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Actinia

Actinia
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Member since: 14.11.2007

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      18.10.2008 00:26
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      A good workout that should deliver results.....watch out Kylie!

      Reviewing workout DVD's seems to be my favourite thing, probably because I would never get bored of trying new ones out so I was dead chuffed when I found out that the local library lets you rent them out for a three week period for free! They've got about 25 in there so I reckon that'll keep me going for the next year or so - excellent!!

      The hotpants workout was the first one I decided to try as it is a dance based workout and I would love to look like the girl on the cover......

      The DVD starts off with choreographer Dan Karaty doing a dance down a lighted corridor. He then says 'Don't worry I don't expect you to do that' which put me off a bit as he came over as quite pretentious!

      There is then a testimonal from a dancer called Hannah who recently had a spine operation and had put on weight. The video diary shows her going from 11st 8 to 10st in six weeks! She did do the workout everyday though which has to get boring. She did look slimmer and her body looked great but her face looked really gaunt, maybe because her hair had been straightened but I prefered her overall look before she lost the weight!

      The workout is broken down into five mini routines with an abs and 'butt-ups' and cooldown section at the end. Dan leads the workout with four scantily clad 'babes' including the girl whose bottom is on the front cover (wearing Kylie style hotpants) joining in.

      Each section is about five minute long, just long enough to pick up the steps but not too long to get tired or bored.

      Here is a brief description of each section.

      Bounce - A slow warm up with lots of bouncing! Definitely the easiest to pick up of all of them. As in all the sections they style it out with pops and arms but it's still a good workout without these.

      Slide - Sliding moves to work inner and outer thighs. A faster pace now and you definitely work up a sweat doing it. It looks quite harmless at first but it's amazing how tired your legs feel by the end.

      Rush - The fastest, fat burning section of the DVD. Very high paced and quite tricky moves to master. There are some breaks in it where you stretch out and get a chance to catch your breath but you will definitely feel glad when this one is over!

      Groove - The DVD says this gives a slow burn on the waist and hips. Even though it is slow, the steps are still fairly complicated. There are some knee raises to work the abs and a suprise fast move at the end to really test you.

      Two Step - Some quite fiddly footwork to work your thighs, definitely the hardest to master of all the sections but it really works. There's lots of posing in this one too! Optional of course but an excuse for a good laugh (except when you are doing it by the window of a busy street and someone walks past!)

      Abs and Butt-ups - This starts with a cooldown and a small stretch, then lots of continuous abs in all different positions. Apparently doing just five minutes a day will give you a six-pack! There are also the butt-ups which are quite amusing to do.

      Overall Impression

      Some of the moves look odd even on trained dancers and you will either have to be patient and keep rewinding or have an ability to pick things up quickly as the steps are very 'dancy' and some involve a lot of footwork. For me it was perfect as it wasn't too easy but also I felt I could improve on some of the moves.

      There are some extras on the DVD such as a photo gallery, behind the scenes and Hannah's story which is repeated from the introduction. These don't add very much to the DVD but brings it to a total of 49 minutes long.

      Overall the length of the workout is just right and although I was put off by the dated outfits (it was made in 2002) and Hannah's testimonial at the beginning it was a great workout where I could really feel like it was doing something. I will definitely be adding this to my collection of workout DVD's.

      (Thanks for reading - didn't realise I could ramble for so long about a workout DVD!!)

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        10.10.2008 15:21
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        A really good bathroom/kitchen cleaner - give it a try.

        This seems like a really odd thing to review but I've been telling everyone about this ever since I bought it so I thought I would tell you guys too.

        To give this a proper review I have to reveal some rather disturbing things about my housekeeping habits so brace yourselves!

        I don't mind doing housework but have so many other things that I need to or would rather do. This means that the only time the bathroom gets cleaned is when the inlaws are coming round (about once a month - I know disgusting!!) The morning of their visit you will find me rushing round the house desperately trying to make it look like I am a domestic goddess and not a lazy mum who spends all day watching daytime TV. (I really don't....)

        Anyway I bought this originally to try and descale the toilet but found it is now a must have for all the bathroom. It works like magic. You squirt some onto the surface, leave it to work for a few minutes (depending on how bad it is but normally all you need is five minutes maximum) then wipe off. That's it. I've never used flash so I don't know if what they say in the adverts is true but I didn't think that this stuff was so good you don't even have to scrub!

