Category Archives: Reviews

Tailgating…aka: Praise Be to VW Heritage…


For as long as he has lived with us, Old Red’s tailgate struts (the bits that keep the boot hatch open) have been defunct and we have had to use brooms, planks, step-ladders and people to keep it open. This isn’t ideal as it makes access to the engine bay a little tricky, and also because the bike rack tends to drip cold water on whoever drew the “holding the boot open” short straw. So when I was asked to write a review for VW Heritage it really wasn’t difficult to think of a part that we needed.

Their website is organised by vehicle type, which makes finding parts for your bus or car a lot simpler…especially for people like me who don’t have as much experience with this kind of thing. There are also handy diagrams with a key so you can be doubly sure that you’re buying the right part. My lack of expertise made it hard for me to be certain of what I wanted (I mean, how can you search successfully for a tailgate strut if you think its real name is “boot propper-opener”?!) but all it took was a quick email to VW Heritage and I had all the help I needed.

There is also a ‘Live Chat’ feature on the website so, if you would rather open a speedy dialogue than draft an email, you have that option too.

Our parts – a pair of Meyle gas struts – arrived within days of ordering them.

It may have taken us six months to find a good day to get them fitted (I had overestimated just how much time I’d have to do van stuff once Velcro baby extraordinaire was here)…but get them fitted we did!



Removing the old struts…

This is obviously an excellent place to start.

Neither of us had much of an idea on how to do this job, so Luke had a look at the van while I had a look on Google. To say it’s an easy job would be a bit of an understatement, …he’d figured out what we needed to do (and started to do it) before the first page had even begun to load on my phone.

The struts are attached to the body of the van by a pin and a horseshoe clip (and two washers in the case of Old Red), and onto the tailgate by a ball joint with a pincer locking collar.


…horseshoe clip and pin holding the strut to the body… (this is the cleaned clip and the new strut)

With the door propped up on a step-ladder (I don’t recommend using this method yourself as it wasn’t the safest…especially seeing as we kept walking into the ladder and dislodging it), we started by removing the struts from the body of the van.

To do this we used a flat screwdriver to push/slide/lever the horseshoe clip off the pin, freeing the end of the strut. Old Red’s clips had rusted into place but a few squirts of WD40 and some gentle taps with a hammer and screwdriver got them moving.


The other end of the strut was even easier. You just slip your screwdriver into the back of the collar and lever it outwards to release the pincer hold around the ball stud so that you can pull it away.


Et voila!…your strut is free.

…And on with the new…

Installing the new parts was just as simple.

Starting with the tailgate/ball joint end…you use your screwdriver to lever the collar open and hook the strut onto the ball stud.


The collar locks securely around the ball, but we gave ours a good wiggle, just to be sure we’d done it correctly.

The other end slides back over the pin on the body…


…and then you can replace the washers and clips (Luke cleaned ours before putting them back on) before standing back to admire your  handiwork.


…done! Many thanks to Auntie Stephie for keeping her nephew happy while we worked…

It was such an easy job, and I just can’t explain how satisfying it is to not only have a working boot on our van (so satisfying that we opened and closed the boot many MANY times to test it out), but to actually have done it ourselves. Camping is going to be a whole new experience now, and doing work in the engine bay is going to be SO much easier…not to mention safer.

I’d like to offer a massive thank you to the guys at VW Heritage for their help in getting our first repair done. The struts are excellent quality and not only were they easy to fit, but they work superbly too. Our rear door is heavier than most (because of the huge, clunky bike rack) but it now opens and closes really smoothly, and (most importantly) it stays open without human intervention!

Now we’ve got one job off the to-do list, we’re keen to get on with more.

VW Heritage have a handy Wishlist function on their website that account holders can use to save items they want for future purchase (or in case a kind soul should want to buy you presents) so I’m going to use that to keep track of all the parts we need and want. With summer just a few weeks away we don’t have long to get Old Red back on the road, but I’m feeling really positive about our ability to get it done.


