Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: review (page 1 of 4)

Nest learning thermostat review

Every new product released that is electric seems to also need to be smart and connected to the internet, but while I’m not entirely convinced why that applies to my washing machine or fridge having used the Nest learning thermostat for just over a month now I can see why it is called a smart device.

This small, round, shiny thermostat sits quietly in the corner of our kitchen without really being noticed but all the while it’s learning our routine so that it can most effectively control the heating for our house. Now of course we haven’t had our heating on at all in that period, in fact I’m writing this with the patio doors wide open while listening to the pigeons gently coo outside, so we’ve yet to see the full impact of that learning but I’m impressed nonetheless and here’s why:

  1. The design – simple interface where the outside twists to move around the menu and you push the screen to select items. Simple, intuitive, easy.
  2. Quick installation – sure you are most likely going to need an electrician to do this for you, but it took all of 30 minutes from the moment he arrived and should simply be a case of replacing the existing program box you have for your boiler.
  3. Hot water boost – you can program in a schedule for your hot water with as many on/off’s a day as you want and even a different schedule each day. But you can also get a one time boost with a couple of clicks of the thermostat and can choose how long to run the boost for.

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Happy Birthday Snoopy – review and giveaway

I used to love reading the Snoopy cartoon strips as a kid, they used to have one in the weekend paper that my dad bought and there would always be a fight with my brothers to get to that section first. However you may remember that one of my rules when choosing books for my children (and myself for that matter) is to avoid any that have started their life as a film or TV program. They are generally poorly written, lacking in any real story and quite honestly a little boring. I therefore didn’t have high expectations for Snoopy even if I do have a soft spot for the little white dog and his follicly challenged owner Charlie Brown.

Reading Snoopy

But I’m pleasantly surprised, Happy Birthday Snoop is actually quite a sweet story about Charlie Brown’s attempts to give Snoopy a surprise birthday party and of course failing miserably. I like that it’s a positive story and quite amusing in places as Charlie Brown with the best intentions ends up managing to scare, disturb and launch Snoopy into the air.

I also like the style of the illustrations, keeping some of the cartoon style but the tones are a little different to the cartoon strip and of course the bigger size allows for much more colour and detail. The writing moves around the pages into different spots and shapes, it’s even inside a balloon on one page, I think helps add some interest and at least as a reader makes it more interesting.

Matilda and Henry seem to like this book, but I think they may be at the lower end of the ideal age range. More so for Henry of course who is 3, but a good book for a child like Matilda who is just about to start school.

Charlie Brown

That’s what I think about it, now if you’d like to get your hands on your own copy (UK residents only) all you need to do is a leave a comment below telling me what your favourite cartoon strip was when you were a child. I’ll then pick one at random to be the winner, competition will close on Wednesday 17th June 2015.

Disclosure – I was sent a copy of this book free of charge, all words and opinions are my own.

Keeping the bugs at bay

It felt like this winter has been a constant stream of colds and bugs for the children, something quite hard to avoid when your children are at preschool or school unless you send them in wearing hazmat suits. Made even worse by having a small baby to catch the bugs that his siblings bring home, we didn’t really experience that with the other 2 because they were both spring babies so the worst of the bugs were gone.

Matilda and Henry have a fairly good diet, sure it can be hard getting veggies into them sometimes but they both love fruit and eat basically the same meals as us which means we can hide vegetables in pasta sauces etc. My normal philosophy is that this should be enough, no need to add any supplements to their diet if they’re eating a good balance range of food but when you face another night of broken sleep due to snotty children you start to consider what the alternatives are. Plus the UK Department for Health recommends that all children aged 6 months to 5 years are given a supplement containing vitamin A, C and D.

