Mellow Mummy: April 2011 : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday 28 April 2011

Summer Holidays With Babies & Toddlers Don't Have to Break the Bank

I’m trying to win an iPad 2 in the iSave, iWrite, iPad competition from!

When I became a parent, nearly two years ago, I was determined not to let parenthood stand in the way of me and holidays – it's of the ways I remain mellow. In the UK or abroad, I like to travel, explore, chill out and take photos. With a third person in the family, it became important to us not to overspend on holiday and, as our family grows, our concerns about money (I'm sure) will become greater but I'm determined not to let cash flow ruin our enjoyment.

This year we have one overseas trip and one UK holiday planned. The costs, I'll admit, do add up so I wanted to share a few money-saving tips that I've tried and tested along the way – the arrival of an extra little person doesn't have to make a holiday prohibitively expensive.

We took our first transatlantic trip when Lara was 12 months old – for the 7.5 hour flight we invested in a separate seat for Lara but, in all honesty, she spent over 70% of each journey on one or other of our knees. In May Lara will fly with us to the Mediterranean, less than a month before her 2nd birthday and this time we've decided to save the cash. Experience has told us that the stress of sitting with a wriggly toddler on your knees is bearable given the cost savings and, as most airlines enforce that your child sits in their own seat after 2 years old, this will be the last chance for Lara to fly without having to pay a full child fare.

While I'll admit that these days, a self-catering holiday in the UK, or abroad can often cost more than a good all-in package holiday, the important thing about a self-catering holiday is that YOU are in control of your finances (and your waistline). If you're holidaying in the UK you can quite reasonably fill your car up with all of your food and supplies from home – a week away need not be any more expensive than a week at home. Abroad, you can choose to eat in your accommodation every night of your holiday, should you wish. You can spend as much or as little as you like on food. And, if you're feeling flush, you can head out for a restaurant meal as a special holiday treat for the family. Some of my most vivid, and treasured memories of my own childhood holidays revolve around meals sourced, cooked and enjoyed with my parents while self-catering in the UK.

When we travel abroad, we almost always hire a car. The first two times that we took Lara with us, we paid the extra money to hire an infant or child car seat at our destination – thus saving us the hassle of lugging a heavy seat half way across the globe. On both occasions, the car seat we hired was dirtier than we would have wished, harder to use than our own and caused long delays at the point of collection. Since then, we've saved money and stress by taking our own car seat. I've been surprised to find that most airlines will carry these for free and that airports actually make check-in and collection of oversized luggage quite easy!

Whether I'm travelling at home or abroad, I like to research my location thoroughly. Maybe it's in my genes but trust me, a little homework can really help you save your pennies. I start at the library. It can be tempting to rush into buying guide books and maps but your local library may well have both of these already... for FREE. I've found that Rough Guide travel books are the most thorough at documenting places to see or events to attend that you would often never know about otherwise – many of them costing little or nothing. If a guide book can't help you find these secret places then the local tourist office probably can. In the UK and abroad I've found the leaflets and posters inside tourist offices to advertise local events that no travel agent, tour rep or guide book could ever tell you existed. In the south of France where everything costs the earth, we've found free private beaches, art exhibitions, family fun days and nature walks this way.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about a holiday is that, even with a toddler who needs entertaining, you don't need to pack every day full of attractions and activities. It's OK to chill out on holiday and to do nothing in particular. Take a couple of family games or a few favourite books to read and RELAX.

Monday 25 April 2011

Lara's First Cinema Movie - Winnie the Pooh

A couple of weeks ago we took Lara to the cinema for the very first time. I wasn't sure whether it was perhaps a bit early - Lara isn't yet two. We went to see the preview of this summer's Winnie the Pooh movie which you may have noticed being promoted on the new packets of Fairy Non Bio.

Lara is wiggly. This is fact (and her Nanny has confirmed that this wiggliness has been inherited from her father). I was really worried that Lara wouldn't sit still for more than 5 minutes of the movie. Actually, she stayed very still (although she did spend much of the movie on my lap) and, as the Winnie the Pooh movie is just under 1 hour in length, she didn't need to sit still for all that long.

Lara seemed to take the big-screen in her stride and the loud noise didn't seem to disturb her. The content of the movie seemed to get her a little upset in places though but then Lara can be a bit funny about things that you wouldn't expect a one-year-old to worry about. Tigger dressed up as a monster I can understand might upset some of the younger viewers... but Lara gets upset at things that are dirty, or messy, or just not right. Lara actually screamed when Pooh bear dived head first into a giant pot of honey - I think she thought he was drowning!

