31 October 2011

The Results of our Bosch Garden Makeover

What do you mean it doesn't look all that?

This is what it was like before:

So I'd say it's a definite improvement! We've been preparing the ground for our vegetable patch, but can't plant anything until the spring. 

The boys have decided we're going to grow potatoes, carrots, runner beans, sweetcorn and cabbages.

The squirrel has decided we're growing oak trees. Git.

Even though my hands, arms, legs and back are aching from the final push this weekend, I'm really glad we took part in the Bosch Garden Makeover. It gave us the motivation we needed to think about how we wanted our garden to look and what we wanted from it. I wrote this post about the start of our journey.

Cash, three, is particularly excited that we now have our own blueberry bush. He asks every day whether they're ready yet. It's going to be a long eight months before he can try any!

Our garden isn't huge (thank goodness)! The front garden has one border, here it is before:

Here it is after a good tidy up and the addition of some winter pansy seedlings:

I love getting the garden ready for winter. I enjoy pruning, even though I have no idea what I'm doing. There's something quite satisfying about cutting everything back.

We were grateful to Bosch for providing us with some cordless hedgecutters. We have more hedge than we know what to do with, but at least we can keep it tidy. Here it is before:

The hedgecutters are a dream to use. Here it is after:

The most visible transformation has been the rockery. Here it is before:

Thanks to Best4Plants.co.uk it is now much better stocked and there's a new clematis on the trellis:

The best thing is the splash of colour that I can now see from my kitchen window.

The service from Best4Plants.co.uk was superb. The staff are knowledgeable and helpful and the delivery arrived on time. The plants were well packaged. We're still waiting for our new fruit trees and rose bushes as these are not available until November, so you'll have to wait to see those.

We also had a free lawn treatment from lawn specialists Greenthumb.co.uk. This is the lawn several weeks after the weed-killing and grass-feeding treatments:

It looks patchy, but this is perfectly normal. Edited to add: When GreenThumb saw these photographs they sent someone round to check our lawn to make sure it was as expected (and it was), this was wonderful service. 

You can see from this close up that there are no weeds and I fully expect the grass to come back better than ever:

The boys in particular have loved being outside more. We let them dig in the bare vegetable patch and pour water in the hole. I was jealous that I couldn't join them!

I got the pleasure of the laundry!

Huge thanks to Bosch for organising this makeover competition and providing us with the hedgecutters. Thanks to Coblands for letting me go on a £100 spending spree on Best4Plants.co.uk. Thanks also to Greenthumb.co.uk for the free lawn treatment and advice.

There are a few other bloggers taking part in the Bosch Garden Makeover and there will be a poll to chose the winning makeover - details to follow. The winner will receive tickets to RHS Chelsea and a day with Helen Yemm, gardening expert at the Telegraph.

Now, where's my hand cream?!

The poll:



26 October 2011

Pampers and UNICEF 1 Life 1 Vaccine Campaign

I was invited to the UNICEF HQ in London last week to find out about the Pampers 1 Life 1 Vaccine campaign.

While I was there I asked this question:

Why doesn't Pampers just make a donation to UNICEF, why do we have to buy special packs of Pampers?

This was the response:

UNICEF can not afford the reach that the link with Pampers gives them. They could not afford the repeated messaging about the Maternal and Newborn Tetanus (MNT) campaign. Pampers are putting UNICEF into people's homes. They are raising awareness at local, national and global levels, placing MNT on the world's agenda. Yes, Pampers are a huge brand and they also get good PR along with their donation.

I was satisfied with this response and amazed to discover how successful the campaign had been since it started in 2006. MNT has been eliminated in Myanmar and Uganda. It is expected that seven more countries will follow in 2011.

Even so, a baby still dies every nine minutes from Tetanus. Can you imagine if there was a chance that could be your baby? It doesn't bear thinking about. Every mother wants the best for their child. UNICEF are trying to reach every mother, by any means possible. They are targeting the hardest to reach, the most vulnerable.

Tara visited some of those hardest to reach and spoke passionately about her trip. She said:

"Why should we, as a human race, ignore these children because they are hard to reach? They are children just like ours. Their mothers care for them just as we care for our children. Why wouldn't we help them?".

