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Bought this good looking blender from Ebay, priced at around 30 pounds. Initially the attraction was the brushed steel finish, so it blends in quite well with the other kitchen appliances.
Blenders have been around for ages and not really changed that much in functionality. This Philips model isn't much exception, it's pretty simple really. There's a 1.5litre capacity jug which holds the food you want to blend up. It's made from a very sturdy, apparently break resistant plastic. The 2 year warranty includes the jug as well as the base motor. You can put in pretty much anything you like which will mush up. Make drinks, smoothies, sauces, soups, baby food or anything you like really.
It's got two speeds to choose from, I generally start with the slower speed first then move it up a notch to fine blend. As with most blenders, it's pretty noisy - there's not a lot you can do about that, the 400w motor is needed to smash up the food.
All the bits are easy to dismantle and wash up after use, this includes being able to put them in the dishwasher too, so that's a bonus. In fact I'd say that the only problem with it, and it's a minor one is that the lid doesn't seem to stay on too well. It hasn't flown off mid blend, but I'd prefer that it felt a little more stable when I use it. Other than that, it's ok for a blender - nothing fancy.
Wheareas years ago we might have considered reliability in amongst our buying checklist, it seems we no longer need to. It's almost unheard of to take your electical appliance to the repair man now, because the reality is that we can buy a new one for less, at least when it comes to small kitchen gadgets such as the kettle or the toaster.
The Tesco toaster is no exception. For the price of a packet of ciggies, you can have yourself a brand spanking new made-in-china and flown across the world, cheap, functional device for making your toast. I still much prefer the taste of toast when it's done slowly under the grill, and you have to turn it, as well as keep an eye on it, but time is against us. The fun has gone out of toasting, now you put the bread into the slots (2 on this model), set the colour you want and press the lever. After 2 mins, the toast pops up, and you can get it buttered to go with your tea and orange juice.
There's very little else to say about the features of this toaster really other than the usual cancel button and crumb tray. It does it's job, although it won't be much use if you want to toast anything other than thin or medium bread. You'll have problem fitting anything chunky into it.
The white plastic design looks cheap, and will go well with your value sliced white if that's what turns you on. It'll probably last just past the warranty period, then you'll need to dump it and buy another. How many million toasters are there lying, unloved in a hole in the ground I wonder?
All things have a place in society I guess, and this is designed for people who really are on budget, and don't care too much for what the product looks like or how long it lasts. The reality is that if you have to replace it every few years, you'll end up spending more than if you bought a quality one, and you'll also be contributing to the endless mountain of consumer junk which pollutes our environment.
There's now doubt about it, if you are little you wish for a kinder surprise every time you go shopping with your parents. The attractive shiny paper and egg shape, no doubt rammed down your throat by the endless marketing and advertising of the chocolate company. I think though we need to educate our kids into getting beyond all that glitters and show them the reality of it all.
What do you get for your 60-70p of hard earned cash (thats 6 weeks pocket money when I was a child). The truth is a few grams of chocolate, a mixture of white and milk, which lets face it isn't exactly the best chocolate in the world. Once you've spent 30 seconds munching on the chocolate, you are left feeling slightly sick, but eager to open the plastic shell containing the surprise. What's so surprising about a microscopic plastic "toy"? Well, maybe that you have to put it together using the instruction which are in 101 languages perhaps. Once you spent 40 more seconds constructing it, you sit back and wonder what all the fuss was about. Does your toy provide endless enjoyment. Unlikely. Some people even collect the little toys, but I honestly can't see the point of cluttering your home with bits of cheap plastic which serve no purpose. Generally you will step on them and they end up in the bin, adding to the mountain of plastic which is polluting our wonderful world.
I suggest therefore that we sit down with our little ones and weigh up the pros and cons of these evil eggs. On the pro side of the list, there is umm...well nothing really, and on the cons....enough to fill a sheet of A4.
Maybe back in the day these things were marvelous, but now in the age of cheapness, they really deserve no place in your shopping basket.
When you get up in the morning, the last thing you want to do is get out complicated machinery just to get yourself a nice glass of fruit juice. I guess most of us are content with a tetra pak of ready made juice straight from the fridge. Fair enough, but for la pièce de résistance you can't do much better than a fresh one you've squeezed yourself.
