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      10.09.2012 13:15
      Very helpful



      A great way to spend a few hours away

      Montgomery castle is located above the small village of Montgomery close to the England/Wales border, 8 miles from Welshpool.
      Built in 1223 (to replace the original 1071 fortress) by Henry III and then Hubert de Burge from 1228, it went on to become a meeting place for the welsh prince's. Most famous of these being Llewellyn ap Gruffydd, who was also proclaimed 1st Prince of Wales by Henry III actually in the castle. It was owned throughout the centuries by many families including the Mortimer's. The castle was eventually destroyed on the orders of Oliver Cromwell after the Civil War.

      ***VISITING INFO***
      The Castle is now owned and maintained by CADW.
      It is *free* to all to enter all year round, but only assistance dogs are allowed, it is also a non-smoking site.
      There are no toilets here the closest being in the town centre. There is also no 'shop'.
      There is a small (also free) car-park a short walk from the castle.
      To walk to the castle from Montgomery centre you have to walk up the steep hill to it (we drove!!) although it seems like a nice walk as there are also walking paths crossing through it.
      I would also say that being a castle ruin some parts are not very wheel/pushchair friendly and it can be a bit of a bumpy ride!!

      WARNING - There are no barriers on the walls (and it's a big drop) so it's not recommended to lean over to much or let the kids stand on them!!!!

      We had decided to go on a whim, having three children bored at home with 'nothing' to do, as we only live about 8 miles away we decided to go for a picnic there as something a little different!

      Like I said we drove there and had no problem parking, the path up to the castle is flat enough for a pushchair and no overly over grown. Upon turning the last corner to be greeted by the castle and you can appreciate the position it is in, you can see for miles from up there, the scenery is amazing!!!
      To access the castle you have to walk over a modern wooden bridge, and it is deceptively high as well, again this quite bumpy due to the metal wiring like layer to stop slips.

      Although it is a ruin and it is hard to imagine it as a castle and to even have roofs, CADW have put up plaques stating which room is which and the function etc. There is still the well/dungeon, which I'm sure was my son's favourite part!! There is also the main hall, guard rooms etc - make sure to check out the grooves which held the portcullis too, it added to the image of the castle when it was standing.

      (From the top of the ramparts it is also possible (on a clear day) to see the Roman road that runs through here, although not in tar not stone)

      Coming out of the castle you can walk down and around to the 'gardens' and the through the original moat, all around here are huge piles of masonry from the castle, which gives the ruin an atmosphere!! While we were walking around the bottom of the castle you realise how big and tall it actually is which is huge!!

      After all this walking we picked a spot in the middle of what would have been said moat and set up the picnic, needless to say my two eldest loved running around and pretending to swordplay.

      Eventually, after one last walk and photos, we decided to head home, we were there for around 2 hours and the children loved being there in the fresh air.
      To me it is a free trip out, getting the children out and enjoying something different.
      I would definitely recommend a visit if your in the area!


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        14.05.2012 15:39
        Very helpful



        A truly magical day out!!!

        ***As much as I want to tell you every single little detail, I don't want to ruin it for people who haven't been yet so I wont be telling you everything, some secrets you need to find out yourselves***

        Since June 1997 Harry Potter, The boy who lived, has enthralled generations adults and children alike. The story of a normal 11 year old boy who finds out that he is a wizard on his birthday and then enrols in Hogwarts School of magic. Since then 7 books were written, and in 1998 J.K.Rowling sold the film rights (for just £1million) to Warner Bros, who the produced the 8 films we all know and love!!! These were all filmed at Leavesden Film studios in Abbots Langley/Watford.

        In March 2011 Warner Bros/ Leavesden Studios announced that in March of the following year (2012) they would open the studio's that all the films were filmed in as a 'behind the scenes' tour, with the original props, costumes and sets. Tickets went on sale shortly after this, and this dear reader is where my adventure begins................

        Adults and children over 15 - £28
        Children 5-15 - £21
        Children 4 and under are FREE
        Family (2 adults and 2 children) - £83
        Family (1 adult and 3 children) - £83
        Complete ADULT studio package (ticket, digital guide and souvenir book) - £37.95
        Complete Child studio package - £30.95

        The digital guide and souvenir guide book are available separately (I forgot to order them) at £4.95 and £9.95 respectively.

        Tickets can ONLY be bought from the official website www.wbstudiotour.co.uk, and you can choose to have them sent to you (P+P - £3.95) or collect them from the ticket desks outside the main building. We choose to have them sent to us, and they arrived within 2 weeks of ordering and were contained within a little folder bearing the tours name, it also had directions etc on, the tickets themselves each had a HP character on, there are 6 to choose from and we ended up with Dobby, a Mandrake, Fawkes, Nagini and Hedwig. You must also take you booking confirmation as this is needed to enter the car park.

        In total the tickets cost me the grand sum of £80.95 incl P+P for 2 adults and 3 children, for 11 o'clock on the 10th of May 2012.

        Secrets will be revealed..................

        Sadly the local broom shop had rented all the brooms and floo powder for that day so we had to use our muggle car to get there (although there is a direct HP bus from Watford Station or WD25 7GS for sat nav users), luckily we were staying with my father in Wheathampstead 11 miles away, the studios are easy to find and well sign-posted, with a minor road going straight past the entrance to the (FREE) car park. Although we did not use the bus, I was told there is one every 10 minutes, and saw quite a few outside the tour before and after our visit (they are also photo worthy too!!!).

        Parking was really easy and there were a few attendants directing people to where they should park, all the ones we met were very polite and friendly. There is plenty of parking available and also drop off points as well as a part dedicated to the buses.

        (At this point my 6 year old was practically climbing out of the window to go!)

        Walking up to the studio building there is the separate queuing area to collect tickets if you chose to collect there and also a automated ticket service, as we had ours posted we could walk straight in, just having the tickets checked by a woman on the door. Upon entering the first set of sliding doors there is the dedication to everyone who worked on the films and also a set of handprints of Harry, Hermione and Ronald taken from the last film, you are allowed to touch these and my lot loved being able to compare their hands to Harry's (his hands aren't that big actually), you then carry on through the second set of doors and then it hits you........... There is all its glory is the flying car!! Okay so there is also the entrance to the tour, the café, the shop and also the cloak(!)room and toilets, it is here that you can also hire/collect the digital guide (we didn't use these sadly but then I don't think I would like to hear Malfoy in my ears for hours), the entrance hall is beautiful with still images of all the characters around the top and also a few props etc.

        As we arrived nearly an hour early we decided to tackle the dreaded gift shop first.

        ***The gift shop***
        This, dear reader' is heaven on earth for any HP fan it sells everything and anything HP related, and we easily used up the extra time we had here. Some would say that it is expensive and over the top, I disagree there is something here for everyone and every price range, so luckily I needn't have worried about the children wanting everything..... Actually it turned out to be me wanting it all!!!!
        They sell everything from Honeyduke's Bertie Botts every flavour beans (£8.95) to a full real Dumbledore costume (£495) and 'real' wands (£25); you can also pick up a copy of the guide book here too. As well as having your photo put on the 'undesirable no 1' poster and the Quibbler (£12 for 1, £15 for 2, 3 for £18 and 4 for £20).
        In total I spent £122 in the gift shop (A mug, guide book, 2 wands, 2 x bertie botts, medallion, 2 photos' and a squashy scabbers) and yes I admit I nearly passed out at the till!!!
        The shop also contains some props and artefacts from the films, namely a huge stained glass window, which is beautiful these also tend to be great opportunities for a sneaky photo (if you can get one with out all the people walking past)

        Children are also given a 'HP passport' (FREE) these are little books that they carry around and need to get 'stamped' at certain points in the tour e.g. the Gryffindor common room they contain questions, colouring in and also the 'spot the golden snitch' game (finding the 15 'lost' snitch's around the tour'), my lot loved these as it gave them something to do and made a game of finding the stamp machines.

