Tuesday 31 August 2010

Elastoplast 'Plaster with Healing Cream'

If you ask an American to name a brand of plasters, he's almost sure to say Band Aid but ask someone in Britain and the chances are he'll instantly come up with the name Elastoplast. It's like sellotape or hoovers - they are brand names that have come to represent the product they make generically. So they must be good plasters then !

Well, yes, they are - although as they have just proved, there's always room for improvement. They now have plasters with healing cream which are great for a number of reasons. You don't need to apply a separate healing or antiseptic cream so you save space in your first aid kit or bathroom drawer. You'll never again have to rummage around with a bleeding finger trying not to get blood everywhere while you locate the two separate products. And most importantly, it stops you accidentally squishing out too much cream so that the plaster doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of sticking to your skin !

We trialled them recently and I was really impressed with the general idea but I would have liked to have seen a box with smaller plasters or a selection of different sized plasters, as you would normally expect. Although the plaster was absolutely brilliant on Juliette's grazed arm that she scratched on a bramble, they were not really of a suitable size when Sophie snagged the edge of her toenail and made it bleed. I actually ended up cutting the plaster in half which was perfect but for convenience sake, it would be good to have smaller strips available.

Elastoplast tell us on their website that the cream supports moist wound healing and helps to heal faster than an ordinary plaster, also helping to avoid scarring. They are also waterproof and stick really well to the skin, not falling off in bed as often happens.

It's such a great and obvious idea that I'm amazed nobody has done it before !

star rating : 4/5 (one point docked for the lack of size options, otherwise top marks)

RRP : £2.55 for a pack of 12 plasters, each measuring 30 x 72 mm

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Savlon Spray Plaster
High Stability Active Silver - Natural antiseptic and disinfectant
Flexitol Blistop

Hannah Montana Folding Scooter

Father Christmas won't have much left to bring at Christmas at this rate because all the things the girls could possibly have dreamed of asking for are being delivered for us to review ! Along with the absolutely adorable Hello Kitty tent and sleeping bag that I reviewed yesterday, they were overjoyed to discover a funky folding Hannah Montana scooter. You just need to look at the photos below to see what they thought of it !

The photo of Juliette on the right is just after it has been pulled out of the box and she was having a blast riding across the bubble wrap so it made a huge popping sound ! What is it they always say about kids playing with the packaging as much as the toy inside ?!

As you can see, it appeals to both girls, aged 9 and 5, equally, as much for the scooter as for the Hannah Montana graphics and (I quote) "really cool colours". I initially told Sophie that it was too small for her to use but within minutes, she'd worked out how to pull the handlebars up to a higher height setting so that it was OK for her too ! Having had a look myself, it actually has three different height settings so it can grow with your child which is great. It's still slightly on the small side for Sophie so an even higher setting would have been good but it's absolutely perfect for Juliette.

I've seen fold-up scooters before but I always thought they'd be really complicated to assemble or to fold back up again. Well, as Sophie shows, it's a piece of cake. You fit the handlebars into the slots so that they click into place. You find the purple release lever near the front wheel, unfold the scooter, lock it into place and that's it ! It's so quick and simple to assemble and fold that it's great for throwing in the car for quick trips to the park or the seafront (and so much easier than trying to fit bikes in the back of the car !). Anyone who takes big kids' toys like bikes or scooters on holiday with them will love the space-saving aspect.
The girls have only had three-wheeled scooters up to now so they love the "grown-up" status of the two-wheeler. You'll have to remember to warn them that a two-wheeled scooter won't stand up by itself when you let go of it though - Juliette keeps forgetting and letting it crash to the floor, which could be disastrous if she's standing next to the car or someone's foot !

All in all, it's a great space-saving scooter that will get the kids out into the fresh air running around and burning off some energy that really appeals to their girlie side. If you have a particularly tall child, you might wantto try it out in store to check that the handlebars are high enough but that's my only very slight reservation.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £20

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Monday 30 August 2010

Some recipes for you to try with Loyd Grossman For One Sauces

Those lovely people at Loyd Grossman have come up with a whole host of recipes to tickle your tastebuds using the For One sauce pouches I've just reviewed. Who ever said that pasta sauce had to be eaten with pasta ?!

Potato Gnocchi with Tomato, Spinach & Mascarpone

125g Potato Gnocchi
1 Pouch Loyd Grossman Tomato and Basil Sauce
80g Fresh Leaf Spinach
2 Tablespoons Mascarpone Cheese
1 Tablespoon Freshly Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
Freshly Grated Parmesan

Wash and drain the spinach and place into a pan with a tight fitting lid over a low heat. When spinach is wilted, remove the lid and cook for a couple of minutes, driving off any excess water. Add the sauce, the parsley and the Marcarpone cheese, heat through and stir well. Cook the gnocchi according to the pack instructions. Pour over the sauce and sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese.


Panfried Tuna Steak with Warm Potato Salad, Tomato and Herb Dressing

1 Medium Fresh Tuna Steak
5 Pitted Kalamata Olives (optional)
250g New Potatoes
2 Spring Onions, finely sliced
1 Clove of Garlic, Minced
1 Tablespoon of Sour Cream
1 Pouch Loyd Grossman Tomato and Basil Sauce
1/2 Glass White Wine
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Cook the new potatoes until they are cooked through and the cut into bite sized pieces. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream, 2-3 tablespoons of the tomato and basil sauce and minced garlic, then stir in the potatoes and spring onions, stiring well to ensure everything is coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a small, heavy based frying pan over a medium to high heat. Season the tuna steak well with salt and pepper and place it carefully in the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes each side, and then set aside to rest for a minute or so. In the pan you have cooked the fish in, add the wine and reduce down to a couple of tablespoons. Add the rest of the tomato and basil sauce and the olives and heat through. Serve the fish with the salad, pouring the sauce over the fish.


Chilli, Bacon and Red Pepper Penne

1 pouch Loyd Grossman Tomato & Chilli
150g 2 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon chopped into 20mm pieces
Olive oil
1/2 red pepper diced
Grated parmesan cheese
Handful of basil leaves
80g dried penne pasta

Heat the oil in a pan and add the bacon. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the bacon is cooked. Add the pepper and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes until the pepper is beginning to brown. Add the sauce and simmer gently until it has heat through. In another pan, add dry penne pasta to salted boiling water. When al dente, add to the sauce and mix through. Take off the heat and let stand for a minute. Stir through lots of torn basil leaves, top with grated parmesan and serve immediately.