Take any orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime and create yourself a healthy, additive free, no extra sugar drink which is full of vitamins and will give you a wake up call better than any cup of coffee. Gone are the days of messy hands and split juice, here comes the Theolife Penguin Juicer. Not for juicing penguins, but for the perfect juice in seconds. No good for smoothies of course, this is a plain and simple juicer.
Stylish, well built aluminium construction and reassuringly expensive at around £40 from www.juiceland.co.uk this piece of kit would look snappy on any kitchen breakfast bar. This 100 watt beast spins at 2000RPM and really makes light work of juicing. Simply half your chosen fruit, press it on the top of the machine, and juicing commences. Stop pressing and the machine halts. It comes with two different sized tops which can accomodate varying sizes of fruit. These are washable of course, all very simple, but not dishwasher safe so it's back to the sink and rubber gloves for this gadget. The little spout ensures that the juice ends up in your glass, not over you or your work surface and can be pushed up to stop any drips afterwards. They have thought of everything.
As with all classy appliances you can choose a colour to match your surroundings. Black - very striking, purple, steel, almond white and red. We have the steel, it looks good and oozes quality.
Whether it's worth the £40 depends on how much you love your juice, and how much space you have for yet another kitchen gadget. It does come with a 2 year warranty, so £20 a year doesn't seem like such a big investment for a healthy wake up drink each morning.
As we are all a bit more health aware these days, cutting down on the pop can be a good idea. We all struggle to eat our five portions a day as recommended by the WHO, so juice can be a good alternative. You'll find these bottles and cans of pineapple juice in bars, off licences and also some supermarkets. If you actually want to buy a lot of juice, for breakfast and so on, then this is not the best option. These bottles are more suited to evening drinking or for use as mixers.
For those who don't know, Schweppes is part of the Coca Cola company, at least in the UK anyway. They are well known for producing good quality mixers including tonic water, ginger ale, bitter lemon, soda water as well as russian. More often than not if you order a gin and tonic at the bar, it'll be a schweppes which is the mixer.
In a 200ml bottle there's approx 10g of sugar, surprisingly actually quite a few grams less than a schweppes orange juice. You can also buy the same product in small cans of 125ml. Typically the product is a wholesale one, meaning you'll buy them in packs of 24 for about a tenner. Priced invidually you'll pay at least a pound, so a pretty good markup for opening the cap for you.
Whilst the taste out of a bottle is never the same as cutting open a ripe pineapple and pulping it yourself, it's not a bad product, sweet and delicious. Good on it's own or with something.
Essential for a number of great tropical cocktails such as a Mai Tai (rum, lime juice, apricot brandy and pineapple juice) or a pina colada (rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream)...mmm just the smell will take you to the warm shores of your favourite island in no time.
If you've got even the smallest patch of grass, you might consider illuminating it up with some garden lights. This might be because you do a spot of entertaining after sun down, for added security, guidance down a dark path, or simply because it looks nice to have a few glowing bulbs to brighten the evening. You won't want to overdo it in a small lawn, but placed right they can really add something to an otherwise dreary plot.
Garden lights have been around since the advent of electricity, but they demand a contant power source and cabling which can be a pain, and if you've a large amount of lights, costly to run. Fairly recently solar powered lights have become cheap to produce and made widely available in garden centres, hardware stores and large supermarkets. The technology is pretty simply. Inside the light is a battery, pretty much like any normal rechargable. It's connected to a panel on the top of the light which absorbs the sunlight and tops up the battery. When the day ends, the light should (as long as it has been charged satisfactorily) power up and offer a attractive and somewhat useful glow.
But are they much good?
That depends. Solar powered devices need lots of sunlight to charge them up, garden lights being no exception. It's important to place them in such a way that they get the most sunshine possible, otherwise they won't re-charge those batteries which are inside. Placing them in such a way may not always be exactly where you want them. When there are long dreary grey days, especially during the winter you may not get enough or any sunshine in order to boost the batteries, so come dusk the lights won't even offer a hint of light.