        And finally................

        ***The Tour***
        About 15-20 minutes before your actual tour time is the best time to start queuing up here you are greeted by two people who check and scan your tickets (giving them back of course) and direct you through a rope type queue system, while walking through this you get to see the famous 'cupboard under the stairs' incl stairs! What can I say this gets you more excited about the tour (if possible) and as you get so close to it, it shows you just how much attention to detail went into these, there is also a little board in front giving you some 'insider' knowledge about this set!

        After queuing for an eternity (10 mins tops) the doubles doors open into a room with TV's on the walls it is here you meet the tour guide and a short talk is done explaining the worldwide phenomenon etc. It is from here that you take a small door into a cinema room and watched a 10 minute film about the making of Harry Potter, (at this stage I was slightly worried as there were no more doors in the room and I was hoping that this wasn't the only thing), upon the film finishing we are giving the first surprise (no I'm not telling) and the next thing I know I'm standing in the Great Hall!!! All I can say is WOW until you see it up close nothing compares to it, the detail is stunning and even a non HP fan cant fail to be amazed at the skill of the set decorators and artists, here the tables are laid and there are the house costumes (the originals) and also the teachers stage area, it is exactly the same as the movies but without the cast of course......... We spent a good 20 minutes here taking photo's, marvelling at the set before we had to move on ( the next tour group were coming), it is here that the tour guide leaves you are you are welcome to go at your own pace throughout the rest of the tour.
        This is where the tour truly comes into its own, you are surrounded by the most beautiful sets, props and costumes and the size of some of them are staggering, split between two groupings you can wander freely around,

        The first section
        Here you will find the 'Potions' and 'Defence against the dark arts' classrooms (full size), the common rooms, as well as costumes, smaller props etc (I saw Horcruxes!) But the one that blew us away was Dumbledore's office, if you only see one thing please let it be that!!!! Although I'm in love with the Weasley's house too!!
        Rounding the corner we come to the ministry of magic and the huge monument and also the offices this is also the part dedicated to the 'death' eaters and of course 'He who must not be named' and also the Floo network chimneys.
        Of course I have only mentioned a minute part of this one as so not to ruin it for you all.

        It is at this stage that you can go to the green screens, and have special photo's taken the queues were quite short and we were only in here for around 20 minutes (you pay for them there) all the staff are polite and friendly and are all quite good with over-excited children (and adults). One word of warning though, broomsticks are hard to control!

        You are then able to go outside to continue the tour and this has to be one of the favourites because this is where you can get Butterbeer!!! It looked like a very strange fizzy brown liquid with mr whippy on the top! At £2.95 it isn't cheap but you get half a pint in a little plastic glass (we bought 2 to share amoung 5 of us), my lot loved it although im sure I have never tasted something so sweet! There is also a 'normal' refreshments bar selling pop, tea, coffee snacks etc. There is also a large seating area to enjoy refreshments etc This is also where you will find the 'Knight Bus', the 'Godric's Hollow', the 'covered bridge' and 'Privet Drive' and the 'Riddle' gravestone ( i found this a bizarre choice to use here) there are some fantastic photo opportunities here incl Hagrids bike, the flying car and also on the Knight Bus. Here is also the home of the huge life size Wizard Chess pieces.

        The second section
        Upon finishing said Butterbeer and having a stroll around we entered the next part of the tour, upon entering you are met with all the models made and the make up departments' props including the transformations into Goblins. Here you can also see how the werewolves are made, and also meet Dobby!! Walking through I turned a corner to be met by Aragon the biggest blinking spider I have ever seen, I would recommended not taking people afraid of spiders and also got to see a Hippogriff!
        It's quite dark at this stage and as you walk through you realised the floor has turned to cobbles rounding the corner you are greeted by (yep that's right) Diagon Alley!!!! To be honest I was speechless is it amazing my 6 year old practically squeaked when he realised where he was, the attention to detail here is stunning and any photo you have seen of it does not do it justice, here you can wander at your own pace up and down and gaze lovingly into the (fully stocked) shop windows, it is rather dark so a flash camera is required, you can touch anything as there are barriers but it doesn't take away from the excitement, although my son wanted to go into Weasley's wizard wheezes store!

        From here you are taken through the art departments set up here they have the first set ups of the sets, first drawing of the digital characters etc there are some guides here and the are friendly and full of little bits of information and they can also hold a 6 year old attention for over 10 minutes by telling them HP 'secrets'.

        At the end of this it becomes very dark and following the path around to..........

        The most spectacular prop, set ever used in Harry potter or any other film!!
        I really cant say as it would ruin the whole experience, but I will say that it bought tears to some peoples eyes when the saw, it is it awe- inspiring and huge, and a brilliant end to the tour,

        Although it wasn't truly the end as upon leaving this epic you come to the wand room (look closely at the names on this, you might be in for a surprise), and then you end up in the shop (convenient) and that marks the real end of the tour!

        Considering the hype of the tour and the build up I wasn't sure if it would live up to the expectations of the fans and most importantly a 6 year olds imagination and innocence about film making and I can safely say in all honesty it well and truly smashed my expectations it was incredible and definitely worth the money spent, while it shows us the making of the films I do believe that it keeps a child still believing in the films. Throughout the tour there is plenty for younger fans to do and interact with and my children (6, 3 and 2) never complained about being bored, although how I'm going to explain no Hogwarts letter on their 11th birthdays is a mystery!
        The staff we met were friendly happy and looked like they enjoyed their job, all worked well with children and adults alike. The whole tour is wheelchair and pushchair accessible as well. If you get a chance to go GO! You certainly won't regret it. Thank you for sticking with this epic, im off to polish my broomstick :)


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          13.04.2012 13:31
          Very helpful



          Brilliant cross stitches if a bit expensive......

          Cross stitch has long been seen as a hobby for old ladies or something you have to learn in school, designs range from small little designs like teddy bears or country side scenes etc, there doesn't seem to be a lot on the market for people who want an out of the ordinary design or are trying to get younger people to enjoy the hobby.
          I came across cross stitch around 6 years ago when a friend showed me her 'Winnie the Pooh' sampler she was stitching, although for me it wasn't really my thing. After looking around online and buying countless magazines I resigned myself to the fact I would only ever stitch cartoon characters and flowers!!!
          That was until I joined an online crafting forum and came across 'Heaven and earth designs'.

          Heaven and earth designs are a small American company owned by Michele and Robert Sayetta; it was launched in 2002 and has steadily come to be one of the most renowned cross stitch dealers in the world. They have a bi-monthly newsletter with the latest releases and also details of the next sale, which is usually around the 20 - 30% off mark and usually happen for religious holidays and things like Valentines Day.
          They also offer a background removal service and birthday club, they can also convert pieces so that they can be stitched on different materials, and also a rewards program where if you finish a piece and can provide evidence they give you a chart free.
          You can only buy off the website (www.heavenandearthdesigns.com) or copyright approved retailers in the UK, you cannot find them on eBay!

          The charts and delivery (in my opinion) are very expensive for what they are, retailing at...
          (Prices shown are at the 30% off sale price and therefore are usually more)
          $13.30 for the regular sized downloaded versions
          $14.70 for the large format downloads
          $14.70 for a regular size hard copy
          $16.10 for a large format hard copy
          These are if you live in America; if outside (Canada and Europe) add at LEAST $10 to order for shipping ( not incl duties, vat and tax).
          This also is just for the chart so you have to buy all fabric, threads etc separately and as of yet they do not sell them in kit form although a lot of people have asked.

