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200mls of Weleda's Lavender Creamy Body Wash costs around. £8. I was recently sent a free 20ml sample which works out at just over a £1s worth of body wash. In comparison with most everyday brands this is expensive, even if a little does go a long way: I have had five showers using this body wash and there is still some product remaining. However, to me this is not an everyday product, but a luxury, a real treat to savour. It comes with good credentials: Weleda have been in production since 1921 and are a high quality cosmetics company with a focus on natural, organic products and sustainable production. This particular body wash has impressed me so much, I am tempted to start paying for it and following them on Facebook.
Obviously, this is only a product to choose if you like the smell of lavender. I have grown to like it over the years, largely because of its relaxing effect. It helps me sleep. The aroma from the body wash is immediately apparent on removing the lid and is definite, a smell with integrity and one that puts you in mind of...well, lavender fields. I am not being facetious. I have lavender floor cleaner and lavender surface cleaner and these do not have me imagining lavender fields billowing in the breeze. The body wash is made with lavender essential oil and it shows.
The body wash has a moderately thick consistency so that it is possible to squeeze out a blob the size of a 10p piece on to your hand or body puff without it draining away. I found when I used my hands to apply it, there was virtually no lather produced, and it felt a though I had applied a thin layer of oil to my skin. The body wash does contain sesame oil, so it could be that this was what produced that effect. It was not unpleasant, just a bit disappointing. However, when I used a body puff to apply I as really impressed. The product produced a thick, creamy lather that was easy to distribute across all areas. This was when I discovered that only a small blob was required to wash my whole body. It rinses off easily and my skin feels clean and moisturised after use. This combined with the smell of natural lavender, that I have grown to find relaxing and uplifting makes for a very pleasing shower experience.
As you would expect from Weleda their packaging, a small plastic tube, is made with some recycled content and is in itself recyclable.
The only sort of downside is that there is a best before date- proof I suppose of the products natural credentials. I received my tube at the end of December 2013 and it is best before February 2014. Not a problem with 20mls, but quite a short window. Best to check before you buy, like you would with perishable foods.
I would recommend this to anyone that likes the smell of lavender, is keen to support the production of natural products, and can afford a little treat. It is worth the extra money.
When Baby CrazyEgg was poorly in hospital last year, the antibiotics she was given had an unpleasant side effect- diarrhoea. Her bottom got very sore very quickly, and since we had left home in a hurry we had no nappy cream with us. We bought our first tube of metanium on this occasion, and became converts. You can forget the little samples of sudocrem you may have received as an expectant mother, and possibly the samples of Bepanthen. This latter may be marvellous but our little tubes have lain unopened as a result or our purchase of metanium, so I cannot comment.
My thinking when I chose metanium from the shelf was this: 'Baby CrazyEgg is sore already and there seems to be no let up from her bottom so we need something powerful. 'Metanium' sounds fairly heavy duty. It is also more expensive than some of the other options. This must mean it is very good.'
I paid about £2.50 for a 30g tube, housed in a box that is to the point: "Metanium Nappy Rash Ointment. Soothes and Treats your Baby's Nappy Rash", and features a picture of a baby looking quite comfortable, or indeed perky: rosy-cheeked and alert. The medical sounding name has been softened by the device of making the 'M' of Metanium into a heart... so, heavy duty, but caring.
The tube itself is pale yellow much like the ointment it contains. It has a screw cap with a central indentation holding a spike. This is for easy piercing of the safety seal over the tube itself: a great piece of design that avoids the user having to fiddle about trying to get a grip on a tiny piece of foil to tear away, and prevents them having a small piece of foil to dispose of.
There is a distinct smell to the ointment, but it is quite mild, especially in the quantities used. It is fairly pleasant and antiseptic smelling. It goes a little way to masking some of the other odours you may be smelling during use, but it's not a miracle worker in this arena at least.
To use the ointment, after cleaning and drying the affected area, you take a pea-sized amount and dab it over the sore parts with your finger tip. The pack states that it is important to spread the ointment thinly so you can still see the skin texture below. You can see that if you only need a pea-sized amount, a 30g tube can last some considerable time. (Indeed, twelve months on we still have some left in our first tube, and have only purchased a second because we left the old one at Granny and Grandpa's: we'll be able to use it up at some point as its use by date is 2015). You should repeat at each nappy change until the nappy rash has cleared.
My first experience of this cream saw me witness a very sore bottom improve to a mildly sore one overnight. Subsequent occasions have seen sore bottoms disappear very quickly- within a few hours, and this week as illness is present once again, Baby CrazyEgg has requested the use of the ointment herself- by rubbing her cheeks as if applying moisturiser and then patting her nappy. If it is applied at the first sign of a problem the Metanium is miraculous in its effects and I really cannot recommend it highly enough- and it is currently available for just £2 from Sainsburys!
After applying you will need to wash your hands for the obvious reasons, and the less obvious one that Metanium can stain fabrics. As it adheres well to the skin I have found that wiping it off my finger with a baby wipe prior to washing is very helpful.
If you need a nappy rash ointment, don't mess about: get Metanium.
The Fisher Price Little People Pirate Ship is a brilliant addition to the Little People collection. We bought ours from Argos for £19.99, two months ago, and I believe it is still available at the same price. There are cheaper pirate ships available from other brands, but they don't offer the same level of 'playability' in my view. What most toddlers' need from a good pirate ship are robust construction and a number of parts to move and adjust. This Fisher Price pirate ship fits the bill perefectly.
Firstly, there are a number of moving parts on the ship itself: a cannon pivots on the front deck of the ship and at the press of a lever fires a cannon ball. If you desire, and are able to time it correctly you can produce a most realistic sound effect for this by pressing down on the parrot's perch. There is a sturdy plastic hammock that can be rocked, two sails to move up and down, anchors that clip on to the side of the ship and detach,and best of all a ship's wheel that turns and operates the plank! You can stand an unfortunate figure on the plank and watch them fall as you turn the wheel and the plank pulls back from under their feet! A crow's nest and separate flag attach to top of sails and each can fit on either sail. There is a ramp that can be pulled down so pirates can race ashore, and the whole back part of ship opens so you can see inside the cabin, and move the various objects and two pirate figures around as you wish.