Chilli, Red Onion and Chorizo Potato Bake

200g Diced New Potatoes
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 Medium Red Onion
50g Diced Chorizo Sausage
1 Pouch Loyd Grossman Tomato and Chilli Sauce
50g Diced Italian Mozzarella Cheese

Lightly Coat the potatoes in the olive oil and place in a small ovenable dish. Place into a preheated 180C oven for 10 minutes. Remove, turn the potatoes, and add the red onion and Chorizo. Cook for another 20 minutes, ensuring the potatoes are cooked through. Pour over the sauce, top with the cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Serve with a side crispy green salad.


Salmon Steak with Peppers, Tomato, Chilli

1 Salmon Fillet
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
1/2 Red Onion
1 Pouch Loyd Grossman Tomato and Chilli Sauce
1/2 Glass White Wine
1 Tablespoon Flat Leaf Parsley

Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan. Season the salmon steak and seal the top and bottom. Remove them from the pan and place in a baking tray. Add the peppers and onions to the pan and cook oven a medium heat for a couple of minutes until they are starting to colour. Place on the baking tray with the salmon, and place into a preheated 170C oven for 15-20 minutes until the salmon is cooked through. While the salmon is cooking, reheat the salmon pan and add the wine. Reduce it down to a couple of tablespoons and add the sauce. Heat through, add the parsley. Place the salmon, peppers and onions on a plate and pour over the sauce. Serve immediately.


Grilled Aubergine Puttanesca Tortellini with Mozzarella

1/2 Medium Aubergine, cut into 1cm slices
150g Filled Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini Pasta
70g Diced Buffalo Mozzarella
1 Pouch Loyd Grossman Puttanesca Sauce
1 Tablespoon Torn Basil Leaves
Salt and Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Lay the slices of aubergine out on a baking tray, season with salt and pepper and pour over a little olive oil. Heat a chargrill (or a heavy based frying pan if you do not have one) and cook the slices for about two minutes each side. Set them aside. Cook the pasta according to the pack instructions. Heat the sauce, stir in the cooked aubergines and heat through. Remove from heat, then stir in the mozzarella. Pour over the cooked pasta and garnish with the basil leaves.


Farfalle with Chicken, Courgette and Roast Garlic

1 Medium Courgette, sliced
1/2 Medium Red Onion, diced
1 Chicken Breast – cut into thin strips
1 Pouch LG Tomato and Roast Garlic Sauce
1/2 glass white wine
Handful of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Pouch Loyd Grossman Tomato and Roast Garlic Sauce
150g dried Farfalle Pasta

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 1-2 minutes, sealing it all over. Add the red onion and courgettes and cook for another 3-4 more minutes. Add the white wine and cook until it is reduced down to a couple of tablespoons. Add the pouch of sauce and heat through. Ensure the chicken is cooked through. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes. Cook the pasta according to the pack instructions. Serve the sauce over the cooked pasta, topped with the Parmesan.


Medallions of beef with red wine and roast garlic sauce

2x75g Medallions of Beef Fillet Steak
Vegetable Oil
2 Shallots, peeled and sliced
1/2 Glass Red Wine
1 Teaspoon Fresh Chopped Thyme Leaves
1 Teaspoon Fresh Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
1 Pouch Loyd Grossman Tomato and Roast Garlic Sauce
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oil in a medium heavy based pan over a medium to high heat. Season the beef medallions and carefully add them to the pan, sealing all over and cooking until cooked to the desired amount. Remove them from the pan and set aside to rest. Add a little more oil if required to the pan, then add the shallots. Cook for a couple of minutes, add the wine and the thyme leaves. Increase the heat to reduce the wine to a couple of tablespoons, add the sauce and the parsley. Heat through and serve over the beef medallions. Serve with your favourite salad.


Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Tagliatelle

1/2 Medium Red Onion – sliced
100g Chicken Breast – cut into thin strips
60g Chestnut Mushrooms – Sliced
1/2 Glass White wine (optional)
2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Pouch Carbonara Sauce
150g Fresh Tagliatelle Pasta
Handful Fresh Chopped Parsley

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes, sealing it all over. Add the red onion and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until it is reduced down to a couple of tablespoons. Add the pouch of sauce and heat through. Ensure the chicken is cooked through. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes. Cook the pasta according to the pack instructions. Serve the sauce over the cooked pasta, garnishing with the chopped parsley.


Creamy Potato Carbonara Bake

200g Diced New Potatoes
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 Medium Red Onion
1 Pouch Loyd Grossman Carbonara Sauce
30g Grated Parmesan Cheese

Lightly Coat the potatoes in the olive oil and place in a small ovenable dish. Place into a preheated 180C oven for 10 minutes. Remove, turn the potatoes, and add the red onion. Cook for another 20 minutes, ensuring the potatoes are cooked through. Pour over the sauce, top with the cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.


Fusilli with Chorizo, Peppers and Smoky Bacon Sauce

Olive oil
1/2 Medium Red Onion, diced
50g Diced Chorizo
1/2 Red or Yellow Pepper, in thin slices
1 Pouch Loyd Grossman Smoky Bacon Sauce
100g Fusilli Pasta
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy based pan. Add the onion and pepper and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the Chorizo and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the sauce and thyme leaves, heat through, cover and simmer for a few minutes. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the pack instructions. Drain, and mix the pasta with the hot sauce. Serve sprinkled with the Parmesan.


Italian Chicken with Smoky Bacon and Mushroom

Olive oil
1/2 Medium Onion, chopped
75g Chestnut mushrooms quartered or sliced
1 Medium Chicken Breast
1/2 glass white wine (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
1 Pouch of Loyd Grossman Smoky Bacon Sauce

Preheat an oven to 180C.Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy based pan. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer into an oven proof dish using a slotted spoon. If necessary and add a little more oil. Add the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes each side. Add the wine (if using) and reduce down for 3-4 minutes. Add thyme and the smoky bacon sauce, heat through, and then transfer the chicken and sauce to the casserole dish and mix with the bacon/mushrooms/onions. Place the lid on the casserole and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with pasta, rice or roast potatoes.

other reviews you may be interested in :

New For One pasta sauces from Loyd Grossman
Loyd Grossman Cooking Sauces

New For One pasta sauces from Loyd Grossman

At the start of the summer, I was sent some jars of Loyd Grossman pasta sauces to review (review here) and they went down really well with the whole family (except for the girls not liking the spiciness of the Tomato & Chilli one). I was impressed with the taste, high quality ingredients and sheer convenience of the sauces that allowed you to prepare a delicious, seemingly homecooked meal in minutes with no effort at all.

Well, he's gone one better on the convenience front and has now released a range of sauces "For One", featuring six of the pasta sauces recipes that you can also buy in jars. There have been huge campaigns about the importance of getting back to the table and all sitting down together to eat as a family but, try as you might, it isn't always possible. If your other half has a working lunch or your kids are invited to stay to tea at their friends' house or you finally manage to grab a lunch break somewhere around mid-afternoon, the chances are you'll eat a load of junk. I know I can never be bothered to cook properly when it's just for me so I normally end up eating something uninspiring like a slice of toast or a packet of crisps !

