Mellow Mummy : Taking life as it comes...

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Lara does... Ocado Taste Testing

I may have come to the Ocado party a little late but this weekend we had our first Ocado grocery delivery and Lara was tasked with taste-testing a number of Ocado's products to help assess their family-friendliness as part of their taste-testing panel.

Recent research from Ocado suggests that UK parents spend up to £2000 a year buying kid-friendly meal options but Ocado believe that parents shouldn't need to buy different foods for adults and children and that, with a bit of constructive input from taste-testers like Lara, it is possible for them to stock great food options that are loved by kids and adults alike.  This is music to my ears - part of my Mellow Mummy mantra is that mealtimes should be fun, not stressful and, ever since the very first day that I started weaning Lara (almost exactly 5 years ago) I've tried to ensure that, wherever possible, my girls have eaten exactly the same meals as us.

Lara tried out a range of different Ocado products, the same set that were recently tested by other members of the Ocado kids taste testing panel.  She had great fun rating each food for look, smell, texture and taste.  It was a real challenge for her to isolate her senses and really think hard about the adjectives she could use to describe how the food made her feel.  Here are her highlights:-

thinking of the correct word to use to describe taste!
Garofalo Kids’ Organic Anistelle Pasta 

These cute star and moon shaped paste pieces are just as groovy for grown ups as for adults.  Lara enjoyed the firm, traditional italian pasta texture and taste and, after she had finishes, I cooked myself up a bowl of them - fab!  Lara rated the Garofalo pasta as "awesome" across the board.

Tideford Organic Tomato and Basil Sauce

I never expected Lara to enjoy a basil sauce because she has never enjoyed my own attempts to introduce fresh basil into homemade foods.  But Lara thought that this tomato sauce was a great accompaniment to pasta and found it to be a light and smooth sauce that tasted great.

Ocado Fresh Mashed Potato

Lara loves mash and this was smoother and thicker (and less lumpy) than anything I would normally make at home.  Lara enjoyed the mash most as a vehicle for meat!

sausage and mash testing!
Laverstoke Park Buffalo Meatballs

Surprisingly, Lara rated these cute little buffalo meatballs far higher than a pork alternative.  The buffalo meat tasted really strong and "meaty" and I think Lara enjoyed the texture and the small bite size of the meatballs which were perfectly seasoned.  We'll definitely be trying buffalo again together as a family.

Good Little Company Good Little Sausages

Lara raved most about these tasty little gluten-free pork sausages.  We all tried some of these for dinner afterwards and I think Mummy, Daddy and Holly all agreed that they were very yummy and good-looking sausages (if a little salty).

All of the products above are available for home delivery from Ocado.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Wonderous Ink Personalised Children's Book Review

Wonderous Ink personalised children's books are just a little bit different from most personalised books that I've seen before. In Wonderous Ink story books, your child's name becomes part of the adventure and the letters are used to craft a tailored story where the letters become part of the illustrations and the tale itself. Lara and Holly both had personalised Wonderous Ink story books made up for them.

The story in each of their books starts and finishes in much the same way with a little girl going on an adventure but the main part of the story differs because Lara's story features pages and text for the letters L A R A and Holly's story features a totally different set of pages to correspond to the letters in her name. The girls think this is absolutely fascinating and love listening to each other's story to hear how they differ.

The books arrive in lovely little parcel packages which I think would look great given as a gift or posted straight to your child of choice! The books are suitable from about 2 years to 8 or 9 years old but I think they would also make a lovely Christening or naming gift.

At the end of the adventure your child's name is spelled out using the themes of each of the sections of the book - a descriptive word for each letter of their name is used to sum them up. Lara has recently been learning about adjectives at school so she very much enjoyed finding out about what each of the words for her name meant. The pages for that word in the book use a little tale (featuring a guest character) to explain what's so great about that word and letter.

I found the story itself a little hard going for Holly and Lara. It isn't short or punchy enough for either of them really. I also found the attempt at rhyme a little wearing (in fact, it took me a good few pages before I realised it was even supposed to rhyme!) and to be honest, I think (as the person reading the books!) that I'd have preferred it to be prose rather than poetry. Saying that, both girls found their stories magical and I'm sure they will go back to them time and time again over the years ahead of them - these personalised books aren't meant to be a one-off bedtime story.

