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I am a regular visitor to our local WHSmith simply because the shop seems to stock goods that may be hard to find unless you visit the city centre. Arts and crafts have always been a bit of a passion of mine, I am no Picasso but I do like to sit and dabble. Up until a couple of evening class painting terms ago I had never seen these watercolour pencils in action. I had come across them on the store shelves but had shunned them thinking that they would be useless.
Good quality watercolour paints are expensive and these watercolour pencils are not cheap to use either. There are 24 pencils in a flat tin and this set of painting equipment will set you back about £10.50. The pencils are light wood and the top of each pencil is the same colour as the paint it contains inside. I have found that watercolours can be difficult to use, when the wet paint is applied to the surface of the art paper you are not in full control, the paint develops a life of its own and goes everywhere but where you want it to go! Saying that this does create some fabulous and unusual paint patterns.
Ideally these WHSmith watercolour pencils should put you firmly in charge of your painting and this is what I wanted to try out. The paint in the centre of each pencil is fairly soft so although the `leads` can be sharpened they do have to be handled with care.
I have gathered that the watercolour pencils can be used in whatever way you think suits you the best. A friend at art class has recently started using them and she enjoys to `draw` the picture and then paint over the surface with water to bring the colours to life. The effect is good but I feel it looks a little bit flat.
Watercolour painting needs light and shade to breathe life into it. Dampen the end of the pencil and apply a very light layer of colour, dip a paintbrush into some cold water and run the brush along the colour. You will notice that the more water that you apply the lighter the shade will be and vice versa. Interestingly enough by adding more water to a small patch of colour it is possible to lift more of the paint colour out and lighten the shade even further. If you wish the colour to be darker then touch the surface with another light layer of colour and keep adding until you achieve the tone that you want.
This does mean that these watercolour pencils afford you more overall control but personally I would not choose to use them for a wash background or a large painting project. For starters painting a large wash background would swallow up a huge amount of the expensive pencil so it is cost effective to use ordinary watercolour paint for the washes.
Apply the pencil colours to the paper and they are vibrant but they tone down well. If you need an extra bit of vivid colour then there is nothing to stop you applying the tip of a small paintbrush directly to the top of the pencil and dabbing it on.
Ring the changes and experiment. Try adding the pencil to some wet textured paper and see what happens. The pencil marks swell on the wet paper and the colour edges outwards and fades towards the outside. Build up the layers of colour by adding one layer of pencil at a time and adding water in between.
From my point of view I was quite happy with the way in which the watercolour pencils worked but I have put mine to one side for smaller projects. The soft coloured leads soon need to be sharpened and it would take a fair amount of pencil to paint a large piece of work. I can see that they offer far more control but I am not too sure whether it it a touch too much control. When you sharpen the pencils then naturally you lose some of the lead and that precious lead contains the expensive colour. The shavings could be saved and separated but it would be a bit tedious! When you use normal watercolour paint then the remaining paint stays on the palette ( well, it does here anyway!) and it is used during the next session.
I am quite happy to experiment with the watercolour pencils but they are not something that I would use all of the time. They are too expensive for the kids to use so they will stay hidden away in my cupboard.
Bottles of liquid hand wash soap used to be considered a luxury but now they are affordable to all. Liquid soap in pump dispenser bottles is a great idea and I regularly buy them for use in the kitchen and the bathroom. Trying out different brands with new and interesting fragrances is good and a bottle of the Superdrug Indulgence hand wash slipped into my shopping basket. I do have to say that I didn't think that the 300ml bottle of liquid soap was particularly cheap at just over £1 but the product does last quite a time.
Most of us are pretty obsessed with washing our hands, especially after we have been to the loo. So a container of liquid soap in the bathroom is an asset. I keep a bottle of hand wash beside the kitchen sink and it is used frequently after gardening sessions or when hubby comes in from working in the shed. The pump dispensers are easy to use and unlike bar soap they can be wiped off and made to look clean again. Bars of soap tend to go gooey and stick to the soap dish ( although I do like the bars of Dettol soap) but the clear plastic containers that house the hand wash can be wiped over with a cloth and they come up as clean as a whistle.
The Superdrug Indulgence hand wash contains extracts of cashmere and almond blossom. I have no idea what cashmere is supposed to smell like but I do like the smell of almonds. As usual the top of the pump dispenser opens with a twist and the soap is released by depressing the top of the pump. The liquid soap is creamy and pearlescent and it has a light and pretty fragrance. I am not too sure if I can smell the cashmere but I can pick up a mild scent of almonds. The pump works well and one single press gives enough liquid to wash your hands. Rub a little of the hand wash between your fingers and it feels smooth and silky.
The product comes in a clean clear plastic bottle that has the minimal look, the only adornment is a fairly simple paper label that sits around the middle of the bottle. I would say that the packaging looks extremely fresh and clean and that is reflected when you pump some of the creamy liquid into the palm of your hand. Run a little water over the surface of the hand wash and a light lather starts to appear. The lather is minimal but there is plenty to wash your hands with. The pearly liquid feels mild and gentle and Superdrug states that it contains moisturisers.