          They re-create paintings and designs by well known fantasy painters like Brigid Ashwood and Randal Spangler as well as the masters including Da Vinci and now have over 7000 designs now available and these designs range from small quick stitches (or Qss) to enormous works of art including the artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (which measures in at 14 inches wide by 40 inches long on 25ct fabric).

          The actual pieces range from dragons and castles to cartoon pixies and gnomes, the design I am stitching at the moment is called 'Faery tales' it features all the old fables including the golden fish, snow white and the pied piper, it measures (when finished) at 23 x 18 inches again on a 25ct fabric.
          Each design is meant to take roughly 6 months to complete although time and quickness can make this differ. There are no fractional stitches, back-stitching or blending in any pieces either.

          These are all beautiful pieces and although expensive for just a chart, they do seem to be a brilliant heirloom or large project if your fed up of the usual cross stitch designs, I cant really say that it is worth the money though as once the design is stitched you cannot sell the chart on or even give to a family member to stitch ( this subject was bought up on their face book page and thoroughly shot down by the owner), I understand this with copyright etc but I think they should come up with an idea of what to do once the chart has been finished with.
          I am giving them 3 stars based on the facts that 1) the price of the charts and postage is a bit extrme in my opinion and 2) that after completing the design you can a somewhat 'useless' chart.


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            03.04.2012 14:11
            Very helpful



            A great family experience

            Between the years of 1642 and 1651 England was in the grip of civil war, Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians against King Charles 1st and the Royalist army. The civil war was actually made up 3 different wars, these being the 1st 1642-1646, the 2nd 1648-1649 and the 3rd 1649-1651.
            The parliamentarian armies eventually won in Worchester in 1651 leading to the execution of King Charles 1st, thus establishing the Commonwealth of England.

            Enough of the history lesson..............

            The Sealed Knot is a re-enactment society based on these wars, and the everyday life for 17th century England.

            It was started in 1968 by a group of friends who were keen on wartime history, and now after over 40 years it has over 5000 members from all walks of life.
            It is classed as the oldest and biggest re-enactment society in Europe and is also a registered educational charity.

            Membership is paid every year for a full season January through to October, or half a season July to October.

            Prices as of 2011

            Full membership

            Family (2+4) - £46.50
            Single parent family - £31
            Individual - £29
            Young person (18-24) - £23

            Half Yearly Membership

            Family - £23.25
            Single parent family - £15.50
            Individual - £14.50
            Young person - £11.50

            Friends of the Knot (UK and Europe) - £12
            Friends of the Knot (Rest of world) - £20

            Once paid you will receive a quarterly Members magazine 'Orders of the Daye' and your membership cards, if you only have a friends of the knot membership you will only receive the magazine NOT the membership cards.
            These cards allow you access to the camp site and also onto the field of battle.
            Pets are allowed although should be carefully watched during battle's due to canon fire etc.

            There can be around 200 events a year, this includes school visits, marches, memorials etc although there are only around 25 actual 'camping' events and sometimes a number of these fall on the same dates. You do not have to attend every single one and can go to as many as you like.
            The event calendar usually starts with a 1 day event at the famous 'Nantwich' in January for a memorial service, and ends around October in'Edgehill' with a skirmish and parade, there is also usually a 'major' event lasting around a week and is usually in Scotland.

            ***Can I choose my own Regiment***

            Yes you can, but you have to choose to be Royalist or Roundhead (parliamentarian), although you can choose to be neither and be somewhere in the middle.
            The Sealed knot has regimental bases throughout the UK and you will be in the catchments area for possible more than one.

            The Royalist army is made up of 5 smaller armies or 'Tertio's' these being -
            - Cavalry,
            - Oxford army - King's Tertio (3 separate regiments) and Jacob Astley's Tertio (5 separate regiments),
            - Lord Hopton's Tertio (7 regiments)
            - Marquess of Newcastle Tertio (5 regiments)
            - Prince Palatine's Tertio (5 regiment's incl Vaughan's (that's my one))

            The Parliamentarian army is made up of 5 smaller armies also
            - Independent - Parliament Trayne of Artillerie and Sir William Waller's regiment of horse
            - Cittie of London Brigade (5 regiments)
            - Midland association (3 regiments)
            - Northern Association (7 regiments)
            - Western association (6 regiments)

            There is also an army of Ireland and Scotland this consists of
            - Colonel Hugh Fraser's regiment of Dragoones
            - Colonel William Gordon's regiment of Foote
            Colonel Thomas Laghtnans Regiment of Foote
            Manus o'Canan, His own

            Failing that you can join
            - Sir Bernard De Gommes companie of pioneers and fir workers
            The living history.

            Each regiment has their own colours of uniform and you are required to wear them, at all time on the battle field, although you don't have to otherwise.
            Living history represents the people who do not use modern things for the duration of the show and basically live and breathe the history all weekend, these are the people that the public generally engage with and learn from.

            To go on the battle field you have to be trained in one of 7 roles or 3 un trained these being....
            - Pikeman
            - Musketeer
            - Sergeant
            - Drummer
            - Ensign (carries the regimental colours)
            - Cavalry
            Or you can choose to be a civilian, or in the medical service, or a 'behind the scenes' helper.

            The sealed knot is a very family orientated society, with lots of families and young children, I find it very educational for my children and they love the sense of excitement and adventure. They don't seem to mind the roar of cannon either!!! There is plenty to do when not re-enacting the camp site has a 'trader's row' selling food, uniform kit, and bits and bobs. Port-a- loos are based all around the camp site also, and finally there is the 'beer tent' this is somewhere to relax and listen to live music, and generally catch up with friends.
            Overall it is a brilliant experience and definitely a learning experience!!!

            You can find out more info at www.thesealedknot.org.uk
            Registered Charity No. 263004.


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              17.03.2012 16:23
              Very helpful



              A brilliant way to get children to read and also a help to extra- curricular reading

              As my 3 year old is in nursery we frequently receive magazines from 'The Book People' and 'Puffin', it was in one of these magazines I found this collection.

              I paid £25 for this although the RRP is a staggering £243.51!!!!! I cannot really see how this price occurred and I certainly wouldn't have paid that.
              These books are produced by Oxford tree learning, and are mainly available in most (apparently 80%) schools as they are used in the reading curriculum.

              The set contains 49 books split into 2 groups 'Phonics' and 'First stories', these are then split into 6 reading levels. There is also a parent's handbook. All of these are contain in a cardboard box/holder showing a list of the books and the levels with a divider between the 2 groups. A word of warning the box is heavy and the books tend to fall out easily if picked up wrong.

              The levels for both groups are as follows -
              Level 1 - getting ready to read - 4-5 years
              Level 2 - starting to read - 4-5 years
              Level 3 - becoming a reader - 4-5 years
              Level 4 - Developing as a reader - 5-6 years
              Level 5 - building confidence as a reader - 5-6 years
              Level 6 - reading with confidence - 5-6 years

              ***THE PHONICS SET***
              As I said before these are split into 6 levels each containing 4 books, these are -

              Level 1 - Kipper's alphabet I-spy, Chip's letter sounds, Biff's wonder words and Floppy's fun phonics
              Level 2 - I am Kipper, Cat in a bag, The red hen, and The fizz-buzz
              Level 3 - Such a fuss, Shops, The sing song and The backpack
              Level 4 - Wet feet, The moon jet, The red coat, and Quick! Quick!
              Level 5 - Egg fried rice, Craig saves the day, Seasick, Dolphin rescue
              Level 6 - Gran's new blue shoes, Ice city, Save Pudding Wood and Uncle Max.

