Monday, 21 November 2016

MakeTime2Play App

Mumsnet selected me and several others to review the MakeTime2Play app, they say: “Whether you have a newborn or a 12 year old there is so much to explore with our updated app; it’s free to download, available on iOS and Android devices, and has over 400 play ideas! You can filter the play ideas to fit your needs by choosing between location, age of children, number of children and time.”

“The app isn’t just about fun play ideas, it also provides information on the benefits that children receive when playing. There is a page detailing the physical, emotional, creative, social, behavioural and inquisitive benefits of play. Symbols on each play activity page will tell you which of these benefits your child is receiving from each game they play.”

I used this app for my 3 year old daughter.  

I wasn't impressed and I don't think I would recommend the app.  For my daughter she was in the 2+ section so a lot of the games suggested were a bit basic like 'roll a ball to each other' and I had to scroll through the ideas to get something suitable. When I did I found that you had to make 12 cards with different animals on them and get lots of plastic boxes, I wasn't really sure exactly what they meant tbh so photos would have been good. Some games such as Big Bird required ingredients I hadn't got so need planning. Under travelling games one suggestion was get them to bang a rhythm on an instrument, I wouldn't appreciate this while I am driving, I don't think others would appreciate on public transport. I looked at some of the suggestions for older children indoors, really for me there were too many boisterous games listed that we wouldn't allow in our house.  Also this game was listed in 2 years plus but it talks about encouraging crawling!  My daughter was walking at 12 months.
The front screen could be a little more obvious as to the button you click to then navigate to the next screen for the ideas. Perhaps the Play Ideas button could be really big and the other buttons a bit smaller around it otherwise the navigation was easy and easy to select the age range, activity type - indoor, outdoor or travelling and length of time the activity lasted.

There is a share and a favourite option for each activity, these are good features, however they just need to be a bit more obvious, both the share button and the favourites are blue and blend into the skyline at the top so it took me a while to find. If I hadn't been looking for them I wouldn't have noticed them there.

I didn't think there are enough play ideas for the age group I was searching for, they were either too basic (for a younger age range) or required too much preparation.

I would like to seem more activities which require no preparation, to me this is more of a spur of the moment app you click on when you think you have a bit of time and don't know what to do. So it doesn't make sense that some of activities take a lot of planning - collecting toilet rolls, boxes, empty bottles etc.

The Bengals!

I set up a little photo shoot with the cats over the weekend, it's been a while since I took any photos and they have grown such a lot!

Here's Shady the baby, he is such a laid back boy but also very playful and loves a game of fetch. 
Here's Solace, the man of the house, you can tell that from his first photo below!  He loves a good play, he isn't a lap cat but he does love a good back rub!
Tweed, she is the one who has a great grandad who is an asian leopard cat.  Tweed is the purriest out of all of them, she is very much attached to me and will sit on my lap all night long.  She is such a sweet, gentle little soul.
And Spec, Spec is such a funny cat, she really does make us laugh.  She isn't a lap cat either but she does love a nice gentle chin scratch, she loves her routine and her Da Bird toy.  She has a lovely kind temperament and I have never once heard her growl at the other cats.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Clays of Broseley, Shropshire

I had wanted to try Clays of Broseley for my mum's birthday but wasn't overly keen on their menu when I looked at their website, I fancied steak so I sent them a message and to my surprise they replied and said yes we can put some steak on the menu, what sauce would you like and gave me a choice!  Wow, how is that for service!!

We parked in the public car park which was only over the road as the restaurant doesn't have parking.  The front of the restaurant is welcoming with a nice canopy.  We walked in and it is lovely and bright and clean and contemporary however we were seated downstairs which was a bit of a contast.  Lovely bare brick walls, with nice mood lighting, really cosy and welcoming yet still contemporary.

We started looking at the menus and there on an extra sheet was the special for today which was the steak in a red wine sauce I had spoken to them about.  They also had venison on their regular menu which is my favourite so hubby and I ordered one of each and swapped half and half :)  They also didn't have a childrens menu however the waitress advised that they could do smaller portions of anything on the menu for my daughter.  

