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This book caught my eye whilst browsing the children's book section in Waterstones. The cover is very colourful, with sparkly bits and cuts outs featuring textured fabric. I immediately knew my daughter would love it and had no hesitation in paying the RRP of £8.99.
The book is by Usborne, well known for their children's books, and is part of the "Touchy Feely" range. It's a medium sized board book with 10 pages. It's written by Helen Watt, and designed by Helen Wood.
On the back it does say "not suitable for children under 36 months," which I find strange as there are no small parts or anything to break off, and children under 3 really love this book.
The front cover is a sky blue background with beautiful illustrations of fairies and flowers. There are four bits cut out of the board, two for a fairy's wings, one for another fairy's wings and one for the toadstool top. Each cutout has a different fabric inlaid. The wings are shiny pink fabrics, and the toadstool is a red fabric with raised white dots.
Each page in the book is completely covered in delightful, colourful illustrations of fairies and flowers. The fairies have cute little faces and are shown doing things relevant to the text on that page. As well as the bright colours, each page has bits imprinted with shiny silver.
Just as on the cover, each page has cutouts which are inlaid with differently textured fabrics or papers. There are holographic shiny silver papers, fluffy white fabrics, pink & blue fabrics with shiny silver dots, and furry pink fabrics, to list but a few.
The first two pages see the garden fairies painting the flowers, decorating toadstools and sprinkling the petals with fairy dust. The two sentences are beautifully illustrated with long blades of grass, pretty, sparkly flowers and of course the fairies themselves.
Next it's the turn of the rain fairies who burst the clouds with their wands to make sparkling raindrops and paint brilliant rainbows across the sky. Some of the fairies are shown sitting on clouds, with another fairy holding a bucket underneath a cloud to catch the raindrops whilst holding a shiny gold umbrella. On the opposite page are three fairies painting a colourful rainbow.
It's the job of the treetop fairies to gather nuts and fruit from the trees, they travel in nutshells pulled by dragonflies and sleep in nests lined with soft feathers. The double page spread has a pink background with lots of leaves, and shows two fairies drop a piece of fruit they've picked onto another fairy's head! Another fairy is sitting in a nutshell which is being pulled along by a dragonfly, while two fairies are sleeping in a nest.
The following two pages are a winter wonderland with the snow fairies sprinkling snowflakes with sparkling fairy dust and scattering them on the ground. The pages are mainly filled with large silver snowflakes, with just four fairies dressed in their winter finery complete with earmuffs and bobble hats.
Finally it's the turn of the night fairies, who light up the twinkling stars in the sky and make sure every child is sound asleep. A relaxing lavender background, with a child asleep in bed, surrounded by tiny fairies waving their wands to sprinkle fairy dust on the child, is on one page. With a window shown on the other, outside of which are more tiny fairies shown holding onto the stars in the sky.
This really is a lovely book, and undoubtedly one of my daughter's favourites. She loves sitting by herself turning the pages and feeling the different textures, but equally loves sitting on my knee while I read the story to her. As there are only a couple of sentences per page it doesn't take too long to get through the book, which is great for children who have a short attention span. You can either read the story out loud, make up your own words, describe the pictures or let your child explore the book by themselves. With an older child they would be able to remember parts of the story and point things out themselves.
The book has an RRP of £8.99, but you can buy it on amazon.co.uk for £6.74.
I'm only giving the book four stars because although it's a fantastic book, I personally feel it's a little too pricey for a children's board book.
Other books in the Touchy Feely series include Princesses and Farm, plus the wide range of "That's not my..." board books.
Usborne Publishing Ltd., Usborne House, 83-85 Saffron Hill, London, EC1N 8RT
Last time I was in Marks and Spencers food department I noticed they had some new fresh drinks, which were on offer 2 for £3. I chose the Fresh Strawberry Cooler and Pink Lemonade.
I love strawberries, but am not a great fan of smoothies, and it's not often you see strawberry juice drinks for sale.
This drink comes in a 500ml clear plastic bottle, with a plastic screw top. The label is white with red swirls on. It's part of the "Eat Well" range and counts as one of your five a day fruit & veg portions.
The front of the label reads "Made with fresh strawberries and a hint of red grape & apple."
I was disappointed when I read the ingredients. After water which is the main ingredient, red grapes make up 29%, apples 20%, and strawberries a mere 15%, along with ascorbic acid.
So it was no surprise when I opened the bottle and smelled mainly grapes. The juice is watery rather than thick like some fruit juices can be, and a pale red colour. As I took a sip of the juice the predominant taste was that of grapes, with a hint of apple. After it had been in my mouth for a couple of seconds the strawberry taste came through slightly, followed by an aftertaste of, yes, you guessed it, grapes!
I feel conned at having bought a drink made out to be strawberry flavoured, when in fact the main ingredients were grapes and apples. It's not something I'd choose to buy again, especially as it costs £1.99 a bottle.
Per 250ml serving-
Energy kJ - 415
Energy kcal - 100
Protein - 0.8g
Carbohydrate - 22.8g
Fat - 0.3g
Fibre - 2.8g
The drink needs to be kept refrigerated, and the bottle should be shaken before drinking.
It costs £1.99 for a 500ml bottle, but can be bought along with another from the range for 2 for £3.
This was one of the (many) toys we got our daughter last Christmas. It's suitable for age 6 months upwards, but she only started taking an interest in it from about 9-10 months old.
It's made by Fisher Price which is a well know and trusted brand that's been around longer than I have!
The toy is modelled after a cookie jar, and is yellow, with a purple bottom and orange rim. There's a big smiley face on the front with a red nose that lights up when pressed and plays a tune or phrase. The lid is purple and can be taken on and off the top of the jar.
