Tap shoes

What’s the point to an after school club – I get it at last!

After school clubs – we often worry about them.

Have we chosen the right one?  Too few?  Too many?  Do kids really need them?

If they aren’t going to become ‘good at it’ do they really need to do one?

Do we need to supplement what they learn at school, with more stuff to learn from an early age?

Do we need to fit in lots, or a few?

Do we need to run around like mad crazy creatures every day of the week to get our kids the best ‘opportunities’ possible?

Well after this weekend I definitely got the point.

 

Boys at dance classes

Tap shoes
Tap shoes

I’ve always been a fan of after school clubs for giving and outside influence and confidence.  But I’ve also been pretty lazy – I’m not into running around like a crazy creature or teaching my kids mandarin, so we’ve tried a few things out over the last few years.

Curly headed boy has been going to street dance for a while.  But a year ago after switching to the local state primary school, he started at Excel Performing Arts.  We quickly added tap lessons too.

Why?  I’m not sure really.  He loves dancing.  It’s more creative and free than gymnastics, and I thought it’s good for a boy to be able to dance.

Tap was more hard core though, and I had wondered whether he would be able to keep it going.  I could see how much it improved his timing.  But there had been a few times when a lot of persuasion was required to get back in the car and head off to his class.

The last few weekends and a large percentage of this half-term were then filled with practicing for a show.  I was getting very nervous.  What if it was awful?  What if something went wrong and he was devastated?  I duly bought tickets for each night, so that someone would be there just incase and got the Grandparents to cover one of the 3 shows.

 

Show time

OMG was the show wonderful.  I cried, laughed,and had shivers go up my spine.

The little ones were so cute.  The big ones were so talented and there are definitely a couple with the skills to go on further.

But most importantly the show showed me THE REASON.

Everyone is included, tall, short, skinny, gawky, tubby, plain as well as the talented and pretty.  There was no ‘social divide’ – middle class and working class (personally I hate those titles) had all sent their kids to the classes.

All the kids were worth watching. Every parent would have been amazed by what their child achieved.  And together they made an amazing show.

But when you see the older kids, you see the plainer, taller, shorter, skinnier, gawkier, tubbier ones have transformed.  They have a confidence and grace that they wouldn’t have been given elsewhere.  That’s the point.

It’s a HUGE achievement to be on stage.  To sing.  To dance.  To work together.  No wonder their confidence grows, especially as week in week out they are doing exercises that teach them rhythm, posture and grace.

 

Maybe not all teachers are the same

Little Girl Dancing In Her First Ballet shoes
First Ballet Shoes

I’m not sure that this would happen in all dance/drama schools.  I remember my ballet teacher making it clear I was never going to be the right shape for ballet.  I was heart broken and stopped going to tap too (which I preferred).  A few years later my best friend was told she had grown too tall.  It took me years and pole dancing lessons to realise that dancing can be purely for fun (that’s a another story!).

I’m sure Sam and Steve would push any student with talent, but what’s most important is that they see what they can do for all the kids.  They’ve never said this, but you can tell by looking at the kids and that they haven’t subtly ‘pruned’ them.  It wouldn’t take much; just a comment here or there.  And this is what made the show so great to me.

Steve is pretty famous himself, so he knows what they need to do to succeed, but most of all he’s enjoying the ability to give something back.  (Here I have to admit rather embarrassingly to not watching enough TV to have a clue about who he was when I met him – note to self, watch more TV!).

Little Dimples was copying the little ballet dancers while watching and will be starting baby ballet with Sam next week.  So next year I’ll be watching two of my children in the show, and I can’t wait – but need to buy more tissues (I’m a wuss!).

I have no idea if my kids are talented dancers/singers/actors.  And I’m not going to worry about it.  I’m going to encourage them to do something they both love purely for the joy of it.

 

And I’m going to do more stuff purely for the fun of it, even if I’m not good at it.

 

Which one to choose?

So if you are wondering what class to put your kids into here are some tips …

  • remember that the arts are good for the soul – everyone needs a bit in their life
  • dance and gymnastics are what I call ‘body, mind and soul’ exercises, because they combine all aspects of ourselves in one
  • the ‘proper’ gymnastics class we went to was very repetitive – they have to drill the same thing over and over and over again
  • don’t worry about what they will do when they grow up, just pick something they enjoy
  • boy’s who can dance will be cool when they grow up
  • girls love to feel pretty and graceful, but some of us need a little help in getting there
  • if you are in any way local to me, pick something Excel does because I think they are fab! (although most classes are at Bowmansgreen school, the kids are from many schools).
  • unless your kids are naturally academic, I don’t think that they need extra classes in primary school to learn something else.
  • it’s just as fun to go swimming with the family when they are very young, don’t panic about classes if they are difficult to fit into your routine.  Plus the week long immersion classes can make great progress instead.