Which is where Haliborange come in, we’ve used their multivitamin liquid intermittently for a while but had got out of the habit recently, so I was interested to try out the multivitamin softies that they’ve recently launched. These are small chewy vitamins that look much like sweets, in fact my children now refer to them as ‘those strawberry sweets’ now. Unsurprisingly they really liked these vitamins, so much so that it was the first thing they asked for when we went up for bath time. Giving them at bath time is our routine to ensure we don’t forget to do it each day, for us at least it’s easier than trying to remember during the slightly chaotic scenes of meal times.


So the children like them and the government says that they are good for them, which surely makes them a good thing right? In my opinion yes and no, it’s of course great that I don’t have to fight them to take them but part of me doesn’t like them associating taking them with sweets. Yes it’s a healthy sweet but it’s still a sweet, personally I prefer them focusing on the fact that the vitamins help make them big and strong. I think we’ll carry on giving them vitamins each day but we’ll go back to using the liquid which they also took without any issue. It also means we can use the liquid for Rupert as well without needing to buy something separate.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Haliborange range you can have a look at their website here. I’d also be interested to know whether you use any vitamins with your children?

This is a review post, I was sent the product for review but all words and opinions here are my own.

Jacamo and Voi Jeans goose down jacket review

I’m feeling a tiny bit smug about this review because I had the good sense to choose a very warm and cosy jacket for my review just before the cold weather hit in January. Since then I have been oh so toasty on my commute to work which is just close enough to home that the heater in my car has only just warmed up when I get there. It has also been extremely useful for a couple of trips to London, train platforms must be some of the coldest places in the country don’t you think?

Jacamo is a men’s clothing retailer which sells both its own brand clothing along with many well known brands. I shopped online but it also has a number of stores around the country. Jacamo were looking for some dad bloggers with a sense of style to do reviews and clearly my blog was the first one they thought of. I always keep up with the latest fashion and most definitely don’t still wear a jumper that I bought 14 years ago.

While I may not have a real sense of the latest fashion I am most definitely the ideal person to test an online store because quite honestly I hate shopping and will avoid it whenever possible. Unless it’s an outdoors store of course, then I could happily spend the whole day there, if you’re ever in the USA and spot an REI store do go take a look, such awesome places.

Now Jacamo may not have a large selection of cycling helmets or kayaks to peruse but what it does have is a very good online store for clothes shopping. The filters in the left hand tool bar are very effective at reducing down the selection to show just those things that are relevant and they do it quickly. What’s more delivery is next day as standard or you can choose a specific delivery day with no extra charge. Service as it should be.

The jacket itself is great, so very warm but not overly bulky. It definitely fits towards the large side, I ordered a medium which is reasonably long on me despite the fact I’m 6′ 1″. It has a couple of large pockets which are ideal for keeping your hands warm with 2 small pockets on top for putting your keys in that close with a popper. Ultimately I think I look awesome in it.

Voi Jeans goose down jacket

Review – Braun no touch thermometer

My children are so enthusiastic about helping me do reviews now that when they heard I was getting a thermometer to test out they made sure they were sick so it could be tested properly. How thoughtful of them? Currently I am the last man standing; Matilda and Henry both have flu like bugs with streaming noses and high temperatures, Rupert has a run of the mill cold and the lady of the manor has a chesty cough and sore throat. Not a whole lot of fun as you can imagine, but the perfect testing ground for a shiny new Braun thermometer.

What you may not know is that the lady of the manor is a nurse, a paediatric nurse no less, which has been very useful since we’ve had children I can tell you. She knows how to look after and monitor a sick child which takes an awful lot of stress out of the situation. It also means we’ve actually had a Braun ear thermometer since before Matilda was born, they’re the ones that are used on her ward in the hospital. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us.

2 sick children, an NHS nurse and an enthusiastic dad blogger is basically the dream test team for a thermometer don’t you think. In I’ve just had to take a break from writing this post to go and check on Matilda and see if her temperature has come down. She went to bed at 5.30pm with a temperature of 38.5 degrees and looking thoroughly sorry for herself. The beauty of this thermometer is that it’s no touch, you simply hold it a couple of centimetres from the child’s forehead and it can read the temperature. Which avoids the risk of waking a sick child who is much better off not having their sleep disturbed so that hopefully they get better.