Around the jar are five different shaped holes. The "cookies" that come with the jar fit through these holes. They are: a red heart, a blue square, a yellow circle, green triangle and purple star, all of which are chunky and have a number from 1-5 on top.
Underneath the smiley face is a slider control to switch it off, or to one of two modes: shapes or numbers.
In shape mode:
When a cookie or other object is placed into the jar a sensor triggers and a catchy little tune starts playing... "Shapes are in my cookie jar, triangle, heart and star, there's a circle over there, here's a square!"
Push the cookie through its relevant shaped hole and the jar will tell you the name of that shape, followed by a "mmm" or a giggle.
Press the red nose to hear "yummy," "mmm," a giggle, a twinkle sound, or "I love cookies."
In numbers mode:
Put a cookie into the jar to hear "Would you like some cookies, here they are, five different shapes in my cookie jar, you can take them out, you can put them back, five little cookies make a yummy snack!"
Put a cookie into a hole to hear the number on that cookie.
Pressing the nose elicits the same response as in shapes mode.
The cookie jar is great for teaching baby lots of skills. They'll learn to identify the different shapes, numbers and colours. Putting things in and out of the jar triggers the music, thereby teaching cause and effect. Motor skills and hand-eye coordination come from handling the shapes and putting them in the correct holes.
My daughter will spend quite a bit of time taking things (not just cookies) in and out of the jar. She also likes putting the lid on her head! Occasionally she'll put the right cookie in the right hole, usually the round or square ones.
On the bottom of each hole is a little button that presses down as the shape is pushed through, triggering the phrases. But quite often, on some holes, this button doesn't press in as it's supposed to and will stop the shape being pushed through without it being at an exact angle, which isn't easy for a baby to do.
Overall it's a great toy that teaches quite a few different things, and I'm sure it will last for some time to come.
The toy runs off 3 x AA batteries. It retails at £14.99.
When my daughter was around 8 months old she started taking an interest in everyone's mobile phones, especially the flip variety. We realised the time had come to buy her first mobile phone.
Off we went to the Early Learning Centre and found just the thing - My 1st Mobile.
Available in two colour ways - pink or multicoloured, both priced at £8.00.
We got her the pink phone, which is a mixture of light and bright pink, with a pale mint green aerial and strap.
The phone is very chunky, kind of like real mobile phones used to be, although it's not quite as heavy! Little hands don't seem to have any problems holding onto it.
On the top of the phone is a little clear window with a picture of a lion inside. When you flip the phone open the picture switches round so the lion is on the window inside the phone, and in his place on the outside of the phone is a penguin.
There are two different modes, talking & music, which can be switched between using the switch on the side of the phone.
The phone keypad features 5 buttons, 1 large one at the top & four smaller underneath. In talking mode pressing the large purple button at the top makes a noise as if you're dialling a number; the pink button plays a ringing noise; the green button says "Hello"; the lilac button says "Bye-bye"; and the yellow button plays an engaged tone.
In music mode the purple button plays a catchy little tune which changes each time pressed; the pink button makes a springing noise; the green button is a giggling sound; the lilac button plays a "boinging" noise; and the yellow button is a ringing tone.
There's a strap on the back of the phone which opens with Velcro, so it can be attached to baby's wrist or pram.
The round aerial on top lights up when any of the buttons are pressed, and flashes at different intervals, depending on which sound is playing.
The recommended age range is 1-3 years, but my daughter loved playing with it from when she was just 8 months. She loves playing with the phone and pretending to listen to someone talking on it, making it great for learning social skills. Plus it has the added bonus of distracting her from playing with my mobile which cost a fair bit more!
As you'd expect from Early Learning Centre, the quality is excellent and I can see this phone easily outlasting mine.
The phone requires 3x LR44 batteries, which were already in when we purchased it. The phone has been played with a lot, but the batteries are still going strong.
Available from http://www.elc.co.uk and Early Learning Centre Stores for £8.00.
The Big Birthday Club is another one of those free-to-join parent clubs that provide free gifts and money-off vouchers, brought to you by the Early Learning Centre.
Joining is really easy, you can pick up a form in store, return a form in the post (pick up in store or in an ELC catalogue) or join online at http://www.elc.co.uk/birthdayclub.
It's recommended you join at least 8 weeks before your child's birthday, as it takes them a while to get your account set up.
It's for children aged 0-6 years and is free to join. Unlike most other such clubs, it's not restricted to just parents. Mums, dads, grandparents, relatives or friends can all join, which is great and can help them save a few pounds if they buy their birthday gifts from ELC.
To join you'll need to provide the standard information including name, address, email, along with the date of birth, name and gender of your child.
Once you've joined up online, you can access the Big Birthday Club website by going to
http://www.elc.co.uk/birthdayclub and entering your login details. Once logged into your account there are various things you can do.
Adding another child is just a matter of clicking the "add a child" button and entering their details.
You can also change your contact preferences, choosing from post or email, or both. If you want to receive the free gift, you'll need to check the "post" box.
There's a useful "Find the perfect present" tool, which will show you gift ideas for your child's age group.
The ideas section is great and contains ideas for parents including party games and ideas, party bag ideas, and party invites, birthday cards and thank you cards that you can print off. There's one design for each card, available in either colour, or black and white which your child can colour in. They're pdf files that you just download using software such as adobe acrobat reader, and print off.
A special offer is currently available to BBC members via the website, offering 1/3 off personalised storybooks from Itsyourstory.
About a month before your child's birthday you'll receive an envelope with a free gift, letter and 20% off voucher. I received mine exactly a month before her birthday. The free gift was a "Farmyard Friends" animal songs CD containing 26 favourites such as Old Macdonald, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Five Little Ducks and One Man Went to Mow. I presume the gift will vary depending on the child's age.
