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I like the eco-friendly Method range of cleaning products so was happy to try out their innovative laundry liquid in the Fresh Air fragrance which I found on offer in Sainsburys.
I liked the simple and practical design of the unusual plastic bottle. I found the liquid format really easy to dispense using the pump and there was no mess or waste. I found the amount dispensed to be easy to control and to add extra when needed. The only drawback to this format is that I would prefer a larger size to accommodate the laundry produced by my family of five!
It does work out quite expensive, even though I'm used to paying premium prices for Fairy non-bio (powder or gel.) I would also prefer the option of a larger sized bottle as I generally stock upon laundry products once a month rather than buying them more frequently.
The supposed Fresh Air fragrance was sadly almost non-existent. I don't mind this in some ways as both I and my free boys have sensitive skin and are prone to eczema, so am grateful for products where added perfumes are kept to a minimum. To be a little contradictory, however, it is nice to smell something indicating freshly washed clothing so I would probably choose the other fragrance (Peony) rather than the Fresh Air scent that I used.
I had no issues at all with the cleaning power and found that the liquid cleaned equally as effectively as my usual Fairy non-bio, even on my boys' mucky school clothing and toddler's food-stained tops.
I am a fan of Method products from previous experiences and have previously recommended them both face-to-face and online. I love the ethics of the brand and their eco-friendly status so would recommend this on that basis. I would prefer a slighlty more distinctive fragrance but certainly found the cleaning performance to be as good as my usual brand of non-bio so, on that basis, I would recommend this.
The Folk of the Faraway Tree is the third and final book in the fantastic series of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree stories. This is a series that I loved reading as a young child myself so it has been a real pleasure to revisit the excitement and adventures as an adult, sharing these stories with my own three children.
Here, siblings Jo, Bessie and Fanny are joined by a family friend, Connie. Connie is, initially, at least somewhat spoilt and expresses her disbelief in the very existence of the Enchanted Wood, the Faraway Tree and the fantastic folk who live within its branches - not to mention the magical lands that appear at the top of the tree!
This book easily lives up to its predecessors. The themes themselves are familiar - with bad behaviour and personality traits always leading to trouble.
I would recommend this book to be read to children from around four years of age and upwards (although my youngest son was aged three when he first enjoyed this whilst being read to his older brother.) It could easily be tackled by a confident young reader as the vocabulary is relatively straightforward, although there are some terms and words that are a little archaic and would benefit from an adult’s presence to explain their meaning and context.
Very sensitive children might also be a little upset by the children’s expedition back to the Land of Dame Slap. It isn’t perhaps as terrifying as the name of the land suggests but, being held captive in the school for naughty elves and imps, was enough to give my then six year old son nightmares about being kidnapped that night!
Given its original publication date, this is a little dated in some areas but it is still able to capture the imagination of young children and encourage them to develop a love of reading. This still comes highly recommended by me and my boys!
Over the years, I’ve owned and read a huge number of children’s books written and/or illustrated by the prolific writer Nick Sharratt. All of his work seems to share the theme of being bright, bold and, most importantly, appealing to young children. ‘Moo Cow, Kung Fu Cow’ is certainly no exception. I actually picked up a paperback copy of this book from a Scholastic book sale for just £1 but it is worth every penny of its official cover price.
This book is along similar lines to many other titles by Nick Sharratt, such as Octopus Socktopus and Elephant Wellyphant, featuring many different cows in different guises, complete with clever puns and interactive features.
The humour within the story manages to be both childish and simple whilst also being quite clever, appealing to both pre-schoolers and the adult reader. My son loves the ‘worried green and blue cow’, when is becomes clear that his worry was around needing the toilet. There is nothing quite as amusing as a steaming pile of poo to appeal to a potty training toddler! Likewise, some of the vocabulary is likely to go way over the heads of toddlers (who are not likely to be familiar with ‘Timbuktoo’ or ‘Hullabaloo’, for example) but the clever use of rhyme and rhythm makes this a pleasure to read aloud and encourages young ones to pick up the pattern of the words and ‘read along’.
I purchased this when my youngest son was eighteen months old and well under the age to be trusted with a book full of flaps and pull out tabs such as this. Needless to say, he was exactly the age to be fascinated by flaps and pull out tabs and absolutely adored this book from the outset.
We have owned this book for over three years now and it is still a much loved story within our picture book collection, albeit somewhat worse for wear. The over eager scrutiny of an interested toddler has resulted in the PeekaBoo cow now being noticeable by his absence. The final pop out section is also suffering a few rips and tears but, surprisingly, the majority of the story has survived intact with the lift-up flaps proving to be surprisingly resilient.
