Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Visiting Burford garden centre

Easter break is now a memory. Back to school. And our house is again "invaded" by the decorators. You might remember me telling about how the ceiling in the entrance hall has collapsed with a mighty crash after the pipes leaked (thank you, British Gas people, for putting nails through the pipes!). The saga still continues.
The old plaster has been removed, and the ceiling has been re-plastered and painted, but the walls got so splashed and stained that we had to strip the wallpaper (and good riddance too, I didn't like it).
Now we need to smooth the walls with more plasterwork and then paint over.
Pleasures of living in a very old house is that there's always another job to do.
We didn't go to Italy for Easter, and stayed at home. We were quite lucky with the weather and had several sunny days. Not like today, when I'm feeling cold at home. I sit by my laptop, wrapped in the blanket, and sip the tenth cup of tea to keep me warm.

Our friend Jen took our boys and me to Burford Garden Centre twice in the last two weeks. My sons love visiting it, as there is a lot to do and see. We always go to the cafe first. I do begrudge their prices. You can buy a decent supermarket cake for the same amount of money you have to pay for a slice of cake at the cafe, but then you can say - stay at home then.

There is a toy shop where you can imagine yourself time-travelling with Dr Who.

I love browsing in the food and drink section... well as looking at the seeds and beautiful potted plants - shrubs, flowers, herbs.

This photo was taken back in February

And my boys just love the playground with a wooden tractor, train, two sets of swings and climbing frames.

Swings make everyone happy. They are such a joy, aren't they?!

When I see my kids  going up and down, I often think of an old song which I loved as a child. It originally appeared in one of the Soviet films for children. And the song was called Winged Swings:

Childhood will end one day,
It won't last forever.
Children will grow up,
And fly away...
But right now we are still children,
There's still time to grow up -
It's just the sky,
just the wind,
just the joy ahead.
... And the winged swings are flying..

Oral-B Pro 2500 Electric Toothbrush

Do you love travelling? Are you a pro when it comes to packing suitcases?
When you're travelling with a family, luggage space is at a premium. So many things to take with you: clothes, medication, toys, books, gadgets etc. Having a child with special needs means we also have to carry food that our son would eat, so one of our suitcases has a couple of spacious insulated freezer bags which  food.
Typically I take regular manual toothbrushes and toothpaste with us, as I just don't have any extra space for an electric toothbrush and also worry that it might get broken during the trip.
The Oral-B Pro 2500 electric toothbrush, however, comes with a free travel case for compact storage which helps keep it safe. The travel case is sleek enough to be slipped inside the suitcase.

electric toothbrush

Inside the box you will find a brush, a brush head, a sturdy plastic travel case, a stand with a 2-pin charging cable and an instructions leaflet.
Oral-B Pro 2500 comes in either black or pink.

Most of the electric toothbrushes do a better job of cleaning teeth than a manual one.

What makes Oral-B 2500 different? It's the professionally inspired design of the CrossAction toothbrush. Its bristles are angled at 16 degrees, so it surrounds each tooth you work on, by giving it a thorough 3d cleaning action. It reaches deep between teeth, it rotates, oscillates and pulsates.
If you press your toothbrush too hard, the visible pressure sensor lights up.
It works in two modes - daily clean (comprehensive everyday cleaning) and gum care (it gently stimulates gums).
It also has an in-built timer which would help you to brush your teeth for the recommended 2 minutes. The timer buzzes every 30 seconds to alert you to move to another part of the mouth.

The toothbrush is easy to use. As Oral-B offers a good choice of replacement heads, the Oral-B Pro 2500 is compatible with a wide range of toothbrush heads. To maintain a high level of hygiene and cleanliness, it is recommended to change the toothbrush heads every 3-4 months.

A fully charged Oral-B Pro 2500 electric toothbrush lasts for up to 7 days with regular use. That's again a bonus when you travel.

You might consider buying a 2 to 3-pin/prong adaptor plug. Since we travel quite often, we have plenty of these adaptors, but you might need to get one in case your bathroom doesn't have a 2 pin plug port.

I have already been using an Oral-B electric toothbrush in the past, a different model, and was interested to compare the results. Oral-B Pro 2500 works very effectively. My teeth feel cleaner.
If you compare the electric toothbrush to a manual one, the effect is almost immediate, as the quality of cleaning is superior.

For useful tips and advice on oral care visit Pure Smiles.

