Friday, 30 July 2010

Book review : Afterlight - Alex Scarrow





It's the end of the world as we know it. Ah OK, time to get ready for another post-apocalyptic novel ! I felt that the book actually gets off to a shaky, rather implausible start as an unknown group of people with an unknown agenda simultaneously blow up the world's major oil production plants, leaving the world with no fuel. No oil, no electricity, but also no means of importing food or anything else into Britain. And, it turns out, no governmental contingency plans for this kind of disaster. Everyone's in the lurch and it doesn't take long for the dark side of human nature to take over as people turn on each other, raping, pillaging and looting whenever they can in a desperate bid for survival. In this modern-day Darwinism, it's not so much survival of the fittest but survival of those who have managed to find guns and a food shop that hasn't been totally cleaned-out yet.



Fast-forward ten years and we discover one group of survivors clinging on to life on a decaying off-shore oil rig. Determined to look after her children and refusing to lay down and give up the fight despite the hardships she has had to endure, Jenny Sutherland has built-up a little haven of relative peace, managing to sustain a few hundred people by recycling human waste to not only fertilise the life-giving vegetables they grow but also to harness the methane to produce a small amount of electricity. Not enough to go back to the way things were but enough to lift spirits slightly with a couple of hours of artificial light each day. Surely there has to be more out there ? Surely there have to be other survivors ?


Well, as we discover, there are - but are they friends or foes ? Is the slick-talking evangelist truly offering salvation or is he a self-serving wolf in sheep's clothing ? Does the sole-surviving Safety Zone in the O2 Arena offer a chance for survival or is it just a holding zone for people to slowly starve to death ?




Unlike other post-apocalyptic tales, Afterlight focuses on the struggles of small groups of individuals rather than showing the death and destruction on a global scale. There are allusions to the fact that things are no better elsewhere in the world but we look inwards to the workings of tiny communities, battling to maintain peace and harmony to survive. This modern-day Lord of the Flies shows that the grown-ups don't do any better than the kids as people frequently turn on each other instead of working together.




It's a fast-paced novel which kept me on the edge of my seat. Each chapter switches narrators and location but all the central characters' destinies are intricately intertwined so it's very easy to follow. It's a very realistic novel - scarily so at times as the reader is forced to reflect that this could really happen - so the good guys don't always come out on top and we never know what will happen. Truly good people are thin on the ground so we really get wrapped up in egging them on, hoping that they can beat the odds and survive to live another day.


The world may be in a gloomy state but the positive character traits of the main protagonists - strong family values, determination, perseverance, moral strength in times of hardship - offer a ray of hope that there is still some good in this bad, bad world that just maybe we're heading towards. It's a gripping novel that will keep you thinking about the wider implications long after you've turned the final page.

In writing this review, I discovered that Afterlight is actually the sequel to another novel, Last Light, which relates the chaos - frequently alluded to in this second instalment - of those first panic-stricken, anarchic days of the oil crisis. Although it in no way detracted from my enjoyment to have not read the first book, this possibly explains why I found the opening scenario somewhat flimsy.


star rating : 4.5/5



RRP : £12.99

Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Orion (27 May 2010)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1409108163
ISBN-13: 978-1409108160

http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/alex+scarrow/afterlight/6617720/

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : The Passage - Justin Cronin
Book review : Sleepless - Charlie Huston
The Things That Keep Us Here - Carla Buckley

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Carlton Kids Augmented Reality Books



Sophie and Juliette love reading books so I was really happy when we were asked to review two new titles from Carlton Kids called Fairyland Magic and Dinosaurs Alive. When the lovely Ant from Carlton asked me if I had a webcam, I couldn't see the link but these aren't just ordinary books - they are very futuristic-sounding Augmented Reality books. On certain pages, you show a little symbol to your webcam and a 3D image leaps off the page and comes to life on your computer. Wow, I was really excited already and I'm a grown-up !



As I was busy working out how it all worked and installing the software, the girls started reading the books and looking at the pictures. As you can see from the photo, just as a normal reading book, they loved it and kept telling me interesting "facts" about fairies and dinosaurs !



Next came the magical bit. I installed the programme onto my laptop and told the girls to find one of the pages with a special symbol on. They pointed it at the webcam and - nothing happened ! It's a bit fiddly trying to get the webcam to actually detect the special hidden code that will bring it all to life but it's worth it when you hear the little tinkling noise and you suddenly get a fairy on your screen that you can control so that she sprinkles fairy dust, plays her flute, makes magical fairy flowers grow and changes their colour.



Once you've activated the symbol (my advice is to start close to the webcam and directly opposite then gradually move to a flatter position further back once you have the picture on screen), you can turn the book so that the fairy turns around and you can view it from all angles, get closer to see it in more detail or further away if she's flitting about the screen. Even better is the fact that your webcam still works as a webcam so you can get in shot too. You can see Juliette here looking totally enchanted by the fairy but it was even more impressive with the Dinosaurs Alive book, when the girls (OK, and me !) had fun snarling at dinosaurs and pretending to bite their heads off !

You can't really see how impressive it all is from a photo so I highly recommend you check out the videos on the Books Come Alive website to see them in action. Even as an adult, I can't get my head around the technology so you can imagine how totally enchanted and excited the girls were.

The concept is absolutely faultless but unfortunately, we did have a few technical issues. For some reason, the software won't run on our main computer at all (you can check the requirements before you buy on the help page here to avoid disappointment) but it all installed and ran smoothly on my laptop with its inbuilt webcam. The Dinosaurs Alive book was really easy to use - the magic symbols activated really easily and the dinosaurs appeared on the screen each time within seconds. It was a lot harder to get the webcam to interact with the symbols in the Fairyland Magic book though and it took a good couple of minutes of tilting the book and trying different angles and distances from the webcam to get the magic to work. Even so, despite persevering on two separate occasions, I only managed to get the first two AR (augmented reality) symbols to kick in. The final three won't work at all, which the girls are really disappointed about because they desperately want to catch a "real-life" fairy on the little disc enclosed in the book. I haven't given up yet, I'll be taking the book with us when we visit the grandparents to see if I can get it to work on their computers/webcams but it might be an idea to try it out before offering it as a gift to make sure it all works on your system to avoid huge disappointment.

Despite these technical difficulties, I'm totally blown away by the concept. I found the books to be a bit too gender-specific (although this didn't bother the girls in the slightest - they happily read both !) but there is also a third book available, The Magic of Christmas, which would appeal to both girls and boys. If you have kids who aren't that keen on reading, this would be a great way to inspire them to get enthusiastic about books as it's almost a cross between a book and a video game that they can interact with.