The plus side of course is that you can pretty much stick them where you want, and move them around as there are no cables... Generally they will come with a stake which can be stuck into the ground with a gentle push so installation is easy. They look reasonably attractive in shiny metal. They are generally cheap, a few pounds for a low end model, but if you have the readies, go for more expensive models which may in the long run offer better value for money in terms of usability. I would imagine solar power is also safer than running cables, especially if you have pets or children running around.
I have several solar lights in my garden, they also have mosquito zappers built in. They were cheap, easy to place, however when it comes to delivering light they are pretty miserable, basically as we don't get enough sunlight unless it's in the height of summer - when you don't really need any light anyway in the evenings.
If you are looking to have enough light in your garden for a good game of chess, then solar power is probably not going to be the solution for you. Placed along your driveway however they may guide your visitors to the door, although you can't rely on them to always shine when you want them to.
I think you probably get the picture by now, so depending on what you need the lights for will be the deciding factor on whether you choose solar or traditional electric cable.
I spent four nights at the Ramada Encore Hotel in Ipswich recently on a business trip with my company. It's easy to get to, being located about 1 hour from Stansted Airport, and 2 hours from Heathrow. It's sandwiched between a main road and a river, so depending on which room you get the view out of the window will be variable. There are 126 rooms in total, priced from £75 per night for a double. Other options are offered, but the price seems to be about the same.
Non smoking of course. Modern with wooden floor covering, designed very much in the Ikea style. Double bed, made every day - very fresh and clean. Next to the bed one one side is a shelf with telephone. This can be used to call reception, other rooms and outside calls. There is a reading light on each side. A smart sofa will convert into an extra bed if required or you can use it to watch the TV - a 26" LCD affair. The channels are BBC1&2, ITV1, CH4, 5, Sky News, Sky One E4 and Sky Sports News - a reasonable selection. The TV also has the facility to receive 4 radio stations including Radio1&2, Classic FM and a local station. The TV can also be used to wake you up, and the remote will turn it off again or go into "sleep mode". The TV is on a desk which comes with a revolving chair, so you can sit and write or use your laptop. A desk light is also a bonus. To connect to the internet, you can connect the supplied Ethernet cable and login for free for 30 mins each day. If this is not enough, you can upgrade to 2 or 24 hours use for between £5,99 and £9,99. Although it says High speed, you'll get 1Mb rate at most, and the free connection is limited to 128k which is a bit mean. The wireless will also work in the room, although they tell you it doesn't, but you'll need the code to access it. There's plenty of power sockets for standard UK appliances, but no converters for travellers from other parts of the world, so bring your own. Overall the decor is clean, modern and bright suiting a young business traveller.
There's no wardrobe, just 5 hangers next to a mirror as well as a hairdryer, so this may not be enough for those staying for a longer time. There is though a laundry facility although I can't comment on the results or prices as I didn't need to use it. The bathroom and shower is very clean, stainless steel and glass, so again modern. The shower worked well and dispensed plenty of hot water at a decent pressure, and did not flood the bathroom floor although there was no shower door just a glass panel. A very generous bath towel was replaced each day, along with 3 hand towels. If you forget your own shower gel or shampoo and soap, this is provided in a large bottle which is not removable (so no freebies to take home!). The room is fitted with air con which has different settings and also a temperature display which hovered around 21-22 degrees during my stay. A little warm for sleeping even with the fan on. The view from my window was overlooking the river, which isn't actually that pretty, but it's better than the road. I did hear some traffic noise still which started pretty early in the morning, although I am a light sleep so hear everything. The room is energy efficient, lights and power only work if you have the door key slotted into the hole next to the door - so no chance of leaving the TV on when you are out. Good to see there was a kettle with two proper cups and a good selection of Twinings tea and Kenco coffee which was replaced each day.
I had breakfast each morning which was a buffet affair. The choice for this sort of hotel was reasonably good. Hot food including bacon, scrambled or boiled eggs, beans, and sausage. Fresh bread was available and a toaster which was a little tempermental nearby. Plenty of butter, jam and marmalade as well as cheese including those little baby bels, cold meats were all there. A good selection of cereals with extra raisins, pineapple chunks, dried bananas and hazelnuts together with yoghurts and milk for those who like a lighter start to the day. Ample fruit too was there for the pickings. Drinks were a selection of juice, some obviously watered down, tea, coffee and so on all self service. The staff in the morning were a little in need of motivation and energy, and really looked like they didn't want to be there as they cleared the plates away and laid tables, although they did at least mutter a few good mornings during my stay. Breakfast was served between 7-10am, I was always one of the first to arrive as I don't like food hanging around too long.