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Cloth Bottys!…

At the moment you can buy Bambino Miosolo nappies for just £7.99 from Aldi (fabulous when you consider that they can be twice that price!) and you have three designs to choose from…


…we got two each of the ‘little birdy’ and the ‘up up & away’ patterns.

We haven’t started using cloth yet (much to my chagrin) as I’ve just not been in the right place in my head to deal with the extra work. Even now, we’ve only got these four (plus the prefolds I’ve talked about already) so we have a way to go before we’re totally weaned off ‘sposies.

These nappies are all-in-one so they have a waterproof cover that has intergral absorbant material (thick microfibre in this case) rather than separate inserts. The insert can be pulled out to make washing/drying easier, and the pocket it goes in can be boosted with extra inserts, should you need to.

At first glance, they look great…


The velcro fasteners can be secured back on themselves (top picture) which is really useful to keep the nappies from getting stuck to each other when washing. The insert has a handy little loop (right) to make pulling it out easier (for washing purposes), and it also has a little ‘glove’ pocket at the end (bottom left), to help push it back into place once they’re clean and dried.

Nappy Prep…

Cloth nappies need to be prepared before you can use them.

All nappies should be washed at least once to get rid of any manufacturing dirt/chemicals before use. Natural fibre cloth (like cotton and bamboo) has natural oils that will repel water (and, therefore, pee and poop) so they need to be washed on a hot wash two or three times to get rid of the oils and improve their absorbency.

Miosolos are completely synthetic so I put them through a 40 degree wash with a bit of Ecover laundry liquid, followed by a rinse to get rid of any leftover detergent. In the future (when they’re dirty) I’ll rinse them first to get rid of excess pee/poop, then put them through a 60 degree wash. I’ll probably follow with a rinse then too.

Note…you must wash natural and synthetic nappies separately until you have stripped the oils from the natural cloth so that the synthetic fabrics don’t take-up the oils as they are released.

I dried them on a radiator rack (so they weren’t directly touching the heat) and they were dry by the morning, but you can put them in the tumble-drier on a cool cycle if you want to.

Ready to go…almost…

So! The nappies are washed and ready to be used, but I don’t have any liners for them. Liners not only wick the wetness away from baby’s skin (which the fleecy material of the pocket also does) but they also make it a lot easier to deal with poop…

With liners, I’ll be able to throw (disposable liner) or wash (reusable liner) most of the poop away.

Without liners, I’ll have a pail full of lots of VERY poopy nappies. There will be staining. The bucket will smell a hundred times worse. I will be putting a LOT of poop through the washing machine.

At the moment I don’t know what direction to take with liners. Disposable ones seem easiest as they just go out of the nappy and either down the loo or into a nappy bag and into the bin. Reuseable ones mean less waste of course, and I kind of feel that if I’m going to be washing nappies and wipes (we use reusable wipes already) then I might as well be washing liners too…but I’m not sure I want to be rinsing poopy liners out.

I already have a big sheet of fleece (a cheap Ikea blanket…far FAR cheaper than buying the equivalent amount of fleece fabric) to make more wipes out of, so I may as well make nappy liners at the same time. It’d make more sense to do that than buy liners.

…I’m also waiting for a lidded bucket to arrive. I searched online for a “nappy bucket” and found several options, the cheapest being about £7. I searched again for a “lidded bucket” and found this white one for £4.99 (with free delivery) that I can decorate with Sharpies, should I so desire.

We’ve only got the four at the moment, and I’m loathe to buy any more until I know how they work for us, but we should be able to do the best part of a day in cloth once the bucket arrives.

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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Baby, Life, Parenting, Plans, Reviews


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The Struts Have Landed…

A while ago I was asked to write a parts review for VW Heritage, a company that stocks parts and accessories for all kinds of Volkswagen vehicles.

