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    • Tomy Aquadraw Deluxe / Baby Toy / 67 Readings / 61 Ratings
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      23.06.2008 10:59
      Very helpful



      Great clean fun for all

      Aquadraw is the new revolution in allowing children to draw in the house with the minimum of mess and fuss. As most mothers know, this is practically impossible(crayon marks on the walls, paint stains, well everywhere). This mat and pens allow your child to draw to their heart's content and not make a mess in the process.

      My son was bought one of these last year for his birthday and has played with it until very recently. The deluxe version is square and has letters, numbers and pictures of objects/animals corresponding to the letters around the edges. It comes with 2 pens which you fill with water and allows your child to draw on the mat and see the drawings in blue appear on it. The mat is plastic backed and does not allow for the liquid to go through so no wet carpet or floor when used. The pencils also only open anti-clockwise to prevent opening by little hands (or big ones as I have got caught out on numerous occassions).

      It also comes with 2 stencils, which are plastic rectangles with cut out shapes. The red one has a flower, a car, a cat, a boat, a butterfly, a cloud, a sun and a duck. The yellow one concentrates on shapes and has a circle, a moon, a rectangle, a triangle, an oval, a star, a diamond and a heart shape. These allow your child to draw inside the line and make a pattern.

      The mat itself is the real gem. It has the white area in the middle to draw on but the sides have shapes and colourful drawings. On the first 3 sides, the drawing correspond to a picture of an object or animal from a to z (ie: aeroplane, banana and so on). The last side has numbers (in writting) with corresponding image (ie: one teddy bear, two carrots etc). Just below all the drawings, you have the drawing part and it has the letters below the image in big and small ( A and a) and the actual number on the numbers side (1,2 and so on) This area is great as your child can draw within the outline and learn to write the letter or number as well as having the drawing reference to associate it with.

      Although there is all this on the sides, the middle part is ample for free drawing and enables your little one's imagination to run wild and is also big enough to have 2 children drawing at one time (or a parent). I love this mat as it ticks all the boxes:

      it doesn't leave marks, it is educational, enables parent interaction and offers basic learning of letters and numbers whilst they play (did I mention that it doesn't leave marks lol).

      This is a great play thing where you can include play time with learning time. I have said previously that my son only had this until recently. Well as much as this is fun and easy to clean(supposedly) the mat has become stained and the pens have been pressed on too much so, although you can still use it, my son is not happy with the finish and has given up.

      The only downfall with these is that it is prone to stain (no matter how I washed it-following guidelines-ie warm soapy water) and the pens can wither away too soon but they can be bought on EBay for a reasonable price. I have, however started to use the old mat as a floor cover for play-doh and other messy activities (due to the plastic back) but only use it this way after it has had its time.

      His Nana has actually bought him a new one but the rainbow version which give you the choice in drawing(2 small pens), stamping(3 stamps-clouds,rain) and a sort of painting brush( which my son uses to go all over it and it takes ages to dry). Although this new version is much more colourful but not as educational.

      I have to say that the new one was a disappointment to me (although not my son) but it is all about having clean fun- isn't it?
      They have now got a variety of aquadraws out(thomas the tank, bob the builder, disney princess, teletubbies, winnie the pooh and the list goes on) but I would recommend the deluxe version to anyone who wants to include learning with play time. My rating of 3 stars is only due to the not so long lasting pens and mat.

      This version is available new on Amazon for £16.63 and varies in price from £14.99 (value land) to £19.99 (babyworld).

      My age recommendation for this would be from 18 months to 3 years but it is suitable as long as your child can hold a pen and until they get bored of it.

      Also published on other sites.


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        22.05.2008 09:41
        Very helpful




        Fisher Price is one of the most established toy company around and has been for quite a few years now (well I had some of their toys) and is synonymous with play learning. Their parent company is Mattel that we all know make the legendary Barbies. One of their must have toys last year was the Smart Cycle and of course, my mum and dad saw this and sent it of to Santa for my son to enjoy during the Christmas period. This cycle is advertised as being a bike, a gaming system and a learning centre in one.

        This was by far the biggest present in size that my son had received and I have to admit that it was left in its box until the holiday period was over and some of the smaller toys had been send to toy heaven (or in my case, the spare room). On opening the box, I found that the bike was actually even bigger than the box as it needed to be assembled. It came with a main frame in grey with a saddle, the steering wheel and the steering column. I managed to put it together within 30 minutes as I was taking my time to make sure that everything was in the right place. Everything that you need is provided including a spanner so no need to rush around to the neighbours to ask for a specific tool. I also have to say that everything was there (nothing is more annoying than toys with missing parts or too many for that matter) except for 4 D batteries which Santa kindly provided for us in the box. If I managed to do it in that time, it shows that it is fool proof as I am not the most diy minded person.


        Once put together, the bike is 65cm High x 70cm Long x 48cm (taken from fisher price website as have not measured it). It has a grey main frame with a green steering column and green handlebars with purple handles. The handlebars each have a red button on them at thumb level: the left one with a horn symbol above it and the right one with a camera symbol. There are also purple flat stabilisers at the front and back so it will stay put. The pedals are in red and the saddle is purple. The "dashboard" has a pretend speedometer, fuel gauge and rev counter. Just below, on the left, there is the red button to turn it on with a 0 and 1 position. In the centre, there is a round red joystick with directional arrows and below this there is 3 buttons: 1 green one with a scroll, 1 red one with an opened hand and a blue one with a book. They all have their functions but I will save this for later. The seat adjusts to the child's height in seconds with a plastic screw, which can easily be taken off (although slightly too hard for a child) and put back on.


        After putting it together, you will need to adjust the seat to your child's height and to make sure that they will have a comfortable ride. Next comes the TV connectivity. This is also foolproof. It has an extra long lead (I haven't measured it but it would go to the other end of most living rooms) so the bike is not too close to the TV (square eyes and all that) and connects to it with the yellow, white and red holes (sorry, not very technical minded either) which are colour matched by the plugs (child's play). Before switching it on, you will have to insert the cartridge provided in the slot at the side of the bike, which has a handy key ring attached to it, and make sure it is inserted properly. To turn on, simply switch on the red button to the 1 position and check which extension the picture appears on on your TV set.


        Once it is turned on and connected, you have the Fisher Price logo coming up, you are then faced with the main screen. This allows you to choose your vehicle (choice of a bus, a racing car and a quad bike) and customise it. To select one of these, just press one of the red buttons on the handlebar (good for right or left handed children). Just repeat the same for the choice of colour (yellow, purple, red, orange or blue) and the choice of 5 car decorations and horns. If you do not press in a certain amount of time, it will automatically choose one for your child. All this is done with instruction from the friendly talking bus.

