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Grr "Gumbo" (England)

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Graco Evo Pushchair 2014 Range (Khaki)
Graco Evo Pushchair 2014 Range (Khaki)
Price: 179.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Light, manouverable, sturdy and affordable!, 31 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For our first child we bought a Graco Quattro travel system which we loved despite its large size. This time round though with our son now running about we felt we needed something a little smaller and lighter to make it easier for us to move a new born with one hand as well as easily wrangle an excitable toddler with the other.

The pushchair arrives in a large box and requires assembly. We found this was fairly simple following the instructions provided and in under 10 minutes we had our brand new pushchair taking centre stage in our living room. It comes supplied with a lovely thick cosy toes and a rain cover, both of which I am sure will prove invaluable as we approach the colder months! It is extremely light which is fabulous as we will need to be hauling it in and out of a car boot on a regular basis.

Looks wise this is a lovely looking piece of equipment. The khaki colour is really great, not gender specific and gives it a classy appearance when combined with the black metal of the frame and wheels.

The pushchair seat is extremely simple and easy to clip in and just as easy to get out. I did worry that this was an area we would find to be a bit of a pain as we have never had a system where the seat is detachable but we need not have been concerned. It has a simple button release which is easy to use - not stiff or hard to do in any way. The pushchair seat itself is also extremely light so putting in and taking out is not a chore at all. The bar at the front is great too as it unclips from one side with ease to allow you to take your child in and out and then back in just as easily. Superb to hang toys from and to keep small people from getting in and out.

When it comes to moving this pushchair you realise one of its true strengths, it is so easy to push, turn and generally move about. I have tried it one handed, two handed and even given our toddler a turn and we have all managed it with ease. It feels exceptionally light but at the same time is very sturdy. The frame does not wobble and it feels reassuringly safe for a small person - something I was a little nervous about having had such a huge and sturdy beast for our first.

The pushchair seat can lie flat so can be used from birth which is a great plus but you are also able to buy a carry cot to clip on instead of the seat so if you want it to convert to what is essentially a pram then you can do. I know some reviews have said they didn't find this aspect useful but I suspect we will be investing in one as our first spent a lot of his time in the Graco travel system carry cot. The lie flat pushchair seat is really great but being able to add on the carrycot is a great plus for us.

That said you are also able to buy a car seat to attach to the frame meaning you can shift straight from the car to the pushchair and vice versa. This is a useful option and one we will be looking into but we do tend to try not to keep small people in car seats for too long so would probably prefer to invest in the additional carrycot instead.

One feature we have never had before is the ability for baby to face forward or to face whoever is pushing. This is something that our toddler adores. Although he is not intended to be the main user of this system we have been testing it out on him and I cannot stress how much he enjoys being able to look at mummy and daddy. Normally it can be a bit of a fight to get him into a pushchair, but he really enjoys this one and will clamber in himself if he knows he will be able to face mummy or daddy. It's a great feature.

The brake is a fairly standard bar that you push with your foot. It can sometimes be a little bit of a pain to get into place but I think we will get used to this the more we use it. Certainly once it is in place the pushchair does not go anywhere, it is stuck to the spot. Not exactly an exciting feature but one of the most important!

The basket below the pushchair is huge and much bigger than many I have seen. This is extremely useful as it means we can fit both the changing bag and some shopping in there which means no one actually has to carry anything themselves - though if we did it wouldn't be too much of an issue due to how easy it is to steer one handed!

Some people have mentioned that the height of the pushchair is not adjustable and while this is true we have not found this to be an issue at all. It is a good height for us both and there is just over a foot difference in height between us. For anyone super tall or super short there may be issues but for most people this standard height will be just fine.

All in all we have found this to be a superb pushchair. It works wonderfully as it is but as you can add the car seat and/or carry cot it can easily be transformed into a travel system. It is also reasonably priced compared to many of the systems out there so will not break the bank. I am extremely glad we discovered this before spending out on anything else as I doubt it would be any better than this one.

