Friday 31 December 2010

Fisherman's Friends Lozenges

Fisherman's Friends always seem to have been a part of my life when I was growing up ! I remember when I was a kid, it was a playground dare to see who could keep one in their mouth for the longest ! In the midst of winter, we'd have fun sucking one then spitting it into the snow, watching it turn the snow yellow then melting a ring around where it lay ! Then when I was at uni, one of my house-mate's favourite one-liners was "Suck a Fisherman's Friend .. and watch him smile" !

Fisherman’s Friend lozenges have been around for donkey's years. They were created in Fleetwood, Lancashire in 1865, when it was the centre of the fishing industry. James Lofthouse, a young pharmacist, developed a strong liquid using menthol and eucalyptus, which the fisherman took to help relieve the ailments on their long voyages in the freezing conditions. The choppy waters made taking the liquid from glass bottles rather tricky, so James made them into lozenges. It wasn’t long before the fishermen referred to the miracle lozenge as their ‘friends’, and hence the name Fisherman’s Friend was created ! Today, Fisherman’s Friend is still produced in Fleetwood, by the Lofthouse family, and is enjoyed by tens of millions of people across the world.

But despite keeping the traditional recipe and packaging, Fisherman's Friends have reinvented themselves over the years, adding loads of new flavours to the range. They even laugh about this on their website, saying : "Try our new pomegranate and petunia blossom flavour! No, just joking. We only do proper flavours at Fisherman’s Friend, and we do them very well (ie. strongly). Original is stocked almost everywhere, but some of the others are a bit harder to find. You may wish to complain to your friendly local retailer about this dereliction of duty. Tell them to pull their socks up and stock a few more of the products to the left." They add : "BE WARNED ! Should you ever be offered a Salmiak flavour Fisherman’s Friend, be very careful. The constitution of the average Briton is genetically unprepared for this salty liquorice flavour which is only available to consenting Scandinavians. They go in for that sort of thing. But we don’t !"

The flavours that you will find in Britain are Original Extra Strong, Sugar Free Blackcurrant, Aniseed, Sugar Free Cherry, Sugar Free Mint, Sugar Free Original and Sugar Free Lemon. Personally, I'm not keen on the Original flavour (although my dad swears by them !) but I love the fruity varieties, especially as they are sugar-free so they're low in calories and better for your teeth. As a teacher, if I've been shouting at the kids too much, I'll suck one at breaktime and it never fails to soothe my throat (so that I can start shouting all over again !!).

I was also intrigued to see that people have been buying the Aniseed variety hoping it will help stave off swine flu ! This time last year, they reported : "Health-conscious Brits have been stockpiling Fisherman’s Friend Aniseed after learning that Star Anise – or pure aniseed – is a key ingredient in both swine flu medicinal treatment Tamiflu and Fisherman’s Friend Aniseed, sending sales of the iconic lozenges up by 43%. [...] Fisherman’s Friend spokesman Rob Metcalfe explains: “Aniseed in its natural form is one of the key ingredients in Tamiflu - and also in our Aniseed Lozenges. Star Anise has been used as a medical treatment for thousands of years, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve the body of colds and flu, as well as in tea to treat rheumatism, while the seeds are also used to aid digestion. People have obviously heard about the health benefits of Aniseed and because of this we have been overwhelmed by the response towards our Aniseed variant. We have barely been able to keep up with demand.”

If you've never tried Fisherman's Friends and you'd like to, you can find out how to get a free pack right here, where I tell you about their Save our Carollers campaign !

For those of you who love a freebie, I also discovered on the website that if you send them four empty packs, they'll send you a gorgeous iconic tin - while stocks last.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : 69p for 25g

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Thursday 30 December 2010

John Crane Wooden Teaching Clock

Well, it'll be a good few years yet before Pierre starts learning how to tell the time but that hasn't stopped him playing with this colourful wooden teaching clock from John Crane, which was in our bundle of toys that we won in the Jenny Woodenmum competition. He loves pulling out the different numbered pieces and amazingly manages to put most of them back in the right places !

When he's a bit older, he'll be able to use them to learn to recognise numbers, colours and shapes, like a shape-sorting toy or a wooden jigsaw puzzle, but at the moment he enjoys sliding them around on the tray and seeing where they'll fit, as well as piling them up on top of each other and rolling them across the floor !

The smooth wood must feel nice on his hands too because he is forever picking up the pieces and turning them around, then putting them back on the floor and picking up another one ! The girls also like playing with it as a clock, turning around the hands to different times that I call out.