We had crositini with olives and goast cheese for our starter which was beautiful and so tasty, they brought out a basket of bread with some stunning sundried tomato bread.  My daughter had mini fish with mashed carrot and swede and mashed potato and they were good enough to bring this out with our starters.

The venison and the steaks were cooked to perfection, they really were, we couldn't fault them and not an ounce of fat on them.  The sauce was beautiful and tasty and plenty of it.  We both had the baked white chocolate cheesecake for dessert which came with raspberries and raspberry coulis, this was beautiful and fluffy and tasty. I finished off with a baileys coffee which came with a lovely little meringue with a chocolate coffee ganache running through the middle.  

All in all a lovely meal, fantastic personalised service, lovely setting, I really could not find any fault!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Our First Cat Show

I decided I wanted to enter some cat shows to learn more about the Bengal breed and the standard judges are working towards and what they were looking for.  What they thought of my cats etc.  If I am breeding I feel I need to know more, I know what I need to be testing for health wise, they are all genetically clear for a couple of issues bengals can suffer with (kidney problems and eyes).  When they are old enough they will be heart scanned, so all those boxes are ticked, I just feel I need more ‘real life’ experience of what is going on in the Bengal world!  I had entered a show in July but Spec broke her tail the week before, so I entered the Wyvern show in the hope her tail had healed, I also entered Solly for experience as he is a little shy and needs to get used to being handled.
I had found the schedule out and entered a breed class for them each along with 3 side classes each for them.  It is quite easy to understand the schedules and entry forms, I did have to look up their breed/colour code though for the entry form.  The night before the show I clipped their claws, people always say their cats hate this but mine are fine.  I have a tube of squeezy cheese or pate which my husband feeds to them whilst I go round their claws clipping them, I don’t tend to need to do their back claws as they stay short so it is just the claws on their front feet.  They don’t like their ears cleaned though, I can do them quickly while they are at the food so I have to do a little bit at a time.  I gave them a quick brush and that’s our preparation done!  I gathered all our ‘stuff’ together so that I can just pack the cats in the morning.  I had two pieces of white vet bed, 2 litter trays, 2 water bowls, 2 feed bowls, a water bottle, cat food, cat litter, brush, ear/eye wipes, disinfectant wipes, their vaccination certificates and a trolley to transport everything!  Never would have thought you needed so much.