        It is absolutely fantastic at getting up 'soap scum' and bringing your taps to a glistening shine. It does work quite well on the toilet but I suspect some of the stronger bleaches/limescale removers out there would do a better job.

        What is really great about this product is that it's part of the Ecover range so I know it is making much less of an impact on the environment than some of the other branded cleaners. I did a degree in Marine Biology and learnt about the effects of chemicals when they go into the water system. It sometimes makes me shudder when I see adverts which advertise something which removes deep stains and ground on dirt just by spraying it on (like the 'penny test'). If it does that, imagine what it might do to a fish!

        Sorry, I didn't mean to get so worked up.

        I should tell you that you need to wear gloves when using this. When I first sprayed it I found that it dribbles after the squirt and once this touched my hands they started stinging and burning. Even after rinsing them under the tap they were still tender so I always make sure I have gloves on now. (It does eat away at your gloves over time too so maybe use heavy duty ones!) Because of this I always make sure I rinse it off the surfaces well as I wouldn't want my son to get a reaction to it.

        All in all I would definitely recommend this. You have to try it to see the results. And I will now go and hide my head in shame!

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          29.09.2008 18:34
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          An educational DVD for young children - especially tractor mad boys!

          This is an amazing phenomenon. I can sit my 18 month son in front of this DVD and he is transfixed and absolutely fascinated.
          Tractor Ted grows potatoes is a 35 minute long DVD which shows you the entire process of growing potatoes with a heavy slant on the tractors and machinery to do this.

          The DVD is aimed at age 0-6 years (Nursery/Key Stage 1) and is very slow moving. It shows quite a lot of detail such as hitching a plough to a tractor and how potatoes are graded and washed.
          As an adult I found the slow pace and the technical stuff quite boring and was so surprised to see my son taking it all in. As each piece of machinery is introduced on the DVD my son tries to copy words such as 'Power Harrow' and 'Planter'. The name also appears on the screen.

          I own two other Tractor Ted videos and have to say that I prefer other releases such as TT on an Organic Farm and TT in the Summertime. The main difference is that this DVD is much shorter and doesn't contain any songs (unlike the other two I mentioned)
          You can buy this DVD from Woolworths for £8.99 which is the cheapest place I found it at the time. There is also a Tractor Ted website at www.tractorland.co.uk which is a great resource for older children.

          I never thought tractors could be so exciting but if your children are interested in the farm, this would be a great learning and entertaining tool for them.

          Originally posted on Ciao in 2007

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          • Music / Discussion / 65 Readings / 61 Ratings
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            08.09.2008 00:01
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            That was fun!

            Ok, never done one of these before but I thought I'd have a go!

            ~ The challenge questions ~


            1) Favourite last dance smoochie

            This is currently 'Everything' by Michael Buble. I wish I was the lucky woman this was written for as the sentiment is amazing. My best friend had this as her first dance at her wedding reception last November and I have only just been able to listen to it without crying.

            2) Best cover version

            Has got to be 'All Along the Watchtower' by Jimi Hendrix in fact all of Bob Dylans songs seem to sound better done by someone else.

            3) Worst cover version.

            'I have a dream' by Westlife. It's one of the most boring ABBA songs so why would anyone choose to cover it. Mind you they did quite well but then again they could sing anything and sell records.

            4) Best Male Vocal

            This is a tough one. Think I'm going to choose Elvis. He hasn't got a fantastic range or a versatile style but boy he could sing!

            5) Best Female Vocal.

            Karen Carpenter. She has the smoothest most beautiful voice and coupled with the songs her brother wrote and her life story makes me smile and cry and really understand what she's singing about.

            6) Best Duo + / Group .

            Has to be the Carpenters again. I know they are 'Easy Listening' music but I love playing their greatest hits in the car and belting out the songs.

            For groups it's ABBA - really cheesy but feel good music and really clever if you listen to it carefully.

            7) Most memorable Song.

            'We Have All the Time in the World' by Louis Armstrong. Was played at my wedding and says it all really. The instrumental is just as good as this version though.

            8) Your Song .

            I've always said 'What a Feeling' by Irene Cara (the theme from Flashdance) is my theme tune. I love dancing and become a different, more confident person when I do, so the lyrics really express how that feels.

            'I feel the music, close my eyes I am rhythm, in a flash it takes hold of my heart....'