I was expecting a nasty shock when I went to look at the price but I was actually pleasantly surprised. At £14.99, they're about the price of any similar glossy-paged, hardback kids' book without the augmented reality technology incorporated so they seem good value to me. I'll definitely be recommending them to mums of reluctant readers and offering them as birthday gifts (after checking the recipients have the required computer equipment) and I'll be looking out for the Magic of Christmas book to help get the kids all excited in the run up to Christmas !

star rating : 4.5/5 (but definitely 5/5 if we hadn't had the technical issues)

RRP : £14.99

for more information :

Dinosaurs Alive ! http://www.carltonbooks.co.uk/display.asp?ISB=9781847325785&

New widget from Lands' End to help you decide what to grow in your garden

The techie folk at Lands' End have come up with a great new widget to help you choose what you can grow in your garden or on your patio so that even if you haven't got green fingers, you can make the most of your plnting space. You choose the different options - in pots or in beds, in shade or in bright sunlight, which season and so on - and the clever little widget does the rest. It's really simple to use and comes up with some great ideas. We grow cherry tomatoes on the patio and there's nothing like the satisfaction of eating something you've grown yourself - and the girls get all excited and more inspired to eat fresh fruit and vegetables too. They also got really enthusiastic about growing sunflowers too and learnt a lot about looking after nature so it's got to be worth a go !

You can try out the widget here :




USFURZUMP5Y2

Nailene Nail Art Stickers - holiday toes !



Yesterday the Fed Ex lady called at our house and when the girls saw the word Nailene, they got really excited ! They recognised the name from when we reviewed some Nailene products last year (review here) and couldn't wait to discover the gorgeous girlie goodies inside the lovely purple gift bag !




They may only be 9 and 5 but they already recognise cute accessories when they see them ! As school is over for the year and we're just about to set off on a fortnight's holiday in Turkey, I promised we'd have a girlie makeover session and give ourselves some holiday toes ! I warned them that the nail art may not survive until the weekend when we leave but I have to admit, for the moment, it's all staying firmly put.



We tried out a mixture of two sets of Bedazzle Nail Art stickers. First up was the Earth Angel set, which will appeal to your inner hippy chick (or should that be hippy chic ?!) with its pretty pastel-coloured flowers, butterflies and hearts as well as silver flowers and glitzy blue jewels. Then, for the ultimate bling-bling, we added some impressively sparkly rhinestone stickers from the Super Star set. The girls were in their element and parading around like mini-divas showing off their princess toes !


In my review last year, I said that the stickers didn't stay on for very long - partly because I didn't have any clear topcoat at hand and partly because I was constantly putting my hands in water. Well, this time we went girlie-girlie and started off with a deep pink basecoat, to really make the nail art stickers stand out, then applied a double layer of clear varnish over the top.



The result was quite impressive - well, the girls were impressed anyway ! And no, I haven't got three feet - that's one foot each ! Don't feet look funny when you really look at them ?! We now have the perfect holiday toes to look funky and fashionable in our open-toed sandals and the girls are even more excited than they already were about going on a plane and parading around the poolside !


The Nail Art Stickers take literally minutes to put on, are really simple to use (I did mess up one sticker when peeling it off the adhesive backing paper by accidentally sticking it to itself but there are well over 100 stickers per pack so I still had plenty to go around - you could even do a whole sleepover and have loads to spare !) and they are ideal for girlie girls of all ages. They're perfect for some special mother-daughter bonding time or as a pyjama party pampering treat and the pocket money prices won't break the bank.

star rating : 4.5/5

for more information : http://www.nailene.com/


Other reviews you may be interested in :


Recipe : Frozen Eyeball Juice - from Bottlegreen

The lovely people at Bottlegreen sent through this fabulously ghoulish kiddie cocktail for Halloween but I think the kids would love to consume this by the (sick-)bucketload all through the summer !



Frozen Eyeball Juice

For scaring the living daylights out of your friends at Halloween, why not make these fabulously refreshing slushy drinks with bottlegreen Elderflower Sorbet? Decorate them with edible “eyeballs” made with canned lychees stuffed with green grapes and glace cherries, speared onto cocktail sticks. The kids will love them!

Serves 6
Ingredients:
10 scoops bottlegreen Elderflower Sorbet
300ml (1/2 pint) sparkling water
6 canned lychees, drained
6 green grapes
Thin slices from 3 glace cherries
Cocktail sticks

Method:
Scoop the bottlegreen Elderflower Sorbet into a large jug and add the sparkling water. Use a whisk to mix them together to give a slushy consistency. Share between 6 small glasses.

For the “eyeballs”, stuff each lychee with a grape and stick a small slice of glace cherry in each one. Spear onto cocktail sticks and arrange on the glasses.

Serve at once, before they melt.

Cook’s Note: You could use raisins or sultanas instead of the glace cherries – just make a small hole in the grapes with a knife or skewer and then poke them in!
for more information on bottlegreen products : http://www.bottlegreen.co.uk
Other reviews you may be interested in :

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Camouflage Company Space Saver Bag


Normally, when I receive a household item for review, I have to ask myself the question 'Does it do the job it's intended for ?'. Whenever something arrives from the Camouflage Company, that question is always replaced by : 'How many different uses can I think of for this then ?' ! Since arriving in our house, their ingenious duffel carrier has been used as a play mat, picnic mat, crafts mat, laundry bag, laundry drip catcher, sledge ... oh and even a duffel carrier from time to time ! I was therefore really excited when they asked me if I'd like to review one of their new Space Saver Bags.

However hard we try, we can't all be domestic godesses, especially with small kids and pets making a mess faster than we can clean, so the Camouflage Company's fantastically well thought-out products can be your best friend and hide a multitude of sins, camouflaging your clutter, hence their slogan "glams up clutter, makes mess look less". This innovative Space Saver Bag does just that.

It looks just like a big brown paper bag but is actually made of a resistant plasticky material. As well as being water resistant and wipe clean, it's 100% recyclable. It is absolutely perfect as a laundry bag as it will resist any drips of laundry detergent or water and steam but it can also be used as a funky storage system for bulky winter jumpers, bedding, towels, ... in fact anything you want to store out of the way. It's a fantastic portable toy chest for all the annoying little toys that kids always want to spread out all over the floor (top tip : use the duffle carrier flat as a play mat then pour it all in the space saver bag for an instant tidy up that will avoid little bits getting sucked up in the hoover !). It's also a great place for tidying away shoes that invariably take up a lot of floor space in the porch, garage or wherever else they end up getting left lying around !

Depending on what you're storing in it, you can either leave the mesh part on show so that you can see the contents or turn it around to keep them out of view. If you buy several bags, the mesh viewing panel is brilliant for instantly finding what you're looking for without emptying out or rummaging through all the different bags.

It's a great multi-purpose, funky, quirky storage solution that can be used in a multitude of ways. Its rectangular base will fit snugly into corners or against the wall, unlike many bulky laundry bins that are usually round, and when empty, it folds totally flat and takes up very little space.


Unleash your domestic goddess and hide all your clutter away so it looks beautiful ! It's the modern version of 50's housewives sweeping dust bunnies under the carpet where nobody could see them !
I've also been told it makes a brilliant hiding place for hide and seek too !


star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £9.99



Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book Review : The Red Queen - Philippa Gregory



The Red Queen, Philippa Gregory's long-awaited sequel to her best-seller The White Queen is due to hit the shelves next month and people are already talking about it non-stop all over twitter and various book blogs. So the question is : will it live up to the hype ?

As I said in my recent review of The White Queen, I didn't actually expect to like these tales of The Wars of the Roses because historical fiction is really not my thing. Like most people, I had vague notions of the ruthless ambition of the rival houses of York and Lancaster pitching cousins against each other in their constant battle for the throne, but I didn't really know much about any of the protagonists.

