Sunday, 28 August 2011

Watch me Zumba baby, yeah!

Well, not actually 'watch' me. I'm not daft enough to upload any kind of video of me doing this great exercise routine. In fact, I'm unlikely to upload a video of me even sitting still you'll be pleased to know.

I decided that, after 3 children and being in my 40's, I needed to lose my cute baby pouch so, on a friends recommendation, I sat down purposefully at my PC and ordered Zumba for the Wii. I didn't want to overdo the exercise by walking to the shop to physically buy it and my postman just loves delivering parcels ;-)

The DVD arrived from Amazon within a few days and I eagerly attached the belt to myself and got started with an Easy, 20 minute workout.

I was shattered by the end of the warm up!

This was going to be a little harder than I thought. However, I decided that a close coronary, red face and being sure that hubby had turned the heating on all of a sudden (yes, I got a bit hot and sweaty) wasn't going to stop me. My legs being unable to move, my arms aching and lack of oxygen on the other hand may do. It was also a bit disheartening when my toddler put the belt on herself and I selected a little single dance for her and she scored more than I did :(

I'm pleased to say (as you will gather) that I made it through my first exercise in about 18 months alive and, despite being shattered, really enjoyed it. The music was good, I sort of followed the steps and enjoyed dancing around my lounge. I was just pleased that I was not in a class ;-)

I have now been Zumba'ing for a few months and yesterday got my highest score of 539 on Intermediate Level 3. I'm still on 20 minutes but think this week I'll move up to 40 and see how it goes.

The routines are great and I've now found my firm favourites. I think that occasionally I look like I can dance and know what I'm actually doing. I get a glimpse in the mirror now and again and realise I still look a bit bonkers but I no longer gasp and stumble for my drink in each 5 second break (I could barely lift the glass in that time when I first started!) and feel great after each session, which I now do every other day.

The picture above is of me doing Zumba now. Yeah, ok, you got me, it isn't. How did you guess? ;-) I have to say though that I have definitely changed in shape and my tummy is disappearing and my waist is showing more. I can even suck my tummy in to make it look nearly flat :) Admittedly, I can't hold that for long though ;-)

I was jolly pleased to do a pairs session a few weeks ago with my tween and she was quite surprised how well I did it. Now that is a true compliment!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Out 'n' About Nipper 360 Double Pushchair Review

When I was pregnant with our baby, we decided to buy a double buggy to take the toddler and her new sister out for walks. Little did we know then that we would rarely be using it as our toddler can walk for miles and miles! Hey, the thought was there though :)

Anyway, we have used it a bit now and I thought a personal review might be of interest to anyone who is looking at one of these double buggies.

We had a look at a number of doubles, from side by sides through to the ones where it looks like one of your children has just been shoved into the shopping basket. None we liked. We wanted a very easily manoeuvred 3-wheeler that we could use off-road too. Having scanned the Internet, we decided on the Out 'n' About 360. We had tried out numerous doubles before in shops but nothing seemed quite right. This one looked perfect we thought so we ordered it from Boots. Huge mistake :(

The day of delivery arrived and we excitedly put the pushchair together. It looked nice and the toddler liked it and jumped straight in with teddy for a ride :)

The 360 is very easy to use one handed and 'turns on a sixpence' (if you happen to have such an old coin still). The wheels are sturdy and the braking system is excellent, if not exceedingly simple. The hood is a lovely size and provides excellent coverage for your children and the rain cover (part of the kit) is a great size and easy to put on and off. It fits though most doorways unlike a standard side-by-side double. There is a great strap to put around your wrist to stop it running away from you downhill too (not that I've lost a pushchair yet like that!). It opens and collapses OK but I'd be pushed to tell you it was not a fiddle at times. And that's where the good stuff ends I'm afraid.

