26 August 2011

Freaky Friday

Would you like to see the freakiest pub toilets in London?

Of course you would.

First, let me set the scene.

Do you remember sharing toilet cubicles with girlfriends on drunken nights out. You take it in turns to pee while your friend holds the door. It's a reasonable arrangement, but one that wouldn't be entertained if you were both sober. 

This, however, takes synchronised peeing to a whole new level. 

Behold the double toilet cubicle...

I've never seen anything like it.

Perhaps it's a return to the Roman toilets, like these ones at the brilliant Puzzling World in Wanaka:

Yes, that is my husband, pretending to have a poo on our Honeymoon.

Freaky Friday. I think I may have started a new blog feature.

I've got a freak of nature for you next week. Bet you can't wait.


Credit Made Clearer. Discuss.

Sponsored post

I was asked to attend, along with a few other bloggers, a round table discussion about Capital One's Credit Made Clearer campaign this week. I was even paid for my time and travel.

I was worried that the subject of personal credit would be a little dry. It wasn't. We talked about the groups needing help and how to raise awareness of the Credit Made Clearer YouTube channel, where Capital One have produced a set of cartoons covering many aspects of credit. These seventeen videos include online shopping, overdrafts and this one on travelling abroad:

Did you notice that they tell you when NOT to use your credit card. Sage advice.

What was interesting is that the groups that need impartial, clear, financial advice, don't feel they have access to it, or that the information is online, but in text format. Also, as one of the panel put it, 'you don't know what you don't know'. What was even more interesting is that the basics of personal finance are not widely taught, by parents or by schools. Captial One are working (completely unbranded) with schools by distributing a board game, suitable for fourteen year olds. It's called 'To Your Credit' and I think this is a wonderful thing to do.

I think I'm lucky that I come from a household that didn't have much money, but didn't get massively into debt either. I was taught the value of money. I've worked from the age of fourteen and saved regularly since then. Having said that, I'm still at a loss when it comes to pensions and making the most of my savings and I'm a fully qualified accountant. We all need a bit of help.

Best of luck to Capital One with this campaign, I think it's got legs. I look forward to seeing more of them on Twitter and Facebook too once they've found their social media feet.


22 August 2011

The Emails That Made Me Smile and Cry

I thought I'd share a recent email exchange with you. It's between me and a very old friend. Well, she's my age, so not old at all, just long-standing.

Names and places have been changed...

Hi Liz,
Great to see you and your boys today, they are all lovely little men. Thanks again for my orchid, much appreciated.
I realised today we've been friends for 32 years! That can't be right as I'm only 29 ;-)
Take care, love Sx

Hi Sandy
Was lovely to see you. If ever you have an 'IKEA' moment, feel free to let off steam to me, 32 years is a long time and I still remember our days at Middle School and over the years, Mr A ripping his trousers jumping over the box in gym, JP eyeing you up at the school disco, the 'fight' with JW, hair extensions in London, boozing at the camp disco, tuck shop at the Upper School, messing about at the back of the class in Geography and the field trip when I got stuck in the river. Must have a look out for old photos one day - get your boxes unpacked and we'll go down memory lane! Here's to another 32 years!
Love Liz x

You made me smile and cry, you bugger! Yes, here's to another 32 years xxx

Yeah, me too, guess it's 'cos I feel old, no doubt our boys will have many similar stories to tell in years to come,
Take care Lx

I expect so. Here are our five boys:

Do you keep in touch with any of your school friends?



How To Do: A Good Night's Sleep

Sponsored Post

This is a lovely video from Johnson's Baby, it's called How To Do: A Good Night's Sleep. It's one of a range from their YouTube channel, Baby & You. All the videos give simple guidance on the basics of looking after your new baby.

Enjoy and don't get broody now... oh too late!


16 August 2011

Reasons to love living in Milton Keynes #2

Ah, summer holidays in Milton Keynes

Playing in the sand.

Making sandcastles

Is it a sand pit?

Hold on a minute,

Milton Keynes is miles from the seaside.

Doesn't mean we can't have a beach.

Free, every day over the summer holidays.

Outside John Lewis in The Centre MK.



The Gurgle Blog Awards 2011

Well, that's a surprise.

Baby Baby is a finalist in the Best Overall Blog category in the Gurgle Blog Awards 2011.

Huge thanks to anyone who nominated me and to the selectors.

You can check out all the finalists in all the categories hereVoting is now open, I hope this is the right link, and closes on 7th September.

I'm in good company, congratulations to:
A Mother's Ramblings
Gingerbread House
Bump, Birth and Beyond

I know who I would like to win and I know who I think will win my category (ooh, cryptic). I don't think it will be me, but I wouldn't have posted about it if I didn't want you to vote for me :-)

I'm going to an awards ceremony hosted by Myleene Klass too.

Happy days!



15 August 2011

How to get the most out of your 'Back To School' visit to Clarks

Clarks asked us whether we would like to review their 'Back To School' service and gave us a voucher to spend on shoes for the boys.