The letter enclosed suggested a farmyard theme for a party, although the couple of games suggestions it gave were a bit old for a one year old. My 20% off voucher was attached to the bottom of the letter and is valid for just over 2 months after her birthday. It can be used in-store, online or by phone.
A month before her birthday I also received a 20% off voucher by email which can be printed off. It was only valid for about 10 days after her birthday. It's available via a website link, and can be printed off more than once, so in theory, even though you're probably not supposed to, you could give a copy to friends who want to buy gifts. If you lose the email, the voucher is also accessible via your account on the BBC website.
The vouchers can't be used in conjuction with any other offers including sale items, star buys, childcare discount cards or nursery website discounts. They're not valid on FiredupKids products. Only valid for one transaction, but there are no minimum or maximum spends.
Early Learning Centre toys and games are great quality but can be a bit pricey, so the Big Birthday Club is well worth joining, even if you're only going to buy one or two things from there. I've ended up buying most of my daughter's birthday gifts from there and have saved quite a lot of money using the vouchers. My mum also joined up and used her vouchers to buy gifts.
I've been dyeing my hair since I was 18, but the last few attempts at home dyeing haven't been very successful.
I was a good girl whilst pregnant and stayed away from the dyes, despite a few pesky grey hairs creeping through. As soon as I'd had my daughter - well, not literally straight away, I did wait a week or two - I went and bought a Herbal Essences dye kit. My sleep-deprived state led me to buy a shade that was way too dark, and I spent the next few months waiting for it to fade like it normally does. But it didn't, it stayed dark. A few days before we were due to go on holiday I decided to attempt one of those home highlighting kits to lighten my hair up a bit - big mistake! I ended up looking like Cruella de Vil on a bad hair day. Not wanting to leave the house in case I scared any small children, I sent my husband to the shops with instructions to get a mid-brown colour. He came back with the same dark shade I'd used previously. Never mind, it would have to do, and at least it covered the hideous highlights.
Recently, both my husband and mum took great delight in telling me the grey hairs were returning on top. At the age of 33 this doesn't impress me.
Off I went to Boots and found this reasonably priced Garnier Nutrisse, which promised in bold text to "cover 100% of grey hair." I studied a few different shades, and the little colour result photos on the side, but the brown shades all looked pretty similar, so I went off the photo of the model and her hair colour on the front of the box. My hair is a sort of mid-brown colour, and I chose shade number 5 - Mocha Brown, a bit darker than my hair colour.
It's a permanent hair colour, which is enriched with avocado oil, promising to protect your hair from drying out.
The yellow and green box contains 1 x 60ml bottle of developer mix, 1 x 40ml tube of nourishing colour cream, 1 x 20ml sachet of nourishing after colour conditioner, 1 instruction leaflet and 1 pair of gloves.
A tab on the box lid shows the shade name, so you can cut it off and keep it for next time you want to buy the dye and you can't remember which shade you used last time.
The box also has a perforated circle you can punch out to give you somewhere to place the bottle and prevent it from tipping over while you're mixing and colouring.
I shut myself away in the bathroom and studied the instruction leaflet. It started off by telling me to conduct a skin allergy test, which should be done 48 hours before colouring, even if you've used the colour before, as allergies can develop suddenly. To do the test you are supposed to apply a little of the unmixed colourant to behind your ear, using a cotton bud. I have to hold my hands up and admit I've never done this, and didn't do it this time. You should really do it, as allergies can be very severe.
I peeled the gloves off the instruction sheet and put them on. They were very flimsy, and kept slipping off as they were so big. The next step told me to mix the nourishing colour cream tube into the applicator bottle, which contained the developer milk. Give it a good shake, and then break the tip off the bottle. Make sure you don't take the tip off before shaking, as you'll end up with one heck of a mess!
I went for the full head application rather than the retouch application. This required me to apply the full contents of the bottle to my hair, working it in thoroughly, then leave it for 25 minutes. If your hair is resistant or has lots of grey you can leave it for 35 minutes.
The chemical-type smell of the dye was slightly overpowering and not very nice, despite it promising a "fresh, fruity fragrance." The smell also stayed on my hair until the next time I washed it two days later.
The gloves which had been falling off before were now welded to my hands since becoming wet & proved difficult to get off. I ended up peeling them off inside out, meaning that I couldn't use them again for the next step.
If you go for the retouch application you only need apply the colour to the roots and leave for 15 minutes.
The non-drip formula lived up to it's name & I was able to sit for 25 minutes without hairdye running down me.
After the development time it says to apply a little water and massage gently to create lather, then rinse thoroughly. I prefer to do this bit in the shower. My hair lathered up as promised, and it took a few minutes to rinse until the water ran clear. The conditioner is in a sachet which was a bit tricky to rip open with wet hands. There was just enough in to last two hair washes, and it had a pleasant fruity smell.
Despite me rinsing my hair thoroughly until the water ran clear, a bit of dye did come off on the towel afterwards.
I always manage to get myself and the sink covered in hair dye, but I'm pleased to say it wiped off easily using a bit of soap and water so I wasn't left with nasty brown stains on my ears, face and arms.
My hair felt quite soft, although I had a bit of trouble brushing it through, which I don't normally. The colour came out a bit darker than my regular colour, but exactly like the model's on the box. Only time will tell whether it fades significantly or not, so I'll report back and update this review in a few weeks.
Practical advice given on the instruction leaflet-
If using a shade much lighter than your natural colour, use Garnier Nutrisse Pre-Lightener first.
Use the whole mixture, even if you have short hair.
Colour ever 6 weeks for best result.
If your hair is permed, wait 2 weeks between perming and applying colour.
Safety advice given-
Don't use if you have had a reaction to a hair colourant.
Don't use if you have an itchy or damaged scalp.