All of these features were discovered by myself and Mr CrazyEgg within a couple of minutes when we unpacked the ship to check it out before repacking and giving to Baby CrazyEgg. We did this partly out of childishness and partly because we have learned that it can take a really long time to untie toys from their packaging. The pirate ship was by no means a worst offender on this score, but various parts were tied to backing card with string which was a little fiddly and did slow us down a bit. However, the discovery of all the ship's features was slower for Baby CrazyEgg who spent a long time simply operating the cannon over and over, until the plank was demonstrated to her, some days after she received the toy, on her second 'due date birthday'.
Through various imaginative adventures Baby CrazyEgg gradually discovered all of the ship's facets. She particularly enjoys the sea shanty that is another of the sound effects produced by pressing the parrot's perch, and will sway from side to side beaming from ear to ear when this plays. Helpfully, a parrot is supplied as well as two pirates- one male and one female and all are fully engaged in the scenarios Baby CrazyEgg acts out, though it is not always clear from what she is saying whether it is the parrot or pirate that is in the most trouble. The parrot takes the most naps in the hammock; perhaps that is a clue. Because there is a wheel under the base of the ship Baby CrazyEgg can push it easily over the floor, though it really only goes in a straight line if you rely wholly on this.
Some Little People sets seem to have little in the way of play pieces but with the pirate ship you get a good selection: a map, chair, a cannon ball, as well as the two pirates and parrot. All of these items are easily contained within the ship for easy storage and tidying and because the inside of the ship is hollow it is easy to pick up and carry- and without all the pieces falling out. If you wished you could fit the ship back into its box as it comes ready assembled. Batteries are required for the sound effects, but they are included.
At £19.99 this is a fair price for a very sturdily built and interesting toy. I am sure it is one that will be with us for many years, and I would recommend it for other imaginative toddlers.
The ready to play village is a play village suitable for children from 18 months. It is part of the extensive Happyland range from the ELC. What I love about this set besides the variety of pieces included (see below), is the detailing on the buildings. These are all open at the back for ease of play and you can see clearly inside. For example, the two storey cafeteria has a dresser moulded onto the wall with plates and a tea set; there is a radiator under the window; the upstairs and downstairs floors are both tiled but in different formations; the downstairs has curtains and tongue and groove panelling. The Post Office has a post box in on one outside wall: on the inside there is a basket to catch any letters that are posted. You will have to make your own letters- a creative cutting and scribbling activity- and then you can have fun posting them or throwing them through the main door of the Post Office if necessary: (OH NO! TOO BIG! TOO BIG!) Because the whole of the back of the buildings are open, it is easy for adults to join in the play and retrieve any items that may have been laced inside. We often play sat facing each other with the buildings in between us. That way both Baby CrazyEgg and I can manipulate the characters and I can see the range of expressions that cross her face: it is a great toy for shared play and communication.
Having pieces to move and sounds to hear often enhances toys, and they do so here. Obviously the people get moved around, but there are also three vehicles included: two vans and a carriage. Putting the figures in the vans, fitting the horse into his harness and manoeuvring all these play pieces are all skills that Baby CrazyEgg has mastered and improved upon since first getting the set. Now the vans travel further and are often accompanied by a definite narrative, so the set is obviously enabling her to create and enact little stories and adventures. You get a set of cakes and a Post Office display that can be fitted neatly into the windows of the relevant buildings if you desire. There is also a sunshade for the terrace of the tea rooms, although this particular piece does not fit in our set and so we have to use it as an umbrella or we can stick it in the chimney of the tea room where it fits very nicely.
The box boasts that the set includes 8 electronic sounds: two telephone rings of different pitches, two cash registers with slightly different "Kerchings!", two entrance bells again with different pitches. Finally, there are two extended sounds that emanate from the Church: the sound of bells peeling, and Here Comes The Bride. There is an on/off switch for this. Part of the church roof lifts off and it is there underneath. This is also where you will need to fit two AA batteries which are not supplied. All the other sounds are produced by four A76 batteries included for demonstration purposes only, but we have not needed to replace them in the 11 months we have had the set.
Besides the fact that the sunshade did not fit in correct hole the other disappointment was that the church door fell off very early on and although it will go back on easily, it falls off at the slightest touch. It is also a bit weird that the top of the church lifts off. It generally sits securely, but does fall off if the church falls over and it is quite weighty because it holds the batteries. It would be better if it clipped in. Another potential disappointment is the use of stickers on the outside of the buildings for some of the signage, and on the post box. Baby CrazyEgg loves a sticker, and consequently there are no longer any collection times on our post box. However, all the other stickers are very well applied and have survived as it is not immediately obvious that they are stickers.
We received this set when Baby CrazyEgg was approximately 18 months. She always liked it, and play has advanced over the last 11 months. It is another of those toys that allows you to see your child's imagination develop, and understand some of their thoughts and ideas even if speech is limited or unclear. Of course many other toys get brought in to this imaginary play world, but even as a self-contained unit it provides endless opportunities. And children don't restrict themselves to using the items for just their designated use, so adults experience both the fun of play and the challenge of trying to understand what on earth is going on:
"Thank goodness! The cakes for the wedding are on their way! OH NO! They have fallen off the van. The vicar is coming. He has going to eat all the cakes. The post office van has driven into the church! The postman has rescued the cakes. His van has got stuck. Heave! Heave! Phew! The vicar is chasing the postman. The horse is on the roof...The flying courgette will rescue him."
At least, I think that was what was happening.
The Ready to Play Village is a really good value ELC Happyland starter pack for which Baby CrazyEgg's grandparents paid £29.99 for in December 2012. They bought it from Argos, a retailer that no longer seems to be selling the Happyland range. A pack of 5 Happyland figures generally costs between £5 and £8 so £30 for 9 figures, 3 vehicles, 3 buildings and 4 accessories* was a very good buy. Currently the set is retailing on ebay for around £45. There is nothing to put together as such, it really is 'ready to play' so will fit back into the box for storage if you wish- ours has never been packed away!