A buffet lunch was provided by my company one day which I didn't have any say in. It was very tasteless and almost school dinner quality in presentation. The cheesecake desert was more than edible, but I wouldn't go back for it a second time. I didn't actually eat dinner here by choice, as I don't really rate chain hotel food, it's often bland and uninspiring. They do however have a menu of jacket potatoes at around a fiver, sandwiches also a fiver, starters such as a soup and pate - again a fiver, as well as a selection of main courses. If paying a tenner for a hotel cheeseburger is your thing, or £13 for a chicken curry, a tenner for sausage and mash - then go for it. I know however that the town has some good restaurants and pubs where the quality will be so much better. Eat here if you can't be bothered to get out of the hotel. There's also a salad menu as well as a desert selection. Again paying five quid for an apple tart doesn't really float my boat. If you have little ones in tow, a five quid kids menu might interest you. Room service is available for food and drink, although I didn't try it so can't comment on how long you need to wait. Hot drinks such as tea and coffee are around £2.50, but the £5 tray charge for room delivery kind of puts a damper on that. There's no mini bar in the room, but a proper bar down in the Hub of the hotel. Prices are as you'd expect for a hotel bar - not exactly cheap. The bar is open to non-residents too, although I can't imagine given the choice that you'd want to stop by here just for a beer.
Reception & staff
Check in and out was pleasant enough, with young friendly staff. They weren't the most the the know, not able to answer questions about what time the gym opened or whether or not they had power adapters, and once sent us in the wrong direction to town. Generally all staff I met were happy enough and were doing a good job, with the exception of breakfast service mentioned earlier. I called the reception from the room a couple of times, and they were always very prompt and polite with my simpler requests such as how to use the internet connection and where the nearest supermarket is (10 mins walk - Sainsburys superstore). I'd also emailed before arrival and the response was within a few hours which is good.
There's a couple of conference rooms, one of which we used. It was a bit cramped with 18 of us all seated, but for a few hours was perfectly fine. Drinks were available from a machine, but no other luxuries apart from slightly burnt pastries. You'll find the usual presentation facilities here in terms of a projector and screen to hook up your powerpoint and laptop. The gym was pretty close to my room on the first floor, but very small and with a selection of running machines but not a lot else. It's open from around 6am to the late evening.
Overall, a clean modern hotel without much character but perfectly comfortable and reasonably priced for a few nights stay.
You can see a few photos and booking information as well as special offers at the website http://www.encoreipswich.co.uk/
On a recent excursion to Sainsburys the other day I took a stroll down the toy aisle looking for a gift for little M. She's coming up to 8 months old soon, and there wasn't a huge selection for this age range. I did however settle on the Leap Frog Counting Choo Choo, which clearlly states 9+ months on the packaging. The colourful and attractive cardboard packaging also has a "Try Me!" notice which of course I had to give a go. It called out "buy me!", so I put it into my basket. It cost £4.99, which also seems to be a consistant price online too.
As you can see from the dooyoo picture, it's a very colourful plastic train engine - which in itself provides plenty of opportunity to learn new colours and shapes. It required 2 x AAA (LR03) batteries, but comes loaded with some to get you going at least. These will last a good couple of weeks with average usage. Leapfrog seem to be a Canadian company, but like all good toys, the product is made in China. It conforms to Canadian safety standards, which as far as I know are as good as UK ones. Surprisingly though, the product features "British" voices. We don't want our kids growing up with a Canadian twang now do we?
So what does the toy do? Well as it stands it is just a small plastic train - the purple wheels move around so you can push it around on the floor and play choo choo with it. You'll then notice there is a Off/On button which has two seperate volume setting, a nice touch. The worst thing with talking toys is the volume, and this isn't too annoying. To get the toy to speak, a quick press on the head of the driver will produce the sounds. "Let's drive my choo choo train....wooo wooo". Press it again and you'll hear the counting song...."1,2,3,4,5 all aboard the counting train, 6,7,8,9,10 - tickets please". There's a third sound which is just a train noise. It's all pleasant enough. Once your child is enough enough to talk, they'll be singing along with it - prior to that though, you'll be singing it yourself!