I really enjoyed the movie (although Mr. B. wasn't as impressed). It was very honest to its roots and brought together many of the storylines from Winne-the-Pooh and The House on Pooh Corner. With my BA(Hons) Media Studies hat on, I really loved the fact that the books themselves were referenced repeatedly in the movie by the characters who appeared on the pages and played among the letters. With my Mummy hat on, I loved one of the abstract, musical scenes where Pooh-Bear dreamed of honey - it was great fun with lots of bright colours and honey-related singing! I think that Winnie the Pooh movie is a perfect first movie for a toddler or young child. The movie is released in the UK this month.

On packs of Fairy Non Bio (detergent and fabric softner) at present you can get free Winnie the Pooh audio books. We've listened to a couple of them already and Lara loves them - she seems to really enjoy the Winnie-the-Pooh stories but I find the books incredibly hard to read to her (there's something about the way they are written that I struggle to verbalise) so it's great to hear someone reading them clearly, with authority and with wonderful character voices!

Images courtesy of Fairy Non Bio / Disney

Sunday 24 April 2011

The Sunday Review – Boots Protect & Perfect Serum

Just before Christmas I went to a beauty blogger event and discovered that most of the people there considered themselves more as make-up bloggers than skincare bloggers. I was totally astounded to hear that some of them had never tried Boots Protect & Perfect serum! Here's why I think it is an essential beauty item.

When the Boots Protect and Perfect range was launched there were waiting lists for their serum, it was so popular. The reason why is easy – it was the only facial skincare product ever to be proven to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. A number of other products have come along since and I'm sure they're all equally as effective but I have a soft spot for the Boots Protect and Perfect Intense Beauty Serum.

The serum is a very light lotion dispensed by a pump. It is ever-so-slightly greasy in a way that leaves your skin feeling silky to touch. You use a tiny amount on your face, particularly around the sides of the eyes and the mouth and then you put your normal moisturiser on over the top. You don't need to be old and crusty to use an anti-ageing product like this. I've used anti-ageing products since my mid-twenties as a preventative action! And anyway, the effect of the Protect & Perfect serum is more than just line-reducing, its a general improvement in appearence.

When I first used the serum, I noticed the effect after a matter of days but the label suggests it could be more like 4 weeks before people start to notice. The effect that I notice is a levelling of the skin – a general evenness that is absent without it. There are times when I don't own a bottle of Protect & Perfect and then, I really do miss it. I've no idea how I could ever measure whether the lines on my face were less when I'm using this product, but I do know that I notice a difference. I don't care if other people don't notice – it's about me feeling good.

In the mornings, if I've used the serum over night, then I can still feel that silkiness when I wake. If I use it in the mornings before I go to work (which, actually, I rarely do), then I can feel the 'goodness' all through the morning.

I've tried some of the other products in the Boots Protect and Perfect range. I quite like their night cream but I wouldn't say that it was world-beating (which I would of their serum).

A 30ml bottle of serum costs around £21 currently at

The Sunday Review – Philips Wake Up Light

When I won my Philips Wake-Up Light at the MADs last autumn, everyone laughed at the idea that a mum short-listed for the best Baby Blog award could possibly need a light to help them wake slowly and peacefully! They were right. There is nothing more effective than a nearly-two-year-old at getting you out of bed. But, don't dismiss the Wake-Up Light yet... it has its uses as a baby gadget!

From the very first week after Lara was born, I have been on the lookout for a lamp for her room that will dim. At first, I wanted one so that I could breastfeed her in the nursery at night with enough light to see what I was doing but remaining dark enough not to make her wide awake. I bought a touch-on, touch-off lamp from ebay which, with three different light levels, has served us pretty well but the only problem with it is, that in order to switch it off, you have to cycle through the light levels, meaning I have to make the room bright, in order to make it fully dark. Silly.

The Philips Wake-Up light came to the rescue and I have been using it in Lara's bedroom ever since we moved house last year. The idea of the light is that you can set it to slowly come on in the morning and bring your room up to a natural light level slowly, over a period of time until the light will eventually wake you up. Ingeniously, it also works the other way around, you can set it to switch off slowly over time and it gradually gets dimmer and dimmer until it switches off. This is what works for us.

