Friday, 28 June 2013

June’s Blog Review

‘Flaming June’ it may not have been, but at least some warm sunny days have enabled us to get out and about to various visitor attractions and enjoy some traditional family picnics.

With this in mind, this month I wrote several reviews about places that I have visited and would recommend. These have included Bressingham Steam Museum and Gardens, Norfolk (a great fun family day out), The Hop Farm, Kent (offering free admission and reasonably priced rides) and some lesser-known English Heritage sites, such as Burgh Castle.

One of the main irritations that I addressed this month was the way that certain companies ask you to ‘hold for a moment’ then proceed to abandon you for what seems like ages. Comments from readers included stories of extremely long waits, tales of being passed between a series of unhelpful people and complaints about the cost of such lengthy calls. At least companies that use 0800 numbers allow you to listen to their annoying music, stony silence or intermittent recorded messages for free!

Some of the other topics that I wrote about this month were camping (great fun, low cost holidays), moving your static caravan (easier than you would think) paying for public toilets and the worst shops as defined by a recent consumer survey.

It was thumbs up for Avon Eyeshadow Primer and Bookstart, but thumbs down for Belvita Breakfast Biscuits.

Next month there’ll be more visitor attraction reviews, more verdicts on products and no doubt a bit more ranting about life’s irritations.

Thanks for reading.

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

What Makes A Bad Shop?

In a recent ‘Which?’ survey, shoppers voted WH Smith the worst retailer (‘messy and expensive’), with TK Maxx scoring pretty low too.

I believe that over the years WH Smith has deteriorated, with some of their stores feeling less inviting and more cramped. A branch in a neighbouring town has been reduced to half its size, resulting in everything being ‘shoe-horned’ into a much smaller area. Taller shelf systems were installed, forming narrower walkways, and I now avoid going in there as it makes me feel quite claustrophobic.

Before this change I was a much more frequent visitor to the store, which was spacious and well organised. Ok, so having less floor space has obviously reduced overheads, but has possibly also meant a further reduction in customers and so profits. Of course, one of the reasons that consumers may no longer rate WHSmith is that one of the main items that it stocks, books, can be bought much more cost-effectively from the supermarket shelves.

Certain branches of Clintons card shops have had a similar ‘make under’, with some very tall shelving being installed in cramped aisles. At least they have started pricing their cards individually, meaning that you don’t have to hunt around for annoying price codes and charts any more.

Although TK Maxx does offer some good bargains, I can’t help feeling that I’m walking into a jumble sale when I enter the store. Sorting through rails of mismatched clothing very quickly becomes boring to my mind, and I soon lose all patience, give up and go somewhere that displays their clothing in a more user-friendly way.

Surprisingly to me, pound and 99p stores rated quite highly in the survey, although personally I have found many of these shops disorganised and uninviting, with the exception of a few good branches. True, prices are low, but I expect a shop to be welcoming and offer good, friendly service – I don’t want someone to just shout, “Next please,” and proceed to stuff my purchases into a bag whilst wearing a bored expression. Hold the complaints about that comment; I do speak from genuine experience.

So what makes a bad shop? Well of course there can be a lot of variation between different branches of the same store, but I believe chaotic displays, cramped environments, unhelpful staff and goods that are unrealistically priced all make a bad shop, but what do you think?

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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Second Class Service

I only ever buy second class stamps and have always preferred to buy them in books of six. However, on a recent visit to the shops, everywhere that I requested a book of ‘six second class stamps’, I was told that they now only sold them in books of twelve.

I found this extremely annoying as I really only wanted a maximum of six. One assistant did tell me I could have a book of six – if I bought first class, but I use second class post on principle.

Many a time I have posted a card or letter sporting a second class stamp for it to arrive at its destination the next day, so by using first class post I would have paid extra for nothing! OK other times it takes two or three days, but I just ensure that I post letters in good time to save expense. After all, second class stamps cost 50p each and first class cost 60p, with the difference between the two amounting to quite a bit over time.

Of course, I can remember the time when a postage stamp cost about 2p, and when stamps were first introduced they cost just one old penny. But at least we no longer have to pay for the letters that we receive, which is how the system operated in its early days. Imagine having to pay to receive the bills and junk mail that you are sent! Although you could actually refuse to receive your post rather than pay the fee.