Old Red needs a LOT of work so it was hard to know what parts to ask for, but in the end Luke and I decided to get tailgate struts so we don’t have to rely on planks or the strength of our arms/backs to hold the door open.

They arrived yesterday morning!…


I feel so honoured to be asked to do my first “proper” review. Luke and I will be removing the old struts and fitting the new ones ASAP…watch this space!


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Why I Love Companion Care Vets…

Fletch and I have always had ruff (ha ha) experiences at the vets. He’s a very sociable dog (by sociable, I mean he wants to kiss all people and try to have sex with all other dogs) and so most of our vets trips have been bookmarked by stressful waiting room situations where he pulls and chokes and coughs up bubbly stuff, and I fight against him getting hotter and more embarrassed with each moment that passes.

When I eventually managed to sit down he would cry and try to get under the seats and shed fur like mad…it was very stressful for the both of us. It doesn’t help that most vet’s surgeries are filled with other stressed out animals. Their crying often seemed to make him even more on edge.

We’ve also had some vets be downright mean because of his breed and his talkative nature. I know he’s as soft as whippy ice cream (and SO affectionate), but they don’t, and some of them have said some VERY hurtful things.  So much so that they have had me leaving their practices in tears and refusing to go back.

Now we take Fletch to Companion Care in the Redditch branch of Pets at Home and we couldn’t be happier…


Firstly, seeing as this is one of the only shops that I’ve taken Fletch into, he was already well used to going in to do fun things like choose toys, try on collars, and buy treats. He’s also met a lot of other dogs in there under non-stressful circumstances and he’s genuinely happy to walk in.

Even when we get up to the back of the shop (where Companion Care is located) he stays calm and interested, rather than pulling around manically…


Their waiting room is split into two parts around the desk so if there are any stressed animals there we can keep him away from them. Sometimes there’s dogs and cats everywhere in there but because of the fact it’s in a massive pet shop we can always take him for a wander down an aisle if he’s getting worked up.

The vets themselves are fabulous. too. They all say hello to Fletch, pet him LOADS and offer him treats before trying to administer any care so he’s always comfortable and relaxed when the “unfun” things begin. He’s had to stay in for surgery on occasion and every time they’ve reassured us that he’s a lovely natured dog that they’re very happy to have. They’re so much more welcoming of him than the other vets we took him to in Redditch.

Finally, and this only occured to me the other day when we took him in for vaccinations on a Sunday…what other vet surgeries do you know that operate on weekends and bank holidays? Of course, there’s always out of hours and emergency vets, but it’s definitely reassuring to know that we can get hold of people we know and trust pretty much every day of the year.

…above all, it’s lovely that this old boy is happier, more relaxed, and very well cared for…


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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Animals, Life, Places, Reviews


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Safety First – Car Seats and Bases…

Unsurprisingly, hospitals won’t let you take your newborn home unless you have a legal car seat (the obvious exception to this rule is if you’re walking). As such, it’s pretty important to have a seat ready to go. I might have only just packed my hospital bag, but I’ve had our boy’s car seat waiting for him (still in the bag in case the cat tries to sit in it) since I was about 28 weeks pregnant.

Although we’re not buying a pushchair (more about that soon), we’d been offered a Quinny Buzz pushchair frame and so decided to get a Maxi Cosi baby seat to fit into it. After looking at the different choices, we went for the Cabriofix (in mosaic blue) because it had tested well and boasted a Side Protection System that the Pebble/Pebble Plus didn’t seem to have.

Maxi Cosi Cabriofix in Mosaic Blue

We got it from Mothercare Online on sale quite a while ago (we were out when it was delivered and the delivery driver just dropped it over the fence into our back garden which I wasn’t all that pleased about), and the price has since dropped to near the sale price. Still, it’s given us time to play with it and we’re really pleased with it.

Luke wanted to get one of the Isofix bases too, so I started looking into them and got pretty confused over which we should buy.