When Lara first moved into a bed from the cot, we had real problems getting her to settle in the evenings. We used the light on a nice bright setting to tempt her upstairs to her bedroom and then set it to switch off over a half-hour period as she wound-down for the night. The slow darkening of the room seems to relax Lara and it means that there isn't a sudden moment when Mummy or Daddy switches out the bedroom light (and the inevitable complaints that this used to bring). We've managed to get the bedtime process down to around 15 minutes which is the shortest timer on which you can put the Philips Wake-Up light.

The Wake-Up light also has a traditional alarm and a radio alarm that you can use (Lara clearly doesn't need an alarm clock yet!).

The light from the Philips Wake-Up light is a different kind of light. It is intended to simulate daylight so I find that the light fills the room much more than a traditional lamp. As it dims, I've noticed that the last two minutes can be a bit flickery but it helps me as I know its just about time for me to leave Lara and hope that she falls asleep!

There are a number of different items in the Wake-Up light range. Some with radio, some with USB or Ipod docks. I really like it as a nursery night light but it will be a good few years before I can benefit from it's natural wake-up ability!

Thursday 21 April 2011

Eating Out With Babies & Toddlers – Gadgets That Make Life Easier

As you know, I'm particularly keen on encouraging people to eat out with their babies and toddlers. I strongly believe that the social experience of a special meal away from home shouldn't be reserved for adults only. I know lots of parents are put off the idea of eating at a restaurant with their child for a number of reasons, most commonly the embarrassment of them misbehaving, but also the stress of getting them to sit still and I often hear mums complain about the cleanliness of restaurant high chairs. I thought I'd do a summary of some of the great gadgets that exist to make your life easier when eating out with a baby or child and which address some of the common concerns.

The Fabric Highchair


Regular readers will know that I really, really rate my Totseat (around £22) washable, squashable highchair. It has been with us the world over and has been particularly useful in parts of the world where restaurants don't commonly provide highchairs. We have used the Totseat right through from when Lara was first able to sit unaided, right through to toddlerhood. It is washable and fits on any chair, anywhere so I know that when I go into a restaurant it doesn't matter if they don't have a highchair available, or if they are all really manky – I will always have somewhere for Lara to sit. You can buy the Totseat online from lots of great retailers including My Funny Bunny and Hippychick.

We recently tried out the Koo-di Pack-It seat harness (around £10) which is, if anything, even more compact than the Totseat. It folds into itself so you don't risk the possibility of losing the carry case. It isn't quite as flexible when it comes to the numbers of styles and shapes of chair that you can put it on (our own dining chairs were too tall for it), but most restaurants (such as Cafe Rouge, above) have pretty standard shaped chairs so this would rarely be a problem. It is also washable and it is so tiny when folded that you'd have to have a pretty good excuse not to have one in your changing bag at all times. Koo-di seat harnesses can be found at Amazon John Lewis, Asda, and Mothercare among other retailers, (a complete list can be found at Koo-di's own website. The Koo-di Pack-It is suitable from 6-30 months although our reviewer felt that even at its tightest setting, the Koo-di seat harness was a little baggy for her (larger than average) 7 month old so, as always, you should exercise caution when your child sits in a highchair - particularly a fabric highchair on an adult's seat.

A foldable washable highchair such as the Koo-di Pack-It or Totseat can be life-changing. That might sound over-the-top but really, it opens up all sorts of new avenues for you of days out, or visits to restaurants or cafes you would otherwise consider off-limits. Jojo Maman Bebe sell a number of foldable highchairs – one of great interest to me is their wipe-clean pocket highchair which might save on washing the highchair after pretty much every use!

The Travel Booster
Foldable highchairs are fab but they do suffer from one down-side. Adult chairs are often very low and toddlers who want to eat at the table can struggle to reach their plates. I often get around this by sitting Lara on a cushion and then strapping her in.


Another solution is the travel booster seat such at this one from Polar Gear (around £22) which you can buy from Jojo Maman Bebe or Amazon. Suitable from around 1 year old, we've found the Polar Gear booster to be really well designed and effective. It straps to the seat with clip-on straps, one of which can also be used as a carry-handle (the others do tend to get in the way a bit when not in use). The seat is wipe-clean and is a good size so, unlike many travel highchairs, it will be suitable for toddlers right up until their are old enough to sit in an adult chair. The Polar Gear booster comes with a folding changing mat but we think it works well as a wipe-clean placemat to keep the dining table clean.