The histories have been told many times before but Philippa Gregory focuses on the her-stories, giving a voice to the female characters who, despite having little power or respect in their male-oriented world, often had a great deal of influence behind the scenes.

I was a bit worried that The Red Queen wouldn't live up to the powerful opening episode that preceded it. Elizabeth Woodville, The White Queen of York that the first novel focused on, seemed to be an ambitious but nevertheless loyal leading lady that we could relate to. She had a mysterious multi-faceted persona as heartbroken mother of the Princes in the Tower, descendant of the strange water goddess Melusina, practising witch, the first commoner to marry a king ... How could the manically pious, ruthlessly ambitious, passionless Red Queen of Lancaster take centre stage without paling into insignificance ? She lacks the charisma, the beauty and the passion of her rival.

Well, surprisingly, she does rise to the challenge. The opening chapters were a bit confusing because I had trouble repositioning myself in history and working out where the story was beginning. We in fact go back in time to before the opening of The White Queen and discover the future Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort, as a fanatically religious nine-year-old, devoted to God, proud of her saints' knees that are rough from kneeling in prayer and convinced that she is the English version of Joan of Arc, her heroine who comes to her in visions. Despite Elizabeth Woodville's scathing criticisms of Margaret Beaufort in The White Queen, we cannot fail to be touched by the childish naivety of this little girl and be horrified by the tales of her marriage and barbaric childbirth just a few years later. The tables are turned and it is now Margaret's turn to give her first-person narrative, including her own harsh criticism and dismissal of Elizabeth Woodville as a nothing, a whore and a witch. Although her loyalty to her unique son is possibly misplaced, we can, once again, empathise with this ruthlessly driven mother who just wants what is best for her child - and what is, she considers, their God-given right to the throne.

Despite a large part of the novel telling the tales of the same battles and historic developments as in The White Queen, we still learn a lot of new information and get a fascinating insight into the life and times of the people both rich and poor. We can draw many parallels between the tales of the two rival queens but we never get a sense of repetition in the stories and we see things from two opposing viewpoints.

Philippa Gregory presents us with a rigourously researched fictionalised account of her female characters. As the womenfolk were so unimportant at the time, I would assume much of their histories are largely unrecorded but she has filled in the blanks with her informative and enthralling narrative.

Unlike Hollywood blockbusters or serialised novels featuring heroes that we all know will never be killed off, this is based on real life and the good guys (if we could even work out who they are) do not always win. If I'd paid closer attention to my history lessons at school, I'm sure I'd have known who would win the ultimate battle but I was glued to the page, enthralled by the back-stabbing and horrific battle scenes and never knowing until the final pages what the outcome would be. In this cousins' war, all is unfair in love and war and the novel is fast-paced and action-packed.

It definitely does live up to the hype and I am now champing at the bit to discover the third novel of the trilogy which will focus on the mystical Jaquetta, mother of Elizabeth Woodville, who is sure to have another passionate and mysterious tale to tell.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £18.99
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (19 Aug 2010)
ISBN-10: 1847374573
ISBN-13: 978-1847374578







Other reviews you may be interested in :

Monday, 26 July 2010

Dr Brown's Natural Flow Trainer Cups


Trainer cups - or sippy cups as they're known in our house - are really popular, not only with 1-year-old Pierre but also with 5-year-old Juliette. She's perfectly capable of drinking out of a normal glass but if she's feeling tired or poorly and wants to lay down on the settee in front of the cartoons with a drink or if she wants to take a drink in the car, it's safer to give her a sippy cup to avoid messy spillages.


The problem is, the spouts get worn through in no time at all. I initially used to tell Juliette off for not looking after them and chewing them, then I realised that it was just the pressure of her teeth on the soft spouts when she sucked hard to get the liquid out that was their downfall.


Dr Brown's have obviously considered this because their trainer cups come not only in a choice of pink or blue (as well as other funkier unisex colours) but also with a choice of soft or hard spouts. As Pierre is currently teething and also because Juliette always wants to try out every single new trainer cup that comes through the door, I opted for the hard spout.





Pierre has had a good chew on several occasions, as you can see in the photos above, but it is still in pristine condition so it is obviously very hardwearing, especially as it has also been through the dishwasher a few times. I've been using it with water to keep him hydrated when we go the park in the hot weather but the cups come in two sizes, 180ml (6oz) or 270ml (9oz), so they could also be used for milk feeds.


The cups have a sip-activated valve which means that you can turn them upside down or knock them over and nothing will leak out - brilliant news if you have a clumsy baby or toddler who's not very good at holding on to the cup yet. I even tried shaking them upside down to try and make a mess - not a drop came out ! I asked Juliette to try out the cup and she told me it was much easier to get drink out of than with some of the other cups she's tried because she didn't have to suck so hard. Pierre does tend to drink a bit too fast and choke if I don't stop every few seconds but I think that's because he's still a breast-fed baby so he's used to sucking hard.


The cups are interchangeable so you only need to replace one element (spout, valve, handles) when they get worn out. They can also be used with or without the handles, depending on the age of your baby, so they can grow with your child and be used over a longer period of time. They come with a protective cap to keep them clean in between drinks or when out and about. They're really easy to assemble without the annoying tilted-lid syndrome that you get with some brands that results in leaky cups or an irritating waste of time as you desperately try to get the lid on straight !

It also pretty much goes without saying now but Dr Brown's training cups are BPA-free. They do their job really well and I'm impressed at how well they're standing up to Pierre chonking away on them on a daily basis !
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £4.99

Maynards Limited Edition Fruit Duos


The first thing I want to clear up (for myself mainly !) is a question that has always bugged me - do wine gums actually contain wine and if not, whay are they called wine gums ? Well, Wikipedia to the rescue ! "Wine gums were originally created by mixing fermented wine with a gelling agent. Modern wine gums no longer contain wine." Ahh, well, as the French say, I'll go to bed less stupid tonight !

Maynards have been around for absolutely donkey's years. Again, according to Wikipedia,
"the Maynards company was founded in 1896 by Charles Riley Maynard [...] but he had been making his sweets since 1880. Maynards Wine Gums were introduced in 1909 by son Charles Gordon Maynard. Maynards has since been bought by Cadbury and now sells over £50m of sweets." But even if they are as old as the hills, they're still coming up with new products.

Just last week, on the 19th July, Maynards released the limited edition Maynards Fruit Duos and kindly sent us some to try. The girls had already been watching the adverts starring Maynard the Moose and thought he was hilarious, so they were happy to munch them while intoning "Look into my eyes, Look into my eyes ! " like the hypnotist on Little Britain ! Maynards explain, "Maynard’s talents include using his jaw-massaging antlers, inducing trances with his hypno-eyes and conducting enchanting music to set the optimum chew-mood. You have been warned !" If you still don't have a clue what I'm on about, you can watch the adverts here.

But on to the sweets themselves. The girls excitedly ripped open the packet and started lining up the different shapes and colours so they could try one of each. They love the selection of different shapes but got a bit confused trying to work out which colours corresponded to which fruit. I said not to worry, just eat them and see what they thought. The unanimous response was - they're delicious ! And really chewy and fruity.