We have encountered a number of things that make this pushchair severly lacking:

  1. The weight is mostly at the back. Therefore, if you hang (as most mums do) a changing bag onto the handle (provided you have one with a very long strap!), it pretty much tips the whole pushchair over backwards! Disaster! We had bought some 'hangers' to put shopping on the handle but instantly converted those into weight hooks by putting on some of hubbys free weights and clipping to the front under the seats (see picture). That is the only way it won't tip up. A serious (and dangerous) design flaw.
  2. The shopping bag area is just at the back of each seat. With no storage at all, you need to ideally have one bag filled (yes, it does completely fill it) with the rain cover as you can never trust the British weather! Therefore you only have one small net to put anything in. Remember you can't hang anything on the handles either due to tipping.
  3. I looked into obtaining a further (string) shopping bag that is slung beneath the 360. Would you believe that the manufacturers charge £18.95 for this fancy bit of string and, to add insult to injury, charge £8 P&P!? I decided to telephone their main supplier around here, Daniel in Windsor, and was shocked that even they pass on the delivery cost to the customer even though you need to go in to the shop to collect the bag. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with the fact that the supplier says they have to place a £400 order to get it for free delivery and they never need enough to do this. Yes, I was told this on the telephone by the lady I spoke to without having to ask about it at all. A bit too much freedom of information from Daniel's sales assistant. So, no string bag then.
  4. The footplate is fine - for babies! The toddler struggles to keep her feet on it as we go along due to the angle. She can put her feet on if she sits with her legs curled to one side. Not comfy.
  5. The handle covering has started to fall apart. It is a black 'sponge' type covering and within 6 months of hardly any use (around 12-15 times it's been out I would guess), great lumps have fallen off of it. When I think about the 360 compared to the Mothercare Urban Detour travel system we bought for toddler, and is now used for baby, there has hardly been any damage to the 'sponge' on that after almost 3 years of use. Poor quality then on the part of the 360.
  6. The seats are adjusted by a sliding strap. You unclip it completely to lay them flat. Well, by flat that means that baby has her feet kind of in the air as they don't really go properly flat. You can adjust them up to a sitting position but, again, this fails too. At maximum tightness, the seat is still rather inclined backwards so for toddler to get the same effect as her other pushchair, you need to wedge a cushion behind her or between the strap and the chair. With the kind of mechanism employed by the 360, it really should be better as it's hardly rocket science!
  7. Folding isn't easy. There are strong clips on the side with an added 'pin clip' for safety which is excellent but you have to kind of push the seats all the way forward so they are kind of hanging out before you can fold it. There is a 'catch' to keep it shut but it simply does not work. It is a red, plastic piece and is not strong enough. Having said that, I often cannot close the pushchair enough for the catch to get anywhere near the piece of metal it is supposed to hook onto so, again, fairly pointless. When it does hook on, the minute you pick the pushchair up, it releases and you end up with the pushchair opening up on you which I can confirm causes bruised shins!
I wish that we had been able to view the pushchair prior to buying it. All the reviews on Boots website (which is where we bought it from) said it was brilliant and we believed them. More fool us! I guess if you're going to use it for just a walk, it's fine. If you want it for shopping or really taking your children out, it's not a particularly 'mum friendly' pushchair. For £315 you'd expect a bit more value for your money I think. Sadly, as we bought it some month or so before our baby was born, we didn't get to find out all the problems until it was out of its return period or it would have been back like a shot!

I have, as you can imagine, complained to Boots about all of these things very soon after giving the pushchair its first outing. They were less than interested and offered nothing in terms of answers or options.

Take my advice, if you need a double, make sure you go check EVERY one you like the look of. If the shop won't get it in stock for you (as Boots wouldn't) to check, don't buy it!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Baby wipes are not just for bottoms, oh no!

Having now had 3 children, you find lots of uses for objects that aren't exactly what they were designed for. In this instance, let me regale to you the joys of baby wipes :)

Now, did you know that one of the only things that I have found that will remove permanent marker from walls is - a baby wipe! They are pure genius! You don't need an expensive one, almost any wipe will do the trick. I found this out when my, now, Tween was a mere 5 years old and decided that whilst I sat chatting to a friend in the lounge, her and her friend of the same age would draw a wonderful height chart in black permanent marker (where she got it from and who's it was remained an unsolved mystery) up the side of the door on my newly painted walls. Suffice to say, she was very proud of herself having put all the marks on the wall and the measurements. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. My friend laughed but then again it wasn't her house now covered in junior graffiti was it! However, I pulled out a baby wipe and started rubbing at the wall and the marker started to come off. OK, it was very slightly visible when I finished so a quick splash of paint finished the job but what a revelation.