As a mum, I love the way the pieces have hidden magnets to help them stay in place because it should help prevent the pieces getting lost in the bottom of the toybox, as invariably happens with all the other wooden jigsaw puzzles we have in the house !

Once again, it's a lovely, traditional, lights-and-noises-free toy that the kids love and that parents adore because the kids can play quietly, using their own imaginations to play rather than just pressing a button and letting the electronic wizardry do it all for them !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £14.99

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Serving Advice & Recipe Ideas for Wrapbreads from Discovery

Recipe idea : Wholemeal Salmon & Cream Cheese Wrapbreads


1 pack Discovery Wholemeal Wrapbreads
1 pack smoked salmon
1 lemon
1 pack Low Fat Cream Cheese
1 bag fresh rocket or spinach


Generously spread the soft Discovery Wrapbreads with the cream cheese, then cover with a layer of smoked salmon, a squib of lemon juice and finish with cracked black pepper. Roll up each of the Wrapbreads and slice in half. Accompany with a garnish of rocket or fresh spinach.

Other filling ideas :

Cheese & Ham
Salmon & Cucumber
Prawn Mayonnaise
Avocado & Bacon
Houmous & Salad
Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese
Chicken & Caesar Salad
Baked Beans & Sausages
Coronation Chicken
Banana & Honey
Chicken Tikka & Salad
Peanut Butter & Jam
Tuna & Sweetcorn
Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables

How to spread a wrap :
Evenly spread mayonnaise over the whole wrap, fill and fold - but go steady on the filling for easy folding !

Wrap styles :
- Just roll and it might go messy !
- For no leaks, fold up the bottom, fold in the sides, roll up and cut in half diagonally
- Nibbles - roll, chill & then cut into slices.
- Pizza-like - cover with your favourite toppings
- Croutons - cut, fry and add to soup or salad
- Pastry-base for a quick quiche !

Check out my review of Discovery Wrapbreads here 

Discovery Wrapbreads

We often eat fajitas in our house and I'm always amazed at the way 5-year-old Juliette will wolf down red and green peppers, onions, tomatoes and spicy chicken, all ingredients that she doesn't usually like, just because it's all disguised in a tortilla and/or because it's so much fun eating a rolled up wrap with her fingers !

Well, the new Discovery wrapbreads have been an absolute godsend for using up the leftover Christmas turkey in innovative and tasty ways, and best of all, they're so quick and easy to make. They are really versatile and you can just let the kids get on with it and make their own wraps so that they can tailor it to their own individual tastes. Juliette's favourite is a wrap filled with turkey, cucumber, cheese and tomato ketchup. (She says it's delicious, I just take her word for it !). 9-year-old Sophie prefers a wrapbread thinly spread with cheese spread then filled with turkey, ham, cheese, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. I loved a mayonnaise-spread wrap with turkey, lettuce, cucumber and pickled beetroot.

But you can also be a lot more adventurous with them. Juliette wanted to try a sweet one and sampled a Nutella and banana white wrapbread which we all had a taste of and it worked really well. You can also make a tasty hot snack by stuffing a wrap with ham and grated cheese and zapping it in the microwave for 1 minute.

They freeze really well and can be defrosted individually as you need them within about 30 seconds. You can also make impressive looking lunchbox snacks by tightly rolling a filled wrapbread then cutting it into slices so that they look like Swiss roll slices. They look so pretty that kids will happily eat things they don't usually like.

I'd only ever tried plain white tortillas but these Discovery wrapbreads come in several varieties - multiseed, white, wholemeal or white plus (with added fibre) - which add even more versatility. They seem much softer and easier to roll than my usual brand (which sometimes dry out and crack when I try to roll them) so I'll definitely be switching to this brand from now on. The kids have made me promise that I'll use them in their lunchboxes in place of their usual sandwiches so that they don't go soggy (and so that they can show off to their friends about having such an artistic lunch !).

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.49

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Serving Advice & Recipe Ideas for Wrapbreads from Discovery

Hasbro Tonka Chuck & Friends Rumblin' Chuck

Pierre has turned into my star reviewer this month and has been busy trying all manner of new foods and baby snacks over the past few days. But it's not all work, he's also been busy toy testing too ! One of the toys with real wow-factor has been Tonka's Chuck & Friends "Rumblin' Chuck".