        THE GAMES:

        Learning adventure is the main game. This is the first screen you come to when you have done the above selection. Once your child starts pedalling, the front of their car moves along on the screen. The faster the pedalling, the faster the car goes. You use the handlebar to steer towards some circular shapes and catch them. The first one you get will determine what you will have to get. You have a choice of letters of the alphabet, numbers and shapes. I have to say that my son will steer towards the first one that appears and it usually is the alphabet. Thereafter, you have your target catch on the top left hand side of the screen in sequence (eg: for letters, the first 3 ABC, then DEF and so on), until they have all been collected and a new set appears as your next target. This is currently my son's favourite section of the game as he is only 2 and a half and is still getting to grips with pedalling. Most of the time, we end up pedalling backwards and this still allows for the game to take its course (except that we cannot see the shapes ahead but collect them when we bump into them) and it has the added bonus that it beeps as it is going backwards, which really delights my son.

        Throughout the game, there are a number of off side ramps, which can be veered into for extra games.

        1. Alphabet Barn:

        This is the first stop in the learning section of the game. You arrive at a barn, which has 3 letters on the front (either lower case or upper case). Then a lorry arrives with some hay bales and a missing letter. The game will ask your child to pick the missing letter. When successful, there will be a "well done" and the letter will complete the word. Then the barn door will open to reveal the image of the complete word (usually an animal or farm object). This section is really good even for my son as he already recognises letter but this introduces him to lower and upper case and also shows him word formation. I think the image is also really good to associate the written word to the picture and sound.

        2. Letter Creek:

        This game is a bit more complicated but will be great when my son gets older. The main screen shows a river bank with a frog sat on the river. On the lower left hand corner, there is a word that will need to be spelled correctly. Bugs with letters attached to them fly across the screen and you have to use the joystick and the handlebar controller to direct the frog towards them and flick out its tongue to catch the correct letter. If you get it right, you score a point and move on to the next level, if you lose, you lose a frog's live (you have 5 of these). The score will appear on the lower right hand corner. Each level has harder words and the bugs fly faster. I have tried this one with my son and I find that he enjoys moving the frog around and flicking its tongue but we have not yet concentrated on the letters themselves.

        3. The Big Race:

        This game is were the exercising side of the bike really comes into play. My son has seldom played this as he is still trying to get the hang of the pedals but my nephew (aged 4 ½ years) is always on it every time he comes around. The first screen is the starting line of a racing track with black and white lines, a road ahead and stands full of people on each side. You can choose whether to have 1 or 2 players with the handlebar control. In the 1 player mode, you have to pedal as fast as you can down the road against 2 other computer-controlled vehicles. You win if you come first but there are no disappointed sounds if you finish last, only a well done and your time. This is really good as it doesn't discourage the child who will then go on and play again. The 2 player option is a single race with no other cars but each child has to take it in turns to race and try to beat each others time. The one with the fastest time wins. This option was used by my nephew to compete against himself and he really enjoyed it.

        4. Shape Lake:

        For this section of the game, you are underwater at the bottom of the sea with seashells. There is a nozzle that you use to point and it contains a shape. There are shapes, which come down from the top in bubbles and you have to point the nozzle (using the joystick) and shoot at the matching shape to burst the bubble and score a point. If it is wrong, the bubble floats back to the top. You have to try to pop all the bubbles before they reach the bottom. There is also a blowfish , which sometimes appear, and you can use it to blow any bubble even if it isn't matching (only realised this recently but my son does not understand why you do not have to match it so we ignore it). There are several levels and each has the bubbles going faster. I have not counted them as I have not yet got to the end of a full game. This is a great game to enhance hand eye coordination and teach children the different shapes. My son loves it as it is easier than Letter Creek and he can actually do this one.

        5. Math Mountain:

        This one is great for recognising numbers and seeing a representation of them in characters. You have a screen full of clouds and you move the joystick over to reveal a number. You then hear a number and can see and hear it being counted out. An example of this would be you see the number 3 and you will see three owls being counted individually. I have been using this quite often as my son can count to 15 but is still in the process of recognising the number. Although I always try to point him towards this one, my son only does it for a short period of time as it doesn't really involve him but any time spent on this is time well spent.

        6. Number Fields:

        I have to admit that besides the actual game play of collecting items, this is my son's favourite game. You have a tractor in a field, which is controlled by the joystick and you have to collect pumpkins with numbers inside them whilst avoiding obstacles such as fences. The numbers collected then add up in the bottom right hand corner and you have to collect as many as you can in the time allocated. This is quite fast paced and gets the adrenaline going as my son has realised that the timer on the bottom left hand corner (a long bar with yellow wedges counting down) goes down and the game ends when there are no more bars. Each level has the pumpkins disappearing faster and more obstacles to avoid. My son really goes for it on this game as he controls the tractor and the joystick takes a bashing when the timer nearly runs out and it is always a source of laughter and excitement.

        These are all the activities accessible from the main road game but there is a bonus activity available on completion of all the others. I will mention as it appears in the handbook as I have not yet reached this stage and I have not personally seen it in action. The ant parade sees ants marching in summer outfits displaying letters, numbers and shapes. This seems pretty boring but cannot comment as there may be more to it than that.

        All the games can be terminated by pressing the red button with a hand motif and you can then return to the main game. It will, however, always ask whether that is what you want to do so as to avoid a mistake.

        Throughout the game, you are able to take pictures of the road and surroundings by pressing the right hand handlebar control. These can be accessed in the travel journal by pressing the blue button with a book motif. There you will see which picture has been taken and it will allow you to select them to put on your own picture on the screen. I have found that this feature is quite redundant at the moment as my son seems to either take pictures by mistake or takes pictures of everything.

        The last button is the green one with a scroll on it. When pressed, it will take you to the map. From this, you can access all the games without having to pedal through the main game simply by moving the joystick and selecting an activity.

        This is a great educational and exercising tool, which introduces children to letters, numbers, shapes, computers as well as exercising. I am not one to condone spending time in front of the TV as I like my son to be outside and to draw or flick through a book as much as possible but this is a great alternative to TV on a rainy day or later on in the afternoon. The age range for this bike is 3 to 6 years old and I have found this to be about right although the seat adjustment may be too small for a 6 years old child. However, I am glad that my son had this slightly earlier as it will grow with him and he will start to appreciate some of the harder games as he grows up so it was a wise investment (especially as I did not buy it). It is also easy to clean as it is mostly plastic and can be wiped over with a damp cloth or a diluted solution of anti-bacterial liquid but bleach is not advised.

        There are also more cartridges available to buy to fit this bike with different activities. There is Dora the explorer, Sponge Bob square pants, Thomas the tank engine, Hotwheels, Go Diego Go, Dinosaurs, Elmo and Barbie Fairytopia. These range in price from £14.99 to £24.99 and I have so far only seen them on Ebay and mainly from the USA. I have not yet bought another cartridge for it but may consider it in the future as it can only enhance the bike.

        SAFETY TIPS:

        Always seat on the seat
        Always wear shoes (this is a must although hard sole slippers will do the trick from my own experience)
        Only one rider

        More information on this product is available on www.fisherprice.co.uk

        Prices for the Smart Cycle vary from £85.00 on Ebay and £89.99 on Amazon. I am unsure of how much mine cost as it was a present but I would buy this for my son even at this price but I probably would not buy it for a 5 years old as it would not last as long and they would not benefit from it as much.

