Kids Online

Of course you don’t have to let your kids go online. Even if you, yourself, have an active internet life, it’s easy enough to keep your toddler away from ‘mummy’s toy’.

But as your children grow, and become more curious, they are going to want to ‘have a go’. They will use computers at school, see them on TV and at their friends’ houses. The chances are high that they will use computers in some way when they grow up and get a job.

And really, it’s not fair to deprive them of this. The Internet might sometimes be portrayed as seething with things we’d rather our children didn’t see, and people we’d rather they didn’t come into contact with, but it’s also fun, educational and useful. All you need to use it safely is a little common sense. read more

Sponsored Video: Homes For London.

If London is your home right now, the chances are good that where you live now comes down to luck. Good luck and bad.

I arrived in London in 1998 with barely £2K to my name. In doing so, I had already missed out on the opportunity to buy a place of my own very cheaply in London.

The first place I lived in, in London, was Hammersmith. I shared a second and third floor flat with 2 other girls. I don’t remember what the rent was back then; it wasn’t cheap but I was single with a good job and no dependants. I could afford it. My future DH was sharing a flat in Islington. Again; not cheap but he had a good job and no dependants.

Many of my friends had already bought property of their own in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s. The ‘luckiest’ ones were those couples who owned a place of their own each before getting together. This scenario is less likely these days as house prices throughout London are now so high. But neither DH or I had saved enough for a deposit and we didn’t have parents who could help us, so we continued to rent. read more

Near Misses

Just a short one today, because I’m still feeling a bit rough from yesterday’s procedure.

For those of you who asked, it all checked out fine and I don’t have to worry about bowel cancer again for another 4-5 years, but after reading this article on Cancer Denial,  I’d like to urge anyone with unexplained and persistent pain, coughing or bowel or bladder problems to get to the GP, and get themselves checked out as soon as possible.

So many types of cancer are treatable these days, if they are picked up soon enough. Don’t let denial kill you.

And while I’m on a public service announcement kick, take a look at this video from Network Rail.

It’s intended to show the general public just what risks some idiots take on level crossings. I know that if you watch it you’ll be shaking your head and gasping, just as I did, so please make sure that you never end up on one of these videos.

I’m not sure what’s riskier; ignoring possible cancer symptoms or ignoring barriers and lights at a level crossing. Keep yourself safe, don’t do either!

**Today’s entry contains a sponsored link**

The HSBC Widget

If you bank elsewhere, you may wonder what on earth I’m on about, but if you are an HSBC customer, I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.

This is the culprit.

I know it looks like a cheap little calculator, but it’s actually a Secure Key Widget that HSBC have brought in to combat fraud. It acts by providing an extra layer of security when people try to access their accounts online. And it’s a complete pain in the *rse.

I’ve never been that keen on checking my bank balance. I could kid myself that it’s a hangover from the days where I had no money but tbh I’m not much better with my finances these days.

I hesitate to type this next sentence, as I regard myself as being reasonably computer-literate, but I do find remembering all my different passwords a little challenging. I have simply given up on a few websites that require too much in the way of security, but I used to be able to gather my wits about me and check my bank balance without too much preparation.

Since the introduction of this secure key widget, I’ll admit I struggle mightily.

Now, not only do you have to have to remember your PIN number, but you have to remember the answer to your security question. Then you have to read and enter the numbers that are displayed on the teeny screen. I don’t think you’d have to have too much of a problem with your vision to struggle to get these right.

My major problem with the widget is that I generally have trouble finding the bl**dy thing. HSBC have made their widget far too attractive to children and mine are always pinching it. So far I’ve always managed to hunt it down from where the kids have stuffed it down the back of the sofa, or buried it at the bottom of a toy basket. But I know there will come a day where I just won’t be able to find the bl**dy thing, no matter how hard I look. And you can bet your life that that’ll be the day that I absolutely need to access my account.

And I also worry about what would happen if the widget broke, or ran out of batteries. There always seems to be a delay between pressing the ON button and the PIN prompt appearing; sometimes nothing happens and I have to press the button again. Does everyone have this problem, or do I have a faulty widget?  If it refuses to work entirely, I will have to take it back to a branch (and queue to do so) and then wait 5 working days for a new one to be mailed out. During this time I would be unable to access my bank account at all.

Then, if you want to check your balance or move some money around at work, or out of the house, you have to carry your widget around with you. There are some reports that say you can use ‘anyones’ widget; I’d be interested to learn if this was true.

I know there will be some organised people who find this widget no trouble at all, but I’m not one of those people. I definitely check my bank balance a lot less these days because it’s just too much hassle. I can’t help thinking that by making the use of these widgets compulsory, HSBC has passed the responsibility of keeping our bank accounts secure over to us slightly more forcefully than I would have liked.

I think we should be able to opt out of using it, if we would prefer not to. I’d be first in line for such an option.

Wild Science Lip Balm Laboratory: A Review

DD1 is my most girly girl. Despite my lack of interest in anything resembling fashion or make up, she seems quite clued up on these topics. I’m not that worried; there was a time when I too tried to keep up with what was ‘in’. I’m sure it’s normal for 10 year old girls and doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to morph into some little airhead who finds science and maths ‘too hard’.