The liquid soap washes well and it is easy to rinse off. Once rinsed off it leaves no sticky residue and the skin feels fine and smells mildly scented. Although the fragrance could be interpreted as being feminine it can easily be used by either sex, the scent is not strong enough to deter man or boy. On the whole the hand wash is as good as any and it does the job admirably. If I had to find any negative it could be the price, at the moment some of the large supermarkets have bottles of hand wash on offer at two for the price of one.
The Early Learning Centre have an amazing range of toys to suit all age groups. Two of our older grandchildren have the ELC double swing in the back garden and they have had hours of pleasure swinging to and fro. Children learn so much by playing and it is intriguing to watch them as they act out certain roles during a play session. As grandparents we are lucky, we can join in with the playtime and go home after an hour or so! Dressing up and role play are always great favourites. The children love to play shops and of course we have to be the courteous customers.
The toddler loves the plastic supermarket trolley that we bought from Argos. If you are playing shops then it is essential to have plenty of stock for the customers to choose from. The youngsters are encouraged to interact and to investigate the stock, often there is also a period of reflection as they come across items of food that they have never seen before. The cupboards can be raided to some extent but then we need some play food. At the same time as we bought the shopping trolley we also purchased a set of plastic play food. The kids had great fun with it while it lasted but the plastic was thin and the pieces of food soon began to cave in. Given that the kids learn so much from playing shops we decided to buy another more robust set of play food.
I don't feel that it is essential to have boxed food in the play food sets. Our homes are filled with goods that are packed into small boxes that can be taped up safely and used in the games. After spotting the play food set on the Early Learning centre website I was determined to buy it. The set costs £12 and we thought that it offered decent value for money.
The boxed set of play food contains a mixture of healthy and not so healthy food. There are burgers, hot dogs, cupcakes and chocolate but they have balanced it out by adding a fish, some fruit and a few vegetables. The older children know the names of the foodstuff but the younger ones have fun as they pick the food up and try to tell you what it is. The set of play food is made from a sturdy plastic that bends but bounces back into place, it is strong enough to withstand tough exploration. The small parts don't have any sharp edges but any role play game that includes little ones really does need supervision.
I love the ice cream cones and the ice cream comes away from the top of the cone. The Early Learning centre have even decided to go up market and add a couple of mange tout peas! The two plastic eggs are quite realistic but I wondered if every child regularly enjoys an Avocado pear.
The food can be bought and fed to the hungry dollies and teddy bears that are ready and waiting. There are no sticky labels on any of the plastic pieces which is good. The food can also be used for dolls picnics, get the dolls teaset out and the plastic plates, take the whole thing out onto the grass and let them enjoy their play. This has to be one of the good things about small toys, they are transportable and can be enjoyed anywhere.
Though the food set from the Early Learning centre is plastic it is still tactile to some degree. Some of the pieces have rippled surfaces and others have `bumpy` finishes. Through time a child will come to recognise certain pieces by feel. There is scope to talk about the child's favourite foods, they may enjoy eating strawberries but loathe eating peas! Ask them to close their eyes and feel the pieces of food, in no time at all they will be able to identify the foods that they enjoy through shape.
The plastic play food is washable and it needs to be after it has been rammed into sticky little fingers and nibbled by gooey little mouths. If it is played with regularly then it is going to need to be cleaned quite often.
Children's games that involve interaction let them use their creative imagination and definitely encourage social skills. This play food set may be a few pounds dearer that others but the pieces are strong and well made.
Our local designer outlet has a Clark's shoe shop that you just cannot walk past. On the other hand if you love the killer heel designer shoes then maybe Clark's shoes would not be for you. I have always associated the name with good quality footwear that is long lasting and comfortable. In my childhood I was less than impressed when each new school year meant a visit to the shoe shop to be measured for yet another pair of round toed flat brown leather lace up shoes, Clark's of course. But now I positively drool over some of the wonderful shoes and sandals that are in that shoe shop window.
Clark's footwear is not exactly cheap but then you get what you pay for. Buy cheap and cheerful shoes, boots or sandals and as a rule of thumb they will only last for a few months. Some of the pairs of Clark's shoes and sandals that are in the bottom of my wardrobe are sat there waiting to come back into fashion. My taste in footwear has changed over the years and I love the flat Mary Jane type shoes that offer plenty of comfort. Wearing high heels used to present no problems but now I much prefer to admire others wearing them.
My latest pair of Clark's shoes are from the Originals range. I saw the pale blue nubuck shoes and it was love at first sight. Many shoe companies no longer do half sizes but Clark's do and this is a plus point because a size five and a half is perfect for me. This particular style comes in a few other shades , I vetoed the darker colours but loved the pale blue and the cotton coloured nubuck. The pale blue shoes are attractive and summery although you could easily wear them in the Autumn months teamed with a pair of jeans.