 

Most of all, do what suits you, your family and your kids.

Pick for the JOY of it.

Don’t pick because you are worried they will miss out.

Don’t pick for their future career.

Don’t add too many – leave time for chilling, homework and playdates.

Ironically the Big Hairy Northern one and I are helping to set up an after school club for Woodcraft Folk from September.  Now I know ‘the point’ I can only hope to do as good a job as Steve and Sam.  But if we do any dancing/drama at any point, I’ll be getting them in!  In fact that gives me an idea ……

What a your favourite after school clubs?

Which ones did you try that didn’t work?

 

New Cousin

Can a Samsung SSD be installed by a 7 year old boy?

New Cousin
New Cousin!

 

The people at Samsung asked me if I would like to install an SSD (Solid State Hard Drive) into my MacBook Pro to show how easy it is.  With my schedule being tight I asked Curly Headed Boy if he fancied it instead (as the Big Hairy Northern One was jumping up and down in excitement about an SSD – apparently they are faster and he’d been looking to get one).

Of course CHB was right up for it,  so I’m going to pass over my blog to Curly Headed Boy and his ‘new’ cousin Jonny or ‘His Trusty Side Kick’.

As an aside before you watch the VERY funny video (even if you care nothing for computers), don’t you think it is lovely how ‘the trusty side kick’ has been accepted by CHB and Little Dimples (he’s a ‘new’ cousin despite being 23 as one of my brother’s has just got married).  Jon arrived on friday, and was launched upon by two very excited children immediately and they didn’t let go until monday morning (they are currently in mourning!).

For any geeks in you there is also a video of the difference in boot time with and without the SSD (ooooh!).

So over to the boys:

*************************************

Samsung SSD instructions
Samsung SSD instructions

When Samsung offered to provide one of their top of the line SSD drives for us to review the offer was very tempting. Claims of faster boot-up times, file searches, app starts-ups, less downtime and lower power usage.  It all looked good.

But in a MacBook Pro?

After some reading and discussion, the decision was yes.  Having finished the reading the process to replace a hard drive in a MacBook Pro wasn’t complicated.  But could a 7 year old open a MacBook Pro, remove the old Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and put in a new Solid State Drive (SSD)? That was the challenge I put to curly headed boy. I may have mentioned he risked Christmas if it went wrong (as you will see!).

The only tools required to do the job are a screwdriver and a torx driver. Oh and a 7yr old prepared to risk Christmas!

The steps involved are
1.    Format SSD to Mac OS
2.    Clone the original HDD
3.    Remove the old HDD
4.    Install the new SSD

 

Step 1. Format SSD to Mac OS

The new drive was connected to the MacBook Pro using a USB/SATA cable. After a minute the new drive showed up but it was not recognized and needed formatting. Open up disk utility and erase the drive reformatting to Mac OS.  This took a few minutes.

 

Step 2. Clone the original HDD

The cloning was completed using Carbon Copy Cloner (http://www.bombich.com) and was a simple process.  Download the software, select the source, select the destination and press go.  Copy time is about 1GB a minute, so the cloning process can be lengthy if the original drive is quite full. This cloning went without a hitch again using the USB/SATA cable.

 

Steps 3. & 4. Install

Was a case of handing the drive over to curly headed boy. In his own style he then proceeded to follow the instructions.

The whole process from start to finish took about 3 hours as the donor hard drive was not that full and the majority of the time was the cloning. At the end of the video the new machine is booted and to the relief of everyone worked fine first time.

(There was a slight glitch as the instructions were for a PC and we didn’t have a torx driver).

 

Difference

The claims will only be realized over time, but initial impressions are very positive.  The first claim of faster bootup can be tested easily here as we have two identical MacBook Pro’s (well they were until the SSD was installed)

As can be seen the SSD is 5 seconds quicker which is a great start for the new SSD.  The biggest change is in the start time for things like email etc, which are now pretty immediate.

I’m expecting it to be more resilient, especially with the hard wear that the lap tops get, and something that is very hard disk intensive e.g. video or image processing will be faster.

Curly headed boy is over the moon with his first installation and Christmas has been saved!  (No, of course we wouldn’t have cancelled Christmas!).

Update: The Big hairy northern one did a fresh install (big time difference) and a shorter version of Curly Headed Boy, check out his post here:

 

*Disclosure – we were given a Samsung SSD worth around £400 for the review, but our opinions are our own.

A scary monster!

Can a book festival really be fun? Does it encourage kids to read?

Beast Quest Monster
What a Beast!

Is a book festival fun?

I was worried.

My kids are used to going to festivals.  So turning up at a ‘book festival’ were they going to be severely disappointed?