So, what can we do to increase the amount of vaccines that Pampers pay for?

All the information is available at Pampers Village. Please go there and read a story, like the Facebook page, download the app and buy the specially marked packs of nappies and wipes if you can. If you buy the nappies and wipes via Ocado they will donate additional vaccines too.

Thank you for reading.



18 October 2011

The Little Girl and the Diet

This is the story of the Little Girl and the Diet.

When the Little Girl was nine years old her Mummy decided the Little Girl should go on her first diet.

The little girl wasn't obese, she wasn't having any medical problems, but she wasn't skinny either. The Little Girl heard 'puppy fat' being mentioned when her Mummy discussed her size with her friends. The Little Girl didn't want to be fat. Fat was bad. Fat was ugly. Boys didn't go out with fat girls. Fat people were lazy. The Little Girl hated the tent dresses that Mummy made her wear. Mummy said it was for the best, because they covered her up. She wanted to wear what the other girls were wearing, like t-shirts and skirts. A diet seemed like a good idea.

Mummy knew all about diets. Mummy was always on a diet. Mummy only ate lettuce and cottage cheese and Ryvitas. The Little Girl couldn't really understand why Mummy ate them. Mummy retched as she swallowed the cottage cheese she clearly detested. Mummy hated her thighs and her knees and her tummy. Mummy had nothing to wear. Mummy cleaned her teeth a lot to stop her wanting to eat.

Mummy made a chart for the back of the larder door. The Little Girl was allowed 1,000 calories per day. The Little Girl wasn't allowed to have 1,000 calories of chocolate as it would not fill her up. She was allowed 100 calories of milk per day (from the 1,000 calories). 100 calories of milk was about two inches in a cup. Every time the Little Girl had something to eat her Mummy consulted the Calorie Guide and wrote the food and the calories on the wall chart. At the end of the day the calories were added up to see if she had been a good girl.

The Little Girl was allowed to eat Ice Pops as these were only 10 calories. She was allowed to eat apples (40 calories for a small apple) and Weight Watchers bread (90 calories per slice). She drank tins of One-Cal lemonade. The Little Girl cleaned her teeth a lot. The Little Girl was always hungry. The Little Girl was hungry for weeks.

The year following the diet, Mummy out to work in the evenings. Daddy worked too, but at home. The Little Girl felt rather abandoned and she was bored. The Little Girl spent most evenings rummaging in the larder and the fridge. After her tea she would pilfer a chocolate biscuit or two, a Kit-Kat, a slice of cheese, a bowl of cornflakes, a jam sandwich, a spoonful of peanut butter, a spoonful of dry drinking chocolate powder and a 300 calorie drink of milk.

Very soon the Little Girl got fat. She became a yo-yo dieter. She followed a variety of diets. She lost weight each time, sometimes a lot of weight. Then she stopped following the diet and ate anything and everything again until she put the weight back on and a bit more on top. This pattern repeated for almost thirty years. At times of stress, loneliness or boredom she eats. It's her fall-back position. It's comfortable. It's what she does. For those few moments she stuffs her face, she doesn't think or feel. She goes into an emotional vacuum.

She hates herself for reaching for the biscuits every time an unwelcome emotion appears. She hates the way she looks. She hates all her clothes. She hides under tent dresses. She hates her thighs and her tummy. Her knees are okay though.

Now she knows why diets don't work. She has stopped dieting. She feels somewhat liberated. Now she eats normally and healthily, with her family. They usually have their five-a-day. No foods are forbidden or sinful, they eat everything in moderation.

She still binges, but never in front of her children. She is an expert in secret eating. She is trying to stop bingeing. She is a couple of stone below her top fighting weight. She weighs less than she did a year ago, without dieting.

She knows her mother was only doing her best. She also knows she will NOT pass her eating disorder onto her own children. She tries to look on the bright side.


Princes Brekkie Giveaway

This competition is now CLOSED

Thank you for all the entries.

The winner, selected using random.org, is number 1 - Jenny. Congratulations!

I was asked to take part in the Princes Brekkie campaign and received this hamper full of fruity goodies to try.