It just appears that now I will either have to relent and buy a book of twelve second class stamps in one go, or join the mammoth queue at the Post Office to obtain any number that I choose to name. Either way, what I refuse to do is send my letters first class!

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Monday, 24 June 2013

Carry On (Or Start) Camping!

Camping holidays are great fun and very cost effective too (once you have bought the initial equipment).

I was brought up on camping holidays. In the summer we would load up the car and head down to Ladram Bay in Devon, to literally ‘set up camp’ for a couple of weeks. The combination of the outdoor living, fresh sea air and camaraderie made for great holidays.

Whilst there for my birthday one year, I woke early and proceeded to dance around the outside of our tent, singing. “Happy Birthday to me!” A very good-natured camper emerged from the  tent opposite and presented me with half a crown (that’s showing my age), despite not having previously met us, having arrived late the night before! My birthday was celebrated with an on-site party, the guest list for which consisted of a number of children that I had never met before, or since – but it was great fun!

In more recent years, I have been camping with my own family. My son still loves the experience, but as my daughters got older they found it a hardship more than a pleasure – lack of hair straighteners and TV soaps!

Not that I’m a camper that ‘roughs it’ exactly. I insist on a toilet and shower block as a minimum requirement on any campsite and more recently elected for electric hook up so that we could have a little fridge and recharge our lamps.

When choosing camping equipment, your list needn’t be huge. Do choose a tent big enough for your needs, but not too complicated to put up. We opted for tent that we could actually stand up in (our crawling days are numbered) with three bedroom compartments. I strongly recommend airbeds as opposed to bed mats, which can be a little thin for uneven ground. Apart from that a sleeping bag each, some form of compact portable cooking stove, a cool box (or small fridge if electricity available) and some rechargeable lamps form your basic kit. We take folding chairs and a folding table, so that we can eat in comfort, but once tried taking one of those all in one picnic table and bench arrangements. What a disaster! It collapsed completely on its second time of use, resulting in me wearing my pasta rather than eating it!

A sorry sight - a dead picnic table!
Weather permitting (did I mention I’m a fair weather camper?) camping holidays can be brilliant fun, good value for money and mean you can visit places that you may not ordinarily manage to go. We’ve enjoyed staying on a number of UK sites and have ventured to France, but have also found a tent in a friend or relatives garden makes for great fun too!

So come on, what are you waiting for? Get camping!

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Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Hop Farm, Kent

Over the years we’ve made many visits to the Hop Farm at Paddock Wood, Kent and during that time it’s undergone many changes.

In the early days of our visits it was known as ‘The Whitbread Hop Farm’ with the emphasis on the Shire Horses, but was later taken over by Southern Water, then Hop Farm Trading.

Over the years many attractions have been added, with some remaining (including various children’s rides) and others falling by the wayside (such as the dubious waxworks display).

This year new owners have taken over the Hop Farm, and admission is now free! In view of this we decided to revisit the attraction, picking a sunny Saturday afternoon for our trip.

It now costs £1 to park your car at the Hop Farm, which is a bargain, in view of the free admission. Once inside, certain attractions, such as the farmyard, play area and crazy golf can be enjoyed at no additional cost, whilst you need to buy tokens for other rides and exhibits. These tokens cost £1 each, with different attractions requiring 1, 2 or 3 tokens.

How did we do this?
The best value of these, to my mind, was the Magic Castle, costing just one token per person. The ‘castle’ is full of optical illusions and fun tricks to try out, before leaving via a mirror maze. Kids will love the driving school and giant jumping pillows, whilst we noticed there is now a 4D cinema, though we have not tried this out as yet.

What is really great about the new free admission offered here, is that it’s now possible to dip in and out of what the Hop Farm has to offer, making more frequent short visits to view a couple of attractions at a time.

On the day we visited there was also a polo tournament in progress, which was free to watch. A full list of events is available on the website

The only downside of the day was the price of the ice creams. A van parked on the site was charging £3 for an oyster (my favourite ice cream), needless to say I didn't bother buying one!

If you plan to visit from further afield, then you’ll be interested to know that there are camping/touring caravan pitches available at very reasonable prices.

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Thursday, 20 June 2013

June’s Random Thoughts

Can anyone explain to me why when searching for Daisy Ironing Water at, the search results showed a selection of 24 seemingly random items ranging from Farley’s Rusks to Jack Daniels Whisky?