Everyone, from Pierre to his big sisters, parents, grandparents and any other visiting relatives, has been unable to ignore Chuck's cheeky remarks and invitations to play and invariably ends up on the floor, pushing buttons and pulling him around and trying to make him say more and more things ! He has an impressive repertoire of 50 comments and noises so you can never be sure what he's going to say next.

He seems to be really responding to you and your actions so it's as if he is genuinely playing with you, which the kids absolutely love. If you pull him backwards, he'll make a reversing beep noise. Put things in his dumper bed and he'll tell you to add more. Pick him up then put him back on the ground and he'll tell you he's relieved to be back on solid ground ! If you stop playing with him for too long (which usually only happens at mealtimes !), he'll go to sleep and start snoring !

But he's also quite cheeky and unpredictable and will suddenly start whizzing around in circles, doing wheelies or shaking so hard he'll throw your toys out when you start filling him up ! The girls always giggle gleefully because it's like having a naughty little friend to play with but Pierre actually looks quite worried sometimes and crawls quickly off in the opposite direction to hide behind someone's legs ! He's a very robust toy and another great thing is that the batteries are already included. (Did I really just call an inanimate piece of plastic "he" without meaning to ?! Just goes to show how appealing he is then !).

After lots of laughing and rolling around on the floor with Chuck, you can gather the kids round to listen to a nice quiet story before bed because there is also a lovely storybook full of colourful pictures in the box. It is pricey but it is a fabulous toy that will leave your kids totally awestruck when you first get him out of the box !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £49.99

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Blacksticks Blue Cheese

I always come to each review product with an open mind but I nevertheless sometimes have a pretty good inkling that I won't like some of them. Unfortunately, such was the case when Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses sent me a slab of their Blacksticks Blue cheese to try. I just don't like the idea of eating mouldy cheese but I still gave it a fair trial. Unfortunately I didn't like the taste either, but I've never liked any blue-veined cheese that I've ever tried.

However, I did pass it on to Mike and he happily munched away on it, declaring it delicious, with a rich, deep flavour that reminded him slightly of Munster. Not bad at all coming from a Frenchman ! He was impressed (as was I, even if I didn't like the strong taste) because it was the first time he had seen an orange blue-veined cheese. Butlers describe it as "a unique soft blue veined cheese, handmade only by Butlers at Inglewhite Dairy in rural Lancashire. With a distinctive amber hue, Blacksticks Blue reveals a delicious creamy smooth yet tangy taste. Adding perfect colour to any cheese selection, this very special soft blue cheese is one of a kind - an upbeat British classic that is truly different to other blue cheeses". For that reason alone, it makes a great addition to a cheese board because it looks so striking.

I'm also impressed by the family values hidden behind the slogan "handmade with love by the Butler family". They explain : "All of the cheeses in the Blacksticks range are hand-crafted in small batches. Curds are hand cut, stirred and then gently poured into individual moulds before resting, allowing the cheeses adequate time to drain naturally, resulting in the characteristic soft texture that Blacksticks is known for. Each cheese is then pierced and carefully hand wrapped prior to being nurtured and turned for five to eight weeks whilst it matures to its optimum taste and texture. Very temperamental when maturing, our dedicated Blacksticks cheese makers give specific care and attention to this cheese, ensuring that we always get a great result."

For Christmas, its been packaged in a mini truckle to make it look even prettier on your cheese board.

Mike has said he'd like to try it as cheese on toast or on top of a baked potato and I'm tempted too, as I feel the flavour would be less pronounced and appeal more to my tastebuds.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £15.92 per kilo

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Rachel's Taste Explorers Organic Yogurts & Squeezies

Pierre has been trying (and reviewing, even if he can't talk much yet !) so many new things over the Christmas holidays ! A few days ago, he sampled Rachel's My First Yoghurts and gave them a huge thumbs up. He also received a pack of  Rachel's Taste Explorers yogurts to try.

My initial reaction was that I couldn't see much difference between them. The website says : "These smooth yogurts are made simply and with care, using organic ingredients. They are packed full of the goodness of fresh organic milk and delicious organic fruit purée, just right for your little Taste Explorers to enjoy."  They are suitable from age 4-6 months onwards and contain no added refined sugar, nothing artificial and probiotic cultures to help your child maintain a healthy digestive system. All of which is the same as the My First yoghurts.