*Pieces included are:
Bride, groom, baker, waitress, postman, old lady, reverend, cat, horse
Carriage (horse fits in to the harness), post office van, baker's van
Post Office, Church, Two-storey bakery/tea room
Tray of buns, post office supplies, post box, sunshade
According to the ELC website, this toy is no longer available, but you can still pick it up on Ebay. ELC are still producing 'click-clack tracks', but the designs have altered somewhat. I expect they are all pleasing. But this particular one has just experienced a new lease of life in the CrazyEgg household and if your child is keen on trains I would say, buy this particular 'click-clack track' if you can! If you are keen to develop fine motor skills in your baby or toddler, again, this is a good option, and if you are keen on physics there is some mileage here in explaining the laws of gravity and motion.
The ELC Click Clack Track is a simple wooden toy: four slightly curved tracks bolted together as shown in the above picture. It is sturdy and well made, the wood being smooth and splinter-free, and the designs painted on are simple rings of red, yellow, green and blue, with the sides of the runners having single stripes in the same colours. Three of these colours match the cars- you only get three of these and ours are red, green and blue. Again, these are extremely simple being a small block of wood with four wheels attached. So, there is little to distract from the main purpose in this toy which is to set the cars on the top, watch them roll to the end of the first track, fall off the end, flip over and continue down the second track and then the third and fourth, before rolling triumphantly out onto the floor.
We were given this track for Baby CrazyEgg's first Christmas when she was well below the recommended age of 12 months, and now she is 29 months. During the time we have had it the Click Clack track has never been the most favoured toy, but it has been one that provides interest and stimulation for a short time every so often. At first, Baby CrazyEgg just watched the cars clicking away. It was a useful toy for encouraging reaching and stretching, but success with placing the cars on the track was generally chance rather than skill: you have to put them the right way round ie so the wheels can run down the track; there are grooves on the tracks so placement has to be very precise; and the cars themselves are small and somewhat fiddly. If you take hold of the whhels for instance, the car flips forward so it hard to get a secure placement. Very easy for an adult, very difficult for a baby, which is of course the point. It is this precision of movement, and the reaching and stretching that makes this toy so good for development, and explains why it is regularly to be seen at the group occupational therapy sessions we attend.
Since those early days, Baby CrazyEgg has become adept at using the track as intended. However, it has also allowed her to experiment: what else will go down the track? There are some balls we have that start well, but then get stuck between the upright parts of the track, and others that make it through but are too big to descend onto the second track. Happyland people have used the track as a slide, though they have to be pushed along manually. Applause when they get to the bottom. Most fantastically of all the tracks bear a striking resemblance to the Brio/Tidlo/Ikea wooden railway tracks that rather wonderfully are all compatible with one another. In fact they are the same dimensions, and whilst there is no way of attaching the click clack track to a railway piece, if you line them up well, and your car gains enough velocity it will run from click clack track to railway track no problemo. Hence the new lease of life for the track in our household. It is true also that some of our railway vehicles fit the click clack track, but they don't 'click clack' as readily as the supplied cars.
I note that other Click Clack tracks don't necessarily have grooves for the car wheels to go in, and their varying track widths mean that this particular Click Clack track is probably the most compatible with railway tracks.
The Click Clack track is sturdy and stays upright fairly well, though of course it can be pushed over. It is not advisable to store it on a shelf where it can be pulled off since it is quite heavy. I speak from experience as a shelf-lover.
All in all this has been a great long-lasting toy for us and its therapeutic and mesmerising qualities have lured many an adult into a good few minutes of play. Fab.
Hello Potential Dishwasher Purchaser!
In summary: my preference would be for a full size, extremely quiet dishwasher, but since I was constrained by finance and space I opted for the Logik slimline dishwasher. I have some gripes, but overall I am satisfied with its performance and would consider the range again when making a future purchase.
The best bits:
For me the delay function is excellent. I can load the dishwasher and delay its start for up to 12 hours, though generally my delay will be for three or four hours at most. The advantages of this are three-fold: 1. I can take advantage of the cheaper night-time electricity tariff we subscribe to without having to stay up; 2. I can set the dishwasher and others ie Mr CrazyEgg can add further items to it without worrying about the settings; 3. We don't have to listen to it rumbling away since we will most likely be asleep. The alert amongst you will detect two potential negatives in the above, but WAIT! There are some more good things...
The cleaning ability is at least good on most of the cycles I have used, this being three out of the six. It is excellent on the '3-in-1' and 'strong' cycles, and good on the 'rapid' cycle which runs for just 30 minutes. I have begun to use this more recently in a bid to cut our electricity bill. However, this rapid cycle is less reliable in cleaning so you would be well advised to check items before putting them back in cupboards, and especially cutlery as food debris is prone to clinging on. Also this cycle does not dry items, so have a tea towel handy when you unload it.
Versatility is good with the dishwasher having adjustable height trays, and some of the internal plate racks and fittings being adjustable or removable. So, for example I can fold the plate racks on the lower tray down if I want to wash a large pan, and if Mr CrazyEgg has hosted Beer Club and there are a large number of pint glasses to wash I can remove some of the plastic bits on the top tray so more height is available. These parts are very easy to clip in and out, you won't have to read instructions, simple observation will suffice.
Cleaning the filters: Again, these are really easy to remove and although there are instructions in the manual if you have ever owned a dishwasher you will be familiar with the method. What I liked here was that there was no gauze covering the tubular filtery bit. In previous makes of dishwasher this has been a part I have had to replace. No chance of that here. I take them out and give them a scrub once in a while, and I run the machine with a dishwasher cleaner in it occasionally and performance seems to have been well maintained over about two years I would guess.
There are a variety of settings and I believe temperatures. The settings are called: 3-in-1, Strong, Normal, Eco, Rinse, Glass and Rapid. I have no idea what temperatures these run at. As my dishwasher loads are always a jumble of items this doesn't matter, but if you are a purist running separate loads for glassware and crockery I know you are sucking your teeth right now. The other point to note is that four of these cycles take over two hours to complete, Rinsing takes 1 hour 20 minutes unbelievably, and glass 1 hour 35. Kind of slow, not great at parties. The rapid cycle is a saving grace.