              Each of the books in this set (excluding level 1) contain 2 stories with the most common words in a list at the beginning to recite and then a learning section that includes 'missing letters', 'talk about the story' and 'what's in this picture'. Each book also has parent's notes at the beginning giving us tips on reading with children and help to help the reading come along.
              Each book is between 20 and 30 pages long.

              Level 1 in this section is a really good idea, Kipper's alphabet I-spy and Chip's letter sounds show the child how to form and say the individual letters and have space to copy them, whilst also having pictures of animal's and scenarios containing items beginning with that letter.
              The other 2 books is more leading into saying the pronouncing the words and putting the words to the picture.

              As we go up the levels the stories and latter question work become harder and my son has to re-read the story for the answer, although this is not a problem as he's learning as he does it!

              My son (and daughter) loves the phonics collection and has helped his reading (and school reading) come along well they can both pronounce things better and my daughter has learn the names of more objects (such as Octopus, coach etc). The pictures are colourful and easy to find the objects and also make up little stories about, my youngest particularly enjoyed telling me about a space rocket!!!

              ***THE FIRST STORIES SET***
              Again 6 levels containing 4 books each -

              Level 1 - Floppy did this, Up you go, Get on, and Six in a bed
              Level 2 - Funny Fish, Silly races, The snowman, and Dad's birthday
              Level 3 - Poor old rabbit, I can trick a tiger, Super dad and Floppy and the bone
              Level 4 - Missing!, The raft race, Dragon danger, and The spaceship
              Level 5 - Hungry Floppy, Husky adventure, Looking after Gran, and Trapped!
              Level 6 - Hairy-scary monster, Mountain rescue, The lost voice and Secret of the sands.

              All the books in this section contain two stories, and also has a set of questions about the stories and also 2 games one for each story.
              Like the 'Phonics' set the stories get longer/more complex as you go up the levels, as do the questions etc. They all also have the parent's tips at the beginning and also a task such as - 'find the letters for the word 'TREASURE' in the pictures'.
              Each of these books are again between 20 and 30 pages long.

              The stories also cover a range of important issues such as what to do if you get lost, when people are ill etc. I found this a really good idea and a great way of teaching children what to do in these situations.

              My son really liked this set also and enjoyed the reading and also the 'quizzes' at the end and his reading has got better although I do still have to help him sometimes.

              Again the pictures were well drawn and colourful and helped set the story and helped in the answering of said questions!!!

              ***PARENTS HANDBOOK***
              This is a great addition to the set and break's everything down for the parents!
              It contains not only a breakdown of the set but things like a FAQ section for reading starters, an in-depth study of the different levels and how to help the child learn at this level with game idea's etc and how these will help the child, and then also choosing the right book/level and tips on successful reading.
              Each section of a different level have a list of common words to be repeated.
              It also contains information about the authors and the 'Oxford reading tree' and also the other books that can be bought.

              I do love this collection and while I wouldn't pay the RRP, I do think it is worth quite a lot.
              Both my eldest son and daughter love reading these and completing the missions and games.
              The books are well presented and the drawings are really good at bringing the story to life.
              I do believe my son has gained a lot by me buying these and it has certainly helped his reading both in and out of school.
              I would recommend these to anyone, just try to get them from a discount catalogue!


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                05.03.2012 15:40
                Very helpful



                The favoured medicine now in 'on the go' form.

                As a busy mum of three under 6's it gets quite hectic let alone when I have to go out and about and one of them is ill, teething etc. I have always kept a fully stock medicine cupboard (I bought head lice treatments long before they were in school), but as a lover of all things handbag, I was fed up with having sticky bottles and spoons in the bottoms of my bag after a day out.

                On a recent 'stock up' mission to Boots I found these and they have been a bag staple ever since.

                These come in two pack sizes 12 and 20 priced at £2.65 and £4.49 respectively.
                They also have a 12 pack sugar free priced at £2.69 and an over six's 12 pack version at £3.57.

                These are quite expensive and there are cheaper suspensions on the market but for me this is the only one it is a very trusted brand. These have been on offered in Tesco a few times and may well be cheaper online. The pack also contains a measuring spoon and information booklet.
                I do find that it is more economical to but the bigger pack although I does depend on number of children etc.

                These can be used from 2 months for vaccination fever and other aches and pains -
                2-3 months - 2.5ml (no more than 2 doses in 24 hours)
                3-6 months - 2.5
                6-24 months - one 5ml
                2-4 years - one 5ml and one 2.5ml
                4-6 years - two 5ml

                (sorry about that but I would rather it stands out).

                Each sachets is around 2 and a ½ inches high by around 1 and a ½ inches wide perfect for bags or even purse's(although my handbag is so big the whole box sometimes gets lost!), and are in the classic purple/pink colour combination, like the outer box. They are made of a paper outer layer while in inside is a metal type paper.

                Each sachet contains 5ml of suspension and all you need to do is cut or tear of the top and release the medicine although it does have a tendency of running down the sides sometimes if its torn. They also have all dosage and information printed on them in case the box is not around!

                The medicine is no different to the normal suspension and has the same colour and taste as the bottled version.

                The box and empty sachets are recyclable although it may depend on your area.

                I love these and while I still keep a supply of the bottle version, these are now a permanent fixture in my bag, they are super easy to use and you have no sticky bag at the end of the day. Although you are recommended to keep them in the outer box, should you choose not to all the information is also printed on each sachet.
                My only issue with these is that if they are torn instead of cut they do have a tendency to dribble out and run down onto your hands, so wet wipes should be near by!


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                02.03.2012 13:40
                Very helpful



                A great multifunction printer for less

                My Grandmother purchased this for myself and my family for Christmas 2011 and has so far been used nearly everyday for general printing and for scanning/photocopying as well as printing a few photo's although not too many.

                It costs around £79.99 in most places (e.g. Argos Curry's etc) although my Grandmother managed to get ours half price in Argos.

                I wanted to review this a lot as although its quite cheap for what you get and has some issues, it is one of the best out there (in my opinion). The inks and paper for the printer are generally the same price as other models usually between £20 and £25 depending on where you go and what you want.
                As I've said before I am not computer minded do this is more about ease of use with a little computer jargon mixed in.

                Wi-Fi connectivity
                ISO ESAT Speed 8.8 / 5.0 ipm mono/col
                Full HD Movie Print
                10x15cm photo in approx. 41 sec.
                4800dpi, 2pl quality
                Easy-Web Print EX
                Compact & stylish glossy black design
                Also has cabled computer access and mains lead.
                Also comes with a black and coloured mini inks.

                Mine also came with a national warranty and I also purchased an extended warranty of £30 for 5 years cover.

                ***WHEN IT ARRIVED***
                The first thing I noticed was that for the size of the printer (17ins W x 13ins D x 6ins H) the box was enormous!!! For those of us who don't like lots of packaging and polystyrene BEWARE it just kept coming out!!!

                Design wise it is nice very compact and small and able to sit on top of one of my kitchen cupboards. The parts that fold out to hold the paper before and after printing are folded away neatly and there are no parts sticking out to less chances of breakages ( always good with 3 little ones)

                It is made from a black gloss like plastic while the control panel is a matt black slightly rougher plastic. It does of course have the word 'CANON' in silver across the front.
                The control panel is nicely laid out and easy to use along with the on/off button there is the buttons for you to choose your paper type ( A4plain, A4 photo or 10x15 photo papers), scan and photocopy options, ink and other settings and page count, and finally the ink levels. There is also a digital display showing page number and said ink levels.

