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Mum to four adult children and two little monsters. A very special and different five year old and cleverclogs of a two year old. If you can't beat them, join them. Shall I review the 64MB memory stick I found at the back of a drawer?

Reviews written

since 21/10/2002


Lego Duplo 10513: Never Land Hideout 08/11/2015


Lego Duplo 10513: Never Land Hideout Jake was a very lucky boy on his second birthday, while Mummy and Daddy bought his the Jake and Neverland Pirates Ship Duplo set, his brothers and sisters all bought him the smaller sets including this Neverland Hideout. I'm not exactly sure how much Big Brother paid at the time (apparently once you're over eighteen and have your own house it's none of Mum's business how much you spend on your baby brother), but this very same set is currently available from Amazon for a fairly reasonable £14.95. Jake And The Neverland Pirates Crammed full of Disney sentimentality with a barely concealed moral message to each episode, Jake and the Neverland Pirates is a regular on pay-to-view Disney Junior. While not a favourite, it is something that my own Jake will watch occasionally, if only because he's trying to get his head around the fact the main character shares his name. So what's Jake and the Neverland Pirates about, well I guess the clue is in the name. Revolving around the adventures of Jake, Izzy, Cubby and their parrot friend Skully as they outwit the dastardly Captain Hook, we are treated to thrills, spills, (very) mild peril, a dusting of magic and very important life and moral lessons (such as the importance of wearing a helmet when skateboarding and how we should play fair). Although the programme is very loosely based on the Disney film Peter Pan, it is very loosely, with there being a total absence of the Darling family, Tinkerbell and Lost Boys and Peter Pan himself ...

TDK - flash memory card - 2 GB - microSD 05/11/2015

How Things Change

TDK - flash memory card - 2 GB - microSD It never ceases to astound me how much technology has advanced in the last decade or so. I remember the days of floppy discs, when we were impressed by portable storage that held a whole 1.44MB of data (heck I remember the days of cassette tapes where it took half hour or more to load a game). Then along came memory cards, other than my 2MB PS1 card my first ever memory card (that fitted in my very much top of the range for the time 1MP digital camera) was a massive 16MB. Oh how times have changed, that 16MB that impressed us so much all those years ago would be treated with derision now. Heck this 2GB micro SD card would be considered as being too small on the memory front by most now, but for me it is perfect. Manufactured by TDK (who used to be major players in the cassette tapes I bought for my Spectrum and personal cassette player), I must have owned this 2GB Micro SD card for a couple of years now, maybe longer. The fact that not only is it still going strong but is still in regular use tells me that it was certainly worth what I paid for it, it's durable and definitely fit for purpose. I can't remember exactly how much I paid for this card, I would imagine it was around the £10 mark, technology has leapt forward again since then, but at the time 2GB was pretty much standard, with many phones and cameras having a 8GB limit. If I were to buy this today then I would be looking at around £3 which is stupid money, especially if you consider that my first ever PC cost £800 ...

LEGO DUPLO Jake and the Never Land Pirates 10539: Beach Racing 04/11/2015

And The Winner Is....

LEGO DUPLO Jake and the Never Land Pirates 10539: Beach Racing One of a range of Jake and The Neverland themed Duplo sets, Beach Racing was given to Jake on the occasion of his second birthday by his big sister. If truth be told she bought him this particular set because she knew we were buying him the much larger Pirate Ship and that it's always nice to have all the add-ons. I'm not exactly sure how much Big Sister paid for this but it is currently available on Amazon for £15.99 with an RRP of £19.99. Duplo The toddler version of the iconic Lego, Duplo is designed with little hands in mind and a recommended age range of two to five years. While there are other compatible brands out there, none of them match Duplo in either quality or price. Somehow Duplo always feels that little bit more substantial than either Mega Bloks or new kid on the block, Wilko First Blox. While neither of the other two brands are poorly made, Duplo just feels better quality. One important aspect where the Duplo quality stands out is that rather than using stickers for decoration, it is printed directly on the bricks. Of course there is a downside to this quality and that is the price, Duplo can be easily twice the price of the equivalent Mega Blox and four times the price of Wilko First Blox. Jake And The Neverland Pirates Exclusive to Disney Junior and dripping with Disney morality, Jake and The Neverland Pirates is an animation broadly based on Peter Pan, only Peter Pan only makes a rare appearance, there are no lost boys and no Darling Family. As I said ...

