkshake and a bakewell tart with its hint of almond.  It was very creamy and fruity and presented beautifully.  The non-alcoholic version was just as good with a real authentically fruity flavour.  They were lovely.

We finished off our meal with dome delicious desserts; a Caramel and Pecan Cheesecake for me and an Apple Crumble and Custard for Ian.  The atmosphere in the restaurant was very relaxed, the staff were attentive and friendly and we loved the diner style decor.  It was nice to get away and spend a couple of hours together as grown-ups (even though we spent most of the night discussing the kids!)  We had a good experience 

The Aftermath
For more information and to view the menus, including the cocktail menu online, go to

We received our meals and cocktails free of charge for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Is It Worth Paying More For Cleaning Products?

Testing Scotch-Brite Against Cheaper Products

Scotch-Brite is a company that produces cleaning products that are a little more expensive than many other  brands on the market.  In this economic climate, I have been challenged to find out if it is worth paying a bit extra for cleaning products and whether buying cheaper brands is a false economy.

I was sent a selection of Scotch-Brite's products, along with some of their competitor's products so I could test them for durability and efficacy.  I want to find out whether it is sometimes worth paying a bit more initially and whether I'll be saving money in the long run.

Heavy Duty Scourers

Scotch Brite

Scotch-Brite's Heavy Duty Scourers retail at £1.15 for a three pack, which makes them about 38p each.  I was comparing it against Product A which sells at 30p each as part of a four pack and Product B, also 30p but sold in a three pack.  The first difference that I noticed was that the Scotch-Brite scourer felt much thicker and denser than the two other products.  I personally hate the feel of scourers, they make me cringe, so I usually leave scoring to my husband, but in the name of reviewing I gave them all a try!  The biggest difference was that the Scoth-Brite scourer was much more absorbent than the competitors, which really came into its own when scrubbing down the work surfaces.   It was also very effective and hasn't yet shown any signs of disintegrating.  I am still not a fan of the feel of these scourers, but for an extra 8p, the quality and usability of the Scotch-Brite was definitely better.

Scotch Brite

Multi-Purpose Non-Stick Scourers

The Multi-Purpose Scourers had the biggest price difference of all the products.  Scotch-Brite's premium Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge cost £1.15  The others cost 15p each for Product A and 17p for Product B.  A and B are almost identical (except for the colour) with a synthetic sponge base and a stuck on white scouring layer.  The Scotch-Brite scrub sponge is a very different product.    The wave shape makes it very ergonomic and easy to hold.  The sponge side is thick and dense and the scourer feels strong and claims to scour 50% faster than other scourers and is recommended for use on premium cookware.  It works a treat with its delicate cleaning sponge side and its tough scouring side.  It takes up the bubbles from the washing up water and makes a good foam for cleaning up.  It is really gentle but a powerful cleaner! The scourer is easy to rinse through after use.  The cheaper ones seem to clog and disintegrate after a few uses. 

It is definitely much better than the flimsy, lightweight cheaper products, but you have to take into account the fact that you could buy seven cheaper ones for the cost of one Scotch-Brite one.  Will seven cheap ones last longer than one premium one?  Or does the quality of the longer lasting, tougher scrub sponge justify the expense?  I think if you have some top quality cookware that you want to protect and keep clean, it is worth the investment, but for everyday lightly soiled plates you can get away with using the cheaper ones, although they are nowhere near as nice to use.

Scotch brite

Sponge Cloths

The Sponge Cloths from Scotch-Brite cost £2.49 for a multi-coloured pack of five.  With a stripy finish on one side and a spotted finish on the other side, they are thick and really soft to the touch.  Product A and B, both retail for £1.30 for a four pack equating to 33p each, as opposed to 50p each.  A was noticeably thinner and felt drier and less springy.  It only had one textured side.  B was almost as thick but less soft and had a waffled texture on both sides.  When it comes to absorbency, I put the three sponge cloths to the test using a glass full of water 'spilled' into a tray, replicating a common household accident that occurs regularly in our home!

Product A performed quite poorly sucking up only about half of the water.  It also didn't hold the water it had absorbed very well and it run from the bottom corner.  The Scotch-Brite sponge cloth and Product B both did really well, mopping up and holding the water well with just a little bit of leakage when picked up.  The Scotch-Brite product actually claims to hold ten times its weight in water which I'd say is pretty accurate.  However, the one big difference between Product B and the Scotch-Brite sponge cloth was the flexibility.  It was far more easy to wring out and felt nicer to use.  Product B was a bit stiff and felt slightly brittle on drying out.  The Scotch Brite sponge cloth is definitely more durable and out performed the competition.

Scotch Brite


It's been quite an eye-opener testing these products against each other.  Saving money is a huge consideration to me and my family.  We can't afford to be frivolous anymore, but sometimes paying a few extra pence can be more cost effective in the long run.  Using cloths that are not up for the job will end up being a waste of cash and make household chores more difficult. Taking environmental impact into account, I'm happy buying products that last a long time rather than constantly re-buying and disposing of cheap alternatives. Weighing up the pros and cons and making an informed choice is the wisest plan of action.  But sometimes, it definitely pays to go with the better quality, more expensive product if it is going to outlast and out perform the cheaper alternative.


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