I did eventually work out the difference (I think !). The Taste Explorers yoghurts each contain a blend of two flavours as opposed to one sole fruit. The multipack of four yoghurts contain strawberry & banana, peach & mango, apple & apricot and raspberry & peach. They are smooth yoghurts with no bits and Pierre loved all of them. 
But they also come in fun and handy Yogurt Squeezies, each multipack containing four banana and four strawberry flavour. I totally couldn't work out how to rip the end off along the perforated line (which looks like it should create some sort of spout or straw) so I just snipped the end off with a pair of scissors !

The girls loved them ...

... as did 17-month-old Pierre, even if the packaging says they are suitable from age 3 years  + (but I noticed that bit after he'd polished a couple off) ! The mess-free format is great for snacking on the go or for lunch boxes and the kids seemed to find them much more fun to eat than the usual pot and spoon combo !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.69 for a 4-pack of 4 x 100g yoghurts, £1.79 for 8 x 40g squeezies

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Hipp Organic Little Nibbles Carrot & Pumpkin Rice Cakes

As they say on their website, "Little Nibbles is a range of organic finger foods specially created for babies, toddlers and small children. They are prepared using the finest quality organic ingredients - and there are lots of delicious varieties for your little one to enjoy." As you probably know if you've been following my blog recently, we've been trying several of them ! The latest on our list is the Little Nibbles Carrot & Pumpkin Rice Cakes.

Pierre has tried rice cakes before but I wasn't sure what he would think of carrot & pumpkin flavoured ones. Well, the answer is - he loved them !

And he wasn't the only one - 5-year-old Juliette and 9-year-old Sophie wanted to try them too and said they were delicious. Even my 18-year-old sister gave them a try and said they tasted like her breakfast cereal !

Little Nibbles Carrot & Pumpkin Rice Cakes are suitable from age 7 months. They contain a blend or carrot and pumpkin juice concentrate and have no added salt or sugar. As they say on the website, "With Little Nibbles from HiPP Organic you have the reassurance of tasty finger foods with organic goodness whilst encouraging your little one to learn to chew and feed themselves. They provide important top-up nourishment for tiny tummies either as part of a meal or as a snack! "

I also love the fact that are perfectly sized for little fingers and make no mess at all (no crumbs or sticky fingers) so they are ideal as a snack on the go in the pushchair or car.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.06 for 100g

Other reviews you may be interested in :

The Alresford Chocolate Company - Chocolate Craft Dark Chocolate Grand Marnier & Orange Truffles

Christmas and chocolate truffles go together like ... umm ... Easter and chocolate eggs ! And a company who makes exceedingly good chocolate truffles is The Alresford Chocolate Company. I first discovered this luxury brand of delicious handmade chocolate treats a couple of months ago when they sent me a pouch of their exquisite Christmas pudding truffles to try out. (Click through for our review.)

And I was lucky enough to receive another delicious offering to sample, this time their Dark Chocolate Grand Marnier & Orange Truffles. Visually, they look almost identical to the Christmas pudding truffles, until you bite them in half and see the little nuggets of natural orange pieces studding the chocolate like little gems.

The texture of the truffle is divine - it offers slight resistance to the teeth then just oozes creaminess and smoothness as it melts delectably in your mouth. The delicate flavours of orange and chocolate mingle and enhance one another, striking the perfect balance to tickle your tastebuds.

I was asked to compare the two types of truffles that I've tried and I have to say, that's a tough call ! The Grand Marnier and Orange truffles are absolutely delicious, but I have to say that the flavour isn't quite as mindblowingly original and different as the Christmas pudding ones. However, I'd quite happily eat these ones all year round, whereas the Christmas pudding ones are a festive treat that I'd like to reserve for this time of year.

Pricewise, either flavour will cost you £5.50 for a 70g pouch containing six truffles. And tastewise, you'll be blown away whichever flavour you pick ! If you need extra proof of this, they recently exhibited at the Taste of Christmas show and both of these products topped their sales charts, followed by their ever popular, premium 'Hot Chocolate Twiddlers', which sound fabulous too !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £5.50

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Monday 27 December 2010

Rachel's Divine Rice Traditional Rice Pudding

I have never liked rice pudding, so when I was sent a twin pack of Rachel's Divine Rice Traditional Rice Pudding to review, I guessed I wouldn't like it. I gave it a tentative sample and did find it tasted fresh and creamy but I still didn't like the taste. Luckily, my dad was at hand to step into my shoes and be a guest reviewer for the day !