If you've ever had a black henna tattoo, even a long time ago, you are very likely to have become allergic without realising it. Never use this product unless you've done a skin allergy test 48 hours before.
Don't use on eyelashes, eyebrows, beard or moustache.
Do not inhale or ingest.
Do not use on children.
The developer contains hydrogen peroxide.
Hair colourant contains phenylenedimines, resorcinol and ammonia.
Garnier Nutrisse retails at around £4.90.
26 different shades are available, ranging from light blonde through to black. There's even a striking deep burgundy shade available for those who are a bit more daring!
Garnier, London W6 8AZ
Customer careline - 0845 399 0104
(These are now called Rachel's Organic My first yogurts.)
I first noticed these while browsing the chilled yoghurt section in Tesco. On closer inspection I was pleased to see they didn't contain any added sugar like most yoghurts do, and even better they were organic, so I bought a pack of four for my daughter to try. She absolutely loves them and has one most days.
The yoghurts come in packs of 4 x 90g clear plastic pots, packaged in a card sleeve. The pale lemon yellow sleeve features a photo of a cute baby, and pictures of raspberries, a banana, a strawberry, and mango, indicating the individuals flavours inside. It says "Organic wholemilk yogurt with fruit puree, sweetened with organic fruit juice concentrate."
They are suitable to feed your child from 6 months onwards, are gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians. They do contain cow's milk, so aren't suitable if your child has an intolerance or allergy to this. There are no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives in the yoghurts.
On the bottom of the sleeve it says they "contain probiotic cultures to help maintain a healthy digestive system," but doesn't say what type of cultures or how many, so it's impossible to know whether they're at the levels needed to be of any benefit.
The nutritional information varies with each flavour, so I'll give rough values per 90g pot-
Energy kj = 369-387
Energy kcal = 88-93
Protein = 3.7-3.8g
Carbohydrate = 12.1-13.1g
Fat = 2.8g
Fibre = 0.1-0.4g
Sodium = 0.04g
Calcium = 167-172mg
Ingredients are similar for all four flavours - Strawberry, raspberry, banana, mango-
Organic yogurt, organic puree (strawberry, raspberry, banana or mango, between 12-15.5%), organic apple juice concentrate (pear in the banana flavour), organic rice starch, organic lemon juice.
The yoghurts are thick in texture and deliciously creamy and smooth. Each one has a good, strong fruit flavour. There are no fruit bits in them. I used to buy ordinary Rachel's Organic yoghurts for me, but found they were too sweet. Because these don't have added sugar they are just right. The banana one is my favourite, and I've been known to eat one when we've run out of "adult" yoghurts!
They cost £1.45 for 4 x 90g pots.
Rachel's Dairy Ltd., Aberystwyth, SY23 3JQ
When I was pregnant with my daughter I made a list of all the stuff we'd need & monitors were one of the "non-essential, but good to have" items. I looked through various catalogues & websites to see what was available & the Tommee Tippee SureSound Monitor caught my eye. They aren't just a listening monitor but also have a movement sensor pad.
A big worry for many new parents is the threat of cot death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and this product plays on those fears, as an extra safeguard you can take. That's why the movement sensor appealed to me and even though it was a fair bit more expensive than other more basic monitors, I parted with the cash and bought one.
It consists of two monitor units and one movement sensor pad.
~~ The monitor units ~~
There is one unit that picks up sound which should be placed in baby's room, and another unit which relays the sound picked up, and is for the parent, to be placed in another room or carried around.
The listening unit is a kind of oval shape with a bit that flips up when the unit is in use. When flipped up a mini control panel is revealed on the base. There is an LCD display showing the room temperature, a button to change the frequency channel, a switch to turn the sensor pad on and off, and a nightlight button. The flip up part features a nightlight that you can switch on and off.
The parent unit is extremely lightweight and easy to carry around, even having a belt clip on the back. If you don't want to carry it around you can place it in the compact base unit which has a plug attached (base unit must be plugged in). It has a small speaker on the front, a volume/off switch on the side, soft aerial, and lights which light up if any sound is detected from the listening unit. If the sensor pad alarm goes off the red light lights up. This is useful if you have the sound turned down.
The units can be mains or battery operated, and have power cut protection.
The Tommee Tippee monitors use an exclusive technology called ACS, which allows you to select the channel on the baby unit and the parent unit automatically changes to the same channel. They also have a digitally generated signal, ensuring increased privacy, and a much lesser chance to interference from other monitors.
~~ The sensor pad ~~
The pad is a thin hard plastic slab with a wire attached, that is placed underneath the cot mattress. If no movement is detected after 20 seconds an alarm will sound. The alarm is a high-pitched continuous beep.
The pad should never be used as a substitute for recommended advice for preventing cot death, and isn't a medical device.
~~ Verdict ~~
The movement sensor pad was good when my daughter was in her moses basket which had a relatively thin mattress. It gave us increased peace of mind to know she was still moving around. But when we moved her into the cot bed, with a much thicker mattress, as soon as she was in a deep sleep the alarm would be going off all the time. Despite it saying the sensor pad is suitable for all mattresses it was just useless with a thick mattress. After a couple of nights of keep getting up in a panic when the alarm went off, the movement sensor was switched off and never used again. It was also a pain when she was in the moses basket and up a few times in the night for feeds, in my sleepy haze I'd forget to switch the sensor off, and after 20 seconds the alarm would sound waking my husband up!
Looking back, we didn't use the listening monitors a great deal, especially after the first couple of months. Even though we live in a decent sized house we could still hear her if she cried, even downstairs with the TV on. And because babies tend to stir regularly and have a whinge now and again before falling back to sleep, we'd be up and down at the slightest noise heard through the monitor even though we needn't have been.
The temperature display on the listening unit is useful to ensure baby's room is at the correct temperature, although a simple room thermometer would suffice.