                ***EASE OF USE + SET UP***
                Set up is quite easy and you are guided through it well, the printer comes with a disk and it's the basic follow the steps routine, although the set up is different for Mac to windows, (I have windows). I did find that you had to use the internet cable to set up although at the end you can set up Wi-Fi. This step took around 10-15 minutes and was easy to follow the only thing was that I forgot to get paper and had to find some for the tester!!!
                Saying that it was very quick to turn on and just using.
                A point here is that with mine I kept being asked to fill out surveys, forms, and questionnaires but I did eventually manage to disable that feature.
                A mini menu is also installed on the computer this includes 'auto-scan', 'layout print', and 'photo print', this is where you can also go to main menu to change settings etc.

                I have used both A4 normal and A4 photo paper in the machine.

                In all honesty in is very basic to work you slide up the paper holder and insert paper, at this stage you can adjust the sliders to the width of the paper, and then also fold out front part (if you forget the machine does it itself) and then select the print options on your computer, the speed it prints is probably slightly quicker than average and the wording comes out nice and clear although still slightly wet. Of course you need it to be set up either wirelessly or through the cable to print.
                Of course when I used the photo paper I do tend to leave it slightly longer to avoid runs etc.

                Again like the printing option is it so easy to use that it's silly!
                The top of the printer lifts up to reveal the scanner/printer and has adjustable hinges for think albums, papers etc.
                Again to fill the paper slot and choose desired width, put the required item for photocopying on the copier, close the lid and select the number of copies etc from the control panel. Like the photocopier part if you forget to open the front it opens it itself.
                The quality again was good and there was no colour loss or smudging.

                Too use this feature is pretty much like using the photocopy option meaning that you basically do the same procedure but choose a different option on the computer and panel, this is the one I have used mainly photo paper for. Again the quality was high and it was quick to use.

                Like I said it comes with 2 mini inks and these seemed to last a good length of time roughly a month with constant use, I have purchased a new set and these were in the region of £15-£25 for each depending on the shop etc although CANON are the cheapest.

                I did think at first that it was going to be hard to use/set up etc but to be honest it is very simple to use, my children have been able to use it for school work and printing things from cBeebies etc. It looks good in my kitchen and can be stored away easily due to its size; it even remembers to open the front for you!!
                I do like it and the price paid was very well spent, although I can't decide if I would have paid full price. The ink goes and long way and is relatively cheap for the length of time it lasts.


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              • More +
                13.02.2012 18:35
                Very helpful



                a family experience of JIA

                ***This review is based solely on my experiences of JIA from a parents view, I am not a medical professional, i will only say what we were told and how my son's arthritis was handled, whilst there are other forms of arthritis and treatments this is based on the ones used for my son***

                In the latter stages of last year my 5 year old son started complaining off pains in his ankles and knees, although at first not sure of the reasons I took him to the local doctors only to be told that he was experiencing 'growing' pains, at first I agreed with this diagnosis and went about properly maintaining these 'pains' with calpol when needed etc.
                It wasn't until the august/September of last year that I began to notice swelling and 'hot' patches on said sons knees and ankles, this drove me to the doctors surgery again looking for answers, this time I basically demanded he was seen by a professional who dealt with joints and joint issues. We were duly sent to our local hospital to seen a paediatrician.

                During the initial consultation we were informed my son had Hypermobility and maybe Something else, it was not until a few months later when I arranged a semi emergency appointment with the said consultant, after having to help my son out of bed as his knees wouldn't work, that we found out my son had JIA (Juvenile idiopathic arthritis) although it is also referred to as JRA (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis).

                Sadly the cause for JIA is unknown but thankfully unlike the adults forms of arthritis it can be fully cured IF caught early enough. It is also the most common.
                As with all types of arthritis (adult and juvenile) it is classed as an autoimmune disease.

                Symptoms include lethargy, pain, swelling, lack of appetite, flu symptoms and limping, and more dangerous side effect is a form of eye inflammation called 'uveitis' that is quite common with some types of JIA, a simple eye and blood test will determine if it has occurred.

                There are three types of JIA
                Oligoarticular - 4 or less joints in 6 months
                Polyarticular - 5 or more joints in 6 months and
                Systemic - most joints, fever and rash.

                ***MY FAMILIES EXPERIENCE***
                My son was diagnosed with Oligoarticular JIA in predominately his ankles and maybe his knee's ( follow up appt to confirm), and although changes were made at home (swimming more often, steps for baths etc) we were soon back as he now could not partipate in'PE' sessions in school.
                This leads me on to treatments.........

                Most commonly the child will have some sort of physical regime and sometimes hydrotherapy ( as in the case of my son) although some people choose to also use drug treatments such as non steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs and sometime betablockers of a sort.
                Sadly my son had to have the most aggressive form of treatment(due to others not working and lenght of time since diagnosis) involving intra-articular corticosteroid injections administered under general anaesthetic into the affected joints. This being a day surgery and taking around 1 hour, which although not alot as a parent seemed like an eternity and the worst thing ever!!!!!

                With this over the thing needed is strangely a good exercise and stretching regime to maintain 'bendiness' and make it easier to move etc.

                Thankfully the injections seemed to have worked and with a strict regime of swimming (hydrotherapy) and exercise he seems to cope ok but only time will tell, we were lucky it could have been worse and not dealt with quickly.

                I hope this has helped in a small way.


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                • More +
                  13.02.2012 15:25
                  Very helpful



                  A fantastic book but the ending could have been better

                  I decided to get this book after reading the other review of it here and generally hearing good things about it, as I was struggling deciding what to get with my new DooYoo/Amazon voucher I opted for this!
                  It is currently priced at £6.23 for a new copy and around £3 for a used one, these prices are from the Amazon website, this is the new annotated 2011 version (with extra bits) so this is the version I shall be reviewing. Reprinted by Titan books LTD.

                  The novel was originally written in 1992 by author Kim Newman, and is the first instalment of the 'Anno Dracula' series (in which there are 4 books).
                  The main story is consists of 424 pages set in 57 chapters, although with the extra bits such as annotations etc the book consists of 547 written pages.
                  The front cover looks and reads like a vintage 'show' poster in creams, reds and black, giving you the name's of the major characters and a 'feel' for the story, there are the usual critic reviews and the synopsis.
                  Seeing as I love all these strange including killer novels and vampires, this to me sounded like the perfect novel for the recent chilly nights in.

                  The book cover synopsis as follows......................
                  'It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. His polluted bloodline spreads through London as its citizens increasingly choose to become vampires.

                  In the grim backstreets of Whitechapel, a killer known as 'Silver Knife' is cutting down vampire girls. The eternally young vampire Genevieve Dieudonne and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes club are drawn together as they both bunt the sadistic killer, bringing them ever closer to England's most bloodthirsty ruler yet...............'

                  ***CHARACTERS AND PLACES***
                  The story is set in the year 1888, and mainly focuses on the east end of London namely Whitechapel and occasionally the Docks, although other places are mentioned throughout the story such as Chelsea, Buckingham Palace and the Diogenes club building.
                  Namely while it focuses on life in Whitechapel, it mainly focuses on Toynbee Hall and the sites associated with the 'Ripper' murders (Millers court and Mitre Square).

                  The main characters overall are that of Charles Beauregard - the Diogenes club spy stroke detective and Genevieve Dieudonne - the 'good' vampire who is around 500 years old! I did enjoy these characters although I think the lead male role could have been slightly more explored as the lead female was, and I also didn't like the old 'falling in love' story (a bit too Twilight for me!').