Now, with these handy For One pouches of sauce, I can serve up a nutritious and tasty meal in as long as it takes to throw a slice of bread under the grill because they can be microwaved in just 45 seconds. Yes, OK, you'll need to cook some pasta but if you use the fresh stuff straight from the fridge or, in our house, more likely left over cooked spaghetti from the day before, that will only take a couple of minutes too.

The pouches show arty black and white photos of Loyd sniffing herbs, tasting sauces and grinding pepper so you won't feel like a saddo eating a miserable ready-meal-for-one - you can enjoy the gastronomical delights of Loyd's carefully-crafted sauces just for you. Go on, you deserve it !

The new range For One includes six Italian classics: Tomato and Chilli, Carbonara, Tomato and Basil, Puttanesca, Tomato and Smoky Bacon and Tomato and Roasted Garlic. The Tomato & Basil and Tomato & Chilli had already got the thumbs up when we sampled the jars but I can now tell you that the Carbonara is delicious too. I make my own with bacon, onions and crème fraîche but this recipe, using double cream and smooth mascarpone cheese infused with smoked pancetta, is absolutely heavenly.

Loyd Grossman comments: “I wanted to create a range that allows busy people a quick and simple way to enjoy their favourite Italian pasta meals even when just cooking for one. From the rich carbonara to the lively puttanesca, the new range brings together well balanced flavours and quality ingredients in a handy little pouch for those meal times when you’re cooking for one.” Well done Loyd, anyone who's ever eaten a tin of ravioli by themselves because they don't think it's worth cooking for one salutes you !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.29

click here for some delicious and innovative recipes using the For One pouches

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Loyd Grossman Cooking Sauces
Some recipes for you to try with Loyd Grossman For One Sauces
Garofalo Pasta
Sacla Italian Tomato & Olive Stir Through Sauce
Easy Tasty Italian - Laura Santtini

Hello Kitty Sleeping Bag

I've just been reviewing the Hello Kitty dome tent but Juliette thought all her Christmases had come at once because we also got a Hello Kitty sleeping bag to review. She immediately unrolled it and laid on the floor in it to watch TV, sucking her thumb. I asked if it was comfy and she nodded ... and five minutes later she was asleep so I guess that speaks volumes !

Sophie didn't want to get left out and wanted to try it out too. Instead of climbing out, Juliette just rolled over and told her sister to squeeze in next to her ! As you can see, they both managed to fit in there and do it up just about, so for one person it's very roomy indeed ! It's also lovely and thick so it would keep you snuggly and warm if you decide to sleep outside in your tent on a summer's evening. Juliette has been using hers in her tent for mid-afternoon naps and told me that it was very comfortable, even if she was laying on the floor, because the in-built pillow was nice for her head.

Juliette managed to "break" the zip the first time she used it but I think that was definitely more down to her being a bit too enthusiastic rather than the zip itself because it's been fine every other time since. I was actually impressed because I managed to wiggle the zip-pull all the way back to the start without messing up the zip, whereas lower-quality zips have given up the ghost and refused to work ever again once that has happened.

The sleeping bag comes in a handy storage bag which keeps it nice and small when not in use. It does take a lot of squeezing and squishing and pulling to manage to get it back inside the bag but, as Juliette has discovered, it takes a lot less time to get it back out again !

The bright pink and red colours, the huge Hello Kitty design and the extreme snuggliness of the sleeping bag are all really appealing to the girls and have led to it being permanently adopted for snuggling up on the settee or laying on the floor watching cartoons.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £19.99

other reviews you might be interested in :

Build A Bear Workshop (currently selling Hello Kitty friends)

Hello Kitty Dome Tent

As you already know if you've read our Build a Bear Workshop review, Juliette absolutely loves Hello Kitty. You can therefore imagine how excited she was when I was sent a Hello Kitty tent to review. As a mum, I have to say I quite like the idea of a play tent too because it makes tidying up a kid's bedroom so much quicker - you just throw everything through the door when it's bedtime and tell them to sort it out the next day !

Needless to say, Juliette has been asking me to put up the tent ever since it arrived, so today I grabbed a moment to put it up. It literally did only take a couple of minutes, not counting the half hour needed to clear away a space big enough to set it up on the floor of her room ! If you've put up a play tent before, it's exactly the same system. You unfold and slot all the pole sections together to make two long bendy poles, slide them through the sleeves to diagonally opposite corners and stick the ends in the little holes. That's it ! It really is that quick and easy !

This tent is designed as an indoor play tent but also a proper outdoor camping tent, so it comes with tent pegs, a small tent hood and a fitted ground sheet. The front flap zips right open horizontally and vertically and there is an inner mesh flap that will help keep insects out.

It's really light and packs away into a small box so it's ideal to throw in the car for a weekend away at the grandparents' if you want to let the kids sleep outside in the garden and have an unforgettable adventure. It would also be perfect as a shelter from the sun/wind at the beach as it is so quick to put up, although be careful it doesn't get too hot inside or blow away in the wind, depending on the weather ! Sizewise, according to the box, it's approximately 150 x 120 x 90cm so it's plenty big enough for two kids to sleep in or three or four friends to play in comfortably.

As you can see, Juliette absolutely loves it and has spent the whole day in it so far ! I get a feeling she's going to ask to sleep in it tonight too because she's put her Hello Kitty sleeping bag in it already !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £19.99

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Hello Kitty Sleeping Bag
Build A Bear Workshop (currently selling Hello Kitty friends)

Sunday 29 August 2010

Children's Book Review : I Spy in the Garden (Michelin I Spy Guides)

I used to love I Spy books when I was a kid so when I was given the opportunity to review one, I got even more excited than the kids ! Even better, we were offered the I Spy in the Garden title so we actually stood a fair chance of finding quite a few of the things in it !

For those of you who don't know, the I Spy books work a bit like a scavenger hunt. They contain a whole list of things with photos and information that you have to go out and spot. Depending on how rare or difficult it is to spot, you get a higher or lower number of points. I explained all this to 9-year-old Sophie and within two minutes, she'd understood the concept and was running around my parents' garden with a pen ticking things off as she found them.

The book is arranged in categories so you can look for fruit, animals, plants, trees, garden machinery, buildings and so on. It made Sophie really look closely at the things around her so she spotted creepy crawlies, wild flowers and berries that she would never have seen before otherwise. It also helped her to learn the names of some of the trees, flowers and birds that she knew by sight without necessarily knowing their names. It's educational but it's so much fun, the kids won't even notice !