Braun no touch thermometer

Not having to insert it into your child’s ear is also very useful if, like Henry, you have an ear infection (something I was always prone to as a child, what a thing to inherit). He wouldn’t let us anywhere near his ear because it was hurting but with this thermometer that isn’t an issue. Although you do need to try and keep your child still which isn’t always the easiest thing in the world.

Finally when you get the reading of your child’s temperature the screen is handily colour coded green, amber or red so at a quick glance you can tell if you need to be worried or not. This is particularly useful in the middle of the night when you’re half asleep and trying to remember whether a temperature of 36.9 is normal or not.

Incidentally you can also use the thermometer when it is touching the head if you want to, you just aim at the same spot in the middle of the forehead but gently place on the skin rather than holding away from the head.

A big thumbs up all around for the Braun no touch thermometer, easy to use (just 2 buttons), we really like the colour coding and the no touch element has been extremely useful this week.

I am a member of the Netmums Blogging Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team to review products and brands on their behalf. I may have been paid expenses, and have been supplied with a product sample for this review, but retain all editorial control. All my Netmums Reviews will display the Netmums logo within the post.

This is a Netmum’s sponsored review.To find out more click the button:

A Halloween treat

It turns out that Halloween can actually be quite fun, who knew? If you can get past the obsession with sugar and some of the quite ridiculous (nothing to do with Halloween) costumes there are some really fun activities to do with your children. The bonus of being on paternity leave at this time of year is that I’ve been able to get properly involved with the build up and it’s been great.

This had the added bonus of providing some much needed distraction to a half term week where we suddenly had 3 children at home and no preschool to occupy Matilda and Henry for a few hours. It’s been nice having so much time with them but also hard when you’re adjusting to having a new born again and we all know very well that bored preschoolers can test the patience of anyone.

With perfect timing HP also delivered on the first day of my paternity leave 2 items of shiny new technology to help us in our Halloween activities; a red Pavillion x360 laptop and an Envy 5640 wireless printer. The 360 in the name of the laptop refers to the fact that you can flip the screen over 360 degrees so that it can be used either as a standard laptop or as a tablet (and anything in between). My work laptop is a similar design and it’s so useful; having touch screen just feels normal and is great for scrolling pages then you can flip the screen over when you’re watching videos or using it for recipes in tent mode.


After a week of using them they are my new best friends when it comes to crafting with the children, I have all the motivation and good intentions with crafting but really not a lot of skill. I know lots of people say they have no skill but my drawing skills are so bad it’s hard to tell which bits Matilda did and which I did. Which is where the world of printables comes in handy and I know I’m late to this party but they really are awesome aren’t they? We wanted to start the week making some bats that Matilda and Henry could decorate, we could have drawn one but it might have been hard to distinguish from a boomerang, instead we fired up the laptop and grabbed a free printout which duly appeared as if by magic on the printer. We quickly transferred it to card and used it as our stencil on some black paper and then let the kids loose with glue, paint and glitter. The result is somewhat Christmassy bats but I like them.

Glittery bats

Next up of course was carving the pumpkins, HP kindly included a pumpkin carving kit which I was a little sceptical of but quite honestly it’s fab. Having the small saws and a roller for doing the outline before cutting is much easier than using a kitchen knife and probably a lot safer too. I did a free hand silly face which is actually not bad for me but the lady of the manor was in her element and put me to shame. She printed off a stencil of an owl (Snapfish is a great resource for free printables for most occasions) which she stuck to the pumpkin and then marked out. The children loved this one and watching the candle flickering inside.