Nubuck leather has a very unusual feel to it, I believe that the leather is sanded in order to achieve the velvet appearance. Nubuck leather is hard wearing but like any suede type leather it is susceptible to staining. The easiest thing to do is to treat the soft leather with a stain resistant protection cream before wearing them. Thereafter the leather needs to be rubber over with a leather cleaning cream regularly to keep it moisturised.
The flat pale blue leather shoe could not look plainer if it tried but that is part of its beauty. Your foot slips into the shoe and there is just one strap to buckle up. When I first looked at the shoe I thought that the one thick leather strap seemed to sit a little high up and I wondered if it would cut into my upper foot. After trying the footwear on I realised that the soft leather strap was going to be comfortable.
The upper part of the shoe has a smart stitched seam which gives a feeling of femininity. The seaming is as neat as a pin and done in a matching thread. The large square silver buckle that fastens the strap looks smart and the strap has plenty of notches that allow you to adjust it. The insole of the shoe is soft and comfy and as you slide your foot into the pale blue unlined leather shoe you could be forgiven for thinking that you are putting your slippers on.
The Clark's Originals come with crepe soles and the soles are lightweight and very pliable. When you are wearing the shoes the crepe soles bend with your feet and make walking easy. Though the shoes only fasten using one wide strap they feel safe to wear. In the past I have owned shoes that have been lethal to walk in, slippery soles that do not grab the roads and pavements spell out danger to me. The crepe soles feel safe to walk in even when the pavements get wet.
The pale blue nubuck shoes cost me just under £60 but undoubtedly I will get my wear out of them. The shoes look good when they are worn with a long summery skirt and they look good when worn with jeans and I am delighted with them.
For the most part we are a nation of pet lovers. Many of us look upon our domestic pets as extended family members, we celebrate their birthdays and buy them Christmas presents. Choosing the right type of toy for any animal is important and over the years I have made both good and bad purchases. We have a Pets at home store a few miles away and it is a lovely shop to take a look around. They cater for every pet imaginable and have a wide range to offer their customers.
Sophie ( my daughters Jack Russell cross) is a smashing pet dog but she has so much energy it has to be seen to be believed. Sophie is happy to lay on her pet bed and snooze for an hour or two, look around her pet food dish and graze on the contents but then she decides that a walkies is next on the agenda. As every dog owner knows walking their animals is essential but time consuming, especially when Mum has a hundred and one other things that need to be done. A bored pet who has too much time on their hands quickly becomes a bit of a minx and that is when the collection of pet toys come into play.
The lovely bright yellow Tug of War pet toy from Happy pets was well worth the money. It cost just under £5 and it has given Sophie many hours of pleasure. The idea for the rubber toy could not be more simple, there are two large `V` shaped rubber parts ( each `V` shape) has a rubber strip running along the top end of it and in the middle of the contraption there is a wide rubber band. Both ends of the rubber pet toy have grip areas and believe you me you need them!. The idea is that you hold one end and entice the dog to grab the other end between his/her teeth. You pull your end and then the pet starts to tug at his end, hence a tug of war begins.
Sophie is a relatively small and playful pet who adores the yellow rubber toy. In fact the tugging sessions have become such fun that she now brings it to you and dumps it at your feet. The rubber is firm but soft and it expands as it is pulled. As soon as the dog begins to pull the toy the rubber gets covered with saliva. I often have to turn my head the other way as I am pulling the toy because I can smell the wet toy. Sophie often drops the toy and sometimes that means that we exchange ends! Oh the delight of picking up a toy that is covered in dogs dribble is wonderful.
The Happy pets rubber tug of war toy can be used indoors and out and it is a great toy for tiring a small dog. I would imagine that large dogs would have just as much fun pulling the toy but I have only tugged with Sophie. As she tugs she jerks and shakes the rubber toy as if it were a rabbit, if the rubber toy starts to pull her jaws too much then she will drop it there and then. Sophie is young and she has strong teeth and bones so she is well able to take the strain. I would imagine that an older dog could find the toy too much like hard work.
If the rubber tug of war toy is used outside then it can be washed off and it comes up as good as new. Periodically pet toys do need to be washed or wiped over if at all possible. Sophie has tried to chew the tugger but all of her attempts have failed. If she is on her own then the toy has no appeal whatsoever but as soon as she gets a playmate the tugger comes out of her basket.
This rubber toy has nothing that a pet could choke on. I do remember buying numerous dog tugs that were made from rope and our dog always managed to wear the rope into strands. Those toys always ended up in the bin because she got the cotton strands in her throat. The Happy pets rubber tug of war toy has no sharp edges that could cut the soft skin inside of the pets mouth either.
Ten minute tugging is a certain way of tiring an energetic pet if you cannot go `walkies` for a while. The smell of the wet and slimy rubber is a small price to pay when you see Sophie snoring away on her bed.