        Will also probably be posted on other review sites.


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          05.05.2008 15:18
          Very helpful



          A great DVD for fans of the series.

          Roary the racing car has been a permanent fixture in my household for some time now. My son was introduced to him through his cousin who was already a big fan. So, we had to start watching Nick JR and Milkshake on 5 in the mornings to catch every episode. After a couple of months of being asked when Roary was on, my husband and I decided to get the DVD for our little boy as it would avoid the countless disappointing look if we ever missed it.

          If you are not familiar with Roary's antics, here is a little catch-up.

          Roary is a little red racing car living and racing at Silverhatch racecourse. His friends and competitors at the racetrack are:
          Maxi: a yellow racing car with an Italian accent (he is also Roary's main rival)
          Cici: a friendly pink French solar powered car
          Drifter: A yellow street racing car with neon undercarriage
          Tin Top: the American blue car who is more of a stunt car and hardly ever goes around the track without crashing.
          The other 2 vehicles in the show are Plugger, a Jamaican tow vehicle who is relaxed and helps tow the car back to be fixed and FB, Farmer Green's farm help who wishes he could race like the others.

          The human side of things are handled by Big Chris (voiced by Peter Kay-yes that is right- Peter Kay!!!) the karaoke singing, doughnut eating mechanic, Marsha (voiced by Maria Darling) the Marshall (obviously), Mr Carburettor the owner and farmer Green who recycles his crops and produces fuel for the race cars (plausible? maybe in the future). There is also Ellie, Mr Carburettor's private helicopter, Molecom, the helpful if somewhat short sighted mole, Flash the rabbit with a racing skateboard who races against the cars at the first opportunity (and also Mr Carburettor's arch enemy) and Dinky the donkey.

          Going back to the DVD. This is Roary the racing first DVD and is called "Roary's first Day". The front cover has Roary the racing car at the top, Roary himself with Big Chris behind him and Maxi just slightly further behind with Roary's first day underneath (also mentioning featuring Peter Kay as Big Chris).

          There are 5 episodes on this DVD and I will only give a highlight to them (don't want to spoil your watching pleasure).

          Roary's first day:

          Roary is slightly shaken up after having a bad dream about the forthcoming big race so big Chris tells him the story of a little red racing car when he arrived at the racecourse and overcame his initial fears. Of course, it is the story of Roary's first day at Silverhatch

          Big Chris flags it up:

          Big Chris has to take over as Marshall due to Marsha's illness but has to wash them after he uses them to clean up a spill. He then goes on to use some of his personal items of clothing and undergarments to signal to the cars on the track. This episode is one of my son's favourite as it is humourous and the waving of undergarment always raises a smile.

          Flash flips out:

          Flash the rabbit is fed up with all the noise from the track and decides to stop the noise for the day but will Big Chris and Marsha realise what is about to happen before chaos ensues

          Rusty remembers:

          Rusty is the caravan Big Chris lives in and reminisces on what it used to be like in his younger days as a touring caravan until he is reminded by Roary of how useful and indispensable he is now. My son also enjoys this one very much as he is starting to realise that the caravan is sad but soon becomes cheerful again.

          Blue light job:

          Drifter has an electric meltdown and Big Chris tries to fix him without his manual but to no avail. . Where is his manual?--Well I know! Suffice to say that it isn't in an obvious place.

          DVD EXTRAS

          The bonus feature on this DVD is a Meet the characters. All of them are present and you can view their stats, catchphrases and favourite things to do. Once you have viewed this, you can go to the next screen and test you knowledge by picking the right answer out of the 3 given to you. After you have completed the questions, you get a short clip of character in question. I have to admit that this feature is seldom used as the facts and questions have to be read (there is no voice over) so my son finds it a bit boring but may appeal to older children who may want you to read these to them and answer them so may be good for interaction.


          Subtitles are provided and can be turned on by the subtitle feature on the starting screen.

          This DVD delights my son and we also find it entertaining to watch (if a bit bizarre with Peter Kay's voice) as it is funny in parts and it can show human traits in the cars themselves. My main discontent is that there are only 5 episodes and the extras are redundant for my little boy so it has become repetitive as they are being over watched and we are back to square one of looking for Roary episodes on the TV although our little boy still enjoys them but we have to for our own sanity. The price is probably too much for the number of episodes but it will keep any Roary fan happy for a long time to come.

          I bought this quite a while back now and think I paid £8.98 from Woolworths on special offer. Prices now start from £4.50 on Amazon, around £10 on buy it now on Ebay, £10.93 from Asda and £9.97 in Woolworths
          Running time: approx 50 min
          Format: DVD5

          Voice over:
          Peter Kay
          Sir Stirling Moss
          Maria Darling
          Marc Silk
          Dominic Frisby
          Tim Whitnall
          Writers: Wayne Jackman (Balamory, Fifi and the Flowertot, Me too)
          Director: Tim Harper


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            21.04.2008 18:22
            Very helpful




            Since Mr Tickle our house has become a haven for the Mr Men and Little Miss storybooks (as well as DVD but that is for another review). They are great fun to read and are always a hit at bedtime (for both my son who enjoys them and me because they are short and offer interaction).

            Little Miss Helpful is number 8 in the little Miss collection. She is a smiley purple Little Miss with yellow hair tied in a bun and a matching nose. She also wears a pair of slightly high-heeled white and green shoes. As her name suggests, she likes to be helpful and will help anyone. The only problem is that she often hinders rather than helps.

            She helps Mr tall tie his shoe lace but ties it together. He then falls down and hurts himself so she brings him a plaster and puts it over his mouth. She then pulls it off and we all know how that hurts (OUCH). Little Miss Helpful is that kind of person: always wanting to help and not always succeeding. What will Mr Happy do when she offers to help when he is bed bound with measles and she turns up to help look after him? Well needless to say that he has to be called Mr Happy to survive the whole experience and that his convalescing will not be without a hiccup, or two, or three, or.......... I will have to let you read it to find out.

            This book is part of the Mr Men series written by Roger Hargreaves and was created in 1981. My son loves these stories as they are easy to read, short and expose some human characteristics. This one is a particular favourite as it exposes a lot of mishaps and allows for great interaction on the full page pictures. These are easy to read and understand and have great stories that will keep you captivated (well for a short while anyway).

            ISBN: 0-7498-5232-1

            Published by Egmont Books Ltd


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            • Peppa Pig Vol 4 (DVD) / DVD / 34 Readings / 32 Ratings
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              18.04.2008 20:07
              Very helpful




              This is another DVD which is currently being well used in my household. This is the stories of Peppa pig and her family: namely Mummy pig, Daddy pig and little brother George. This is quite a deviation from the cars and other engine driven children's programs that I usually have to watch but my son loves it.
              The stories are only about 5 minutes each and are quite cute and friendly usually ending up with the whole family and other friends laughing out loud.