It feels like a sturdy toy, and will survive drops, knocks and throws. So far little M loves this toy, and beams a big smile when she hears the song. She's able to get it talking by bashing the drivers head with her hand. I think she also likes the fact that it is very bright and colourful. It's a good buy for a fiver.
Leapfrog does a range of other childrens toys which have educational value, take a look at www.leapfrog.com
The coolest cat on the planet? The pinkest feline in the world? The most grooviest accompanying music from Henry Mancini? Absolutely, he's the Pink Panther, and here I present to you a whole 124 original cartoons from the 1960's and the 70's. An absolute bargain at around a tenner from your fav Dooyoo partner, Amazon.co.uk
Four discs packaged in pink and orange, suitable for even the youngest viewers. Compare Pinkie to Mr Bean - an almost dialogueless journey of visual humour which you can watch time and time again, even if you are French or Italian....
Make no mistake, this boxed set isn't the film versions, this is the original cartoon established by Friz Freleng and Hawley Pratt. The Pink Panther was introduced in a live film in 1964', but it wasn't until 1969 that he made the small screen in his own show then continued to grow in popularity throughout the 70's and beyond. Numerous spin-offs have come about since, including those featuring the inspector, but this is the real deal, the classics, and the most humourous of all.
Each of the episodes in the collection include the word "Pink" in them, it would be silly to list them all, but a few favourites are Pinknic, Pink-a-boo, Pinkadilly Circus, Pink on the cob, Pinky Doodle and Doctor Pink. Although each episode is quite short (great for little ones with short attention spans), the whole collection together spans some 13 hours. Imagine getting up at 8am, and sitting and watching the whole caboodle until it's bedtime. You'd be completely pinked out.
The stories are diverse. In one, a drunk takes the Pink Panther home and then tries to hide him from his wife. In another, he spends the whole episode irritated by a fly. One features him finding a lamp and becoming a genie, another he tries to keep fit by joining a gym. The episode where the termite tries to eat everything in his house is hysterical. Fantastic fun and a laugh out loud moment in each episode, simply a great investment for your DVD collection that you'll want to bring out and get your freinds and family involved too.
Extras are limited to an "Opening sequences" collection which runs to 32 minutes. Subtitles (not that there is much to listen to) is limited to French, the soundtrack just in English and mono.
We were fairly late adopters to the DVD player, but seem to have gone through 4 or 5 machines in just as many years. Not might I add due to wanting updated models, but just that they keep dying on us. Gone are the days it seems that a machine will last for a good 10 years, so here is DVD player number 5, the LG DVX-482H.
When it comes to choosing a model, all I looked for is something that will play DVD's to be honest, we weren't even tempted by Blue Ray. So considering all the models in the storeroom did this, the next consideration was price. This was particularly priced well, on special offer for approx £47. It's LG, a brand which I know well and trust to at least last a few years - touch wood. It's very sleek, black finish with silver detail looks good and should fit in well with most tastes.
The off/on button is located on the front, and a very light touch will operate it, it's as if you don't really have to push it in. The green display will flash up "HELLO", followed by "LOAD" as it reads the disc, then it reverts to the time counter. The TV will display a big LG logo as it reads the disc. The eject/close is the next button which is a pretty quick drawer mechanism allowing you to load or remove the disc. Next you have a concealed USB socket which allows you to connect memory sticks, and external hard drives. The rest of the front is the Play, Stop and skip back and forward buttons. Round the back is the usual scart socket, an optical digital audio out port, coaxial out, Audio L/R out, Video Out, and 3 component out sockets. As with most modern players there's also a HDMI output, which I am not currently making use of, as I use scart.
It's a Full HD supported machine with upscaling if using the HDMI connection. It supports a wide range of formats including DIVX, Windows Media, DVD-Video, WMA, MP3, JPEG, CDRW, CDR as well as the multitude of disc formats around today. An interesting feature is the ability to record the audio of a disk directly through the USB socket onto a memory stick as an MP3 file at up to 320kbps. I've not had a chance to use this and to be honest probably won't either.