Our first stop was to Beast Quest.  Very quickly my worries were calmed.  A crazy magician guy introduced the concept (I had no idea what it was all about), read a bit (very funny!), and then they played a beast quest version of bingo (chaos!).  Finally they all designed a new monster with Justin Bieber hair and every possible other ‘evil’ quality available.

Here is the monster that they created:

Curly Headed Boy is now very into the books and also the new ones ‘Sea Quest’ as the hero has the same name as him.

 

Authors we saw:

Helen Dennis – Curly Headed Boy adored her and we have therefore got a pile of her ‘Secret Breakers’ books.  Clearly she knows how to relate to kids in real life as well as in her books.

Jeff Norton – is now CHB’s new hero because having turned up early to the talk he got to talk to him lots beforehand.  His Metawars books really appealed to CHB’s very philosophical ‘what if’ nature as well e.g. What if we could upload ourselves into computers?  It covers some really modern problems/concepts and shows why we need new books sometimes, despite the old classics still being wonderful.

Jackie Morris – wasn’t very engaging for the kids to be honest.  Perhaps a little too ‘into her art’ and out of touch with the kids.  But her artwork and books are beautiful, especially for a child like Curly Headed Boy who is quite into nature or spirituality.

Missed:

Jonathon Meres – ‘World of Norm’ – who wrote the fab guest post on my blog.

David Melling ‘Hugable Douglas’ – who wrote the cutest guest post on my friend’s blog and therefore we had to by his book which is a firm favourite.

Lauren Child (Charlie and Lola) and Cressida Cowell (How to train your dragon) – one mum felt that it was really only useful for grown ups, but a mum with older children loved this talk, which was the big seller for the day.

 

Does it encourage reading?

I’m surprised.  It’s a resounding YES.  Even in Little Dimples (3yo).

Curly Headed Boy has been tackling much thicker books all on his own, even Meta Wars, which to be honest I think is aimed at much older kids (he is 7).  He has definitely suddenly moved onto books that are centimetres thick rather than just 20 pages.

It cost us a fortune!

Curly Headed boy insisted on buying any books related to the authors he had met.  Plus I LOVE books, and there were some gorgeous ones there that I’d never noticed on our more recent trips to book shops.

We definitely have years worth of books – so I see it as an investment *cough*

Here are my finds:

East of the sun
East of the sun
Wild Child
WildChild

Jackie Morris’s ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’ – it’s taking some time to get CHB to read this, but as it has a distinct hint towards the natural world or magical fantasy ideas, I know he will love it.  He just needs to get over the fact that he didn’t bond with Jackie herself.

Jeanne Willis and Lorna Freytag ‘Wild Child’ – you can see from the picture how gorgeous this book is!  It is truly gorgeous, can’t recommend it enough.

Lauren Child ‘I will not go to sleep’ – Little Dimples (3) adores this, and I will definitely be buying more.  Having an older brother and the relationship being similar means that she totally relates to it.  CHB loves it too – but don’t tell anyone!

Only down points

Willow Face Paint Hoo BookFest
Cheeky Butterfly

Facepainting – if you are going to have it with hundreds of kids, have more than ONE slow person, or only offer small quick options.  A great alternative is to have a face painting station where the kids and parents can do it themselves.  I queued with an INCREDIBLY patient Little Dimples (3yo) for must have been 45 minutes for the blinking face painting!  Hence I missed Helen Norris totally, which was a shame as Jeff Norton was on when Little Dimples needed a nap, so I missed him too.

More signs needed – parents with children do get easily confused and easily stressed.  I didn’t actually find the walled garden until I left because I followed a sign that said ‘EXIT’ – it actually meant exit from the walled garden.  Apparently I missed great cakes and tea in there.

There was a lull point, which I think was arranged to coincide with lunch and give people a chance to wander around.  But actually for people who had arrived later it meant that they got a bit bored.

The toilets ran out of tissue – the normal issue with festival toilets, but daft for just a one day event.

There weren’t enough toilets – very difficult for an event with lots of young children hopping round, desperate for a pee.

Directions at Luton hoo hotel entrance would have been great to send us further down the road.

 

Would I go again?

YES!

Would I pay for tickets myself (I went on press tickets) – Yes!

 

 

Omaha Beach in Normandy

How to go on holidays with more than two children and not pay a fortune

Omaha Beach in Normandy
Omaha Beach

No one warns people when they have more than two children that suddenly there will be huge problems with holidays.

A couple of years ago we went to Cyrpus in one of those studio apart-hotels.  We met a lovely family with 3 children.  They could easily have fitted into the studio, but that was against the rules, so they had to rent two, live in one, and could only afford one week because of the extra cost.