              The DVD is titled "Piggy in the middle" and has Peppa. George and Mummy pig holding a ball on the cover. It also illustrates at the top that this series has won the best pre-school animation in 2005 and tells you about the extras and that it includes 10 episodes and where the series is shown(namely five and Nick jr).

              The back cover has a quick recap and gives you the titles as well as repeating the 2 extras. It also has a small area where it shows some of the toys available and other titles in the series.
              Back to the DVD. As previously mentioned, it has ten stories or titles:

              1: PIGGY IN THE MIDDLE:

              This stories shows Peppa trying to show George how to catch a ball but Mummy pig comes and shows them the game of Piggy in the middle. Soon Daddy pig joins in and all is fine.

              2: FANCY DRESS PARTY:

              It is Peppa's birthday and everyone comes dressed up. Even George is dressed up as a dinosaur(his favourite) which he finds scary for a second. Then Peppa has to judge the best costume.

              3: VERY HOT DAY:

              Peppa and George want to jump in muddy puddles but they are dry so out comes the paddling pool and Ms Rabbit with ice cream to make a perfect day.

              4: MISTER SKINNY LEGS:

              Peppa and George are having a tea party in a doll's house until George befriends a spider . Peppa is scared until Daddy pig is the one who is scared.

              5: LUNCH:

              Peppa and her family go to lunch at Granny pig's house but George will not eat his freshly grown vegetables until they are made in the shape of dinosaur.

              6: SLEEPY PRINCESS:

              It is Peppa and George's bed time but Peppa isn't sleepy so Daddy pig tells them the story of the sleepy princess.

              7: THE TREE HOUSE:

              Granny and grandad pig have built a tree house for Peppa and George. Soon Mummy and Daddy pig want to go in but only with the help of the secret word.

              8: DADDY GETS FIT:

              Mummy pig is doing exercise in front of the TV when Daddy pig comes in thankful that he is fit enough until Peppa asks him to touch his toes. Daddy pig can't so he borrows Peppa's bike to go for a ride and realises that he will have to do exercises everyday to get fit.

              9: SHOPPING:

              All the family is shopping and following a shopping list. Peppa helps to get the items until a chocolate cake appears. Who put it in the trolley?

              10: CHLOE'S PUPPET SHOW:

              The family is visiting Uncle pig, auntie pig and cousin Chloe. Chloe has a new puppet theater and with Peppa and George, they have a puppet show after lunch which shows that Daddy pig and his brother are rather alike.

              This DVD is quite entertaining as I had not seen a couple of the episodes on it (this has now changed). The stories have a certain message in them without being too strong and always ends with a laugh which I am sure we could all do with. The messages can be from trying to get fit to eating your vegetables but it also has moments which parents will relate to (Daddy pig telling about his brother's snoring and the children repeating it- a lesson to us all).

              This is quite enjoyable to watch, even as an adult and children up to the ages of probably 7 will enjoy it (my niece loves it and she is 5).
              The only reproach I have is that the merchandise is aimed at little girls and the only thing my son can have of Peppa pig is a DVD as mostly everything else is pink based(although could probably buy the more expensive toys!!!!) and most of the boys in my son's playgroup know who Peppa pig is and actually watch it.

              The DVD also has some interactive extras:

              A learn to count with Peppa which is Peppa counting to 10 with differrent objects and giving a gap time for your child to repeat the number and object.

              A car game which asks the child to press the right coloured button to close the roof of the new car as it is raining.
              Both of these are quite redundant as my son can already count to 10, knows his colours and I found the right button to press on the first go for the car puzzle.

              These probably offer the opportunity to interact with your child for a very short period of time but they are very short and the interaction you would get with watching and commenting on the stories themselves would be even better.

              The DVD runs for about 51 minutes and is U rated.
              Peppa pig is created by Mark Baker and Neville Astley.

              Peppa pig's website is: www.peppapig.com(shows you clips, can colour characters and shop for Peppa pig's stuff)

              I bought this DVD from Woolworths for £4.97 and it is available from prices ranging from £4.97 to £9.97(would recommend Woolworths as amazon offers it for £5.47 not eligible for free delivery unless buying more than one item).

              This is a lovely DVD which I thought I would not get to watch with a small boy but it goes beyond boys and girls sections and is great fun. Would love to see more unisex clothes and accessories(only my opinion).

              GREAT FUN, WATCHABLE AND NOT TOO LONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

              Thank you for reading.

              Also published on Ciao.


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                25.03.2008 10:39
                Very helpful



                A great buy and a great album.

                I was introduced to Amy Winehouse in late 2003 when my sister bought me a CD from her. I had never really heard of her until then but listened to it anyway. Being my sister, she knew what I would like, right. Well, yes she was! I instantly loved the "Frank" album. It was a jazzy experience reminiscent of the late 50's early 60's. Little did I know that this relatively unknown album would win a Mercury prize and an IVOR (British academy of composers and song writers) for the song "stronger than me".
                This all was before she was famous (well infamous nowadays), and it paved the way for her recent rise to fame.
                Amy was born in Southgate in a jewish family in1983. She really began her music at the age of 13 with a rap group with her best friend at the time. Her on off boyfriend, Tyler James sent a demo to a record company and her being snapped up by Island/Universal. She released her album "Frank" in October 2003 (of which she co-wrote all the songs except for 2 covers) in 2003. Amy was not totally happy with the album but it got her a lot of attention.

                A few years later, she met and collaborated with Mark Ronson (also with Lilly Allen and Best male solo artist at this year's Brit awards) to produce her next album "BACK TO BLACK" (released October 2006).
                I didn't actually buy this album outright as I was still happy with the last album and I have to admit that since having a little one, CDs are no longer a priority. I bought the album in March 2007 as I liked the 2nd single from the album which was released in January of that year " You know I am no good" and previously liked the song "Rehab" released with the album. I have to say that I instantly liked the album and it is played on a regular basis. It is also a bonus that my husband also likes it as it is quite hard to find a musical common ground and it is often a compromise for one of us.

                By the time I bought the album, it already had won acclaim in the business with the single Rehab winning an IVOR for best contemporary song and the album going platinum a few times over.
                The album itself has a mixture of slow and faster paced songs and you can really feel the influence of the 50's/60's the tempos are reminiscent of jazz, soul and some reggae. It has 11 tracks in total (on the UK version) and Amy has co-written some of the tracks as well as providing the guitar on others.

                THE TRACKS:

                1.REHAB: 3.35
                This is probably the most famous of her singles released and has provided many of the puns on the headline grabbing tabloids. It has a jazzy feel and has a good tempo. The lyrics explain that she has been asked to go to rehab by her record company and father but refused as she can go through it alone. This song is easily remembered and even my 2 year old son will chorus "no, no, no" at the appropriate time.