Monster High Freaky Fusion Avea Trotter Hybrid Doll
Monster High Freaky Fusion Avea Trotter Hybrid Doll
Price: 26.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Costly Oddness - big hit with the Niece!, 31 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
To my jaded, adult eyes Miss Trotter and her fellow Monster High Classmates are not the nicest looking toys but to my nearly-7 year old niece they are just about the most exciting things in the world. Indeed, the squeals of joy she emitted when I handed this to her speak for themselves. That her four year old sister looked on with disinterest perhaps says everything about the age range this appeals to - though my toddler seemed quite interested in snatching it away!

The plus side to this range, as my sister pointed out, is that they are the 'anti-barbies' in many respects. Celebrating the weird and the wonderful rather than the generic 'beauty' of Mattel's famous blonde Ken-botherer. I can see that appealing to parents and helping develop understanding play. As a lifelong lover of monsters, the range does also amuse me, even if the style of the glamorous/horrific design of the dolls is not something I can fully get my head around!

The doll seems reasonably well made and I suspect it will be strong enough to withstand most games it will be used in. The doll is similar in size to Barbies and the My Little Pony Equestria dolls range so there is compatibility with other ranges which can help youngsters come up with imaginative reasons for the separate ranges to cross over into each others worlds. The doll also comes with a character diary (story booklet) and the obligatory comb that all these sorts of toys come with.

My three star review is largely a comment on the price of this toy - just shy of 27 seems very, very costly indeed. Similar toys of equal quality and size seem to retail around 15-20 and, whilst accepting that this toy is well made and it's pre-Christmas release, I personally can't see enough to justify this hefty price tag.

Naty by Nature Babycare 8-15 Kg Size 4 Eco Pull On Pants - Pack of 22
Naty by Nature Babycare 8-15 Kg Size 4 Eco Pull On Pants - Pack of 22
Price: 6.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A brand we trust and reccomend, 29 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Our entire household loves Naty products having discovered them after the birth of our son two years ago. We wanted to use nappies on him that had less impact on the environment than most and although we also use reusables from time to time these are the brand we have bought from day one. A little sceptical at first we found them to be well fitting, highly absorbent and extremely gentle on his skin. Yes we have had a few accidents where we have had a nappy that has been too full and in these instances you need to be quite quick and catch them as soon as possible because (due to their eco compostable nature) they can burst and leave you cleaning up absorbent granules, but I would much rather risk this now and again than use some of the other brands about which have always smelled of chemicals and felt plastic to me – our son has also had much worse skin when we have had an emergency and had to buy a packet of ‘normal’ nappies to use on him.

As pull ups they are easy to get on and off and they fit well round his hips and waist and legs without leaving any red marks. One thing to note about these nappies is that instead of having velcro type tabs to fasten them they are actually one single piece of fabric that stretches to allow them to be pulled on and off. I find this is a really great design as it means there is nothing to come undone or to catch on my little ones skin when I pull them on. The fabric that joins the front and back is soft and thin and rather like smocking on a piece of clothing so it stretches with your child and moves easily. There is nothing rough about it which is great.

The nappies also have a simple print on the back of them to let you know which way round to put them on. Nothing large but simple text saying BACK – invaluable if, like me, you are prone to always getting things the wrong way round first!

Overall I highly rate these nappies, they are extremely effective with the added bonus of being more environmentally friendly than most other disposables out there. It is a real shame that Naty does not have a higher profile in the UK as they really do offer some genuine eco credentials and although they are not as eco as reusable nappies they have always been a great halfway house for anyone wanting to reduce their impact on the environment. Plus my two year old loves his ‘pants’, he is not out of nappies yet (and with a sister arriving soon we suspect he may have a few months left in them) but these help him feel a bit more grown up. We don’t pull them up and down like adult underwear so he can use a potty and instead put a new one on each time, but he still sees them as his bog boy pants which is enough for us right now!