The nightlight was very dim, so never used.
The monitor retails for £109.99 and can be bought from Boots and other leading baby equipment suppliers.
I'm not sure I would have even bothered with buying a monitor, let alone one with a sensor pad.
0500 97 98 99
Herein lies my recipe for succulent fingers of pork encased in a light crispy batter.
OK, you sussed me, it's toad in the hole, but you've got to admit my name for it sounds posher?!
I read an article recently saying how great British dishes are disappearing from our dinner tables in favour of curries, pasta, and other international dishes. So I thought I'd share this recipe for that great British classic, toad in the hole.
Serves: 2 people (just double the ingredients to serve 4)
Whisk (hand or electric)
Ceramic cooking dish (the one I use is about 22cmx15cm)
60g plain flour
2 medium eggs
1 tsp vegetable oil, olive oil, or for extra taste, beef dripping
salt and pepper
4 sausages (I use Richmond sausages)
1. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
2. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt and pepper.
3. Crack the eggs and start to whisk into the flour. Slowly start to add half of the milk, and keep whisking whilst doing so. Whisk until smooth, then add the remaining milk, whisking all the time. Leave to stand for at least 20 minutes.
4. Put the oil into the dish and place in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Add the sausages to the dish and cook for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for a further 5 minutes.
5. Pour the batter over the sausages and cook for 30-35 minutes. Try not to open the oven door whilst cooking or the batter will sink.
Delicious served with mashed potato or chips, caramelised carrots (recipe below), broccoli or peas, and gravy.
~~ Other ideas ~~
* Try using some of those fancy sausages you can buy these days rather than plain old pork or beef sausages.
* You can also add dried mixed herbs into the batter before cooking.
* Mix together ½ tablespoon of Dijon mustard and ½ tablespoon honey, and brush the mixture over the sausages before cooking.
~~ Caramelised Carrots ~~
These are good to serve with toad in the hole, especially with mashed potato too.
approx. 80-100g carrots (or enough to serve 2 people)
8g light muscovado or demerara sugar
50ml vegetable stock (I use Oxo cubes), can also use chicken stock
½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Slice the carrots into batons.
2. Put carrots into pan with the butter, sugar and vegetable stock. Add salt and pepper.
3. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Remove lid, then add the balsamic vinegar.
5. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the carrots are tender.
We've recently been forced to enter the world of baby-proofing when our daughter became mobile and discovered that cupboard doors open and plugholes are just right for putting your finger into. And it seems that even if you're sure you've completely safeguarded your home against every possible eventuality involving baby, she'll always find the one thing you didn't think to baby-proof!
As soon as baby starts to become mobile, even if they're not yet fully crawling, you need to think about baby-proofing your home. The best thing to do is get down on your hands and knees and see things from their viewpoint. Yes, I know you're going to look silly crawling around the house, but work with me on this one, it really is better than walking around looking down on things.
I refer below to baby, but it also includes toddlers and children up to the age of about five.
~~ THINGS TO CONSIDER ~~
* Plugholes *
Babies and electricity just don't mix, simple as. Yet babies don't understand that. They see a plughole as three little holes that they can put their fingers into. And those holes are at just the right height, so one of the first things you should consider doing is buying socket covers. They take seconds to fit, all you need to do is push it into the socket like you would a plug. To remove them, most are made so that you can slot the back of another socket cover in and twist to remove it.
Mothercare sell a pack of 12 covers for £3.99. Boots have a pack of 4 for £3.00.
* Video & DVD players *
Video and DVD guards prevent credit cards, biscuits and such like being stuffed into your player/recorder.
Buy a DVD shield from Mothercare for £6.99.
Buy a multi-purpose lock to stick onto the TV cabinet from Boots for £4.00.
* Washing Machines & Dryers *
I remember reading once about a small child that had climbed into a tumble dryer, closed the door behind it and suffocated. I doubt it's one of the more common accidents around the home, but nonetheless is something that needs to be guarded against. I always keep my washer/dryer door closed so my daughter can't open it (the open button is too tough for her to press). If your door is easy to open, consider buying a multi-purpose lock that sticks on. Mothercare have one for £3.99.
* Cords & Ties *
Make sure all cords are totally out of reach. Use a cord winder (£5.99 from Mothercare) to keep window blind cords out of the way.
Never leave a bag or anything with ties or straps on or in a baby's cot.
* Tables *
Babies are always falling over, especially when they first become mobile. Sharp table corners prove a particular hazard, but can easily be made safe using corner protectors. I bought two sets, one from Mothercare and one from Boots. The Mothercare ones protrude a bit from the table, but have stuck down really well. The ones from Boots fit snuggly around the corners but after a couple of days had been pulled off by my daughter. I ended up using Bostik to stick them down, so they're unlikely to come off again in a hurry. This doesn't matter as I plan to keep them on once she's grown up as I have a lot less bruises on my legs these days!
Boots corner cushions are £2.00 for pack of 4.
* Cupboards & Drawers *
Fit cupboard catches to any cupboard or drawer that contains hazardous materials/liquids, or anything that you don't want baby to get their hands on. You will need to drill small holes and screw to attach them, and they can be fiddly to open, but are worth the hassle. The ones I have from Mothercare can be deactivated when baby has gone to bed if you wish.
A 12 pack of drawer and cupboard catches is £5.99 at Mothercare. £3 for pack of 6 from Boots.
* Cooker *
Pan handles should never be left overhanging the cooker hob. Little hands can reach up, pull the pan off the cooker and end up scalded. You can buy a special hob guard that shields the front of the hob, Mothercare sell them for £14.99.
Check how hot the front of the cooker gets when the oven is on. If it's hot enough to burn, make sure baby is kept away from the cooker when it's on. Better still, teach them from the word go that cooker is hot and off limits at all times.
