Review: Shaun the Sheep – Spring Cleaning

Shaun the Sheep - Spring Cleaning

Somewhat unbelievably, it’s 25 years this coming Christmas since Wallace and Gromit were first beamed into our living rooms, in A Grand Day Out. I’ll just let that sink in for a second… 25 years! A quarter of a century! That’ll be another one of those things that make me feel positively ancient then.

That said, it wasn’t until their second adventure, The Wrong Trousers, was broadcast four years later than I became aware of Nick Park’s creations, and I’ve loved them ever since -who doesn’t?

It was the third Wallace and Gromit adventure, A Close Shave (1995), that introduced us to Shaun the Sheep, a character so popular that he was given his own CBBC series in 2007, and has appeared in over 100 episodes since.

Spring Cleaning is the latest collection of Shaun the Sheep episodes to be released on DVD, and it really is fun for all the family – in fact, I think I might even have enjoyed it more than the girls! Each episode features five minutes of farm-based fun, as Shaun and his woolly friends get up to all sorts of antics involving such things as sheepdog trials, pet rabbits, coconuts, skateboarding, home barn improvements and window cleaning.

I must admit I hadn’t seen any of Shaun’s solo adventures prior to receiving this DVD, and I’m not sure the girls had either, but we’ll definitely be looking out for him in the future – especially with a feature-length film due to arrive in cinemas next year!

Shaun the Sheep – Spring Cleaning is available to buy from today. As well as 10 episodes from the TV series, there are extras including behind-the-scenes features, and a tutorial on how to draw Shaun himself. To celebrate the DVD launch, Studio Canal have provided me with some Shaun activity sheets, which will be ideal for keeping the kids amused over the Easter holidays. Click on the links below to download them

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Room for Improvement

Living room

Before, a vision in beige

It’s fair to say that since our girls came along, the house has found itself a little neglected. After a pre-baby decorating blitz that almost killed me, things have stayed pretty much the same, aside from pink walls for the girls’ rooms and new flooring that was a necessity following a leaky toilet. Finding the time and money to spruce the place up isn’t easy with jobs to go to and small people to look after.

It’s very much time for a change though, which is why I jumped at the chance to join in the “Room for Improvement” challenge. It’s organised by to showcase different ways to improve your living space on a budget – in this case the budget was £50 which was kindly provided by

We decided to focus on the living room, because it’s the most used area of the house. In recent years it’s resembled a toy shop more than somewhere you’d want to relax in, but we managed to tame the toys a couple of months back, so things were already heading in the right direction. But with no time to paint, and a limited budget to work with, how were we going to improve things?

Soft furnishings!

With “builder’s cream” walls and a beige sofa, to work around, we decided it was down to the curtains and cushions to inject some colour and life into things. And so we headed off in search of… well, something. We had some ideas of colours we thought might work – I was thinking deep reds/purples, Gem was thinking greens –  but in reality we were open to anything.

First stop was Dunelm Mill who, by coincidence, had a sale on. And it was in the sale that we spotted the curtains for us! The Plum Jakarta Collection combines the plum and green colours we’d been thinking about, and with 20% off, reducing the price to £39.99, we were well on the way to sprucing things up. Next up cushions.

Living room - after

After, full of life and colour

We decided the matching cushions might be a bit much, and went for a wander round Dunelm’s extensive cushion collection. I’m delighted to say it was me who spotted the cushions we ended up buying – not like me at all. But the colours in the Berwick cushion covers were a perfect match for the curtains we’d picked up, and we liked the mismatching but coordinating look they’d give us. We picked up two covers at £6.99 each to go alongside our existing cushions.

We’re both thrilled with the final result – it makes the living room feel like a much more grown up space, all for a total spend of just £53.97! AND we got everything in the first place we visited, so no traipsing round endless shops looking at home furnishings. Thanks Dunelm Mill!

To complement our new look further, we’ve also moved a few pictures round, including a piece we commissioned from our artist friend Leila Neal a few years ago. It’s been brightening up our kitchen/diner since we moved in, but the colours seemed such a great match for the plum curtain tops that a new home made perfect sense.

Roses and Thistles, a triptych by Leila Neal

To be honest, this image doesn’t really do it justice

Of course, it does mean we’ve now got a big empty wall in the kitchen. Guess which room is next in line for improvement…

I was provided with £50 by to spend on improving a room in our house. All words and opinions are my own, and links have been included out of courtesy.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

I wanna be elected

No, I’m not running for office, although I often think I couldn’t do any worse than a lot of the current bunch. Instead, I’m looking for your votes in a different sort of popularity contest, the 2013 Mum and Dad blog awards, also known as the MADs.

Not that I expect to win anything you understand. I’m a very small fish in a very big pond (Tots 100 have well over 4,000 UK based parent bloggers registered) and there are plenty others far more deserving than me; folks who I know put a lot more time and effort into their blogs than I do.

So why bother posting about it?

Well, I set up this here blog largely as a result of last year’s MADs, where us dads were massively under-represented in the nominations. At the time I had another blog that I very rarely posted in, but after the lovely Susan Mann directed me to Tom Briggs’s rant on the matter, I decided to join in, and swell the ranks. And here I am. (You can read the longer version of that story here).