The EasyFix was the cheapest but was only suitable for the Cabriofix chair, so it’d need replacing in less than a year.

The next model up, the FamilyFix seemed good as, although it was £165, it also took the Maxi Cosi Pearl seat and so would last our little one until he is about four years old. That’s far better value for money but the Pearl is a forward-facing seat, and as such isn’t as safe as I’d like it to be…

Up until a couple of weeks ago (when buying the base to go with our seat became more urgent) I’d only seen the above two Isofix bases but then I discovered a new one…the 2Way Fix Base…

Maxi Cosi Two Way Fix Base

…which allows you to use a 2 Way Pearl seat. This seat can be used forward facing (from around 15 months) but is suitable for rear facing travel up to around four years old.

Two Way Fix Base is suitable up to 4 years

The base was more expensive than the others at £190 from Mothercare, and we had to order it in-store and wait for it to arrive which meant two trips to Solihull but it’s more than worth it for its longevity and safety (note: we could have ordered it in-store and had it delivered but we didn’t want a repeat of the seat delivery).

When we went to order/pay for it, one of the sales assistants brought their store model out to make sure it fitted in both my and mom’s cars (as mom will be driving us home from the hospital). It went really easily into mom’s car (Peugeot 306) but was a right faff to get into mine (Golf Mk4) as my seats are so fat and padded. It took a while, but with the little plastic guides (they come with the base), some seat squashing (we needed several hands for this), and lots of good humour, we eventually got it clicked in. We haven’t installed it in a car or tried the seat on it yet, but I’m confident that it’ll be more secure than the seatbelt fixing (especially with my overly padded seats).

I can’t be sure but I don’t think that Mothercare stocked the Two Way base when I was first looking at them back in June. I’m very glad that I got confused, gave up, and didn’t just buy a FamilyFix at the same time as I was getting the seat. I’d have been really upset to find out that there was a better option for us later on.

I’m also very thankful that my Great Aunt and her daughter (my godmother) gifted us the money to buy the base at our recent not-a-baby-shower. Our little boy is very lucky to be so loved and so spoilt by his family…and he’s not even here yet!

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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Reviews, Pregnancy, Baby, Parenting


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Snacks – Hospital Essentials…


Along with all the clothing, toiletries, and comfort items you’d normally think of, most ‘hospital bag’ lists suggest that you take snacks and drinks along too. Labour can be a looong and tiring process, so it’s quite likely that you (and your birth partner) will get hungry or just need a bit of an energy boost.

The Babycentre site warns that prolonged physical activity (like labour) on an empty stomach can cause your body to start raiding your fat stores, which could give you a headache and make you feel (or be) sick. I’m not sure if I’ll want to eat anything during labour, or if I’ll have the time, but this is what I’ve packed so far…

– a HUGE bag of jelly babies…lots of people recommend them as high energy snacks, and I LOVE them (partly because I like to say “would you like a jelly baby” in Tom Baker’s voice)

– dried mango…because it’s nice and because it had been sitting in our cupboard for a while

– nature valley protein rich cereal bars…I started out with five of these but have eaten two already. If I’m honest, they’re not that great (too dry!) and I’m worried about taking peanuts into hospital, so I might just eat them all and get some seed bars instead…

– poppy and sesame crackers…these are AMAZING. They’re better with cheese but I love them on their own too. I actually can’t believe that I haven’t eaten these already. Cheese flavour crackers would be good too.

– raspberry leaf tea bags…these are the not-so-nice ones (they have a vague tomato soup smell/flavour) but they are individually wrapped which is a definite bonus. I’m not sure if I should take a thermos or not…they should have boiling water and cups in hospital?…surely?

– straws!…to make drinking easier (especially if I’m trying to focus and don’t want to have to lift a bottle/my head)

…the one thing we don’t have yet is drinks. I’m thinking a bottle of water (that we can then refill) and a couple of bottles of Powerade (blue of course) for its energy-giving properties. I used to inhale the stuff when I was doing skate training so I’m hoping it’ll make me feel like a fierce rollergirl again. I’m nothing if not optimistic!