Young children love new toys and I am afraid to say that I am getting a bit choosy about which toys I am willing to buy. Fisher Price produce toys for babies, toddlers, preschool children and older. My daughter loves her children to have educational toys and Fisher Price do have some good toys that encourage development as well as being fun to play with. Some of the larger toys such as the laugh and learn activity table can seem an expensive purchase at the time but they can always be passed onto siblings or other young members of the family. Small children learn such a lot through play, even the smallest of my grandchildren enjoys using all of her senses when playing. She hears different sounds and she giggles, seeing different coloured buttons and cogs and wheels on toys keep her interested. Trying to activate the different parts on the toys make her use her fine motor skills to the best of her ability. As she gets a little older she will love to take part in the role play games which her brother already adores.
Dressing up is such fun for children and what better than to dress up and treat your very own patients! For some time we have been looking for a decent medical kit that would suit a child aged three and upwards. The Fisher Price brill basics medical kit costs just under £12 and we felt that it offered quite good value for money. Young children love to explore but for the most part they do only need the basic tools to do so. I cannot tell you how many times we have had to play shops or Doctors and nurses and they are always interactive games that meet with great approval.
In the box you have a green shopping type bag that has two handles and this is for the young doctor ( or nurse) to carry their kit around in. The bag is reasonably strong but soft to the touch, on the front of the bag there is a white cross sat in a yellow circle which leaves you in no doubt that the bag is for medical purposes. The first thing that struck me was the colourful plastic pieces that sat in the box, the kit comes in bright red, blue, yellow and green plastic. Of course we had the normal rush to open the box and the stethoscope was the first toy that Rudi grabbed. Rudi slipped the bright blue plastic earpieces in and slid the red end of the scope onto Granddads chest! If you listen very carefully you can hear the heartbeat from the scope. So immediately in his minds eye he was a doctor doing an important job on Granddad. The medical kit is a great idea and I feel that it helps young children to overcome any fears that they may have themselves. After all if you have to take the child to the clinic or the surgery then they are far less likely to be wary of the instruments if they have some knowledge of them. One small point though. Any medical examination is intrusive and we had to try to explain to our little grandson why he couldn't stick the stethoscope up Granny's top!
The stethoscope looks quite authentic as do the other bits and bobs. The otoscope is great fun and we have all had our ears examined. If the otoscope is going to come in for a lot of use it would probably need to be cleaned off with a wet wipe at the end of the play session. When Rudi has his doctor head on he is in charge and we are there to obey. We lay on the sofa and have our blood pressure taken. At first he didn't recognise the blood pressure cuff but once he was shown a few time and he watched the dial on the cuff he was thrilled with it. Mummy has to take his temperature sometimes so the thermometer was no stranger to him. The syringe is fun but as he depressed the blue plunger for the first few times he nearly punctured me! We have explained that he only needs to press the tip down gently. There is one `bandage` in the medical kit and that is a cuff bandage that just slides on.
Fisher Price is a well trusted brand name and the parts of the medical kit have no sharp edges that could present a danger. Although the kit contains small parts they are all firmly fastened into place but there again it is always advisable to supervise small children when they are playing. If I had any little issues to raise the first one would concern the bag. If the bag had a zipper then it would keep the medical equipment safely inside, as it is the small pieces have a habit of sliding out. The only other mild quibble is that the kit comes with no white coat and as we all know all doctors have a white coat! I realise that the price of the medical kit would have to go up a bit to cover the cost of a one size fits all little ones white coat but it might be worth it. I ended up paying another £7 to buy a white doctors coat so it may not be a viable proposition.
The Fisher Price medical kit has given hours of fun for what it is. The toy is educational and it definitely encourages role play. The plastic parts are washable so they can be kept clean. Role play strengthens a child's confidence and a toy like this could help to coax a shy child out of their shell. There have been many giggles along the way when we have been playing with the kit and I feel that it is worth the money.
Cleaning brass is a messy task and I am sure that is why you no longer see many brass ornaments about. To be honest I love to polish and sadly I also enjoy a good cleaning session. The few bits of brass ware that I own soon collect the dust and even when they are newly polished the shine only lasts a couple of weeks.
The Brasso metal polish wadding is far easier to use than the liquid Brasso. The liquid metal polish smells stronger and it is marginally more messy to use. The thick wadding is wound into a roll and then placed inside of a metal tin. The tin has a lid that fits on firmly to keep the metal polish wadding moist. Reckitt and sons produce the metal polish wadding and they have used the same coloured tin for many years. The round red, white and blue tin has a plain royal blue lid, it looks smart and patriotic.
When you prise the lid from the top of the tin the smell coming from the polish that impregnates the wadding hits you straight away. Personally I have smelt worse cleaning products but the metal polish does smell strong. The wadding is wound into a roll and you need to break a small section off to clean the brass.
It is always wise to wear rubber or latex gloves when cleaning any type of metal. The moist metal polish wadding leaves black marks on your hands that are hard to remove. If you have sensitive skin or any broken areas of skin then the metal polish may cause a reaction. It is also essential to cover the worktop or the top of the table with some old newspaper before you begin cleaning. An old toothbrush comes in handy to work the metal polish into the nooks and crannies.