            9) Best Female Vocal Performance

            Idina Menzel singing 'Defying Gravity' in the musical Wicked. She has a great pair of lungs!!

            10) Best Male Vocal Performance.

            'Born Free' - Matt Monroe. What a smooth, rich voice. And I love John Barry too.

            11) Most Poignant Song.

            'In the Ghetto' - Elvis Presley - not sure why.

            12) All Time Favourite Album.

            In terms of what I listen to the most - the Grease soundtrack! A timeless classic despite the fact it is set in the 50's!

            13) Best Music Video .

            'Around the World' - Daft Punk. Brilliant!

            14) Best Act Ever .

            Out of the few live acts I've been able to see I have to say U2. They would never have the time to play all the amazing songs they've written in one set.

            15) Best TV / Film musical piece .

            'You'll Never Walk Alone' from Carousel. Again one that instantly brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat when I hear it.

            16) Best personal computer ( any ) music software.

            Does iTunes count?

            I found that really hard but really enjoyed it. Hope you did too.

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            • Growing Fruit & Veg / Discussion / 59 Readings / 57 Ratings
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              04.09.2008 17:23
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              I've now got green fingers! (and green peas, courgettes........)

              I have never had green fingers and tend to drive most of my houseplants to an early death so I don't really know why I decided to start a vegetable patch in the back garden....

              I had been growing things like salad leaves and tomatoes in pots before but that was relatively easy - buy the plant, put it in a bigger pot, water it, take off fruit to eat. I think my main reason for starting it was the challenge of what I might achieve and I had no real expectations.

              My plan was to have a go at everything (within reason - I only picked plants we liked eating) from seed and see how things went. That way next year I could plan better and decide what was worthwhile for the effort and what was a waste of time. I got a couple of Grow your Own magazines with free seeds included (the magazines cost over a tenner themselves so I can't really call the seeds free) and started.

              I quickly discovered that growing from seed is the best way to start as you can't help but feel a warm glow when those first shoots start to appear out of the soil. The colour green was so fresh and spring like that I was instantly hooked.

              One of the first early mistakes I made was sowing too much. My patch is less than 2 metres squared and I had about ten pots of each plant before I realised there was no way I could use them all. My reasoning was that not all of them would germinate but they did!!! Luckily the spare courgettes and tomatoes have gone to good homes.

              Second mistake was planting things too closely - I'll remember this well for next year. I just wanted to cram as much in as possible but found out this is counter productive as pests spread easier from one to the other and yields are smaller.

              Talking of pests - slugs have been the bane of my life ever since I've started this. I have tried everything including Nemaslug for the ones that live in the soil, beer traps, copper tape and nightly slug patrols for the fat juicy ones. The patrols are the most effective but really disheartening - I go out with a feeling of dread of how many I'll find, I sometimes found as many as 16 big juicy ones in one night. Apparently it's best and fairer to the slug if you chop it in half but I can't bring myself to do it so I ask my other half to!

              Anyway the rewards are now starting to show themselves. We've got raspberries, strawberries, radishes, spring onions, potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, lettuce and basil. We've yet to see whether the corn, brussels, leeks, peas, squashes and peppers have come to anything - roll on the indian summer they're predicting.

              One of the best results of gardening is how much my two year old son gets out of it. He goes out almost every day and says "They're getting bigger and bigger". He points out all the different vegetables, learns the science of how the plants need water and sunlight to grow, counts the number of tomatoes we pick off, tastes and enjoys everything we harvest and spends quality time outdoors. It's amazing how he wouldn't touch a tomato on his plate but if I've just picked one he eats it with relish!

              I've got so many ideas of what to do next year - it's going to be bigger and better and I'm going to invest in a greenhouse too.

              I never started this to save money - the patch is much too small to make much of a dent in the shopping bill - but the satisfaction of watching something you've looked after and cared for is much greater than I ever expected. Anyone can do it, on a big or small scale and get results.

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              • Twinings Rose / Tea / 38 Readings / 37 Ratings
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                04.09.2008 16:20
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                A mellow tea perfect for drinking in the afternoon sun!

                This is the perfect afternoon relaxation tea! I've gotten into a habit of putting my son down for his afternoon nap, making myself a cup of this tea and doing my dooyooing!

                By the way, the photo at the top is a bit dated now as this is now sold as Twinings Aromatics - Rose Pouchong. I've just had a quick look on Wikipedia and Pouchong is 'a very lightly oxidized tea somewhere between green tea and what is usually considered oolong tea'. Apparently Pouchong tea is commonly used for scented teas.