Lego Duplo 10514: Jake's Pirate Ship Bucky 01/11/2015

Ahoy There Captain Jake

Mega Bloks Spell with Thomas 30/10/2015

Building Fun With Thomas

Mega Bloks Spell with Thomas Trains combined with construction bricks, what a genius idea, one that's almost guaranteed to please a newly two year old. Jake was a very lucky little boy on his birthday and received not one but two Thomas & Friends Mega Block sets, a big set and this smaller 40 piece Spell with Thomas set. Mega Bloks Although being a parent I have obviously heard of Mega Bloks and even have experience with some of their products, I have to admit it was only relatively recently that I discovered that they had a range that is roughly equivalent to Lego Duplo. Up until then I had only really had experience of the very large blocks designed for young toddlers (that I always thought were a little flimsy and no where nearly as good as the now defunct Lego Baby) and a rather disappointing set of standard sized blocks some fifteen years ago, that were very obviously not as good as the original Lego. Before giving family the go ahead to buy these Thomas sets for Jake's birthday, I bought him a “Junior Builders” fire engine set, just to check on quality and whether it truly is compatible with Duplo. While not quite the same high quality as Duplo, I was perfectly happy with how well made the bricks were, how well they fitted together and how well the worked with both the high end Duplo and the far cheaper Wilko First Bloks. Price-wise Mega Bloks are, depending on the merchandising aspect, around one third of the price of Duplo and around twice the price of the Wilko Mega Bloks, so for most they ...

Tots Bots Easy Fit V4 16/10/2015

Cloth Made Easy Part Four

Tots Bots Easy Fit V4 The fourth incarnation of the Tots Bots Easy-fit, the V4 is an All-In-One, Birth-to-Potty nappy that is available as either a block colour or print, with there being the standard “nursery rhyme” prints and a number of special edition prints available. With prices ranging from £14.99 for a plain white up to £16.99 for a print, I would put these nappies at the high end as far as cloth goes, there are (much) more expensive custom nappies but these are more expensive than the vast majority of cloth nappies available. The Design Being an All-In-One (AIO) nappy, the V4 can be used without any additional boosters or inserts, making it one of the easiest nappies to use. The outside of the nappy is made of a silky, waterproof material known as PUL, which is either a bloc colour or printed. The absorbent, interior of the nappy is formed from a bamboo, cotton and minky mix and is in the form of a long, attached insert that you fold in to a pouch. Although Tots Bots class this as an AIO, an additional booster is supplied that attaches to the integrated insert by way of a pair of poppers, which means this nappy is also suitable for heavy wetters and possibly overnight. While previous versions of the Easy Fit have been available with either popper or hook and loop fastening, the V4 is only available in hook and loop. Although we have several V4s in our stash, none of them are block colour, one of the things I like about cloth nappies is we don't need to cover them in hot weather. So we ...

Asda George Monstrous Make-Up Kit 12/10/2015

Montrously Fun

Asda George Monstrous Make-Up Kit It can hardly have escaped your notice that October is upon us and Halloween is rapidly approaching. While we don't do trick or treating in the household (for many reasons, not least of which is that I consider it to be begging at the least and with older children verging on demanding money with menaces), I do still allow the children to get in to the spirit with dressing up and attending “spooky” events. This year Freddy has ended up with three Halloween themed events to attend this year (the rest of us only have two), a friend's birthday party, Colchester Zoo's Fright Night on his brother's birthday and an event in Colchester Town Centre on the night itself. Rather than make him wear the same costume three times or buy three separate costumes, I decided to adapt some of his “everyday” dressing up outfits by adding accessories and make up. Monstrously Good Value One of a few different options in Asda, this is the largest of their Halloween Make Up sets and costs a fairly reasonable £5. I could, at a push, have probably got a similar number of elements for slightly less in the Pound Shop, but I'm a little wary of putting cheaper make up on Freddy's face as he has quite sensitive skin. I could also have paid rather more for much higher quality face paints from the likes of Snazaroo, so I would put this set at around the middle of the road as far as both price and quality goes. Being a George branded product, this set is obviously exclusive to Asda, although I was surprised ...