This is a fantastic, witty and entertaining children’s book. Its interactive elements offer lots of appeal to youngsters and the clever puns make sharing this book a pleasure for adults too. Whilst some of the pop-up and pull-up sections are liable to be damaged by an enthusiastic young reader that is certainly no reason to avoid buying a copy. I would certainly recommend this one for pre-school children and this is one story that I will be sorry to see my son outgrow.
Bad Habits by Babette Cole is a fairly unique story for young children and is the only book by the author that we own although that is certainly no reflection on just how much we love this book as a family. As a mother of three boys, I really ought to be discouraging bad habits not making my kids more aware of them but I couldn't resist buying a copy of this fun story about a very naughty young girl and how her parents try to manage her behaviour.
In terms of age recommendation, I feel that this is best suited to children of four years upwards although I must admit that Bad Habits was a firm favourite of my youngest son from the age of around three years and is still very much enjoyed now that he is five years old.
This isn't a book that I would feel comfortable buying for other people's children, however, as I can imagine that some parents might feel the contents and some of the language used are not suitable for impressionable young children. The book mentions Lucretzia Crum swearing at her parents, spitting and farting - obviously not activities that any parent wants to encourage in their own offspring! My boys were particularly shocked to see the word farting in print as it wasn't something that is usually featured in books for this kind of age group.
My youngest son particularly likes the inventions that Lucretzia's Dad creates to try and keep his unruly daughter in check. He loves the cage hanging outside the classroom window and the ice cream containing a cobra. The funny illustrations - by Babette Cole herself- are one of the best features of this entertaining paperback story.
I bought my copy for just £1 several years ago from the Book People's discount site but it is well worth the current sale price of £4 from Amazon, particularly for any children and adults with a slightly naughty sense of humour. It's probably not a book to buy for any strait-laced relatives or for a random birthday party present, however. Whilst this might not be a book for all households, this remains a popular choice in ours and has enjoyed several happy years of being giggled at!
Julia Jarman is not a children’s book author that I’ve ever come across before but I ended up with a copy of her ‘Ants in Your Pants’ picture book as part of a multipack offer from the Book People.
Ants in Your Pants features the bright, colourful and distinctive illustrations provided by Guy Parker-Rees (best known for Giraffes Can’t Dance.) Like that story, this one is set in the jungle with Leopard making plans for a party, inviting most of the other jungle animals. An exception is made for Aardvark (and his Big Sis) as apparently aardvarks don’t like party food. Eventually, however, Leopard realises that aardvarks can be very useful indeed...especially when the party is invaded by ants!
According to the back cover of my paperback version, this is aimed at children from two years upwards. I’d be inclined to suggest a slightly higher age group (from around three-six) as there is quite a lot of text per page and it is quite a long read so might not hold the attention of a toddler. Some of the vocabulary and themes seem a little advanced for the average two year old too but, by three, most children will be familiar with the idea of a birthday party and all that it involves and will be able to identify with the topic. It might also be useful as a discussion point for any child experiencing the disappointment at not being invited to a particular party!
This is a lovely story with lots of bright colours and animals to recognise and identify. I do feel that it is a little laboured at points and could have removed a couple of pages to make this a slightly shorter and snappier read. Despite that I am happy to recommend this to parents of young children.
Lego is always a good choice for a child's gift and the Lego City range includes a selection of construction based machines and sets, amongst them this sturdy little suv truck which comes with a trailer and a jet ski, which was a present for my seven year old son.
I bought this during Sainsbury's half-price toy event last year, ready for Christmas and managed to get this for considerably less than the inflated rrp. In fact I paid around the £5 mark so I got a bargain.
The suv truck and jet ski comes in one of the medium sized cardboard Lego boxes (rather than the very tiny sets) although the pieces inside only take up a fraction of the available space. As you'd expect with a Lego product, this comes in pieces ready to make up the entire set.
As I've come to expect with Lego sets, the instructions are very comprehensive and easy to follow. The step by step guide includes pictures of the pieces as they are gradually assembled and there is no room for any confusion. Certainly, for the recommended age range of five to twelve year olds, this is a fairly straightforward process although care does need to be taken to ensure that the correct parts are used for each section. There are a lot of bricks and other Lego pieces involved and the set up took around an hour altogether, when initially assembled by my son with help from his father. I would suspect that a younger child may lack the patience to complete this in one sitting - my four year old certainly hasn't got that much of an attention span, although he loves playing with the finished product.
The suv has proven to be very robust once constructed and this really is a toy designed to be played with, rather than just pieced together. The truck pushes along easily and can used as part of imaginative play, especially if combined with other sets or vehicles. Admittedly, my four year old has tended to play with this more than his older brother whose interest waned slightly, after the hard work of putting this together was over.