Peter Rabbit Treehouse Playset
Peter Rabbit Treehouse Playset
Price: 29.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Peter's on his own in an expensive but good toy treehouse, 29 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The new Cbeebies series of Peter Rabbit has been a firm hit in our household so I was very pleased when this was offered to review as I was sure my son would be very happy to play with it!

The first thing that struck me about this toy is its size, it’s a bit bigger than I expected. Admittedly the dimensions are listed on Amazon but I always forget to check so ended up quite surprised by the size of the box that appeared at my door. It takes up a little more floor space that I envisaged as well. Now, this is neither a good nor bad thing but a recommendation before buying that you take a peek at the sizing information.

The toy is ready built so no assembly is needed and comes with a couple of accessories including a reversible table with treasure map. It’s a very well made toy; the plastic is durable and the moulding high quality. The included figure of Peter Rabbit is well detailed and the tree house has a few nice touches such as a working lift element, a telescope and, its main feature, a trap-door and slide combo

All of this has been well made and presented but is it fun to play with?

I'm saying yes to that. My two year old has really enjoyed playing with this – yes the intended age group is 3 plus and I think that, generally, that is about right but if you have a mature toddler who you are able to supervise when they play then this toy is fine, no obvious choke hazard for example. He had lots of fun sliding Peter down the slide and pulling him up in the lift. Each time he has played with this in the few days we have had it, he has been kept entertained for a solid hour or so of play before deciding to move to a new toy. Not a bad result for a rambunctious little one!

Despite all of the above and my general enthusiasm for it, I feel that I cannot stretch to give it the five star review for the simple fact that it costs, at time of writing, nearly 30 and is only supplied with one single figure.

As good as this toy is, 30 does seem on the costly side especially when it comes with only one figure. For this toy to have longevity you will need to get some more figures to use on it. A quick glance on Amazon will show you that these toys are available but costly and if you wanted to get anyone other the Benjamin Bunny or Lily Bobtail, it appears that you have to buy a set of figures that all include....Peter Rabbit! Yes, the design differs slightly each time but to get a full set of all the main protagonists and villains will cost you approximately another 30 and you’ll have multiple Peter’s. I'm not suggesting that this is a reason not to get this toy but it’s worth mentioning as I feel without other figures the toy may have a limited shelf life.

Overall, it’s a pricey but well made toy and if you have a child who really loves the show then you could certainly so much worse than buying this but make sure your wallet is ready to take a hit on the accessories.

Melissa & Doug Table-Top Easel
Melissa & Doug Table-Top Easel
Price: 26.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly 5 stars!, 27 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The first thing to say here is that there is a lot that I like about this easel but there are a few significant flaws which I feel should be pointed out so there will be positives and negatives in this review.

When the easel arrived the first thing I noticed is that like the Melissa and Doug chalks I recently acquired the easel is only packaged in a cellophane wrap. I understand the reasoning for this, it is light for shipping and you can see the product easily but it does mean that if you are buying as a gift it may lack the wow factor upon opening.

The good bits - the easel is very colourful, it looks good and is sturdy when put together - there is no chance of collapse and trapping little fingers or of tipping over without it actually being lifted up. The design is simple and extremely effective. The instructions provided with the easel are clear and easy to follow which makes a welcome change from many products I have come across recently. They use images and words - something which is getting more unusual as products sell worldwide and tend to only have pictures to avoid the need for multiple languages. That said putting the easel together is not exactly rocket science and so although clear instructions are nice it is also pretty self explanatory what to do.

The chalks and whiteboard marker supplied with the easel work well and make nice clear marks on the surfaces. The easel is easy to clean so small people can draw again and again nice and easily.