                On to the scent. Now I love all things rose scented and opening the box and having a whiff just makes me think of rose turkish delight - the aroma is actually stronger than the flavour which is far more subtle.

                The box states you can drink this black or with a touch of milk - I always make mine quite strong with a fair bit of milk (I know - very unrefined). As I said before, the rose flavour is quite subtle (even without the milk) and seems to have an instant effect on me to calm me down and chill me out.

                This tea isn't probably going to be to everyone's liking but if you like Earl Grey or Lady Grey tea then give this one a go. I'm going to make a tea loaf with this at the weekend so I'll let you know how that goes too!

                Normal price is £1.99 for 50 tea bags.

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                  01.09.2008 17:03
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                  Cheap, environmentally friendly baby wipes from Waitrose

                  You may have noticed I like to review baby things and am also trying to be environmentally aware and lessen my impact on the planet (it scares me to think of the sheer amount of landfill sites needed to dump the countries nappies in!).

                  So I had to tell you about the cheapest biodegradeable baby wipes out there (as far as I have found).

                  I do find it hard to believe that as well as having their own label biodegradeable baby wipes that Waitrose's are the cheapest too. Waitrose sell a pack of 80 wipes for £1.35 (1.7p each). When you compare this to Nature wipes at £2.49 for 70 (4p each) or Asda Little Angels Eco wipes at £2.50 for 72 (3.5p each) it's quite a big difference. Waitrose also sell a multipack of 4x80 wipes which works out even cheaper at £4.95 (1.5p each) but they are quite hard to get hold of - I've just stockpiled 4 packs of them!

                  Here comes the boring bit - the packaging - it's worth covering bit I'll be brief! They come in a very neutral white packet with pale blue spots. There is a hard plastic flap on the front which flips open to dispense. The packaging is also recyclable. I often find that the wipes come out in ones and rarely dispense continuously like other branded (non-eco) wipes but this is pretty similar to other eco wipes.

                  The wipes themselves are fragrance free, paraben free, dermatologically tested and contain moisturising lotion. They have a neutral fresh smell and don't feel at all oily. They are more moist than Nature wipes and are effective at cleaning all kinds of mess off bottoms and faces (and the floor, highchair, buggy etc.....) The only negative with these is they are smaller and thinner than branded (non-eco) wipes and as such I sometimes use more than one but despite this they are still more economical.

                  Although they aren't flushable the pack states that they will biodegrade in a biologically active landfill in 6-12 months.

                  Since discovering these wipes I have used them exclusively. It's really hard to find something environmentally friendly which is also economical so these are a real winner. I would recommend them to anyone who is trying to do their bit!

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                    01.09.2008 15:58
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                    What do you do? Review first or read?

                    I have a dooyoo dilemma and I was wondering if anyone can help me or sympathise with me. I have found a stumbling block which means I haven't written a review in ages.

                    It takes me quite a while to decide what to write a review on and when I finally find something, I make the fatal mistake of reading the other reviews on it so far.

                    I do this for two reasons really. To rate someone elses review (seeing as I have a good idea of what they're talking about) and also because I'm genuinely interested in what someone else thinks.

                    This normally means though that after reading the review I think "well I can't really add to that it was a really good review" and end up not writing anything. Hence no reviews for ages.

                    So what should I do? Should I write my review first, even if it's not that dissimilar to someone elses?

                    It would be really good to hear what other people out there do. Do you read first or review first?

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                      25.02.2008 15:36
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                      Hula hoop workout video - try something different

                      As mentioned in an earlier review, I have my fair share of fitness videos and am always looking out for new and different ones to try. When this came out in 2006 I was really keen to buy it but kept telling myself it was a fad and managed to talk myself out of it.

                      I finally gave in a few months ago after reading a review which said "I now have abs!" and looked for one on Ebay. It took ages to buy one as the first one (bought for around £7) didn't arrive until 5 months later (thanks for that Royal Mail!). When the second one arrived I couldn't wait to have a go.

                      A few warnings/words of advice to start off with - the presenter Christabel Zamor is very bubbly and may get on your nerves but bear with her, you'll need that enthusiasm when you start to feel like you're never going to get it. My other advice is don't expect to be able to do this straight away - it takes a lot of practice.