So when we were offered a Lip Balm Laboratory by Wild Science to review, I was only too pleased to accept. It’s billed as ‘perfect for girls who enjoy scientific experiments to create fantastic, but professional beauty products.’ I might not be thrilled about the beauty product aspect but they had me with ‘scientific experiment’. DD liked the idea too so it was all good. read more

Survival

I was 27 years old when I first stepped onto British soil.

My first impression of London was that it was cold and foggy and seemed to be made entirely out of concrete. I knew it wasn’t really, but my poor jet lagged brain refused to accept that I wasn’t actually yet in London. My sister was supposed to meet us on arrival  but after an hour of waiting around Arrivals we were forced to accept she wasn’t going to show, so my travelling companion and I descended the stairs to the tube system. I counted no less that 12 tube stops between us and our destination and was forced to accept that Heathrow was not actually the capital city of England.

I swear I felt my brain expand when I realised the scale of the city I was eventually to call home.Then what was left of my mind completely blew when I realised that the wind that was howling along the platform heralded the arrival of my very first tube train. It  was terrifying. It seemed so loud and fast that I didn’t think it was going to be able to stop. Of course it did, and then everyone, including us obediently and calmly climbed aboard to be whisked into the heart of London. read more

War Horse: A Lengthy, Beautiful Tear Jerker.

It’s half term here, so my blog entries aren’t going to break any records for length or information this week. I have 4 children to feed/entertain/ referee; 2 of them have projects to work on for the school science fair, and one of them has a theory exam in a couple of weeks time. I don’t have a whole lot of spare time.

So today you are going to have to make do with a review for the movie ‘War Horse’. I hope it’s helpful if you are one of the few people left on the planet who haven’t already seen it, and even if you have, it would be great you could reply telling me what you thought.

read more

The Land Of Sometimes: A Magical, Musical CD.

One of the cool things about writing a blog like this is that people often send me things to try. I unwrap them, put them in my review box and try to look for a chance to use them within the framework of our daily family life. Then I write about them and give an honest opinion.

Sometimes we have to go a little off piste to use the product, but other times it slots right in there, preferably somewhere between bath and bedtime. Finding the time to try it out can be an issue.

This CD, The Land Of Sometimes, was very easy to review. Our kids love music and are always singing along to something or making up their own songs. They also like stories and go to bed most nights listening to their CD players. So it was perfect for us.

DD1 almost bit my hand off when I waved the newly arrived CD in her direction and retreated to her room. It was bedtime, and I hoped it might induce a restful night’s sleep.

But it wasn’t to be; I could hear the introduction wafting through the walls and so could her sisters. The sounds of unfamiliar music attracted them like flies to a honeypot and shortly they were hammering at her door wanting to know what she was listening to.

In the end I had all three of them sitting around the CD player, listening to the story and trying to sing along to the songs. I knew it was going to be a big hit in this house, but pretty much gave up on the idea of using it as a bedtime CD; it’s too exciting!

The CD tells the story of Elise and Alfie, twins who travel to the Land Of Sometimes, an enchanting island where the seasons change according to the time of day, not the time of year. There they encounter a myriad of weird and wonderful characters, all of whom have a song to sing!

Each original song is of a different style, so this CD is a great introduction to a variety of different music styles, instruments and voices. The recommended age is ‘2-99’ which had my very literal 10 year old feeling slightly aggrieved for anyone 100 or over. She has got a point though; I’m not sure they need an age recommendation on this CD.

Obviously the target audience is going to be children, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a child who didn’t enjoy it. But this is easy listening at its most pleasant, so expect to find yourself listening along with your children. This is not a CD you will want to send them to their bedrooms with.

Slightly off topic, but is it only my children who feel compelled to make up an alternative world populated by such creatures as ‘Little Stink’ ( the fairy who does the farts no one owns up to), Mr Taller than Taller ( who can touch the sky) and Mrs Blimp ( who routinely floats up above the clouds and needs rescuing by Mr TtT. They eventually fall in love and marry) ? No? It’s only my kids then…

But back to the CD. In my opinion, this is a Must Have. We’ve had the CD for 3 weeks now and its appeal shows no signs of abating. It is still played every day; we usually have a quick blast in the morning while they are getting dressed, then again at night, before the lights go out.

The Land Of Sometimes goes on sale on the 6th of February and will cost £8.99. You can preorder it here. It would make a great present for any child who enjoys music and stories and provides a wholesome alternative to TV and video games if you are wanting to earn some good parenting points.

But, be warned. You are venturing into earworm territory with The Land Of Sometimes and should expect to find yourself humming ‘Little Twink’ at least 5 times a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I Would Like Invented.

If there is anyone out there looking for something to invent, or a service to provide, then please read on and invent away.

I would like;

1/ A method of checking what the kids are up to in the next room without having to install CCTV in every room in the house. I’m thinking a camera you can attach to the dog, or a remote control toy. Maybe one of those tiny helicopters would do the trick. Or even one of those helium filled fish balloons? Whatever it was attached to needs to be quiet and unobtrusive; my kids are naturally suspicious! read more