Where have all the swings gone? Many children’s playgrounds have had the swings (with the exception of the baby ones) removed, whilst new play areas do not include them in the first place. I know that swings remain popular, as whenever I take my son to a park where they still exist, there is always a queue for them. So what’s the logic? Is it a question of ‘health and safety gone mad’? We used to use swings without limiters on concrete bases, at least now there are safety surfaces and swings seem to be made to only reach a certain height.

I’ve spotted Tango (of the orange fizzy drink fame) shower gel in the shops, but have refrained from trying it as I worry it will turn me orange, like the odd little man that used to pop up on the soft drink ads.

Impossible instruction at my local Tesco, written on the box for the plastic bags at the greengrocery section: ‘Please select one at a time’. Have you actually tried doing that? You're lucky if you end up with a minimum of three in any one go!

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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Spending Twenty Pennies

Some time ago, the shopping centre in a neighbouring town introduced charges to use the public toilets. The conveniences themselves were refurbished, a turnstile entry system installed and a 20p charge applied.

Decided on symbolic rather than graphic picture
A large number of people then proceeded to moan about the charges, which admittedly took a bit of getting used to after being free for so long. However, I have seen the benefits of this system – cleaner toilets with paper and soap always readily available and no graffiti or vandalism!

Meanwhile, some shoppers were so outraged (I presume this was a small minority) that they refused to use the toilets, and a nearby clothing retailer had to close off their changing cubicles due to ‘misuse’. I will spare you the details as related to me by a shocked shop assistant, but can you believe that people would stoop so low?

Years ago, there was commonly a charge in place for public toilets, originally a penny, later I remember a 2p charge. In those days you put your money directly in the door of a cubicle, sometimes discovering that you had got the short straw and had paid for a cubicle in a right old state. At least now with the turnstile system, you can opt for a toilet that you actually feel that you can use.

The first recorded incidence of having to ‘spend a penny’ to use a public toilet was at The Great Exhibition in London in 1851. The phrase has stuck as a euphemism to this day, although not so widely used.

So whilst many public toilets remain free to use, there are cases where the introduction of charges has definitely lead to an improvement to facilities. Do you agree with charges to use a public toilet?

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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Budget Brands: Daisy Household Products

In an attempt to reduce our shopping bills, many of us are swapping some of our ‘big brand’ products for supermarket own versions or budget brands.

I’ve made quite a few of these swaps in recent months, with one of my latest discoveries being the Daisy brand available at Tesco.

The first product that I tried from this range was the ironing water. Ok this item in itself may seem an extravagance, but I find the waft of scented steam makes the ironing process a bit more bearable. I have tried Comfort Vaporesse, but at £1.40 this is becoming a bit pricey, so too is Tesco own label, which has fluctuated between 80p and £1.20 at various times, though is currently selling at 90p. Costing just 79p*, Daisy Lilac Blossom ironing water has a lovely fragrance, and is just as good as the dearer brands.

Something I always begrudge spending money on is bin bags. For the smaller bins in our house, we use recycled carrier bags (when we get them, though we often reuse bags), but for the larger swing bin and refuse sacks, I need to purchase bags without paying too much. Daisy 50L tie handle swing bin bags cost just £1.11 for 25, and do the job just as well as more expensive versions. The 70L tie top refuse sacks also represent great value at £1.49 for 20.

I’m certainly planning to buy more of the products in the range, including washing up 500ml for just 59p and 1L bottles of fabric softener for 99p.

Have you tried the Daisy range?

*When I bought the ironing water prior to writing this blog, I paid 79p, but I have now seen it on the shelves for the higher price of 89p! It seems that prices change with the weather these days.

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Monday, 17 June 2013

Static Caravans – Update

Many of you may be familiar with me waffling on about my ‘happy place’ – my static caravan situated in East Anglia.

Back in September of last year, I explained that it is possible to change the location of your static caravan more simply than you may think.

In the post ‘Static Caravans Can Move’ I wrote:

“Providing that you own your caravan outright, (are not tied in to any finance deal with the company) you are free to move. Some park owners may prefer you not to know this, and should you express a desire to leave the site, will probably offer the following suggestions:

a)    Allow them to buy back the caravan from you. Translation: Offer a price bearing no resemblance to the price you paid them, or its current worth, so they can sell it on for only fractionally less than you paid when you bought it.
b)    Sell the caravan yourself on site. Translation: Selling must not involve any on-site advertising; the park owner will not assist in the sale in any way; the company is allowed to approach your potential buyers to sell them a caravan of theirs instead; the company will claim 15% commission when you sell.
c)    Sell for scrap. Translation: cut your losses and clear off.