The I Spy guides have been around since 1948 but they have been updated to reflect the things you can see in today's world. There are currently 24 titles to choose from so you should have no problem finding something that appeals to your children. They've gone high tech because at the end of the book, if you've scored enough points, you can request a certificate online.

The best thing is, they only cost £2.50 and they provide literally hours of fun. Now that I know they still exist, I'll definitely be buying more of them.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £2.50

Temple Island 'Cheeky' Gift Range

If you look through the products created by Temple Island, they initially all seem quite serious and highbrow. The Heritage Collection includes dinner candles and tankards portraying the architectural delights of key English cities, the Landmarks Collection offers fine bone china mugs decorated with panoramic landscapes of famous European cities and the Hero Mugs feature Elizabeth I, Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde and Nelson. They are the sort of high quality gifts that you would find in National Trust or museum shops and that you could always give to your granny for Christmas.
Then you discover their new range, aptly called the Cheeky Range (although I think it would be even better if it was called the Bum Cheek-y Range !) which depicts a couple looking at Trafalgar Square wearing nothing but Union Jack undies ! You can't miss them either because the whole scene is in black and white so the eye is instantly drawn to the splash of red, white and blue in the middle of the scene !

The subject matter may be irreverent but the products are still of a very high quality. The cheeky pictures are emblazoned across tea towels, mugs, drinks coasters and box canvases that you can hang on the wall. As a Brit abroad, I absolutely love them, as much for the iconic Union Jack as for the inimitably British sense of humour. My fellow English-teaching colleagues at school love them too so they will go down well with anyone who has a soft spot for the UK, whatever their origins !

They would be great for stamping some individuality in your office space or at home - I must admit I'm tempted to put the box canvas on my classroom wall but it might prove too much for teenage students whose testosterone levels are bursting into effervescence ! I love using the teatowel though as it always makes me smile when I do the washing up !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : box canvas (200mm x 200mm) £7.99, 4 cork-backed coasters £4.99, earthware mug £5.99, cotton tea towel £4.99

for more information : www.templeisland.com/

Giveaway #19 - 6 pairs of Sea-Bands up for grabs - winners Dee, KTBennetts83, Nicola Lester, jumblymummy, wendymcd83, carolefindsherwings

At the very start of the summer holidays, I reviewed (here) Sea-Bands acupressure wristbands, designed to relieve all forms of nausea and sickness, including morning sickness, motion sickness, chemotherapy induced nausea and post operative nausea. Well, we've given them a thorough road (and sea and air) testing over the summer and I'm pleased (and I admit, slightly amazed !) to say that they seem to have worked every single time. The only sick I have had to clear up all summer long was courtesy of the dog - hmm I wonder if they'd consider making canine Sea-Bands for when we drop them off at the kennels !

But don't just take my word for it - try them out for yourselves ! I have SIX pairs of Sea-Bands up for grabs, worth a grand total of £48. To be in with a chance of winning, tell me in the comments box one thing (apart from Sea-Bands) that you have found sometimes relieves nausea, whether during pregnancy or travelling or whenever else you can think of.

For me, when I was suffering with morning sickness, I used to take a glass of coke and a ginger biscuit to bed with me so that as soon as I woke up, I'd drink flat coke and eat the biscuit before getting out of bed. It sort of worked but only for a while - I wish I'd known about Sea-Bands back then and I'd have given them a go !

Closing date : Sunday 12th September 2010. UK only.
Don't forget to leave me a way to contact you via twitter or email or you can't win !

Good luck !

for more information :




Other giveaways on my blog that you might like to enter :

Giveaway #18 - 3 x 1-month premium memberships to The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks - worldwide, closing date 5/09/2010

Giveaway #17 - win a full-sized bottle of method laundry detergent : closing date 30/08/2010

Giveaway #16 - free one wash sample of method laundry liquid

Giveaway #15 - Free Download of 2 Previously Unreleased People in Planes Tracks

Clarks Daisy & Friends YoToY range - back to school shoes with a hidden doll in the sole !

September has swung around again and everyone's gone crazy buying school uniforms and other back to school essentials. Well, as usual, we decided it was time to fit the girls out with brand new shoes ready to go back to school with. Sophie, now aged 9, is an absolute nightmare for buying shoes for here in France, because she is a size 35. Most kids shoes go up to 34 and grown-up shoes (most of which are not at all suited to 9-year-olds because they have high heels or pointy toes) start at 36. Last time I asked a shoe shop assistant about this, she said "oh yes, it's always size 35 which is a pain to buy because it's in between child and adult sizes. You'll just have to hope she goes up a size quickly" ! I found that unbelievably stupid - how can they just write off a whole section of the buying population ?!

Well, I blogged a little while ago (here) about how Clarks take their child shoe-fitting so seriously so I vowed that we'd buy our next shoes there when we were next in Britain. I'm sick to death, not to mention ashamed, of the blisters and bunions Sophie has on her feet - yes, bunions, on a 9-year-old's feet when I thought they were reserved for old people !

Well, both Sophie and Juliette hopped on the measuring machines and got properly fitted out in some perfectly fitting shoes that are actually designed for kids. Result ! They both ended up getting shoes from the Daisy range which look very smart (and hard-wearing - I pointed out that they were both tomboys and got through shoes like nobody's business !) but they have a secret compartment in the sole of the shoe with a little doll in it. The girls thought this was so incredibly cool, as you can see below !

As they explain on the website, "Look inside your new YoToY shoes to find a hidden compartment in each sole. In one you'll find a secret Daisy doll, and in the other you'll find one of her best friends." Oh - so they must be sole mates ! (*groooans*!). You can learn all about the dolls online and even play their free online game Daisy Explores, using the code you'll find on the free pack of SpongeBob cards the lady in the Clarks shop gives you when you pay a visit.

So needless to say, the kids are happy, mum's happy - and hopefully it won't be too long before Sophie turns into Happy Feet again too !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : approx £30-36 depending on the model

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Clarks Shoes - informative '6 steps to fitting' video
Kickers Back to School rewards scheme - free gift with purchase
Wynsors Baby Dino Sammy - Infant Boys Trainers Style Pram Shoes
Hotter Shoes

Silvercross new website and competition to win a pushchair

Silver Cross have been in touch to say that they have a range of amazing new launches and initiatives throughout September, starting with a brand new website, which will go live on 1st September at http://www.silvercross.co.uk/ . The new site will contain all the best bits of their existing website, plus additional information about the history and heritage of the brand, product demonstrations and imagery of the range and accessories that come exclusively when you buy from the Silver Cross website.

Other key launches include the much awaited release of the Silver Cross Surf online and the larger basket, both of which will be available from day one. They are also releasing their brand new book, ‘Silver Cross: The Story of a Great British Brand’ which tells the story of the company from its inception by William Wilson on Silver Cross Street to the modern day company based in Skipton, Leeds.