                      Christabel was on the Heart FM advert in 2006 and is a master at what she does. The problem is that she makes it look so easy! Thankfully Heart breakfast presenter Harriet Scott also features on the DVD and although she has a good basic skill with the hoop she does struggle with some of the moves which makes you feel much better about yourself!

                      The DVD is great and has an extensive menu of all the different moves to try targeting different areas of the body. Depending on where you hoop you can sculpt your thighs, arms and your bottom as well as improving your abdominal muscles, lose weight and getting a cardiovascular workout. The day after doing just 5 minutes with this DVD my tummy killed all the way round and although some might find this uncomfortable to me it just meant that it had worked! (I still felt like that 3 days later so maybe I overdid it a little!)

                      The whole DVD including an interview with Christabel and her performing 'hoopdance' in some interesting and quite dodgy outfits (think Christina Aguilera in Dirrty) is about 77 minutes long.

                      I started off using a normal hoop for this but to get a proper workout you should use a larger hoop especially for exercise. I ordered mine at www.jo4fitness.co.uk where you can even choose your own colour combination! One small problem though - it's too big for me to hoop in my front room (without causing some damage) so I'm going to have to wait for nicer weather and then practise in my back garden - what will the neighbours think?!

                      So if like me you are looking for something different to your average fitness DVD, give this one a try. Apparently the results are worth it - wait till the summer is over and I'll let you know if that's true.

                      A quick update - ok so the summer's not quite over yet (hopefully) but I thought now I've been able to hoop outside I'd give an update. Am still really chuffed with this DVD. Even a quick ten minutes exercise shows results and makes a huge improvement to your tummy and arms. It also really feels like it's working and my advice is to stop when it hurts or when you can't do it as well - you're getting tired!

                      My son loves to join in with me and now has his own hoop to have a go. I'm a bit concious of the neighbours watching me and also of flinging the hoop into the pond or into next doors garden when doing the arms exercises but it makes such a difference I'm going to keep going while the weather is good.......

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                        28.01.2008 21:36
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                        A dance orientated workout with Karen and Erin from Strictly Come Dancing

                        As you may have worked out from some of my previous reviews I'm a bit of a fan of fitness videos. Actually that's an understatement as I've loads and am constantly looking out for new and different ones (keep an eye out for my Hulaerobics review coming soon!!).

                        So you can imagine my sheer delight when I noticed that Strictly stars Karen and Erin were bringing out an exercise DVD. I didn't really need to drop any hints for Christmas I was just worried I might end up with 7 copies from all my loved ones!!

                        So onto the review - Karen and Erin present a workout DVD with a difference. All the sections are ballroom dance orientated with a tiny bit of aerobics thrown in. The routines are done to music that both of them have danced to on the show, for example Karen does a Salsa to 'Feeling Hot Hot Hot', the number she did with Mark Ramprakash. If you're a fan of the show, memories of the dances will come flooding back and Karen really tries to squeeze as many of the actual moves from the show into her routine.

                        The DVD starts off with an introduction from the two. Karen comes across as much more comfortable with presenting than Erin who seems a little unnatural at times but both do a good job. Then they both take you through a short warm up which again is very dancey. There are then 5 different dance routines to try out. Karen presents a Jive and Salsa and Erin a Cha Cha Cha and Quick Step. They both then do a Samba routine to the Strictly theme tune. Lastly there is a rhumba style cool down.

                        Having done ballroom dancing (and other styles) in the past I was looking for a DVD which was challenging but suspected that I would be able to keep up quite well. To my surprise I found that I was out of breath and having trouble remembering the steps. This is partly to do with the format though - for each routine the girls show you all the steps first (normally about 20) and then they start the routine and call out the names of the steps as they do them. As most of the dances are fast paced this means that if you can't remember the step from the name by the time you've worked it out they've moved onto the next one. Luckily there is some repetition on the choruses so you can at least join in for them if you are struggling.

                        All of this means that if you haven't danced before you may have problems with keeping up. Don't let that put you off though, if you have patience and don't mind practising lots before you attempt the routine you can still have a good go at learning to ballroom dance. The other advantage is that it really is a good way to lose weight and tone up. Each of the routines target different areas of the body and all have a cardiovascular content too.

                        Of course it wouldn't be Strictly without some glitzy costumes - for each routine the girls wear a different sparkly outfit (no ballgowns though) along with matching shoes.! (Not too sure about the silver dance trainers though). I would do anything for Erins abs (I'll keep working at the DVD and maybe one day......), in fact both girls look fantastic and Karen is an inspiration as like me she has had a baby and has used dance as a way to get back in shape.