This is a fun little set that offers enjoyment and some challenges during assembly but, crucially, has ongoing play value, particularly for younger children. This can be used as a standalone vehicle or as part of a larger range of Lego City construction vehicles.
Like most people, I love a bargain so I was very tempted to discover that ELC had a half-price sale at the same time that I had a 20% off 'Birthday code' to use last year. I managed to snap this fantastic 'Build It' construction set up for £16 - which is a massive discount when compared to the full (albeit rather inflated) RRP of £40.
This is a suitably impressive 'big box' present, which was an ideal gift for my four year son last Christmas. It wasn't however, the type of present that immediately caught his eye so I tucked it out of sight for a few days over Christmas and brought it out after the initial excitement of some other presents had died down.
The box itself is a simple but practical design and has proven to be strong enough to house the contents after each use and safely store away all the pieces between play sessions, minimising the risk of critical pieces going astray. I do like the practical style of the box but I don't particularly like the images chosen to illustrate the box. The box clearly indicates a recommended age range of 3-8 years but the little boy on the front of the box is quite clearly at the very lowest end of this wide age range. He looks around two or three years old at most and I think this choice of image gives the impression that this is a toy best suited to the lower end of the suggested age range, when I would say the opposite is the case.
This set is a wonderful collection of various bits and pieces of what is, essentially, a jumbo plastic version of that classic construction toy; Meccano. The basic principles are the same, with the various elements having several holes, needing the screws provided to attach them all together to create impressive vehicles or other contraptions.
Although described as a 'starter set', there is certainly more than enough pieces and accessories provided to enable lots of ongoing play. My two younger children like to play with this set together and I would say there are just about enough pieces to enable them to both make two separate contraptions at the same time. (I would like to say that they can play together nicely with this set but sadly that would be a lie, as they inevitably end up arguing about the exact same piece that both of them desperately 'need' to complete their invention.)
Overall this is a recommended purchase for children much older than the packaging suggests
My eight year old son has suffered with travel sickness for a number of years, something that we had become more or less accustomed to, having tried a number of remedies with limited success. A few years ago, my husband decided that enough was enough, as he no longer wanted to arrive at our destination clutching a bag full of vomit! A visit to our helpful GP resulted in a prescription for Phenergan elixir.
Phenergan is an anti-histamine medicine commonly prescribed for allergic reactions (such as hayfever or hives), travel sickness and also used as short term sedative. The active ingredient, according to the information leaflet inside the box, is promethazine hydrochloride. Phenergan is also available in tablet format, which might be better for any adults needing to take this, as well as this liquid (elixir) form.
Having previously tried using natural remedies with poor results we had to turn to something a little stronger and fortunately for us this stuff really does work.
Despite the usual worrying list of potential side effects, my son has not experienced any ill effects as a result of taking this on a regular basis for car journeys.
The scent and taste of this stuff reminds me of cheap orange squash -loaded with artificial sweeteners and flavourings! The taste is initially quite sweet and syrupy, despite being a sugar free formulation, but this is pretty quickly replaced by a bitter taste which the artificial orange flavouring doesn't quite manage to disguise. (If anything, this reminds me vaguely of Infacol drops.) Whilst this syrup doesn't have the same appeal as medicines such as Calpol (which my boys will feign illness to take), it is still something that he is happy to take as he appreciates that it stops his sickness, however far we have to travel.
I have recently been trying the limited edition selection of Spa themed shower gels produced under the popular Imperial Leather brand and have been very pleasantly surprised by a product that I felt had a bit of an old fashioned reputation.
The bubbles produced were gorgeous fluffy white masses of foam - much stronger than the effect produced by some Lush products which cost ten times as much! I've never managed to get that 'covered in bubbles' effect that you see on TV to preserve somebody's modesty, but this stuff really works and creates an amazing quantity of bubbles from just a single squeeze. Even better is the fact that they don't fade away after just a few minutes. Obviously, they did die down a little the longer I spend wallowing in the bubbles but they were impressively long lasting.
The gorgeous aroma also lingered and filled the whole of the bathroom with a lovely sweet scent, as well as leaving a subtle reminder on my skin once I finally dragged myself out of the bath. I can't claim that this has any particularly long-lasting moisturising effect on my skin but it certainly didn't irritate my skin at all and I do have sensitive, eczema-prone skin so I have to be careful with new products. Apparantly, this is mild enough for the whole family to use, being soap free and with a 'skin friendly PH', but as far as I'm concerned, it's mine, all mine!