Amazon also sell the similar Munchkin Travel Booster (£19.99) which has the added bonus of storage space inside the booster pack to put a drink, or baby wipes.

The Tray Cover
Restaurant highchairs are not always the cleanest of things. Its hard enough keeping your own highchair clean so the last thing you want to do when you get to a restaurant is to start cleaning away other children's muck from the tray. I've seen some fairly disgusting ones in my time and have had to put in a lot of elbow grease to shift the crusty bits of baby-gack before letting Lara take her seat.

Tidy Trays (£15) have a neat solution to the problem. The Tidy Tray is a light fabric washable high chair tray cover that you can take with you anywhere. It simply slips over the tray of the restaurant's highchair meaning you're in control of the hygiene at mealtimes! Jojo Maman Bebe sell the Tidy Tray but for a full list of stockists, check out the Tidy Trays website.

The Hygeine Solution

And, if you are happy to use the restaurant's own highchair but would rather it were a little more sanitary then can I recommend these wipes from Tommee Tippee (£1.99 for 30). I know that they are called teat and teether wipes, but I now keep a pack of these biodegradable wipes in my changing bag and use them on highchairs and changing mats when I'm out and about.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Could I Really Be A Bronze Goddess?

In a months time this is where I'll be. Lounging by the pool, watching the sun sparkle on the mediterranean sea. It makes me mellow just thinking about it.

Of course, when one visits the south of France, one has standards to keep. I recently went to a showcase of Estee Lauder's summer 'Bronze Goddess' collection. The minute that I walked through the door, I knew that this was going to be exactly what I was looking for in order to keep up appearances in France.

Mr B. will testify that I do get a bit excited about holidays. And, that I do tend to go a bit over the top of smellies to take with me. I like to buy new clothes, new make-up and new cosmetics for holidays. Don't know why – I just do. A holiday feels like a new beginning to me. Ever since going on honeymoon with a ridiculously low baggage allowance I've been learning some tricks about travelling light. Estee may well have helped me out on this front. With the Island Oasis Eyeshadow Pallete, one of their Shadow Sticks, a Waterproof Mascara and a single Pure color lip gloss or lip stick I really wouldn't need to take anything else with me on holiday. There are colours in there suitable for all occasions and all times of day. Genius.


The other main element to the Bronze Goddess range is their bronzing and tinting products. I'm not normally one for fake tans but whenever we go to the south of France, I do tend to experiment a little bit. I've personally come to the conclusion that you can only get a good fake tan professionally – this may be due to my own ineptness. I've been trying the Bronze Goddess liquid bronzer on my face and, although I admit that it does give a welcome colour to my face, it still feels a bit fake. I need more practice.

I am a WHOLE lot more comfortable using Estee Lauder's Daywear tinted moisturising lotion. Why had I never discovered this before? It is an everyday moisturiser with a fresh cucumber smell that reminds me of summer. The special thing about it is a very subtle tint which actually responds to your own skin tone. When you first apply it, it starts to change colour – your initial reaction is “argh, I'm going to look like a...” but then the colour softens and melts away leaving you with skin that looks like your own, but ever so slightly more bright and summery. I love it. I'm hooked.

And, for me to get the slightly tanned look, I'm much happier applying a soft shimmer of Sea Star Bronzing Blush on top of my Daywear lotion. I can't see me using this very often but on holiday I reckon its perfect.

The colours of the eye and lip range this summer are fabulous. They make me feel summery when I'm not even wearing them. I'm even feeling adventurous enough to try the bright flash of blue (and attempt not to look like an OAP). My only complaint about the Shadow Stick is that the colour doesn't last long enough, that bright flash soon fades away and I need to re-apply but generally, I find that with most of Estee's make-up products.

My absolute favourite product from the range is the limited edition Shimmering Bronze nail varnish. I blogged a couple of months ago about having fallen in love with Estee's nail varnishes. This colour is amazing – I never thought of myself as a brown nail varnish kinda person but this makes me feel grow-up yet young at the same time. Summery and sparkly to set off a great tan.. but equally as warm and homely for a chillier time of year.