At the back of each book there is a secret code which your child can use online at to register for their own Wonderous World; this currently consists of a little additional few excerpts for the end of the story and a quiz about the story to make sure they were paying attention!

Wonderous Ink personalised story books cost £19.99 and can be created and personalised online. The books are beautiful quality and the images and text are clear and bright and bold - perfect for children.

I think the magic of Wonderous Ink stories is in the letters and words that escape from the page and really get your child thinking about how special their own name is.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Leapfrog Ultra XDi Review

As members of the Leapfrog Blogger Panel we have been trying out some of their most popular kids tech in the run up to Christmas and we were most looking forward to the Leapfrog Leappad Ultra XDi because it promised to be the ultimate kids tablet.

The Leappad Ultra XDi has a larger, higher resolution screen than the Leappad 3, and a larger volume of storage (8GB) for photos and music but it isn't as fast (and I would say it was quite noticeably slower) than its smaller counterpart.

The Leappad Ultra XDi is a tablet device designed for children from 4 years to 9 years old - I'd say this was a very good age recommendation.  My daughter is now 5 and is using her Leappad more and more every week - she uses it for everything from listening to her Frozen storybook to playing spelling games.  From dressing up Barbie to completing spy puzzles.  We have downloaded and tried out games which are currently far beyond her maths and comprehension capabilities but on the other hand we also have games which are simple enough for her younger sister (2.5 years) to have a play with.

 The Leappad XDi comes with a large selection out of the box apps (about 11) and lots of others that you can either download directly to the device, through your PC or Mac using the Leapfrog Connect software or by purchase in store or online.  Lara most enjoys the themed games and story books with big, recognisable characters such as Barbie, Minnie Mouse, Monsters Inc. and Frozen.

Both of my girls are active users of an iPad tablet and I regular readers will know that I am a big fan of the learning opportunities that non-kid-specific tablets offer.  However, in the Leappad Ultra XDi I've seen the first signs that a Leapfrog tablet really could become Lara's primary learning tablet because it is beginning to offer features that appeal to both her, and to us as parents. Things we all love about the Leappad Ultra XDi:-

  • The screen size on the Leappad Ultra is a good 7 inch touch screen which is about the same size as many adult tablets - small people find big screens easiest to use.
  • The quality and range of the downloads is always increasing.  While you will still pay a lot for games or stories which feature your child's favourite movie characters, there are plenty of affordable apps available to download and every single one of them represents a learning opportunity and you can have confidence that they have been pre-screened for suitability and quality for children.  However, I would still say that Android and iOS apps still present a far better value for money and a broader range.
  • Wi-Fi comes as standard on the Leappad Ultra XDi.  It was pretty much stress-free to set up and I'm impressed with the speed and level of connectivity that the device gets around the house.  My two girls can connect their Leappads to play games together but we don't really make the most of the Wi-fi connection because we find the kid-friendly Zui browser (Leapsearch) very restrictive.  Lara tried to do some research into Racoons for school on hers and managed only to find one silly youtube video.
  • The Leappad Ultra XDi comes with a built-in battery and comes with a mains charger.  I've found the Leappad Ultra XDi to hold its charge very well.
  • The stylus for the touch screen is attached to the tablet so that you can't lose it.
  • It is sturdy enough and tough enough to withstand being dropped by Lara's little sister!
  • You can store photos and MP3 music files on it, this is something that Lara is just beginning to get into and I can see her using more and more as she gets older.  You can also save to your computer the artworks and images your child creates on their tablet.

Currently, Lara's most played with game on her Leappad Ultra is the Barbie Malibu Mysteries (spelling, sorting, searching and of course... fashion selection!).  You get three free downloads when you first set up the Leappad Ultra XDi and I chose a simple maths game called Cha Cha Chicken.  I've also downloaded Lara some games for learning the first concepts needed towards programming and computing (spy games and puzzles).

I like the rotating screen functionality on the Leappad Ultra XDi (you can lock this in the parent settings so it doesn't rotate).  My only real gripe (other than the cost of the downloads) is that it is too hard to alter the volume on the tablet - I'd appreciate a button to do this quickly and easily.

Disclosure: As a member of the blogger panel I was sent the Leappad Ultra XDI for review but my opinions are my own and I pride myself on honest feedback

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