The remote is powered by just one AAA battery (included), and also have the facility to control the TV as well as the DVD unit. This doesn't seem to work with our Philips TV, but it has codes for LG, Samsung, Sony and others. The usual buttons are present including zoom, angle, subtitles and so on.
Setup of the unit is pretty straight forward, make your chosen connection and turn it on. Press the setup button on the remote and you'll be able to alter the language, time ,TV format (¤:3 or 16:9 Widescreen, settings for Dolby, DTS, MPEG, parental lock amongst other things. There's a screensaver which kicks in if you don't use the unit for some time whilst in setup mode.
In operation I've not noticed anthing outstanding about this DVD player. So far so good it's not had problems reading anything I've thrown at it (not literally) the picture quality is good both with video and photos, the sound is as you'd expect and everything seems in order. It's very quiet in use, apart from initial spin-up but nothing that'll hurt your ears.
I think for the money it's got a lot of features, some which I'll probably never use, but others which might become useful in the future, such as HDMI. It's pretty green in the fact that it has energy saving, and only 9 watts when in use and shuts itself off completely if there is nothing happening which I like. Now I just need a TV that shuts itself off when no-one is watching it, or when the ads are on at least.
I received one of these Huawei E220 wireless mobile modems free with a 2 year subscription to a mobile internet package, they also threw in a laptop. Pretty good offer it seemed at the time. The laptop is a little worse for wear, but the modem is in pretty good nick and still works. It's HSDPA, which after working with the telco industry a few years ago I know stands for High-Speed Downlink Packet Access. It also supports 3G, GPRS and UMTS. Speed is dependant on your provider and the area you are in, but it is possible up to 7.2Mps. At it's launch 4 years ago it was classed as the smallest and fastest 3G USB modem in the world.
It's a white plastic box of tricks which allows you to get online in places where you are not in easy reach of a wi-fi signal. You connect it to your laptop with a cable, rather than it plugging directly into the usb socket. Mine came with a double USB socket on one end, and I've always plugged them both in. One is labelled "assistant power" which I assume means it needs a lot of juice, and one USB socket is not enough.
There's not much of interest to talk about with the box itself, apart from the light which flashes green when it has a signal, and steady blue when it is actually connected fully. It's a small unit, of just over a couple of inches long, half an inch thick and just over an inch wide. The tough plastic case means you can throw it around and it won't suffer too much.
The antenna is built into the modem, rather than the cable, so moving the modem around will vary your connection performance. The modem has some internal memory, about 20Mb or so which allows software to be pre-loaded inside it, which can also be upgraded.
Inside the modem sits a sim card, with it's own "telephone number". It is therefore possible to send and receive texts as well as surf the net on it, although I hardly ever bothered to do this.
Generally performance is dependant on your signal, so wherever your mobile will work, this will work, and if you can't get a mobile signal, you aren't going to be surfing the web either.
All works very well so far!
Usborne have been publishing childrens books since as long as I can remember, well in fact since 1973. Peter Usborne pioneered a company which now publishes titles in around 90 different languages.
The First Sticker book series are a bright and colourful range of A4 sized paperback books which aim to make it fun to learn objects, words as well as being creative and imaginative at the same time. The "First Sticker Book" range include approx 15 titles ranging from a day at the zoo to ponies to "building sites". Most of the titles are priced at £4.99, and each has between 100-150 stickers inside. None are suitable for under 3 years due to the size of some of the stickers which could be considered a choking hazard. You can never be too careful. You can check out the range on offer as well as other Osborne titles at www.usborne.com.
This is the first one I have purchased, and chose this particular title as we love holidays, and will be encouraging the little one to participate in them with us soon. As you can see from the picture on Dooyoo, it's a colourful cover which is slightly glossy and should withstand a few spills here and there, although it's certainly not bathable.... Stacey Lamb is the illustrator and I can't help but love the cuteness of the characters. Little people will love them too. The smiley crab, surfing penguin, cat ice cream man, dog buried in the sand and all the other cute animals are a delight to look at.