The sweets come in six double-combination flavours, namely Strawberry & Lime, Strawberry & Blackberry, Apple & Blackberry, Apple & Pear, Tangerine & Pear and Tangerine & Lime. I must admit that I was just happily munching away without trying to work out what each separate flavour was. They do all taste different but I'm not sure I could successfully list each individual flavour because it's a bit like eating several sweets at once (which I admit I always do with Skittles, Jelly Tots and other small fruity sweets anyway !).

Maynards say that they are guaranteed to keep you chewing all summer long and judging by the girls' reactions, they could be right ! I love the fact that they won't melt in the heat and that, unlike chocolatey treats, they're great for travelling as they won't induce travel sickness.

Grab them while you can because I don't know how long they'll be on the shelves for !

star rating : 4.5/5

for more information : www.maynardsayschew.com

Other reviews you might be interested in :

A Quarter Of - all the old retro sweeties !
Milkybar Cow
Retro Nestle Easter Eggs from the 80s !
The Ginger People - ginger sweets and chews

Oilatum Junior‘s ‘Take Control Tips’ for holidaying with children with eczema

Hopefully Sophie won't get an eczema flare-up when we're on holiday next week, but here is some advice from Oilatum to help keep the scratching at bay :






To help parents cope with their child’s eczema try Oilatum Junior‘s ‘Take Control Tips’;



The first line treatment for eczema is the use of emollients. On holiday it’s important to stick to your emollient routine as your child may be more likely to come into contact with irritants and allergens that they don’t usually encounter at home.



Avoid ordinary soaps or bubble baths as they can make eczema worse; use a soap substitute instead to cleanse the skin.



Oilatum Junior Bath Additive will help soothe your child’s skin, helping to keep it clean and hydrated without drying.



Emollient creams should be applied as liberally and frequently as possible4. Oilatum Junior Cream will help lock in the skin’s moisture, prevent the skin from further drying and help stop irritants from penetrating the skin.



To avoid irritation, cream should be smoothed onto the skin in the direction of the hair growth, and not rubbed in.



Always use clean, dry hands to apply emollient cream.






Oilatum Junior Cream comes in a handy 150ml flip top tube; perfect for school satchels and hand bags priced from £5.49. A larger 350ml pump is available from £7.49. Oilatum Junior Bath Additive is available in two pack sizes: £4.95 for 150ml, £8.95 for 300ml. Available from all good pharmacies and selected supermarkets. Oilatum Junior Cream contains light liquid paraffin and white soft paraffin, and Oilatum Junior Bath Additive contains light liquid paraffin. Always read the label.





Other reviews you might be interested in :


Ecz-Easy


Badger Baby Balm


Vivaderm Daily


Eurax Cream - "Stops Itching Fast"

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Anti-snoring Solutions Tried and Tested !



OK, I have a confession to make ... I snore ! Not all the time - in fact not often at all, as far as I know, but I do know that it happens occasionally, especially if I've got a cold or hayfever. However, unfortunately, I'm not the only snorer in the house. Hubby does too, as do the two dogs. There's not a lot I can do about the dogs snoring (canine nasal strips ? - now there's an idea for Dragons' Den !) but I was very enthusiastic when given the chance to try out some snoring remedies. Mike wasn't quite so enthusiastic but I convinced him !




I decided to start off with the scariest looking method before he changed his mind and pulled out the Snore Mate Snoring Relief Mouthpiece. The picture on the back of the box looks like a cross between a rugby player's gum shield and a pair of false teeth ! Not exactly sexy, but then again neither is snoring ! It's no good pulling this one out just before bed because you have to get a custom-fit for it to work. That means you have to put the mouthpiece in boiling water for exactly 12 seconds then mould it around your teeth before plunging it into icy water to set the shape. (If you haven't got at least three teeth, you can't use it, I'm afraid !) The website says it's warm but won't burn you but Mike squealed and said it was really hot ! I'm sure I wasn't helping things by laughing at him but I couldn't help it ! The mouthpiece forces you to breathe through your nose with your mouth closed so if you've got a cold and a blocked up nose, you won't be able to use it. Mike didn't feel at ease going to sleep with something in his mouth and said it felt uncomfortable, though not painful, to force his jaw forward into an unnatural position. The website does say that you need on average four nights to get used to the device but that if it's really not for you, they'll refund your money. As it takes a bit of messing about to get it custom-fitted, felt slightly uncomfortable and needs replacing after a few months, Mike said he wasn't overly keen on this method. OK, on to the next one.

I decided to go for an easier method this time and pulled out a packet of Boots Nasal Strips. I love the fact that there is no messing about, you just peel off the backing and stick one on your nose like a plaster. The nasal passages are slightly opened by the strip which is supposed to eliminate snoring. They're discreet and non-invasive and Mike was happy to wear them and even forgot they were there. I had to remind him to take it off in the morning so he didn't go to work with it still on his nose ! They didn't totally stop the snoring but I think they did reduce the volume by a few decibels ! If you have really greasy skin, they may not stick to your nose properly though.





We also had a free sample of Breathe Right Nasal Strips which worked in the same way and equally as well as the Boots ones but stuck a bit more firmly to the skin - a bit too firmly in fact because Mike said it was like ripping off a plaster on tender skin the next day. He did prefer the slightly thinner shape of these strips though.




Next up was Otrivine Adult Nasal Spray, a decongestant that works within minutes to clear a stuffy nose which may help to reduce snoring. As a bunged up nose is usually my reason for snoring, I gave this one a go and was impressed with the results. It cleared my nose, which is no better than my usual hayfever nasal spray, but the results lasted until the next morning which really impressed me. I don't know if I snored less because Mike was asleep anyway but it helped me get a good's night sleep because I could breathe more easily.



The final product that we had to review was Snore-eze Oral Strips. I wasn't sure how an oral strip would work but I was really impressed. It's a little strip that you put on the roof of your mouth which dissolves within seconds and continues throughout the night, coating your throat with active ingredients that reduce the vibrations that cause snoring. Mike was happy because they were easy to use, non-invasive and tasted lovely and minty ! I loved them because they really worked. Mike tends to snore most when he sleeps on his back and for him, these worked best out of all the products we tried. As each person is different though, you'll need to use trial and error to see what suits you best, depending on your reasons for snoring.


RRP :
Snore Mate £29.99
Boots Nasal Strips £9.78 for 30
Breathe Right Nasal Strips £6.45 for 10
Otrivine Adult Nasal Spray £2.93 for 10ml
Snore-eze Oral Strips £5.10 for 14



For more information :

http://www.snoremateuk.co.uk/


www.breatheright.co.uk/Sample.aspx (***free sample available***)




www.boots.com/en/Boots-Nasal-Strips-Small-30_8622





http://www.snoreeze.com/



Other reviews you might be interested in :
Vicks Sinex Soother and First Defence Nasal Sprays
Sterimar Isotonic Nasal Hygiene Spray
Baby Nose Clear Aspirator & Room Vapour
Care Allergy Defence - natural hayfever protection

Badger Baby Balm




On their facebook page, Badger promise to make "soothing and healing balms for your hands, feet, lips and body, made from the purest ingredients on Earth ! Safe and effective sunscreens and bug repellents - good for you, your family, and the planet" . I've already tested a few of their products over the past weeks and have been very impressed so far.