Last but not least, they will be offering promotions across the full range, and, to accompany the launch, hosting a special month-long competition: ‘the Dazzle a Day’ will offer families the chance to win one of their lightweight Dazzle pushchairs throughout the month by answering a series of questions. The competition will run across the website, Facebook profile, Twitter and their blog, so people should keep checking each of them for a chance to win. (Every time I post about an online competition, I get people leaving messages to say they've won things so give it a go and let me know if you win !)

As the people at Silver Cross say : "All this along with Silver Cross Days Out and our regular activity makes this a hugely busy but exciting month for Silver Cross ! We hope the community will see this as another step towards providing the best nursery brand in the UK."

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Cheestrings Spaghetti

9-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Juliette absolutely love Cheestrings. I have to admit, I personally am not overly keen on them. I'm not keen on the taste, which seems a bit bland to my adult palate, and I'm not keen on the texture, which seems a bit waxy and rubbery or even plasticky. It certainly doesn't seem like "real" cheese so it's always made me wonder what they put in it to make it go like that. Well, I now know the answer to that question - nothing at all ! Cheestrings are made of real cheese that is heated and stretched like mozzarella to give them their unique shape and texture. That actually makes me feel a lot better about letting the kids eat them !

Cheestrings already exist in a variety of formats - Original, Twisted, Light, White, Minis, Shots, ... Well, now there's a new one to add to that list - Cheestrings Spaghetti. When I was asked if I'd like to review some, I asked the girls and they yelled "yeeeeesssss" so loud that I probably didn't even need to email back my answer !

Needless to say, the girls loved them, especially as they could suck them up like real spaghetti but without getting told off for getting spaghetti sauce stains all over their clothes ! Each little pack has a challenge on it to see if you can recreate the design with your spaghetti. They loved the taste and thought it was great fun to eat.

As a mum, I love the individual packs that are ideal for school lunch boxes. Over the summer, I frequently threw a couple of packs in my bag as a snack for the kids while we were out and about, happy in the knowledge that unlike chocolatey snacks, they wouldn't melt everywhere. The packaging has six individual bags attached together in a line that you can rip off as needed. As they will mainly be used in school lunchboxes, it would possibly be more practical to have five per pack but the girls were always happy to eat the extra bag left over at the weekend ! At first, they found it really difficult to get into the packets, as did, I until I noticed that there is an easy opening part to rip off quite some way down the bag. As it's much lower than on most packaging, it had totally escaped our notice but once I pointed it out, they managed to rip open each packet with no trouble at all.

Having now been convinced that, as it is made with real cheese, it's a healthy snack option and a good way of getting some added calcium into the kids' diets, I offered a small piece to 1-year-old Pierre. As you can see from the picture, he loved them too !

I'd just like to point out that the tomato sauce around his mouth comes from the pasta dinner he'd eaten just before sampling the Cheestrings. They may be called Cheestrings Spaghetti but I wouldn't recommend serving them with bolognese sauce unless you want extremely messy kids !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £2.29 for six individual packs

Other reviews that may be of interest :

Leerdammer - new 225g block format
Nature with a hint of ... snacks
Baby Weaning - Recipes from Mandy Haywood, Boots Baby Food Expert

Saturday 28 August 2010

Nature with a hint of ... snacks

When I was recently asked to review a new snack, I said yes without a second's hesitation but was expecting the same old predictable cracker or crisp type offerings. I was therefore really pleased when top healthy snacking brand You Are What You Eat's new Nature snacks plopped on the mat.

The brand has totally understood us complicated women and our ambivalent attitude to snacking, coming up with four different varieties, as they say "two to tempt your naughty side and two to appeal to your exotic spirit, satisfying all of your cravings". So when you have those good and bad angels on your shoulders type moments when looking for something to ease your hunger pangs, you're bound to find something to fit the bill !

We received two little bags to test, Nature with a hint of exotic Berries Mix and Nature with a hint of naughty Fruit, Nut & Dark Chocolate Mix. Both samples were individual 45g packs, but they can also be bought in larger 125g packs to share (or to hide in your secret snacking place to come back to whenever you fancy a nibble !). As I was feeling generous, I divided each pack into four equal parts (and yes, the girls really did count to make sure each portion had equal numbers of each ingredient !).

The Berries Mix contains blueberries, cherries, cranberries, crimson raisins and cape gooseberries. Having never tasted a cape gooseberry before, I started out with one of those - they're so sharp they made me shudder but not in an unpleasant way ! The tartness nicely complemented the other berries in the pack and all the berries were packed full of flavour and juiciness.

As 45g split four ways doesn't go far, we decided to munch our way through the Fruit, Nut & Dark Chocolate Mix too, which contains cashew nuts, golden sultanas, pecans, raisins, apricots and dark chocolate drops. This mix certainly seemed more indulgent and satisfying but I think that is more due to the contrast between the crunchy nuts and the juicy fruit rather than the inclusion of chocolate drops. It's a delicious but healthy mix but there was one thing that disappointed me - in the whole 45g pack, there was one solitary piece of apricot (so yes, you guessed it, I had to nibble it into four equal-sized pieces to share out !).

The other two varieties that we didn't try are Nature with a hint of exotic Fruit & Nut (pistachios, sultanas, almonds, Chilean raisins and dragon fruit - hmmm another fruit I've never tried before) and Nature with a hint of naughty Yoghurt (yoghurt-coated pineapple, pumpkin seeds, sultanas, almonds and raisins).

The snacks nicely balance taste and healthiness, counting as one of your five-a-day portions of fruit but tasting as delicious as sweets. Everyone in our family, kids and adults alike, loved every single ingredient. They would make brilliant healthy snacks on the move or lunchbox treats in the individual bags, and a bigger family-sized bag would make a great alternative to popcorn, crisps or sweets in front of the telly.

The fruit and nuts pack in lots of vitamins and antioxidants but are relatively low in calories, compared to alternative snack choices - depending on the variety, a small pack contains around 150-200 calories.

I'll definitely be looking out for the other varieties to give them a go. I might have to hide them next time though so that I can eat them when the girls aren't around and avoid splitting them four ways !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : 89p for a 45g pack, £1.79 for a 125g pack

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Nakd Wildly Different Fruit-Infused Raisins
Nakd Wildly Different Raw Fruit, Nut & Oat Bars
Asda's Great Stuff range for kids - great healthy snacks and meals
Harvest Cheweee Cereal Bars

Palmolive Nutra.Fruit shower crèmes

I have a confession to make. I am a shower gel and hair care junkie ! I absolutely love trying out all the new scents and textures and can happily while away half an hour in Tesco's or Boots browsing the shelves and looking at the new products ! I therefore got unreasonably excited about trying out the new range from Palmolive Naturals called Nutra.fruit.

