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KarenUK

KarenUK

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Busy with my toddler son and my baby grand-daughter. My new book THOUGHTS OF A NEW OLD MUM is out now, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/nhbr22476

Reviews written

since 08/07/2000

1125

Harlech Castle, Harlech 25/08/2012

Men of Harlech - and Me!

Harlech Castle, Harlech HARLECH CASTLE We just spent a week’s holiday staying in a pretty country cottage in Wales, in a village eight miles from Betws-y-Coed. While we were there, we went out every day doing sightseeing and visiting some of the attractions of the area. Both my fiancé and I love castles, so we were keen to visit a couple of Welsh ones during the week and one of those we visited was Harlech Castle, which was about 35 miles from where we were staying. I hadn’t been there before and Harlech was a good place to visit too, a very picturesque area. The Castle is obviously the main attraction. It was built by Edward I in the late 13th Century. There is a small exhibition in part of the castle, which explains its history. It cost us £3.80 each to go in and our baby was free. Current prices, opening times and special events can be found on the website http://www.harlech.com/ There is limited parking right near the castle, which was full when we went, but we found another car park (and with toilets) only a few minutes’ walk away. Some castles are accessible by wheelchair and pushchairs (Conwy Castle is one), but Harlech Castle is only really suitable for the able-bodied and quite fit, as there are a lot of steps and stairs to negotiate. I wouldn’t recommend it for toddlers either, as some of it seemed rather dangerous to me and I wouldn’t be happy with little ones running around. My fiancé had our six-month-old son strapped to him in the baby sling and this was ideal, as he was safe and ...

Tippitoes EZE 14/08/2012

Eze-Enough!

Tippitoes EZE A couple of months before our baby was born, we went shopping for a buggy. We wanted one which wasn’t too expensive, it had to fit into the boot of a fairly small car and one which would be suitable from birth and could be used as the baby got older too. We shopped around and ended up buying a Tippitoes Eze Pushchair and Footmuff in red for around £80 from a local nursery shop. It is a stylish looking pushchair and also available in black, but I was very pleased to get a bright red one as I like bright colours for babies and red is fine for either a boy or a girl. All pushchairs tend to be quite big and bulky and this one is no different, but it doesn’t feel too big and it isn’t too heavy either. I find it easy enough to steer, to get up the kerbs and to fold away, although you will probably need a few practices before you can fold it quickly. Like anything, there is a knack to doing it, but once you have got it worked out, it is a fairly quick procedure. We first used this pushchair when my son was a couple of weeks old and although he looked very tiny in it, it supported him well and he seemed comfortable in it. It has a multi-position back rest, so you can have it flat for sleeping or have it positioned so the baby is sitting up, as we do now he is six months old. The five-point harness supports the baby well, it feels secure and is easy to adjust and to clip in and out. My son has not managed to wriggle out of the straps yet. My son was born in February and this ...

Garden Friends Franklin Comfort Blanket 24/07/2012

Comforting!

Garden Friends Franklin Comfort Blanket We were in Toys R Us a couple of months ago and I was looking to buy my baby son a toy. I was looking for a soft-bodied baby doll for a boy, but could only find pink girlie ones that were not what I wanted. But while I was browsing the selection of baby toys they had in the shop, I came across the Garden Friends range which is apparently exclusive to Babies R Us and has lots of brightly coloured toys in a variety of bugs and animals – frogs, worms, snakes, caterpillars, newts, ladybirds and the like. Amongst this section, I found Franklin and the Comfort Blanket, which we bought for £10. Garden Friends Franklin Comfort Blanket is a two-part toy, as Franklin is a bright neon green soft cuddly frog and the comfort blanket is, well, a comfort blanket. I had been planning to buy my son one of the Taggies range comfort blankets, but these are rather expensive and I was impressed at the Garden Friends version, especially only having to pay £10 for both the blanket and the frog! The comfort blanket is beautifully made – soft, bright and snugly. One side is light blue velour with a darker blue silky edging and it has ‘my first comfort blanket’ embroidered on it in yellow stitching. The two textures of the material feel really nice and you can definitely imagine this becoming a favourite at bedtime. The reverse side has the same colour scheme and material, but on here there are four big shapes – an orange heart in cord material, a yellow swirly star, a soft neon green circle and a ...