Show Day!
Spec having a look around!
I decided to get to the show fairly early so I could settle the cats in. So I got there at 8.15 (it opened at 7.30 and closed 9.15 I think).  There wasn’t much of a queue, I just followed what everyone else was doing so I went to the first table to get our little card which you then take to the vetting in table and the vet signs to say they are okay.  I was concerned about Spec’s vaccinations as they are in her passport and it’s difficult to understand what is what, the vet didn’t know either so she had to ask the main vet who said everything was okay.  So both cats went back in their boxes and the card was signed.  I looked at the card and assumed the number by each cat was my pen number so I went off to find the pens.  I found Spec’s pen first, wiped it all down and put her bedding in, litter tray, food, water and a toy followed by Spec.  Off I went to find Solly’s pen which was a little way away from hers.  Once the cats were in, Spec looked quite happy but Solly seemed a little overawed by it all so I went to a stall to by a feather teaser.  I spent a bit of time with him and he gradually came round and seemed to feel happier.  I walked over to Spec’s pen and played with her a little, she didn’t seem fussed in the slightest and I thought she would freak out!  At 10am we’re asked to leave the hall so the judges can judge the breed classes, you have to remove food from the pens and any toys.
I waited patiently, had a couple of coffees, gave in to an adult colouring book and did a few puzzles.  
 At 1pm we were allowed back in but they were running late as they had lost a cat in a mechanical seating set up that sort of looked like a false wall!  So Solly’s breed class hadn’t been judged, Spec’s had and she had a lovely big 2nd place rosette.  When I entered her I didn’t expect her to do that well as had been told GCCF aren’t keen on the dark colour, but I had checked with the office before and they had said I am okay to show her as she is registered as a seal lynx nothing more.  Her side classes were done and she had two firsts and a third in those, I was really pleased but super disappointed just to get place cards, people said you do normally get rosettes for the side classes, the entry fees are expensive, you are talking almost £50 a cat so I did expect a bit more.   
Solly’s results came in and he had a 3rd in breed (judge said he was just a bit young compared to the other kittens) along with a couple of 2nds and a 3rd in the side classes.  However he didn’t get any rosettes as they weren’t giving anything for 3rd.
This show was also doing little rosettes that had ‘I like your cat’ written on them and the idea was you go and put it on another cats pen (not your own which I saw people doing!)  I thought it would be fair to put mine on a different breed, I have always liked Tonkinese so I put mine on a particularly lovely Tonkinese’s pen which actually ended up winning several big rosettes.  Someone put one on Solly’s pen so at least he did get a little rosette lol!
I was pleased with those results given it was their first show and Spec is only just out of kitten and Solly is still only young.  What I was impressed with was how they coped, Spec just loved it, she was so chilled out which I would never have expected as she is so naughty at home.  Solly got used to the environment and relaxed nicely too.  Some cats really don’t look like they are enjoying it and you do have to wonder whether it’s fair on them, I didn’t think I would show Spec again but she loved it so I will enter her in another show.  Tweed needs to mature a bit before she goes to a show but I know that she won't find it stressful as she just loves attention and is a really confident kitten so I don't feel I need to rush her into the show ring.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Our Bengals

I did a little photo shoot with the felines the other day and thought I would show them off.

Here is our beautiful blue eyed snow from Sumarum in Czech Republic, this is Spectrum (aka Spec).  She is almost a year old and genetically clear from PRA and PKD, she is from generations of heart tested cats and am keeping my fingers crossed her heart test will be clear too.  She has such beautiful deep blue eyes and loves to run around with her 'Da Bird' feather, she is the loon of the lot!

Here is Solace (Solly) from Spice's breeder, he is PRA and PKD genetically free.  We had intended to have another girl but when we saw the litter we were just so taken with Solly we couldn't resist him.  His markings are getting nice and dark, not massive rosettes but they are some small rosettes.  He has a lovely quality coat and his tail is wonderful and short and fat.

And here is my little Tweed! Tweed's great great grandad is an Asian Leopard Cat (Sarez Little L).  This might sound a little scary but she is the friendliest cat I have ever known and I have owned lots of cats over the years.  She is the purriest little thing and loves nothing more than a good cuddle.  We had gone out to buy a nice brown rosetted bengal but I saw her photo and fell for her wild looks with her big nocturnal eyes.  Her pattern isn't great and I hope to improve on this with a good boy.  She is such a superstar though, nothing bothers her, she walked into our house at 13 weeks old like she owned the place.

And finally our original, here is the beautiful Spice who is a spayed pet and will always hold a very special part in our hearts.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Pedigree Feeding Trial Summary

Our feeding trial with Pedigree has come to the end and the summary video is now available to watch on Youtube:

We spent 6 weeks earlier this year testing Pedigree complete both wet and dry food.  To start with I was a little put off at the amount of wet food they had planned for us - 3 pouches a day.  I am not keen on wet food, neither the cats nor the dogs have ever been fed, I am not keen on the smell nor am I keen on when you inevitably get some on your fingers, I just find it a bit yucky!  However on our nutrition day (post here) I learnt about how beneficial it is to feed them wet food as well as dry.

Actually the wet wasn't too bad as it looks quite appetising, it has little chunks of meat and veggies in it - actually looks a bit like a Sunday roast!  However it probably isn't something I would continue to feed, the pouches are easier than tins but they do still smell the bin out a bit so you have to take them out to the dustbin.  When you are running round after a 3 year old, a couple of dogs and cats as well,it really isn't something I can be bothered with.  Sweep enjoyed it though and I think if I didn't have so much going on in life or if I had a dog that was suffering from crystals in the bladder etc then it would be the food I would want to use as it does look better than anything else!