Today, I decided to try out the Baby Balm. I wasn't totally sure what they meant by Baby Balm, assuming it would be a nappy rash type of treatment, so I flipped over the cute little tin and had a look. "Baby Balm. For delicate skin anywhere on your baby. Great for adults with sensitive skin too ! Mild. Safe. Calming. Rub it in." OK, more of a general soothing skin balm then, but I'm sure it could help sooth nappy rash and I'm even tempted to try it on Sophie's occasional eczema-type rashes.

Like most of the Badger Balm products I've been trying out, the Baby Balm comes in an ultra-cute tin (once they're empty, I think I'll keep them all as decorative objects !) as a solid, slightly greasy balm whose consistency reminds me a bit of lip balm that comes in little pots.

As I've come to expect from Badger products, there are absolutely no chemical nasties and the ingredients list is reassuringly short. The main ingredients are Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Castor Oil and Beeswax. The lovely added extras in this balm are Roman Chamomile Essential Oil and Extract of Calendula, both of which are well known for their calming, soothing properties. All of the ingredients are also certified organic.

I rubbed a little into the back of my hand and it left a slightly greasy sheen but didn't feel at all sticky or unpleasant. My skin felt lovely and moisturised and I think this would make a lovely deeply nourishing treat for dry skin overnight or on rough dry skin on hardworking knees or elbows.

The Badger website suggests other ideas for ways to use it. "This is also an excellent product for people with sensitive skin or with skin conditions. For babies, use it to prevent and soothe the itching associated with diaper rash and cradle cap... can also be used for a soothing baby massage. Organic Baby Balm makes a great gift." Oooh cradle cap - the only thing I've found that works for getting rid of that is baby oil and it is soooo messy ! Rubbing in a little solid balm would definitely be a lot easier and it also smells a lot nicer.

If you're going off on holiday this summer, it's great that the Badger Baby Balm comes in a metal tin too, as it's much less likely to leak all over everything and is very compact. It's a great general purpose balm that can help soothe away any itchiness from mosquito bites, nettle rash, sunburn (you always miss a bit somewhere, however hard you try !), eczema, nappy rash ... it's definitely coming with us in our first aid kit when we head off on holiday next week !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £3.99 for 21g

Other reviews you might be interested in :
Little Me Organics (Shh Sleepy Head Range)

Badger Sunscreen SPF15



When I was sent this Badger Sun Screen to test, I oohed and aahed at the gorgeous packaging then put it to the side, convinced that -at the start of the summer at least - SPF15 would be far from sufficient to protect our skin from the sun's rays.

Since then, I've been totally re-educated about how SPF's work. I posted about it here but Badger offer their own advice on the subject too : "SPF15 sunscreen blocks about 93% of UVB rays, SPF30 sunscreen blocks about 97% of UVB rays and an SPF50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. So SPF30 sunscreen does not give you twice the protection of SPF15 sunscreen ! And an SPF50 sunscreen is only 1% more effective than an SPF30 sunscreen. In fact, the FDA (the US agency that governs drugs like sunscreens) does not allow any sunscreen to be labeled as anything higher than SPF30+ because they know that higher SPF sunscreens do not offer significantly greater protection, and that such products are misleading to consumers. Currently any sunscreen labeled with and SPF greater than 30 (or without a 'Drug Facts' label) is 'misbranded' under Section 502 of the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act." Hmmmm that's interesting - especially as I always reach straight for the factor 50 when buying sun cream for the kids.

OK, time to seriously test the Badger Sun Screen then. I absolutely love the various Badger Balms that I've been testing lately because they are all so natural and free from chemical nasties. The same is true of the Badger Sun Screen. "Badger proudly presents our popular natural SPF15 sunscreen rated highest for safety and efficacy by the Environmental Working Group ! [...] These natural, organic, physical barrier sunscreens use zinc oxide instead of chemicals to protect you from the sun."

The one thing I wasn't keen on is the fact that it does leave a rather greasy, whitish residue on your skin so if you use it on your face, you'll look a bit sweaty and won't be able to wear make-up over the top (which I never do anyway but I know some people like to !). This whitening effect is apparently unavoidable as the instructions for use state : "For full protection, apply an ample white coat to all exposed skin, then rub in to reduce whitening effect". Reduce, not eliminate.

Personally, I like the smell of the Sun Screen. It smells herby and natural and you can tell just from the fragrance that this is a natural product. However, it didn't go down so well with the kids who thought it didn't smell like "normal sun cream" ! The cute badger on the tube won them over though - top marks for fun packaging that makes me smile every time I look at it !

The advantage of the slight greasiness is that my skin felt lovely and soft and moisturised afterwards and I didn't feel the need for an aftersun lotion. For a natural option, packed with lovely ingredients like Lavender Essential Oils and natural extracts of Rosemary and Seabuckthorn Berry, it gets my vote.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £14.20 for 87ml

for more information : http://www.badgerbalm.com/p-371-spf-15-for-face-body.aspx

Other reviews you might be interested in :
Badger Bali Balm - Soothing After Sun Care
Be Sun Savvy & Beat the Heat - Top Tips from Green People
Green People & Organic Children Sun Lotion
Sun Sense Toddler Milk SPF50
Wilko Sun Care range

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Sun Sense Toddler Milk SPF50



Well, the school holidays have now kicked off and the sun is back - yayy ! So I've been testing numerous brands of sun creams over the past few days. The good news is, they all seem to work really well because nobody has had any sunburn at all.



On the hot seat (or should that be the hot skin ?!) today was Sun Sense Toddler Milk. It's SPF 50, high protection (blocking UV-A and UV-B rays) and is carefully formulated for children's delicate skin. It's also water-resistant for 40 minutes, which is great for kids who are constantly running around getting sweaty or having water fights, even when they're nowhere near a pool !


This is the first sun cream that I have ever used as a roll-on - it's just like one of the roll-on deodorants - and I have to admit, I wasn't keen on this method of application. I found it time-consuming and Juliette said it hurt when I tried to apply it to her arms and shoulders. Don't let this put you off though - having checked on the website, it is available as a 50 ml roll-on or a 250 ml bottle. The advantage of the roll-on is that it's small enough to leave in your handbag or pocket so you can constantly have it to hand when needed.


The milk is runny enough to be easily applied but thick enough to look like it offers serious protection. It rubs quickly and easily into the skin leaving a gorgeous scent but absolutely no greasiness or white residue.

I also love the fact that Sun Sense is made in Australia and tested to Australian standards. If it can cope with Aussie sun, I'm sure it can deal with anything the UK can throw at us !