Some may find the choice of settings in themselves worrisome. Poor Mr CrazyEgg. Like I say though, the delay start function can eradicate this as an issue.
The biggest gripe I have is the NOISE of the machine. It is not the worst I have known, but certainly it is noisy enough to be an intrusive and unpleasant background noise in our open plan kitchen diner (that sounds a lot posher than it is...). Also, after the initial warm up humming sound the machine gives a loud clonking sound. After a while this becomes reassuring.
The on-off and settings buttons are all on the outer face of the machine. This never bothered me until Baby CrazyEgg started toddling and becoming curious about buttons. We keep the door shut to minimise risk of trapped fingers, but that means she can switch the machine on and off. She has done this, but so far has never selected a setting so has never made it run. I still feel that a child lock like that on our washing machine would be handy at this stage in our lives.
So overall, pretty good I would say, with a few points to address for future models. Well done Mrs Logik whoever you are.
Earlier this year I read that Juicers top the list of purchases that people in the UK regret the most. Personally I like my juicer and my top purchase regret was a device I once bought from Betterware that promised to facilitate the straight cutting of bread. This was after one of Mr CrazyEgg's colleagues commented on the unusual shape of his sandwiches. The juicer I am very happy with, and have had for several years. Yes it gets stashed in a cupboard and lies unused for weeks on end, but then it comes out for an airing and we are on close terms once again.
My juicer is an old one, the Moulinex JuiceMaster Plus, and is readily available still, but only apparently on ebay where you can pick one up for about £20, and possibly considerably less- one is on for a starting price of 99p.
Juicer is as Juicer says: it is a small machine that turns fruit and vegetables into juice and a punnet of pulp. In the early days of ownership I enjoyed much experimentation. There are two settings on the juicer, one for juicing hard fruit/veg like apples or carrots, the other for tackling soft stuff like the delicious raspberry. The quantities and combinations are down to the juice visionary. With a noisy, high pitched whine the juicemaster plus extracts juice by pulverising the food into tiny pieces, via a rotating blade: it is a centrifrugal juicer. The pulp is spat out into a large receptacle at the back of the machine. The juice drips out of a nozzle at the front and into a special jug. Invariably a frothy head is produced and the jug is so designed that when you pour out your juice this froth can be left behind if it is not to your taste. I believe however, that this froth can be a great source of vitamins and other beneficial nutrition, so I often drink it too.
Sadly the process is not as effortless as the above paragraph may imply. Firstly you have to cut your fruit into pieces small enough to go down the feeder tube. It is a fairly small chute so apples have to be halved or quartered, pineapples cut into sticks. Really hard veg and fruit can cause the blade to slow down or audibly struggle, and you have to develop your own technique with the pusher supplied to push the fruit down the chute. If you want a decent quantity of juice ie a glass you will need a surprising quantity of fruit. You need 10-12 apples to produce one small glass of juice, so this is hardly a cost effective means of getting basic juices, unless you have your own fruit trees. Once the juice is produced you are left with a large container of fruit pulp which tends to get thrown away. If you are frugal you may find this painful. It may be possible to make a cake with the pulp but I have never done this. Then you are left with the washing up- seven different items to wash: the jug, the pulp holder, the plunger and four other plastic bits that fit atop the juicer. Of these, two are particularly awkward to clean, the others are very quick or can go in the dishwasher.
One of the reasons I have enjoyed my juicer so long is that I have a nail brush and a toothbrush to hand to clean the awkward bits. One of these is the rotating blade which is styled like a metal dish with the texture of a very very fine cheese grater. You need the nail brush here to get the pulp and fibres out effectively. The toothbrush is for cleaning inside the nozzle where the juice comes out. It is far easier to clean these pieces straight away than leaving them which is a pain. It is ok if you only use the machine occasionally, but if you are looking for a juicer to use every day, then I would advise a pricier model.
The other reason I love my juicer is that it can create a most delicious drink: pineapple juice. I have always had a real dislike of pineapple juice from cartons or bottles so why I ever juiced a pineapple I don't know. But what was produced was a really yummy, creamy drink unrecognisable from the bought version. For this drink alone it is worth storing this juicer in various locations around the kitchen. Since the soft pineapple is the only thing my juicer is now used for it probably hasn't had the hardest of lives, but it is one of my oldest kitchen appliances so I think of it as most reliable and am happy to recommend it to the occasional juicer.
In recent months in a bid to save the pennies I have abandoned my principles and strayed from my tried and trusted Ecover toilet cleaner. I have bought a couple of different ones, and the most recent to grace our home has been Harpic Power Plus Citrus fresh. It was part of an online shop, and there were only two considerations prior to its purchase: it cost less than £1. It was toilet cleaner. What I had failed to appreciate was that Harpic have a wide range of toilet-cleaning products that cater for varying degrees of insanitary or unsightly sanitaryware. Power Plus is the mother of all toilet cleaners. It is seriously heavy duty. The clue is in the name, and in the explanation on the front of the bottle: "Most powerful toilet cleaner. Kills all germs. Cleans above and below the waterline"
This message is reinforced on the back of the bottle, where the word CORROSIVE appears in large letters with a diagram of test tubes dripping onto and subsequently corroding skin and surfaces. My interest was piqued by this and I studied the rest of the label with far more scrutiny than I would normally. The list of warnings and dangers is far longer than the list of what the product can do, and amongst other points tells you that the product contains hydrochloric acid, protective clothing should be worn when using, and that it should not come into any surface other than the toilet bowl.
Just how dirty, I wondered, would your toilet need to be in order to make this a necessary product? Well, it eliminates limescale so if you have inherited a toilet with a nasty build up then this might be the way to go. But once it is off surely a less powerful cleaner will be able to maintain the standard? Harpic Power Plus advises that for best results you should leave the product on for ten minutes then brush and flush. The cleaner is quite thick and gel-like and will cling to your bowl. There is the chance of splashing of course, but the consistency of the product does minimise this and the nozzle of the bottle is positioned so you can aim with precision uder the rim and around the bowl. The advice is to cover the entire bowl- this uses quite a lot of the bottle, and I would estimate you probably only get about ten loo-cleans if you follow this.