So… while I might not feel deserving of any of a MAD award, in the last 8 months or so I’ve got to know a fair few others who are, who I’ve listed here for your convenience:

Why not check them out? If you like what you see (which I’m sure you will) why not give them your support with a MAD nomination? Go on, nominate a dad! The link is right here, you can’t miss it.

MAD Blog Awards

Oh, and as far as I’m aware, none of those I’ve listed qualify for the “Best New Blog” category. I do, though, so if you can’t think of anyone else to nominate… :)

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

The 12 dads of Christmas

When Ben (aka The Fool) contacted me a couple of weeks ago asking if I’d be part of a video project he was embarking on, I agreed in an instant, without knowing what was involved. Only after I’d signed up did he reveal that the video I’d to produce involved singing. Hmmmmm… not my strongest talent, but by this time I was signed up – what could I do?

Of course I’ve been found exercising my vocal chords on YouTube before; sadly, though, my rousing rendition of Flower of Scotland (before a match at Hampden) is no longer available, or I’d have it linked here. No, really!

Anyhow, Ben’s idea was to get 12 dads singing The 12 Days of Christmas. Each of us were given a different verse to sing, and a deadline to get our video back to Ben. Easy peasy. I waited until our tree was up, just to give proceedings a festive backdrop, and then in literally 4 takes it was done. How professional!

The final result is (hopefully) embedded below for your amusement and delight. I’m absolutely thrilled with the result, as was Heather when she spotted me on YouTube. Imagine – Daddy appearing on her beloved YouTube. I think a small part of her mind might actually have been blown.

My only criticism of the whole thing is aimed squarely at myself. Next time I’ll make sure to have a light or two on, so I can actually be seen – the shadowy air of mystery I’ve ended up with wasn’t intentional!

Now, all we have to do is sit back and wait for Mr Cowell’s call, for fame and fortune surely beckon?

You can read Ben’s blog post about the project, including a list of everyone involved, here. Thanks to Ben and all the other dads for creating something truly… special :)

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Winner winner chicken dinner

Reader Appreciation AwardAnyone who’s been reading my drivel blog for a while will know that I recently re-booted things, with a focus on life as a dad. There’s a growing community of dads doing likewise, and it seemed like something worth exploring – I know, for example, how beneficial and supportive Gem’s found the babycentre group she joined when pregnant with Megan, so why shouldn’t I get some of that too?

And now, just over a month later, I’ve only gone and bagged myself an award! A Reader Appreciation Award, to be exact, courtesy of the very mysterious EmPo (whose real name I very shamefully don’t actually know!). He’s been writing over at BugBearBlog since February and is always worth a read.

In order to accept my award I have to include the appropriate image (at the top of this post), answer some questions and nominate some other worthy recipients for the award. So, without further ado, on to the questions…

What’s your favourite animal?
Fish are animals, right? In which case I’m going to say sharks – fascinating creatures, although I wouldn’t like to meet one in a dark alley. Actually, that might be OK, so long as the alley wasn’t filled with water.

What’s your favourite non-alcoholic drink?
I’m going to be really dull here and say water, because it’s what I drink most often. Coffee, which I only started drinking a couple of years ago, would be a close second though.

Facebook or Twitter?
I guess I should probably go with Twitter. Although I’ve been on Facebook about twice as long I’m finding myself on Twitter much more as time goes on. I love the randomness of Twitter, something Facebook doesn’t generally have. Also, it’s always fun getting to know new people, and I find that much easier on Twitter than Facebook.

What is your favourite pattern?
Huh? Since nothing else springs to mind, I’m going for the incredibly geeky answer of Singleton, which will mean nothing to almost anyone who reads this.

Favourite number?
31 – it was my number when I played American football at uni

Favourite day of the week?
Saturday, because it’s usually my turn for a lie-in, and then I get to spend the rest of the day with my girls

Favourite flower?
Can I have two? Roses and thistles was the theme for our wedding (it shouldn’t be difficult to work out why) so I’ll pick those. I do have a most hated flower – dandelions. Every year I go to war on them, and every year they come back for more. Grrrr… Oh, and buttercups too. Bane of my life. Oddly, I don’t mind daisies.

What is your passion?
My passion? That’s the thing I want to be/do more than anything else, right? In which case, I’d have to say to be the best husband and father I can be, something I’ve realised more than ever since I started writing about it. Schmaltzy but true.

And that’s your lot. Now it’s my turn to nominate some blogs that I enjoy reading, and that have inspired me to write my own. So, in no particular order, I give you:

Welcome to Dietville
Last Year’s Girl
Susan K Mann
Gaming, Golf and ME
Diary of the Dad
Mutterings of a Fool

And finally, here’s the full terms and conditions:

  1. Include the award logo somewhere in your blog.
  2. Answer these 10 questions below
  3. Nominate 10 to 12 blogs you enjoy. Or you pick the number.
  4. Pay the love forward: Provide your nominee’s link in your post and comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been included and invited to participate.
  5. Pay the love back with gratitude and a link to the blogger(s) who nominated you.
This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!