Take a small piece of the Brasso metal polish wadding and start to rub the damp wadding over the surface of the grubby brass. As you rub the grime gets worse instead of better, the wadding lifts the dirt and dust off the brass and the dirt covers your gloves and the paper underneath. When you are sure that you have got into every crevice then set the piece of brass to one side to dry off. If there are any awkward bits then set the toothbrush bristles to work. You don't have to let the polish dry but I find that you can achieve a better shine if you do.
Then you need a large piece of soft cloth. Take the brass and start to rub off the dried on brass polish. The dry polish comes off easily and the more you rub the better the shine. Brasso polish can leave a white residue on the surface of the metal so you have to be quite sure that all of the cleaner is well polished off. The whole cleaning process may be messy but it doesn't take too long.
Place the lid back firmly on the tin after use and store it in a safe place away from little fingers. A tin of Brasso metal polish wadding will cost you somewhere around the £3 mark but the roll of cleaner will last you for months ( unless you have oodles of brass!). The metal polish wadding can be used to clean chrome and copper too.
The wadding polish may not smell so good but it works well. As long as you give the brass a good rub then you will get a great shine. The shine usually lasts for a good couple of weeks and then it starts to dull. The metal cleaner offers good value and it works extremely well, so say goodbye to dirty brass.
I have to admit that when cleaning is mentioned I quite enjoy a challenge. Throw down the gauntlet and I will be there with my trusty scrubbing brush and a bucket of hot soapy water. To cut a long story short Mum has a small back patio that is home to lots of ferns, greenery in tubs and an ancient Bay tree. The yard was looking pretty dirty to say the least so I was enrolled to give it a spruce up.
I didn't need a lot of equipment, a stiff yard brush, a smaller scrubbing brush, a bucket of hot water laced with Ariel washing powder and a hose pipe. It is hard to glorify a scrubbing brush but when you buy one that does the job well then it is good to pass it on to other prospective concrete cleaners. This brush came from Wilkinson's and I am sure that I paid under £2 for it. I have owned the brush for quite some time now and it suits me because it has a handle that you can get to grips with.
Wilko's have some really good cleaning bargains and this was one of them. The blue and white plastic scrubbing brush has a handle that runs the length of the brush but it is only affixed to one end. The entire brush is made from plastic, even the bristles. When you use a wooden scrubbing brush you usually have to hold the edges of the wood and try your best to get a grip. But this scrubber has a soft grip handle that does not make your skin sore as you apply pressure to the deep bristles.
Now don't get me wrong. I had no intention of using the small brush to remove all of the stains from the yard but I did use it to get into the and along the edges . The bright blue and white plastic bristles managed to work their way into the corners and the yard looked spic and span once finished.
The plastic bristles had taken a battering but they were still standing. The bristles on the edge of the scrubbing brush were a little splayed out but apart from that the brush had survived the ordeal. I had applied considerable pressure on the handle of the scrubbing brush to remove the grime but my hands didn't feel sore.
By that time the brush was looking as if it had worked in the mines so I took it in to soak it. I filled the bucket with hot water and added a scoop of Ariel washing powder ( I am a great fan!) and the brush soaked until it was clean.
Scrubbing brushes are useful household tools and I for one would not be without mine. In my humble opinion the plastic offering from Wilko's offers good value for money.
The other half loves B & Q and there are a hundred and one different items in the store that he feels would enhance his life. Admittedly the DIY store do have a good selection to offer but you do have to watch the prices. Our bathroom has recently undergone a mini makeover, it has been freshly painted, new flooring has been laid and now it looks fresh and clean.
Bathroom storage is a big issue for us. There is no room on the walls for any cupboards and there is no floor space for any free-standing shelving. The airing cupboard houses the clean towels but finding space for the toiletries has presented some problems. The bath foam, soap and shampoo can sit on the side of the bath but they do get knocked off into the bath water. Considering we enter the bathroom only to come out feeling fresh and clean it is surprising how much dust and grime a bathroom gathers.
The 2 tier bathroom caddy caught my eye. It is not the most beautiful thing in the world but it does have a purpose. The chrome caddy is not huge (length 250mm/width 120mm/ depth 355mm) but it is just large enough to hold all of the bathroom essentials. It looks fairly modern and it is easy to fix to the wall. The only reservation that I had at the time I bought it was its ability to remain rust free. Having had a chrome bath tub caddy that rusted quite badly I was a little bit wary.
B & Q have the chrome caddy on offer for just under £12, so by purchasing it I was not going to lose a packet even if it did rust through time. The chrome bathroom storage unit looked good when it was unpacked and it comes complete with two fixing screws. Two holes were drilled ( the screw fitments sit directly under the first shelf) , two raw plugs inserted and the caddy was screwed into the wall. Unfortunately the only available space we have in our bathroom is directly above the bath at the tap end, so it is always going to be a case of removing and replacing the contents of the chrome caddy with care.
The top storage shelf takes the smaller bottles and boxes and the bottom shelf holds the larger shampoo and conditioner bottles. The caddy is high enough up on the wall so we can safely store antiseptic cream, TCP and Dettol in it. It is quite a surprise to see how much the little storage shelves hold and all of our day to day requirements fit into it nicely.