Before I even opened the bottles, I loved the look of them. The delicate pastel swirls look so decadent and luxurious, probably because they remind me of raspberry ripple ice cream and make me think back to sun-filled summer holidays as a kid !

The three scents - I keep wanting to type flavours, probably because they look good enough to eat ! - are Pomegranate (with red swirls) , Kiwi (with green swirls) and Mandarin (with orange swirls). All three varieties are enriched with moisturising cream and fruit extracts and the label promises that, after showering, "your skin will feel nourished, refreshed and radiant, wrapped in a delicious fruity fragrance". I agree that the luxurious creamy texture left my skin feeling soft and moisturised and the delicious fruity fragrances did linger on my skin for a while after I'd showered.

I love all three of the fragrances, which smell naturally fruity, not synthetic. The Mandarin, designed to energise and rejuvenate, is lovely first thing in the morning when you want to clear your head with some zingy citrus scent. Kiwi, said to refresh and revitalise, is lovely when you're feeling hot and sweaty or mentally and physically frazzled after a long day at work or a workout. Pomegranate, to pamper and nourish, is the one I choose when I want to lock myself in the bathroom for a luxurious shower, face mask and deep conditioning treatment for my hair.

I love the whole range and I'm impressed at how thoroughly pampered they make me feel for such a reasonable price tag. If I'm in a rush, they're also a great time-saver because I don't need to moisturise my skin after I've jumped out of the shower.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.99 for 200ml

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Nordic Omega-3 Gummy Worms

A few months ago, Nordic Naturals sent me some of their multivitamin Gummies to try out and they tasted just like sweets so they were a huge hit with the girls (not to mention the grownups !). They recently asked me to review their new Gummy Worms so I immediately said yes, hoping to find something else amazingly good for the girls' health that they absolutely love eating.

Well, I have to admit that when I saw the label, I was slightly dubious. These Gummy Worms contain omega-3, otherwise known as fish oil. Although I'm well aware of the health benefits of omega-3, there's no getting away from the fact that other supposedly great tasting fruity products that we've tried in the past did taste very fishy and the girls hated some of them so much that they gagged the first time they tried them then refused point blank to have another taste !

Luckily, I didn't have to try the hard sell to get them to try them out. They recognised the Nordic Naturals label from the Multivitamin Gummies and begged me to let them taste them - grinning to myself (and crossing my fingers that they wouldn't taste the fishy oil !), I said "Oh OK, go on then" and sat back to watch their reactions.

They giggled at the wiggly worms shape, popped them in their mouth, chewed, swallowed and asked if they could have another one ! Buoyed by their enthusiasm, I decided to try one myself and once again, I was amazed at how they have taken something packed full of goodness and made it taste just like a sweet. I was searching for a fishy background taste and there really isn't one.

Obviously, to taste this good, they do contain sugars - Mary Poppins knew her stuff when she said a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down ! Each serving of one worm contains 15 calories, but all kids eat sweets so at least you know that these ones are packed with brain-boosting omega-3 oils. They are gluten free, milk derivative free, yeast free and free from artificial flavourings, colourings and preservatives.

Once again, the girls (and me !) love the enchanting Scandinavian fairytale world of Nordic Naturals : "Mountain Trolls are the most secretive Trolls—the most anyone has ever seen of one is a bushy tail sticking out from behind a mossy boulder. Every night they emerge from their hidden underground labyrinths to put out baskets of Nordic Omega-3 Gummy Worms for the Troll kingdom."

My only criticism is that a pot only contains 30 gummy worms so, if you have two children, you'll be getting through a tub every fortnight. I would prefer to have bigger pots available.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £18.91

other reviews you may be interested in :

YabbaYabba - Beautiful Children's Canvas Pictures

Writing a reviews blog as a mum can be a diplomatic minefield sometimes, when you receive something to review that you instinctively know will appeal to more than one of your children ! When this beautiful canvas wall print from Yabba Yabba arrived, I just knew that both 9-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Juliette would fight over it - and I wasn't wrong ! Luckily, Juliette got some butterfly wall stickers to test a couple of weeks ago so I could say that it was only fair for Sophie to get this one. Phew, diplomatic crisis over !

I can totally understand why they both fell in love with it because it is so girlie-girlie and ticks all the right boxes - it's pink, cute and sparkly. What more could a girl ask for ?! You can't actually see in the picture but there are sparkly gems on the dragonflies' wings which add that extra special finishing touch when they glitter in the light.

This was the first time I'd heard of Yabba Yabba but I have to say, I'm very impressed with the general sturdiness of the product. The wooden frame is chunky and solid and the canvas is so tightly stretched that it makes a brilliant drum sound if you lightly tap your fingers on it !

They explain on their website that they take this high quality seriously : "Here at YabbaYabba we pride ourselves on our fantastic designs, coupled with our quality service. All our children's canvas pictures are available in various sizes: 10”, 12” and 16” square (using a 38mm thick stretched canvas), to allow you to choose something that is ‘just right’ for your little one’s room. YabbaYabba designs reflect your child’s personality as they are fun, bright, and beautiful. Look out for the extra special touches on some of our childrens pictures - which really help bring them to life. Let us spark your child’s imagination."

The beautiful dragonflies print that we received is actually part of a set of three Busy Bug designs, that goes with purple/yellow butterflies and green/pink lady bugs (or ladybirds, on this side of the Atlantic !). The trio of Busy Bugs designs would instantly transform an average girl's bedroom into a gorgeous girlie haven of loveliness. If bugs aren't your thing (although these are particularly lovely girlie bugs !), you could choose from their other designs which include cupcakes, daydream animals and the amazingly cute fairies set. Boys needn't feel left out either - they have the choice of Journey to the Moon, monsters or safari animals.

This is one of those websites that has you oohing and aahing the more you click as you discover more and more things that you know would look absolutely stunning in your kids' bedrooms, let alone all all over the house ! They have some really quirky and funky products that would make fabulous gifts, such as the personalised bunting or the cute fairy toadstool cushion. This is starting to sound like a sponsored post so I'd better stop gushing but if you go and have a look for yourselves, I'm sure you'll find just as many things that appeal to your cute side !