Of course, I must point out that not every caravan park owner is as ruthless as this, there are some really quite helpful ones out there, who give better advice and help properly with selling your caravan, but there are those who adopt the attitude outlined above – shame on you, you know who you are!

However, I am pleased to report that there are an increasing number of caravan parks that will allow you to site your own caravan and moving it is not as expensive as you may think, in the region of £350 for transport depending on the distance/area/etc. Of course, you do have to pay a disconnection fee at the site you are leaving, as well as a connection fee at your new site, but if you shop around these costs may be cancelled out by lower site fees at your new chosen park.”

Our caravan was originally sited at place called Marlie Farm in South Kent, a caravan park that is part of the Park Holidays chain. Unfortunately the standards of maintenance and management on the site fell quite badly (grass was not cut, reported problems were not dealt with etc), whilst the fees continued to rise sharply. The final straw came when a staff member was actually quite rude to us.

A discussion with the area manager of Park Holidays proved very useful, as he revealed how much cheaper and easier it was to move a static caravan than I had imagined. Of course, his plan had been for us to move to another of their sites, but we had other plans.

After spending time researching and visiting sites, we found our present location in East Anglia – a delightful caravan park overlooking the sea, which is part of a much smaller group. The staff there are so friendly and helpful, the site is well maintained and any problems are dealt with quickly and efficiently, whilst site fees are lower than at our previous site.

It really is worth looking around if for any reason you are unhappy with your current caravan park.

If you struggle with the yearly site fees, then why not get together as group, share the fees and draw up a rota of who uses the caravan for a holiday and when? Alternatively, rent out your caravan when you’re not using it yourself. Whilst some parks ask you to pay a commission for this, others are happy for you to keep the whole rental fee, knowing that it could be the difference between you being able to afford a caravan there, or having to leave.

So remember my original message – Static Caravans Can Move!

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Friday, 14 June 2013

Just A Moment

How many times do you ring a doctor’s surgery, school office, bank or wherever, to hear a voice at the other end say the words, “Can you just hold for a moment?”

I mean, how long is a moment anyway? The dictionary definition of a moment is ‘a very brief period of time’ with brief defined as ‘short duration’. But then what is short? Is time, like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder? I’ve been kept waiting anything from a matter of seconds to a good ten minutes, all of which apparently constitute a ‘moment’.

My time is precious, so quite honestly I’d much prefer people to admit that they’re really too busy to deal with my call any time soon, so that I can just cut my losses and ring back later, as opposed to hanging on the line dwelling on all the things that I could be doing.

Worse still are the lines where an automated message tells you that you’re ‘in a queue’ (thank you for calling, your call is important to us, blah-de-blah) without giving any indication of waiting time. I have called some numbers where you are actually given an idea of your place number in the queue, which at least allows you to decide whether to wait or not, so why can’t more companies take this approach?

The worst scenario of all is where you’re kept waiting for absolutely ages, only to be ‘accidentally’ cut off at the last minute, so that you have to repeat the whole process!

Oh, is that the phone? If you could just hold on for a moment …

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Thursday, 13 June 2013

This June I’m Loving…

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, a wonderful read. I love Kate Morton’s books and really enjoy the way that she combines stories from the past and with what’s happening in the present. This book tells Laurel’s story, portraying her current life in 2011, whilst haunted by memories of 1961, which prove quite disturbing. These memories along with new information make her curious about her mother’s life in wartime Britain – a real page-turner!

Boots Zingy Lemon Shower Gel, a creamy, refreshing body wash, which reminds me of the lemon sherbet that I used to buy as a child, costing just £1.

The current (dated July) issue of Red Magazine containing a great selection of articles, beauty and fashion pages, and now on sale for just £2 at Tesco, as opposed to the normal cover price of £4. This issue includes a free 15ml tube of Elemis Pro-radiance Illuminating Flash Balm, which ‘tightens and brightens’, ideal for giving your skin a real boost.

Aero chocolate biscuits (especially the orange variety), which are really tasty and are only 99 calories per biscuit!