                2.YOU KNOW THAT I AM NO GOOD: 4.17
                This is the second single from this album released in Jan 2007. It has an R&B feel to it and was actually remixed with "Ghostface Killah" although this is not on this album (but is on the American version). It is self-explanatory and tells of infidelity in a relationship where she is the culprit. The beat is still jazzy and reminds me of a smoke filled room in an American jazz bar where she would be on stage singing.

                3.ME & MR JONES: 2.33
                This has under tones of "Me and Mrs Jones" and has a lot of background singing and is very jazzy (another one which reminds me of a jazz bar). This is also about a flawed relationship with infidelity but which still carried on. One of the shortest tracks on the album.

                4.JUST FRIENDS: 3.13
                This is one of the tracks less listened to on the album by us although it a good song in its own right, it fades into the background compared to the others. It tells of a story of love, lust and drinking which interferes with a friendship which turns to more when drink is involved.

                5.BACK TO BLACK: 4.01
                This is one that has been written with Amy and Mark Ronson and you can feel his soul influence on the track. It was released as a single in April 2007 and is still being played on many radio stations to this day. It is also the album title(obviously). This song is about a love lost and the feeling of being used and left to return to someone else. It is a great soulful track with an undertone of jazz and although it could be a terribly depressing track, it is lifted by the tempo.

                6.LOVE IS A LOSING GAME: 2.35
                This is the second shortest track on the album and the slowest in tempo. It has acoustic tone (although it isn't) and is quite a depressing song but is also mellow. It is self-explanatory and tells of love being a losing hand (comparing love to gambling) and has a jazz background. (Released Dec 2007)

                7.TEARS DRY ON THEIR OWN: 3.06
                This is a slow paced song and although the lyrics are still about love which shouldn't be, it is quite uplifting. I always thought that I recognised the song but couldn't put my finger on it until a friend of mine said that the background track was Marvin Gaye "Ain't no mountain high enough". I love this track for its soulfulness and easy going pace. (Released in Aug 2007-also co-written by Amy)

                8. WAKE UP ALONE: 3.42
                Another soulful track about loss of love and having to keep going but it catches up with you when alone. This also has a backing track from the Chicago song "Colour my world". The lyrics are deep and meaningful and her voice adds to the sorrow felt in this track. She also co-wrote this track.

                9.SOME UNHOLY WAR: 2.22
                This track focuses on being behind your love and standing by them through thick and thin. This is an appropriate track for her at the moment in her personal life but this track is not one that I listen to over and over again. It also fades in the background when the album is being played.

                10.HE CAN ONLY HOLD HER: 2.46
                This track has some reggae undertones and also jazz roots. It is slightly uplifting although, yet again, the lyrics describe the love, which is not reciprocated but the relationship goes on. It is a nice song which is easy to listen to.

                11.ADDICTED: 2.45
                This is a very upbeat song with drums and jazz feel. It goes on about how "Weed" is more important than someone else's boyfriend who will not be allowed in unless they bring their own. It implies that it is more important than men as more reliable so will not share. Considering the subject matter, it is an easy to listen upbeat song which brings a smile to my face.

                This album is great and I really enjoy most of the songs on it. It has a few swear words on it and mention of drugs but it is not constant.
                This album has been in and out of the chart all through 2007 and has sold over 8 million copies worldwide. It has also won an array of awards(most recently 5 Grammys-most ever won by a british female). It was most recently re-released as a deluxe edition with B-side(Cupid, Monkey man) tracks and her interpretation of "Valerie" in Nov 2007

                Amy herself has been in the news over and over again to her personal behaviour and problems but I do not think that this has hurt the sale of her songs. Some people may argue that she is a bad role model but this is due to people putting celebrities on a pedestal and the media chasing stories to sell their papers.
                Her influence has already been great. She is setting trends in fashion(Beehive hairdo and short skirt) and music and has paved the way for new artists such as Adele.

                Love her or hate her, she is here to stay. There is talk of collaborations with Prince and Damian Marley and future collaboration with Mark Ronson so if she can keep to her music, she will not GO, GO,GO!!!
                Back to black can be purchased from most Cd shops. Amazon has it for £6.98 (£8.98 for the deluxe edition), can be found on Ebay for £5.99 on buy it now (£9.99 for the deluxe) and £6.99 in HMV (£8.99 for the deluxe) so excellent value.

                Thank you for reading!

                Also on Ciao!


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                  14.03.2008 21:34
                  Very helpful




                  Mr Tickle is the first and original Mr Men, which appeared in 1971. He was to be the first in a long line of short stories produced by Roger Hargreaves and later, on his son Adam. His appeal has not faded throughout the years and he is still a favourite. My son was drawn to this book and it started the Mr Men and Little Miss frenzy now happening in our house.

                  Mr Tickle is a small round orange being with extraordinarily long arms that stretch and stretch and are very handy for tickling. He appears on the cover of this book with a very wide smile and lifting his little blue hat as if to say hello.

                  The story starts with Mr Tickle asleep in his house on the other side of the woods. He woke up after laughing out loud in his sleep and felt hungry. He decides to stretch his extraordinary long arms to reach into the downstairs kitchen and took a biscuit to bring back up to bed with him. Now he is looking forward to the day ahead and decides that it is a good day for tickling. So he sets off looking for anybody to tickle.
                  He proceeds to cause havoc through the town.
                  He tickles a teacher and send a wave of laughter through the classroom without the teacher knowing what has happened, he tickles the policeman, the doctor as well as the railway station guard (amongst others) and in turn causes the train to be late and leaving the passenger furious. Each tickle has its consequence but Mr Tickle is happy to be doing what he likes to do and no one is spared,
                  Mr Tickle then goes home and laughs every time he thinks of the day's tickles but if you are ticklish beware of those long arms as they may be right behind you ,maybe even now, and you could be well and truly tickled...!

                  The appeal of this book is that it appeals to children as it has visual stimulation with the pictures on the right hand side and this particular book promotes interaction as it asks question (eg: Do you know what he did and the like). It is also quite short and an easy read. In short it is the format of a great book to introduce children to reading and interacting with a parent.

                  This is always a winner in our house as we mimick MR Tickle's antics with real tickles. My son really enjoys it and considering it was his first Mr Men book, it is the most read in our house.

                  This book is number 1 in the series. Subsequent titles are shown on the back cover and depending when your book was printed, it will show you what was available at the time. There is currently 46 Mr Men Titles and current issues are priced £2.50 but can be found on offer. Currently in Morrissons for 2 for £2 and I find mine in charity shop for around 0.50p each or on car boots for various prices.

                  There is also Mr Men merchandise available. I have recently bought Mr Men underwear in Asda for my son for around £4.50 for 6 and there are t-shirts available in Marks and Spencers 2 for £10.00 (although Mr Tickle t-shirt is not guaranteed- have been trying to get hold of one for 6 months now).