One of my children is a fruit monster, the other needs a little cajoling. Tinned fruit and fruit juices are a big help to me. If we run out of fresh fruit I know that tinned fruit still counts as part of our Five-a-day so I always keep some handy. Also, who can resist the cherries in fruit cocktail? My four year old fruit-dodger can't and they both love fruit juice.

There are some great recipes on the Princes website. Here is one of my own:

Sandy's Speedy, Cheap and Cheerful Trifle

  • Tin of fruit cocktail, drained (save the fruit juice for breakfast)
  • Block of jelly, any flavour
  • Value range jam and cream swiss roll
  • Instant custard
  • Cream for whipping
  • Chocolate buttons or hundreds and thousands for decoration

This recipe is so simple and easy for the children to help with, from step 4 onwards.

  1. Make the custard in a jug and allow to cool 
  2. Make the jelly in a jug, ready to pour.
  3. Whip the cream
  4. Slice the swiss roll and lay in a large glass bowl
  5. Pour over the fruit cocktail
  6. Pour over the jelly. Allow to set in the fridge
  7. Once the jelly is set, pour over the custard
  8. Whip the cream and spread over the custard
  9. Decorate

Serves loads of children or four greedy adults at a retro dinner party.

You're welcome!


So to win one of these lovely hampers all you have to do is:

  • Leave a comment on this blog post telling me your favourite fruit. Leave your twitter ID or another way to contact you.
  • For an additional entry tweet this
"Ooh I want to win a Princes hamper at http://sandycalico.blogspot.com/2011/10/princes-brekkie-giveaway.html #PrincesBrekkie",

and please leave a separate comment to say that you have done so.

This giveaway closes at 8pm on Tuesday 25th October 2011.

The winner will be selected at random. If you win I will contact you and ask for your address. If I can't get hold of you I will re-draw a week later. UK only.

Good luck!


Cars 2 LEGO Duplo: Review and Competition

We are proud to be LEGO Duplo Experts in the Calico household. 

Presley and Cash play with Duplo every day. We were lucky enough to be sent a selection from the Cars 2 range and it has been a massive hit.

As well as getting the vehicles (Lightning McQueen, Mater, Finn McMissile, Carla, Luigi and Guido) you get plenty of basic bricks and specialised pieces too.

Of course once you have built the sets a few times you can add the Cars 2 Duplo to the rest of your stash as it all fits together. It even fits together with LEGO, so it can be used for years.

Duplo is so well made. There are never any rough edges and it doesn't break when you tread on it - and we all know how much it hurts to tread on it!

You can see from the photographs that my boys are playing together happily and there is plenty of imaginative play.

The only thing I didn't like was this:

Call me old-fashioned, but I don't want the boys to know what missiles are just yet. Fortunately they don't know what it is or what it does in real life. In fact, from the photograph you may imagine that it's a pepper shaker... or something else!

Now onto details of an lovely special offer and the fabulous competition.

At Toys R Us now there is a special offer. Spend £30 on LEGO Duplo and you get this cute bear (worth £10) free:

There are some amazing prizes up for grabs in a new competition:

First Prize (2 winners will get this)
·         1 x Cars ‘The Pit Stop’: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/The+Pit+Stop/5829.aspx
·         1 x Cars ‘Tokyo Racing’: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/The+Pit+Stop/5819.aspx
·         1 x Cars ‘Agent Mater’: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/The+Pit+Stop/5817.aspx
·         1 x Cars ‘Luigi’s Italian Place’: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/The+Pit+Stop/5818.aspx
·         1 x My First LEGO DUPLO Set: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/Default.aspx#5931
·         1 x DUPLO Brick Box: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/Default.aspx#5416

Second Prize (3 winners will get this)
·         1 x Cars ‘Tokyo Racing’: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/The+Pit+Stop/5819.aspx
·         1 x Cars ‘Luigi’s Italian Place’: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/The+Pit+Stop/5818.aspx
·         1 x DUPLO Brick Box: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/Default.aspx#5416

Third Prize (10 winners will get this)
·         1 x My First LEGO DUPLO Set: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/Default.aspx#5931
·         1 x DUPLO Brick Box: http://duplo.lego.com/en-us/Products/Default.aspx#5416

This competition is running over a few other LEGO Duplo expert blogs, but I'd love a Baby Baby reader to win something!