The one little thing that put me off slightly was the roll-on applicator and, as I said earlier, the Toddler Milk is also available in classic bottle format so you can take your pick.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £7.25 for 50ml roll-on

for more information : http://www.sunsense.co.uk/content/Toddler_Milk_SP_50.aspx

to buy online : http://shop.crawfordpharma.com/acatalog/Sunsense.html

Other reviews you might be interested in :
Be Sun Savvy & Beat the Heat - Top Tips from Green People
Green People & Organic Children Sun Lotion
Badger Bali Balm - Soothing After Sun Care
Wilko Sun Care range

Giveaway Scout website



Giveaway Scout, a giveaway search engine, recently asked me if I'd like them to add me to their database of giveaway blogs so I went and had a look to see what's in it for them and what's in it for me. Well, having checked them out, it's seems to be a win-win situation for me ! They will post my giveaways on their multiple channels (website, newsletter, Twitter, Facebook and widget network) - that means more exposure for me and my blog, more people will enter my giveaways and therefore more companies will offer me lovely things to give away (so you win too !).

But the other way to win (literally) is to use their database of giveaways, grouped into handy categories as well as by date, to see what's up for grabs in the blogosphere. Lots of them are limited to the States but if you use "worldwide" as a search term, you'll find some that anyone can enter.

Good luck to all you competition fiends ! And any other bloggers who want to be added, you can go and sign up to add your blog - and it's all totally free !

for more information : http://www.giveawayscout.com/

Friday, 23 July 2010

Nakd Gluten/Wheat/Dairy-Free Raw Fruit & Nut Bars


If you suffer from coeliac disease or have an intolerance to wheat or dairy products, finding tasty things to snack on isn't always easy. Well, I have good news for you ! I've recently been reviewing the wide range of Nakd and Trek raw fruit and nut bars from Natural Balance Foods and they have a selection of bars that are free from gluten, wheat and dairy.

They come in four flavours - cashew cookie, pecan pie, ginger bread and cocoa orange - and they are all absolutely delicious. My absolute favourite is the cocoa orange bar that vaguely reminds me of a Terry's chocolate orange but packed full of fruity goodness instead.

Each bar is a delicious blend of cold-pressed raw fruit and nuts, with no added sugars or syrups, although they do contain naturally occuring fruit sugars. It's amazing that something so tasty can be good for you but each bar counts as one of your five-a-day fruit and veg portions.

I tested them on 5-year-old Juliette and 8-year-old Sophie and they both absolutely love them, frequently choosing them over less healthy snacks like crisps or sweets. They're perfect for school lunchboxes and they are also much better than chocolatey snacks in the summertime because they don't melt.

As they say on the website, they're "just raw fruit & nuts cheerfully smooshed together in Wales" ! You'll never believe they're good for you and they genuinely give you the delicious taste of naughty cakes that you can no longer eat if you're intolerant.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £2.99 for a 4-bar taster pack

for more information : http://www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk/store/newproducts/default.aspx

Other reviews you might like :
Nakd Wildly Different Raw Fruit, Nut & Oat Bars
Natural Balance Trek Bars
Nakd Wildly Different Fruit-Infused Raisins
Asda's Great Stuff range for kids - great healthy snacks and meals
Harvest Cheweee Cereal Bars

Travel advice : TOP TIPS FOR PICKING AND PACKING THE PERFECT BACKPACK

I've just reviewed a fabulous and funky school bag made by Jeep (yes, as in Jeeps !) and they have some words of wisdom to help you pick and pack the perfect backpack for travelling too.



TOP TIPS FOR PICKING AND PACKING THE PERFECT BACKPACK


1. Try before you buy to ensure a good fit. The pack should remain snug, and not swing wildly or throw you off balance


2. Choose packs with wide, firm, well-padded shoulder straps and keep the pack central and balanced


3. Tighten both straps firmly so the pack rests about two inches above the waist


4. Pack heaviest items closest to your back


5. Don’t overstuff the bag. The general rule of thumb is no more than 20% of your body weight


6. Choose the essentials you want to pack then hunt out the smallest, most light-weight versions to reduce backpack weight


7. Carry magazines instead of heavy books which can be left on planes, in hotels or thrown away when you’ve read them


8. On holiday, pack a change of clothes in a friend’s or partner’s bag, so if yours goes missing, you still have something to wear


Definitely some good advice there.
Other blogposts you might be interested in :

Jeep School Bags



I know, I know - the kids are barely on holiday and I'm already blogging about a school bag ! But if you're anything like me, you'll be getting all the stuff bought in for the next school year well in advance to avoid the last minute panic.

I'd never heard of Jeep bags but, having researched them online a bit, they're a really well-known company.... for making Jeeps ! "Jeep is one of the most recognised brands in the world and has become as much a way of life as a car to drive. Since Willys-Overland registered Jeep as a trademark in 1950, mastery, authenticity, freedom and adventure have become the hallmarks of the brand and the basis for its 4x4 leadership worldwide. The Jeep Lifestyle range reflects this globally recognized symbol of freedom and rugged adventure." Aha, that explains why it has the slogan "Live Without Limits" on the little Jeep logo on the front of the bag then !

The first thing that Sophie noticed was the colour - "oooh it's bright pink" she enthused ! I was more impressed with the number of pockets - it's like a Tardis ! And just when you think you've found all the little secret places to hide things, you find a load more !

The front of the bag clips open with a sturdy buckle (like the kind you get on pushchair harnesses). You're immediately faced with the whole front panel covered in different sized pockets for pens, bus card, canteen card, a little zip up mesh pocket for loose change or bus tickets, plus two bigger pockets that would be handy for snacks or a can of drink. There's also a clip for you to attach your keys or phone or MP3 player or whatever else you're planning on getting confiscated for the day (I'm a teacher, I know these things !).

Behind this panel of pockets, you have the main interior of the bag, plenty big enough for A4 sized folders and textbooks, which also has - you've guessed it ! - two inbuilt pockets for pencil cases, homework diaries, rough books, etc. But if you close the bag and turn it round to the back, you can start all over again ! The whole back panel of the bag zips open offering an identical big interior section with two more pockets. The external back panel also zips open to reveal a long, wide, flat pocket that can be unzipped at the top and bottom. Even the sides offer a deep mesh pocket ideal for a phone or pencil case and three gaps for holding a pen, pencil and ruler on the other side. I have honestly never seen so many pockets built into one bag !



Another thing I'm impressed with is how robust it all seems. The inner pockets don't seem at all flimsy or fragile like many liners that split within days. The zips are all extremely solid with chunky rubber zipper tags. The carry straps are firmly attached and look unlikely to fray.

They have also taken comfort into account, giving you an adjustable strap and also a cushioned pad with a breathable lining to protect your shoulder. It's also incredibly light. Is there anything they haven't thought of ? Well, apparently not ! "Perfect for giving teens and tweens the confidence to go back to school in style, this range of durable, well-fitting backpacks are designed to increase comfort and ensure good weight transfer between shoulders and hips, putting less strain on growing spines. Parents will love the range too as Jeep epitomises hard wearing and durability, ensuring the normal rough and tumble of an average school day won’t leave them looking for a new bag at the end of the first term! But that’s not all, the Jeep range of rucksacks are wipe clean, waterproof and are easily carried with two shoulder straps which fit comfortably over children’s shoulders giving maximum comfort and control."

First thing I can tick off the back to school list then !

star rating : 5/5


Jeep’s Back to School Range is available from Antler, Travel Style, Forest and various independent travel stores. The Jeep Backpacks start from £20, Jeep Floral Backpacks from £16, Shoulder Bags from £15, Gym Bags from £6, Waistbags from £6, Wallets from £5.