                  For more information, visit www.mrmen.com (will show you the current offer on book storage and other info)

                  ISBN: 0-7498-5182-1


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                    13.03.2008 11:37
                    Very helpful



                    ANOTHER LOVELY MR MEN BOOK

                    Mr Birthday is a new addition to the Roger Hargreaves family of Mr Men. He is not part of the original series and only appears in the "added sparkle" series to commemorate 35 years of Mr Men (1971-2006). The book is still written by Adam Hargreaves as well as illustrated by him.

                    As well as the title, the front cover shows Mr birthday with a cake in one hand and a balloon in the other. He is surrounded by balloons, which have sparkly glitter in them. The back cover shows other books in the same collection (this edition shows 10 but other titles show 14). The back cover also has Mr birthday and Little Miss birthday standing on the 35th Anniversary banner. It also has a To and From with doted lined on the inside cover over the writing to fill in if this was to be a gift.

                    Mr birthday is a blue and square with a red round nose and always has his party hat on. He loves birthdays and always organises everyone's birthday parties. He makes sure that they are the best parties by ensuring that it fits the person (eg: no balloon for Mr Jelly in case they pop and 2 cakes for Mr Greedy's party-one for the guests and one for him). So Mr Birthday is quite perplexed when he hears of the extra special birthday the week after. Everyone seems to know about it but him. Whose birthday could it be? Even Mr forgetful tries to remember to attend the party. Mr birthday will have to wait until Tuesday at 3 o'clock to find out. I will leave it here so as not to spoil the surprise if you haven't already guessed.

                    This book shows quite a few of the original Mr Men such as Mr Happy, Mr Greedy, Mr Bump and Mr Jelly to name a few. It combines the birthday element, which my son seems to love at the moment as well as a few of his favourites (a bit like guests stars). It is easy to read and has the usual format (writing on the left and pictures on the right) to stimulate involvement as well as being short enough to be enjoyed by both child and parent.

                    It is easy to hold and I have seen my son sitting down and going through the pages and narrating the story (in his own words). It seems that the Mr Men stories have stood the test of time and a younger generation can enjoy the old as well as the new stories.

                    I think that this is a nice addition worthy of the 35th year of the Mr Men stories and one that I am sure I will be reading over and over again in the future. Another winner in my books.

                    ISBN : 1-4052-2334-0

                    First published in Great Britain by Egmont UK Ltd

                    Written and illustrated by Adam Hargreaves

                    Also published on Ciao.


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                      07.03.2008 20:00
                      Very helpful



                      A GREAT BOOK FOR MR TICKLE FANS

                      Mr Men books have been around since 1971 when Roger Hargreaves published the first of the series: Mr Tickle. The Little Miss series subsequently appeared in 1981 and both series of books have been growing ever since. They have been so popular that his son Adam continued his work beyond his death in 1988 and the rights to the books were sold in 2004 for a staggering £28 million. The new owners have since published new and revamped stories for the modern market although they are still written and illustrated by Adam Hargreaves.

                      This Mr Tickle story belongs to the Mr Men and Little Miss books with added sparkle collection. Mr Tickle, as mentioned was the original and first Mr Men and we now find him in a new adventure.

                      The book itself has the title and Roger Hargreaves underneath. Mr Tickle is on the front looking rather scared with a fire covered in red glitter above his head. The back of the book shows the stories available in the added sparkle series (12 in total: 6 Mr Men and 6 Little Miss although more recent ones show 14)

                      Mr Tickle (for those who do not know) is round and orange and has a blue hat and has extraordinarily long arms perfect for tickling anyone and everyone from a distance.

                      In this story, we find Mr Tickle happy after a good day's tickling when he returns home to find that his home has been burnt to a crisp. He soon notices that there is a trail of smoke and decides to follow it to find out what caused all this damage. This trail leads him to the culprit: a Dragon. After a bit of tickling, the dragon teams up with Mr Tickle to put his fire breathing to good use and help around the neighbourhood.

                      This book is one of my son's favourites as he loves the original Mr Tickle and loves dragons so this was a must buy and it is read regularly as a bedtime story. It has the usual format of writing on the left hand side and picture on the right allowing for interaction as the picture can be described and allows my son to comment. It feels slightly longer than a normal Mr Men's story but is still quite short (just over 5 minutes) so makes a great read at bedtime or during the day you only have minimal time to spare. I would have no problems recommending this as it is fun, portable and concise.

                      This is a must have for Mr Men fans and the new collection is still as appealing as the original. This series does not contribute to the spelling of My MR Men library which is seen when the full collection is put together in order.

                      I purchased this book in Asda for £1.97(although the RRP at the back is £2.50) and it can be found on Amazon.co.uk from 0.01 used to £2.25 new and I am sure that it can be found on Ebay and other bookstores.

                      This Edition was written and illustrated by Adam Hargreaves and first published in 2005 (reprinted 2006) by Egmont UK LTD
                      ISBN: 978 1 4052 1733 0

                      More information at: www.mrmen.com

                      Also published on Ciao.


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                        29.02.2008 22:33
                        Very helpful




                        I try to read to my son as much as I can and we have a lot of different books ranging from Disney's classics to little red tractor going through Mr Men. "Dear zoo" was given to me by my health visitor in a bookstart pack for my son at his 2 years check-up.

                        It is what I would call a book with cardboard pages and the cover has the body of a lion in a red transit crate with a tag stating "from the zoo" on it. It also has the title above the picture as well as the author, namely Rod Campbell underneath it. The back cover shows 6 animals in a crate with their heads sticking out. It also gives you a book summary and the publication details on the left hand bottom corner. It also has the bookstart logo (Big bear reading to little bear) in the centre between the publication info and the isdn number.

                        The book itself is very sturdy with quite thick cardboard pages and each one has writing on the left hand side and a lift up flap in a crate shape (may it be small wide, tall or circular) with writing underneath on the right hand side. The story focuses on the idea that the zoo has sent a little boy/or girl a pet after receiving their letter and each pet is sent in a crate with a tag explaining whether it is heavy or dangerous and so on . After lifting the flap, we find out what the pet is and why the little person is not happy with it and subsequently why they sent it back. Each page shows you another animal which was sent and which has to be discovered until the perfect pet is finally dispatched and kept.

                        I have to admit that this book has delighted my son and he will happily look at this book by himself or with me. This is a bedtime favourite as it has the reading part from me and he contributes by lifting the flaps and revealing the hidden animal. Although we have now had this for a few months, it is read on a regular basis. My son even repeats why the animals are not suitable so it leaves me with only having to read the first page.

                        This book is delightful and is one of the rare cardboard books that have lived to be read past the 2 year old stage. It is great as it is interactive and not too long so suitable for bedtime reading (or any other time where a long book would not be convenient). It also offers visual as well as hand eye coordination and I think it could be used for children as young as 6-8months old to introduce them to animals and colours and let's not forget reading. It will also carry on being used by toddlers and could also be used to entice reading as the words are big and repetitive enough.

                        This is a great book for all ages and although it was given to me for a 2 year old, it could be used before this age and beyond. For me, It is one of the top children's books along with Hungry Caterpillar.


