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This is the first toy that our daughter interacted with as a baby, and it was very exciting when she set the music off by herself! Now, at nearly two, she still often asks to play with it while I'm changing her nappy. It was one of the cheapest gyms I could find in the Argos catalogue at the time, and it was good value for money.
The batteries last for a very long time - I think I've only changed them once in nearly two years, despite very frequent use!
One good thing about it is its size - it's not cumbersome and doesn't take up much floor space. There's no mat that comes with it, but this doesn't matter as you can just place it over the changing mat when the baby's lying down.
There are three different tunes that play in sequence, but only if the baby 'jolts' the gym with his/her hands or feet. There's a mirror that tilts down so that you can look into it and surprise the baby! If you want to give baby some tummy time, you can loosen the screw behind the mirror and lie the gym 'flat', so baby can still play with it. There are two volumes, and the lower volume is perfect, as it never gets too irritating for parents. The toys are detachable, and you can also attach any toy to the rings to vary things a little.
It's been one of our best buys, particularly for the first year.
There's some really important advice in this book to help you deal with the endless problems you encounter with toddlers. I read it from cover to cover when I first bought it, as we were in dire straits with our daughter. It does and will take more than one reading, however. It takes time to adjust to new habits and ways of dealing with problems. For example, we were constantly trying to get our daughter to eat her tea by using the 'aeroplane' technique - and failing of course! In the book, it basically says that if you do this you will be creating mealtime problems, which is true.
The main message of the book is to pay attention to 'good' behaviour, and ignore 'bad' behaviour, including whingeing and tantrums. The (very basic) order is: distraction, ignoring, time out. Some parents may say this is just common sense, but it's not to everyone, particularly if you were never around children before having your own!
The techniques do work, but you have to apply them correctly and consistently. It's a very useful book to have around, as there's always some new problem cropping up that you're likely to find covered by Dr Christopher Green.
There are a few pieces of advice in there that I won't take (such as the use of sedatives at night time as the very last straw), but the majority of the book is sound advice that I will try my best to follow from now on. A helpful read for anyone struggling with the demanding nature of their toddler!
Our daughter was given this book when she was about 3 months old, and at 22 months it's still a firm favourite. Babies and toddlers love anything that moves, and in most cases that includes vehicles. In fact, our daughter's first word was 'car!'.
The repetitive structure to this book is really important - the jobs that each vehicle is used for is repeated on each page (e.g. 'Cranes are used for lift, lift, lifting'). Each page ends with the words 'They can work all day'.
There's just the right number of pages in the book to keep the baby/toddler from getting bored. And at the end of the book there's a page where you can see all of the vehicles in a town overnight. It's a lovely ending to the book, and the child learns to associate busy vehicles with the daytime, and quiet, resting vehicles with nighttime. The book ends 'They can sleep all day'.
The only disadvantage is there aren't many pictures of things the toddler might recognise surrounding the vehicles, such as butterflies or flowers. Apart from that though, it's a very well designed, educational book for girls and boys alike.
These Cup a Soups come in a variety of flavours - either in sachets (4/5 in a box) or in 12 serving jars. If ever I'm ravenous and there's nothing left in the cupboards apart from Batchelors Cup a Soup, I'm always pleasantly surprised at how nice they taste. There are no artificial colours or flavours, and my favourite flavour is Chicken and Vegetable. I also like plain old tomato, as it actually beats the flavour of tinned tomato soup. The soups are not too creamy, but they satisfy your hunger pains at least for an hour or so before the next meal! They're so convenient that when I was a student (and had no idea how to cook!) they made a great lunch (along with loads of buttered bread, of course). Another advantage is that you don't have to stir for ages in order to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom when you've finished. All it takes is a few seconds of stirring and you're away. These soups are very tasty and great for a snack before you've been to the supermarket and there's nothing else to eat!
I always feel a tad disappointed when I go out and buy a Dairy Milk to be naughty of an evening. Whilst the flavour is undoubtedly nice, I can never eat too much of it before beginning to feel a little queasy. The problem with Cadbury's Dairy Milk is that, compared with its popular rivals, its flavour is just a little dull. It never leaves me feeling awestruck, like some other kinds of chocolate do. The funny thing is, if it's in Easter egg form I can eat it till I'm literally sick. The plain old Dairy Milk bars, however, don't do a lot for me. Perhaps the chunks are too cumbersome? Perhaps the texture is not quite smooth enough? Don't get me wrong - it's not that I don't like the taste of the chocolate, it's just that it wouldn't be my first choice. In fact, I would almost say that it's too rich for me.