If you're really really quick, you can take advantage of a sale and competition currently running on their website but it all ends on Sunday so don't hang around !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £24.95 (but currently on special offer £19.95)

Brewers Fayre family-friendly dining

What a difference a couple of years can make ! In 2008, I wrote this rather nasty review about The Windmill restaurant in Hastings on the Trusted Places website and gave them one measly star :

"We chose this place as a cheap and cheerful family-oriented restaurant, with the main selling point being the play area incorporated in the restaurant complex. However, we were shocked to see that you had to pay entry to the play area and there were no re-entries (so we couldn't send the kids off to play in between courses as we'd planned). Also, while we were there, the girl supposedly supervising and taking the money was off on an extended cigarette break so the older kids were going loopy and making it dangerous for the younger kids. On top of that, the food wasn't great. We only had a main course and dessert but it took literally hours to arrive and when it finally did, it didn't all come at the same time so one member of the group sat watching us all eat and finally got his when we'd all finished. The fantastic-looking knickerbocker glories on the menu (in glass sundae dishes, with squirty cream etc) metamorphosed into tiny things straight out of the freezer in a plastic cone. Not impressed. Oh, and the kids' toys with their meal (colouring pencils) never materialised either ! We did complain on their comments cards so they may (hopefully) have made some improvements but we haven't been back to check (and probably won't !!!) ".

Well, I've just been back on there to change my review because we went back on Thursday night and it couldn't have been any more different to our original experience. We arrived as a big group (5 adults, 2 kids and a baby) with no reservation because our original booking in another restaurant had fallen through (they supposedly had no record of it but that's another story !). I sent my dad off to find out if they had any room before getting all the kids out of the car again - the woman apparently said "hmmm, not sure, give me a minute and I'll see what I can do". When we strolled back up from the car park minutes later, a big table in the bay window with a highchair had magically materialised ! Result !

We sat the kids down and headed off to the bar to get drinks. A round of drinks (admittedly mainly soft drinks, but they're not necessarily cheaper in most pubs) for all of us came to under a tenner which seemed very reasonable to me. We then started looking through the menu to see what everyone fancied eating. We couldn't see any mention of children's options or find a separate kids' menu so we set about ordering for everyone, kids and adults alike, from the standard menu. Had I done my homework (as I would have done if we'd been planning on eating here in the first place !), I'd have known that they do offer a comprehensive kids' menu too - in fact, their website makes a huge point of Brewers Fayre being family-friendly : "To truly enjoy a meal out, you have to keep the kids happy ! Happy is easy, but happy and healthy is more challenging ! Our kids menu is jam packed with all their favourites, many of which contribute to their five a day. To help you enjoy your visit, we've got activities and competitions to keep them busy once they've cleaned their plates ! A lot of our restaurants also have fantastic play zones to keep them occupied whilst you enjoy your meal. We've also got activities for you to download to keep them busy at home !"

Even without taking advantage of the kids' meals, we managed to find things that everyone, even the picky eaters, fancied. They have all the great British classics on the menu like steak and ale pie, roast dinners, fish and chips, sausage and mash, cottage pie, plus a choice of burgers and some spicier options like chicken tikka masala or vegetable tandoori masala for the more adventurous palates. It's sometimes difficult to find something that the kids will eat but this time, our only problem was narrowing it down to a final choice ! You have to go and order at the counter which is actually a really good thing if you've got kids - you can take your time deciding what to order without a waiter breathing down your neck trying to speed things up !

Between us, we covered most of the options on the menu and, when it all arrived about ten minutes later, everything was really well cooked, looked and smelt delicious and was piping hot. Judging by the silence that descended on the table as everyone tucked in, it tasted as good as it looked too ! The girls, despite having huge grown-up portions, still asked to taste the breaded mushrooms, garlic ciabatta and onion rings that were in the middle of the table as a shared extra and declared everything to be yummy. The adults agreed with them.

In the name of reviewing (and if you believe that, you'll believe anything !), we decided we had to try out the desserts too and sampled the strawberry sundaes (or "oh no, it's not Sunday, it must be strawberry Thursdays today", as Juliette declared !), the chocolate indulgence and the caramel apple crumble. Having been disappointed by the desserts in the past, we warned the girls that they wouldn't be very big ... so they were even more excited and happy when enormous strawberry sundaes with extra long spoons were brought to the table !

We were all so stuffed out that we decided against going to explore the play area this time because we were worried the girls would be sick if they jumped about too much ! I did have a sneaky look though and was pleased to see that it's now free and kids can come and go as they please.

I don't know if they took some of our comments into account after our original disastrous meal or whether it has been completely overhauled since changing to a Brewers Fayre restaurant but we all came out really pleased to have given it another chance. We had a fabulous relaxed evening out, everybody liked the food and we were also pleasantly surprised by the bill - despite not using the kids menu, it all came to just over £70 for the seven of us (admittedly we didn't order anything for Pierre, he just munched bits off our plates !). I would highly recommend it as a family-friendly, chilled-out dining experience and now give it top marks which is great turnaround from a couple of years ago.

star rating : 5/5

We ate at The Windmill Brewers Fayre/Premier Inn at 1 John Macadam Way, St Leonard's On Sea, Hastings, East Sussex TN37 7DB (Tel. 08701 977128 email Hastings.Windmill@whitbread.com)

(I should point out that the face painting wasn't done at The Windmill - that was from Priory Meadow shopping centre that afternoon !)

Friday 27 August 2010

Dodo Acad Pad Academic Diary

I know most people these days probably use their mobile phones, blackberries, PDAs and other handheld gadgets to know when and where they have to be throughout the day but I personally would be totally lost without my diary. For the past few years, I've bought a family organiser diary from Organised Mum which allows me to keep tabs on every member of the family on a day-to-day basis, but when I was offered the chance to review a Dodo Acad Pad, I decided to see how it compared.

Well, the answer is, very well indeed. Whereas the Organised Mum family organisers revolve around "mum stuff" like doctors' appointments, birthdays and insurance renewals, the Acad Pad - as its name suggests - is more designed for students and teachers. Well, I'm a teacher - but I'm also a mum, and a wife, and a blogger/reviewer, so I have loads of things I need to keep track of throughout the week. I was really pleased to see that the Acad Pad offers five columns to fill in throughout the day so I have plenty of space to write everything in without squishing it up so much it's illegible ! If you're a young, free and single student, you will probably use the columns for "before lectures", "morning", "afternoon", "after lectures" and "evening" but for me, it was a toss-up between one column per member of the family (but I thought I'd get downhearted as the year progressed to see that my kids had more of a social life than me !) or "school stuff", "appointments", "to do", "important dates" and "fun stuff".

What I love is all the little humorous phrases, quirky fascinating facts and blank spaces inviting you to doodle, which are perfect for filling in a few moments as you wait for your next class to begin or for the annoying on-hold phone music to finish. It also gives you loads of extra space for jotting down important phone numbers and email addresses when you're on the phone so that you won't be forever losing little scraps of paper. Another simple but really handy feature is the little perforated corners that you can rip off as you go so that you can instantly flick to the right page for the day when you need it.