Disclosure: I received the toothbrush for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Eldrador Dragon Poacher from Schleich

miniature dragons, collectible dragons

Dragons and fantasy kingdoms have millions of fans. You don't have to be a child to appreciate the art of Schleich minifigures. The Eldrador range from Schleich is a marvellous imaginary kingdom populated with dragons and knights.
While the farm animals and dinosaurs might fascinate younger children, dragons would appeal to older children and grown-ups to. Stage a battle of dragons, or create a fantasy kingdom for your dragon and get immersed in an imaginative play.
The Eldrador range has been recently expanded to include several new dragons - Dragon Ice Hunter, Dragon Night Hunter and Dragon Poacher (priced £14.99 each).

dragon minifigures, collectible dragons

Dragon Poacher is a fierce, powerful warrior, with razor-sharp claws. He breathes fire at his enemies.
"Angry and extremely aggressive, the dragon poacher swoops down at every foe. It is incredibly strong, with razor-sharp teeth and claws and fearsome dragonfire".

dragon toys, collectible dragons

The new Eldrador dragons feature moveable wings which can go up and down.

dragon minifigures

If you visit Schleich website you will discover a fun fact about the dragon poacher - apparently it has one weak spot, which is hidden beneath its crest.
Dragon's dimensions are 9.6x8.1x5.7 inch.
It is suitable for children aged 5-8 (and most likely for any Game of Thrones fans aged up to 100).

Schleich minifigures are always hand-painted with great precision and attention to detail. The modelling quality is outstanding.

collectible dragons, dragon toys

Its visage is savage and destructive. Just look at those sharp teeth, spikey prickles and devilish horns. Those eyes seem to follow you. He's a merciless hunter, and he's after you.

collectible dragons, dragon toys

For a full Eldrador range and new super ferocious fire-breathing dragons visit Schleich.
Image credits: Schleich
Image credits: Schleich

Disclosure: We received a toy for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Curd cheese cake with buttercream frosting and jam

easy bakes, easy cakes

It's a contradiction - you wait and wait for holidays, but when they come, you find them as stressful as school days. This doesn't mean that I'm looking forward to back to school, early mornings and dash to the school.
In the last few days my husband was away on a conference or giving talks, whatever, I have lost track of his academic shenanigans. That meant, I had to cope with my guys on my own.
On Tuesday, our friend Jen took my boys and me by car to the garden centre. Both boys love going there and seemed very happy and relaxed.
I don't dare to venture out of the house with the boys on my own, as Sash is too quick for me now. We joke that he could easily win any sprint race. And so we stayed at home yesterday and today, which made both guys grumpy with me.
When I'm feeling stressed, I bake. I rummaged in the fridge and kitchen shelves, and found a container of curd cheese as well as the remains of the damson jam, which I bought for using in the Easter lamb recipe.

I have baked a curd cheese cake on many occasions, typically as a plain bundt cake, with just a dusting of icing sugar. This time I baked it in a standard spring cake tin, and added buttercream frosting and jam inside.

easy bakes, easy cakes

Curd cheese cake
zest of  1 orange, grated
3 eggs
200g caster sugar
200g curd cheese
1tsp baking powder
300g self-raising flour
100g butter, melted
1tsp vanilla bean paste
For buttercream frosting:
100g softened butter + icing sugar, enough to make a sweet frosting
jam of your choice (I used damson jam)

Grate the zest of 1 orange in a deep mixing bowl.
Beat in the eggs with the caster sugar, add curd cheese, baking powder, flour, vanilla bean paste and melted butter and mix well.
The cake batter is quite thick. Spoon it carefully in a well oiled cake tin. Put the cake tin in an oven preheated to 180C for 40+ minutes (depending on the size of the cake tin). Check with a wooden toothpick if it's ready. You might need to lower the temperature and bake it for another 10 minutes, until the skewer comes clean.
Once cooled, slice in half. Spread one half with buttercream frosting, and jam on the other half. Sandwich two halves together.
Sprinkle some icing sugar on the top.
Serve with tea or coffee. It will keep well for a couple of days, wrapped in foil.

easy bakes, easy cakes

Since I used the remains of the jam in this recipe, I'm adding this post to #KitchenClearout linky hosted by Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews.

A day at the beach 500pc jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

best jigsaw puzzles, Ravensburger puzzles

We all love the seaside, and can't think of any better outdoors activity than running on the beach and splashing in the waves. Alas, we live pretty far from any beach and usually stay by the sea once a year, when we go to Cornwall. Though last year we also spent a couple of days in Brighton, and remember that short break with fondness.
We can't wait when we can go back to our favourite beach in Cornwall in summer.
A Day At The Beach 500 piece puzzle is a bright and colourful puzzle, which makes us think of long summer days by the sea.

best jigsaw puzzles

I'm not sure if this is the image of the old Brighton pier, or a generic picture of a vintage pier. It invokes nostalgic memories of childhood holidays and summers past, with the Punch and Judy show on the beach, donkey rides, sandcastles and flasks of tea in the breeze.
This vintage-style jigsaw puzzle was created by artist Andy Walker, who has been a professional illustrator for 30 years.

The finished puzzle measures 49x36cm, and is easily do-able as the details on the pieces give you hints as to where they should go. This puzzle is suitable for ages 10 years+, but our 6-year-old son was happy to join me and hunt for pieces needed to complete the puzzle. He's getting better and better with this super-relaxing hobby, and often asks me if I need help with a puzzle.

Like all Ravensburger puzzles, it is made from strong premium grade cardboard, with linen finish to minimise glare on puzzle image.
This cheerful jigsaw puzzle will make a lovely gift for any puzzle fan. I love all the details - with happy children, a small airplane carrying a banner and hungry seagulls waiting to swoop on you and snatch an ice cream cone.