                        £4.99 RRP

                        Can be found for £0.01 on amazon
                        £0.99 start prices on Ebay

                        Also published on Ciao


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                          15.02.2008 21:48
                          Very helpful



                          GREAT SERIES OF BOOKS ALL AROUND

                          Mr Men books have been around since 1971 when Roger Hargreaves published the first of the series: Mr Tickle. The Little Miss series subsequently appeared in 1981 and both series of books have been growing ever since. They have been so popular that his son Adam continued his work beyond his death in 1988 and the rights to the books were sold in 2004 for a staggering £28 million.

                          Mr Greedy is the second outing of the original series of Mr Men. Mr Greedy lives in aptly named Fatland in a roly poly house and he is a pink happy chap with a rather large tummy. He lives for food and dreams of it and lives for it.

                          We see Mr Greedy eating a huge breakfast as he woke up hungry after dreaming of food and this leave him wandering what he can have for lunch so he decides to take a walk in order to work up an appetite.

                          However, this walk would change his life as he stumbles accross a giant's den with gigantic food being on display(colossalpeas as big as cabbages) and smells to go with it and being Mr Greedy he has to investigate and, off course, eat.

                          I do not want to give the ending away but needless to say that Mr Greedy learned a lesson he isn't likely to forgetand that a stomachache is around the corner.

                          This one is one of my son's favourites as it has a giant(voiced by me) and is quite colourful. As with all Mr Men and Little Miss books, the contents are quite inoffensive although they sometimes have some underlying moral.

                          These books are great for bedtime reading as they are not too long(Mr Greedy is only 19 pages long) and not too short so that your little one does not feel robbed. They are also great as they have the writting on one page and the pictures are on the opposite side so it gives your child chance to see them and even comment so actually allows for interaction.

                          I have read a recent review by Sewbizzie on the Mr Men books and I agree with her that the writing is too small for children to read and follow. My son is only 2 so I do not have this problem yet.

                          There are currently 46 books to be collected in the Mr Men series and there is also new ones appearing all the time such as the glitter collection. The actual books contain a back page which has details of what you can buy by post and other special offers but it depends on how old the books you buy are. The back page shows all the Mr Men books available at the time of the book being published(with pictures)

                          I have been buying mine from Morrissons who currently have a special deal to buy 2 for £3 or £1.99 each. This is a good deal but my local Morrissons only has a selected few of the series and does not change them very regularly. I have topped up the collection with car boot spotting and charity shops which always seem to have them in.

                          I recommend these as they are great to introduce children to reading and are also parent friendly.


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                            08.02.2008 21:17
                            Very helpful



                            I LOVE IT AND WOULD RECOMMEND

                            I have been drinking sparkling water for quite a long time now as I find a lot of the juices or sparkling drinks too sugary and water a bit too bland. I am the person that you see in the supermarket filling her trolley up with umpteenth 2 litres bottles of sparkling water and then struggling to push it.
                            Well I was. One day, I was loading up as usual when a lady told me that she used to do this but she now had a sodastream and made her own sparkling water at home. I smiled and agreed that it would be a good idea whilst still filling my trolley up. I put this comment at the back of my mind but it kept on resurfacing every time I went shopping so I came home one day and after filling my bottom cupboard with another load of bottles went on Ebay to look for a sodastream machine.

                            Now my only knowledge of a sodastream machine is a vague memory of one bulky cream and brown sparkler at the end of my Auntie and uncle's house bar. Surprisingly, there was not a lot of choice and many were second hand. This doesn't bother me but I found that it could be hard to find refills.
                            I decided to go on their website(www.sodastream.co.uk) and there it was.... The sodastream Penguin. I know that this heading is for another sodastream machine but I had to talk about this. The home page shows you this machine which looks like a penguin with 2 carafes and a glass of sparkling water next to it. It also shows a link to see the video of it in action. So I clicked. The video is a guide of how to use the machine and how simple it is too use as well as glorified shots of the machine itself.

                            I went to look for the prices on google and the only ones available were amazon at £99.00 and sodastream at the same price. However, the sodastream website currently has the price down to £59.98 for the said pack. I decided to buy it and ordered there and then.
                            I received the pack 3 days later and opened it hastily. The machine itself is black and silver(slightly glossy) and it comes with 2 glass carafes(1 litre each), 2 stoppers, a alco 2 jet gas cylinder(60 litres capacity). All of this is surprisingly easy to assemble. You have to open the back of the penguin(just press on it's eyes) and screw in the cylinder jet by tilting it and gently screwing it in(can only go one way and there was no nasty bang or other noises as I expected so doing it at arm's length). Once this is screwed in, you replace the back you can concentrate on the front. It arrives in shut position. You have a slide lock which can be in a locked or unlocked position(the positions are shown by a raised and visible padlock sign in locked and unlocked position). Once the lock is in unlocked position, the top slide open and the bottom half tilts towards you ready to accommodate the glass carafe(still makes me jump although I expect it).

                            To make the water, follow the step above to open the penguin, fill the carafe to the recommended line and put it in the bottom half. Then, you gently push the bottom half back up, gently slide the top back on and slide it back in the locked position. Now, you have to press down on the penguin's beak and wait for the swooshing sound. I personally push it twice for about 3 seconds each time but you can adjust this to your own personal taste (the longer you press for 3 seconds only, the fizziest-warning: it can get very fizzy). Once you have done this, you have to press the slide down button on the top half and let the air out. This sounds like the hydraulics on a bus coming to a stop(but very recognisable: my son always goes "mum is making fizzy pop when he hears the noise). Then (and only then as you wil not be able to use the lock/unlock feature until you have done this) open the penguin with the slide button and there you have it: Chilled, Sparkling and Refreshing water from your tap in under 30 seconds.
                            As they provide you with 2 carafes, I usually tend to keep them in the fridge and replace and alternate as I go along. The water tastes great and many things can be added to it (like any other sparkling waters) but with the benefit and satisfaction of having done it yourself. I guess that the taste will depend on where you live and what your water tastes like in the first place but it can be done with bottled spring water if you need that extra fizz without the price tag. The water is kept fresh with the slide and screw stoppers provided which are quite sturdy(have been dropped on a few occasions and still surviving).

                            The only downside to this is the cylinders. They have a 60 litres capacity but are only on loan to you. This means that you can buy new ones but have to pay £8.00 extra until you send yours back (eco friendly: I guess) and the £8.00 is then refunded to you. I have only just ordered my new cylinders(twin pack with 1 extra free as a promotion when you register your machine direct from the sodastream website) and it costs me £27.76 including delivery and £8.00 back when they receive the empty canister. They have mentioned that they will need you to send the empty cylinder back in the box that the new one came in within a specified time and that they have a printed tag to put on the box. The canister provided lasted about 2 months and I like my water quite sparkly.
                            I have got to admit, that I am smitten by this machine. It looks great in my kitchen( a talking point for sure), provides me with fresh sparkling water everyday and is currently half price. It gives me a sense of satisfaction every time and I no longer have to log about a trolley full of bottles or even take the empties to the recycling bin.