However, if your toilet bowl just needs a light freshening, a quick sprucing or you just want to feel that germs and bacteria are being held at bay, then regular use of this product really is overkill. It'll do the job: it cleans and leaves the loo smelling citrus fresh, you get reassuring foam created for a couple of flushes after use, but there are gentler and kinder alternatives available. Save this for an occasional deep clean is my advice- and it would probably be Harpic's as well.
I will never buy this again, but it does do what it claims so I feel I have to be positive in terms of stars.
Thanks for reading!
Lenor Spring Awakening has been reformulated and as a Supersavvyme member I have been sent a bottle to try out for myself and samples to give out to others. It is possible to get very excited about a fabric conditioner when it arrives in a kind of gift box with lots of sachets and coupons and info to investigate. I have a love of laundry products- only recently realised, when a friend enquired as to the reasons for the vast array of detergents and fabric conditioners in my cupboard. I enjoy trying different products. But. I also long for a clutter free cupboard and so am searching for the ultimate product. A product so good that I become loyal to it. So good that I need never buy another, but can merely flit between the various fragrance options of the one brand to supply the variety I enjoy.
When money is tight fabric conditioner is a product I do without. But this may be false economy, since the claim of NEW Lenor is that it 'helps keep your clothes looking newer for longer'. According to the information on the USB supplied in the pack the main feature of the reformulation is that the molecules of softening agent in the mix are smaller. The effect of this is obviously that they can penetrate and coat the fibres of your clothes more easily and so protect them. Repeated washing can make clothes look tired and old very quickly, but the fabric conditioner acts to prevent friction between the fibres during washing so that there is less wear and tear. I can't comment as yet on how new-looking clothes will remain, but judging by the way the clothes felt when they came out of the wash I would say there must be truth to this claim. If you have ever pulled tangled washing out of the machine when it has not had fabric conditioner applied then you will be familiar with the slight squeaking and creaking that you feel when pulling the garments out. This is less apparent with most fabric conditioners, but with new Lenor your clothes will slip and glide easily out of the drum.
Other obvious results are that clothes and towels are soft and fluffy and have a pleasant fresh smell that lingers but is not overpowering. Towels may lose some of their absorbency as a result of any fabric conditioner being used, but not so much that it is a problem in my experience.
A less positive point about the product is the warning that liquid fabric softener can increase fabric flammability and the more you use the greater this effect. The advice on the Lenor pack is that the product should not be used on children's sleepwear or garments labelled as flame resistant as this resistance may be reduced. It should also not be used on items made with fluffier fabrics such as fleece or terry towelling. Again, this is advice that can be applied to most fabric conditioners rather than just Lenor, so part of me is tempted to commend the manufacturers for flagging up such an important point.
If you are not put off by the above and wish to use a conditioner on your clothes, I can recommend Lenor as being highly effective and easy to use. You simply pour a third of a cap in to the dispenser in your machine and let technology do the rest. The stay-clean cap does just that and the rectangular bottle is easy to store tidily.
Earlier in the year the rather swanky Breville filter kettle we owned stopped working. During our Argos catalogue based hunt for a new kettle, Mr CrazyEgg came across the rather stylish looking Breville VKJ666 available at a very reasonable price when bought in combination with the matching toaster. I believe it was in the region of £25-£30 for the two. Mr CrazyEgg was happy with the thought of his new toaster and I was similarly upbeat in anticipation of my new kettle. I know what you are thinking: didn't you read any reviews? For a kettle?- No. No I didn't. And I would rue the day, that I neglected to read the Dooyoo reviews, except when I did look, after purchase, there weren't any. So I felt better. There were lots of positive reviews for a slightly different model that looks exactly the same, but not this one. And the VKJ666 deserves a review because of all the kettles I have owned, this was by far the worst and lasted only a few months before expiring.
The good stuff:
It is a modern looking jug kettle with polished stainless steel finish, it is easy to wipe clean and retains its shininess.. It sits on a circular base which has a short flex that is tidily stored underneath the base exiting at one of three points at the owner's choosing- dependent on where their electric sockets are. The kettle lifts off the base easily, and you can plonk it back on at any angle; it will rotate 360 degrees. It has a blue light that goes on when you flick the 'on' switch downwards- groovy! It has 3kW element that facilitates rapid boiling, even when the kettle is full to capacity, this being 1.7litres- plenty of water to make a large pot of tea. It can also cope with small quantities so it is easy to boil just enough for one or two mugs. The element is sealed within the kettle so when you look inside you just see a stainless steel base. Somehow this does seem to scale less readily than an exposed element does, and so no limescale flakes emerged with the last dredges of water, at least not during my short acquaintance with this kettle.
The bad stuff:
You know, our previous Breville kettle boiled pretty darn quick so I thought this would perform similarly. However, there was one immediately noticeable difference and that was NOISE. This kettle drowns out conversations. You will have to raise your voice to talk over it, even if you are 15 feet away.
The lid is simple enough to operate if you know how, ir slightly over-engineered. You have to pull back a button in the lid and then the lid flips open. If you have not read this in the instructions it is not obvious. Our lid lever broke within the first month of ownership, probably because various visitors to the house who very kindly made their own tea grappled with the lid trying to prise or pull it off. The hinge is plastic and was obviously low quality. Still, at least we could still remove the lid in order to fill the kettle. (There is no possibility of spout filling as the spout is too small.)
The On-Off lever lit up in blue when pushed down in on position. It flicks up automatically when the kettle boils or if is taken off the base, so that when it is repositioned on the base it will be Off unless you choose to turn it on again. So, if you need to stop the kettle before boiling you don't have to fiddle about, you can simply lift it up- great!. But this mechanism failed on our kettle within a couple of months. It would go down, but it did not flick back up fully when the kettle boiled, or was removed from the base. This meant that the kettle that I believed was off would periodically reboil itself. This went on for several days during which time I tried to remember to leave the kettle off the base or manually flip the lever right up. Then the kettle then decided not to boil and instead simply make the water extremely hot, and then cut out. I didn't check this with a thermometer, I could just taste it when I made a cup of tea. Plus I could sip my tea immediately, when normally I wait a while. Hot water tea! Yuckety Yuck.