'Galaxy' is and always will be my first choice chocolate bar when I need a little pick-me-up at the end of a tiring day. Its smooth, creamy flavour is a taste sensation. My mouth is watering just thinking about it now!
There's no doubt that the chocolate bar is aimed more towards women than towards men - you can tell just by seeing an advert on TV. An attractive, elegant woman dressed in a silky nightdress nibbles the tiniest bit of chocolate from the end of it, and she's in Heaven.
The image and font used on the packaging basically sums up the feeling you'll get when eating it. The chocolate itself is not too rich - you don't feel absolutely stuffed when you come to the end of it. And of course, there are now many irresistible varieties of Galaxy available, such as Galaxy Cookie Crumble.
Despite the endless choice, however, I almost always go for the original 'Galaxy', as nothing beats the taste. Naughty, but unbelievably nice!
'We Need to Talk about Kevin' is the best book I've read in a very long while. The fact that I couldn't put it down every evening says something. In short, it's about a boy (set in the USA) who kills several of his classmates and a teacher, and it asks the question whether or not his parenting (from pregnancy and beyond) led to these events. Basically, was it nature or nurture that led to him becoming a killer?
The book is narrated by his mother in a series of letters to her estranged husband (Kevin's father). The background of the two parents fills nearly the first quarter of the novel, before Kevin is even born. But this is very important groundwork - it allows us to get to know Eva, Kevin's mother, and work out what kind of person she really is. We learn that she's very reluctant to become a mother - she fears motherhood. She's self-absorbed and relishes her freedom, which involves a lot of international travel for the travel guide company she set up from scratch. The prospect of motherhood to Eva is daunting, whereas to Franklin (her husband) it's incredibly exciting.
Lionel Shriver has an amazing way with words - the characters are all very believable. You flick between liking and disliking Eva - is she a callous, cold woman, in turn creating a monster? Or did she do her best with Kevin: was he always going to be evil anyway?
The climax of the novel is very powerful, and you're left stunned by the story. I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn't mind a disturbing read. It's fascinating and asks loads of questions that most people are too nervous to ask in real life. Amazing.
My husband and I were each given one of these mugs with different designs for Christmas, and now we enjoy very large quantities of tea or coffee in one sitting. Mine has 32 multi-coloured hearts in 8 columns, alternating between upside down and the right way up. My husband's features a similar design, only with curved semi-circular lines instead of hearts. The inside of the mug is a very pretty blue, and is quite obviously hand-painted. The handle is painted in the same colour blue.
They're sturdy mugs that hold a lot of liquid - so don't pour yourself a cup of something in one of them just before bedtime, as you'll have several trips to the bathroom during the night!
They're very bright and colourful, and I love offering my friends a drink in one of them when they come over. I would recommend these mugs as a present if you're thinking of buying one - I'm not sure how much they cost, but we're certainly delighted with them! The fact that they're hand-painted make them that extra bit special.
My husband and I borrowed the box set of the Sopranos off a friend, as everyone kept going on about how good it was. We watched all 86 episodes in as many days (pretty much!), and were absolutely drawn into the crazy yet compelling lifestyle of Tony and his gang. We basically suffered withdrawal symptoms when the final series was over.
This is a great series to watch as a couple, as it has the macho guns/blood/death/grim element, as well as the family/home is where the heart is element. You watch Tony Soprano discuss his psychological problems with his therapist, Dr Melfi, while all around him lie the chaotic results of the horrendously bad decisions he's made in his life. His family and friends are all nutters in their own way, and he's too addicted to sex, drugs and violence for his own good.
What I love about this series is the character development - there are some fantastic characters, such as Tony's uncle Junior and Paulie. There are some moments that are almost too grim to watch, and crazy episodes full of dream sequences that leave you thinking 'what the hell?'. The final episode ends in such a way that you're left begging for more.
Basically, watching the series is like a huge head trip - you're left lost for words at the end of most episodes. I didn't think I was a mafia fan until I watched The Sopranos, but now I most certainly am!
I tend to avoid Lloyds Pharmacy unless I need to get a prescription, as the prices for a range of their products, particularly baby products and baby milk, are unnecessarily high.
There are two Lloyds Pharmacy outlets that I regularly go to for prescriptions, and the funny thing is that the staff in one are very friendly and eager to make conversation with you, and the staff in the other are quite cold and not very chatty at all. I also find that in the latter I don't even get a second to browse the shop, because as soon as I enter I'm asked what I'm looking for. I like to be given a little space first.