He ate the whole lot, murmuring appreciatively about it tasting homemade and like the real old-fashioned rice pudding you got at school, then wandered off to the fridge to get the other pot ! He did give a couple of spoonfuls to 17-month-old Pierre, who also seemed to like it, as this picture shows.

Having found it really creamy, I was amazed to see that it's actually a low-fat option. As they explain on the website, "At Rachel’s we’re dedicated to creating gorgeously pure tastes. Our delicious creamy traditional Divine Rice is made from pure, fresh milk from organic farms. Slow cooked for a traditional creamy taste, it is delicious eaten hot or cold. Containing less than 5% fat, you really can have nice without the naughty!" 100g contains 130 calories and as each pot contains 150g, that's actually a very reasonable dessert.

If you like rice pudding, you'll love it - according to my dad and Pierre !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.29 for 2 x 150g

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Recipes to use with your Crock-Pot Slow Cooker (includes a rice pudding recipe)

Who What Where Junior

I have to say, I'm really impressed with University Games, a company that I first discovered when we reviewed their game called Sort It Out Jr. (Click through to read that review.) This time, we have been trying out another of their board games, Who What Where Junior. I love the fact that it is a totally simple concept which the whole family can enjoy, as this photo shows.

We've been pulling the box out time and time again over the long Christmas weekend and every time, all the players - from 5-year-old Juliette and 9-year-old Sophie to the grandparents - end up in fits of giggles and shouting across the table trying to guess the answers ! It really is a game that players of all ages can play (even if Juliette needs a little bit of help because she can't read the cards yet) and everyone can enjoy. It's slightly competitive, if you want it to be, but above all it encourages teamwork as you all work together to try to find the words on the cards.

The rules are incredibly simple. If you know (and who doesn't ?) the game of Pictionary, it's exactly the same idea, except you have three cards to pick - a who, a what and a where - so you have to draw a whole scene combining three elements, which just makes it even funnier.

Here's Juliette proudly showing one of her drawings, although I can't remember what it's supposed to represent !

And this was Sophie's brilliant drawing of an ostrich running in New York !

It's a really fun game that needs very little equipment (the pack of cards, pencils and paper, plus the points counters and an eggtimer which aren't absolutely necessary) so it would be a great game for travelling too (although if you all get as excited as us lot and make as much noise, it might not go down too well in a crowded train or plane !). You can play for as long as you like, as there is no real start or finish, so it's ideal for young children who can just stop when they get bored.

Once again, University Games have thought about young children who often get bored waiting for their turn and have created another game where everyone plays at the same time. It's been a great family game that we have all enjoyed over Christmas and the number of possible combinations is so large that we will be able to play for a long time to come !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £12.99

Other reviews you may be interested in :

MorEPA Chewy Omega-3 Supplement

A couple of months ago, we were sent some MorEPA children's omega-3 supplements that were supposed to be strawberry flavoured with no fishy aftertaste. I'm not sure we did the test right (we bit into them but I think they'd be better swallowed whole !) so the girls unfortunately didn't like them. (You can read that review here.)

The lovely Lauren from Minami Nutrition came back to me to ask if we'd like to try a different product to see if the girls preferred that. We said we were game to give it another go and she sent us a tub of orange flavoured MorEPA Chewy capsules.

On paper, it all sounds very good again, as they are scientifically proven to help children perform better at mental tasks. "MorEPA® Chewables is a scientifically proven omega-3 supplement. [...] Experts studied the influence of omega-3 fatty acids on the processing of emotional information. 27 healthy students used MorEPA® for 4 weeks whereas the remaining 27 took a placebo. The MorEPA group made fewer risk-averse decisions than the placebo group as well as improved scores on the control/perfectionism. The present findings indicate that n-3 PUFA supplementation may have a selective effect on risky decision making in healthy volunteers and is not related to impulsiveness."

As I said last time, I love the idea of a fish oil supplement but what would the girls make of the taste this time ? Unfortunately, they recognised the packaging from last time so came to it with preconceived ideas of how it would taste ! Nevertheless, both 5-year-old Juliette and 9-year-old Sophie volunteered to try one each. (You should take 2 softgels per day but I decided to start off with just one, to see what they thought of them.)