The dry, Sweep can be a bit of a picky eater but he enjoyed the dry also and they are decent sized biscuits so they can't just be inhaled and do have to be crunched which in turn is good for their teeth.

Dentastix - all of my dogs get on well with these apart from Sweep, they did make him sick and I am not sure why.  I ended up giving them to my sheltie and my welsh sheepdog and they are fine with them.  Possibly it may have been he was rushing them and not taking his time, I would like to have tried him on the Dentaflex as they are a bit harder to chew so he may have been better with these.

I did find that his stamina levels increased during the trial and now the trial has ended and he is back on a different food I have noticed they have dropped slightly.  While he was on Pedigree he didn't seem to tire easily when throwing a ball or agility training however now he does tire a bit quicker as he did before the trial.  Otherwise I didn't notice an awful lot of difference, he enjoyed his food more though!  His coat was as shiny as it has always been.  However you don't know what is going on inside, he may have been healthier inside but that is something we will never show because there weren't any outward signs that his health had changed.  At the end of the day it does come down to cost and with three dogs to feed I couldn't afford to feed them all Pedigree.  If you can afford it I would say go for it, it has changed my opinion of Pedigree and I really believe in the company in that they are trying to feed the good!

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Sony Xperia X Mobile Phone Review

I was given the new Sony Xperia X to review via Mumsnet and Sony.


I was surprised to have received a rose gold Sony X.  I just assumed it would be black,  it is a lovely colour - a very subtle metallic pink hue, very girlie!

The phone itself feels a nice size and is lively and slim to hold, it is the same size as my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.  It was easy enough to set up,  I already have an android phone so I am used to the interface. I downloaded the Xperia app on my samsung to transfer all my apps and contacts etc, it was so easy to do.  I looked forward to testing the camera as that is my 'thing' and was the reason I had gone for my current phone.

On first impressions it looks and feels like a good quality phone and the touch screen is responsive.  The only thing I don't like so far is the fact there isn't a hard 'home' button like on the iPhone and Samsung.  This home button is via the touch screen at the bottom.


Photography is my thing, the Sony Xperia X has a brilliant camera on paper:
  • 23MP camera with Predictive Hybrid autofocus - Xperia X's object tracking technology helps your subject stay in focus even when moving
  • 13MP front camera for low-light selfies
  • Super fast - from standby to capture in less than 0.6 seconds
I liked the idea of the standby to capture feature, Sony feel their X Moment is important.  "An X Moment is a split second in time that means something to you that’s here and then gone. It could be a baby’s first steps, achieving a personal goal, a sporting achievement, your dog’s whimsical expression, or just a random flash of happiness and hilarity. It’s a moment that you’d love to capture perfectly that’s all too missable if you, or your phone isn’t up to the job."  Using the #WhatsYourX hashtag Sony want to see as many brilliant X Moments shared across social media as possible, with the best ones being retweeted by their @SonyXperiaGB handle.

Here is a review using various setups, click on the smaller photos to enlarge them.
SAMSUNG (TOP)                                 SONY (BOTTOM)
So for starters we will look at Sony's object tracking technology.  My dogs compete in agility and I thought this would be a good test for the phone.  However it couldn't keep up with the dog and he wasn't in focus, in comparison the samsung (top) coped well for a phone camera and there wasn't too much motion blur.


SAMSUNG (LEFT)                                                                       SONY(RIGHT)
Another shot where the Sony did track my nephew coming down the slide and although the quality looks okay, when you zoom into it, you can see it becomes quite pixelated and the quality is lost.  It also makes skin tone a bit reddish.