How to enter the competition:
Competition closes on November 6th.

Winners will be picked and prizes will be send out by Digital Outlook.

Good luck!!



14 October 2011

Freaky Friday: on the Pier

I think these are supposed to be monkeys.

Lordy, they're freaky.

They're on one of the children's rides on St Anne's Pier on the Fylde coast.

These poorly painted creatures have never put off the boys. After a morning on the beach and fish and chips for lunch, they love to spent our hard-earned 50p's on the pier rides.

Even though we have now moved down South, we still visit the tiny seaside town with its noisy pier.

These rides are sedate and quite charming really. In a few years Presley and Cash  won't want anything to do with Puffin' Billy or the freaky monkeys. I'm feeling nostalgic for them already.


13 October 2011

Review: HOP on iTunes

The boys have been ill and off nursery recently, so when we were given the chance to download the Easter Bunny film HOP via iTunes we jumped at the chance. Downloading the film is as easy as buying anything from iTunes, but it takes longer (80 minutes, which is fine, it runs in the background and my laptop operated at normal speed throughout).

We snuggled on the sofa with the laptop balanced on a side table. The quality of the downloaded film was excellent.  Unlike online streaming, which can stall, the film ran as if you were watching a DVD. I liked that there was no whirring sound that you get playing DVD's.

If we had an HDMI cable we could have watched our downloaded film on our HD-TV. As they are only a few pounds we will get one, but even so it was cosy watching via the laptop.

The film was entertaining, but there were a few scenes of 'mild peril' that were a bit much for my four year old. The three year old wasn't bothered, I'm guessing because he hadn't understood what was happening. The children preferred the CGI over the live-action scenes. There were a few very good gags, a couple of star cameos and enough to hold my interest. There was only one scene that was entirely unnecessary and that's the one at the Playboy Mansion. This is a certificate U film and I found the use of the phrase 'sexy bunny' objectionable. Apart from that, it's a good film.

I wouldn't have considered downloading a film before this, but I would do it again. It was easy and faster than a trip to the shops. At £9.99 a download easily competes with a DVD in terms of price. All new titles are available on DVD, Blu-ray, iTunes, Xbox, Playstation, Sky Box Office, TV Vision and BlinkBox! Get me, I'm down with the kids!

Disclosure: we received two films from iTunes, HOP goody bags for the boys and wine and chocolates for us. I'm amazed the wine and chocolates arrived unharmed, as the delivery person dropped the package over our six foot gate while we were out. Thorntons get 10/10 for packaging!


11 October 2011

My Life is Like an Episode of Ground Force

Well, it would be if Charlie Dimmock, Tommy Walsh and the kindly Alan Titchmarsh contrived to turn up and work their green-fingered magic while I disappeared on a mini-break.

Actually, it's more like The Good Life Chez Calico these days. We're taking part in the Bosch Garden Makeover Competition.

This is our garden before we started work on our horticultural transformation:

We moved here in July and found mainly weeds, bamboo and ivy. Loads of ivy.

We're slowly getting rid of it, green bin load by green bin load:

We also have a hedge that may feature in the 2011 Guinness Books of World Records for being the biggest hedge in the world. Thanks to Bosch we now have the power to tame it as they were kind enough to send us some cordless hedgecutters. I have been reliably informed by my husband that they work brilliantly and he is over the moon with how easy they are to use. No excuse now, dear. I'm also pleased that they're cordless, for safety reasons.

Our garden isn't all bad though. Our lawn only has three types of weed in it. It could be a lot worse, according to the lovely people from Greenthumb.co.uk.They did an assessment of our lawn and provided us with their autumn weed-killer and grass fertiliser treatment. I'll let you know how well that has worked in my final post where I reveal the results of our makeover. These people know their stuff. If you want a beautiful lawn, give them a call.

