Sunday, 23 November 2014

Extra Special Loaves from Warburtons.

Warburtons are very nice to their bloggers, and I have to say I felt a bit spoilt when a hamper arrived the other day full of interesting goodies so that we could try their new range of four Extra Special Loaves.

Warburtons new special loaves reviewed

The Special Loaves are available in four varieties -

Warburtons special bread loaves

Malted Grain & Seeds is my favourite. A really nice bread with good grains and seeds - no sticks or huge chewy bits. It's really light and makes gorgeous toast. 

Wholegrain & Oat is my partner's favourite. Although tasty, it doesn't overpower your filling, and is a lighter bread than the Honey Wheat.

Warburtons new bread varieties

Honey Wheat has a hint of honey sweetness and has a rich, full taste of it's own. It's a really quite heavy bread. It suits mature cheese and pickle perfectly, but likewise makes great jammy toast.

Old English White is a yeasty Farmhouse style white loaf, still with a soft crust, but a stronger flavour more like home-made bread.

Warburton's breads toasted

A selection of different Warburtons breads toasted

My partner likes them all, but says that for Sunday breakfast none of them beat bacon and maple syrup on a Warburton's crumpet! 

Bacon and maple syrup on a Warburton's Crumpet

Warburton's new Extra Special Loaves are coming to a supermarket near you and make a really nice and tasty change from regular white or wholemeal bread. They're already on sale in Ocado online at £1.39 for a 400g loaf.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Slow Toys for Christmas...

I've been aware of the Slow Toys movement for the last couple of years, and I'm a huge fan of companies such as Wonderworld, Pintoys, Haba, Hape, Le Toy Van and I've reviewed for Green Toys, Orchard Toys and The Toadstool for a long while now.

Le Toy Van Doll's House Furniture Pintoy Fireman Wonderworld Eco-House
The Wonderworld Eco-House with Pintoy Firemen
Slow toys should allow a child to explore their world and play in any way that seems right to them, they stretch a child and develop a huge range of life skills.

Le Toy Van Wooden Fire Engine
Le Toy Van Wooden Fire Engine
Slow Toys are toys that aren't 'faddy', more classic and not based on a TV show or other character. They're traditionally wooden, although card is fine and plastic is included now as long as it meets the other criteria. Slow toys should not in the main take batteries or be powered other than by the user. They should ideally be produced in a sustainable way, with minimal impact on the Earth and it's inhabitants. 

The super simple Argos Christmas Wishlist app. for children aged 3+

Every year since the oldest was tiny my children have, around this time of year, collected their Argos book of dreams and sat and circled all the things they'd like for Christmas. They do then have to pick out a small selection of those 15 billion items (approx) to write Christmas lists in their own best handwriting, to pass on to Santa.

The Argos Christmas Wishlist app. review

The choice out there is immense, and buying the wrong character or colour or set is all too easy. This is the modern world, young children are computer literate, and so it really isn't a surprise that this year Argos have released a Christmas Wishlist app. that children as young as 3 can use to create their own wishlist online.

A really simple app for writing a child's Christmas list

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A better night's sleep with a Dormeo Memory Mattress

At 9 years old after 3000 night's sleep, 2 pregancies and a few month's bedrest when my partner was recovering from Meningitis our old mattress had worked hard. Life had taken it's toll and despite a 10 year guarantee it's time was pretty much done.

We'd looked at memory foam mattresses and then life got in the way, and it wasn't until we realised in September that with the boys not sleeping through, and lying on a surface that wasn't entirely comfortable, we really were getting very little sleep - so we started to research again. Buying a mattress is a very big investment, and sleep very important, so you need to get it right.

I saw MummyOfTwo's Memory Mattress review and then was over-the-moon when Dormeo gave me the opportunity to review too.

New rolled up method of mattress delivery reduces environmental impact

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Hexbug Nano Glow-In-The-Dark review.

We were introduced to Hexbug a little while ago because our 6 year old chose a Hexbug Nano Black Hole set for his birthday in September. The Hexbugs themselves actually remind you of little bugs, skittering around the floor propelled by their vibrating spiky rubber legs and in some cases antennae.

Hexbug Nano Glow-In-The-Dark review.

We were offered the chance to review Hexbug Nano glow-in-the-dark and Hexbug Zombie Aquabot. We've already reviewed the Aquabots, and today I can tell you about the Hexbug Nano.

Three months....

It seems impossible, but it's been 3 months now since Elspeth died. When everyone tells you it'll never be the same again, you don't quite realise just how much.

When everyone tells you that you'll find ways of coping, you have no idea until you start walking just what those ways of coping will be.

When people say 'plod on', they have no idea just how true that is.

When my partner got Meningitis last year I felt I was running in a treadmill that was going so fast I could barely stay upright. I ran and ran and kept everyone fed and clothed and homework sometimes got done and the fish got fed and I kept on going beyond what I ever thought I could, just running and running. It was only when it all slowed down and I wasn't racing from hospital to home to school to hospital to home to bed, that I was able to pause and look around, and see what had been passed by and what needed attention, and I could start to pick up all the things I'd dropped as I ran.

