Friday, 12 December 2014

Getting into the Christmas Spirit with Jacamo! #Reviewtime

Christmas is coming, the moose is getting fat and this father and son combo are finally getting into the festive spirit with thanks to Jacamo, who kindly sent us these Label J Christmas Jumpers to review. 

I'll admit now I made a bit of a mistake here, Gus was out with friends when we chose the jumpers out and on first look he wasn't too keen on my choice for him, but it's ok as you'll find out later in the review. I chose the Label J Starry Night knitted jumper for me and for Gus we chose the Label J Snowman knitted jumper, 
Let's start with my review, 
The Label J Starry Night knitted jumper comes out large, so if you're size is not available the size down should do the trick. Jumpers for me usually have to serve a purpose, for instance keeping me warm while pootling about on the bike or out and about in the school yard, looks usually are unimportant
to me, however this one ticks the usefulness and for one of the first times in a while it also looks good too. I'm far from a fan of the tradition of Christmas, let alone jumpers, but this jumper is bringing the out the festive side of me and with that it's bringing out the smiles to those around me too. Add on the high quality and feel and how warm it feels when wearing it makes for a perfect Christmas jumper, albeit a seasonal one. It's one I'll be happy to wear again and again!

Then we have Gus' Label J Snowman Jumper, the first words we got from Gus on putting it on were "Damn, I make it look good!" As shown by the image here. Again it comes out a size large, but means a small will result in a comfortable medium fit, once he'd got over the initial wibble on my choosing but really likes it, on top of this he's got back from his aunts house again, telling me how warm the jumper is. On showing the jumper off to his friends they've been asking where he got it from.
From the looks of things, Gus approves and prefers this to the Christmas jumper his aunt bought him, which is still in the packaging unlike this one,
In conclusion, the range of Christmas jumpers Jacamo have in stock are high quality, comfortable and ultra festive, even if there is the odd risqué one on the Jacamo's website everyone will like. And on that one I'm offski to roast some chestnuts, wrap up some presents and enjoy some good classic movies.

Toodlepip - Paul! 

Monday, 8 December 2014

All Aboard the Santa Express with Max Appeal

There's not a lot of posts I begin with a video at the start but for this one it's special and I want to help spread the word for Max Appeal and also tell you all about the Santa Express to help raise awareness and offer support for people with DiGeorge syndrome and Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome, more commonly refereed as 'deletion 22q11 syndrome'.

I will admit now I don't know enough about deletion 22q11 syndrome to blog about it in a useful way for that I do apologise but to help educate both you and me I've lifted some information from the Max Appeal website's background history pages.

What are DiGeorge syndrome and Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome?
Both of these conditions generally have the same underlying cause and that is some missing genes on one of the 22nd chromosomes, specifically a 22q11.2 deletion. They are part of a spectrum of disorders that is increasingly referred to as 'deletion 22q11 syndrome'.

The name given to your child's condition very much depends upon the nature of the symptoms your child has and where and by whom your child was diagnosed. A 'syndrome' is a collection of symptoms or findings that have been seen to regularly occur together. 'Congenital' refers to something that developed during pregnancy, ie you were born with it.

Is this a rare condition?
The 22q11.2 deletion is the most common sub-microscopic deletion. It is currently estimated that around 1 in 1,800 births are affected and this rate is constantly being reviewed. It is the most common cause of congenital heart defects after Down's syndrome. The piece of missing genetic information is so small that it cannot be seen under a microscope and so a special test, called the FISH test (fluorescence in-situ hybridisation), has been developed. This has only been available in the last few years and so it is likely that your GP may not have heard of the condition. You should be offered genetic counselling by your hospital or doctor.

How does it affect a person?
The extent to which your child is affected is extremely variable and almost impossible to predict. There are approximately 180 anomalies caused by the deletion, and each individual could be affected by many (but NOT all!) or just a few or have no discernible problems at all.

It is a spectrum of disorders. Many early problems make dramatic improvements in jumps and starts. It is important to note there is no pattern to the difficulties children encounter by junior school age, for example, if your child has a complex heart defect then it does not mean that they will also have other severe symptoms.

For more information please click here 

But Paul, what does this have to do with trains? Let's get to that now.
Back in the days of First Capital Connect (Now Govia Thameslink Limited) Mark Tripp a train driver worked with management to get the chance to brand one of the newly refurbished Class 365 trainset with the Max Appeal Livery and named Max Appeal. This to me is a lovely idea to promote awareness for the charity.
To quote Max Appeal Ambassador India Knight "Mark wondered how he could alert other people to the fact that this condition exists and that it not being diagnosed causes terrible anxiety, pain and suffering. A train, he thought, being a train driver. We should name a train after the charity - it's called Max Appeal, after Max, the late son of its two founders - that brilliantly supports the parents of children with this diagnosis"
On top of this GTR also run the Santa express, a Christmas train which runs from Bedford via the Sutton loop and back to Bedford to help bring awareness for Max Appeal while raising money for both Max Appeal and other local charities. The Santa Express runs on the 13th December and departs at 09:04, but it'll be popular so I suggest getting to Bedford station early to avoid disappointment.