                        The DVD is 100 minutes long and considering there are no extras this means you really get your moneys worth. It's retailing for between £11 and £12 (cheapest at Amazon I think) and there are a few available on ebay too.

                        So my final verdict is if you want a challenge and a different way to keep trim give this a go. If you're a strictly fan you'll love watching this let alone joining in. It's one of my favourites already.

                        Thanks for reading - sorry it's a bit long but I get carried away when it's something I'm passionate about.

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                          22.01.2008 15:10
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                          Charming story book with jingle bells song

                          In the run up to Christmas I was singing lots of festive songs to my son to get him ready (he's nearly two so was more able to appreciate it this year). Very quickly he latched on to 'Jingle Bells' and started singing it over and over again. He even learnt how to play the first 6 notes on the keyboard!

                          Anyway, unsuprisingly he received lots of jingle bell themed presents and cards and his favourite of all of these was the Mr. Christmas sound book.

                          First things first (and what he discovered first), at the bottom right corner of the book is a button which when pressed plays jingle bells (very loudly). The tune goes on for quite a while as it starts from 'dashing through the snow...' and continues to the end of the chorus. As an aside you end up having to raise your voice when reading the book to be heard over this!

                          The story is simple and charming - Father Christmas needs help and asks Mr. Christmas to deliver the Christmas presents to the Mr Men. He is happy to help and the story follows him writing a list, wrapping and then some of the Mr. Men opening their presents.

                          The story is more simplified than the typical Mr. Men books and the pictures are bigger and bolder so this would appeal to even the youngest of babies. My son loves pointing out the shapes of the Mr. Men and the colour of their hats so there is also potential to use this as an educational tool.

                          The book itself is a board book and looks fairly robust with pages thick enough for young children to turn.

                          Remember this book for next Christmas - you could even start practising singing jingle bells now ready. I have a funny feeling I'll be singing along with my son well into the year (what have I started?!)

                          RRP is £4.99, I've also had a look around and the book is available for between £3.99 (Amazon) and £4.49.

                          Publisher: Egmont

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                            22.01.2008 14:47
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                            Crunchy, healthy snack bites for 7 months up.

                            I picked up a packet of these for my son by mistake - I thought they were the carrot sticks (which have an almost identical pack) it was only on opening them that I realised my mistake.

                            Organix offer a wide range of healthy snacks for babies and children and I had started giving him the carrot sticks from when he was around 7 months. These tomato slices are suitable for children over 7 months too although I don't think they melt in the mouth as readily as the carrot ones.

                            The slices are small circular 'wheel' shapes which are easy to hold and to suck on or bite into (with gums or teeth). They are covered in flecks of tomato powder but don't have a particularly strong smell.

                            The ingredients as with all Organix products are short and simple.
                            organic corn 78%
                            organic sunflower oil 12%
                            organic tomato powder 6%
                            organic carrot powder 3%
                            Thiamin less than 1%
                            junk 0%

                            With no added sugar or preservatives these are a good healthy snack to give to your baby particularly on trips out. I've also seen them feature at loads of birthday parties and are always the first thing to be eaten.

                            To find out more the website is www.organix.com

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                              30.12.2007 21:45
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                              A chunky board book with a new texture on every page for the youngest of readers.

                              As it was coming up to Christmas I decided to buy this for my little one to add to his growing collection of 'That's not my' books.

                              If you haven't come across this series of books they are aimed at the youngest of readers and follow the same theme. On each page you see the line 'That's not my....' and the object which can range from robots to dragons, to teddies to cars to dollys to princesses to pirates to mermaids. The list is seemingly endless. It then says why not - and the picture has a corresponding texture or appearance. On the final page you finally say 'That is my...' and why.

                              This may all sound like money for old rope but the books are beautifully and colourfully illustrated with a touch of humour and often contain a bit of sparkle too. Also on each page you'll find a mouse (often interacting with the story) and my lttle one squeaks every time he finds it.

                              The penguin book is particularly cute and adds a seasonal touch with the mouse wearing a hat and scarf (and even snorkelling on one page) and snowflakes falling down. The last page says 'That's my penguin....Its baby is so fluffy' with matching adorable illustration.