Building sandcastles is such a wonderful summer pastime. Observing the sand activities around us, I often notice that it is the parents who are most competitive about digging the biggest trenches or erecting the tallest sandcastle.

I look at this charming puzzle, and think of how happy we are on the beach.

This puzzle also makes me smile, probably for the wrong reason.
The inane-grinning couple reminds me of The Goosebumps, with their "normal" characters who turn out to be some evil monsters or aliens pretending to be real people. What do you think?

Disclosure: We received this jigsaw puzzle for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Brackenheath ispot blade desk lamp

desk lamps

Reading and blogging are two of my favourite evening activities. My table is far from being clutter-free, I have lots of magazines, newspapers cuttings lying around, books piled not so neatly, pens and colouring pens, my camera, notebooks, a laptop and ipad, plus an inevitable cup of tea or coffee. But this is my creative chaos. By the evening my eyes are quite tired, and a good source of light is indispensable.
I don't have a study room of my own, and my working table is often a play area for Eddie who is a Lego fiend (so add one zillion of minifigures to my creative mess ambience).
With a new desk lamp from Ormrod, the atmosphere is more conducive to work.
Brackenheath ispot blade desk lamp is available in two colours - black and white, two colours which are the easiest to enhance any interior colour scheme. It currently retails at £37.62.

best desk lamps

It is a LED desk lamp, with adjustable colour temperature, from warm white 3000K to daylight 6500K.
The lamp head rotates at 180°, with an 90° adjustable lamp arm. It is dimmable via touch control.

On top of all these features, it has a built in USB charging port, perfect for charging phones and other digital devices.
This desk lamp folds away for easy storage, though in our case it doesn't need to be folded. If anything, we can't decide between ourselves who would have this desk lamp.

desk lamp

In the last few weeks my husband is finishing to edit his book and works late in the night. A good lighting is crucial for his work, so I let him have the desk lamp (for the time being). He appreciated the USB charging facility, as he and his iphone are inseparable.

The slim design of this desk lamp would fit many interior styles. I have placed it in several different rooms, on different surfaces, and I think it works well with all of them, for example, with the antique desk...

... as well as a simple wooden modern-style computer table/desk.

See the full range of stylish lighting at Ormrod. I have already bookmarked a couple of things that I love there, including the most fantastic nautical lamps.

Disclosure: We received the desk lamp for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Ravensburger Colin Thompson's Funtastic Adult Colouring Book

Colin Thompson, the world's best-loved jigsaw puzzle artist, is one of my favourite modern illustrators. I have enjoyed quite a few of his wonderful jigsaw puzzles (see, for example, my reviews of Flying Home and The Inventor's Cupboard).
I was thrilled to discover that I can revisit his unique designs in a new colouring book for adults.

Ravensburger Colin Thompson's Funtastic Adult Colouring Book is a splendid gift to all fans of this remarkable artist.

There are 72 pages in total, which will take you many hours to complete. I have only started working on it, doing slowly a few details at a time, as a chance to relax. I imagine it will be my long-running project to complete.
There are 35 double page spreads taken from Thompson's popular jigsaw puzzles. Some I have recognised at once - like The Inventor's Cupboard or The Bizarre Bookshop, some are completely new to me.

colouring books for adults

Each design is printed in half-tones for the increased depth. Illustrations are crammed with amazing wacky creatures. Fantastic landscapes and bookshelves, architectural constructions and flying machines, quirky animals and humans, each illustration tells a story.
I love reading all the book titles, which are puns on the famous books - for example, Last Mango in Paris, The Great Brain Robbery, The Spy Who Came in With a Cold, The Satanic Nurses, The Taming of the Yew, Tizer with Rosie, Lord of the Files, and many more, some more amusing than the others.

The designs are printed on high quality paper. I have used very basic colouring pens from a Poundshop, and I think I need to invest in good quality watercolour pencils to do justice to this clever book. Felt pens are too bright and cover too much of the intricate shading.

Some designs are easy - for the hesitant colourist, maybe a beginner - finishing which will inspire you to move...

... to more intricate designs...

...and some rather fiendish pages for the intrepid colouring fans.

I was delighted to see some of my old favoruites which I enjoyed piecing as jigsaw puzzles, like this - The Red Box. The design shows a magic oriental red lacquer box, with lots of drawers. You find all sorts of hidden treasures inside, as well as some mystic mini-figures.
You'll see a beautiful Blue Willow patterned piece and a red lantern, a golden koi carp, elegant old pieces of china, a smiling Buddha and much more.

colouring books for adults

The book is suitable for ages 12+, but it might also appeal to younger audience. Eddie is 6 (7 in summer), but he was fascinated with the book. He looks enviously at my colouring and begged me to let him do some colouring as well. I suggested he could choose some pages to work on, but warned him to be very careful and attentive to detail.

So far he did just a few little details.

Colouring for grown-ups is a trendy these days, and this book will give hours of pleasure to all colouring enthusiasts.

Disclosure: I received the colouring book for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are my own.