I know, I know, some of you will be all like ‘well they decided to have 3,4 or 5 kids’.  Yes, I know, but some people are really brave/good at the whole kids thing.  Or they make mistakes.  Whatever reason, they need holidays more than the rest of us less brave 1 or 2 children families!

I know that you can rent a villa, but that doesn’t really work for me as there is no entertainment and my kids want other kids to play with.

I remember trying to google for affordable holidays for families and getting totally mind boggled with all the options that didn’t really seem to make it easy for a family.

But I have a solution if you are looking for one ….

 

A holiday in a luxury mobile home with Siblu in France

These guys are the perfect solution and luckily I can speak from personal experience because they sent my family and I off to review them last year.

Ferries are much easier than planes for a large family to keep their eyes on everyone.

Plus you get all the ‘normal’ facilities like kids clubs, pools, beaches (some are right on the beach, for some there is a drive) and entertainment.

The only difference is that you aren’t in an actual hotel or apartment, but spread out a little more with your own little site and caravan.

You can go for an active holiday in Normandy with a short drive like we did, or drive a few hours further south for a hot holiday.

And they don’t charge you ridiculous amounts because you happen to have an extra child, in fact you just pay for the van which can house up to 6 or 8 people.  (If you can afford it, go for one with a big terrace, I think it really helps with children).

A holiday for 2 weeks, including the ferry trip would have set us back LESS than Butlins or Center Parcs last year, and although it was cheap it wasn’t tacky and horrid at all; which was my big fear.

I think that they are a fabulous option for families in these recession hit times, and once tried they will realise that there is no reason to go back to the more expensive holidays they used to have.

 

Here are all my other posts about Siblu:

An adventure in Normandy: my official review of Domainne De Litteau

What would have happened if Germany had won WW2: a review of the american Omaha cemetery

Which is best going by Ferry or Plane? A review of the ferry trip to Siblu

 

Disclosure: The lovely Siblu people are sending me off to Britmums this year, which I am extremely grateful for.  So they did ask that I write a couple of posts about them in return.  Seems only fair, and luckily not difficult to do as we had such a lovely time there. 

 

 

 

Joe Browns makes great clothes

5 Top Tips For Going To A Blogging Conference

Joe Browns makes great clothes
Willow stole my dessert last year!

I’ve got a sponsor for BritmumsLive Yay *does a very happy dance*.

A huge thank you to Siblu, who are sponsoring me after sending my family and I out to review one of their holiday camps last summer.

 

So now for the important stuff you have to do before going to a blogging conference:

1) Panic about weight:

Tick I’ve got that under control with my new weekly weight loss vlog and plan to launch a google hangout ASAP to help anyone else needing a kick.

2) Panic about what to wear:

Tick, I’m taking the lazy option and wearing the same as last year

3) Check out the schedule and have an idea of what I want to achieve:

Tick, I aim to stalk Kirstie Allsopp as I adore her, can’t wait to hear Katie Piper.

I’m not that worried about connecting with brands,  but like the look of the story telling den and anything about photo’s or blogs.

4) Sort out the family, travel and accommodation:

Luckily Siblu are helping with this as Little Dimples still needs me at night, so the family will be in town too and seeing a few sights.  I’ll be at the Holiday Inn if anyone else is?.  Britmums have tips on their site for getting sponsorship; check them out, it never hurts to offer a company the opportunity to help out and get some great PR.

5) Panic about being Billy No Mates:

This is where you come in: WHO WANTS TO MEET UP?  Go on, someone say you fancy having a mate there?  (BTW they had ‘butterflies’ last year who helped you if you were scared).

 

 

Three Days Film

It’s amazing who you can run into on Twitter

Three Days Film
Three Days Film

I’m a fan of twitter and Facebook, I’ve even ventured quietly onto Google+ recently.

Maybe because I’m nosey?

Or because I love to chat?

Or because when you are a little ‘different’, it’s an easy way to meet other people who are a little ‘different’?

The way I do it is I auto-follow and then every couple of weeks I check through who I’ve followed and get rid of the porn stars, Forex traders, guru wise word spouting people, and internet marketers; I know I’m picky, but what the hell!

One day I saw someone whose name was interesting ‘Vanessa Bailey’, as I was a Bailey before the Big Hairy Northern One. Then this woman contacted me on Facebook and sent a friend request because of a film she was in that she new would be interesting to me.

She looked vaguely familiar.

Of course she did – I went to blinking school with her didn’t I!  Plus she married a mate of mine who had the same surname as me! Doh!

See; that’s why I love social media.

 

So, anyway, whilst we are talking about Vanessa, I found out that she ‘grew up’ to be an actress, and a blinking good one at that, who is taking a stand against botox and looks like a ‘real woman’ does in her 40’s.  Well maybe not totally ‘real’, as she is gorgeous; but maybe a ‘real’ version of gorgeous.