One good point is that the wait for prescriptions is generally no longer than ten minutes, which is superb compared to other pharmacies.
Also, if you ever need to wait a while for prescriptions, do not fear, as you will be entertained by Lloyds Pharmacy radio, which plays some classic pop songs (although, to be honest, there are too many adverts for products to listen to and not enough music).
All in all, a mixed bag.
Picture this - a four week old baby at 5 am who hasn't slept since 8 pm, still screaming each time she's placed in her Moses basket. Nothing works, and mum is exhausted. Suddenly, mum remembers the seahorse someone gave the baby as a present. Off she goes to retrieve it, thinking it'll never work. Two minutes after it's switched on, baby is asleep.
This is what happened to me, and for those precious few weeks that seahorse was a life-saver. The glow is so soft and soothing, and the tunes (all classical music) are so mellow and calm that you'll end up falling asleep yourself. It lasts for about five minutes, which is just the right amount of time to send the baby off to sleep. In those earth-shatteringly exhausting first few weeks of a baby's life, this product is excellent and I would certainly recommend it as a last resort!
In some ways I can see how the baby is almost brought back to the womb - I can imagine there are similar sounds in there, although perhaps without the music!
We no longer use the seahorse, and to be frank, every time it's switched on it brings me back to those exhausting moments. But it did the job when we needed it the most!
From the moment our first baby started to climb stairs, we installed two of these gates - one at the top, and one at the bottom. I always said how important it was that the one at the top was sturdy and very secure, and we've not been let down by these gates.
The gate is very pleasing on the eye, with a natural wooden colour instead of the horrible white shiny gates you can purchase. The fact that there is no step-over bar is of utmost importance to us, as the last thing we want to do is trip at the top of the stairs whilst carrying a small child!
It's very easy to learn how to open and close the gate, and you can do it easily with one hand. One thing I would say is it does occasionally need adjusting through frequent use, as the catch can become stiff at times.
I would recommend this product to anyone, as it's safe, secure, reasonably priced and attractive.
I mistakenly bought this product thinking it was an electric travel bottle warmer, and was surprised when it arrived and all it was was a thermos. For about a week I used it as a travel bottle warmer, taking it to baby and toddler groups, until I realised it really wasn't worth the effort of trying to squeeze it into my bag, not to mention the extra weight in the pushchair.
It does keep boiling water hot for many hours, which is important, and it certainly helped in the first few weeks of my daughter's life in the middle of the night when the kettle was (a) too noisy and (b) took too long to boil.
However, I wouldn't recommend this product as a 'travel' bottle warmer, given how big and bulky it is. Obviously, had it been any smaller the Tommee Tippee bottles wouldn't have fit into it, but I think that just shows how unnecessarily wide the Tommee Tippee bottles are in the first place.
We bought this gate for the wide area at the end of our breakfast bar, in order to stop our daughter from entering the kitchen section of our open plan house. The fact that the space was so wide meant we had to buy four extensions with it (two on each side). We did not go over the maximum width in the instructions. However, within about 3 months the gate started to waft with our daughter leaning on it all the time, and it started sagging in the middle.
We were surprised the gate didn't come away from the wall, which shows how sturdy the pressure fit system is, but it was unsafe in the position that it was in and we couldn't correct it. The top latch stopped working as the gate was out of line with the extensions, so eventually we had to rely on the catch at the bottom to hold it closed.
We disposed of the gate after about 4 months before replacing it with a gate that's much easier to use and doesn't have the incredibly annoying step-over bar that this gate has!
All in all, we wasted our money on this gate because it simply doesn't extend as far as it says it does. I wouldn't recommend this product.
This travel cot was a present for our second daughter from her grandparents, and we're very pleased with the product. At first it looked surprisingly long and thin for a travel cot, but this has its advantages as it seems to take up less space in the room.
There's a very handy bag attached to one end of the cot, decorated with Winnie the Pooh's face. This is great for storing clothes or toys when you're away - particularly dirty washing!
The mattress seems softer and more comfortable than the mattress in our other travel cot, and certainly our daughter has no problems settling in it.
There's also a toy bar that clips onto both sides of the cot, but this is more of a gimmick than anything else. It's just something nice for our daughter to gaze at, but she can't reach it and you can't remove the animals from it.
The product is reasonably priced compared to other, ridiculously expensive travel cots. It's bright and fun, and I would recommend it to friends.