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Wednesday, 12 June 2013

DS Games: Cate West Vanishing Files

It’s been some since I last reviewed a DS game, but today I’m looking at one that I’ve played and replayed several times over – Cate West Vanishing Files.

Cate is a writer who has ‘visions’ that help her to solve a series of crimes occurring in the city of Arcadia.

As with so many of these games, hidden object levels features heavily, but with this game the graphics are good with many of the objects cleverly, though not impossibly, hidden.

Other levels in the game include spot the difference, a ‘replace the objects’ level that is a bit like spot the difference, but you replace the missing objects in one of the pictures, and a game that involves eliminating possible suspects using given clues. The worrying thing about that level is that one of the suspects looks alarmingly like Jimmy Carr, which was a bit unsettling.

I do enjoy playing this game, as it’s a bit more challenging than some, with a bit of variety too. I really recommend giving this game a go.

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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Not So Forgotten Ruins

We love to visit places of historical interest including castles, stately homes, forts etc and are members of English Heritage.

I’ve previously written about some of my favourite English Heritage locations such as Kenilworth Castle, Audley End and Dover Castle, but more recently we have been taking a look at some of their ‘lesser’ sites.

In addition to a selection of grand houses and imposing structures, English Heritage manage some smaller sites, which consist of ancient ‘ruins’, which are often free to visit for members and non-members alike.

One such site is St Olave’s Priory in Norfolk, which includes a well-kept, brick-vaulted refectory undercroft (14th Century) amongst the remains of the original priory walls. This is a great little site, though it’s a bit tricky to find. We didn’t spot any signs marking its location, but eventually found it in the corner of the Priory Farm Restaurant car park – logical I suppose, if not obvious.

Burgh Castle, even this photo doesn't do it justice
Also in Norfolk, we visited Burgh Castle, which was much easier to find thanks to a series of useful brown signs. After parking our car in the small, neat car park, we wandered across the fields to find what we had presumed to be minor ruins, as the only photo that we had seen showed a small section of wall against the backdrop of the Norfolk Broads. However, the sight that met our eyes was much more amazing – huge, imposing walls – the remains of a Roman Fort. We ate our picnic in this stunning setting, gazing at the view depicted in that original photo that we’d seen and really enjoyed our time spent there.

Back on a smaller scale, Caister Roman Fort is situated on Norwich Road, Caister, but be careful not to drive past as we did first time round. Sitting unassumingly at the roadside, the remains of this fort are well worth a view as they include evidence of the hypocaust, underfloor heating system.

We really enjoyed our tour of the more minor English Heritage sites in Norfolk and intend to visit more similar ones around the country.

For more about English Heritage, including membership and a full list of properties, visit

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Monday, 10 June 2013

Old-Fashioned Thrift

Over recent years, due to the recession and a change in personal circumstances for many of us, we probably consider ourselves to be exercising ‘thrift’.

Paying bills by direct debit to ‘spread the cost’, stocking up on cheap supermarket offers, making use of discount vouchers, swapping branded products for shop’s own, limiting treats and so on are all ways that we try to cut our costs.

However, the so-called thrift measures that we employ today aren’t quite on the level that I remember from my childhood (cue violins). Not that we actually suffered then as such, but people’s priorities have changed, and some now consider themselves hard up if they can’t afford the latest gadget or sunshine holiday.

A survey last year revealed that many young women would rather go without food than cut back on trips to the hairdresser/manicurist/tanning salon!

As a child, I remember the excitement when my family acquired our first chest freezer. We visited our local frozen food warehouse (Cartiers in Rochester), which also sold bulk-sized containers of grocery items. Once all the purchases were safely stowed away at home, my mother proceeded to break down the costs of all the food items, calculating how much each sausage/pie/bag of crisps/chicken portion actually cost, noting down the prices. From then on each time that an item was used, the cost of it was placed in a specially allocated jar. If I wanted a bag of crisps, I would either ‘buy’ it with my pocket money, placing the necessary coins in the jar, or my mum would ‘treat’ me and put the money in herself. When the original supplies ran out, there was enough money in the jar to re-stock them.

Early on in my married life I had one of those cash boxes with little compartments marked ‘gas’, ‘electricity’, ‘food’ and so on. Once the required amounts of money had been allocated to each, then I knew that any ‘surplus’ funds (if any) were available to save or splash out on a treat.