Sadly the build quality of the easel is a little off - or it certainly was on the one we have. The joints are a little rough and there are spots where the glue has dribbled out a bit. In a couple of places the paint is not quite even or up to the edges of the pieces of wood. The board cleaner is also glued together badly and so the wooden section is at quite an angle to the fabric cleaning section. None of these issues have any effect on the actual usability of the product and are not noticeable at a distance but they do show up on closer inspection which is a shame.

The four little magnets that are included with the easel are a nice touch - especially since both the whiteboard and the blackboard are magnetised however it would be nice if the magnets themselves were a little stronger. On the whiteboard side they do stick quite well and can hold up a piece of paper, however when used on the blackboard side they have little or no hold, in fact our test with one magnet a single sheet of A5 sized paper failed miserably which is such a shame.

The chunky green screws that hold everything together are easy to use and make the easel set up nice and quick. Although this does mean you need to remove them to fold it up for storage which could lead to them getting lost. It might be nice if you were able to collapse the easel without completely removing some of the components. As the product boasts the ability to fold up for storage as one of its main benefits it would be good if you could do this more easily.

Overall this is a lovely sturdy little easel that our toddler is really enjoying using and that really is the main thing. It does what it needs to do and does so in a safe and practical way. It is a shame that a few corners seem to have been cut which mean that on close inspection it is not the quality level it first appears to be and that some of the good ideas could have been executed slightly more effectively. Almost a perfect little product, but needs the rough edges smoothing off.

Vax Performance Floor-2-Floor Total Home Eco Upright Vacuum Cleaner
Vax Performance Floor-2-Floor Total Home Eco Upright Vacuum Cleaner
Price: 149.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent until you reach the stairs..., 27 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I believe it was Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers who once claimed that ‘Hoovering is the new Rock n’ Roll’. Whilst I may not share his unbridled enthusiasm, being let loose with the vacuum is the household chore that I least reluctant to do. As a result, we may have dust on our shelves and an overgrown lawn but our carpets get a good going over a couple of times a week. Often more often, depending on quite how messy our toddler has been that day!

I’ve been using a small Electrolux Cylinder Vacuum for the last six years that my partner and I bought when we moved into our little flat. We’ve moved a couple of time since and now have a three bedroomed house to keep clean. The little cylinder has managed to cope with this increased workload fairly well but I was very pleased to be offered the opportunity to try something with a bit more oomph and was quite excited when this arrived.

The first thing that struck me was how small the packaging was. The box looked far too small to contain a whole upright Vacuum cleaner but contain one it did. In many parts. A bit of an assembly job but nothing too complicated. Indeed, the construction was largely common sense, which was handy as the instructions supplied were a little ambiguous at times and the pictures referred to a slightly different model to the one we received.

Once constructed, I confess to being a little underwhelmed. It looked less impressive than I had expected and, a major negative for me, there was nowhere to stow away the majority of the component pieces. There’s a bit for you to hang the much heralded ‘Turbo Tool’ on but the other bits will have to be stored separately. Now, I’m being honest here, that probably means I shall rarely, if ever, use them and they’ll end up getting pushed further and further towards to the back of the under stairs cupboard to where the spiders gather on top of forgotten Christmas decorations. If the tools aren’t accessible and on the cleaner ready for use then I think this will be true of many people. I can’t help but feel that there must have been a way to keep all the tools on the cleaner? My little cylinder manages to store several tools after all.

That disappointment aside, it was time to turn it on and give it a whirl. As I’d only vacuumed the day before I was not expecting much but, my word, this beast has some serious, serious suction. It is astonishingly powerful and reasonably easy to steer. After a quick five minutes going over the lounge carpet it had accumulated so much dust and hair etc that I threw an accusatory stare at my cylinder cleaner and began to think of how to get rid of it. I would imagine people with pets would probably find this degree of suction an utter godsend as I can see it handling pet hairs with no problem at all.

After doing the whole of our downstairs and attacking the sofa, the cylinder was reassuringly full of stuff so I emptied it out – which was very nice and simple to do – and decided to tackle the stairs.