SAMSUNG (LEFT)                                                                                          SONY (RIGHT)
What I also found with the Sony is that there is quite a lot of shutter lag when in object tracking mode (when you haven't been tracking an object it isn't too bad). The photos above were taken as my daughter was jumping and the Samsung took the photo pretty much as it happened in reality but you can see the Sony missed the moment really.


SAMSUNG (LEFT)                                                                              SONY (RIGHT)
Low light, the camera performs well in low light and actually in the above images, the Sony reflects the colours better than the Samsung.  However the Samsung was a moving shot and the Sony was before the Carousel started, yet the Sony is a little soft when you looking closely.


SAMSUNG (LEFT)                                                                 SONY (RIGHT)
A still image in low light, the Sony really does overcompensate for the lack of light and completely washes out the skin tone and almost over exposes the image.



SAMSUNG (LEFT)                                                 SONY (RIGHT)
Another couple of images, these were taken without zoom and then cropped down, I have to admit I am quite shocked at the quality of the Sony image, it has lost an awful lot of detail if you look at the edge of my daughters fingers, they are still crisp on the Samsung, considering this is only a 12mp camera as apposed to Sony's 23mp.
SAMSUNG (LEFT)                  SONY (RIGHT)          
As in the image in the car, again the Sony over exposes the image and the skin tone is washed out.  This was taken via quick capture which means you can shoot the image while the phone is locked and it is really quick, when it works though as 50% of the time it didn't work and didn't capture the image.  It is a great idea though as quite often you can miss that X moment (See earlier blog post) as the phone takes too long to unlock.



SONY (TOP )                      (SAMSUNG (BOTTOM)
I like the colours that night mode produces on the Sony, however it does lose quality in the image again but it doesn't try to lighten the image too much like the Samsung does which then makes the sky look too light.  Whereas the Sony reflects the colour of the sky properly.


SAMSUNG (LEFT)                            SONY (RIGHT)
Finally onto the selfie mode as another highlight of the phone is the 13 MP front camera for low light selfies.  Again the skin tone is far too cool and a little bit reddish like earlier, the quality doesn't seem a lot better than the front camera on the Samsung.



My overall opinion of the camera unfortunately isn't a good one, I wish it was as on paper it sounded brilliant and I did really want it to be as good as it is made out to be.  Perhaps I am too harsh a critic as photography really is important to me.  My current phone perhaps spoils me as the camera is brilliant, but hubby's iphone 6s is as good as mine and the Sony isn't a patch on either and from the way the Sony is marketed it is made to sound like it should be as good as the market leaders if not better.  I am sorry I just cannot live with the washed out colours and pixelated images. 

It did take a good macro photo when my bengal cat wanted to see what I was doing! Lol.


Sony also claim the following:
  • Smart battery management bringing you up to two days battery life
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 650, 64-bit Hexa-core processor
  • 5" Full HD Display with 2.5D curved glass edge
  • A range of four colours - graphite black,  white,  lime gold and rose gold
On the battery point,  they say it can last up to two days,  I generally found you could go a day without charging and I found the same when my Samsung S7 Edge was new.  Now it is a couple of months old it doesn't last as long so it will be interesting to see if the battery stays this strong in a couple of months time.  With regards to two days battery this can be done but you have to put the phone into battery stamina mode which then means you can't use all of your apps,  GPS is off,  email sync is off, vibration is off etc.  So the reality is nobody would ever actually do this,  I know I would never and nobody I know would.

The processor is fast and on the same sort of level as my Samsung. The display is nice and bright, they claim it has a curved edge but it's not like my Samsung,  more like my hubby's iPhone 6s - just the very edge has a slight roundness.

With regards to the display, we looked at the same photo on my Samsung s7,  hubby's iPhone 6s and the Sony. The Samsung seems to have quite a warm display, the Sony seemed to cool the photo too much and the iPhone sat in the middle.  The Sony definitely didn't replicate the true colours of the image as it is a nice warm image and the Sony really did cool it down too much.

If you are looking for a good quality all round phone it is a good contender and does look smart. 

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not been paid, I have however received the phone in order to review. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.