To finish the look I spritz with just a touch of the new summer fragrance Bronz Goddess Soleil. I have a feeling that this may be the scent of my summer. Its so light and fresh and zingy and I've pretty much used up my bottle of it already. You know when a smell of something reminds you for years to come of a place, an event or an item of clothing. I think this may well be what reminds me of holidays in the south of France for many many years.

And so, putting together the whole ensemble, perhaps I really could turn from this...

… to this

Sunday 17 April 2011

The Sunday Review – Bumpsters Cot Bar Bumpers

We've been trialling the innovative Bumpsters cot bar bumpers which are quite different to other cot bumpers in their shape and construction and actually seem to solve the problems for which cot bumpers are intended!

When Lara was a small baby, in her crib and then in her cot, I used a single-piece cot bumper. I wasn't quite sure why at first. Just because I owned it, I think. By the time she got to about 3 months Lara would, quite unintentionally, poke her arms out of the side of the crib. The cot bumper, I believe, was supposed to stop her from doing that. The trouble I found was that these days we are taught to place our babies at the base of the crib or cot so that they can't squirm down under the blanket. This meant I didn't know whether the main part of the cot bumper was supposed to protect her head from the cot bars or her feet from the cot bars. I opted for head (it seemed to make sense) but because she was all the way down there, the cot bumper didn't reach down far enough to protect her arms from the cot bars. I couldn't win.

Even when Lara became long enough that the cot bumper did come down around her arms, she still managed to wheedle her arms underneath the bumper and, because it only fastened at the end, and the corners of the cot, I often found her with her arms stuck, or her head stuck between the bars and the bumper. The Bumpsters stop this from happening – phew.

One of my daddy reviewers exclaimed in delight when he first saw the Bumpsters! They make so much sense. Instead of one single flappy hard-to-attach cot bumper, the Bumpsters are a set of individual bumpers that fasten into place easily and can be places wherever you need them in the cot.

Lara is now in a cot bed which has very wide bars at the top and bottom, into which she still pokes her hands when she is sleeping. The Bumpsters are great because it means that I can fasten them around the bars rather than wrapping the enormous cot bumper around her head-rest.

The Bumpsters are made from 100% cotton. They are padded, yet firm (which means your baby can't wheedle their hands under them). There are no risky dangly ties that your baby can get caught up in because they are held in place with a velcro-style fastening. You have the freedom to place when wherever you like. Alongside one another, or beside one another. At the ends or sides of the crib or cot. Basically, wherever you need them most. They come in two different sizes, designed to cater for different widths or spaces of cot bars.

I really like them. I understand them, which is more than can be said for the traditional cot bumper! Although Lara hasn't tried them out on the side of a cot, the feedback from my daddy reviewer was fabulous - easy to use and effective at protecting the side of the cot.

Bumpsters come in three different colours (pink, blue and stone) and can be bought online from Hippychick for around £32.50 for a set.

The Sunday Review – Pourty Potty

I feel like I have become somewhat of a potty expert and yet Lara has barely started to potty train! I've learned that Lara much prefers to sit on a big potty than a compact one and that the brighter the colour, the more interested she seems. Over the past couple of weeks we have been trying out the Pourty Potty with some success.

The Pourty Potty is a potty that pours. Simple! It is a really nice big potty so Lara actively looks to sit on it. Our Pourty is a gorgeous dark purple colour (Lara's favourite) but it does come in a range of bright colours for different little people tastes.

The Pourty is shaped at both the front and the back of the potty to encourage a good sitting position. I believe that it is designed so that your child can sit on it in either direction which is handy, because Lara refuses to sit on it the traditional way around!

At (what I would consider to be) the back there is a channel and a gap out of which you can pour the contents of the potty after use. At first, I wasn't convinced that this was enough of a selling point for me but now I have used it a few times I certainly appreciate it. If you tip the contents of a potty down the toilet there is the inevitable splosh, perhaps even a splash which you would rather avoid.

The concept of the Pourty potty is so simple that it baffled my husband the first time he used it. How could it be this easy? !!! There is a good sized hole at the front to make it easy to carry the potty and ensure you don't need to grasp the edge of the potty itself when emptying it out. It has really noticeably high sides which I'm told help to prevent splashing and is shaped to make it comfortable for both buys and girls to sit on. The Pourty certainly does make life a bit more simple for parents.

The Pourty is the largest that we now own (I think we're approaching one per room now) but it is Laras favourite and to me, that is the most important thing. We keep it in her room by her bed and she can use it when she gets dressed or un-dressed. She often reads herself a bedtime story while sitting on it!