VTech Little Singing Alfie 20/07/2012

Over The Moon With Alfie?

VTech Little Singing Alfie A couple of months ago, we had a long car journey and with a young baby to entertain, I decided we needed to get him a new toy. We wanted something that was interesting, not too expensive and different from his other toys, as well as something that would be good for the journey. We ended up buying him the Vtech Little Singing Alfie from Tesco, which I think we paid around £8 for, as it was reduced. It is usually around the £10 mark. It is suitable for children between three months and eighteen months old and our son was at the minimum age when we bought it, but now he’s almost six months, he gets more out of this toy. It is quite heavy, so younger babies find it hard to hold and manipulate the toy, but now my son is older, he can push the buttons and finds it much more rewarding. Little Singing Alfie is a cute looking, smiling, brown bear, however don’t purchase this if you are looking for a cuddly toy, as its hard tummy area doesn’t lend itself to bedtime snuggling. The stomach is where all the action is, as it contains the buttons and electronic wizardry that make the noises, lights and music. It is mainly red here with a yellow heart and three sections to press underneath in blue, green and yellow. Each section gives us different responses teaching babies music, numbers and emotions. The packaging definitely emphasises the educational value of this toy, declaring it helps develop motor skills (where the child learns that pressing the buttons causes flashing lights and ...

Nuby Flip Flop Teether Book 18/07/2012

Horsey Horsey Flippity Flop!

Nuby Flip Flop Teether Book A couple of months ago, I wanted to buy my son a toy which was different to his other toys. We were in Tesco and I saw something called a Nuby Flip Flop Teether Book for £5, so we bought that. It is in the shape of a horse but its body is actually a book with pages you lift up. This gives it a multi-function as you can read it as a book, cuddle it as a soft toy or your baby can chew it to help with teething. It is quite light to hold too, which is especially good for young babies. It also has a Velcro strap which you can attach to a car seat, stroller or baby bouncer. It is a clever, well-made and sturdy toy which is bright and colourful too. The horse has a lovely smiling face in bright colours and its ears are crinkly, which babies love as they make a noise when you touch them. The tail and mane are a dark purple cord fabric, which also provides different colours and textures to stimulate and interest the baby. The toy is suitable from birth (though the tag reminds parents not to leave a child under three unattended with this toy) and is BPA free. It has the CE safety mark on and it suggests cleaning by using a damp cloth. The toy has a hard yellow circle to chew on, plus two of the horse’s feet are made of that hard plastic stuff that babies like to put in their mouths whilst teething. The other two hooves are soft and crinkly. The book itself is just six pages long and this aspect is probably the least satisfying of the product. It rhymes, but not brilliantly, the ...

Tommee Tippee IcyBite Keys 10/07/2012

A KEY Product For Your Baby?

Tommee Tippee IcyBite Keys When my baby son started teething a couple of months ago, we bought him the Tommee Tippee Icy Bite Keys from Tesco for around £5. He was about three months old then, so didn’t get full use of this, as it is quite heavy and you need a degree of accuracy in being able to put it in your mouth, but now he is five months old and his hand-to-eye coordination has much improved, he is using the keys every day. They look bright and pretty and are designed to resemble adult keys on a keyring, so your child has a mini version of something their parents own too. The keyring here is bright blue with white spots on and it is hard, so chewing on the ring can bring comfort to teething babies too. The three keys have slightly differently shaped tops with the familiar key bit in yellow, blue and green with the top sections in orange, red and purple, so you can also use these to introduce the colours to your baby. The keys are filled with a soft squidgy gel which gets cool when left in the fridge. The top bits of the keys are hard with textured bits, so there are plenty of different things for the baby to explore and put in its mouth. The ring has Nuby on it, but it is a Tommee Tippee product. Both brands have a good reputation, so I was happy to buy this after reading the packaging for its safety specifications. It has all the required safety marks and does not contain any PVC or BPA. It is important to note that this cannot be put in the freezer though, only the fridge. It is suitable for ...