The stairs weren’t much fun. In fact, the cleaner was exposed here. Using the, very short, extension and the ‘Turbo tool’ I managed to get the first 5 or 6 steps quite simply and was impressed once again by the amount of suction and the nifty tool seemed a very capable little addition. The trouble is that our stairs are quite thin and there are quite a lot of them and this cleaner simply wasn’t able to get them all. The extension wasn’t long enough to reach the middle ones from either the top or bottom comfortably and I ended up needing to juggle bringing the whole cleaner onto the stairs in order to reach as well as doing the actual cleaning. Not too bad for me but I’m sure that others would really struggle with this – my pregnant partner for one. It’s strange that they didn’t supply a longer hose attachment to tackle these sorts of tasks; it would not have been an especially expensive thing to add surely? As it is, I think my little cylinder gets reprieve after all as it has a very long hose and can reach those middle stairs no problem – even if it doesn’t have anywhere near the level of suction of the Upright Vax.

So, I am delighted with this cleaner’s power and will enjoy using it to keep the floors of our home clean but will have to keep hold of my old cylinder cleaner just to do the stairs. Which seems a bit daft but there you have it.

Would I recommend this cleaner? Possibly. It very much depends on your needs. If you have a house or flat with few stairs then this cleaner will do you very well indeed. If you have pets that moult or children that spread dirt and crumbs around your home with abandon, then this cleaner could be a very welcome addition in your house indeed. However, if you have a steep staircase, then you may be better off looking elsewhere. Four stars.

Melissa & Doug Chalk and Eraser Bundle (White)
Melissa & Doug Chalk and Eraser Bundle (White)
Price: 6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent chalk set for budding artists, 23 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First things first, I was a little disappointed with how these were presented, three things clumped together and shrink wrapped in plastic. Practical, yes, but not great if you are giving as a gift. The items were also a bit smaller than I thought they would be from the photograph. Very much standard size chalks and the rubber is quite wee.

As far as negatives go though, that's that. These are nice items. Our two year old grabbed them as soon as he could and ran outside to scribble and draw on our patio with them. The chalks have withstood well over 40 minutes of vigorous play with only a few snapping, this seems to back up the makers claim that they are intended to be break resistant.

We then let our boy use the chalks on his little blackboard and he enjoyed this as well, the chalks withstood this play with greater ease than the outdoor use! This play gave us a chance to use the nice looking, wooden topped felt eraser, which worked very well - not noticeably better than others I've used in the past but well enough.

Overall, this is a decent set of chalks, at the 6 mark they may not be the cheapest you can find but they seem well made, able to stand up to toddler's playtimes reasonably well and could be a well received stocking filler for little hands.

Bright Starts Springin Safari Bounce A Round
Bright Starts Springin Safari Bounce A Round
Price: 73.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and interesting for little ones, 22 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a great bouncer for a small person. First off it seems noticeably smaller than many others on the market at the moment – although it is certainly not tiny. This is great especially if (like us) you have limited space for toys and games. I found putting it together was fairly simple and fast and you only need a Phillips screwdriver to put in the screws which hold it together – and this is mentioned on the box. All the other pieces of this click into place.

There is plenty for your child to play with in this with a number of different toys and types of things they can do. From beads to move about, a mirror to look in and things to spin there should always be something to keep little hands occupied. It’s brightly coloured and eye catching and can be cleaned easily with baby wipes etc.

The seat itself is adjustable (and the pad is also washable) so you can make sure it sits at the right height for your child. Very useful as the bouncy pad underneath does give them a little bit of an ability to push upwards and when they get bigger launching themselves out of the seat could be a possibility if they tried hard enough – lowering the seat means this won’t happen.

I would definitely recommend this for babies aged roughly 4-12 months – as long as they are able to sit up unaided, if your child can’t do this at 4 months then wait a while to use this. Not only is it something they will enjoy but it will help you to have a few mins free time in the house while they play. I have actually been able to catch up on the washing up and hovering while using this – though I have always been within sight of it!