The bulk of the potty would put me off taking the Pourty out with us when we are away from home.

The Pourty is available from most good nursery retailers.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Real Nappies - Tips and Experiences from Real Mums

Welcome to the Real Nappy blogging carnival. I've brought together some of the many blog posts out there that debate the subject of using reusable nappies, offer tips and advice, and share experiences. Thanks to everyone who got involved.

Join the Debate

One of my personal favourite websites to read about reusable and cloth nappies is Really Rachel who is now host to The Great Nappy Debate. Rachel has blogged a lot about the reasons why washables win in her household and since she first started using cloth nappies, has investigated many of the issues surrounding their use, including this article debating whether maybe landfill is best.

At Mummy Do That there is a personal Q&A that answers most of the common questions about, and arguments against using cloth nappies.

Aqeela at Aqeela's Home & Garden wrote a great Q&A that highlights the pros and cons of reusable nappies.

Last summer, I blogged about whether Pampers Dry-Max could make me feel any better about using disposable nappies. On a similar subject, Really Rachel raises her concerns about use of absorbent gel in disposables.

Experiences and Advice
Really Rachel has a good introduction to reusable nappies in Reusable Nappies Explained. About a month after first using reusables, she revisted her experiences

At Diary of a First Child there are several posts about the use of cloth nappies. In part one of her adventures Luschka explains some of the reasons behind her decision to try cloth nappies.. In part two of her adventures in cloth nappies, Luschka explains how personal and online advice helped her to choose the right nappy. You can find out more about her experiences after making the move to reusables here.

You can find a great summary of the different types of reusable nappies at the New Forest Nappy Network. For anyone beginning to consider reusable nappies, their Cloth Nappy FAQ are really helpful. They also buy/sell preloved nappies on their Facebook Shop

Here on Mellow Mummy I've also shared my experiences over the past couple of years. I shared my experiences of managing to use reusable nappies with a childminder. At Christmas time we made the decision to give up using reusables full-time because they couldn't cope with the wetness any longer.

I also recently shared all of my money-saving tips for reusable nappies on a budget at BabyBudgeting.


BumGenius V4 by me, Mellow Mummy!

BumGenius V4 by New Mummy's Tips.

BumGenius V4 by New Mum Online.

BumGenius Mini Socialite by me, Mellow Mummy.

Minky Nappies
Review of the Dalmation nappy from Baba + Boo by New Mummy's Tips.

Tots Bots
Tots Bots by Aqeela's Home & Garden.

OneLife nappy system by me, Mellow Mummy.

Bambino Mio
Bambino Mio by me, Mellow Mummy.

There is a review of the Nappy Wrap Store at Mummy Needs...
Images courtesy of Bambino Mio

Tuesday 12 April 2011

First Sentences

Toddlerhood is such a fascinating stage in life. With every day that develops, Lara learns new things and develops more and more into a child as opposed to a baby. Her speech astounds me and constantly makes me smile. Over the past 4 weeks she has begun to build her first sentences. It is this learning and development that fascinates me – as I hear Lara's sounds turn into words, and her words build up into sentences, the science of life begins to make sense to me. I understand how I became who I am, and I can see and hear Lara growing into her own self.

About 4 weeks ago, Lara's words were simply barked nouns or instructions. “No”, “Cat”, “Milk” etc. At one point I did start counting the words (I had been trying out Wellstart software and it told me that my 21 month old child should have a vocabulary of 20-50 words) but I lost count. Occasionally we got two words such as “Please Mummy” or “Watch Peppa”.

One afternoon she came home from nursery and, instead of asking for “Milk”, instead asked somewhat hesitantly for “Glass of Milk”. We had turned a corner.

Over the past 4 weeks we've had more and more 3-word sentences coming out of Lara's mouth. “Don't want it”, “Where cat gone?”, “Daddy do it” and lots more. It has been great fun. I've really begun to feel that I can properly communicate with my daughter and can accurately interpret her meaning.

Last weekend, Lara started singing songs with really clearly recognisable words. “Wind the bobbin up” is now sung from start to finish (sometimes at 6 o'clock in the morning and sometimes the tune goes a bit haywire, but I shall forgive her that). This brings a smile to my face every time. When Lara sang me “hickory dickory dock” from her car seat in wobbly sort of words I actually laughed out loud and nearly drove the car into a ditch.