Juliette said they were delicious and could she have another one please ? Yayyy ! Sophie held it in her mouth for a couple of minutes, too nervous to chew, before finally biting the bullet (or the capsule !) and running to the bin saying it tasted of dead rat ! I have no idea how she knows what a dead rat tastes like though ! I asked if it tasted of fish and she said "no, dead rat !" so I guess that's progress ! I honestly think she didn't give it a fair go though and once she's seen Juliette eating them a few more times without complaining, I'll try her again. She did also turn her nose up at the Boots orange-flavoured multivitamin syrup that Juliette absolutely loves, so it may be the orange flavour that she doesn't like.

The product's credentials are very impressive and the packaging is covered in phrases extolling its qualities and virtues. "Deep-sea fish oil of pharmaceutical purity", "The 'Gold Standard' in Omega-3 Supplements", "Europe's Number One EFP". The website adds that they are an environmentally friendly purified natural product, no saturated fats are used as filler, the low temperature processing supports bioavailability (whatever that means !) and they are low in sugar. Two chewable capsules contain 500 mg EPA and a small amount of DHA. They have also been supplemented with half the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, which is an added bonus.

These are apparently the highest concentrated omega-3 fatty acids available on the market. I still don't know if Sophie will be prepared to give them a proper go, after being put off last time, but I'm really pleased that Juliette at least has found a fabulous supplement that she actually enjoys taking.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £18.95 for 60 capsules

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Sunday 26 December 2010

Ella's Kitchen Baby Cookies

As you can see from this photo, Pierre is now an old hand at baby food reviewing ! He immediately rose to the challenge when I offered him our latest products for review, a couple of packets of baby cookies from Ella's Kitchen's Organic Baby Snacks range. They are stage 2 so are suitable for babies from the age of 7 months.

Pierre started off trying to attack one with a spoon but soon worked out that he wasn't getting anywhere so he picked it up with his fingers and had a nibble. The packaging says that these biscuits are "munchy not crunchy soft biscuits for babies". I wasn't sure what that meant but on the website, they explain : "Our soft and crumbly baby cookies are perfect for weaning babies of 7 months or more who are waiting for their first teeth to properly pop through ! They contain the goodness of simple ingredients, gently baked to give just the right texture – firm enough for little fingers to hold, yet soft enough to melt in little mouths !"

As you can see from this picture, Pierre loved them. He tried two varieties, milk 'n' vanilla and apple 'n' ginger, and they both got the thumbs up. Each box contains twelve biscuits and they are handily packaged in little sachets of two biscuits, which are ideal for stashing in your handbag or pocket as a snack on the go.

As with all Ella's Kitchen products, they bear the Soil Association Organic logo and promise to contain no hidden nasties. Paul Lindley, who created the company, explains : "Ella is my eleven-year-old daughter and I set up Ella's Kitchen because I passionately believe that she, along with her generation, should have the opportunity to eat better food and also to discover that healthy food can be fun, tasty and cool. We think it's important to always approach things from a child's point of view. So, we've taken simple, natural ingredients that ooze goodness and created baby foods, and packaging, that should really connect with kids - with flavours, colours, textures and even names that will appeal to all of their senses."

 They promise to add no sugar, salt, E-numbers, GM products or anything that has no nutritional or health value. Even so, they manage to create delicious food that babies and kids love. I don't know how they do it but I'm so glad they do !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.99

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Hipp Organic Little Nibbles Crispy Biscottes

Biscottes are like little pieces of dried toast that you can buy in supermarkets in France but I must admit, I'd never thought about buying them for Pierre. They would make an ideal weaning food though, so I was keen to see what he'd think of these Crispy Organic Biscottes from Hipp, a company I love for it's healthy organic baby food and snacks, that I was sent to review. On their website, they say : "HiPP Organic Biscottes are delicious twice-baked wheat biscuits that are suitable for babies from 10 months. These delicious biscuits are light and crispy, making them easy to digest as a convenient snack."

I decided to introduce them at breakfast time so I offered one to Pierrre with some strawberry jam spread on top. He had a tentative poke, as you can see in the top photo, then had a nibble ... and another one ... and another one ! They certainly got a wholehearted thumbs up from Pierre. But the website also says : "These biscuits can also be enjoyed by older toddlers and children."

Well, sure nough, 5-year-old Juliette saw them and squealed "ooooh fairy toast !" before asking if she could have some, spread with butter.

Followed by 9-year-old Sophie who also wanted to try them, spread with strawberry jam. All three of them declared them delicious (well, Pierre still doesn't talk much but he did eat the whole lot so I think that speaks for itself !).