McAfee Total Protection 2014 - 1 User -1 Year (PC)
McAfee Total Protection 2014 - 1 User -1 Year (PC)
Price: 45.98

4.0 out of 5 stars So far, so good, 21 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It may be a clumsy analogy, but what I want from antivirus software is the same as what I want from a football referee. I want to enjoy using my computer/watching the match and I do not want to even notice that they are there unless something untoward happens.

Sadly, in my experience, this is all too often a forlorn hope. Football matches are continually ruined by shoddy referee’s decisions and antivirus software often proves to be intrusive, needy and cumbersome, often having an adverse effect on the operating speed of the PC it is intended to be of benefit to.

In recent years I have had good experiences with AVG and Vipre software and not so great experiences with Norton and Kaspersky but I know others who would argue quite the opposite. It sometimes seems to be a game of chance to find the software that your particular PC will respond best to! Prior to trying this software I’d not previously used a McAfee product and had heard mixed reports at best but, given my trusty AVG had just expired, I decided to give it a whirl.

I liked the hassle free packaging it was sent in – just a card with the disc inside – but as I used the product code and download option, I find myself in agreement with the reviewer who questioned the need to send the disc at all. Perhaps it is a requirement as a backup option?

Installation was quick and painless and easier than many others I have encountered in the past. So far I have found the software easy to navigate and relatively simple.

I have also noticed that it is a big programme, eating up lots of memory. Not a huge issue for me on the laptop I am running it on which has plenty of space for it but I can imagine that others with less memory space may find it has an impact on the running speed. For me, so far, I have not had any adverse issues with my laptop since installing it.

So, does it work? Hard to say for sure as the first scans of my Laptop found nothing of concern apparently (always good to know) and it’s not reported any attempted attacks whilst I’ve been online yet. Like the referee, I guess I will only find out if it’s working effectively once I need it though I have no reason to believe that it will do anything than what it says it will.

Ultimately, time will tell but so far this product has met expectations well enough and my only real concern is quite how large it is.

The Natural Cook: Eating the Seasons from Root to Fruit
The Natural Cook: Eating the Seasons from Root to Fruit
by Tom Hunt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.88

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great cook book, nicely made., 14 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Even if I had been unaware and had it had not been made explicit throughout the book, I'd probably have guessed that Tom Hunt had served a spell or two working along side Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as his influence and approach run throughout this book. This is not a bad thing, nor is it intended as a slight on this rather excellent cookery book/food manifesto.

When I ordered this book there were precious few details on Amazon and I, mistakenly, expected that it was a vegetarian cook book. It is not, fine by me as I enjoy eating meat and fish but I mention it here in case others make the same incorrect assumption. That said, committed carnivores should look elsewhere as about two thirds of the recipes are meat & fish free. Veggies are the star of this book and are celebrated throughout.

The recipes themselves are varied and, generally, delicious sounding. Food porn fans will delight at the handsome presentation and the excellent photographs of the dishes as well. The recipes themselves are not pitched at a unattainable level and even the more tentative chefs should feel confident tackling the majority.

The onus here, and indeed much of the book focusses on this rather than recipes, is on eating with the seasons. Enjoying the best of British produce when it is at its finest and freshest. Tom Hunt writes with unabashed passion on this subject and I found him to be a writer it was easy to spend time reading.

In many ways this book is a good companion to the River Cottage Year cookbook that came out a decade or so ago, a long established favourite in our house, and I believe it is possible that it could be the stronger of the two. Those who liked the River Cottage Veg book will also find much of interest here.

An attractive, well presented and sturdy book full of lovely sounding British seasonal dishes that are easy to cook and a generous smattering of interesting and insightful tips about seasonal eating and getting the best out of your vegetable patch. What more can you ask for really? Five Stars.

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