                              The books are a great educational tool in teaching textures and getting children used to describing what they feel or see. Who knew you could teach science at such a young age! My son and I quite often play the 'That's not my' game when we're out saying 'that's not my car it's too clean' etc!!!

                              The books are written by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells and published by Usborne. They are chunky board books and very robust with pages that are easy to turn for young children.

                              I bought my book in Sainsburys for £4.99 but it is available in most outlets such as Mothercare, Early Learning Centre, Books etc and W H Smith for a similar price. It's currently on Amazon for £4.19 and just over £4 on pickabook.co.uk

                              I know it's a bit late for a Christmas present but this can be read all year round and is a lovely book to share with your little one. I'd recommend it for children from 0 to 2.

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                              • More +
                                20.12.2007 17:49
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                                Healthy, organic snacks with no junk added!

                                I always have a cupboard full of Organix Goodies snacks for my 20 month old son. Although he doesn't eat them on a daily basis (especially as he has suddenly become a fussy eater and would quite happily eat them all day long) they are so handy for trips out to keep him going.

                                It seems every time I plan a short trip out I end up being away from the house for longer than intended and am then so glad I brought something with me.....Anyway I digress!

                                The specific Goodies snack I am writing about are their Fruit Bars. They come in two varieties Banana & Date and Date & Apple which seems to be his favourite.

                                Goodies make it clear that their snack foods don't have any 'bad' ingredients, only 'good' ones. This doesn't necessarily mean that they will be the lowest in sugar (but then fruit is mainly sugar) but you do know (as with home cooked food) exactly what is in them! They also use only organic ingredients hence the name - Organix!

                                The ingredients for a Date & Apple bar are as follows;

                                84% Organic Dried Dates
                                15% Organic Dried Apples
                                less than 1% Organic Rice Flour
                                0% Junk

                                One of these bars equals a portion of fruit. Not only that, dried fruit provides slow release energy keeping children going for longer and also is a great source of nutrients such as magnesium and potassium.

                                Each bar is around 7cm long and individually wrapped in a purple plastic wrapper. You get seven of these in a box which is mainly purple and has two of the 'Goodies Gang' characters on the pack. With bold statements such as 'No added sugar' and '100% Fruit' the boxes will appeal to children and adults alike. These are available in most supermarkets and large Boots stores for around £1.99 and are often part of a multibuy offer.

                                The bars themselves resemble a thick fruit chew although they are quite soft and very easy to break into pieces. This is how I gave them to my son at first (safety advice says not to give them to children under 12 months of age), now he eats them in about four bites and then asks for more.

                                If I gave my son a choice of cake or fruit bar, he would choose these. He loves the taste of both varieties, and sees them as a treat - what a great substitute for chocolate!

                                See the Organix website at www.Organix.com for all their other foods and more.

                                Thanks for reading..

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                                • Cakes / Recipe / 81 Readings / 74 Ratings
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                                  05.12.2007 00:41
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                                  Simple recipe to make your own Jaffa Cakes.

                                  These are home made jaffa cakes. Use marmalade to be authentic but apricot jam is a tasty version too. The great thing about these is you can put as much chocolate on as you want to!

                                  90g/3½oz caster sugar
                                  2 eggs
                                  50g/2oz plain flour
                                  75g/3oz/6 tbsp orange marmalade or apricot jam
                                  125g/4¼oz plain chocolate

                                  1.Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas 5. Grease a muffin or cake tin.

                                  2.Stand a mixing bowl in very hot water for a couple of minutes to heat through, keeping the inside dry. Put the sugar and eggs in and whisk with an electric mixer until light and frothy and the beaters leave a ribbon trail when lifted. Sift flour and stir in gently with a large metal spoon.

                                  3.Divide the mixture among the cake tins. Bake for 10 mins until just firm and pale golden around the edges. Using a palette knife lift from the tins and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

                                  4.Press the marmalade or jam through a sieve to remove any rind or fruit pieces. Spoon a little of the jam on to the centre of each cookie.

                                  5.Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. (I put my chocolate (as long as it's over 70% cocoa solids in a bowl in the microwave and heat at half power for 30 secs at a time until it is melted.)

                                  6.Spoon a little chocolate on to the top of each cookie and spread gently to the edges with a palette knife. Once the chocolate had just started to set, very gently press it with the back of a fork to give it a textured surface. Leave to set for at least 1 hour.

                                  Makes 18

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