She is currently starring in a film called ‘Three Days’, which is brilliant because:

(a) It’s about a romance between an older woman and younger man; let’s remember that we are still hot, even if we are older!

(b) They aren’t being perturbed by being an Indie Film and have opted for the innovative Crowd sourcing idea

 

If you fancy helping them out and contributing even a little bit, they have a big range of perks, from a thank you to appearing in the film or going to the premier!  Ignore the goal, apparently they just need to raise £8k and once they get going, they should be able to sort the rest out themselves.

Go on, check them out, and if you like what you see, help to get them up on the big screen.

 

Disclosure: I’m biased because I knew Vanessa at school, but I don’t have the time to write a blog post for everyone who needs it or who asks, so I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t think that it’s worth it.

 

 

 

Charity Shop Finds

Getting unusual jewellery doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

So you’d like to buy your wife/partner/girlfriend some jewellery, but don’t know how to do it without bankrupting yourself?

I love jewellery, but I love saving money too.  This can make it difficult if you want ‘original’ jewellery, because it can make us tempted by the likes of Pandora or Tiffany, but then we are talking mega bucks.

A few years ago I was a fan of Schwarovsky because of all the sparkles, but then I fell foul of their returns policy after getting the wrong sized ring for a birthday present (due to going on holiday straight after, I couldn’t return it as I had taken too long).

So the question is, how to still get a sparkle fix and not cost a fortune?

 

Here are my Top 3 Tips for buying gorgeous jewellery on a budget.

 

1) Original designers on Etsy, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram

There are loads of people out there making gorgeous unusual pieces.

Lady muck is a good example; she sent me this wonderful Alice in wonderland broach which I put on my denim jacket.  I’ve never been sure what to do with a broach, but this works perfectly; just a little bit cooky/vintage too which is great for me.  (If you have little ones make sure you check the metal circle every now and again that holds the charm on the brooch).

Brooch from Lady Muck
Lady Muck’s Brooch

One of my favourite people is GreenfroggyFae, who normally sells her pieces locally, and I’ve been nagging her for months to get on the internet, and at last she has a shop!  She specialises in pieces made from old watches, and has a really creative style.

Wave some pictures in front of the love of your life and mention words like ‘vintage’, ‘silver’, ‘gold’, ‘crystals’, ‘under stated’, ‘fashion statement’ to see which words they pick up on the most.  If you are going for colour, have a look at what they already have, and what colour their clothes are; you don’t want to repeat what they have, but also don’t want to choose colours they never wear.

 

2) Local crystal shop

I actively have to avoid my local crystal shop as the kids and I are suckers for anything that sparkles, and I really do have enough crystals.  But I have treated us to a couple of visits recently, and this is what I came back with.  Don’t you think that ring is gorgeous, and much better than anything you could get normally in the shops?

For anyone near me who doesn’t know where to go, this came from Destiny Rising, which is at Battlers Green Farm in Radlett.

Crystal ring from Destiny Rising
Sparkly x 3!

 

They can have added benefits of being ‘good for you’ too.  So it’s wise to go knowing when they were born (star sign), and wether they have any ailments or problems needing fixing at the moment.

 

3) Charity shop

On one of my declutter trips to the local charity shop I actually got a chance to check out some of the stuff that they had.

Now you might not like this gorgeously sparkly bracelet, but I thought it was a real find , if maybe only right for summer wearing.  However, there was loads of much more tasteful stuff, so get yourself down to your local charity shop for a treat!

Charity Shop Finds
Butterfly Sparkles!

 

I go on my intuition; so rather than go in every week to see if there is something there for me, I go when I get a big urge to visit the shop.

 

 

What do you think of my finds?

Where’s the best place for you to get lovely sparkly things that don’t cost a fortune?

 

Samsung Galaxy Camera

Do we really need a separate Camera from our phone camera?

Samsung Galaxy Camera
Samsung Galaxy Camera

 

We have a big first here ladies and gents.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Samsung to see if I would like to go and review the Samsung Galaxy camera in Berlin with about 50 other bloggers.  Now I’m having a bit of a rest at the moment, plus Little Dimples isn’t quite up to Mummy going away for that long yet (potentially neither am I).

However, the Big Hairy Northern One (BNHO) is a HUGE lover of camera’s, and knows a tonne more than I do, so when I suggested he go in my place, Samsung wisely took the opportunity to take someone who actually knew a thing of two.

So without further ado may I introduce to you the Big Hairy Northern One!

……………..

Hi there,

Hairy Northern One here back from my recent escapades in Berlin as the roving reporter for the Mummy Whisperer.  There is have a review of the Camera from a technical perspective over on Daddycraft but how does the camera function for a Mummy?