Now for the mildly annoying part. The chrome caddy looks good and it is highly useful but it is a dust collector! The shiny chrome rungs attract the dust like bees to a honey pot. If the caddy was covered in white plastic then the dust would not show but the chrome shows it badly. I have vented my spleen and now I am over it.
Would I have purchased the B& Q chrome caddy if I had known what I know now?
Yes, is the simple answer. I will put up with trying to remove the dust so long as it continues to hold my cosmetics and toiletries in the style that they have become accustomed to.
Hand knitted baby garments have undergone a revival. A while ago my daughters would have scoffed at the idea of me knitting them some little clothes. After looking at some of the lovely Debbie Bliss baby knitting patterns I have had quite a few requests. Good quality knitting wool is expensive and for my last project I used a merino/silk yarn from the Sublime range. Merino wool is warm, soft and perfect for keeping the little ones cosy. It knits up wonderfully but it does tend to rub as you work it.
Anyway, yet another knitting project came my way and in all honesty I just didn't have the time. I suggested looking at the hand knitted baby garments on the internet and we came across the website called `Little Bou`. Their collection of baby knits is second to none, a glorious collection of strikingly fashionable knitwear that any Mum would be proud to dress her baby in.
On the `Little Bou` website I saw the cutest booties that I have ever come across. Granted I could have knitted them for half of the price but they were for a gift and that is why we were able to look past the price. ( £15 a pair..say it quick!) The Lille Barn grey cable knit merino booties are some of the smartest knitted baby footwear I have seen.
The booties are knitted in ultra soft pale grey Merino wool. The trendy little knitted boots are unisex, after all girls and boys seem to wear more or less the same colours now. On the front of the bootee there is a cross over cable stitch. The cable is not intricate but bear in mind that there would be no room to work anything too fancy. The foot part of the bootee is worked in stocking stitch and the upper in knitted in a thick rib stitch. The upper part of the knitted bootee folds over double and that helps to keep the boot firmly in place on the babies foot. Where the upper part of the bootee joins the foot there is a drawstring that pulls. The drawstring looks good but you could only pull it slightly to tighten the rib or it would be uncomfortable for the baby to wear.
The price of the bootees may frighten some Mums off but maybe not if they were for a special occasion. The washing instructions state that the Merino wool bootees can be machine washed at 30 degrees. The company have also used wool that is free from harsh chemicals.
There are pros and cons with every thing that we buy. These knitted boots are highly fashionable and maybe a touch on the expensive side. I know from experience that bootees have a habit of going missing and you would have to keep a serious eye on the Lille Barn boots. But there are times when we look for that extra special gift for someone special. Take a look at the `Little Bou` website and I don't think you will be disappointed.
It is important to choose the right type of polish to clean leather shoes. The Kiwi Colour Shine Instant polish is quick and easy to use and the liquid polish makes the leather shine well. Hide shoes are expensive and they need to be cared for or eventually the surface will crack and the footwear will be ruined.
There are numerous brands of leather wax on the market and some are far better than others. The tins of block polish have to be applied with a shoe brush and wiped off with a soft cloth. When the leather has been buffed up with the duster the footwear has a glossy finish. Reputable brands of boot polish may cost a little more but you can expect to achieve good results.
This bottle of liquid polish costs just over £2. The 75ml of cleaner goes a very long way and the cleaning product could not be described as expensive. The colour of the plastic polish bottles vary in colour depending what hue of polish they hold. My black polish is in a red and black bottle and the top twists off to open it.
Cleaning shoes can be a messy task but using the bottle of polish does make life easier. You don't need to put newspaper down or use brushes. Before you use this wax you do need to wipe any dirt from the shoes.
You can feel that the bottle is filled with liquid and at the top of the bottle there is a round deep sponge that acts as the applicator. Take hold of a shoe and start to gently squeeze the bottle. As you press the plastic the sponge applicator starts to fill with the liquid polish ( the sponge applicator has a small hole in the middle). The polish doesn't have a strong smell like block polish.
When the sponge is filled with the nourishing polish then start applying it to the surface of the leather. The wax covers the hide and begins to dry as soon as it is applied. As the polish dries you can see a sheen appearing. Keep applying the polish until you have covered the whole of the shoe. The polish leaves a good gloss but it is a different type of shine that you get when you choose to use polish from a tin. The shine is good and deep but it does rather make the leather look as though it has been varnished.
I love shiny leather shoes and often coat the hide over twice to create a deeply polished appearance. The overall effect is good and the shine is long lasting. Any leather that has just been treated to a spit and polish will always get scuffed at some point.
The product comes in a few different colours which include neutral, navy, black, brown and white. The kiwi Colour Instant shine polish can be found in many of the major supermarkets. It is a useful shoe cleaning product that enables you to shine shoes cleanly and instantly. Every now and again it may be wise to give the leather a good clean with conventional shoe polish but don't discount this without trying it for yourself.