Other blogposts you might be interested in :

Travel advice : TOP TIPS FOR PICKING AND PACKING THE PERFECT BACKPACK
Ryman Refillable Bag
FOLDIO A4 Portfolio
Pens Envy ! What little girls are really lusting after !
Ryman Student Stationery Pack - Back to School Lifesaver !

Be Sun Savvy & Beat the Heat - Top Tips from Green People


I've just reviewed some adult and child sun lotion from Green People (here) and discovered lots of things about sun cream that I didn't know - did you ?
The Bad News:
• A third of people do not use sunscreen when sunbathing
• More than 75,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year
• 60% of 16 to 24 year olds anticipate getting sunburnt on holiday
• Sunburn can double the risk of developing skin cancer
• Around 10% of the population also suffer from prickly heat
• Applying too little sunscreen has been shown to significantly reduce protection from the sun
Remember: SPF30 sun screens do not offer twice the protection of SPF15 ... SPF15 offers 93% protection against UVB rays, while SPF30 offers 97% protection against UVB rays. In fact, the highest SPF100 still only offers 99% protection. It is more important to apply regularly and liberally.
Banish prickly heat!
Prickly heat is an irritating red rash that appears on the skin after sun exposure. Aggravated by the use of waterproof sun lotions with ingredients such as Silicones, Siloxanes, Trimethicones and Petrochemicals that prevent the skin from breathing. The first way to reduce prickly heat is to reduce the amount you sweat.
Green People’s 5 quick tips for reducing prickly heat
• Stay in the shade and avoid the sun
• Wear loose-fitting, cool clothes
• Shower in cool water regularly
• Drink more water than usual
• Use an organic, natural sun lotion
Don’t be fooled by ultra-high SPFs!

Regularly apply lots of sunscreen to stay safe in the sun this summer – don’t just use an ultra-high SPF and assume you’ll be protected all day. Many people buy SPF100 lotions because they feel that they are significantly better than lower SPF sunscreens. However, as the table below shows, the difference is actually quite slight.

SPF % / UVB rays blocked
SPF100 / 99%
SPF50 / 98%
SPF25 / 96%
SPF15 / 93%

It simply isn’t necessary for most people to use an ultra-high SPF sunscreen when such a high percentage of rays are blocked. Stay protected: Apply plenty & often
In order to gain the advertised protection on your sunscreen, you need to apply a full shotglass (30ml) every 2 hours. If you don’t apply enough, you’ll massively reduce the amount of protection you are getting.

Apply half as much SPF100 as recommended and your protection will only be SPF10!
Reapplying is important because it renews the UVA protection you are getting, as the sun breaks down the sun lotion’s UVA filter over time. If you don’t reapply after 2 hours, the UVA rays won’t burn you but they will penetrate deep into your skin where they can cause long-term skin damage.
for more information : http://www.greenpeople.co.uk/
Other reviews you may be interested in :

Green People & Organic Children Sun Lotion


Having reviewed some of Green People's products in the past, I was more than happy to test out some of their sun lotions, knowing in advance that the products would be not only top quality but also kind to the planet and to sensitive skin. What more can a girl (and a mum) ask for ?

We tested the Organic Children Sun Lotion and the Green People Sun Lotion, both in SPF25 and offering UVA and UVB protection. I was initially slightly concerned about factor 25 seeming a bit low
because I normally buy the highest factor available to be on the safe side. However, Green People have some very interesting information on this topic that I was surprised to read. They explain : "SPF30 sun screens do not offer twice the protection of SPF15 ... SPF15 offers 93% protection against UVB rays, while SPF30 offers 97% protection against UVB rays. In fact, the highest SPF100 still only offers 99% protection. It is more important to apply regularly and liberally. Apply half as much SPF100 as recommended and your protection will only be SPF10! " Wow, all these years I've been buying sun creams and I never knew that !

Charlotte Vøhtz, Founder of Green People says, "It is really important that you apply a generous amount of sunscreen (30ml to cover your body / one shot glass) every 2 hours you are in the sun. New research indicates that under-applying significantly reduces the SPF achieved and the higher the SPF rating the greater the reduction. Under-applying an SPF70 will only offer SPF8.4, whereas under-applying SPF25 will decrease to SPF5." Top advice is therefore to smother yourselves in it, whatever factor you've chosen, and reapply regularly. Also don't forget to throw out last year's suncream as the degree of protection diminishes over time.

Right, armed with this new knowledge, time to slather it all over the kids (and myself of course, even if I'm planning on staying in the shade with baby Pierre) and head to the park. Both lotions come out as quite thick creams so I was really impressed to see how easily and how completely they were absorbed by the skin - there was no greasiness or stickiness and no white residue on the skin at all. Sophie and Juliette didn't complain at all, as they often do, saying that it feels yucky, probably because it was absorbed easily without the need for me to rub it inot their skin for ages ! The sun lotions are both scent free and therefore gentle for sensitive skin. The children's version is 81% organic and contains organic aloe vera, edelweiss and elderflower. The grown up version is 82% certified organic, contains edelweiss, green tea and avocado and is water resistant.

I love it when companies manage to create natural products, offering pampering treats and protection straight from Nature's well-stocked larder, and that's exactly what Green People do. All Green People sun lotions contain a blend of earth minerals and a UV filter derived from cinnamic acid, found in cinnamon oil and edelweiss. The products include natural antioxidants and skin vitamins A, C & E which come from green tea, olive, avocado and rosemary extract which help support the skin’s immune system and protect against cell damage, helping to avoid premature ageing. Echinacea, myrrh and aloe vera are added to the sun care range for their soothing, healing and moisture binding properties.

I was really impressed with the way the products felt, the lovely chemical nasty-free ingredients list and the fact that we all came home from the park with absolutely no sunburn at all. Top marks for everything !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : Children's Sun Lotion £14.75 for 150ml, Adult Sun Lotion £16.75 for 200ml

for more information : http://www.greenpeople.co.uk/Sun-Care.aspx

Other review you may be interested in :

Green People Organic Babies range
Badger Bali Balm - Soothing After Sun Care
Wilko Sun Care range

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Coolfans




Since creating this reviews blog, I've loved the opportunities I've had for discovering fabulous new and innovative child and baby products that have been invented by real parents - things that make me yell "Yes ! That's exactly what I need ! Why has nobody invented this before now ?!" Well, as soon as I saw the Coolfans website, I giggled and said "That's got to be another product created by a real parent". And I was right again !


I love the story of how the Coolfans came to be. As the creator explains on the Coolfans website, "So here I am again – standing outside the kitchen door blowing on my daughter’s hot food. My daughter Beth had just turned 9 months and as protective parents we had overheated her food again thinking it will kill any bacteria that might be present. Of course I was regretting it now, stood out in the cold blowing until I was red in the face while an impatient daughter cried inside. Surely there must be some kind of food cooling device on the market I thought; they have all sorts of baby gadgets - the majority of which we already seemed to own." When he couldn't find one, he made his own, using Meccano and Sellotape !