The next thing they are great for is baby sick on your carpet. Our youngest has taken to finding places on the carpet without tiny stains and vomiting on them. You'll not be surprised to learn that finding a spot on our carpet that is actually clean is a very fine art. now Again, the wipes do the best job and borrowing a VAX from the outlaws finishes it off when we've run out of areas of clean altogether. So, we borrow it about once every 2 months ;-)

Wipes are great for getting oil off hands. With a hubby working on his motorbike and no swarfeg...swarfee...cleaning gel in sight, baby wipes are better than soap and water. It also means the taps stay clean as you just know that's the one thing he'll forget to wipe otherwise and I'll end up with oily hands which means he'll end up in the dog house (if we had a dog and an associated house of course).

Faces. Sticky chocolate faces and hands are another baby wipe use. I guess that one you'll already know about.

Bottoms. Yep, what they were intended for they are pretty good at cleaning :)

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cake baking weather in August

I wondered if I'd hibernated for a short while when I opened the curtains this morning. What a grey and rainy day out. Lights are on in the house and it feels more like October then August. So, what to do with kiddies when it's raining. Baking cakes and cookies!

I had resisted for a few days. My determination not to snack on cake had been matched by my strong willpower but today, it all crumbled when the toddler said "can we make cakes mummy?". "Yes, of course" I said, almost skipping to the kitchen. Hey, it wasn't my decision was it.

Now, we, in this household, are happy to bake our own or get the mix out of the packet. I am not the type of mummy who jabbers on about "oh, it must be home baked or it's just not the same." Rubbish! I challenge you oh knit-your-own-yoghurt-woman to tell the difference between a good packet mix and a yummy home-made cake.

Today it's Betty Crocker Devils Food Cake Mix all the way for the toddler and I. We have decided to be a bit radical and, for once, make fairy cakes out of the mix. Toddler stands on the chair in the kitchen with her pinny on and mixes the ingredients with her wooden spoon until I say I need to use the mixer. At that point she is gone. For some reason she hates the mixer and I don't know why - it's not even loud. First batch put into the oven and the question starts already - "When can I eat them?". That's toddler, not me ;-)

Hang on, oven bleeping. Got to go a minute....

...OK back now. 1st lot out, 2nd lot in. Smells delicious. I'm now being harrassed by toddler who is standing by the door asking me if they cakes are cool enough yet. No, I've only just got them out of the oven. Mind you, if hubby was here, he'd happily be burning his mouth to try and eat one by now ;-)

2nd lot done and last batch in. This is going well.

I have also just eaten all the remaining mixture from the bowl. So much for any kind of 'diet' then! I told the toddler that she shouldn't eat raw egg so I'll eat it all. Was that wrong? ;-)

Last lot out. Now the impatience waiting to ice them (this time it's me, not toddler!).

Do you think I should save one or two cakes for hubby....or not?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

It's not just the bump that grows

I was having a read through the pregnancy diaries that I kept for all 3 of my girls and it made me laugh out loud at times remembering all the things that happened to me that the books just don't tell you about.