Two days ago, Lara's speech changed again. Between me dropping her off at nursery in the morning and picking her up again in the evening, those three-word sentences had become 5 or 6 word sentences. One the way home she told me "Flying saucer in sky Mummy". I managed to avoid that ditch again.

I can't believe how quickly these things change. It's the wonder of life happening right there before me. I love it.

Monday 11 April 2011

Will You Let Your Baby or Toddler Eat Chocolate Easter Eggs?

Last year at Easter, Lara was about 9 months old and I wasn't entirely convinced that chocolate of any sort was an ideal weaning food. I was quite strict about not allowing family members to ply her with chocolate (we'd already had a few Mars Planets sugar-highs from a certain naughty Aunty by this time). However, being the Mellow mummy that I am, I did allow her just a little bit of chocolate at Easter! This year we are letting people buy Lara Easter Gifts if they wish but we'll try not to let her eat a whole one in a single sitting to avoid the inevitable mess and resultant sugar-fuelled frenzy. We've been trying out some of the Easter range from Hotel Chocolat and they have a couple of products that are perfect for little ones, or for whole families.

The first egg we tried was a milk chocolate Happy Egg & Tiddly Pot. I thought this was perfect for Lara as an easter gift for children because it is small and not over the top. The egg was a good size for Lara to have on its own as a treat after dinner (although actually it could probably make two puddings if your child didn't have an appetite quite like mine!). The little pot of rabbit- and chick-shaped chocolate tit-bits was a nice touch. You could put it away in a cupboard and bring it out after Easter when all the previous fuss about chocolates had disappeared. Or... like me... you could eat them yourself when your child has gone to bed! Oops.

The other egg that we tried was more of a family-egg which worked really well for us. We tried one of their 'You Crack Me Up' thick easter eggs is a scrumptious and incredibly thick traditional egg on the outside but filled with little chocolates in the shapes of smiley eggs, chicks and rabbits. Mellow Mummy and Daddy really enjoyed the main egg because it was very grown-up from the smart Hotel Chocolat packaging right through to the sumptuous chocolate inside. Thick milk chocolate blended with just a touch of white chocolate on one side of the egg. Lara loved the treats inside this cheery egg because of their irresistible smiley faces and the interesting fillings such as praline or fruity centres. The little chocolates on the inside were a good size for me to offer Lara in a single sitting... a special-treat size. Interestingly enough, Hotel Chocolat themselves descibe this chocolate egg as 'Mellow' – must be a match made in heaven?!

So how about you, will you be letting your little ones try just a tiny bit of chocolate over the Easter holidays?

Sunday 10 April 2011

The Sunday Review - BabyRoyale Luxury Baby Blanket

We recently received a BabyRoyale luxury baby blanket to review. It is a little piece of baby luxury!

When I first saw the blanket, I thought it looked a bit old-fashioned. I've always found newborn baby paraphernalia old-fashioned and this was no different. The pattern of the blanket is a very small check which is created by the inter-weaving of two different coloured threads (although you can buy it in all-white, ours was a pink/white mix and they also sell a blue/white mix). When I pulled the blanket out of its packaging, I realised that this wasn't any old fuddy-duddy old-person blanket! It is beautifully soft and more than merits the 'luxury' tag that BabyRoyale give it.

The Babyroyale blanket is made from 30% organic cotton and 70% organic bamboo – both natural fibres which are kind to baby skin and help your baby to regulate their own temperature when snuzzled up inside the blanket. The bamboo fibres in the blanket ensure that it is naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic. Bamboo has great green credentials as they claim that their bamboo crop is self-regenerative.

I found the blanket to be a little on the small side. This might just be because I tried to swaddle my toddler in it but, in comparison to the other baby blankets I own, I think it is a bit small. At 90cm by 75cm I can just about cover Lara in her buggy with it, but it is a stretch. For a newborn baby it would be plenty big enough.

I was slightly worried that the luxurious softness of the blanket would diminish after I has washed the blanket but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was just as snuggly after washing as it was when brand new.

The Babyroyale blanket is available from Babyroyale directly or from Hello Baby who I've featured before. Hello Baby also sells a wide range of other baby products including baby toys, nusery furniture, travel and safety products.