My Week With Marilyn (DVD) 11/06/2012

Some Like It Marilyn

My Week With Marilyn (DVD) Back in 1987, I discovered Marilyn Monroe. It was the 25th anniversary of her death and the television showed a documentary on her narrated by Catherine Deneuve, followed by a showing of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I was enthralled! What a beautiful woman Marilyn was and how talented an actress. I began buying books about her and trying to watch all her films... In 2011, the film My Week With Marilyn was released in UK cinemas. I was too pregnant to sit comfortably in the cinema, so had to miss it, but I pre-ordered the DVD and watched it as soon as I had the time. The film is based on the book of the same name by Colin Clark, who worked on the 1956 film The Prince and The Showgirl in England with Marilyn. I have read this book and do question the truth of some of it, so I was slightly worried the film would become rather sleazy and portray Marilyn as some kind of sex-mad loose woman. Thankfully I was pleased with how it was handled. Colin Clark is 23 years old and working on his first film. As the third director’s assistant, he basically gets to be a gopher, at the beck and call of Laurence Olivier, who is directing the film as well as co-starring in it. There is tension between Olivier and Marilyn, as he doesn’t agree with the Method style of acting that Marilyn favours and he finds the presence of her coach Paula Strasberg on set as highly irritating. As he becomes more impatient and annoyed, his disapproval and criticism makes Marilyn more nervous and soon she is fluffing ...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS35 07/06/2012

What A Picture! What A Photograph!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS35 PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-FS35 I am a big fan of digital cameras and have owned several over the last few years. I usually try to upgrade every year, but I have been loyal to the Panasonic Lumix brand for the past three years or so. When my baby son was due, I felt it was an excellent time for an upgrade, so I did an online search to see which would be the best model to buy. I didn’t want to spend more than £150, I wanted more pixels and a bigger zoom than my other models and – being a girl! – I wanted a pretty colour too! The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS35 ticked all these boxes. It has 16 mega pixels, an 8x optical zoom and I bought a red one. A quick search on Kelkoo suggests it is currently available from £94 to £166, so it is well worth shopping around to get the best deal. Amazon UK is selling a violet one for just under £100. You can search all the technical specifications online, as I don’t intend to list them here. My requirements were that it could take really good quality photos that I could print out as 10x8s, if I wanted to. I use my camera for photographing nature a lot, landscapes, scenery and historic buildings, as we go away a lot for weekend breaks and longer holidays within the U.K. and part of the whole travel experience for me is getting artistic photos of important buildings and historic places. A recent family holiday in Whitby meant that I wanted to take atmospheric black and white shots of the famous Whitby Abbey, followed by cute shots in natural colours of ...

That's Not My Dragon - Fiona Watt 05/06/2012

One Of My Baby's Favourite Things!

That's Not My Dragon - Fiona Watt My son is four months old, but already has a favourite book – That’s Not My Hamster. Whenever we read it to him, he smiles and laughs at the same bits, his whole face lighting up. So I decided to buy him another in the series and after doing a search online, I chose That’s Not My Dragon – mainly because I love dragons and the illustrations looked very cute! This is one of the Usborne touchy-feely books by Fiona Watt, illustrated by Rachel Wells. There are lots of different animals available in the series (tiger, bear, puppy, kitten, monkey, etc.) as well as things like princesses, cars, trains and monsters. That’s Not My Dragon has a cover price of £5.99 but we bought it from Amazon for only £3.74. It is a board book so suitable for any age. While my son is too young to understand the actual words, he seems to love the repetition and the rhythm of the words. Each double page begins with the “That’s not my dragon” and then goes on to explain why not, with the final pages revealing that this one IS his dragon and again explaining why. The books are beautiful with brightly coloured cartoon style drawings. That’s Not My Dragon has purple, lilac, blue, orange, yellow and green dragons, which means that as your child gets older, you can talk about the different colours as well as the spots, wings, horns and other features of each dragon. There is a little white mouse that appears in each scene too, so you can point that out to your child or ask them to find it. The best part ...