Well, the finished product you see today has come a long way. The designs are ultra cute and the girls loved the funky colours too. Since they come in a range of colours and faces, you could save dinnertime squabbles by choosing one per child. I love the fact that it helps you multitask, avoiding some of that inevitable mealtime chaos when you're busy desperately trying to feed hungry baby who's crying because his food is too hot for you to give it to him while the elder children are asking you to serve them some more pasta and cut up their meat - oh and it might be quite nice if you could actually shovel a forkful or two down your own throat while it's still hot, come to think of it !

The website also explains that blowing on your child's food is a bit of a health hazard. "During my research I read how bacteria via saliva can be transferred from parent to baby from blowing on food. Talking to a neighbour who was a care worker I found that it was common practice in nursing homes to not blow on food in order to prevent any unnecessary cross contamination. A Japanese article even claimed that tooth decay could be transferred in the same way ! So not only would a cooling device be a quick way of chilling food it would also be a hygienic method." Well, if you've got a cold or other infectious illness, I can well believe you might pass the germs around but generations of mums and dads have blown on their kids' food so I admit I'm not going to worry overly about that aspect.

At the moment, we're eating lots of salads and cold food because it's so hot so we don't need the Coolfan at the dinner table but Juliette has discovered that you can pull the fan head off the metal holder and use it in your hand. She's been using it in the car on long journeys and there has been a lot less whingeing about it being too hot.

As a concerned mum (and because Juliette was now using it in a way it wasn't designed for), I did the ultimate safety test and, clenching my teeth, I stuck my finger in the whirring blades to see if they'd thought about the safety aspect. They had ! Zero pain and the soft foamy blades stopped turning instantaneously so there's no need to worry about little fingers getting chopped off !

It does seem to gobble up the batteries pretty quickly (it needs 2 AAA batteries but I was really pleased to see that batteries are included when it arrives) but that is probably due to the fact that Juliette has been using it almost non-stop to cool herself down and that we've been using cheapie unbranded batteries from the market !

I have to admit, I see it more as a fun gadget than as an absolutely indispensable piece of baby equipment but the kids love it. And I will own up - I've even used it for my myself when I made myself a bowl of porridge and got bored waiting for it to cool down before I could tuck in ! It does work really well and saves you time by allowing you to multitask while it does its job. And we all know how precious time is when you're a parent!


star rating : 4/5

RRP : £9.99

for more information and to buy online : http://www.coolfans.co.uk/

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Organix Baby Food and Children's Snacks

Baby Weaning - Recipes from Mandy Haywood, Boots Baby Food Expert

Boots - Baby Weaning Essentials

Little Dish children's ready meals

Plum Organic Superfoods for Babies - First Weaning Starter Pack

Carmex Lip Balms




When I was sent some Carmex lip balm products to test, I was intrigued because it was a brand I'd never heard of. The packaging claims that it has been the number one pharmacist-recommended lip balm for 9 years running, which is pretty impressive. The other claim, "helping lips since 1937", is equally impressive. So how come I've never heard of it before ? Well, I would have done if I lived on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean because it's been a top American brand for decades.


The blurb on the back of the packaging explains, "Suffering from dry, chapped lips, Alfred Woelbing invented Carmex lip balm in the USA in the 1930s. The Woelbing family still runs the business today and Carmex has become one one of the world's most loved lip balms with over 130 sold every minute". Hmm I've still never seen them in France or the UK but maybe I just haven't been looking in the right places !

8-year-old Sophie immediately got all excited and asked if she could have one, selecting a tube of cherry flavoured lip balm to try. She squeezed a little on her finger, rubbed it all over her lips, grinned at herself in the mirror (thinking she looked all grown up) ... then jumped around the room yelling "owww owwww my lips are on fire" ! After helping her wipe it off and wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, I decided to try it myself. It doesn't burn but there is a distinct tingle, that reminds me of DuWop lip venom - it's not unpleasant if you're expecting it, but it's probably not as kid-friendly as the non-tingly brands.


Intrigued, I went to the website for more information and it all clicked into place. As well as moisturising your lips, Carmex helps relieve the symptoms of chapped lips but also, according to the American website, cold sores. I was really impressed that it can be used with cold sores but, strangely, it doesn't mention this anywhere at all on the UK packaging or website. I wondered if there were two different varieties available but no, they're one and the same, so it's good to know, even if presumably these claims haven't been proved sufficiently to be added to the labels according to UK guidelines. It contains germ-killing menthol and phenol which have antiseptic qualities and they say on the website that the tingle shows you it's working. If you're prone to coldsores, it's good to have a lipbalm that you can use every day that will possibly help stave them off - especially as the cherry flavoured lip balm is SPF 15 so it offers great protection for your lips.



I tested the original and cherry flavours in both jar and tube format but they are also available in sticks. I love the fact that they are colour-free so if your husband needs to keep his lips soft in the winter, he won't look like a clown or a transvestite with badly applied lipstick, as is the case with certain brands I've lent to Mike in the past ! It's also much more discreet if you need to put balm in the very corner of your mouth if the chapped skin has cracked painfully.
Sophie may not like the tingle but I'm really impressed and now have a tube constantly in my handbag.


star rating : 5/5 (but only 1/5 from 8-year-old Sophie !)

for more information : http://uk.mycarmex.com/

Earth Friendly Kids Minty Lavender Shampoo & Bodywash


I've just reviewed a lovely product from the Earth Friendly Baby range and now it's time for the slightly more grown up product line called Earth Friendly Kids. It won't make much difference in our house anyway because Sophie and Juliette loved the bubble bath so much, baby brother Pierre didn't get much of a look in !

We received the Minty Lavender Shampoo & Bodywash to review which sounded like a very strange combination to me but it works - it smells of lovely fresh, invigorating mint when you first sniff then the basenotes of relaxing lavender kick in afterwards. It's a lovely way to cool off and wind down after a hot summer's day.

Earth Friendly Kids proclaim that they offer a range that’s been inspired by superkids and that will have little ones racing to the bathroom and the fragrance of the minty-lavender bodywash/shampoo is so unique that the girls did genuinely get excited about using it. Juliette said it's like washing your hair in toothpaste and Sophie said it was like washing in a big bubble of chewing gum - both of which are good things to do, judging by the big smiles on their faces !

Like the Earth Friendly Babies range, all the products are pure and natural but affordable, animal testing free, free of artificial colouring, synthetic fragrance, sodium lauryl/laureth sulphates and parabens, suitable for vegans and Vegetarian Society approved.

I also like the fact that it's a top-to-toe wash so one bottle does the lot - that means less clutter on the bathroom shelf, less plastic bottles to recycle and less products to pack for going on holiday.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £3.99 for 250ml

for more information : http://www.earthfriendlykids.co.uk/


The Earth Friendly Kids line-up is available from selected Waitrose stores, good baby and health stores and via www.HealthQuestStore.com (customers should call 0845 310 4411 for details of their nearest stockist).

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Earth Friendly Baby Organic Mandarin Bubble Bath
Little Me Organics
Method Baby Squeaky Green Hair & Body Wash
Miamoo Huggy Lotion (Baby Cream) - Naturally protects delicate skin
Green People Organic Babies range