Boots sell the Clevamama Oven Door Guard for £22.99.
* Hot Liquids
A hot drink, such as a cup of tea or coffee, can scald a baby up to 20 minutes after it's made. Never leave a hot drink within reach of baby.
* Stairs *
Safety gates are perhaps the most expensive of baby-proofing purchases. You'll need at least one if you have stairs, to fit at the bottom to stop baby climbing up the stairs. It's preferable to fit one at the top also if baby is able to move around upstairs.
There are many different types & makes available. Ranging from a simple pressure fit gate (can be bought from around £14.99) up to a roller-blind style gate that retracts when open (around £65). If like me you're prone to clumsiness and don't want a bottom bar to trip over, you may want to opt for a wall-mounted gate rather than a pressure fit gate. These fit to the wall using screw fixings (I paid about £19 each for my two gates).
Gates can also be fitted in doorways to keep baby in a particular room or prevent them from entering one.
* Doors *
One of the most common accidents involving babies in the home has to be trapped fingers. Doors can slam or be pulled/pushed shut, and little ones don't understand that they need to move little fingers out of the way, resulting in squished fingers. A very simple solution to this problem is a door stop that can either be stuck to or fitted around the top of a door so it can't close fully.
Mothercare sell an adhesive door stop for £3.99. Boots door slam protector is £4.00.
* Glass & Windows *
As a young child I was very accident prone (and still am) and once somehow went through the bottom glass panel in our back door. The door came off much worse than I did, by some miracle I escaped without a scratch.
Check to see if any low windows or French/Patio doors are fitted with safety glass. If not you can buy a protective film that covers the glass, so even if it shatters the broken pieces are held together.
Buy a 61 x 183cm roll of safety film from Mothercare for £17.99. It can also be used on glass tables.
Windows that baby can reach or climb up to can be secured using a window catch - £4.99 at Mothercare.
* Fire *
I think I was about 3 when I fell on the fire at my Grandma's house, and still have the scar on my wrist to prove it - now do you believe me when I say I've always been accident prone?
If you have a fire, whether it be open, gas or electric, a fireguard can prevent against such potentially serious accidents.
BabyDan fireguard £59.99 from Boots. Cushiony Fireplace Guard is £24.99 at Boots.
* Furniture *
Again, another thing I remember reading about was a very sad report in a newspaper about a small child who had pulled a chest of drawers over onto themselves and been crushed to death. It's not one of the things that immediately comes to mind when considering safety in the house, but it is one of the most dangerous. I tend to think that if it's taller than it is wide, it's capable of tipping or being pulled over (although that's not necessarily always the case).
Mothercare sell a furniture strap for £3.99 that screws into the back of the item of furniture and then into the wall behind, thus securing said item.
* Bathroom *
Fit a non-slip bathmat to prevent baby slipping at bathtime.
You can buy toilet locks (£3 from Boots) which stick on. This will stop baby dropping your mobile phone down there.
* Garden *
Babies and water can prove lethal. A small child can drown in just a couple of cm of water. If you have a pond or water feature in your garden, ensure it is covered over and inaccessible, preferably with a hard cover which rainwater can't accumulate on. Don't leave any buckets or anything which rainwater can collect in lying around the garden.
Check that any weedkillers, or pest control methods you use are child-friendly.
* Everything Else *
You may want to fit a lock onto the fridge and freezer to prevent junior from emptying the contents all over the kitchen floor. Use a special fridge lock (£3.99 at Mothercare) or a multi-purpose lock.
Turn your thermostat down to below 54 C (130 F) to prevent any scalds from the hot water tap.
Fit smoke alarms on each floor. Carbon monoxide detectors are also a good idea.
Keep small items out of reach. I did read somewhere that baby can choke on anything small enough to fit inside a toilet roll tube. Personally I feel this is a bit over-cautious as quite a few small toy items that are sold for this age group will fit inside the tube, so I prefer to use my own judgement.
Mothercare sell a home safety starter pack for £9.99, which contains: 4 clear corner cushions, 1 door slam stopper, 4 white socket covers, 4 white drawer/cupboard catches, 1 multi purpose lock.
Boots do a starter pack for £10 which includes: 6 x Boots plug socket covers, 4 x Boots corner cushions, 3 x Boots cupboard locks, 3 x Boots drawer locks, 1 x Boots door slam protector, 1 x Boots toilet lock, 1 x Boots short multipurpose lock, 1 x Boots long multipurpose lock.
When you look at the list of things it can all quickily add up, but I believe it's a small price to pay for your child's safety.
This turned out to be a pretty long review, so thanks for reading if you made it this far!
When I wanted to start giving my daughter a drink from a cup when she was around 4 months old I bought a few different cups to try. They were mostly all of the non-spill kind that baby needs to suck from. She did ok with them but at her 6 month assessment the Health Visitor told me that they don't recommend those types, something to do with the way they have to suck to get the drink out affecting dental development.
She recommended free-flow cups so I went and bought one of these Tommee Tippee First Cups. At first she had a problem as the drink came out too fast, but she soon got used to it and now that's the only cup she has to drink out of.
The cup is simply made of the cup part and a lid. The lid fits on tightly, and doesn't come off easily! It has a free-flow spout which folds down for travelling or for when baby is waving the cup around, so no drink spills out. There are handles on each side which are large enough for baby to get their hands around to hold.
Lines on the cup indicate 17ml, 50ml, 100ml, 150ml & 190ml. There's also a juice line showing correct juice dilution levels, with a water line at the top so you know how much to use.
The cup can be sterilised and is also dishwasher safe (top rack).
It can be used with Tommee Tippee Sipper Lids for the next stage up before they move on to drinking from an open cup.
The cup is suitable for using from 4 months upwards.