The holiday starts with "getting ready" which has a picture of an elephant looking out the window of a brightly coloured house, the car outside full of suitcases. The caption says "can you stick a suitcase on top of the car?". You'll find all the stickers in the middle of the book, and they are sectioned so you'll know which are designed to go where. They are easy enough to get off and stick onto the pages with equal ease. They can be removed and placed elsewhere but each time you do this the stickiness becomes less effective. After you have added more animals to the picture, it's "Off we go", so stick a big yellow sun in the sky, and some more cars to the road, and your journey starts to get exciting. Soon enough you are in the plane, and sticking windows on it so you can get a good view...of all the other planes in the sky.
Next you are spending a day at the beach, and there is all sorts of fun things to stick into the scenes such as crabs, starfish, ice cream, bucket and spade, as well as colourful animals in various forms of beach activity. "Surfing the waves" is next, and you get to stick lots of surfing animals onto the big blue and green ocean. The holiday continues with a visit to the museum, a trip in the countryside, splashing and sliding at the water park, then fun at the fairground. It's certainly a fun packed holiday which the little ones will love.
The book ends by sticking stamps onto some postcards, and filling them with more fun images. There's over 150 stickers in this book, which are lovely and colourful and guarenteed to keep your child happy for hours whilst they dream away to their favourite destination, and you do too. I'd think the ideal age for this kind of activity book is 4-6, and it might require some supervision reading the captions, although I'm sure that even without this little ones will be imaginative enough to create some lovely holiday scenes.
I wouldn't hesitate to buy further titles from the series, I purchased mine from thebookdepository.co.uk although you can also get them from Amazon or directly from the Usborne website.
This was another of the little ones Baptism presents, the Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Musical Pop-Up Bus. It's suitable from age 6 months and up, just when little fingers start to be able to press and turn things.
It's ready to go straight from the box with no assembly, and no screwdriver needed (until the batteries need replacing).
This feels like a sturdy plastic toy. As the photo shows, it's bright yellow with a blue bottom, orange and purple wheels which go round and colourful characters on the top which can be popped up and pushed down again. There are two stickers on the windows with colourful smiling faces, although one sticker was a bit lop sided. Underneath the windows are the buttons which make the bus come to life. The first green lever can be turned, and this makes the dog who is driving the bus turn around and the music starts - "the wheels on the bus go round and round....". If you turn it back again, the dog will bark. The second red button can be pushed in, and the same music will play. Push it again and the cat will pop up and meow. The third is the purple lever which can be pushed down, the frog pops up and yes you guessed it the same music plays. Push it once more, the frog will "ribbit".
The front has two eyes a noise and a big smiley face, a windscreen which is not see though and a Fisher Price logo. The other side not pictured is plain yellow, with marks where the windows should be, again not see through. Some designs on this side would have been welcome. Again the back of the bus is plain with nothing to look at or play with.
I don't usually like noisy toys, as they drive you crazy after a while, so it was good to see that Fisher Price had included two different volume levels, as well as an off switch. This is small enough that little fingers might not notice it, well not at 6 months anyway. The speaker is on the bottom, so it really isn't too loud anyway. Underneath you'll also find the battery compartment, to gain access will require a small phillips screwdriver or the like. It takes 4 x AA, either re-chargable or standard alkaline will do fine. The batteries it comes with will last a few days before they need replacing. If the switch is set to off, you can still pop up the characters, but of course you will get no music or sounds.
Our little one likes this toy, although not her favourite and reacts to the music and sounds, although at her age she is still learning how to push and turn the buttons, and hasn't yet managed to roll the bus along. I expect in a few months she'll start to interact more with it.
I think Fisher Price could have made it a little more interesting in places with more variety in the songs and more to touch, feel and look at on the back and reverse of the bus, but it is called "Brilliant Basics" whic I guess means it isn't supposed to come with too many bells and whistles.
It's a relatively cheap toy, Amazon has it listed for £7.99. It should be widely available offline and online too. I'd say it's worth the price for what it does and make keep little ones entertained for a little while.
Our little girl received this as one of many gifts for her baptism. She's just about the age it's designed to start from, 6 months. I was pleased to see that it was a Fisher Price, as it's one brand that I know is trusted and safe for even the littlest people. Incidentally, in case you didn't know Fisher Price is part of the giant Mattel.