Most books will paint an 'ideal' of a pregnancy but they don't tell you the truth! So, here is a quick hit-list of the things you won't find out that easily:
  1. Your boobs will get bigger and that is great for a month or so. What you won't notice is that your bottom is also getting bigger. No-one will mention that to you. Of course, Mother Nature is clever in balancing out us women or we'd all be falling over forward for 9 months wouldn't we. Having said that, you are unlikely to notice your bottom increasing in size as your bump soon dwarfs even your new found boobs.
  2. Your skin and hair do all kinds of radical things. For example, your face breaks out in spots the like of which you didn't even have as a teenager and your hair suddenly looks so thick you'll think you've had a set of Jordan's extensions put in. However, the negative to this wonderful hair is the amount you will be fishing out of plugholes, off the furniture and carpets for about 6 months after the birth. That's when you'll wonder how you're not now bald!
  3. You will find that even the most harmless looking foods will start making you feel like you've had a night on the tiles drinking nothing but shots, followed by an extra hot Vindaloo curry. All of which makes for acid reflux the like of which you've never known. I used to get Gavison from the doctors with the instruction to take a 5ml spoonful a few times a day. What? Are you joking with me? I actually drank the stuff straight from the bottle like it was going out of fashion!
  4. Morning sickness. Who labelled it? A man I bet ya. Say no more.
  5. Piles. 'Nuff said.
  6. Weeping at everything. If you find you're crying your eyes out at the Andrex puppy playfully tugging on toilet roll (see 5. above), don't worry, it's normal.
  7. I want it NOW! Hubby better pop on his running shoes and have the car fuelled up as the urges and desires for the most random of foods can be almost overwhelming. I had about 3 weeks of oranges, which did not help with 3. above.
  8. Taking your blood. I swear that every hospital and doctors surgery is playing host to vampires. They must be right? Surely no-one can need that much blood, that regularly from you? Come on, you can visit weekly and almost the first thing the midwife will say is "we need some blood from you today". I am right aren't I! Let's face it, they can't need 3 whole vials in order to check your blood group! They are feeding vampires on our blood. You never see anyone who gets in the lift to the basement at the hospital come back up do you. Think about it - they throw your urine away each time because it's of no use to our blood-sucking friends.
  9. Sex. Are you kidding? Between 3., 4., and 5 the last thing on your mind is how to move your whale of a body into any position considered vaguely interesting where your boobs aren't leaking everywhere and that cheese sandwich you had for your lunch hasn't given you wind that could hamper a jet fighter taking off.
  10. Leggings. Don't! Simple. There really is no excuse for them unless you are between 10 and 15 years of age. For everyone else, they are a huge no-no. You wouldn't have worn them at any other time so why on earth do you decide they are a good look when you are the biggest you've been in your life? Just don't. End of.
Other than those few things and....errr....about another 30 or so, I found pregnancy smooth sailing ;-) Let's face it, it couldn't have been that bad or I'd not have done it more than once. That or I've got a bad memory.

Now, what was I about to do?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Next time it's iron-on or permanent marker

Today I decided to bite the bullet or, more appropriately, thread the needle and crack on with sewing name labels into the toddler's school clothes. Simple you may think, but alas not so.

The school provide an illustrated sheet of where each label must go just in case you might like to live vicariously and sew them into the sleeve or pocket for a laugh. I kid you not!

So, can you imagine not only am I sewing labels into sweatshirts, polo tops, jogging bottoms and gloves, but also on to each sock (inside at ankle or on the sole), a fleece hat which is reversible (not now it isn't unless I want everyone she walks past to know her name) and an equally reversible fleece jacket. Add to that the fact that her art overall and PE bag must have a different size label to the ones I bought (isn't that just flipping typical) and I need ribbon to put onto a couple of items that she needs to recognise, it's become a bit of a trauma for me. I think I need a lay down. In fact, I'd go as far as to say, if I drank, I'd have a large glass please!

I also found that I either now own the bluntest needles in the West or I am in urgent need of a thimble. The latter item I always considered the property of old ladies only who were far to infirm to push a needle through a piece of cotton, but I now concede that this is not the case. I have managed to push the non-sharp piece of the needle into my middle finger so many times, it looks like I've been attacked by a miniature hedgehog :(

Add all this to the fact that my eyesight is clearly failing me and it didn't matter how much I twisted and sucked the end of the cotton, it wasn't going anywhere near that damned needle eye. I was beginning to think I was in some surreal optical illusion. I clearly have to admit defeat and confess that I cannot thread a needle anymore without the help of (a) a needle threader or (b) my glasses. I decided to opt for (a) as I felt I would not use (b) unless I couldn't get (a) through the eye of the needle either!

I am wondering what possessed me to get 'sew on' rather than 'iron on' labels now. Perhaps I had some notion that it would make me look a better mummy that I'd laboured over the labels, not just cast an iron over the lot in 2 minutes. In future, looks aren't everything, it's iron on even if she ends up with her socks stuck to her ankles and a melted art overall! :)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

WOW - Casey Camper Van Review

What a lovely surprise we had today!

We had been off visiting the outlaws and when we got home, a package awaited us. Casey Camper Van had been sent to us by the fantastic people at WOW Toys for the toddler to review.