Available in four colours - orangey-red, yellow, green, blue. Although I've never seen the yellow one for sale anywhere.
It's not recommended to give baby juice from a cup (or bottle) as it rots teeth, even fresh fruit juice contains enough sugar to rot teeth. If you must give fruit juice, make sure it's well diluted, and use the guidelines on the cup. Also never leave baby with a cup of juice for a long period, or let them take it to bed or fall asleep with it in their mouth as the sugars will accumulate and do nasty things to those little teeth.
Cooled, boiled water in the cup is the best thing to give a baby under 12 months. It may take a while for baby to get used to, so just keep offering it even if they spit it out at first.
My daughter wouldn't take plain water at first, but I wanted to get extra fluids into her as she had colic and my HV recommended giving her water. I bought some plain fennel and chamomile herbal teabags and made up a weak mix of them. I put about half tea mix / half cooled boiled water into her cup and she drank it no problem at all. That's mainly what she drinks now, although she will just drink plain boiled water too.
You can also try formula milk in the cup to get baby used to drinking from it if they won't take anything else from the cup. Cows milk shouldn't be used as a drink until after 12 months.
I think these cups are great! They're cheap, easy to clean, perfect for travel as they don't spill, and baby can hold them easily. All my daughter's little friends have them, and they're the cup used at the Mother & Toddler Group I go to.
The RRP of the First Cup is £1.99, but Tesco sell it for £1.73.
0500 97 98 99
When I was pregnant and shopping for baby things I'd already seen the Tommee Tippee steam steriliser and decided that was the one I was going to get, when on a weekly trip to Tesco I noticed they had it on sale at half price. I grabbed the last one for a mere £19.99!
The steriliser is oval shaped but has a flat back, meaning it doesn't take up a huge amount of room in the kitchen.
The base is white and has a digital display on the front which shows which stage of sterilising it's currently at.
The top part is translucent, and the hinged lid is white. There is a handy detachable piece which sits snugly in the top of the steriliser and can be taken out and placed on the worktop to give you a sterile work surface on which to prepare bottles. The lid has holes in to let the steam out during sterilising, and is specially designed to allow the condensation to run back inside the unit when opened. It's also lockable by sliding the switch across.
The top part of the unit just lifts off, making it easy to clean and descale, which you'll need to do around every 4-6 weeks.
Sterilising is quick and easy. You simply put 90ml of water into the bottom (Tommee Tippee CTN bottles have an indicator line at 90ml for easy measuring), plug in and press the button on the front. The digital display shows where the process is up to, starting with "H" to indicate it's heating up. Then it shows "5" for the five minute sterilising, "C" for cooling down, then counts down from "3" to "1" to show how long the bottles will remain sterile for if the lid is left closed (hours). The whole process takes around 5 minutes.
The unit holds up to 6 bottles, although if using the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottles you might struggle to fit 6 in.
After about 4 months of using the steriliser the lights that make up the LCD display started to go out one by one, until eventually there was no digital display so I didn't know what stage the steriliser was up to. I took it back to Tesco where I'd bought it from and they gladly swapped it for a new one, which so far I've had no problems with. Overall, apart from that blip, I've been very happy with my purchase. It fits neatly on the kitchen worktop, is quiet, and does the job it's made to do.
The steriliser comes with three Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottles, an Easiflow Bottle to Cup and a bottle brush, which are worth around £18.
The RRP is £40, but it can often be bought for less so look out for special offers.
0500 97 98 99
I joined Boots Parenting Club when I was pregnant. It's free to do & well worth it as you get lots of freebies and money-off coupons.
You need to have a Boots Advantage Card, and you can sign up in store or online at http://www.bootsparentingclub.com.
It's is open to all UK residents who are pregnant and/or have a child or children up to but not including their 2nd birthday.
Around 3-4 weeks after you've signed up you'll receive a welcome pack with vouchers in. When I joined I got a voucher for a free Huggies changing bag when I bought one pack of Huggies newborn nappies. This has now changed and it's a Pampers changing bag when you buy one pack of Pampers nappies. The bag is worth £29.99, and as you'll be needing plenty of nappies, it's a great free gift.
I also got a book of coupons which got me a free No.7 product up to £16 value, buy one get one free on Boots Mediterranean pregnancy range, and other money off coupons.
Offers and free gifts do change regularly.
Around every 3 months I get a new book of coupons, and sometimes get a Boots Parenting Club Magazine relative to how old my baby is. The last issue I got was for 9-18 months. It contains useful advice, interesting articles, and information on new products.
My last issue featured:
Latest product news
Baby first aid
"Rainy day fun" with ideas and tips for play
"Granny knows best" an article on age-old advice from grannies
"Speak easy" about child speech development
Advanced weaning article
"The art of play" about helping your child to play
Advice on buying car seat, buggy and baby carrier
A reader makeover
Article on single mums
Back to work advice
Funny article about travelling with baby
Coupons normally include extra advantage card points when you buy a certain product, buy-one-get-one-frees, and money off.
Club members also get a coupon, which you only need to activate once and it stays on your card, which gives double points on Boots own label baby products, Pampers nappies and wipes, Heinz baby foods, Avent bottles and sterilisers and Johnson's Baby toiletries.
Since you'll be buying lots of baby stuff, points quickly mount up on your Advantage card, and the savings come in very useful.
I'd recommend any mum-to-be, or new parent to join up. You've nothing to lose and the free gifts and offers make it well worthwhile.
My daughter was around 4-5 months old when we started to think about getting her a highchair. We'd started her on solids and wanted something proper to sit her in at feeding times rather than her bouncy chair or Bumbo.
We'd been lucky enough to receive a £100 Mothercare giftcard when she was born, which we'd been saving for a major purchase like this. So off I went to Mothercare, but our local store didn't have a great choice in. Instead I checked out their website and found a greater selection.