We also need snacks for Luke, but I think he’ll be happy with a multipack of crisps.

I wanted to get a soft-sided cool bag for my snacks, and after looking around the town centre Luke found these little blue ones in the picnic section of Poundland. They’re about the size of a 6-pack of coke, close securely with a zip, and have a useful little pocket at the front too. The handle isn’t very long but it’s long enough to hook over your arm.

We did find a few others but they weren’t much bigger and were all around £5-10. They were a lot sturdier and thicker (so better as cool bags, I’m guessing) but we didn’t really need anything that was overly fancy.

I was worried that the Poundland ones wouldn’t be big enough so we got two. At the moment I’ve only filled one (and there’s still a bit of space in it) so there’s another for Luke (or me if I suddenly get greedy). They’ll be nice to use again after our little one is here for family-day-out packed lunches too.


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36 Weeks – The Joy of Ikea…

…I’m only a week late in posting this…

Monday (the 10th) was the start of my 36th week of pregnancy…


…(please excuse the rough-looking picture) and I celebrated it by getting up at 7am to accept a big Ikea delivery from the Parcelforce delivery man. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t think it’d be that early. I also thought that the nice delivery man would lift the massive heavy boxes into the hallway for the massive pregnant woman…but no. Apparently it was more than his job is worth.

Thank you Parcelforce, you are (not at all) helpful. Luckily I have a big strong husband that I could drag out of bed, but what if he had been out at work, or if I was single? What if I was and elderly person or just weak? Needless to say, I am not impressed by their (lack of) service.


I’d been looking forward to it all arriving because a) I love getting new stuff, and b) I love love LOVE putting flat-pack together. So there it was, a box of cot pieces, a box of changing table pieces, a plastic wrapped mattress and a box of “things”…I started unpacking it and suddenly it all became very real.

Baby things.

For our baby.

Who will be here in 1-6 weeks.

Oh gosh.

I had a bit more tea and put off the building for a while longer.

When it came down to it, Luke was going to help me, but I told him that I wanted to do it by myself. He does so much around the house while I sit and moan about SPD and being tired that I thought he could do with a break. Plus, we may be a fantastic team a lot of the time. but we don’t build well together.

As it is, I don’t build well alone, but at least I can only get frustrated with myself that way…

I started on the cot. I’d chosen a white Gulliver cot as it was very VERY cheap (£55) and could have one side removed, which makes it ideal to “sidecar” as a cosleeper on our bed. I was going to build it as a three-sided cot straight away as we want to have our little one close by, and we wanted to be able to get him into and out of our bed easily to make night feeds a bit less of a faff.

The trouble is that Ikea assumes that you will build it as a four-sided cot with the base up high…then drop the base down to it’s lowest setting once your child gets older (and more mobile)…then remove the side and use it as a cot-bed once your little one is bed aged…and their instructions are set out in those three stages. There is nothing for the parent who, like me, wants to flout their rules. SO I cobbled it together on my own…

First, I put the three sides together, then I tried to put the cot bed bar in and realised that it wasn’t going to work and that I needed to take one of the ends off…

So, I took the end off, slotted the bar in, reattached the end…and then realised that I couldn’t get the mattress base in when all of the side were assembled…

I took the end off AGAIN, slotted in the base (with considerable difficulty) and reattached the end AGAIN and stood back to admire my work. That’s when I realised I’d put the base in upside down

So off came the end for a third time, and out came the base. Putting it back in this time was a doddle (because it was the right way up and I could see what I was doing), as was reattaching the end (because I’d had SO much practice at doing that already) and then it was finished. Actually finished.

…and I only had to make it FOUR TIMES.