Bright Starts Elephant March Cradling Bouncer 01/06/2012

Marching On...

Bright Starts Elephant March Cradling Bouncer A baby bouncer is one of those pieces of equipment which is an essential, in my opinion. Every parent needs a safe place to leave their baby in for a few minutes, while they get a cup of tea or answer the phone and bouncy chairs are ideal, as they are comfortable and secure. We spent several hours browsing the bouncy chairs on offer in Mothercare, Toys R Us and our local nursery shop before purchasing one from Argos – the Bright Starts Elephant March Baby Bouncer, which they sell for £23.49. We had a few requirements – not too expensive, suitable for a boy (so nothing predominantly pink!), suitable for the age and weight of our baby, light enough for me to carry and lift, a bright and cheerful design and a bar across it with a couple of toys. This particular model ticked all those boxes, my partner and I were both happy, so we bought it and took it home. We have now been using this for around three months, so I feel I can review it fairly. The Bright Starts Elephant March Baby Bouncer is suitable for babies from birth and up to 9kg in weight. (Our four-month-old is just over 15 pounds, which is less than 7kg, so he is still fine and will be able to use it for a few months yet.) We use this every day and our son happily has his daytime naps in it, as it is well padded and supports his head and body effectively. The design is mainly a blue and green base with zebras, elephants and swirls on the material. The removable bar is very easy to clip in and out and doesn’t need any ...

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Developmental Caterpillar 01/05/2012

Hungry For Learning...

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Developmental Caterpillar My son Dexter is now three months old and has recently started to hold toys, to notice different shapes and to enjoy feeling different textures. So last week, when we were away on holiday, we visited a shop in Scarborough where I bought him a Very Hungry Caterpillar toy. I have loved the Eric Carle book since I was a child in the 1970s and am happy to have toys associated with such a fun, classic book. It is a Rainbow Designs Very Hungry Caterpillar Developmental Toy and is available from Amazon for £14.99 though I think we paid £11 for it in the shop, so look around for the best price. It is a long toy, one that fits nicely across a baby’s lap when they are in the car seat or in a bouncy chair. It has a large rubbery hook on the top, which is great for hooking onto a bouncy chair or a buggy and it is in the shape of a cute green caterpillar, keeping in with the theme. The toy itself is really pretty. The caterpillar is a wonderful mix of colours and textures; it is bright, fun and interesting. The familiar face is red and crinkly to feel and it has a stitched in eyes and nose. There are purple sparkly antennae on top of the head. The caterpillar’s body is in five segments and each one has its own look, texture and little thing it does. They are all crinkly to touch and the middle segment has a strawberry which squeaks when you press it. There are taggies on two segments – little silky bits of material with pictures on. One segment has a ring round it with beads on, which are ...

Cow & Gate First Infant Milk 13/03/2012

Milky Milky!

Cow & Gate First Infant Milk After recently giving birth, I had problems which meant I could only breastfeed my son for the first five days, despite having intended to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months or so. Once I knew I had to switch to bottle feeding, my partner and I had to choose a brand of formula milk to use. We bought Cow & Gate First Infant Milk because it is made by an established brand, it is suitable from birth and is easily available. You can also buy it in ready made cartons which are great for taking on day trips, much more convenient than having to make up a bottle from scratch while out somewhere. The 900g version costs around £8 from major supermarkets and is in a distinctive red packaging with a green ‘1’ on to signify it is a 1st stage formula milk you can use for newborns. It is a white powder which comes with its own measuring scoop and even a little ‘shelf’ inside which you can use to level off the powder. (In the 1990s, the scoop was loose in the packet but now it has its own holder included and I used to level off the powder with a knife!) This means you can make up a bottle one-handed (useful when holding a crying baby!) and you don’t have to touch the powder at all. You follow the instructions on the side of the packet to see how to make up the formula. The amount of bottles and the size of each one are determined by the age of your baby, so a two-week old baby would be expected to have around six feeds of 4 fl. oz. (120ml) per day. Of course, this is only a ...