I don’t use any of these actual methods today, but I do collect odd coins until they are sufficient to use for a treat, and in a more 21st century way, accumulate loyalty card points to pay for ‘extras’. Some of you may collect supermarket savings stamps, putting a few odd pounds on your card at each shop, to help buy supplies when things get tight.

Personally, I would never sacrifice food or skimp on other essentials to pay for beauty products or treats, but hope that by employing a bit of good old-fashioned thrift, careful budgeting and a little of the ‘make-do-and-mend’ mentality, I can afford not only the necessities, but the odd little treat too!

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Friday, 7 June 2013

Bressingham Steam Museum and Gardens

On my travels last week, I visited Bressingham Steam Museum and Gardens near Diss, Norfolk.

When a sunny Bank Holiday dawned, it seemed the perfect opportunity to have a family outing, and as we had previously driven past Bressingham, but not actually ventured inside, decided it was time that we checked it out.

The drive into the attraction was a bit like going on a mystery tour – a winding track meandered along until it reached the car park – or parking field as it technically was, but more on that later.

Bressingham boasts some beautifully stunning gardens (17 acres), especially the quaintly named, award-winning, ‘foggy bottom’. The lovingly-tended, ‘private’ garden of the Bloom family is open to view at certain times and is a wonderful place to sit and soak up the natural surroundings.

Of course, what my son was really eager to see was the steam museum and all that it has to offer. On ‘steam days’ (Wed – Sun and Bank Holidays) you can purchase an inclusive ticket (£12.95 adults, £8.95 children, Tesco Days Out Vouchers accepted), which entitles you to unlimited rides on the narrow gauge steam trains and three rides on the steam carousel.

We really enjoyed riding the trains, one line takes you around the gardens, another tours the old nursery area and a third travels over the water meadows. The steam carousel, known as the ‘gallopers’, built over a hundred years ago, proclaims it was ‘built to last’, and it sure has! As tunes from Mary Poppins played, I could imagine the horses riding off across the fields as they did in the film.

We also loved the collection of steam engines and the fun Dad’s Army Walmington-On-Sea display, including original props. My son delighted at the old penny machines, whilst for an extra charge, we could have ridden the waltzers and dodgems.

The one little blip of the day occurred on our arrival at the parking field. Unfortunately our car became stuck in a previously unnoticed muddy patch. However, the Bressingham staff came to the rescue, towing us out of the mud, offering apologies and then promptly roping off the ‘dodgy’ area, so all ended well.

We loved our trip to Bressingham – there was plenty to see and do, the staff and volunteers were friendly and helpful and the day represented good value for money (even the ice creams were reasonably priced). I thoroughly recommend Bressingham for a fun family day out. For more information visit

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Thursday, 6 June 2013

Eye Care Products – Update

I previously wrote about the changes in packaging for Boots No7 products, explaining that I felt their Stay Perfect Smoothing and Brightening Eye Base and Beautiful Skin Eye Make Up Remover had suffered from the changes.

I have now tried some alternatives to these products.

I have swapped the eye base, which is now in a smaller pot and less user-friendly in my opinion, for Avon Eyeshadow Primer, usually costing £7, but bought on offer for £4. This has a lovely creamy texture that is easy to apply, a little goes a long way and my eye make-up really does seem to last all the longer for it.

Meanwhile as a replacement for the No7 eye make up remover, which had changed from a handy pump dispenser delivering the correct amount, to a wide-necked bottle from which the product flowed at an alarming rate, I have bought Garnier Simply Essentials Soothing Eye Make Up Remover. Not only is this easier to use, as it has a much smaller opening in the top of the bottle, meaning I only have to use a few drops at a time, it also costs much less at just £2.99 a bottle as opposed to the increased price of  £8.50, (I only ever bought it with a No7 £5 off voucher, sometimes issued at the till), now charged for the Boots version.

Finally, some months ago I recommended, Skin Therapy Cotton Wool Pads (Oval, Large), 65p for 50 at Wilkinson. However, whilst I used to find these quite absorbent, more recently the pads seem to be thinner, meaning that I have had to use two in place of the normal one, and therefore pay £1.30 for 50 actual uses. I have now changed to Tesco Loves Baby Cotton Wool Pad Squares. Ok, these are dearer at £1.65 for 50, but they are really thick, soft and absorbent and great for removing make-up, so I strongly recommend them. 