So in all, this kettle was cheap and performed well for a very limited period of time. It was replaced after about 4 months with a Russell Hobbs model, which so far I am very pleased with. Phew.
The Silver Cross Ventura Car Seat is a rear-facing car seat that is in theory suitable from birth up to the time Baby weighs 13kg. We have had 28 months of use so far from this car seat, and generally been very happy. However, Baby CrazyEgg is a long way off 13kg* and is very much ready for a forward facing car seat as her legs are getting a bit scrunched up**, although her head remains below the top of the car seat.
We got the Ventura car seat free when we bought our Silver Cross 3D travel system, which is basically a chassis which can be a pram, or a pushchair, or have the car seat attached to it. It was attractive because of the price, the versatility and the fact that it could be secured in the car with the seatbelt- our car being without isofix points.
Easy to install?
Once you get used to it, yes- it is quite straightforward. However, for the first few journeys I did travel with the instructions. Baby is easily strapped in with a harness that goes over the shoulders and between the legs, the three strands clipping together around the tummy area. The seat belt is secured in three places around the car seat, all of which are clearly marked. It can be tricky leaning over baby to get the seatbelt clipped in, and Baby CrazyEgg did protest more than once at having the toggles of my coat dangling in her face as I perform this manoeuvre. It can be hard to locate the seatbelt socket as you lean over, invariably creating further shadowing and murkiness as you do so. This can make you bad tempered if you are in a hurry. Such dramas are avoided if there are two of you travelling with Baby as one of you can sit in the back to clip it in, whilst the other holds the seat belt in position and extended.
Once the car seat is strapped in it has to be further secured by ensuring it is wedged. The carry handle flips forward to form a barrier against the back seat of the car, and the back of the Ventura car seat has to make contact with the rear of the front passenger seat. (We have always travelled with Baby CrazyEgg in the back of the car, I tried putting her in the front in my Peugeot 206, but the seatbelt was not long enough to secure the seat.) The effect of this is that the passenger seat is pushed backwards to secure the car seat. It has to be the passenger seat for me because I have quite short legs: if the car seat were behind me it would be insecure. Your travelling companions should be made aware that the passenger seat position is non-negotiable.
Easy to carry?
There is a sturdy carrying handle that has three positions: one to secure the seat in the car, one for carrying, and one for ensuring the seat is stable when it is put on the floor whilst being used as a carrier. It is heavy. It is awkward to carry, and as Baby CrazyEgg gets heavier I struggle to lift it. It bashes against the side of my knee as I carry it and I have to swap arms, or use both hands to carry it. Luckily, mostly I can just take Baby C out and carry her, I rarely have to take the seat out of the car these days, but when I do have to carry her in the car seat I see if there is anyone stronger around.
Comfortable for Baby?
Yes. The seat is well padded. It comes with a fleecy liner and a squidgy head protector that reduces head wobble during the time when baby is still learning to support their own head. Be aware though that the fleecy lining will make Baby very hot. In fact, even now that we have removed this, the seat still makes Baby CrazyEgg very hot- travelling with a jumper or coat on is unthinkable. Even in quite mild weather her back will become very sweaty. The material the seat is made from is hard wearing- but perhaps not the most breathable of fabrics.
Your baby will be in a semi-reclined position in this seat. Great for encouraging sleep. Not great for keeping baby awake, and not great also if your baby has reflux and needs to be kept upright. Indeed I stopped using this car seat on the buggy because Baby CrazyEgg was so frequently sick immediately I put her in it. Incidents were much reduced when she was in the more upright pushchair. Such talk begs the question...
Yes. The fleecy liner and headrest are easy to remove and wash. The main seat cover is also relatively easy to remove and wash, but quite trick to put back onto the frame of the seat. It has to be pulled very taut, and the straps pushed back through some very narrow apertures. So, this is not that easy, but I guess it has to do with the safety of the seat.
Up to 13kg?
Well, so they say. I guess it depends how the weight is distributed. Recently Baby CrazyEgg has grown taller, and the growth seems to have been in her legs. She looks set to be long-legged like her Dad. So although she is less than 8kg she is not going to be comfortable in the seat much longer. She can stretch her legs straight, but they go halfway up the back seat of the car. Also of course, in our circumstances it would be better that she faced the front now because she is very interested in everything and she would get to see more.
Would I buy it again?
I think I would ask around more! Now that I have friends with babies I know that there are rear-facing car seats where Baby is more upright, and also where getting them in and out seems less fiddly. However, I have been very pleased with the security and strength of the seat, and feel that any negatives listed above are relatively minor. I'll be giving the Ventura car seat 4 Dooyoo stars.
*7.7kg at the last weigh in....hooray, the new super supplement seems to be working...!
** We have a new seat ready and waiting, but the minimum weight is 9kg. Hopefully with this new supplement she will be in it before the year is out.
This is a great recipe for a cake which cannot go wrong. As it bakes your house will be filled with the most wonderful rich, sweet aroma. I have made it tonight: it is one of those chilly September nights that remind you that summer really is departing and autumn is creeping in. We haven't put the heating on yet, but the oven has pumped out a lot of heat and our home seems extra cosy because of the fabulous smell of cake wafting through the house.
It is a great cake. We came back from holiday today to a kitchen bereft of food except for four smingey bananas we forgot to take and a few store-cupboard staples. I hate the smell of over ripe bananas in a room. The skins had gone thin and black, the stalks shrivelled and tough. How wonderful that something so bleak can be used to create something so sumptuous.
It is a fantastic cake. It uses sunflower oil rather than hard butter or margarine. The effect is that it very easy on the arm to mix. Baby CrazyEgg had a very good attempt at stirring. It is a low-mess cake, just the scales, a jug, a bowl, a grater and the mixing bowl and spoon to wash up. And the tin it cooks in. The method? Stick all the ingredients in a bowl and stir. Plop the mix into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for an hour. Check cake is baked by inserting a knife of skewer in the centre: if it comes out gooey, it's not done.