So, Baby's First Blocks comes in a very colourful cardboard box with pictures on each side. Our little one likes the box just as much as the contents it seems right now, although she is just exploring everything new. I think she likes the pictures of other babies on the box, as well as the bright colours.
Once you get the product out of the box, you find a hard plastic red container with a yellow top and blue handle. There's a colourful sticker on one side, and a textured design on the other. The yellow top has 5 slots of different shapes - circle, square, triangle, star and cross. The top is easy to get off, almost too easy. Inside are the blocks themselves. 10 brightly coloured shapes which are made of hard wearing plastic. You could stand on these and they would take the weight of an average person. Chances are you'll be standing on them a lot if your little one isn't the tidiest of people. The colours of the blocks are green, red, blue, pink and orange and very bright and eye catching.
From 6 months the child will be able to empty the container, reach for the blocks, knock them over, taste them, throw them and possibly put them back in the box without using the shape sorter top if you are lucky. After they are a bit more advanced, they'll be able to identify the different shapes and colours, put them into the right slots, carry them around using the handle and build one on another.
They float too so can be used in the bath or paddling pool. After time they'll get a bit grubby, so can be easily washed and dried.
Every child should have building blocks. 10 is a bit limited for any serious building work, but you've got to start some where. I'd say that this product will last, unlike a lot of other stuff which is made in China (although this is too!) if you can keep the blocks from getting lost. The child will probably start to lose interest at the age of 3, and you'll still have a product in good condition to pass on to someone else.
Available worldwide in toy stores and supermarkets, and online from Amazon at £8.99 which is a reasonable price to pay to keep your child occupied for a while.
There can't be many of you who haven't heard of Men Behaving Badly, although thinking about it, it does hail back to the beginning of the 90's, so it's getting on for it's 20th anniversary soon. There were 6 series made, 36 episodes, each about 30 minutes in length, and they are all on this "Six pack" compilation which is available from Amazon for the bargainous price of £15.99 or even less from http://www.whsmithentertainment.co.uk. Worth it for once series if you ask me.
For those not so familar it features the lives of 4 main characters, with a few more regulars thrown in for good measure. The first series featured Harry Enfield as Dermot, flatmate of Gary played by Martin Clunes. The 2nd series onwards replaces Harry with Neil Morrissey who plays Tony. Throughout the 6 series, the female characters are Dorothy and Deborah played by Caroline Quentin and Leslie Ash. Dorothy is the long suffering girlfriend of Gary, and Deborah lives upstairs.
Gary and Tony are typical 90's lads enjoying boozing, women and lounging around on the sofa. Dorothy is a nurse and Deborah who runs a restaurant. Although deep down Gary loves Dorothy, he rarely considers her and doesn't hesitate to chase after any other female when given the opportunity. Tony has no problem getting girls but longs after one particular one, Deborah who switches her affection for him on and off regularly.
Gary who works as a manager in a small office selling home security, with two sleepy and rather dull employees - Anthea and George. They are both comical in there own way. The other main character is the landlord of the Crown, the local where they hang out on many occasion. During the earlier series the pub is run by drooling Les, a disgusting untidy chap who later gets replaced by a much more modern Ken - who I think is hilarious. There are few other characters in the series, one being Clive who is supposedly a friend of Gary's, although you don't actually see him until series 6, when he is played by the writer Simon Nye.
The show originated on ITV, then moved to BBC in the mid 90's. It was constantly repeated and has won countess awards. Some of the stories were a bit risky back then, but there's nothing here your average person would truly feel disgusted by. Over the 5 year screening from 92-97 the characters go through break ups, proposals, the wedding, infidelity, a lot of lager drunkedness, and general mis-behaviour, mostly by the lads, but the girls do their fair share too.
Fun to watch over and over again, but with 17 hours to get through it'll take you some time before you need to repeat them. As for extras, you are limited to a few interactive quizes, which give access to some out-takes if you do well. The extra Christmas episodes are not included on this boxed set which is a shame as it truly would be the ultimate edition, still it's still a real bargain.
Officially recommended for years 15 and up, although I think this is a bit harsh for todays teenagers..