Santa Express stops at the following stations;
Luton Airport Parkway
St Albans
St Pancras International

Have fun if you're going!


Keep on riding with Sustrans Sponsor a mile

I don't hide the fact I'm a Sustrans volunteer from anyone, I'm quite proud of this fact, especially when I can see the benefits we've helped bring to the local community, especially the school projects I've participated on, projects that help families get out and have fun, be it in the sun, rain, wind or even the rain, it's all about families doing things together, without little screens or computers getting in the way.

When Sustrans realised I blogged they asked me if I would sponsor a mile of NCN route and what my favourite National Cycle Network route would be. I was happy to oblige them, especially as the local NCN routes around here are kept to high standards and easy to ride, walk or take the horses for a ride and accessible to all in the local community.
For me It has to be the smaller, somewhat hidden (but in plain view) gem taking you from Sewell to Dunstable Downs via an Iron Age hillfort and burial ground. That route is 574

Locals will understand!

The reason I like my mile of route 574 is down to it's beauty and immense history. While the route gives easy access to Dunstable Downs, Whipsnade Zoo (via shallowsprings,) the Five Knolls Barrow Cemetery, Maidenbower Iron Age HillFort and onto Route 6 in Sewell, While I'm still learning the history of the area it doesn't take a lot to see the beauty and through the years I've seen it from living in a neighbouring village, Kensworth. A strange village with next to no travel options bar cars or a bike, and with the limited options the downs becomes an essential gateway well before Sustrans upgraded the route.
The upgrade made commuting to work, school, the pub, or shopping even easier to villagers and similarly for townsfolk, who can visit the local areas easier and more accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
On top of this there's the ride I used to ride a lot when younger and called it the "Ring of fire" Where you start from Gateway Centre, and go down the hill to the lower portion of the downs, to the base of the downs and back up to the gateway centre, I'll eventually embed an endomondo route for this ride as soon as I can, but I can say, at 12 years old in the rain it was hard, but seems more like fun these days, I know when we used to ride it with the kids they liked it too.

If you've got a favourite mile you ride, please visit the Sponsor a mile page and get sponsoring, as sponsoring a mile means we can help keep the mile to good standards, tidy and increase the routes in the future. On top of this Sustrans schemes such as Travel Choices and Travel Luton bring support to your children in helping them ride, checking the safety of their bikes, and building their confidence up to enable them to be safe, on top of this we host support for adults in walking, cycling and all things transport. They help support you, so let's support them!

Disclosure, I was given a mile by Sustrans to help spread the word.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Times and bikes change, but the fun increases!

It seems like a month ago I posted about the three bikes we use for fun, well it probably was. But it seems some of the bikes have been swapped to fit the girls needs, especially with Vee's bike being too heavy and tall for her and Lissy's being too small and lightweight (I kid you not!)

Change was needed fast and came thanks to volunteering, swapping and safety checks the girls have new old bikes, the sort of bikes that have been around the block a bit but still raring to go, similar to Grampsbike the Raliegh.

It may be 2 degrees but they like their bikes!

On the left we have Lissy's Bronx Dinosaur bike. It's a 14 inch wheeled affair kitted out with a 2014 Selle Royale Lollipop seat and lightweight Kalloy components to help reduce weight but retain strength. There's the odd scratch here and there but when in the mood she can blat twice as fast with little effort, even hills are a breeze for her right now.
This bike is called:

On the Right we have Vee's Universal Typhoon in faded orange a 16 Inch wheeled bike with an older 2010 Selle Royale Lollipop seat and funky tyres. This one has been a tad more well loved in comparison to Lissy's but it's doing well for it's estimate age. It's bought Vee's confidence out so much in just over a week so it's a win in my eyes.
This bike is called:

While both will have some minor work done work done to them they're both ready to rock and already providing hours of fun for both girls, even on cold days like Saturday! Bring on the #SchoolPedal!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Vodafone Samsung Galaxy s5 and Gear Fit Review pt 1


I've teamed up with Vodafone UK to review the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the wearable goodness of the Samsung Gear Fit curved smart watch, to see how the devices work together and how they can benefit the health concious, I'll be using the combo with GrampsBike throughout the review.

For the record the review model I have is the Samsung SM-G900M for Vodafone, meaning it's passed Vodafone's strict firmware tests and included some 'value added tools' that can thankfully be disabled if you dislike them. Similarly with the Vodafone Smart 4 Turbo this can only be seen as an advantage to the customer as the pre-installed bloat is to such a minimum it could never inconvenience you.