We're not avid gardeners, but we love being outside and there's always something for the boys to look at or play with. Our plan is to turn the big weed patch into a vegetable patch so that we can grow our own fruit and veggies. We have cleared all of the weeds and bamboo and we're now getting the soil ready for planting.

We've also been busy caring for our winter pansy seedlings:

As the final part of the Bosch Makeover we are being given some plants by Best4plants.co.uk. It has taken us ages to decide what to choose as they have a massive range. Also, the majority of the plants that were on the estate agent's details seem to have moved along with the vendor. The only thing we don't need is winter pansies.

I'll let you know how we get on!



10 October 2011

Justin Fletcher Made My Son Cry

Yes, you read correctly.

The lovely Justin Fletcher - Mr CBeebies himself - made three year old Cash cry yesterday.

So how did this happen? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

The boys were ill over the weekend. They had some virus or other. They were feverish, with sore throats and colds. Also, Cash vomited all over me and then all over his bed. Nice.

When this happens (after I've put the washing machine on) we make nests of towels on the sofa and switch on CBeebies. We have many programmes recorded on our PVR, mainly Bob the Builder, ZingZillas and the boys' new favourite, Iconicles. Four year old Presley in particular is mesmerised by it. He stands in front of the television as if it's his own Iconiscreen and seems to know every word to every episode. When the boys run in to wake us up every morning, they pretend they are Splish and Splash. Every squirrel they see is now called Skitter. Even Maisy's friend Cyril has been renamed.

I did an experiment two years ago.  I switched off the television and left it off for two months, only turning it back on when the boys were ill one day and I wanted to distract them. Even now it never goes on before 4pm. Then they can chose what they want to watch while I cook the tea.

Yesterday we had exhausted our cache of Iconicles episodes. I really couldn't face another, so we watched the CBeebies channel live.

The new programme, Justin's House, was on. After five minutes of watching Justin and his friends larking about Cash burst into tears. He looked terrified and said 'I don't want to watch this'. So that was that.

Were were invited to watch Justin's House being recorded.  It's filmed in front of an audience of children. On the show they all look like they're enjoying themselves, none of them are shrieking. I don't know what it was that upset Cash. I'm glad we couldn't make it to Salford now. Sorry, Justin. We still love Something Special.

We also like the new look CBeebies Grown-ups website, there is even a blog. I hope the BBC don't mind me using the photo of Justin's House. From the reaction of the parents on Twitter over the weekend, I think we were the only family that didn't love the new show.

I'll be sad when the boys grow out of CBeebies and I'll miss watching them laugh their heads off at the 'Spud the Hotel Manager' episode of Bob the Builder. I've almost perfected my Spud impression too.



6 October 2011


Every day 127 people are diagnosed with breast cancer.


Do me a favour, would you? Check your breasts now. I don't care if you're on the train or at the school gate. Just check them. Thank you.

Now I can tell you about last night's Breast Cancer Care Show 2011 at the Grosvenor House Hotel. It's a charity fashion show where all of the models are breast cancer survivors. One of the models was television host Trisha Goddard.

This was my third time at the Show. The first time was in 2006. That year I went a little bit crazy with my credit card and won the 'Romantic' auction lot. Last night it was great to catch up with Jon and Rachel from Jon Dibben. Jon and his team designed and made my stunning engagement and wedding rings. If you're looking for a special piece of jewellery, Jon's your man.

I went with my best friend, Amanda, who was a model in the 2009 Show. Here she is last night with the very lovely Lisa Snowdon.

There were a few other celebrities knocking around. The night was hosted, brilliantly, by Arlene Phillips.

This is the fabulous Vanessa Feltz with her daughters, Saskia and Allegra. Vanessa and her partner did a splendid job running the Heads and Tails game.

Bernie and Linda Nolan were very funny hosting the Lock and Key game.

There was also entertainment from Strictly Come Dancing star Katya Virshilas and her partner, Klaus Kongsdal.

The real stars, however, were the models. It was a moving night, full of inspirational stories. Times are hard for charities, but people were generous again last night - the room was full. Breast Cancer Care provide such a vital service. They are there for the 127 women and men diagnosed today, tomorrow and every day.

Go on, have a feel for me.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month


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