All parents and grandparents soon begin to feel that they must know every cartoon character going. In the Night Garden is one of the children's favourites and we all know Unn, Eee and Ooo those lovely little group of pepper pot toys. If I am out and about in the shops and the money tree bears I enjoy treating the grandchildren to a little gift. One of our grandsons has been feeding himself for a while and the mess that he makes is unbelievable! But true to form he loves to explore the food with his fingers before popping some of it into his mouth.
My daughter has read a lot about baby led weaning, the idea is good but it is slightly harder to implement. I walked past the In the Night Garden cutlery set and dismissed it first time around but I had to go back for that lovely little Tombliboos cutlery set. Rudi has been offered a teaspoon to feed himself with but he was not impressed but there was every chance that he may pick up the Tombliboo teaspoon.
For the princely sum of £4.99 you get a knife, fork and spoon with Tombliboo handles. If nothing else this set of child's cutlery is fun and colourful. Mothercare state that the set of cutlery is suitable for aged 12 months and over. The cutlery is stainless steel and the handles are lightweight plastic. You can see that they will appeal to little ones, even if they only get played with!
The cutlery looks child friendly and the parts have been especially made to size to suit toddlers. The bowl on the spoon is round and it is not too deep. The knife blade is short and wide and above all it is safe for little ones to use under supervision. The handles are easy to grip and the plastic surface is not at all slippery. The fork is slightly different, it has what is classed as a `pea holder` built into it and I can see that this invention could help to hold the unruly peas albeit that it is just a few little holes in the fork.
The new Mothercare cutlery set met with full approval! But it was the Tombliboos that worked their magic, the cutlery was of no real interest at that point. The colourful Tombliboos were played with and eventually they made their way to the high chair. The little fingers went into the food and we placed the spoon into Rudi's hand. He still used his fingers to eat but he enjoyed admiring his new Tombliboo spoon whilst he was munching. The knife and the fork were cast to one side, the pink and brown Tombliboo must be his favourite.
Who knows, maybe the knife and fork will come into play at a later date. If Rudi uses the spoon then at least he is practising his hand to eye co-ordination. In my daughters house everything finds its way into the dishwasher and the pretty Tombliboo cutlery set went through the wash. The knife and fork are redundant in the cutlery drawer but the spoon does come out to play. Maybe Rudi will not use it properly for some time to come but at least it has given him something to think about.
Our youngest granddaughter was born a few months ago so I was often invited to go and look around the baby shops. It is unbelievable how times have changed, years ago cot sheets were often home-made efforts that started life as a sheet for a double bed. Mothercare is a fabulous shop and I have to admit that I am smitten with Mamas and Papas.
Naturally as grandparents we wanted to buy a small gift for the new baby. After making enquiries my daughter said that a couple of sleepsuits would be much appreciated and she really needed some cot bed sheets. Cot beds sheets may not be a terribly exciting present but they are a very useful one.
Mothercare stock cotton sheets, jersey sheets and flannelette sheets. Some are fitted bed sheets and some are flat. After looking at all of the options we decided that flat cotbed sheets were the best choice and soft flannelette sheets would be so cosy for the new baby to sleep in.
I was particularly pleased with the price of a pair of cotbed sheets. They worked out at just under £10 a pair. Mothercare have the sheets in a good range of colours that should satisfy everyone. The colour range includes pink, white, lemon, aqua, blue and cream. All of the colours are soft shades that are suitable for tiny babies.
For the last baby my daughter bought some fitted sheets and she found to her cost that the elastic edging wouldn't stay in place. The fitted sheets kept popping off of the corners of the cotbed mattress. The flat sheets measure 120 by 155 cm and that allows enough spare to tuck right under the cotbed mattress. The nursery is pink and the sheets were bought to match.
The Mothercare flat sheets are 100 percent cotton. The surface of the cotton fabric is brushed and that makes the sheets feel lovely and soft. The sheets are machine washable and they would need to be because they are now in and out of the washing machine like a yo-yo. When you unpack the sheets they feel super soft but new bedding has to be washed before it is used. The cotbed sheets were washed for the first time and they felt good.
The cotton fabric that the sheets are made from is reasonably thick so the sheets should be fairly hard wearing. Even the tiniest of babies can stain bed sheets and the cotton sheets have now been treated to a few good hot washes and have come out well. It may be labour intensive but my daughter often runs the iron over the sheets if they have been dried on the washing line. Quite rightly she says that the warm iron makes the brushed cotton sheets feel softer.
The pink sheets are still pink, they have not faded in the hot wash. The surface of the brushed cotton still feels rich and soft and the edging seams are well sewn down. In the warmer weather a brushed cotton sheet could act as a thin blanket for nap time, I am sure it would be warm and comfy.
So far, so good. The brushed cotton cotbed sheets have washed well and they are wearing well. The sheets were on sale at a good affordable price and they came from a well respected baby store.
I have always had `a bit of a thing` about jigsaw puzzles. A few years ago I used to scour the charity shops because I was able to find many vintage jigsaw puzzles that were such fun to do. If at the end of the day there was a piece missing then it didn't really matter the puzzle had still given me many hours of pleasure. But vintage jigsaw puzzles are becoming hard to find unless you are willing to pay a small fortune. I don't have a puzzle mat or a porta puzzle board I am afraid I make do with a large sheet of hardboard.