There is a cream cheese frosting that goes with this...but it is completely unnecessary.
8oz SR flour
5oz light brown muscovado sugar (I had Demerara- it was fine)
2tspns baking powder
150ml sunflower oil
2 large ripe bananas (mash 'em up!)
2 medium carrots grated (I didn't have any- it was still fine)
Turn cake out on to wire rack when cooked. Allow to cool, or else immediately cut a chunk off the end and consume.
Like powerful, long-handled secateurs is the quickest way to describe the Aldi ratchet branch pruner.
The ratchet in this case is linear. There is a rack with five teeth giving six depressions or settings into which the pawl (the pivoting metal bar) can spring. As you pull the handles of the pruner apart the pawl slides forward along the toothy rack and springs into the depressions between the teeth. This is beneficial when pruning as the blades of the pruner remain fixed in the branch you are tackling whilst the handles remain free to open and close. As you open and close the handles for a second time the ratchet device allows you to squeeze the blades further together whilst exerting no greater force than you applied with the first cut. You can cut branches up to 35mm diameter with very little exertion.
The blade is coated with ilaflon. This is a substance that offers high abrasion resistance and is resists stickiness. It is apparently used for baking trays and equipment. On the pruner it does a very good job of keeping sap and resin at bay. The blades clean easily with a quick- and careful!- wipe. The manufacturers suggest you clean metallic parts with an oily cloth, but so far I've just used an old rag that happened to be in the shed.
The handles are not the most comfortable, and the plastic is quite slippery here. There are no indentations to place your fingers in, just smooth oval handles. You get a much better grip if you wear gardening gloves, as the instructions advise. There is no doubting the quality of the product though. Indeed I have found all Aldi's gardening items to be excellent value.
When not in use the pruner's blades are held locked together by pushing a sturdy metal clip over the end of the ratchet. A plastic wallet is supplied that fits over the blade and head of the pruner, being held in place by a single press stud. Although the pruner is lightweight it could still do some damage if it was swung or dropped so it needs to be stored safely. Since there is no hanging hook this will probably be a shelf or drawer- annoying as they are bulky and awkwardly shaped. A hanging hook would be a big improvement.
I have not owned this tool long, just a matter of days really, but so far I am impressed. I am always struck with enthusiasm when I prune and clip away until I reach a branch that is just too thick. "Really", I used to think, "I need to get the saw." Then I would curse and squeeze the secatears as hard as I could before bending the branch forward and back, forward and back until a few frayed bits would appear- then more secateur work and cursing...then more bending, and so on. But no more! Now I can know pruning peace. And if you pop down to Aldi, you can too :-)
There are many brilliant design features of this product, and yet I am unable to give it five stars. The Munchkin travel booster seat does all I could possibly want from a travel booster seat, except keep my wriggly two-year-old seated and consequently safe. From the accolades this product has received it does seem that I must be in the minority: the Munchkin travel booster seat won Gold as best travel product 2010/11 in the Mother and Baby Awards, Silver in the Practical Pre-School Awards and Bronze in the Practical Parenting and Pregnancy Awards (Booster/Travel Highchair category). I can see why it has done so well.
Firstly it really is easy to transport as the seat folds up into a bag with a long shoulder strap: you sling it over your shoulder and go on your way. It is relatively light in itself, and so filling the storage area with all the paraphernalia of baby's lunch is quite feasible, it doesn't make it too heavy. The storage area, which is underneath the seat can comfortably house: one bib, one cup with lid, one bowl, spoon, pouch or jar of food. If you have you have high-level Tetris skills you may also be able to fit in a feed bottle, a snack pot, and a bag of crisps if you are not too fussy. One point they could perhaps have incorporated here- material to keep food chilled. You may be able to fit a small ice-pack in, but you will most likely still have to transport a small cool bag with you. If you manage the ice-pack option you can rest assured that the storage area does appear to be lined with waterproof fabric for when it melts. There is also an internal pocket in the storage area to aid organised storage.
Once you have arrived at your destination the booster seat is easy to fit to most chairs. The front pouch of the bag opens to reveal the part of the booster on which your child will sit, and straps that fit the booster to a chair. The minimum dimensions the chair should have are a seat with depth and width of 340mm, and a back of 370mm in height. Maximum dimensions are listed on the pack. Munchkin have listed two widths: 780mm for the chair seat and 530mm for the chair back and a depth of 600mm. This is due to the varying lengths of the straps that fix the booster seat to the regular chair. According to the photo on the pack there are three such straps which are adjustable so they can be made secure, one goes around the back of the chair, the others underneath. One of these latter is the bag's shoulder strap and I might be missing something but I have not discovered how to make it taut under the chair, mine just hangs loose and so offers no further stability to the booster seat.
The booster seat offers a choice of two heights. If using in the lowest height, the only part of the bag you have to open is that that contains the fixing straps. The underside of the bag has four rubber ovals that are the feet of the bag in this guise. If you need extra height you will need the four feet that are secreted inside. When extended they add approximately another 4cm of height. This is one of my favourite bits of the seat. On the underside of the bag there are two flaps which attach to the side of the bag with Velcro. When you open these they fold right back and secure with more Velcro that is on the underside of the bag. Four legs can then be unfolded and locked into place. These have rubber on their undersides to add a bit of resistance for safety and they hold the seat steady on flat seated chairs and those with integral padded seats.
The whole bag is made of a wipe-down fabric that is straightforward to keep clean. It has a strong construction and is quite sturdy. The back of the seat offers little support being rather flexible, but as it has to back onto the back of a chair this should not be problematic. The booster seat is designed for children over the age of 12 months who are able to support themselves in sitting.