Since Elspeth died I've not been racing on a treadmill, I'm not even walking. I'm trudging through the stickiest mud you've ever stood in. Every single step is ridiculous effort and occasionally you fall to your knees and it's so very hard to get back up. Sometimes you have to just lay there a while and gather the energy, knowing that when you open your eyes the mud will still be there, and it'll still need to be crossed, and you have no idea how wide it is, or if it ever ends. Sometimes you have no choice but to carry someone else, and you have to keep going even with them on your back. Sometimes a hand reaches out and holds yours, and sometimes a wall of people are behind you, all helping to edge you forward.

I have become a master of hats.

I have my professional hat, my blog-posting, thoroughly reviewing, photograph-taking hat. I can be The Brick Castle and talk to you about my genuine feelings for LEGO Minecraft, the educational benefits of Slow Toys. I can research and alt.tag and have pride in what I've posted. I don't need to think of anything sad or hard, I just need to keep writing and editing and it'll all be okay. I can do this, I rock at this.

I have my family hat. The face I show my children, and my partner when he's struggling. I am competent and fill in forms and get to school on time every day and have the uniforms washed and the drains unblocked and food ready for tea. Sometimes I don't quite cope for as long as I'd like, but I need to do it,  for my children. Life for them needs to be better, it needs to be good. I need to keep putting on that hat so that they can laugh and have fun and learn and be proud of themselves and their achievements. They need to be able to look back and see fun, not endless gloom. They need me to read to them in bed at night, and be there with compassion and love when they graze their knees. They need to see it can be done, so that they can see reason for trying.

I have my personal hat. My personal hat is the one I try to hide, the one I don't like. The one that tries to make me fall asleep and play inane games on my phone instead of doing something useful. The one that keeps me awake at night and makes every single thing I do take twice as long because it creeps in and fills my thoughts and won't let me concentrate. My personal hat is why we've run out of toilet roll, it's why I have 1600 unread emails, and it's why my children have had pizza for tea twice this week. It's the reason why I don't remember anything and have to write everything down. It's the reason that sometimes I can't trust my own advice or decisions and it's why I don't want to cook anything complicated. It's stolen my confidence and self-respect and I can't really imagine it'll ever give them back, certainly not unharmed or intact.

Last Friday was my birthday, it was also the day that the Police Coroner chose to return to us in photocopied format Elspeth's diary. Great timing, and it didn't go too well. The mud was unbearably thick and nothing could be done, so I had my birthday on Saturday, which was exactly 3 months since Elspeth died. I think that worked better for everyone. We watched family movies and built LEGO and ate cake and there were some smiles, and mainly there was a lot of sitting together in the living room just being. Everyone had time to wear their personal hat and let their mind wander until the fog cleared a little, and nothing was expected of anyone.

I know that overall the mud is getting easier, I know this because I remember telling my counsellor with some degree of confidence last week, so it must be true despite any blip. I know we can have happy times, I know we can smile and have fun, our long weekend in London showed us that, it was fabulous. I know that we can get through it. I know that Christmas is really daunting, but I have just bought my first present, so I know we can do it.

I also know that this is a positive post, and I'm in a much better place than 4 days ago, or 4 weeks ago, and hopefully you will see that....

Monday, 17 November 2014

Articulate and Articulate For Kids review and giveaway

Drumond Park make fantastic board games and last weekend we got to play with two of our favourites. Articulate has been around for a long while, and it's junior version, Articulate For Kids, has just undergone a revamp which sees it suitable for children aged 6+.

Articulate and Articulate For Kids review and giveaway

Our 6 year old is fairly articulate, but lacks nerve, so this is an excellent game for helping him gain confidence with description and memory. It increases a child's vocabulary and social skills. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Horrid Henry's Christmas Lunch Review and Giveaway

Sadly this isn't a review of a Christmas dinner, although I'm sure a lot of you would be delighted at the prospect of not having to cook one! Horrid Henry's Christmas Lunch, as written by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross, is one of the latest releases from Orion books.

Horrid Henry's Christmas Lunch Early Reader book review

Horrid Henry's Christmas Lunch is a Red Band Early Reader, and ideal for those who are starting to read independently. My 6 year old can just about read this to himself, and the format is perfect for him with wide spacing, easy and repetitive langauge, and plenty of great illustrations.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

LEGO Minecraft Giveaway - Set 21115 - The First Night

Today I am delighted to be able to tell you that LEGO have very kindly given me one of the fabulous new LEGO Minecraft sets to give away to one of my readers. The First Night set 21115 is my favourite set and at £39.99, it's the one which I think may well turn out to be the most popular this Christmas.

LEGO Minecraft Giveaway - Set 21115 - The First Night

In complete contrast to The Ender Dragon set 21117 which we reviewed yesterday, The First Night is based on your ideal first night in the Minecraft game. This set includes a great little shelter which is hinged with removeable roof, and contains everything your Steve needs to survive the night and progress into the game.

Fruit Bowl Frollipops - lollipops made from fruit

I reviewed for Fruit Bowl a little while ago and we found their fruity snacks to be lovely, so lovely in fact that they've been a regular feature in our house. Frollipops are their latest release - lollipops made entirely from fruit, with each one counting as 1 of your child's 5-a-day. 

Fruit Bowl Frollipops review

Frollipops are a huge leap away from this time of year's tradition fruit lollipop - the toffee apple! Frollipops are sold in packs of 5 x 15g lollipop, in a choice of either apple or strawberry - snakes or rockets.