Shrinkles Butterflies Party Pack 05/10/2015


Shrinkles Butterflies Party Pack We rather like our Arts and Crafts here in the Sandemp household and are always on the look out for something a bit different, so when I saw these Shrinkle Butterflies on sale in our local natural history museum for just 25p each I couldn't help but pick up one of each of the four available. Shrinkles? Now I'm going to be perfectly honest here, before buying these butterflies I only had the vaguest idea of what a Shrinkle was. I knew that it was something like a picture printed on a plastic sheet that someone (presumably a child, although it could be an adult, you never know) colours in and then using the magic of the oven, said picture is dramatically reduced in size. I think the closest we had when growing up were crisp packets, we'd wash them out, punch holes in them and then put them in a cool oven where they would twist, curl and then finally flatten out in to perfect miniatures that we attached to key chains or the zips on our pencil cases. Maybe that's where the inventor got the idea from, maybe they watched the same television programme (probably Why Don't You? But maybe Blue Peter) as I did. No matter where they got the idea from, the rather basic packaging tells me that these “Willie The Wizard's Magic Shrinkles” are British Made (although we all know that British Made is not the same as Made In Britain) and not suitable for children between the ages of zero and three, due to sharp points and small parts. Before I go any further, let's get the school girl/boy ...

Fisher-Price Bing Pando Plush Toy 04/10/2015

Pando Where's Your Troosers

Fisher-Price Bing Pando Plush Toy Running at just over five minutes an episode, Bing is a firm favourite of the almost two year old Jake. Jake doesn't just enjoy watching the little bunny's adventures, oh no, he rather likes his collection of soft toys based on his favourites television programme's characters. While not every character is available as a soft toy (Coco and Charlie are very conspicuous by their absence), Jake does have every character that is available as a seven inch plush soft toy, including this little giant panda, Pando. Bing Bunny This short (seven minute) television programme is aired several times a day on the Cbeebies channel and (in my opinion) is one of the better pre-school offerings. A computer generated animation, Bing features a pre-school rabbit, his grown up, Flop, cousins Coco and Charlie and friends Sula and Pando along with a couple of other grown-ups. This small cast of characters makes it easy for a pre-schooler to relate to them, especially as the majority of the characters are of a similar age to the target audience. What I particularly like about Bing is the way it tackles issues and feeling that Jake is likely to face. So among the very important issues there have been episodes that deal with sharing, having toileting accidents, taking things that aren't yours/stealing (an important idea with most toddlers no matter how well brought up) and being scared. I also like that while the characters are obviously not human, the world they live in is very much like ours and ...

Wilko Handy Airlock With Rubber Bung 26/09/2015

Hubble Bubble Part Two

Wilko Handy Airlock With Rubber Bung With some dozen or so country wines on the go it comes as no surprise that I have quite a collection of airlocks in my collection. While I prefer the traditional snake-like airlock during the vigorous primary fermentation, I have a number of these handy, compact airlocks that I use on the demijohns that are placed in my “maturing” area. Very reasonably priced at just £2.25 for a two airlocks and matching bungs, these are only available from Wilko/Wilkinsons, whether that be in store or online and provide an easy and convenient way of protecting the fermenting contents of a demijohn from bacteria and other nasties while still allowing excess carbon dioxide to escape. Technically speaking I could get away with stretching a balloon over the demijohn neck, but using an airlock is a little safer and looks better. Before use both the salmon pink, rubber bung and two piece airlock need to be sterilised, you could use a specialist home brew steriliser, but I use baby sterilising fluid. After rinsing with cooled boiled water, these airlocks are easy enough to assemble, not quite as easy as the more traditional airlock, but still you won't need an engineering degree. The stem of the airlock needs to be inserted in to the hole in the centre of the bung, I find it's a bit of a tight fit and takes quite a lot of twisting and jiggling. Then after inserting the bung in the demijohn, the outer part of the airlock needs to be filled with a small amount of water up to the fill line (which is ...

