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Burn the land and boil the can't take the sky from me. Mum to four adult children and two little monsters. A very special and different five year old and cleverclogs of a nearly two year old.

Reviews written

since 21/10/2002


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

Staedtler Noris 185 C24 Coloured Pencils 10/09/2015

Scribble Sticks

Staedtler Noris 185 C24 Coloured Pencils We're rather a crafty household here in Sandempland, we love our art and crafts, the painting, the drawing and the colouring in. There must be several hundred colouring pencils in the house, some belong to the children, some are very expensive and for my hands only and some that anyone can use. Costing just £3.25 from Amazon this set of 24 colouring pencils fall firmly in the latter category, being of good enough quality for me to use in my adult colouring books, they are also cheap enough for it not to matter too much if the children are a little rough with them. Supplied in a cardboard wallet, these are standard length pencils with a hexagonal barrel that fits in to a standard sized pencil sharpener. The cardboard wallet isn't particularly sturdy or long lasting, it's good enough for the journey home but not much more, but that's what pencil cases are for. There is a good range of colours within the set with several shades of the main colours, a smattering of more unusual colours (such as a peach) and of course the essential black and white. The pencils are supplied ready sharpened to quite a severe point, which means that they are ready to use straight out of the box. While I'm not personally a huge fan of hexagonal pencils these aren't too uncomfortable to hold for extended periods. The corners are quite rounded which means that they don't dig in to the fleshy pad between my thumb and index finger. The painted outer surface of the pencil is also beautifully smooth, it ...

Fisher-Price Bing Flop Plush Toy 08/09/2015

Round The Corner, Not Far From Here

Fisher-Price Bing Flop Plush Toy Twenty two month old Jake is at that wonderful age where the whole world is full of new to delights to discover and pre-school programmes to watch. One of his current favourite programmes is Bing, a five (ish) minute computer animation featuring a little rabbit, Bing, his friends Sula and Pando and the “adults” Flop and Amma. As he is such a fan of the programme, I thought it only right to buy him the characters in soft toy form and he now has all the available characters, so easier to source than others. The very first of these toys to find it's way to us was this 7” Flop which cost £7.99 from Amazon. Bing Bunny As I said Bing is a computer animation targeted towards pre-schoolers and unlike many pre-school programmes it's set in an almost realistic world, there are no babies living in the sun or strange airships bouncing off trees. The main character is a little bunny, Bing and I guess one of the reasons Jake likes the programme so much is that Bing is around the same age as him, with the same sort of view of the world. What I like about the programme is that the programme tackles issues that are relevant to toddlers, such as toilet training, sharing and feeling scared, there's even an episode that deals with death in the form of a butterfly dying. I like the way that I can sit and watch this with Jake and then talk to him about what happened. I also like that the characters use English rather than some made up language, obviously the younger characters don't always get ...

Lush Maypole Soap 06/09/2015

Sweet and Minty

Wilko Airlock Rubber Bung 05/09/2015

Hubble Bubble

Wilko Airlock Rubber Bung If you're using a glass demijohn to brew wine then you're going to need to find a way to allow the carbon dioxide to escape while still protecting the brew from airborne yeasts and bacteria. Now you could always use a needle to make a hole in a balloon and then stretch the balloon over the top of the demijohn, but this is a bit of a faff. Or you could do what I do and buy a bung and airlock, of which I'm sure there are many brands, but I get mine from Wilko, paying a rather reasonable £3 for a pair of bungs and air locks. The bungs are made from a rather dense rubber and are a fetching shade of salmon pink, circular and tapered they are designed to fit perfectly in the Wilko demijohn, but also fit in other random demijohns that I've inherited. Each bung has a hole through the centre, in to which an air lock can be inserted. The air locks are made of transparent plastic and look rather like one of those crazy straws, with a sort of wiggly effect going on. The design is actually rather clever and works a little bit like a U bend, in so much as you half fill the air lock with water and it will allow gases to escape while always keeping a water barrier to the air getting in the demijohn, so protecting the contents from contamination. Both the bung and air lock do need to be sterilised before use and while the rubber bung can easily cope with boiling water, the air lock is less able to withstand the high temperatures. Personally, I use either the proprietary steriliser that came ...