Most of us love to have a nosey on E bay and this is where I came across the Gibson's memories of the 1950s jigsaw puzzle. When I took another look at the box I knew that I had to buy it! Although the picture on the puzzle is made up entirely of chocolate bars and sweets that were sold during that era it really brought back some good memories. The jigsaw puzzle cost me just under £10 and there was just over £2 post and packaging to pay.
I have owned plenty of jigsaw puzzles but this was my first Gibson jigsaw. The large box is made of thick cardboard and it certainly feels as though it will stand the test of time. The picture of all the 1950s chocolate bars is nothing short of fabulous. There are pictures of many chocolate bars that I remember well and some that even I cannot recall. But be assured these chocolate bars in the picture were produced when chocolate bars were `real` man sized chocolate bars. I was ecstatic to see a Lucky bag lurking in the background and a 6 penny bar of Caramac. The super Frys five centre bar, a box of Maltesers, Picnic, Munchie, Smarties in a box and a box of Rowntrees fruit gums to name but a few.
I was keen to start assembling the jigsaw puzzle. I guessed that it would be reasonably easy to piece together because all you need to do is to follow the pictures of the sweet wrappers. The jigsaw pieces are cut well and they are strong. The jigsaw is cut from firm card and it will withstand being wriggled about to get it into position. The pieces interlock well. The colours are bright and cheerful and the bars of chocolate and packets of sweets are fairly easy to pick out. Although there are 1000 pieces the puzzle didn't take me too long to complete. Some puzzles that have a lot of nondescript scenery in the background can take weeks to finish but this puzzle was done in a matter of a few sessions. When it was assembled it measured somewhere in the region of 27inches by 20inches which is plenty large enough.
My husband usually looks at me with something akin to pity when he sees me salivating over a jigsaw puzzle. But this time he even joined in, he picked up the odd piece here and slotted it into place. In fact he was quite enthusiastic about the theme of the jigsaw. I would say that the finished jigsaw is a bit of a conversation piece. The grandchildren looked at it and couldn't recognise many of the sweets so it was fun explaining what they were.
But all good things come to an end and after a while the jigsaw had to be broken up and stored back in the box. At one point I even though of making it into a picture! It would have looked good hung on the loo wall. But that would have meant that I couldn't have another go at piecing it together.
Gibsons are a family company that have been on the go since 1919. the company stocks board games, traditional games and jigsaws. I have noticed that Gibson's also make Sweet Memories of the 40s, 60s and 70s puzzles. If you have a jigsaw fan in the family then one of these may make an ideal present for them.
Boots microporous surgical tape is a very handy item to keep in your first aid box. I am the first to admit that my first aid cabinet is not as well stocked as it should be but I can usually find the essentials like sticking plasters, antiseptic cream, dressings and surgical tape. Sometimes you don't need a sticking plaster, you just want to cover an abrasion to stop any infection creeping in. Boots surgical tape is perfect for the job.
The microporous surgical tape isn't a cheap option. Boots the chemists produce four different sized rolls which range in price from around £1.60 to £4. I buy the smallest roll which has five metres of narrow tape. That five metres of surgical tape lasts me for ages.
If you place a sticking plaster on a cut then no air gets to the skin. I am a bit old fashioned and I like the air to get to the cut or wound so if it is at all possible I would rather place a small dressing on top of the abrasion and place a piece of surgical tape over the top. If you have your hands in and out of the water or you are at work then you would have to wear a latex glove over the top to keep the dressing in place.
The surgical tape is easy to cut, if you have no scissors to hand then you can tear a piece of tape from the roll. The creamy coloured tape is soft to the touch. When you are handling the length of tape you need to make sure that you don't fold it or you will be unable to stick it on your skin. The surgical tape is hypo-allergenic and on the box it states you can use the tape on adults and children.
The surgical tape is adhesive to a point but it will not withstand being damp or in water. If the tape gets wet then it will just peel off. The soft tape sticks to the skin and it moves as you flex. If you have a dressing on your hand then moving your fingers and joints does not dislodge the length of tape. When the tape is stuck to your skin the air can still penetrate the surgical tape.
In recent weeks I have had a lot of blood tests. The hospital always place a small dressing where the needle has punctured the skin and they stick it down with some surgical tape. I noticed that the tape that the hospital used was far more difficult to remove, in fact I really had to pull it to get it off. On a couple of occasions I put a clean dressing over the needle puncture and stuck it down with a length of Boots surgical tape which comes away far easier.
If the microporous tape comes adrift then it will not stick down again, you have to use another piece of tape. If you are going to do any work while you have a dressing held in place with tape then it is easier to pop a latex glove on.
I have dry skin but it is not sensitive and my skin has never been affected in any way after using the tape. The Boots surgical tape is fine and it definitely serves the purpose, if you are by any chance allergic to ordinary plasters then this tape may be a good one for you to try.