I have since purchased other products from the same range and been equally pleased with the results. Highly recommended.
This particular deodorant is a cream based one, which is dispensed by twisting a dial at the bottom of the plastic applicator. The creamy deodorant is gradually released through a series of holes at the top of the container. The design of the applicator is practical as it is a comfortable shape and size to hold easily and the interior is transparent, affording a clear view of the contents remaining. The deodorant his a plastic lid to keep the contents covered and prevent this from clogging up or drying out.
This is described as 'maximum protection' so should be a stronger and more effective formula than that used within a standard Dove roll on. Like many modern deodorants, this claims to be a 48 hour anti-perspirant deodorant which does strike me as unnecessary as I'm sure people nowadays Wash and shower more frequently than ever before!
Unlike a standard deodorant, the instructions advise that this product performs best if applied to underarms before bed. It suggests that the protection will last overnight and throughout the next day, even after showering.
This seemed really counter-intuitive to me and I just couldn't bring myself to apply deodorant at bedtime and then wander round all day hoping I still smell fresh! Luckily, the packaging does state that this can also be applied in the morning as with a standard deodorant.
Despite the fragrance not being to my personal tastes, I did find that this product performed well as an anti-perspirant deodorant even after swimming and showering. My only reservation about repurchasing or recommending this to others is the high standard retail price, particularly considering how quickly I got through the contents. I would certainly repurchase if I spotted this on any promotion in the future but would not buy this at full price as I am happy with the performance of much cheaper alternatives.
I'm already familiar with the Dr Oetker brand, largely due to their range of cake decorations and, a little illogically, their range of rather insipid looking frozen pizzas. I've never tried any mixes produced under the Dr Oetker branding but was more than happy to give this cake mix 'in a mug' a go.
Despite being a new product, I was able to locate this with ease at my local Morrison's where this was sold, as I anticipated, alongside cake mixes, flour and general bakery products. I paid 75p per packet with each packet containing enough ingredients for a single mugful of cake.
Using the mix is really as simple as it sounds. 60ml of milk is needed in the mug but the packet conveniently reveals that this is the equivalent of four tablespoons so I didn't even need to dirty a measuring jug to add the correct quantity. The powder then needs to be stirred in until the mixture is smooth and the mug then goes in the microwave for one minute and ten seconds according to the wattage of our microwave.
After microwaving the mug cake needs to stand for a minute and comes out looking and smelling like a cake in a mug! The packaging warns that the cake might rise above the rim of the mug but that didn't happen in our standard sized mugs. It can be eaten straight from the mug or tipped out on to a plate but we chose the mug method, with several spoons so we all got to share some!
This was a fun and inexpensive way to involve the kids in rustling up a quick hot pudding, so I would probably buy another just for that purpose on a cold and wet evening.
The overall taste and texture was similar to that of any sponge pudding but just not quite as nice. I wouldn't buy this for the taste in particular, more for the fun factor for the kids, even though they ended up leaving a lot of the cake behind for the adults to finish. This is a novelty product and not overly expensive but if I was looking for a sweet treat I'd probably buy something more indulgent.
Tracy Chevalier has written a number of historical novels, most notably "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" which became a bestseller and was also made into a successful film version. According to Wikipedia, 'The Last Runaway' is Chevalier's seventh published novel. This is my first encounter with any of her novels but I do enjoy historical fiction so I was looking forward to reading this.
The story centres around Honor Bright, a young Quaker girl, making the long journey from England to start a new life in Ohio, USA in the 1850's.
Honor makes what becomes a very difficult voyage alongside her older sister, with the intention of living with her sister and her sister's future husband. Unfortunately, this plan falls apart very quickly and Honor is left alone in a foreign country, wholly reliant on the kindness of strangers. The story charts Honor's struggles and strength of character as she adapts to her new circumstances and the different people that she encounters.
The story follows Honor's journey closely and chapters are interspersed with the letters that Honor writes to her friends and family back home, bringing Honor's feelings and frustrations to the fore and giving a real insight into her character.
Despite my initial reservations, I quickly became engrossed in Honor's new life and felt for her struggles to fit into a new community whilst maintaining her own sense of self and moral values. This opened my eyes to a location and era that I had no prior knowledge of and managed to hold my interest throughout, giving me a fascinating insight into the era, aspects of the slave trade and Quaker culture at that time.
Honor faces uncertainty and adversary but manages to be true to herself and to her own beliefs, even to the detriment of her own happiness and security. This is a beautiful and plausible read that sees Honor grow in strength and courage.
This wasn't a predictable read at all and I found the ending to be particularly powerful and unexpected. The characters and setting were very strong and I'm certainly intending to read more by this author. I would recommend this to anybody who enjoys historical novels as this is an excellent example of the genre.