I wanted one that would recline, was sturdy and built to last. The Silver Cross Sovereign model caught my eye, Silver Cross being a good make, and this was a neutral colour and would therefore be suitable if we have a boy in future.
It was expensive at £99.99, and we would have maybe gone for a cheaper model if we hadn't had the giftcard to spend.
As our local Mothercare didn't stock that model we had to order it to be home delivered which added another £4.95 to the price.
It arrived boxed up, more or less in one piece with very little assembly to do. It was a simple matter of pulling the recline release handle on the rear of the chair which made the highchair automatically unfold. Push in the safety buttons on each side of the chair and push the tray downwards. The PVC seat padding is held in place by small strips of Velcro, which needed the backing peeling off to stick down. There is a mesh basket underneath the chair which just needed attaching by placing small loops onto the plastic clips on the frame. Slide the feeding and play trays on and it's good to go!
The chair is fitted with a 5-point safety harness, which has a crotch strap and buckle, shoulder straps and waist straps. There is also a post between baby's legs, ensuring he/she can't slide out even if they're not strapped in.
The seat itself is large, with good support, and appears to be comfortable. The cover is wipe clean and made of PVC.
There are three plastic trays, one for safety which must always remained attached, another for play, and another for feeding which is moulded with a centre section, plus two round sections for holding cups.
A unique feature of this highchair is that the trays are treated with Microban. Microban is an invisible antibacterial protector which inhibits the growth of household bacteria when they come into contact with the surface. It can't be washed off or worn out and lasts for the lifetime of the chair.
The height is adjustable, with six different positions so you can adjust to suit you and where you're feeding baby. It's easy to adjust the height and is done by pulling the handle on the back of the seat.
Babies can have a tendency to nod off at mealtimes and often end up falling forwards in a very uncomfortable position. This highchair has four reclining positions, so if baby falls asleep whilst in the chair it can be reclined to enable them to sleep in comfort. To activate the recline feature pull on the other handle on the seat back and allow the seat to fall backwards. The footrest moves automatically when the seat is reclined.
The two back legs are fitted with lockable wheels, making it easy to move the chair around. The legs and body of the chair are made of sturdy, strong plastic, with chunky wide feet, making it impossible for the chair to tip over. It is a large highchair and takes up a bit more room than some others, but it can be folded up for storage although we don't bother. Folding it up is very simple and can be done with just one hand.
Overall I'm very pleased with the highchair, although expensive it has enough features, is excellent quality and I know it will last well into the future.
It's available in three different colourways - Cherry, Opal (grey) & Pistachio.
Weight - 9.6kg
Width - 63cm
Height - 82cm
Length - 110cm
Width - 47cm
Depth - 54cm
Length - 113cm
Retails for £99.99 at Mothercare.
Sudocrem is an antiseptic healing cream that is used to treat and prevent nappy rash, and can also be used for other skin complaints.
My mum used it on me many years ago, and I now use it on my daughter.
~~ About nappy rash ~~
Nappy rash is caused by baby's skin being in contact with urine for long periods of time, which is obviously largely unavoidable due to baby wearing nappies. It can range from a mild redness through to blisters or even infection in severe cases.
Nappy rash seems to be more common when baby is teething, swapping from breast to bottle feeding or starting on solid foods.
There are steps you can take to prevent nappy rash, including changing the nappy frequently so baby isn't left in a wet nappy, drying baby's bottom thoroughly before putting a new nappy on, and using a cream such as Sudocrem.
~~ About Sudocrem ~~
Sudocrem was first developed around 70 years ago and has been used by parents ever since.
It is a barrier cream, with the main ingredient zinc oxide which is water-repellent and therefore stops urine coming in contact with the skin.
Other ingredients help to soothe and heal the skin, and ease any irritation.
The pot is grey with a white label, and red & black writing. It's basic packaging, nothing fancy is needed to sell such a well known and trusted brand.
Zinc oxide Ph. Eur. 15.25%, Benzyl alcohol B.P. 0.39%, Benzyl Benzoate B.P. 1.01%, Benzyl Cinnamate 0.15%, Lanolin (Hypo-allergenic) 4% (w/w). Also contains: purified water, liquid paraffin, paraffin wax, beeswax, microcrystalline wax, sodium benzoate, linalyl acetate, propylene glycol, citric acid, butylated hydroxyanisole, sorbitan sesquioleate, lavender fragrance.
~~ Using ~~
Apply a thin layer and massage in until the cream has disappeared. If the area is still white, too much has been applied. When baby is showing any signs of nappy rash use at every nappy change. The cream can also be used to help prevent nappy rash by applying regularly.
~~ Other uses ~
Sudocrem isn't just for nappy rash, it can be used for a whole range of other skin problems. These include sunburn, cuts, eczema, and pressure sores. It lists minor burns as one condition it can be used for, but having had first aid training I would be dubious about using it as it's not recommended to put anything on burns.
~~ Verdict ~~
The cream is white and very thick in texture, and it's best to start with a small amount, as too much can be hard to rub in. You can always put more on if you haven't used enough to start with.
It does have a smell, which I can't compare to anything else, but it isn't too strong.
I've used Sudocrem from when my daughter was born when she's shown the slightest sign of nappy rash and it normally clears it up within a day or two, having used it at every nappy change. She's currently got a rash which isn't clearing up as easily despite keep using the Sudocrem, so I think I'm going to try Bepanthen instead.
Sudocrem is available in 60g, 125g, 250g, and 400g tubs, plus a 30g tube.
125g tub costs £2.45, and 250g tub is £3.98 at Boots.
A little goes a long way, so a 125g will last for months.
Forest Laboratories UK Limited,
Kent DA5 1NX,