The moment I opened the brown paper, the toddler said "I love it mummy. Get it out!" We therefore wasted no time in removing the packaging and play beginning.

Casey is a bright orange camper van that is friction powered - no need for batteries to start play and no rushing to your local garage when they run out at 6am! It is suitable for ages 1.5 - 5 years old, although our baby of 8 months would beg to differ here as I think she almost got to it faster than her sister ;-)

Casey comes with two play characters, Pete and Lilly, and a dog called Sammy. The roof has a shape sorting luggage rack with two brightly coloured cases on top. There is a removable picnic table for the two characters to sit in and a dog basket and water bowl for Sammy. Both Casey and all the parts are well made, no sharp edges and easy for little hands to deal with.

The roof of Casey pulls down so that you can play inside too where you will find a bed, sink, mirror and on the pull down section, some grass, flowers and a hop-scotch area. The only thing I would say is that for our toddler, who is almost 3, the 'clip' to this area is quite hard to pull down so she needs our help. The tailgate can be opened by pressing a little button in Casey's side, but that is also a bit stiff for her at the moment, so she simply pulls it down which gives her easy access. The drivers compartment at the front of Casey lifts up so that you can put the characters in there. Of course, shutting Casey up is a doddle for the toddle(r).

The static side has a little awning and window.

As you remove Casey from the box, there is a nice, cardboard background which you can also use for play.

At our toddlers age, she immediately went in to imaginary play with the characters. It is lovely to hear her making them talk as they go in and out of Casey and discuss what they are doing. Sammy does have a loud bark ;-)

We also have WOW's Katie's Camper Holiday Friends which is very similar to this so she has now collected the other camper van and then the two families were off. Mummy and daddy in Casey and grandma and grandad in Katie's :) They were last seen touring the dining room and about to embark on a beanbag mountain adventure.

Casey was very kindly sent to me free of charge for the purpose of the review. All opinions stated here are, of course, my own :)

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Teething with FitFlops

On the recommendation of a friend recently, and having said I need some decent summer walking sandals, I bought my first pair of FitFlops. You will notice the word 'first' there which implies I am certainly going to buy some more!

I chose a metallic pair of Walkstar 3 sandals with the unique Microwobbleboard technology. Basically, as the website says "FitFlop footwear is biomechanically engineered to help tone and tighten your leg muscles while you walk in them." I believe them :) They do take a little bit of getting used to but boy, they are comfortable. For someone like me who does a great deal of walking (having two little ones and a passion for geocaching as you'll recall), they are an idea summer sandal.

The metallic colour looks equally good with a summer dress, shorts or jeans so I basically wear them with everything in my wardrobe. OK, possibly not going out to dinner in a LBD but that's about the only exception ;-)

FitFlops don't just do girlie sandals though, your fella and your children can have a pair of sandals, shoes or clogs too. There is a massive range of them available and in such fantastic colours you really are spoiled for choice.

I would recommend buying them directly from FitFlop as their delivery is very reasonable and they come next day.

You might now be scratching your head and wondering where the title of this post has come from. Or you may not care. I'm going to tell you anyway whether you like it or not :)

Well, as you know I have an 8 month old baby now with two little bottom teeth and some more coming through at the top. It seems that as well as being a great walking shoe, the FitFlop is also a fantastic teether! Wherever I leave them in the house, she picks them up and has a good chew at them until I extract them from her grip again and put them somewhere else. As you can imagine, this means I have the cleanest FitFlops in town as I have to give them a good wipe over every time I come in from outside as she seeks them out. Unfortunately, other than leaving them halfway up the stairs or on the dining room table, there aren't many places you can really put shoes in our house that keeps them out of reach. At least she's stoppped eating my slippers now though ;-)

Now, what colour do I want next and how many pairs shall I buy? Well, it makes sense to take advantage of the free delivery on 2 or more pairs doesn't it ;-)

Monday, 15 August 2011

Is September summer or winter?

I picked up toddler's school uniform today :) It was so lovely seeing her try all her stuff on properly. She looked so cute. Now I have the exciting task of sewing in the name labels *yikes*

She is so excited about going to school that she thought she could start today now she had her uniform. The look of disappointment when I told her she wasn't starting until September as it was the holidays was such a sad sight. Let's hope she loves it as much once she starts.