From using the device for less than a day I feel the S5 is a lovely device packed full of features and size too, at 5.59x2.85 inches in size there is plenty of space for these features, while a fair whack larger than my S4 mini it feels comfortable in the hand with a sturdy feel on the sides and a leather effect battery cover for extra grip, add in minimal flex and water resistance and I can see why the handset is popular.

The Samsung Gear Fit is a wearable slightly different to the other Samsung Gear devices available as they natively run Android Wear and Tizen. The Gear Fit runs a Real Time Operating System, meaning less app compatibility with all the inbuilt functions but also increased battery life and a more light weight system, designed for the fitness bug in all of us. On testing it this afternoon it performed well, with the pedometer matching the tool I use on my current device which uses the accelerometer to estimate the steps you take.

I'll wrap this up for now as I'll need more time to make any sound conclusions on the devices, but with the #SchoolPedal into full swing this December there's lots more to come.


Monday, 1 December 2014

The Dog on Stilts Review #DaddyReads

It's no secret that I read stories for my children every evening, even if it means halting meetings when I'm away from home to create stories about the train to London, weird people and even the gargantuan funny stairs taking me from the insanity of the train networks to the sanctity of the rainy day outside. It's probably one of the only things I do for my children that can influence their futures by feeding their imaginations, something all children need in my opinions.

We are very fortunate to be sent a beautifully crafted hardback of epic proportions to review by the lovelies at Superhairies last week, that beautiful hardback is Dog On Stilts. By children's bookwriting* duo James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon (Guys, could I get some of Earl Ketchup's toast please?)

But who is the Dog On Stilts? Meet Medium Dog is just an average, everyday dog - not particularly tall or spotty or interesting in any way. So he dreams up a way to become extraordinary, a dog to be noticed at last! An exquisitely illustrated story about friendship and the desire to be 'more',  from the creators of the Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race book.

I'm far from a book reviewer so forgive me for my ham-fisted approach here but let's tell the truth parent to parent here.
There are books designed to be read to children while many are good it feels like there are many rehashes of classic tales and those books so quick they're already over the moment you grasp the imaginations. And then you get books that completely captivate the imagination of those reading, listening and admiring the illustrations, Dog On Stilts is a winner all round on this in our house.

From it's beautiful illustrations, it's sections in small chunks easy for a child and to one of the best surprised I've seen in a while (it's coming later) The SuperHairies have done a fabulous job here on this book to encourage young imaginations to grow and expand through written word.

I liked the book so much I bought the Daddy reads video series out of retirement.

Now if you've watched the video you may know about the surprise. Well, one of them anyway, but there is another and it's none other than Dog On Stilts, The Musical! A musical story treat your children will love,

While I can read like a loon the musicians have captured the story in a way I didn't think was possible, while it may not be to everyone's taste it should be a favourite with many.

I've gone to the trouble of embedding this for your aural pleasure

This book in my eyes is set to be a modern children's classic, a classic that would be at home on any book shelf and well loved through the generations, with the amount of love and attention given by the SuperHairies it's clear to me it's one of the children's books to buy.

Where can you buy the book? Well the hardback is available in stores now ready to take home with with an RRP of £10.99,with the Musical available freely on their soundcloud as embedded above.

For more information on the SuperHairies clicky here 

Thanks for reading

*Their own words, lifted from twitter.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Please Help Find Tigger #FindTigger

Hi everyone, I'm in a state and feel awful right now so apologies on the sad factor this post.

Vee has a toy tigger, her beloved cuddle buddy who's been with her since birth. They've been through a lot through the nearly seven years through sickness, health and in many ways her best friend who she talks to when she's in a weird mood some of her "Vee and Tigger chats" have been very adorable. It makes for very interesting listening.

We'll not hear any more sadly. As Tigger went missing in London last night, she'd held him in her coat, when she didn't have him I assumed she'd put him in my rucksack, when we checked my bag while swapping her trousers I noticed he was missing. She instantly realised she'd dropped the ball and lost him.

We're both devastated, In hindsight I shouldn't have taken him with us, but both girls would be tired on the way home and cuddle buddies help the last tired walk home from the bus easier.
I've failed my daughter and it's upset all of us. Both me, Lissy and Vee cried at Holborn Station and a fair few more times too I AM AN IDIOT!

I will be sharing images, this post and calling lost and found as long as it takes to try and find him. I have to try my hardest. I'll be using the #FindTigger hashtag too.

If anyone can help Vee will appreciate it

Before I go to bed huge props to the gateline staff and the PCSO at Holborn for being so awesome, even offering to buy vee sweets as she was upset.
Also a shout to the team at Kings Cross St.Pancras underground station office were also amazing. Telling us the story of the last tigger they had at the station. He was found after the Kings cross fire and placed in the office window to hopefully find his home until many years later when the previous manager retired who gave him a forever home.

Thank you for reading this!