 

 

Samsung Galaxy Camera back
Samsung Galaxy Camera back

Q. How quickly does it start up (I miss lots of video and photo opportunities because my phone takes so long to switch).

Once initially started the camera is ready to shoot in a second, so not as fast as an iPhone but a great deal quicker than a DSLR. It takes a second or so for the lens to initialise but providing the camera is left in standby mode, it’s quite snappy. Zooming the 21x picture is very quick making it very useful at snapping that not so near action.

Update from MW: My iPhone is older than the BHNO, so the speed is actually about the same 

 

Q. Would the photos be better quality than on my iPhone 4?

Yes, significantly, the images are twice the size of the iPhone 5. That’s a load more detail making a great picture.

 

Q. How would it manage in a dark room to video school assemblies or take photos?

I believe very well indeed, there are a few specific modes designed specifically to make use of low lights, these are quickly selected using the MODE button on the back screen and take all the guesswork out of getting the shots. Plus there is a manual mode that gives you full control of both Aperture down to 2.8 (the lower the number the more light enters the camera, so dark room, need a low number) and ISO (higher numbers read light quicker, but do produce speckles on the images, called noise,  the higher you go)

Update from MW: what he means is there is a thingy you can choose to make it work in a dark room

 

 

Samsung Galaxy Camera zoom
Samsung Galaxy Camera zoom

Q. Is it easy to sort out that ‘red eye’ thing?

Drink less, eyes will be fine in the morning.  Oh sorry the picture red-eye. Yes. On camera capability along with less likelyhood in the first place. There is also the ability to remove red-eye and do some quite useful post production editing… Not quite photoshop but really gives you some creative options to make your shots stand out.

Update from MW: Ha Ha, chance would be a fine thing!

 

Q. Does the auto flash work well?

A. Never ask anyone aspiring to be a photographer if an internal flash works well… This one works better than most, it has good range and will bring out the details in very low light. As with all built in straight on flashes it will create very ‘flat’ pictures if the subject is too close, or nothing at all if its too far away.

 

Q. Does it have 100’s of really confusing settings I will never use?

Yep, but also a handful of very accessible ones you will use constantly.  As you get more adventurous you may go looking for the more confusing ones.  The confusing ones are safely tucked in under a few layers of menus. Note: don’t let hairy northern one use the camera without returning the settings to auto… Or you may get slow I video instead of speedy action at the sink.

Update from MW: Yes, the BHNO got shouted at for fiddling with what has quickly become MY camera!  No the settings are pretty easy to understand and select.

 

 

Q. How far away can it take photos?  (I have lots of photos of dots, that looked perfectly big enough through the viewer!). 

It has a 21x optical zoom… That’s 21x more than the iPhone 😉 this image may help. Or to put it another way more than twice the zoom I have with that really big lens on my Canon!

Update from MW: Now you understand that the BHNO and I speak very different languages!  What he means is, ‘Yes you should be able to take a much better picture of the kids at the other end of the garden about 30ft away than you used to be able to’.

Samsung Galaxy Long Distance
Samsung Galaxy Long Distance

 

Q. How does it do with photo’s inside?

Superb, especially in auto mode. There are so many trade-offs shooting indoors due to lack of light and often the speed of movement of the little folk.  The Auto mode appears to have hit good compromises in the shots so far, impressive.

 

Q. Does it look really breakable?

It’s not light, but feels well built. Little Dinples proof… I doubt it. It  is sturdy, which helps when you are holding it. LD has messed around with it and even in her tiny paws she held it well.

 

Q. Will it fit in my handbag, or will I need a bigger bag (shopping opportunity?)

It will fit fine in any handbag, possibly even a clutch. However recognising the seriousness of the question, I would suggest acquiring some new examples of varying types to be sure.

Update from MW: Probably not quite handbagable unless I remove significant important things like Filofaxes that keep me having a vague clue about life. 

 

Q. How easy is it to send to twitter, facebook and instagram

Easier than I could possibly have thought, it’s on screen, click and go… Once you have ‘connected’ the device to your social media empire it’s a simple click. A feature I haven’t yet figured out is how to share to multiple places at the same time yet…

Update from MW: My biggest peeve was that it took so long to set up and I HAD to add a google plus account in order to connect to facebook and twitter.  That’s just ridiculous in my view.  I have a big problem with the fact that by mistake I ended up with 2 google accounts and I can’t combine them together, which is making my OCD, fibro-fogged brain very unhappy and often causes mistakes when I log into the wrong one.  Because of this camera I had to bite the bullet and actually create a google+ profile and I wasn’t pleased about it. 

 

Q. How do I get the photos on my computer (I presume it wont use the iCloud?)

The camera can be taught to auto drop everything into a DropBox or Google+ and auto syncs. The DropBox is already on your Mac so the images show up immediately.