Of course, I would have a dilema on my hands wouldn't I. September is a funny month for weather and I've bought her a 'winter' uniform with a fleece hat. Now, do I buy a straw boater too (part of the summer uniform) or leave her to go outside without a hat if the sun shines? I have to confess that the boater is so cute so I may just have to have one for her anyway and hope her head doesn't grow too much before next spring! :)

That's (L)amaz(e)ing how she loves these toys

I was looking through toys that would suit our baby girl now and checking out the ones our toddler used to have and it suddenly occurred to me just how many Lamaze toys we had! They are:
  • Sir Prance-a-Lot (hanging in cot picture)
  • Paddy the Panda
  • Sophie Princess (her favourite toy - being cuddled)
  • Foot Finders and Wrist Rattles in high contrast
  • Classic Discovery Book
  • Stretch the Giraffe
  • Octotunes
  • Spin & Stack Rings
Why did we buy so many of this brand of toy I hear you cry (ok, maybe just wonder to yourself)? The answer is simple, they are great for little ones. Let me tell you why.

Lamaze are designed with babies and small people in mind. The toys themselves are bright, fun colours but often have simple black and white patterns on them, those which we know attract tiny eyes. They inevitably all have a bell, rattle, scrunch and squeaker in them for little hands to explore. The materials in each toy are varied so there are different textures to feel.

Our baby's absolute favourite (and which she will not sleep) is the Sophie Princess doll. It amazes me as she crunches and bashes the cot hanger around in the night that she doesn't wake with a start but it seems the feel and crunch reassures her and she sleeps well...UNLESS...she loses her! All hell then breaks out until we rush in and put her back in her hands. Our toddler has a soft blankie bear but our baby has her scrunchy, noisy dolly :)

When we go out we are always accompanied by Panda and Giraffe. For some reason, Giraffe's yellow foot is a favourite to bash and chew and Panda's flowers are also in for a good gumming! Don't laugh, but we've had Giraffe for nearly 3 years now and I only found out a few weeks ago that his head squeaks :)

So, if you're looking for lovely, well made toys for your baby that will keep them entertained for a long time (our toddler still loves the creature toys), then I can highly recommend Lamaze.

New Geocaching sign required : "Machete needed"

We had a lovely time yesterday exploring another new set of footpaths around where we live Geocaching. Unfortunately, I hadn't really taken any notice of the symbols on each cache and made the huge assumption that they would be child/pushchair friendly like most of the rest of the 'ring' that we had completed. Not so.

We set off on a reasonable path and found a couple of caches (they all seem to be by rather nice, large, probably expensive houses this time) and had an amble through some woodland to some more. We then set off down the 'public footpath'. I think this really should have read 'Wild, overgrown area you may just be able to squeeze down'.

Now, fortunately our pushchair is a 3 wheel, off road type. Toddler just, well, toddled, with us. However, as good as the pushchair was, it was hard going when the foliage was closing in around us and we were struggling to walk single file!

You would expect most normal people to realise this is not going to get any better and turn around but not us, oh no, we are now dedicated Geocachers! Something as trivial as needing a machete to get through the undergrowth is not going to stop us finding those micro caches ;-)

Our pushchair is basically a frame that the car seat (plus baby) sit into so you can remove the seat and her quite easily, which was needed regularly as we had to lift her, then the pushchair, then the toddler, over styles and kissing gates. At one point we had to carry the whole pushchair as it was impossible to actually wheel it along as the grass was too high and thick and there were potholes hidden underneath it! We also had to tell the toddler not to touch the white wires as we walked between two fields of horses surrounded by electric fencing...

One of the lovely things about Geocaching is that you find out of the way places that you probably wouldn't come across normally. There are also beautiful views and places of interest to explore. Often you just don't realise what you have on your doorstep. We had no idea there were so many little streams and wooden bridges around this area. I guess Geocaching is a great walk, enhanced :)

Suffice to say, we will check the route a little better in future ;-) Despite all of this, we had a fabulous 3 hour walk out and have found many places we would like to buy when we win the Lottery :)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Whipsnade Picnic

We decided to venture out the other day and headed off to Whipsnade Zoo. Now, this was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, oh no, we had looked at numerous places to go during these long summer school holidays and had been totally shocked at the cost of almost everywhere in the UK in 'peak season'. To be honest, it was tough to find anywhere that wouldn't end up costing around £100 for a single day out.