                  There is of course the split character of the 'Ripper' and the 'doctor'( I wont say who as not to ruin it) and sadly from the outset you know who it is- this I found quite sad as I was expecting a sort of whodunit but it turned into a will the realised whodunit!!
                  There are also some characters with a slightly lesser roles including 'Kate reed' the vamp reporter, 'Lord Ruthven' the Prime Minister and strangely a clergyman come protester 'John Jago'.
                  Surprisingly Prince Dracula and the Queen only appear in the last chapter; this surprised me because as the books are generally based on these characters and events started by them I was expecting more input from them.
                  For me though my favourite character has to be 'John Merrick' or 'the elephant man' although he is only in the last chapter and nothing is known about him etc, he becomes a sort of mini hero and helps the leads escape, the way he is written though makes you want him to survive and make it!

                  For me the book seemed to end to quickly and on a sort of cliff-hanger, yes the villains are booked to rights and good outweighs evil etc it seemed to me like the ending was rushed and almost became an afterthought, not really explaining what happens and how the characters develop, to be honest I thought the story was longer as I hadn't realised the extra bits at the start and thought it was another 300 or so pages longer. AAnother point is as I said the character that is a running theme in the book is hardly present and it would have been good to hear more about him and his escapades etc.

                  That said I absolutely love the style and idea of this book, I find it very clever, Newman's idea of taking many books and characters real and mythical is amazing, I love the idea of Sherlock Holmes being sent to a Vampire concentration camp because he resists the vampires.
                  On that line I think Kim Newman did very well in not over doing it, for example there were a lot of other characters that could have been added to the story and weren't as the wouldn't have 'fitted in'. Overall I loved this book and apart from the minor things wrong that I've stated I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next instalment. In my opinion it is an expertly written book and a very good read.

                  ***THE EXTRA BITS***
                  Like I said at the beginning the revised 2011 version has some 'extras', these are
                  -Annotation of each chapter
                  -The alternate ending of the story
                  -Extracts from the movie script
                  -'Drac the Ripper' an article by Kim Newman
                  -'Dead travel fast' a short story by Kim Newman.

                  These I found ok, having read the alternate version, I admit I prefer the chosen one, the movie extract reads like a script and I didn't really enjoy it as it was quite close to the story I had just read.
                  For me the interesting parts were the annotations, article and the short story, all three of which are interesting and fun to read. The annotation part basically tells you which books were included in each chapter and where the characters and ideas came from.
                  'Drac the Ripper' is putting forward the argument of what if Dracula were actually the Ripper and a short history in who has played the Ripper etc.
                  'Dead travel fast' is from the 'unforgivable stories' collection from 2001, and has some of the characters from the book in, it is quite a good little read though...........


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                  • More +
                    12.08.2011 17:08
                    Very helpful
                    1 Comment



                    A great SMALL addition to the collection

                    Last year my son really got into Harry Potter and all he's wanted for his birthday and Christmas was Harry Potter preferably of the Lego sort!

                    As we all know Lego is stupidly expensive and the Harry Potter variations are not different personally I can't believe the price, this set costs around £10 depending where you go I have seen it for around £7 online. So needless to say I turned to the faithful old eBay and managed to get a set for £5.

                    The Lego set number is 4736, and is called 'Freeing Dobby'.

                    This set was released in October 2010 to coincide with the release of 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of secrets'. It contains 73 pieces including 'Harry Potter', 'Lucius Malfoy' and (a very cute) 'Dobby' figures. When made up it is only around 4x4 inches so not big at all!!!

                    *Special features include Includes 3 minifigures: Harry Potter, Lucius Malfoy and Dobby
                    Blast Lucius Malfoy with magic using the push function!
                    Present Dobby with a LEGO sock and set him free!
                    Special set elements include spiders, flames and Tom Riddle's Diary

                    According to the box.........
                    With the help of Harry PotterTM, free DobbyTM from his master Lucius MalfoyTM!
                    Trick Lucius Malfoy into freeing Dobby, the house elf! Then use Dobby to protect Harry Potter and send Lucius flying down the hall with a magic blast as he tries to get revenge in this Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets scene.

                    As with all Lego sets the instruction sheet is included and has an easy step by step building guide which is produced in bright realistic colours and my four year old (with the help of a 25 year old child) was easily able to make it up. There are, as usual, a small amount of spare Lego pieces.

                    My four year old loved playing with it and loved the fact that the chair and walls on the set were able to be moved and liked hiding the special pieces, but alas after a couple of days he did start to get bored im assuming it was because it was quite a small set and there wasn't a lot to do with it but as we have bought other sets for said birthday and Christmas we added it on to these and it suddenly stared to get played with again. Although i must admit he was very 'into' imaginitive play and really concentrated on the making and imagination side of it.

                    In my opinion I would not have paid full price for this as even though it is a good collection the size and 'playability' just do not justify the price at all!! It is a small set and works better as part of a larger group of sets, Overall though as I didn't pay full price I will award 5 stars as it is a nice little stocking filler or gift.


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                    • More +
                      12.08.2011 16:26
                      Very helpful
                      1 Comment



                      A great and useful addition

                      As most of you are aware I had my 3rd child 'Jacob' this year. With him being born early and in neo natal we hadn't bought any things for his arrival, so it came down to the other half doing a mad dash about town kitting out a nursery and house!!!

                      One of the better items he bought was this, a newborn to toddler rocker, as the name suggests it can be used up to 3 years. It was bought in Argos for £65 although they are now on sale at half price.

                      As the seat suggests it can be used from newborn and transformed later on into a toddler seat, this I found very useful as the other half had decided to make it up while me and the little man were still in hospital, the older two decided it was the perfect place to sit to watch TV.

                      Suitable for babies up to 18kg.
                      Flip out feet for stationary position for sleep or feeding.
                      Soothing vibrations.
                      Detachable with toy bar.
                      Bouncer converts to a chair.
                      Multi position backrest.
                      Support strap.
                      The cover is also removable and washable.
                      Folds flat.

                      The chair/rocker takes 1 'D' battery and is not included, this I always find annoying! This chair using more batteries than I have hot dinners to be honest and we have used more than 10 in 4 and a half months which by standards is a lot, but on the other hand it doesn't help that I forget to turn it off when we all go to bed!!

                      The design is really lovely with the main colours being blue and green, as this is from the 'Precious Planet' collection it features a large lion, with a smaller crocodile and fish with large bubble like dots, it is a vibrate colourful seat which I think can be used for a girl or boy. The frame of the seat is made of a sturdy green plastic and according to the Mr it is very easy to put together with minimum amount of effort.

                      The toy bar has a jingle monkey and bell hippo, these are on a short length of rope like material, it just pop's into the slot on the side.

                      ***My experience***
                      As little Jacob is only 6 months old we obviously have not used the 'toddler' part but from my 5 year old sitting in it I can tell it is sturdy and can take the weight really well.

                      The vibrations are ok, there is only 1 setting for them and my son seems to like it although I find it quite a strong vibration so I tend to rock him with my foot most occasions'. The vibration is controlled by a slider like button on the front.

                      The flip out feet to me are useless! As the seat lies quite far back and only when its in the higher mode do the feet work properly, when the seat is in the lower position the feet do seem to touch the floor. The support strap is for when the rocker is turned into a chair.

                      Upon folding the seat is more or less flat although the legs are of course of a rocker style they are not completely flat, it wouldn't really fit under furniture well! Although it does fit in our boot really well (ford focus) not taking up a lot of room.
                      Washing the seat is simple the cover easily slides off and is meant to be washed on a 40 cycle, it dries very quickly and has need to be tumble dried.