 

Summary

So there you go. This is a true bloggers camera. Taking pictures that pass the quality test for just keeping memories  and also spicing up your blogs. I would say JellyBean aside (which works well here) it’s a great camera for you… That I can borrow occasionally 😉

 

……………………

And back to me.  Thanks big Hairy Northern One!

So my quick review of it is:

I expected to say ‘hmm that’s nice, but I have a phone camera, so lets be sensible and put it on eBay’ as it’s worth £399 new.

In fact within a very short period of time I was saying ‘oooohhh that’s a good picture’ and thinking it was definitely my new toy.  The pictures are SO MUCH BETTER, and it’s SO EASY TO TAKE them, that as a Mum I can’t resist the idea of having better pictures of my kids.

Plus it can do slow-motion video; how cool is that!  Just imagine, slo-mo of the kids doing their silly stuff.  I’m going to have so much fun with this, I’m like a kid in a candy shop.

The other funky feature which is great for anyone wanting to shoot family shots or groups of kids, is that there is a mode where you can shoot a pile of photos and then swap the heads around.  Perfect.  So when Grandpa happens to only open his eyes on the shot when one of the kids is sticking their tongue out, you can combine heads from two photos.

The photo’s are FAB, much better than my camera, so I’m now officially a big fan.

Here is a comparison to give you an idea.  Little Dimples made the BHNO buy me pink roses covered in glitter.  The photo from my iPhone doesn’t show the glitter at all and the rose is a weird purple colour.  Whereas the Samsung photo is great, it basically looks really ‘real’.

Pink Rose iPhone
Pink Rose iPhone
Pink Sparkly Rose
Samsung Rose

 

Little Dimples offered to model for you to see the difference as well:

Photo of Little girl with iPhone
Here is my castle with the iPhone

 

Little girl with the Samsung Galaxy camera
Here is my castle with the Samsung

 

My Instagram and blog photos are going to be so much better from now on!

 

Have you ended up buying a camera as well as the one on your phone?  Which one did you get?

 

UPDATE: If you have a problem with Google+ because your youtube account is separate from your Analytics, Feedburner or Webmaster tools, then check out this post from my mate Mediocre Mum.

Disclosure: We were given a Samsung Galaxy Camera and The Big Hairy Northern One was sent to Berlin to meet up with loads of other bloggers to celebrate their #LifesAPhoto competition.  However, our views are our own.

 

Toddler in den

Adventure comes in surprising places

Mum and child in the woods
Not so warm!

 

Brrrrrrrrrrr!

It was freezing (0 degrees!), but the kids didn’t seem to notice at all.

I was wishing I’d put my thermals on, and was eternally grateful for choosing woolly socks and snow boots over wellies.

But the cheerful ‘Ooooh Mummy look at this’ coming from one direction versus ‘No Mummy come look at this first’ from the opposite direction cheered me up.

Curly Headed Boy was chuffed that he could easily pretend he was in an ancient forest with bears and wolves around every corner.  He was off climbing through brambles and goodness knows what else.

Toddler in den
My secret den!

Little Dimples was enchanted with a little partially constructed den that she had found and I was instructed to find more sticks to add to it.

The Hairy northern one meantime was taking photos left right and center, so he too was in his element.

Next time we are definitely bringing the big black monster (it would be easy to put the dog back in the car at the end of a walk, while you get a cuppa, or drink it outside).

 

Where were we?

A well kept secret that when I mentioned it loads of people seemed to know about, but no one had told us; Wendover Woods.  (We live just outside St Albans, and it’s about 34-45mins away).

We’d brought the radio flyer just incase the kids got tired, but I was amazed that Little Dimples (3 in a month) was able to keep walking the whole distance, even when we were climbing back up the hill, it must have been all the ‘Ho Hos’ that we sang.

Children investigating
Climbing an imaginary mountain!

I’d still recommend bringing something though if you have a toddler, or be prepared to carry them.  In fact I was amazed how many young families there were and especially how many with little babies, either with industrial strength push chairs or slings.

We tried out the Cafe in the Woods, which I thought was great.  Simple stuff for grown ups and kids that hits the spot and at a good price (menus are online).  It got really busy though (at 11.30), and it’s winter.  So I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t get any where near it in the summer.

Next time we are going to go as soon as we get up and have bacon butties before we go for our walk; yum!

Plus we’ll remember to try the free iPhone app which has a map of the area and a tree finder, which I think is a great idea.

Once the family gets a little older, there were people cycling, running, and there is a Go Ape as well.  I talked to a local mum who says that in the summer locals walk up rather than drive so it doesn’t get as busy car parking wise as you’d expect, and that it’s great for parties.