                            A great way to get your 2 litres a day as you can flavour, add a slice of lemon or enjoy on its own, helping the planet and looking smart in any modern kitchen. A hat trick for sodastream!!!!!!!!! Hip Hip


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                            • asda.co.uk / Online Shop / 48 Readings / 44 Ratings
                              More +
                              18.01.2008 21:22
                              Very helpful



                              WILL NOT GO WITH THEM EVEN IF THEY DID DELIVER......

                              I am usually always shopping at my local Asda especially as it is less than a mile away from my home. I have got to know some of the staff there and the prices are okay if you shop wisely. When I had my little boy, time started to run short as I work in the evenings and am a full time mum during the day. This was resolved due to the introduction of 24 hours shopping. This enabled me to go when it was convenient for me.

                              As my little boy got older, my shopping time decreased dramatically as we are enrolled in many activities. The word online shopping became more and more appealling. I was at my sister's one day and we decided to have a look at the website. Well, It wasn't exactly easy to navigate through and we had a mock shop which seemed to take us forever but assumed, it would only be this bad for the first shop.

                              I sort of put the idea on ice for a while but got desperate one day for some shopping and realised that I would not have enough time to do it so I went online to try to do my weekly shop with Asda. To my surprise, Asda did not deliver at my home address although the shop is less than 1 mile away. Okay, call me lazy but time cannot be replaced and I was really tight on time. As you can see, my experience was not great and I couldn't even do my shop. My sister, however had more luck and managed to trawl through and order some thing online but she got stuck when the next available delivery was in a week and a half's time so she emptied her basket and went to Tesco online and got it delivered in 2 days at the slot of her choice.

                              I was then sceptical and assumed that there were no shopping delivery serice in my area. Wrong again. Tesco , which is situated about 23 miles away, delivers to my house and I now use them every time I am short for time. After all this, I find that Asda is still handy for me, but I will use Tesco's services when I need to use an online facility as their website is better, deliver to my house and have better delivery slots(from word of mouth as I cannot vouch for this myself).

                              I cannot understand why Asda does not deliver to my house as I am sure that it promotes local produces so should be able to deliver to the locals but instead, I have to use the services of another shop which is in another county(yes past the border line) to deliver my shopping. Very eco friendly.....


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                              • More +
                                11.01.2008 21:03
                                Very helpful
                                1 Comment



                                A good all around toy at a reasonable price from the Bob the buider range.

                                Sumsy is one of the less well known characters in Bob the builders stories. He has only recently appeared on our screens when Bob moved to Sunflower Valley for his ecological venture where the catchphrase changed from "Can we fix it" to "Can we build it". My son, being only over 2 years old, has really only seen the new Bob the builder and seemed to recognise Sumsy from the show when we went shopping for his cousin's birthday present.

                                Well at £4.99 from Woolworths, I bought it for him. Sumsy is a sort of fork lift truck / tractor and comes complete with 2 yellow pallets which fit on the fork lift. You then can position the pallets onto the afore mentioned forklift and manually wind them up with a small handle at the top. It also talks when you press the small button inside the cab and says things like "I can pack them, I can stack them".

                                This toy also has a good friction grip and can go on carpets quite easily and even faster on even hard floors. His eyes also move whilst in motion which adds to the fun.

                                My son loved this toy but has now broken the fork lift rear end bit and does not seem as interested anymore as he cannot stack the pallets onto it. I think he may have been too young at the age of 2 to play with it(although it got broken4 months after purchase which by toy and young children standard is quite good), and I probably would recommend this for 3 years+ as it can be easily broken.

                                The only drawback with this is as Sumsy is not featured very often, most children would go for the well known ones(ie: scoop, dizzy etc..) and may not know who Sumsy is but if they do, then he is as good as the other Bob's toys. Overall, this is a good toy at a sensible price.


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                                  11.12.2007 15:06
                                  Very helpful



                                  ENJOYABLE BREAK BUT STILL PRICEY ONCE THERE

                                  As a mum of a 2 year old toddler I did not have a holiday last year and my husband andd I have only gone on a few foreign holidays in our 17 years together(money, money,money). However, our last holiday was in Crete and we loved it. This year, we were not able to go abroad and we were invited by relatives to go to Butlins in Skegness as they had gone there for the last 2 years. It took us a while but we finally decide that a break away was better than no break at all.
                                  We booked online as it turned out to be cheaper than on the phone and we were away at the beginning of October for a week. Well you can imagine the misconception you have about a place, I pictured Butlins as the red coat country where Keith Chegwin would pop up every second of the day asking you why you were not having a good time.

                                  On arrival, we were given our key(plastic slide card as we were away from the resort but in the newly built area) and we were pleasantly surprised. Everything was clean and tidy with everything you could want(except for bath and tea towels). There was only three of us but we had 2 single beds in one room and a double bed in our room(silver apartments).

                                  We were also given a booklet which outlined all the activities for the next week as well as what was free and what you had to pay for. We found ourselves to be quite far from the centre of things but having to walk from place to place meant that we had a better knowledge of what was where. We also had a problem with eating arrangements as we were allocated a differrent restaurant from our relatives but this was sorted out by the customer service.

                                  We went there as half board and the food quality was acceptable. There was enough choice for every meal and you could have as much as you wanted. The only drawback with being half board is that you are tied to the resort and you may not see what else there is to the surrounding area as you have to be back for a certain time for your meal.

                                  The activities were plentiful but you have to follow the guide as they fill up very quickly especially when they are free(eg: archery). The swimming pool was free and excellent for people of all ages and abilities and we were fortunate enough that the weather was mild enough that we could enjoy the beach(although not swimming as the sea was way too cold).

                                  Another up was the character shows that they have and the photo opportunities such as bob the builder and fireman sam. My son absolutely loved it and we have a few photos to show for it. Other shows in the evening were quite hard to see as there was very, very long queues for most of them (would have hated to be there at the height of the summer holidays) and everything felt cramped inside especially if you have a pushchair in tow.

                                  Other daytime shows were also played out on a daily basis in the Skyline(covered area with shop, cinema, amusements, too many little rides-makes it hard to walk through with a toddler, internet cafe and bars) which were ok for children and adults alike but the chair and tables were still a grab and keep matter for the most popular shows(ie Jetix and acrobatics when we were there).

                                  All in all it was a holiday that we really enjoyed way beyond our expectations but with the experience we now have I would do things differently.

                                  Do not buy beachwear from the resort. They have sellers on the beach front who are cheaper.
                                  Do not buy all your beer from the bars as they are very expensive and you could stock up and drink in your room or buy from the shop were it is slightly cheaper. It will save you a fortune.
                                  Try to get a table early for what you want to see. Rotate with someone to eat and keep your chairs ready.

                                  I will probably go to butlins again but when my son is older and can appreciate thing a bit more but with the amount of money we spent, it was not a cheap holiday by the seaside and I will probably go abroad next year.


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