Having a Tween, toddler and baby, we needed something to entertain them all and decided a zoo, (or wildlife park to give it it's correct title), would probably be the best bet. We did think of a couple of other places like Poulton's Park with its Peppa Pig world but that did not appeal to Tween and a major theme park would have been a waste of time for Toddler and baby so I think we made the best decision.

We decided early on to take a picnic as we know what these 'captive audience' food places can be like and also to take the car into the premises so we could drive around as well as walk. Having been there a few times before, it's one thing I would always do, especially with little ones.

We paid the £69 (yep, 2 adults, 1 child, 1 car and 1 guide book - little 'uns were free!) and were on our way. We parked up near the entrance and then walked around that section looking at all the animals. Toddler's favourite - the giraffes. We then piled into the car and drove up to the top end of the park and got our picnic out overlooking the Downs sitting in the shade of a tree. Very sociable. My clever hubby had packed me some Coke and him some beers - his were purely to keep the cool bag cool you'll understand ;-)

Whilst I was armed with my Potette Plus, we did have a minor disaster when I had noticed toddler doing her 'wee-wee dance' but actually took her at her word that she did not want one, until she wet herself! Seems she did not want to leave the picnic in case she missed something. For once, I had not brought a change of clothes with me :( We headed to the restrooms and I did a bit of rapid rinsing under the tap whilst some shouting and crying took place (her, not me!) and then back to our next location with shorts drying out on top of the pram :)

We drove around the 'Africa' bit which really should be renamed 'Deer Only' (as nice as it was) and then headed down to the last third of the park where we saw the elephant show and Tweens favourite, the tigers, before heading into the gift shop to gasp at the prices, refuse to buy anything and leave. We did get an ice cream first though at the little stand which turned out to be cheaper than my local shopping centre!

We were there for a good 5 1/2 hours so it worked out to be a great day out. Suffice to say there were 3 tired children in the back of the car on the way home which is definitely a bonus :)

I am still horrified at the cost of a day out in the UK though. No wonder so many people have a trampoline in their back garden!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

In the Night Garden...Live

We had a fabulous trip out on Friday to see In the Night Garden Live at Old Deer Park, Richmond. The weather was glorious and we got there, parked in the ample car park opposite and had a wonder over to the show dome. What a lovely sight with the Pinky Ponk flying high above it, much to the delight of the children all around.

We set out our picnic blanket and all sat down to enjoy our food before the show began. Once eaten, we went in to have some photos taken and our toddlers' eyes lit up at the sight of Upsy Daisy waiting to give her a cuddle. They are much bigger in real life! :) Even I got a photo taken with her too. Well, you couldn't miss that kind of photo opportunity could you...

We settled in for the show and it was truly magical. Even our 7 month old baby was mesmerised throughout and the toddler watched, sang and danced around during the performance. The 'seating' is like large platforms, each sufficiently high that even if someone sits on the one in front of you, children can see over the top. The platforms are wide enough for children to jump around and dance on - which many did.

The characters are a mix of large (with people inside) and puppets, expertly worked.

They have TV screens in the entrance area in case children are a bit scared of the big characters on stage so they can go and watch the show in the format they are used to. Everything has been thought through carefully. All credit to the show for that.

As with any good rock concert or show, the merchandising is a bit pricey at £8 per helium balloon and £6 for a light stick but you just expect to pay for these things don't you ;-) The only downside is that our baby is absolutely terrified of helium balloons so we can only let our toddler play with it when she is in bed.

If you have children and it's coming to you, I would highly recommend it. It is only an hour long but is lovely entertainment.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

WOW - that really is a good toy

I recently decided to look for a few new toys for our toddler as she has kind of outgrown the ones we have and I wanted to get something fun for her and also something that didn't have too small pieces in case they were left on the floor with baby crawling around.