This particular deodorant is a roll on applicator which is my preferred method of applying deodorant. The design of the bottle is practical with a tapered design towards the applicator ball which makes the bottle easy to hold, even with wet hands. I particularly like the upside down design which helps to keep the ball and deodorant flowing freely and avoids waste, although I haven't noticed this 50ml bottle lasting any longer than other brands.
Like many modern deodorants, this claims to be a 48 hour anti-perspirant deodorant which does strike me as unnecessary as I'm sure people nowadays wash and shower more frequently than ever before. This also claims to be 'invisible' and promises not to leave white marks on black clothing nor yellow stains on white clothing (gross!) I have recently cleared out my wardrobe and had to dispose of some tops due to unsightly deodorant marks under the arms so I was particularly pleased about these claims. Interestingly, this Garnier deodorant also promises an anti-fading action on coloured clothing which isn't something that I've ever experienced as a problem although I have noticed some 'stiffening' under the arms on some fabric, which is also something that this claims to avoid.
In addition, this 48 hour anti-perspirant claims to allow skin to breath and doesn't contain any alcohol or paragons. On application, this feels soft and cool against the skin on my armpits and doesn't sting or cause any irritation, even when applied to recently shaved skin. I find it easy to spread evenly with a decent sized ball at the base. The deodorant does dry fairly quickly but I still try to wait before dressing to avoid any stickiness under my pits.
This has kept me feeling fresh and dry over the past few weeks and comes with a pleasant enough fragrance. I'm not convinced that this is an especially long lasting anti-perspirant, however and it isn't a product that I'm likely to pay full price for. I have found it to be gentle on clothing but I'd prefer it to be slightly stronger on sweaty smells, particularly after prolonged wear. This is not a badly performing deodorant but isn't amongst my favourites.
The Shea Butter Beauty Bars are packaged in the plastic covered boxes, just as the standard bars are. Where this differs is in the colour of the packaging so there is no likelihood of picking up this version by mistake as it has a distinct white and brown colour scheme, with a tempting picture of a cocoa bean. Like the standard version, this can be purchased in both twin packs or packs of four, with each bar being individually packaged inside its own box, which helps to keep the soap fresh and in perfect condition before use. Inside the box is a practical sized single oval creamy off-white soap printed with the Dove logo.
Like standard Dove products, this particular bar boasts the addition of "one quarter moisturising cream". This also contains added Shea butter and a Vanilla fragrance.
The soap itself has a lovely sweet vanilla scent that I find lingers on my hands and face after use. It is not as distinctive and instantly recognisable as the usual Dove scent but it is equally pleasant with a richness that suggests luxury and pampering to me, which is always a bonus from an everyday product such as soap.
I find that this soap lathers up easily producing lots of white soft fluffy bubbles. It leaves my skin feeling soft, moisturised and clean at the same time which I feel is an excellent result from a single, inexpensive product. It never feels drying against my skin and I'm happy to use the same product even on my young children's delicate skin, without any signs of irritation. I do experience bouts of sensitive dry skin but Dove is gentle enough to use on sore, broken skin without stinging or exacerbating the problem.
Wilko sell a range of lidded plastic storage boxes, including the jumbo sized box I've previously reviewed. This underbed storage box is at the opposite end of the scale, being very slim but much longer than its bigger cousins. According to the Wilko website this has a height of 18cm and width of 60cm.
This particular box comes complete with a lid that clips securely into position, keeping the contents clean, dry and free from dust. This is a pretty essential requirement for something that is going to live under one of our beds, braving it with all the dust under there! The only drawback with the design is that the lid has large grooves which do collect quite a lot of dust but the lid can be wiped down with a damp cloth if needed.
The main body of the box is made from clear transparent plastic which helps to give a clear view of the contents although the colour of the lid varies.
Just like the larger counterparts, these underbed boxes are made from strong plastic and are robust enough to survive for a considerable length of time if not misappropriated. We've owned this box for a number of years and it has served a range of different storage purposes without any signs of wear and tear.
Although this is specifically designed to fit under a bed it can, of course, be used elsewhere. The slim design and lighter weight makes this handy for storage in the loft as it fits through the loft space without any difficulties. The boxes are strong enough to be stacked on top of each other if needed although that wouldn't be possible under a standard sized bed.
These underbed boxes are a great way of maximising storage space and are a practical and inexpensive option. Whilst there are similar versions elsewhere with wheeled bases I'm not sure that that would be a noticeable improvement to this already functional design. I'm happy to recommend these boxes to anybody wanting to utilise the space under the bed.