Carved pumpkins

We didn’t really want to take the children trick or treating as they’re a bit young and also aren’t too keen on the other kids dressed up (one dressed as a werewolf that knocked on our door really freaked them out) so instead I did a little trail around the garden. We waited until it was dark after dinner and then I put the lit pumpkins in the trees at the end of our garden with a little tub of sweets next to each one. We then gave Matilda and Henry a head torch each and let them search out the sweets, they thought being out in the dark was hilarious and loved running around finding sweets to put in their bags. One of the most fun 20 minutes I think I’ve had as a parent and we finished up trying to take some slow shutter speed photos of the lights in the dark. Hard getting the kids to wave their lights for 10 seconds in one place though!

garden pumpkin trail

We also made good use of having a wireless printer to print off sheets of pictures for colouring, we’ve been trying to get Matilda and Henry to do some drawing after meals as a quiet activity. They have a little table to do it on in the kitchen so I just print off some new sheets each day and leave them on the table for them. Very quick and convenient and means we can choose whatever pictures to colour fit with their interests etc.

Drawing after breakfast

A quick final comment on the HP kit; the laptop is a great bit of kit, quite light but so far seems robust enough for the children to handle. The rotating screen makes it really versatile (we used it in presentation mode to watch videos of fireworks with the kids so they knew what to expect at bonfire night) and I love having touch screen. The only negative for me is it can be a bit sluggish at times, it’s the bottom spec model so if I was buying it I would go for one with a better processor (an Intel Core i3 ideally). The printer so far has been perfect, having it wireless means you can set it up somewhere out of the way as you don’t need to get a cable attached and printing from your phone is so easy. I haven’t tested it for printing photos yet but everything else has been good quality wise, will have to see what the running costs are like for ink.

Mini Hornit – the ultimate children’s light and bike horn

Ok parents listen up, if you’re looking for a birthday (or dare I say it Christmas) present for a bike loving child then this is the post for you. In fact it doesn’t even need to be a bike as the Mini Hornit will attach to any bike, scooter or balance bike in just a few seconds. You may remember that I reviewed its big brother the Hornit dB140 almost exactly a year ago and was impressed with how well it was made, its simple construction and how loud it was. So when Hornit offered me the chance to review their new product aimed at children I said yes and then immediately asked if they could send 2, after all no one wants to be the dad who gets just one child a present do they?

Mini Hornet in box

Henry and Matilda absolutely love their Mini Hornit’s, in fact they love them so much that they ran down the batteries in 3 days whizzing around the garden on their balance bikes. Now don’t interpret that to mean that the Mini Hornit has poor battery life, I’d actually say that’s very good battery life given how much they used them and I found them with the lights left on on a number of occasions. Top tip though, when you replace the batteries you have to push the large button on the back to turn the Mini Hornit back on, definitely don’t email the company to tell them it’s broken, only an idiot would do that.

The design of the Mini Hornit is great, so easy to use and no fiddly bits which is perfect when you know a child is inevitably going to want to take it off and put it back on at least 100 times a day. On the bottom of the Mini Hornit are 2 rubber wings that simply wrap around the handle bars and then push the fixing points through the holes in the wings. It also comes with a remote trigger that attaches in the same way and can be put next to the child’s hand at the end of the handlebars. This makes using it much safer when on the move.

I’ll let Henry give you the full demo:

My grown up Hornit had just 2 sounds whereas the mini version has 25 different sounds, my favourite by far is the trumpet whereas Henry seems very contented with a simple bell noise. They have great fun working their way through them though and pretending to be either a police car or fire engine with the siren sounds. The Mini Hornit also has a light on the front which can be either green or white and either constant or flashing. My 2 may not need that from a safety perspective as they don’t cycle at night or on roads, but for older children who do this would be perfect and is very bright.

The Mini Hornit comes in 4 different colour combinations and costs £19.99, really good value for such a well made and designed product in my opinion. What’s more if you enter 646420 at the checkout on the Hornit shop you’ll get 20% off your purchase, don’t say I don’t look after you!

Mini Hornet on balance bike

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