                      Well Jacob loves his chair and has his naps in there fine; he loves the toy bar and is now trying to reach for the toys. He is trying to roll over and things now so may be having to convert it soon!
                      I do think that it was worth the money and I like the Fisher price range anyway, I have found this a useful addition to the house as I can feed him in the chair and also let him nap. Apart from the battery issues I couldn't be more pleased.


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                      • Sirens (TV Show) / TV Programme / 25 Readings / 24 Ratings
                        More +
                        11.08.2011 20:09
                        Very helpful
                        1 Comment



                        Brilliant late night show and laughs!

                        This show recently appeared on channel 4 at around 9 at night and has instantly become a hit! It is based on the book 'Blood, sweat and tea' by Tom Reynolds also so known as Brian Kellett.

                        The show is based around 3 ambulance drivers, Stu, Ashley and Rachid, from the Leeds borough of West Riding and also a friend of theirs police Sergeant Maxine.
                        It does contains a lot of swearing and distressing scenes but I couldn't help but love it the program was so original and funny! I found the characters so real and believable and felt they also enjoyed the roles. I highly recommend you sit down and laugh till your head falls off!!!


                        Stuart Bayldon or 'Stu' is played by Rhys Thomas (Bellamy's people) and is an emotional cripple!!! His work is his life. As an EMT, Stuart wants to help people but is fed up with people out on the streets of Leeds, getting drunk and having accidents routinely. Stuart is best friends with Maxine who he confides in a lot throughout the series. He is the lead member of the ambulance that he rides with Ashley and new boy Rachid. He's a bit of a know it all and takes lots of chances. I do love this character as even though he's tough on the outside there is a lot more do him and his past. Plus he seems to be so funny in a sarcastic way.

                        Ashley Greenwick is played by Richard Madden (Game of thrones) and has to be my favourite, I wanted to take him home and cuddle him!!! Ashley has been working with Stuart as an EMT Paramedic for just over a year. He's an independent and private character, but enjoys the company of the other two - though he pretends he doesn't, it seems as though Stu is like his best mate and they spend a lot of time together. Ashley is gay, but has no hang-ups about his sexuality; we are introduced to that aspect in the 1st episode!!

                        Rachid is played by Kayvan Novak (Fonejacker) is the new boy - he's only just started training as an EMT Paramedic (and still thinks it's a game), and Stuart and Ashley are showing him the ropes in a strange way. Rachid is funny, cocky and slightly arrogant and seems to be trying to knock Stu off the top spot. He wears his heart on his sleeve and always says exactly what he is thinking; sometimes that's not a good thing!

                        In total there were 6 episodes in the 1st season
                        EP1- Up horny down
                        EP2- Two man race
                        Ep3- I.C.E
                        EP4- King of the Jungle
                        EP5- Stress
                        EP6- Cry

                        I don't really want to say what happens as I would hate it!!! There are a lot of themes explored through the series Death, Suicide, and alcohol abuse (and also the hate you have for your boss) each conveyed in a funny yet informative way.
                        To me this series not only being funny showed me how hard the ambulance crews work and what they have to put up with!! I wanted to be a paramedic since I was young and even more now! This is a fab program and gets maximum stars from me it will enlighten you into the world of EMT's in a great yet serious way!


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                        • More +
                          11.08.2011 19:06
                          Very helpful



                          Great but could end up with a A&E trip!!!

                          As you all know by now I do love a bargain and I am addicted to eBay!! So while yet again trawling through the usual tat looking for things to keep the kids occupied during the 'dreaded' summer holidays I came across one of these at the bargain price of £65 with the only problem being that it was slighted sun faded.
                          The one I own is the older version older in terms of the colour, ours is all greys, blues, and yellows, but the design and features are exactly the same.

                          If you decide you want to buy new instead, (the new colour design), they retail at around £234.99 in Argos although they can be purchased in various other shops and through the Little Tikes website, in all honesty I would never pay this much for what is basically a toy!!!

                          The climber has an age range of 3 to 8 years, although I cannot really see an 8 year wanting to play on this and even if they did they would have problems getting through the 'archway' at the top of the slide!

                          As far as outdoor toys go I do find this one a little on the large side! The dimensions are (H) 137, (W) 160, (D) 160cm. This actually takes up half of the bottom part of the garden.

                          In all fairness this climber has a long list of features they include.....
                          Long bumpy slide.
                          Cargo netting wall for climbing skills.
                          Ground level openings connect one play area with another.
                          Secret entrance.
                          Multi-level climber with 2 platforms and long wavy slide.
                          They are also little 'paw prints' on the step parts with little holes in that they can talk through.

                          ***LITTLE TIKES***
                          This is a brief history of the company taken from the website.

                          The Little Tikes Company, founded in 1970, is a multi-national manufacturer and marketer of high-quality, innovative children's products. In November of 2006, Little Tikes became a part of MGA Entertainment. MGA Entertainment is a leader in the revolution of family entertainment.
                          Little Tikes'® headquarters and largest manufacturing facility are located in Hudson, Ohio. The company also has a number of locations outside the United States, including several manufacturing and distribution centres in Europe and Asia.
                          Little Tikes products are known for providing durable, imaginative and active fun. Products are manufactured in a wide variety of categories for young children, including infant toys, activity centres, musical toys, popular sports, play trucks, ride-on toys, sandboxes, activity gyms and outdoor play, sand and water play, climbing frames, slides, playhouses, pre-school development, role-play toys, creative arts and children's furniture.

                          Little Tikes' goal is to create and supply innovative products to customers and consumers around the world. To reach that goal, Little Tikes' associates' actions are guided by the principles of Customer Satisfaction, Teamwork, Innovation, Marketing and Continuous Improvement.

                          ***MY EXPERIENCE***
                          I don't know what I was expecting when The Mr came and dropped it off. I need not have worried because as usual the high standard of the Little Tikes production shone through.

                          As with most of their products the pieces are slotted together, these pieces are made from strong, highly durable plastic, without the need of a screw driver. As it was second hand it was slightly easier to put together that a new version as these can sometimes be very difficult to get in and need a good whack!! In the end it took around 30 minutes to put together and move into place. One thing not in the feature list is that the legs are shaped like tree trunks, minor I know, but I thought it was a nice touch.

                          As my eldest was still in school when it arrived we had put it up for his arrival home, I can honestly say I have never seen him so excited, my little girl was dancing around the room with him!

                          As the item was second there were signs of sun fading but this was all the body of the climber was still sturdy.

                          There are two things about this I am not keen on....
                          1) There is a drop off the end of the slide of about a foot, so unless on grass it hurts!! We have ours on the patio and have placed the foam flooring tiles underneath so there are no sore bottoms!!!
                          2) Even though this is from age 2 there are no safety ropes (etc) around the top part where you get to the slide meaning I am constantly having to watch them as I do want to be visiting A&E as it is quite high and my daughter does not seem to have any co-ordination at the moment! Again this would no be such a big deal (although still a deal) if we had grass but our whole garden is patio.

                          As I said before the climber has a lot of features heres what my lot think of the main ones.......

                          *Cargo net*
                          My son seems to enjoy this a lot although my daughter's legs are not long enough! The net is 3 squares high and 6 squares long covering around half of the base. Our's was quite worn when we bought it, but it was easily replaced as they are available from the website.

                          *Secret entrance*
                          This is a revolving door that leads to the section under the slide and cargo net. They do like this and use it to play hide and seek.

                          This definitely gets 3 stars from me as even though it was second hand it was still in great order with only minor sun fading, but I do think that the absence of safety features and the drop at the bottom of the slide are design faults. Don't get me wrong when my children are outside I watch constantly, but with this I do seem to be hovering around it and constantly telling them to be careful, it does make me jumpy.