The size of the Acad Pad is absolutely perfect for me and my lifestyle but it also comes in a variety of other formats, including wall planner, mini and Filofax-compatible versions. They are sturdily put together and the spiral bound spine is perfect for allowing you to slot in a pen so you won't constantly have to rummage around in the bottom of your bag to find one.

I had never heard of Dodo Acad Pads or the whole range of products designed by Lord Dodo so I was amazed to learn that they have been around for 45 years. On their website, they are described as "a combined memo-doodle-engagement-weekly-planner-diary-organizer-message-ment book" and I have to say that, having filled in all the key dates for the coming academic year and glanced at a few of the fun facts, I tend to agree with their statement that it will be "utterly indodispensible" !
star rating : 5/5

RRP : £12.50

for more information : http://www.dodopad.com/index.html

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Ryman Student Stationery Pack - Back to School Lifesaver !
FOLDIO A4 Portfolio
Pens Envy ! What little girls are really lusting after !

Thursday 26 August 2010

Heinz Salad Cream Lemon and Black Pepper

I'd never really thought about it before starting this review but Heinz salad cream, along with tomato ketchup and tomato relish, is an absolute store cupboard essential in our house. There's always a bottle in the fridge or an unopened one in the cupboard and I often use a quick squirt in cooking or sandwich making. For packed lunches, I love mixing grated cheese, a squirt of salad cream and a few chopped cherry tomatoes and using the mixture to stuff pitta pockets. I also prefer tuna and salad cream to the classic tuna and mayonnaise combo because it always seems a lighter option. Having checked the label, a 15g serving of the new salad cream contains 45 calories and 3.5g of fat, and Heinz say on their website that the original salad cream has 66% less fat than the standard mayonnaise market leader.

When Heinz contacted me to see if I'd like to review their new limited edition Lemon and Black Pepper Salad Cream, I was therefore really keen to try it out. According to the label, it's great with tuna and chicken but Heinz have also come up with a range of innovative recipes that incorporate it. I love the sound of Tuna Fishcakes with Heinz Salad Cream Lemon and Black Pepper and Gammon Steaks with Winter Coleslaw so I'll definitely be trying those out.

I decided to taste it on its own to begin with, to appreciate its true flavour. Firstly, it does still taste recognisably of salad cream - you get the tangy vinegary taste you would expect from a normal bottle. Then almost instantaneously you get a strong but naturally-tasting burst of zesty lemonness, followed by a lasting sensation of slight warmth and pepperiness on your tongue as the black pepper taste comes through. It's a lovely, fresh flavour that enhances other ingredients without completely overpowering them. I tried it in a tuna sandwich and with a salad and it goes really well with both.

I was amazed to see that despite their salad cream exisiting for 96 years, this is the first time that Heinz has launched a new flavour variant. I think it really works so I hope they'll continue bringing out new flavours to tickle our tastebuds and add some extra oomph to sandwiches.

The new salad cream has been available in Asda since July but is being launched in all the other major supermarkets next week so you should be able to get your mitts on a bottle quite easily.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £1.15 for 295g

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Build A Bear Workshop

I love it when the whole Madhouse Family can get involved in some hands-on testing and reviewing and today was one of those days because we were all invited along to the Build A Bear Workshop in Brighton's Churchill Square shopping centre. We'd popped our head around the door a few times but had never really looked at how it all worked so the girls were really excited.

The lovely Hayley welcomed us into the store and showed the children to the empty bear "cases" before handing us over to Perrie to help us bring them to life. I say bears but despite the name, that's not all you can choose. There are a selection of cats, monkeys, rabbits, loads of other animals and, at the moment, limited edition Hello Kitty friends. The girls oohed and aahed with Juliette hugging them all going "This one ... Oh no, this one ..." but they finally settled on a Hello Kitty for Juliette, a pink Sweet Cuddles soft bear for Sophie and a blue Sweet Cuddles soft bear for Pierre (who wouldn't stop cuddling it, even before he was stuffed ! ).

Once they'd made their choice, it was time to move along the noise selector machine. For a supplement, you can choose from a selection of noises ranging from cute giggles to magic noises to Jonas Brothers music. The girls had fun pushing all the buttons to listen to the noises then both chose the 6-in-1 noise which makes your bear say a range of aah-inducing sentences like "I love you", "Give me a hug" and "You're my best friend". Pierre went for a cute giggle that makes him laugh every time he hears it.

Next was off to the stuffer. Before filling your bear with fluff, you get to choose a cute little padded heart to put inside him. The girls looked very serious as they carefully chose their hearts then followed the drill, rubbing the hearts in their hands to make them warm-hearted, rubbing them on their hearts to make them full of love, on their funny bones to make them funny, on their foreheads to make them brainy.
Then it was time to put the tube in the toy's back and activate the pedal on the stuffing machine, choosing the degree of firmness you want (soft for cuddles or hard to sit up).

Although the little padded heart may be a gimmick, there is something much more serious that goes in the back too - the bar code off the label. If you ever lose your cuddly friend anywhere in the world, if someone takes it to a Build A Bear shop, they can track you down via the bar code and send him back home to you.

Once he's sewn up, you can give him a (pretend) bath and fluff him up, then it's off to choose the clothes and accessories. I was actually expecting these to be really pricey and while it's easy to get carried away and spend a fortune, each individual item is quite reasonably priced. Juliette chose a Hello Kitty Tshirt and dress outfit, Sophie went for a very posh purple dress with necklace and bag and Pierre's bear got the Liverpool football strip which was reduced to the bargain price of £2 !

The final step before heading to the tills is the Birth Certificate computers to register your bear with your name, address, email and birthday and choose the name you want to give him. This allows you to log on to the Build A Bearville website where you can choose a toy that looks like your new friend and a human that looks like you !

Even when you get to the tills, the fun still hasn't stopped. Along with a few added extras (like bows, colouring books and stickers) and his birth certificate, your cuddly friend is packed in a sturdy cardboard house-shaped carrying box that you can keep and colour in when you get home.

The girls and Pierre were absolutely enchanted with the whole experience and haven't stopped hugging and stroking their bears since we've been home. They've already asked to log on to the online game but I'm saving that for tomorrow ! The toys are really high quality and I'm sure that the accessories and extra clothes will be pocket-money buys for a long time to come. Make sure you ask for the loyalty card when you buy your bear so that you can add up points every time you buy (and what do points make ? prizes ! ) and also qualify for money-off vouchers.

The girls have told me I have to give the whole experience top marks because it was a beary beary grrrrrr-eat day out !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £15 - £20 for the basic toy, approximately £3 - £10 for the clothes and accessories

Other reviews you may be interested in :
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