Having scanned around a few websites, I came across WOW Toys and their wonderful activity toys that need no batteries. Push power alone does the trick!

I ordered Katie's Camper Holiday Friends to start with. I really wasn't sure whether this would be a great toy or something that would fall apart/break within a few minutes but it certainly looked sound. As soon as it arrived, I realised it was a good choice. My toddler loved it!

The van itself has a push along motor so you're not constantly looking for batteries (although I do have a drawer full of them as they always all run out at once don't they). It took her a while to get used to the fact that she could push it once and it would go along on its own so it used to whine and wail around the lounge and hall with her pushing it along but she soon cottoned on. This toy gives you two little units to play with, which conveniently 'clip' together with a magnetised hooking mechanism. I'm pleased to say they stay connected well, unless they are taken on a mountain ride over some very fluffy cushions ;-) The van opens in numerous places, including from the roof giving your child acces too the neat little inside area.

It comes with 2 characters, a dog, luggage and some picnic items. There is a trailer with a removeable tent part on top which altogether makes for real value for money.

The only downside to this toy is that it is not compatible with trying to view anything on the TV at the same time in the same room. Yes, it's a bit noisy when it motors along but other than that, it's a great toy.

So, as you can imagine, we decided to order another one of WOW's lovely toys. This time we got our toddler Poppy's Pony Adventure. The 2 characters, again, are a nice size for small hands. The roof of the car opens to fit your rider/driver in and the horse box opens at the back to fit the 2 horses in. The grass and hay are carried on the roof. The people can also sit on (well, in really) the horses so they can gallop off for their own adventures - often being put into my husband's motorcycle boots!

Having two sets now, my toddler can mix and match the characters and has hours of fun with her imaginary journeys around the lounge and dining room.

The characters are a reasonable size so that I'm not constantly panicking that our baby, the speed crawler, has eaten them but our little girl is very careful about putting them away and does enjoy playing with them out of reach. However, I will say that the little car has been given a serious baby bashing and remained intact and working fine so that's a serious endorsement (and we don't call our baby 'bash' for nothing you know!).

The photo shows most of the bits of the two toys. Unfortunately my toddler refused to part with a few other bits that she was playing with (they were now in a Lego Duplo house) ;-)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Chasing babies

Little one has learned to crawl as I have mentioned in previous posts. However, this now presents a new set of problems for us - namely the great outdoors.

It used to be quite an easy thing, a trip into the garden, but not any more, oh no! Now, it is a constant battle with strategic lines drawn and escape plans made. Just a mere few weeks ago, I could lay out a blanket, plop her on it and she'd roll about a bit but mainly was quite content to stay pretty much on said blanket chewing her feet or one of the many toys I surrounded her with. Then came the day she decided that she could roll off the blanket and get to more toys in the garden that she shouldn't have - an old shuttlecock thats been in the hedge for goodness knows how long, a dirty ball, water toys full of rain water and dead things - you get my drift. But, even with the rolling, it took some time for her to position herself to then pick up said article in which time I'd let her get there and then swoop upon her like a bird of prey and lift her back onto the blanket for her to start again. A good game I'm sure you will agree. But then came crawling.

Now crawling is a whole different ball game. She can now focus on what she wants and set straight off for it and boy, she can move! I've even noticed she has a small carpet burn on her forearm and leg where she scoots along indoors. Glad we don't have nylon carpets or she'd be stuck to the walls or ceiling with static!

So, here we are in the garden, with pinpoint accuracy she homes in on her target and she's away like a rocket. No more grabbing the odd chapter (albeit in 5 line instalments) of my book. I need my eyes peeled exclusively for little miss. She lulls you into a false sense of security too as she babbles happily on her blanket, feet in mouth, watching for you to look away for the split second she needs to roll onto her front, set her sight and go before you realise what is happening. Suffice to say nipping to the toilet without sitting her in her chair/playpen/Jumparoo/or putting her on the trampoline - don't worry, I'm just kidding, we'd never put her in a playpen ;-) - is a no-no now.

Hubby has suggested we tether her in the garden. You know the sort of thing that they do to horses grazing on common land where they are tied to a post and can graze round in a circle. Umm, I feel a new baby product idea blossoming ;-)