The first thing they did was make us an appointment. I had no idea you could make an appointment, but you can. Simply phone the shop and ask. When you arrive, just give the assistant your name and you will be seen straight away. No taking a number. No forgetting to take a number and waiting fruitlessly.

Clarks are geared up for the Back To School rush. They have plenty of room, plenty of staff and plenty of stock, but be prepared for the shop to be busy. The staff will hand your child a magazine with a pair of 3D glasses attached. I've read somewhere (sorry, can't find the link) that children under 5 shouldn't wear 3D glasses because their eyes are still developing, so maybe this wasn't ideal for little ones, but it kept them entertained for a while.

We were served by Holly and she was wonderful with the boys. She measured their feet and discussed shoe options with us. She brought out a selection of shoes for Presley to try and looked competent at fitting them and checking for comfort. We chose some trainer-style shoes as his feet are off-the-scale narrow and these gave the best fit. We were given insoles free of charge to give an even better fit, with advice to return in 8 weeks to have the shoes checked.

These are his lovely new shoes, a bargain at £24:

We were also encouraged to come in any time to have the boys feet measured or their shoes checked. This tells me that Clarks are concerned about children's feet. My suggestion that Cash try a pair of Presley's shoes from last year that are now his size wasn't discouraged. Holly suggested we come in with the shoes and get them checked out. (We did and they are too big, so Cash also got a new pair of shoes, the same as his brother) .

I was very happy with the Clarks Back To School experience.

I was even happier when I was given an A/W leaflet with a coupon for a 20% discount. I've got my eyes on these boots:


Why My Children Are Faceless

There are lots of photographs like this on Baby Baby.

I have explained why in a guest post over at the Tots100 today.


12 August 2011

Our first Family Festival

Neither Andy nor myself are big festival goers. It's the toilets that put me off. Still, when we won VIP tickets to Lollibop last weekend we decided to go. After all, how often do you get the chance to take your children to see their idols?!

Not only was it our first festival as a family, it was our first time taking the boys to London on the train. Just a trip to have a burger at Euston Station and then come home would have been treat enough for Presley, 3, and Cash, 2. They were so excited on the train. Our nerves at being out and about in London with no buggy were calmed by a gentle journey in 'that man's car', also known as a taxi.

We arrived at Lollibop just before it opened and had a plan for the day. We would go straight to the main stage to get a good view of The Zingzillas and Rastamouse, then we would go straight to the Meet and Greet with Bob The Builder. We thought this would be enough for the boys and we were right.

Rastamouse and Da Easy Crew were brilliant, slick, cool and fun. Also reggae is perfect for a festival. The Zingzillas looked quite poor and under-rehearsed by comparison. We couldn't stop laughing at one of Tang's eyes, it was permanently closed. It looked like DJ Loose had punched him for being late for the Big Zing. They went off after a couple of songs, maybe to fix his bulging eye. They came back and 'Bhangra Beat' was a highlight. The boys loved it all.

We bumped into the lovely Babes About Town and her gorgeous family on our way out and then had an easy journey home. It occurred to me afterwards that we didn't even spot the VIP tent, let alone look for it. It would have been lovely for me to catch up with the other bloggers there and have a free drink, but it was a day for the children, not for me - and I had to drive home from the station.

I know there have been complaints about prices and queues and it was very busy. We planned our day well and took a picnic, we only had to queue for a few minutes to see Bob The Builder. If we'd had to pay £100 for our tickets we may have spent longer at Lollibop to get our money's worth, but we experienced quality over quantity and I still feel weepy when I remember how excited Presley was to hold Bob The Builder's hand. I've never seen a smile that big.

Here are our highlights:

Cerrie from CBeebies:

The Zingzillas:

Tang's broken eye, still makes me chuckle:


"Give it up" Live:

And finally, meeting Bob The Builder:


Mmm McVitie's Jamaica Ginger Cake

Sponsored post

Oh McVitie's Jamaica Ginger Cake in your shiny new packaging.
How do I love thee, let me count the ways:
A huge slab with a cup of tea
A little slice - just one more tiny piece
The scrapings round the edge of the paper
The bottom layer of a posh trifle...

Hold on, I've said too much. I've nearly given away my dinner party secret weapon, posh ginger and pear individual trifles.

I don't want you to enter the McVitie's Jamaica Ginger Cake competition by 14th August to win a fabulous dream holiday to Jamaica. I want to win it. No, don't you dare click on the link to their Official Jamaica Ginger Cake page and tell them your Ginger Cake serving suggestion. Oh no.

If you love McVitie's Jamaica Ginger Cake as much as I do, you'll love this recipe from Rustie Lee:


10 August 2011

Review: LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer

LeapFrog, the leading educational toy brand, is launching its highly anticipated LeapPad Explorer on 15th August.

We've already got one. LeapFrog sent us one to review - thank you. Yes, we do feel pretty special!

The LeapPad will retail for £79.99. So, what do you get for your £80? 