The trouble is the 3-point harness that holds Baby CrazyEgg into the chair is very shallow. It straps around her hips and between her legs, but if she has a mind to she can have a very good attempt at standing up: her feet rest on the chair she is attached to and she pushes and wiggles and leans and almost launches herself out of the seat. There is no way I could move out of reach of her when she is in this booster seat. Now, I should tell you that Baby CrazyEgg is below all centiles for weight and could be considered skinny. But her friends are regular-sized and the same is true of them: if they push forward with their feet their bottoms start to slide out of the harness. If they had a mind to, they could climb out. Despite all its plus points, I have managed to deter others from buying this product by simply allowing them to try it.
The manufacturers have clearly considered that adjustable height will give the product a greater period of service. It can be used until your child is 15kg, so Baby CrazyEgg can use it until she has doubled her current weight. However, it will not be truly safe to use until she is old enough to understand not to wriggle and try to escape. Her other hobby when in this seat is to extend her legs so she pushes against the table and tips the chair and booster backwards. This may be a fault of the table rather than the booster seat, however.
It's a good product but a deeper harness is needed.
Subconsciously I probably put this toy on Baby CrazyEgg's birthday wish list because of my loathing of our own Curry's Essentials oven, which is still terrible. This toy model by Casdon is far superior. I came across it when looking for a set of play saucepans which all seemed exorbitantly priced: the Casdon Hotpoint Electronic Cooker which is a mini-replica of the real thing, comes with its own set of four hob pans, (wok, frying, sauce and hob-to-oven), baking tray and grill pan, and some play food so it seemed like a good deal at £25. Happily the cooker was purchased by Granny and Grandpa CrazyEgg and sent direct to our home, so I had the chance to inspect it before the big day. We thought this would be the best plan as the oven is designed for 3-8 year olds and Baby CrazyEgg was about to turn two.
The oven comes securely packaged in a strong cardboard box that features photos of the oven with lots of callouts highlighting the products's features: "Oven and grill lights! Grilling and cooking sounds! Realistic glowing hob! [if only my oven had a glowing hob!] Just like the real thing! [Pah!]. There are photos of children at play with the oven, and the age range is clearly stated and explained: "Unsuitable for children under 3 years of age due to the presence of components which could be either small enough to swallow whole and/or bitten off, chewed and swallowed." The box also states that the cooker requires 3 x 'C' batteries. Thankfully these have not been 'eaten up' by the cooker and are still going strong after three months of regular use. This cooker does switch itself off - or enter 'sleep mode'- when not in use which helps here.
Since Baby CrazyEgg was below the stated age for the cooker I had a good prod of all the components. There was a loose screw that fell out of the back of the oven and had no obvious purpose. When fitted the batteries were sealed in by screwing down a plate at the back of the oven and that was very secure. The pans all came with lids that had round handles which could I suppose be bitten off if you were in Ozzy Osbourne mode, but it was some of the pieces of play food that posed a choking risk to Baby CrazyEgg and so we put these to one side. The food items deemed unsuitable were the very thin and snappable bacon rasher, the chips and the sausages, all too small. This left us with one very tiny roast chicken*, burger, peas, and a single lonely lettuce leaf.
The next thing I did was open and shut the doors of the double oven [DOUBLE oven! How I long to able to grill and bake at the same time!] and I found these to feel rather flimsy. I noticed also that they, especially the top oven, did get stuck if you did not get the angle right. This is something that has caused Baby CrazyEgg frustration on occasion, but I have managed to sort it out and get the door working again. She does not play too boisterously with this toy (though she has a troubling tendency to bake her Happyland people, especially the doctor), however, if the door was forced more than 90 degrees the instructions state that it has been designed to detach and you simply have to clip it back on. I cannot comment on whether this is true or easy, and I am not going to try even in the name of research).
On to the most important bit of all: is it a good toy for playing with? Well, there is a whole list on the box of skills that can be developed with this cooker and the most important and obvious one is that it is a role-playing and pretending toy that can aid the imagination. In my view one of the joys of this toy is not just that it helps Baby CrazyEgg pretend and imagine, but that I can see what it is she is thinking and doing, and I can see that she is taking in all the various aspects of her world. Now, Baby CrazyEgg has apparently got delayed expressive speech, but there are no problems with her understanding or communication as far as I can see and we have been using Makaton (thanks Mr Tumble!) for some now. So when I say she 'says' something, she is in fact making a sign to tell me or Mr CrazyEgg something. With the oven and her extensive collection of play food garnered from many discount stores, and Hamley's during a weak moment, she has concocted many a meal for us both. "Hot hot!" she says, "Mmmmmm". She puts the food on the tray, into the oven, closes the door and switches it on: "Wait, wait. Now it's ready! Not for you. For Elmo." She bakes in batches and shares out the food amongst her toys. She stands at the oven to use the hob, kneels for the ovens, showing pleasure and sometimes disgust: "EWWW yuKa! yuKa!" at her results. Don't know where she gets that from, I am of course a fabulous cook.
It is really fun watching Baby CrazyEgg with this cooker making the various hobs and compartments light up...though it is not always fun listening to the oven. It makes various sounds, but one in particular is just unpleasant to listen too. It is a loud, harsh crackle. The unitiated yelp when it bursts forth and have been known to try and switch it off. Although there is a button that does this, the sound does stop after about ten seconds and the cooker goes "Bong! Bong! Bong!" to signal that the food is ready. This is a most pleasing sound. In total there are seven buttons to press and four sounds.
The only feature of this toy that Baby CrazyEgg dislikes is the movable oven shelves. I've put them in a few times but she is not having it, as it limits which pieces of play food she can bake.
As I have said, the packaging states a number of skills this toy develops, but I think they could perhaps use the space on the box better. I would skip this bit if I were you, but in this interests of completeness I will tell you that Casdon regard the following as sales points: "lights for visual stimulation, buttons to push to activate for understanding cause and effect, ...opening doors develop problem solving and motor skills [oh, the jamming door is deliberate, I Seee], imitation cooking sounds for ...aural stimulation."
In summary this is a great toy if a little flimsy, even I suspect for many three year olds. It loses a star for this, the loose screw and the terrible sound effect. But it is still worth four stars in my view.
*scale is irrelevant in all play food collections as far as I can see. Here the roast chicken is dwarfed by the comparatively enormous burger patty which in turn has the same diameter as the fried egg.