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Wednesday, 5 June 2013


When my daughter registered my grandson’s birth a couple of weeks ago, she was presented with a pack containing some delightful board books courtesy of Bookstart.

Bookstart is run by Booktrust, an independent charity given funding by the Department of Education and aimed at encouraging people of all ages to have access to and get enjoyment from books. Visit to learn more.

I’m an avid reader and certainly don’t have to be told the value of books, but think this is a great scheme to encourage more reluctant readers to become interested in all that books have to offer.

I read and looked at books with all three of my children from a very young age and felt ‘robbed’ when they became too old for bedtime stories. My mother read to me daily when I was young, and I was taken to the library on a regular basis, to choose books on my dad’s library card. When I was old enough to go the library with my own card, to choose my own books (accompanied by big sister), I made a beeline for the section marked ‘older children’. The librarian, on noticing this, peered over her desk and pointed out, “The books for younger children are over there!” To which my young, very precocious self replied, “Yes, I know, but I’ve read all of those already!”

To this day I read, on average, a couple of books a week and would encourage everyone to persevere with books even if they don’t immediately get much from them. It may take time to find the type of book that really works for you, but it will be there somewhere.

Now I’m looking forward to reading stories to my grandson and having another generation of book-lovers in the family.

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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Breakfast Biscuits

When I first saw breakfast biscuits advertised I thought the idea was a little strange. Ok, so I’ve been known to grab a couple of rich tea or digestive biscuits with a coffee on days when I just can’t face a ‘proper” breakfast, but a biscuit actually designed for the job, could that be healthy?

Whenever I can, I try to have a bowl of cereal or slice of toast for breakfast, with maybe some eggs or a croissant at weekends, but when I have to make a really early start I can’t always face a full meal.

So one day I caved in and bought some breakfast biscuits.

The first ones that I tried were Belvita Breakfast Crunchy Oats, which are apparently 68% cereal. These were OK but lacked something for me and are actually quite pricey (when not buying them half price, which surprise, surprise is what I did).

Another day, another offer, and I tried Belvita Breakfast Yogurt Crunch with live yogurt and honey. I much preferred these sandwich-style biscuits with a honey taste, but still consider them far too expensive when not on offer. They apparently contain 115 calories per biscuit (they come in sealed packs of two), 4.4g fat and 6.6g of sugar, whilst the average digestive contains 71 calories, has 3.2g fat and 2.6g of sugar, and is kinder to my purse. 

Looks like I might as well stick to plan A then – a couple of digestives when I can’t face breakfast!

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Monday, 3 June 2013

This June Why Not…?

Treat Dad to a train trip. With Fathers’ Day in the UK on 16th June this year, there are various events taking place up and down the country aimed at treating your dad to a day out. Many steam railways are offering special events and tickets for Fathers’ Day, including the Watercress Line (Hampshire) and the Bluebell Railway (Sussex). The Kent and East Sussex Railway are offering a return train ride for dads, including a ploughman’s lunch or cream tea, a bottle of the railway’s special beer, Dad’s Delight, and a packet of man-sized chocolate buttons.

Prepare your feet for strappy sandals. With temperatures rising (I’m ever the optimist), now’s the time to ensure that your feet will pass scrutiny when sporting a pair of strappy sandals. Trim toenails (cutting straight across to prevent ingrowth), and then treat skin with a creamy, effective moisturiser such as Nivea Soft, applying a more heavy-duty cream such as Simple Derma Intensive Relief Cream to drier patches. Finish off with a striking nail polish such as Max Factor Max Effect Mini Nail Polish in Deep Coral.

Add avocado to your salad. I get really fed up with what passes as salad in many cafés and restaurants – a token slice or two of cucumber and tomato with masses of droopy leaf. Whilst I enjoy some nice, crisp lettuce, limp leaves just don’t work for me. And where’s the imagination? Salad should include other ingredients, such as grated carrot, sliced beetroot, chopped spring onions, diced peppers etc. As a child, when we were served salad as part of our school dinner, it sometimes contained segments of orange and a few peanuts, or slices of apple and some raisins. Today I really enjoy some sliced avocado as part of a salad. Avocadoes are high in protein, boost our HDL (good cholesterol) levels and are said to have anti-inflammatory properties, making them healthy as well as tasty.

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