The LeapPad is basically a learning tablet (or iPad) for children aged 4-9. The LeapPad will be available with over one hundred learning games, book apps, videos and more. 

It's important to me that if my children are having screen time, that it's educational. From our extensive testing (we didn't leave the house today) I am happy that my boys were learning as they played. The interactive books (we read the ultra e-book, Disney-Pixar Cars 2) go way beyond an audio story. You can even add your own narration, although ours would have mainly been 'Look, Mummy, it's Mater!".

We spent a long time playing with the art studio. Children can add shapes and stamps as well as drawing on the screen with fingertips or the stylus. You can save their works of art too.

The LeapPad comes with a camera and video recorder. These were simple to use and of a reasonable quality. I was surprised that the camera is only 2 mega-pixels. There is storage for 30,000 pictures and 120 hours of video!

We loved the Roly Poly Motion Game. You roll, tilt, spin and steer your Roly Poly through mazes and spelling challenges to bring food to the family picnic. Presley, at almost four, didn't take that long to learn to control his Roly Poly, but the thirty-six levels will certainly keep him occupied for a while.

The boys really liked the PetPad app. You learn to draw letters while teaching your pet tricks. You select all the features of your pet - Cash chose a purple cat - and feed and take care of it. Giving it a bath is great fun, you have to blow into the microphone to operate the hair-dryer!

The LeapPad is really well made and feels substantial, but in a good way. It is sleek and far more grown up looking than the Leapster Explorer for example. The touch pad is a good size and very responsive. We had no trouble operating it. It also loads quickly, ready for each child to select their profile. In the same way as other LeapFrog products the LeapPad remembers what your child has achieved so they don't have to start from the beginning each time.

So, does the LeapPad get the Baby Baby Thumbs up? Yes, it does. It encourages learning and creativity and will hopefully mean that I get my iPhone back!

I think you get a lot for £79.99, although the downloadable apps and game cartridges will be rather steep at £19.99 each. Having said that, if the game we tested is anything to go by then you will get your money's worth out of the games.


Would you like the chance to get your hands on the new device - for free?

LeapFrog are running a marathon giveaway, commencing at midnight on Monday 15th August. The event gives LeapFrog fans the opportunity to win a LeapPad package, complete with the LeapSchool Rading cartridge game and a free download card, on the hour, every hour. 

You can also be in with a second chance to win by sharing the link on Twitter and Facebook.

LeapFrog's instant win online event will run alongside the launch of the LeapPad Explorer at Hamley's in London. On the day of the launch lucky shoppers will also be able to win a LeapPad every hour.

For more information check out the LeapFrog website.

Good luck!



2 August 2011

Will the real Sandy Calico please stand up

I have a confession to make.

I'm not really Sandy Calico.

I don't mean I'm really a shy seventeen-year-old girl who has invented an amazing* fantasy life from her basement bedroom. Neither am I a fifty-seven-year-old man who has grown tired of watching porn and thought he'd have a crack at blogging as he'd heard you get sent free stuff.

No, the name Sandy Calico is an invention. It's not my real name. It's an alias, a pen name. It's the name I have always used online. It's more of a conventional name than, say, FunnyGrrl82, but it's fake all the same. It's why I'm not on Google+ (because you have to use your real name), well, that and I really don't need any more distractions.

The main problem with being known by a false name is when someone wants to send you a cheque and doesn't read your invoice. I haven't got a bank account in the name of Sandy Calico, so I've had to return a couple of cheques and ask for them to be re-issued in my real name. I can live with this, but I had a bit of a kerfuffle this week with the Royal Mail.

We've recently moved house again. I went back to the interim place, that we're still responsible for to the end of the rental agreement, to collect the post. There was a card from the Postman. He couldn't deliver a package to Sandy Calico because it needed a signature.

This gave me a dilemma. I wasn't expecting anything from a PR, but I had to know what it was. If I'd rearranged delivery to the interim house, I'd have had to sit in an empty house from 7am to wait for the Postie. Not much fun with two little boys. The only other alternative was to have the package redelivered to our local Post Office for a fee of £1.50. Despite this fee I was still curious, so I arranged for a redelivery.

Anyone still awake? This is turning into a saga.

I went to the Post Office yesterday. I had to explain to the woman behind the counter that I had ID for my real name and I could prove that I lived at the old address, but that Sandy Calico was my pen name and I only had business cards in that name.

She took my ID and eyed me suspiciously. "So, Sandy Calico is your 'pen' name?". She may as well have said 'poo' name. I don't think the sneer left her face until we were out of the Post Office and half way home.

The package? I won't keep you in suspense much longer. It was a thank you from Three for being their lead Manchester blogger in the recent time-saving app competition. The winning app was designed by one of my favourite bloggers, Jax, and her Ipswich Team, congratulations to them. I can't wait to download the app when it's launched.

So, what did Three send me?

Well, I think they used to be cookies.  It's okay,  I can eat them with a spoon sprinkle them over ice cream. It's the thought that counts.

*Okay, so I exaggerated a little. My life is only occasionally amazing!

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