The ingredients list is reassuringly short with absolutely no hidden nasties : Organic wheat flour, organic sugar, yeast, organic butter, organic vegetable oil, organic malt extract, organic milk powder, lecithin, salt, thiamin (vitamin B1). That's it, nothing artificial at all !

I love the convenient size which is perfect for little fingers (as well as fairy tea parties !), the kids love the taste and they're a healthier option than many sugary snacks or breakfast options. I'm not surprised that  the Hipp Little Nibbles range has won 'Best Baby/Toddler Snack' in the Practical Parenting Awards this year.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.84

Other reviews that you may be interested in :

John Crane Lion Castle

This was another one of the toys in the fabulous prize bundle that we won from the lovely people at John Crane. Having set up the 100 piece train set then putting it all away again after spending the morning playing with it, I was surprised to see that this castle set only contains 10 pieces. That has advantages and disadvantages - it's much quicker to set out and tidy away but it leaves less scope for imaginative play when choosing the layout, compared to the train set.

The box contains four corner towers, four walls (including the front wall with a working portcullis), a ladder and a flag. I couldn't work out how to fit it all together to begin with because some of the walls and towers are interlocking but some are just freestanding and you stand them up next to each other. This meant that even 5-year-old Juliette could set the whole thing up within seconds. I've just noticed while writing this review that the freestanding walls have magnets to connect them so I'll have to have a closer look next time I get it out !

I love the bright red and blue colours that look like they have come straight out of the pages of a fairy-tale. The pieces are extremely sturdy and well-constructed and the detail in the paintwork is very impressive. The fact that you can stand people up in the turrets as well as the ramparts and within the castle itself means you can pretend-play for hours, creating complicated stories of princes and princesses, Merlin and King Arthur, sieges and jousting tournaments (and that's just from eavesdropping on Sophie and Juliette playing !).

I was a bit disappointed that they didn't include a couple of figures in the set (maybe a knight or two or a king and queen) but these can be bought separately apparently. I think the Woodenmum family will have to dress up as knights and a royal family to play at defending their castle in the meantime, because we're a bit short on boys' toys at the moment so we have yet to buy anything that could pass for a knight !

It's a really lovely old-fashioned wooden castle that dads and grandads will love playing with with their sons and grandsons ! It's not just for boys though, as Sophie and Juliette both love it too. 17-month-old Pierre has knocked it over several times but it has withstood all the knocks and is still in pristine condition.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £65

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Book review : The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl - Shauna Reid

January will soon be upon us and, as usual, millions of us will make another New Year's resolution to lose weight and get back in shape. I've decided to do it myself - my breastfeeding days are now behind me so I have no excuse not to go on a diet and shift those post-pregnancy kilos (from all three pregnancies !). It therefore seemed a good time to pluck a book off my "to be reviewed" bookshelf entitled The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl.

This inspirational tome is a diet book with a difference. You won't find any low calorie recipes or diet advice. You won't even find any motivational mantras. What you will find is the brutally honest, endearing and at times hilarious tale of Shauna Reid, an amazing lady who decided to bare her soul (and wobbly bits !) on an anonymous blog as she set off on her personal challenge to lose half her body weight.

Shauna is one of those straight-talking Australians who always have me in hysterics and she shares her story with us, warts and all, including her thrust-induced farts at her exercise class and her hilarious struggle to squeeze into her wedding dress ! Yes, wedding dress, because despite using the "too fat" excuse for the first part of her life, Shauna eventually decides to bite the bullet and sets off to Europe, finding excitement, happiness and romance on the way.

It's a heart-warming and inspirational tale, which is so much more motivating than any of the self-help diet or exercise books written by stick-thin experts. Shauna is (and always has been, whatever her size) a lovely lady and her honest, sensible advice and lessons learned are really inspirational. The first half of the book is a journey of self-discovery and introspection, looking at the resons why she ended up putting on weight. The second part is an actual journey to the other side of the world, where Shauna learns that the numbers on the scale don't actually matter as much as being healthy and happy. Now that's what I call a diet book !

If you want to find out more about Shauna, before buying the book or after reading it, you can catch up with her on her blog,

Ratings-wise, where I'm at right now (about to embark on my own weight-loss challenge), I give it a 5/5 but this book will mainly appeal to those who have battled with the bulge (or other inner demons) at some point in their lives. It's as much chicklit as it is an inspirational diet book.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £9.99

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Corgi (18 May 2010)
ISBN-10: 0552162728
ISBN-13: 978-0552162722

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