Wilko Demijohn Container Glass 02/09/2015

My Magic Bottle

Wilko Demijohn Container Glass While living in the country has it's disadvantages, it also has many, many good points including the amount of fruit that can be foraged within a short distance of our front door step. With there being so much free fruit available I do find myself looking for new ways of preserving and using the glut that would otherwise go to waste. This year I've branched out in to making country wines, which has meant that I have needed to build a supply of basic equipment. Included among these basics are a number of different demijohns, some plastic and some glass, with the glass demijohns having been bought from Wilko. Made of rather thick glass in a conventional demijohn design, this container is designed to hold 4.5 litres or one gallon of liquid. The glass itself is clear, not quite crystal clear but not far off, which means that you can easily see any action going on inside. The base is fairly wide, which means that the demijohn is pretty stable and unlikely to topple over, no matter how frisky the fermentation gets. Although the base and majority of the length of the bottle have a wide diameter, the actual neck is pretty small, about an inch in diameter to be a little more exact. There are a pair of “handles” on the neck, not that they are large enough to fit your hand through, think more index finger sized. In fact, to look at this is pretty much a conventional demijohn, there's nothing special about it and nothing wrong with it either. Think moonshine or scrumpy bottles in glass ...

Wilko Long Plastic Spoon 01/09/2015

The Long And The Long Of It

Wilko Long Plastic Spoon I can hardly believe that I'm waxing lyrical about a plastic spoon of all things but here goes.. Costing just £1.20 this long handled, white, plastic spoon comes in to it's own when you want to stir something in an extra deep container. You know, a container that is so deep that you'd be up to your elbow if you tried to use a conventionally sized spoon. I use it during wine making to stir the contents of a 25 litre bucket, but I imagine it would do just as good a job at the likes of wallpaper paste or even paint for that matter. 47cm in length, the spoon is long enough to reach to the bottom of the Wilko 25 litre Fermenting Bin, so that I can stir the contents without getting my hands wet, but is still short enough to fit in the bin at an angle with the lid on. Which means that as long as the Fermenting Bin isn't filled too full I don't need to remove the spoon between stirrings. Being a spoon it has a bowl at one end, not a very useful bowl to be honest, it's more for creating a good stir whirlpool than for transporting things from one place to another. While not the sturdiest, the bowl is also good for crushing fruit against the side of the Bin to extract maximum flavour. I do need to sterilise the spoon before putting it in any home brew I'm making and I generally use baby sterilising solution at the start of the brew and boiling water at other times. Neither method seems to have caused any deterioration to the spoon which means that you can use either, or if you want ...

Wilko Fermenting Bin & Lid 31/08/2015

A Bucket Full Of Booze

Wilko Fermenting Bin & Lid With Summer drawing to a close and Autumn approaching, it's time to make the most of the glut of various fruits and vegetables, to eat what we can and preserve what we have left over. I've made more than enough jams, jellies and butters to see us through until next Autumn and still had lots of different fruits left over. Rather than letting this bounty go to waste, I've branched in to making some “country” wines, which meant that I had to invest in some new equipment, including this Wilko 25 litre Fermenting Bin with Lid. Costing £10, in truth this is little more than a large plastic bucket with an airtight lid, I can't help but wonder if it would have been cheaper to just buy a lidded bucket, but fell for the idea that I needed a purpose made bucket to start my wine off in. Made of “food grade” plastic, the bin is semi-opaque white, transparent enough for me to be able to see how much liquid is in it but not so much that I can see the bubbles in that liquid. There's a clear scale on the outside of the bin with approximate measurements in litres, with 5, 10, 15, 20 and 23 litres being marked. I was a little surprised that the highest measurement was 23 litres, what with this being a 25 litre bin, but it does make sense really as you're going to want to leave some head space for the gases produced during fermentation. The lid seems to fit tightly, it certainly needs to be clicked in to place and then peeled off again, but it should be noted that there is no way of attaching ...
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