I also saw someone in a wheelchair, so when it says that it is accessible, it obviously is.  I was a bit worried with my fibromyalgia that it might be too much for me, but I needn’t have worried (don’t worry fitness types; it could be a lot more physical than we tried).

I was worried that Go Ape would be too obvious and we’d get nagged to go, but it wasn’t too in your face at all, and the play park is great, so I’m sure the kids will be happy there.

Muddy Puddle At Wendover
A HUGE Muddy Puddle!

Of course of all the potential things to play on the boys were much more interested in the huge great big muddy swamp that was all iced over and covered in big sticks, and eventually we did have a catastrophe.

Luckily it was time to go home, so we wrapped Curly Headed Boy in a blanket and popped in the car.  I’d recommend a spare pair of trousers for each child just incase.  (And a hot toddy for you, when you get home).

 

The Numbers

A discovery pass for a year is £37, which gives you free parking.

Parking would cost you: £1.50 for 2 hours, £3 for 4 hours or £5.50 for an all day stay.

So if you went all day 3 times in the summer, and then for 4 hours more than 4 times a year, it would have paid for itself.

There are also a pile of other freebies or discounts listed here on the page about Discovery Passes, the most significant being 15% off forest holidays or  10% off trailbase holidays and the most useful being free refills on cups of tea or 15% off Go Ape (see details for exclusions).  So you could save lots more than the pass cost you.

You also get a few bits and pieces to start the kids off with ideas of things to collect and enjoy while they are there, which I think would be a great idea if you were the type of family who thought it would be a good idea to get out and about, but weren’t sure how to get the kids interested.

 

Overall

Boy covered in mud
I fell in!

 

Curly Headed boy said that ‘it was the best holiday he’d had’; he’s not always that easy to please!  Later that day he said he was really lucky to have me as a Mummy; now we know that’s true, but it’s not often that he remembers, so that was a lovely thing for him to say.

Little Dimples said ‘Forest was good. I loved the play ground’.

The Big Hairy Northerner thought ‘the woods were magical’.

I loved it, and really loved my hot toddy when I got home!

For me buying a pass would feel like a commitment and a reminder, and I think it would be well worth it.  I suspect very strongly that we will be renewing next year when our pass runs out.

We are bound to go back lots, so I’ll do another review in the summer and let you know what the BBQ sites are like and whether it gets too busy or not.

 

Disclosure: I was given a years Discovery Pass in return for doing a review, but my opinions are my own.  I’d like to thank the Forestry Commission for being so patient with me, as soon after they offered for me to get the pass I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and have been nervous of going and busy with sorting it out.

 

Kids love Dens

Great Toy For Imaginative Outside Play For Boys and TomBoys

Several months ago I was sent the most amazing thing for Curly Headed Boy to review the ‘Ultimate Dangerous Den Kit‘ from Battle Box.

OMG was I the best Mummy in the world for this old blogging marlarkey when it turned up!

Luckily for me they are incredibly nice people as well, and they have never nagged me once knowing I had my Fibromyalgia diagnosis and was taking some time out.

I’m hoping that this review catches those people still making the most of new year sales, or with presents to buy in January and February; such a difficult time just after Christmas.

Ours came with:

  • Camouflage Tarpaulin
  • Steel pegs
  • Strong cord
  • Wooden Mallet
  • Danger Mines sign
  • Den Bags
  • Union Jack Flag
  • Camouflage net
  • Go Wild! Book – 101 things to do outside before you grow up
  • Backpack
  • Help for heroes chocolate bar
  • Playing Cards

 

So several months on what do I think about it?

It’s a great present that will last for years and get used by both Curly Headed Boy and my tomboy Little Dimples (3).

I love anything that battles the lure of the computer game and gets the kids outside.

Plus we found that Dens can be made inside, so it can be used all year round.

I remember making Dens as a kid and mine love them just as much as I do, but there are times when a couple of pillows just don’t work, and this is perfect.

If you can’t afford the ultimate Den Kit that I was sent, then I would go for the Essential Camping Kit as a great alternative and maybe get someone else to buy the hefty backpack in the ‘create your own kit’ section.

Before this I had tried to make a sort of Den that went over the Kitchen table; ahem, it didn’t really work out, especially as they kept bumping their heads on the table.  So this kit has saved several bumped heads and tears!

If you have a ‘big boy’ who doesn’t really need a den, check out their battle boxes for all their ‘special things’.

 But let me show you what the kids thought ….

Kids love Dens
Very chuffed!

 

Ultimate den kit
In it’s full glory

 

Making a Den Inside
Dens work inside too!

 

My one complaint?  It made Christmas shopping really hard this year for me and Santa!

 

Disclosure: Battlebox sent me a den kit to review, but that doesn’t affect my opinions of the kit, and I would seriously have considered buying one myself.