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                          • More +
                            09.08.2011 22:31
                            Very helpful
                            1 Comment



                            An ok book for an afternoon

                            As I said in my last book review I very luckily managed to win a large book bundle very cheaply, this is another of the books in said bundle.

                            The book of Lies is written by best selling author Brad Meltzer, having never read any of his books, or indeed even heard of him I was interested to see what this was like.
                            The RRP of this book is £6.99, but after some research it can be found on Amazon for around £3 used.
                            What made this book stand out to me first was thee cover art, it shows the shadow of a man running through what looks like a cloister, on a background which looks like pages of an old book with the headline 'The hunt for the world's first murder weapon is about to claim fresh blood'.......... (There are many different covers available)
                            The has 383 pages spread over 82 chapters

                            The main story is based in modern day life centred around Calvin Harper or Cal, a man who runs a homeless shelter with two friends. A chance encounter one night spins Cal's life out of control and context, possible with dire consequences when the sinister 'Ellis' starts to hunt him down.
                            There is also the odd chapter's based in the early 1900's surrounding the second murder, another thing to point out is that the prologue is set 19 years before the modern day events, and surprisingly it can be confusing.

                            There are some quite strange undertone's to this book, namely the story of Cain and Abel and the mystery of the world's first murder weapon and also the seemingly unrelated murder of a man called Mitchell Siegel in 1932,
                            As the website so eloquently states 'What does Cain, history's greatest villain, have to do with Superman, the world's greatest hero? And what do two murders, committed thousands of years apart, have in common? This is the mystery at the heart of Brad Meltzer's riveting and utterly intriguing new thriller. '

                            I told you the undertones were strange................

                            Upon starting the book I was unsure what I would be getting as there were so many 'stories' in one novel and how they would all connect convincingly, the thought of a bible story and then Superman sounded like some strange reading!

                            Reading the book I came to appreciate Meltzer's writing style and also how he conveys characters throughout, The book jumps from 1st to 3rd person regularly and it can be hard to keep up, as is trying to remember all the sub plots and where they last ended, even a quick re-read sometimes wasn't enough, and had to go back quite far through certain chapters, it did seem as though the author became bogged down with certain facts etc and glazed over the rest.
                            I will admit that I think that Meltzer was brave in writing this book as I don't know many authors who would have a list of characters and story-lines like the one in this.

                            I did however enjoy the writing style and general feel of the book, it wasn't my usual type of read as im not religious but finishing the book I do not think the book had a great amount of religious tones, seeing as the book is based on the world 1st murder the plot is not explored much, and isn't really thought about lot, a lot more attention is paid to the other murder. I did find this disappointing as the book is meant to be based on the Cain and Abel story yet they are rarely mentioned.
                            While I did enjoy reading the book I really don't think that it was done as well as it could have been, im no expert but I felt that it had a lot more potential and the ending was a slight let down and rather predictable considering the build up and tension though-out. Plus the added fact that the reader never fully gets to know the links between all the stories.
                            Apart from these things I think the book is perfect for an afternoon read or those unsure whether crime/thriller books are their 'thing'.
                            I would recommend this book as it was ok to read but became a disappointment at the end, for this reason it gets 3 stars.


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                            • More +
                              09.08.2011 19:24
                              Very helpful


                              • Reliability


                              A brilliant all rounder with extra's!!!

                              Just over a year ago my faithful old toaster decided to cremate itself and I had to rather quickly launch it out of the back door, now this left me with a huge problem, as my children are addicted to toast (and im a bit partial too) so I decided to have a shop round to see what was available as I didn't really like the sound of a 'cheap' toaster as im fussy about my kitchen and everything has to match. I eventually came across this one on a home shopping catalogue website (possibly from the Littlewoods group) and immediately purchased one! Even since this toaster has become a god send in my house.
                              I paid around £45 for mine and it seems this is the average price of one these days, although I've seen a few quite cheap ones on eBay. I have the black model.

                              ***DESIGN AND FACTS***
                              -Crumb tray
                              -High lift
                              -Mid toast cancel function
                              -Storage for cord
                              -Extra wide toast slots (can be used for muffins, bagels and croissants etc)
                              -Steamer tray for eggs
                              -Warming tray for (pre-cooked) meats
                              -Slide dial 5 heat options
                              There are also 4 buttons on the front to choose from to cook the different option available (toast, bagels & muffins, eggs and meat).
                              These are available in black and red/stainless steel. There are 4 rubber feet on which it stands giving it a really sturdy feel when I use; I have also found that the sides stay quite cool during use.

                              This toaster in my eyes is a revolution in toasters simple as it does more than just toast!!
                              The idea of being able to cook eggs, bacon and bread in one go and in one place is really what attracted me to the toaster as I like the idea of a substantial breakfast for the kids, and especially as Tefal say it will cook it all in 4 minutes.

                              ***EASE OF USE***
                              Upon opening the box you are confronted with what looks like a toaster with a bowl attached, and it does look somewhat awkward to use. Once you have fought your way through the wrapping and polystyrene you can begin to assemble it, my other half likened it to a adult version of Lego as our instructions were just mostly pictures and a little picture book shows you how to cook the food, my 3 year old decided to use it as a menu in her play shop.

                              *AS A TOASTER*
                              I use this option most and have found it very good although I do think you need to keep an eye on the bread while toasting as on the highest level it seems to burn quickly.
                              I have found that when I put the bread (thick) in vertically I am left with an inch of un-toasted bread at the top- this I actually find vile for some reason, I now place bread in horizontally and this has seemed to solve the problem.
                              As I have only toasted/heated crumpets in it once or twice I cannot comment really on how it does although it seem to have been fine and heated them well, we don't eat muffins or bagels so I couldn't comment on them. One issue I do have is that when on the setting you want when the toast pops' up it is sometime darker than wanted, but this isn't a big issue and again can be stopped by keeping an eye on it.

                              *AS A TOASTER AND EGG AND MEAT WARMER*
                              I do tend to use this function more in the winter months as it sets up my kid's for the day especially my eldest who is in school, I do believe that when its cold there's nothing better than a hearty breakfast in their bellies.

                              *The egg part*
                              I have to admit that I detest poached eggs with a passion although everyone in the house seems to like them.

                              To use you fill the poaching part with 2-3 teaspoons of water up to the required line on the bottom tray, then add the second add, I spray it with fry-light as recommended and then add the said egg, it can at this point be poached or scrambled. At this point you then press the corresponding button (it will have a small red light beside it) such as just the egg or egg and toast etc and off to go, the light goes off when it's finished. Simples.

                              I do find that I have to cook the eggs individually to get them cooked right for each person, and that it does take longer to cook than it states in the instructions.

                              *The meat-warmer bit*

                              ***DO NOT USE RAW MEAT- ONLY PRE COOKED***

                              Admittedly we don't really use this as much as we do the other settings using only when we have left over sausages, and as we rarely have pre-cooked bacon to hand! To be perfectly honest I find the meat warmer slightly on the small side and it can be awkward to arrange the bacon, although have no problems with the sausages (we warm 1 at a time).
                              To use just add the meat to warming tray at the same time as the eggs or instead of them and cook the same way. And again press the button to match the option.

                              To be honest when I bought the item I thought it was going to end up at the back of the cupboard collecting dust, I could not have been more wrong, even when just using the toast function find it works great although I have to watch it. I find the egg function brilliant for those winter mornings, like I said the meat warming option is a bit useless as only pre cooked meat can be used, maybe that's ok in places where this can be purchased but not really around my area. After all of this though I do find this toaster great and good value for money and if it did decide to break I would be buying another one pretty sharpish!
                              I am awarding the toaster 4 stars as i think it looses one for the inconvinience of the whole meat thing.


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