Still, I had fun doing it, and laughed at myself every time I went wrong, The only down side was that by the time I’d finished my feet were five sizes bigger than when I’d started and I really REALLY needed to sit down. So obviously the next step I took was to move our king-sized bed, put the cot in place and move the bed back.

And THEN I sat down. Well, after making it look all nice and pretty…


…those are the sleeping bags we got from Ikea too…check out our retro duvet/curtains combo (they’re my Mom’s and older than me), whilst trying to ignore the fact that I hadn’t put the matching pillow cases on…


…a closer look at the sleeping bags…LOOK AT THE LITTLE FEET!!!…

…a while later I put together our bargain basement SNIGLAR changing table (£25), but that’s just sitting on our landing at the moment so I haven’t taken a photo of it yet. Here is a stock photo for your viewing pleasure…


…it’s basic but it was cheap and it’ll do the job. I wasn’t even going to bother buying one and just use a mat on the floor or bed, but I figured that if I have to have a c-section it’ll be much more convenient to have a proper changing table set up. It was far easier to put up than the crib, but I still made sure that I read the instructions properly before I started to avoid having to undo my work and start again. At one point I remember thinking “These shelves aren’t very deep…surely a baby could roll off this very easily?”…and then I realised that I’d put the shelf parts (the white bit in the picture) upside down…

Luckily I didn’t have to pull much apart to fix it though…

So, other than the cot and changing table, we also got…

VYSSA VINKA mattress …£40…it’s sprung and has a removable, washable cover. I was going to go for their cold foam mattress but figured that the springs would allow for better air circulation.

LEN mattress protector …£5…to protect the mattress. Obviously.

LEN fitted cot sheets …£7.50 for two…maybe I should have gotten four…oh well, there’s still time to get more.

LEKA cot mobile…£4…it’s a leaf with bugs dangling from it and it is SO cute, but it doesn’t come with anything to suspend the mobile from. I have looked around for some mobile arms online and they all seem to a) come with a mobile, or b) cost more than £10 for the arm alone. Whoops.

SKOTSAM changing mat…£5…it fits in the top of the changing table, has a padded base and inflatable sides. The valves on the inflatable bits are awful. One of them was ok and I could pinch it and blow air in, but I had to kind of push that air into the other three sections with my cheeks. I don’t know how else to describe it but it was very frustrating. I wouldn’t recommend buying one. One of the sides has already deflated…


ONSKLIG storage baskets…£7…these four little baskets hang off the edge of the changing table. One has a lid so could be good as a nappy pail (but I don’t know how well it’d contain smells!)…I’m not sure what I’ll keep in them but they seemed like they might be useful when I was putting my order together. The set comes with two hook clips too.


…Ikea’s photo…

POMSIG sleeping bag…£12…


…Ikea’s photo…

PYTTESSMA sleeping bag… £11…both of these bags are 0-6 months and are good for use in temperatures of 16-20°C (so they’re around 2.5tog) so they’ll be good in our bedroomaswe alwayshave the windows open.


…Ikea’s photo…

KRAMA washcloths… £3 for 10…I’m planning on using these for making my own babywipes (more about this in an upcoming post). They’re 30cm square and wonderfully soft. I got two packs because they’re so cheap – one pack to make baby wipes and one to actually use as washcloths (or turn into more wipes if they work well). I really like their little coloured hanging loops (which hang on the useful hook clips that I got with the storage tubs)


…Ikea’s photo…

With delivery, the whole lot came to just over £185, which is less than I imagined the cot and mattress would cost on their own. Aside from the changing mat fail, I was really pleased with everything we got, and even more pleased by the price. They have some really lovely (affordable) stuff for babies and children, and I can’t recommend them enough

We do have a few more things that we need to pick up from there (like drawers for the Kallax shelving units we have in our bedroom) so I might brave a drive to Coventry this week…and I might be tempted into buying some of their baby towels and toys…


Posted by on August 18, 2015 in Baby, Life, Lists, Pregnancy, Reviews


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