Wilko Syphon Pack 19/09/2015


Wilko Syphon Pack With my new hobby of wine making in full swing I found myself needing to transfer wine from one vessel to another. While I could have used any piece of tubing, or even the tube that came in my kit, I found myself wanting something that made the process as easy and hands free as possible. While there's no doubting that a simple tube is a very cheap option, it's certainly nowhere nearly hands-free. You need one hand holding the tube in the top (full) container, making sure it stays in the liquid, doesn't curl up and doesn't disturb the sediment, while the other hand is making sure that the other end of the tube is firmly in the lower container you're moving the liquid to. Plus there's the issue of length, the tube that came with my kit simply wasn't long enough for me to have one container on the kitchen work surface and the other on the floor. The Wilko Syphon Pack is designed to make the transfer of wine or beer from one container to another as easy as possible and I really wish that this relatively low priced yet essential bit of kit had been included in my wine making or beer making kits. Formed of a total of four pieces, this syphon is available either online or in store for just £2.50, which I personally feel is excellent value for money. Within a pretty standard hanging package you get a long piece of flexible, transparent tubing, a rigid tube, sediment trap and tap. If I remember rightly the sediment trap was already attached to the rigid tube and the tap attached to ...

Wilko First Blox Farmer's Tractor & Trailer 16/09/2015


Wilko First Blox Farmer's Tractor & Trailer Just in time for the nearly two year old Jake's birthday, Wilko have brought out a range of their own version of Duplo, entitled First Blox. With each set costing just £3, I picked up a couple out of Jake's pocket money, just to see if they were any good and whether they were truly compatible with his Duplo and Junior Mega Bloks. With his current fascination with tractors in full swing, the Farmer's Tractor and Trailer seemed an ideal addition to his ever increasing collection of bricks. Blox Wilko's version of the iconic Lego, until recently Blox were only available in the standard size. However in the run up to Christmas the range has been expanded to include a number of small sets that are comparable with Duplo and Mega Blox Junior Builders. We've been buying sets of the smaller bricks for a while now and generally been very happy with the quality. While it is obvious that the bricks are not the iconic Lego, they are of good quality, normally being very durable and fitting well together with a decent variety in size, colour and type. The original Blox are available either in themed sets (with prices ranging from £1) or pick and mix style, where you can fill a cup with loose bricks for £3.50. As I said the First Blox are a very recent addition to the range, only having appeared online and in store in the last week, but as far as I'm concerned they are a very welcome addition. Designed with the two to five year old in mind, First Blox are available in a number of themed ...

Wilko Chardonnay Wine Starter Kit 15/09/2015

Plonk At Home By Me

Wilko Chardonnay Wine Starter Kit While I've been getting the hang of “country” wines created from foraged fruits, they won't be ready to drink for at least a year. Wanting something that I'd made myself to drink before then, I decided to have a go at a wine making kit that promised to need only three weeks to create something “drinkable”. While I did already have some equipment and could probably have got away with using what I already had, it seems that “just one more” demijohn is always useful once you get in to this home-brewing lark so I decided to buy this complete kit from Wilkinsons. What's In The Box Costing a fairly reasonable £20, this particular kit promises to contain everything you need to brew six bottles of Chardonnay, which the box describes as a “golden, zingy, fresh, white wine with medium body and citrus fruit notes”. There are very basic instructions on the box, but these are repeated in more detail on a small paper instruction leaflet held within the box. Also within the box you will find a glass demijohn (£7). rubber bung and airlock (£1.50), steriliser (£1.50), yeast (£1), yeast nutrient (£1), wine finings (£1), 450g brewer's sugar (£1), grape concentrate (£9), wine bag and box and syphon tube. Although the box does suggest that this is all you need and technically it is, at the very least I would recommend the addition of a plastic funnel. Preparation The little instruction leaflet included in the pack, isn't particularly comprehensive, but still it was fairly easy to work out ...

Mega Bloks Junior Builders Fire Station Rescue 14/09/2015

Fireman Jake

Kilner Clip Top Jar 11/09/2015

A Very Useful Jar

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