The Dark Room - Minette Walters 16/01/2012

More Than Just a Whodunnit!

The Dark Room - Minette Walters It was back in 2005 when I first read a novel by Minette Walters and she has remained one of my favourite authors since then. Now I am heavily pregnant and have very little energy, I decided I needed a good book to get into, perfect for reading while on the sofa or in bed trying to rest. I turned to my collection of her novels I haven’t yet read and chose The Dark Room, which was first published back in 1995. Minette Walters writes crime thrillers, but they are more than a basic ‘whodunnit’ kind of book. She interweaves so many different strands that it never becomes boring and there is always a great rush for the finish line, as you want to know what happened and why. Her books are peppered with accompanying news articles, crime reports and police memos which add to the case and keep you guessing right to the end. They are also quite meaty reads, The Dark Room being over 500 pages long, but I read the whole thing quite quickly. The main character in this book is Jane ‘Jinx’ Kingsley, the daughter of a rich businessman who runs her own photographic studio. When we first meet her, she is in the Nightingale Clinic in Salisbury, a privately run clinic where Dr Alan Protheroe is treating her for post-traumatic amnesia following concussion. It seems fairly straight-forward at first. Her fiancé Leo Wallander jilted her for her best friend Meg Harris and following this news, Jinx apparently tried to kill herself by smashing her car into a concrete stanchion on a disused airfield, ...

The Monster Club (DVD) 01/01/2012

As the New Year CREEPS in...

The Monster Club (DVD) To celebrate New Year’s Eve, my fiancé and I decided to watch a couple of films on DVD. One of these was The Monster Club, a 1980 film made by Amicus which follows the usual format of short horror tales linked by a continuing story. I enjoy these horror anthologies and this had the added attraction of a stellar cast including two veterans of this genre - Vincent Price (who was then around seventy) and John Carradine (who was 74). The interlocking story features these two actors with Carradine playing the writer R. Chetwynd-Hayes (whose short stories form the basis of the movie) and Price as the jovial vampire Erasmus. They meet one night in the street and Erasmus offers to take the author to The Monster Club, where he may find inspiration for his next stories. The club is what you’d expect, a kind of social haunt for a variety of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, ghouls and assorted people in bad masks. For some reason, each club scene features a live music act which we lucky viewers get to watch perform a song and most of these are pretty awful. B.A. Robertson is one of these, who I remember from my childhood, but the others were unknown to me. The three main stories are all suitably creepy and worth watching. The first one is The Shadmock, which stars James Laurenson, Barbara Kellerman and Simon Ward. The premise is that a man called Raven (Laurenson) advertises for someone to help him catalogue all the valuables in his huge house. A couple called Angela (Kellerman) and ...

From the Heart - Kym Marsh 26/12/2011

A Great Read - Pure and Simple!

From the Heart - Kym Marsh Despite only being in her mid-thirties, Kym Marsh has lived enough to write an autobiography which seems to have plenty to say. Her 345-page hardback book From The Heart is a really good read and one I finished in just a few days and thoroughly enjoyed. I first saw Kym when she was on the reality talent show Popstars back in 2000. I thought she was lovely and had a great voice. Sure enough, she was in the winning five members who formed the group Hear’say and got a number one single with their debut song Pure and Simple. I took two of my daughters to see Hear’say in concert and they were really good. The highlight of the evening for me was when Kym sang a solo which was so beautiful, it moved me to tears. But Hear’say didn’t last and in 2002, Kym left the band. Reading From The Heart, I realised this was the first time I had heard much about the background behind the break-up and had a chance to hear Kym’s side, so it was an interesting read and she comes across very well, happy to realise her own part in the problems they had and not being particularly bitchy about her band mates. All the way through the book, it comes across that Kym is really lovely, but not some perfect goddess trying to show a facade. Whether the issues are personal or professional, she tries to put across a balanced view and to see how she could have acted differently to improve the situation. Kym writes about her family and her childhood, dwelling for quite a while on the bullying she suffered at ...
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