The Sunday Review – Bambino Mio and MioBoost

Regular readers will know that I used Bambino Mio reusable nappies more or less full-time from when Lara was about 6 weeks old, to 18 months old. We had a bit of a wobble just before Christmas because Lara was making the nappies too wet and the liquid was soaking through. I've tried a few other brands and honestly, none of them cope either. We resorted to disposables. Bambino Mio came to the rescue to help me try and move back to cloth nappies. They sent Lara some of the extra large cotton nappies and a pack of the MioBoost extra absorbent inserts. So... did they work? Have we moved back to reusables? Read on...

Bambino Mio nappies tend to get a very mixed press. I call it the Marmite effect. You either love them or hate them. We loved them. Lots of mums complain that they are unable to cope with newborn, sloppy poo and that it leaks out of the side. I never found this a problem. In fact, I had far more problems with disposables during the early months. I found the innovative Bambino Mio system to be incredibly easy to use (dare I say easier than the all-in-ones I've tried since?) and, once I'd got my head around the need to sluice sloppy poo off nappies before it caused permanent staining, I found them astonishingly easy to clean and to fit into my daily routine.

Bambino Mio nappies have a three-step nappy system. On the outside you have a waterproof cover which you can re-use for several nappies in a row as long as they don't get wet or dirty. On the inside you have a square of thick cotton which is folded to add lots of absorbency. And over the top of the cotton nappy you place a thin liner.

I love the nappy covers. They are honestly the easiest of all of the nappies I've used and, having used them since the very first weeks of Laras life, she got used to them and very kindly didn't rip the velcro open! The wraps have some gorgeous designs including this new heart design which is soooo Lara! We tended to live with 5/6 wraps and around 18 nappies so that we could do a turn-around every 3 days. The wraps didn't get much reusage when Lara was at the childminders as both childminders were very unwilling to re-use them. One of the perceived downsides to the wraps is that you have to spend money on new wraps as your child grows. Actually, I see this as a big postive. It means that the nappy wrap is a good size for your child at one particular time and is well-fitting. I struggle with nappies that expand using poppers because I can never find exactly the right size of Lara's waist, or legs. I never had this problem with Bambino Mio.

The cotton nappies are the crux of the nappy system. You can fold them in several different ways to provide absorbency where you need it. Until recently I had always opted for a simple rectangle, folding the nappy twice to provide a triple-thickness. I could have the nappies pre-folded so that I could quickly slot one in during a nappy change. Since Lara started wetting through the nappies, I've tried folding the nappies with an extra thickness at the front. The latest Bambino Mio cloths that we have tried look ENORMOUS and aren't really designed for the size of nappy cover Lara currently uses but they do provide extra absorbency so we haven't had any accidents. The only down-side is that they make the nappy so bulky that most of Lara's trousers won't fit over the top so we reserve these nappies for in the evenings when Lara is in chill-out clothes ready for bed.

Bambino Mio nappies are undeniably bulkier than most other cloth nappies we have tried but this was never a problem for us. We soon learned to buy a slightly larger size of trousers for Lara to accommodate her lovely squishy big bum.

As for liners, you can use any brand of liner you like, but the Bambino Mio ones are available in my local supermarket so that suits me fine. I learned not to use a liner until Lara started weaning because sloppy poo just slips through, or squidges out of the sides and the liner makes this worse. Now Lara is on a fully-fledged adult diet we use the liners with great success.


Right from the very beginning I have used an added absorbent booster in Lara's nappies overnight. A tip off from a good friend made me seek out some terry and some bamboo inserts which I folded into the cotton part of the nappy. I'm convinced that the extra absorbency helped with Lara's sleeping patterns during the night. The MioBoost absorbent boosters come in a set of 3. They are incredibly soft and have a slight shaping to them to help them sit inside the nappy. I didn't find them any less absorbent than my existing inserts but I'm not sure I noticed a great increase in absorbency. I did however like the fact that they are a lot better made and therefore likely to stand the test of multiple washes better than the two or three different types of insert I have tried before. I also think that at around £6 for 3, I think they are great value.

All in all, I have found both the bigger nappies and the new MioBoost have given me the confidence to start using resuable nappies again but that I still have to change Lara's nappy almost immediately after she has wet it. Thank you Bambino Mio for convincing me to give them a try again!

Images courtesy of Bambino Mio.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Did You Talk To Your Baby?

I'll admit that I never chatted to Lara when she was simply a bump inside my belly but I did start the minute she was born – to me, the simple act of talking to my child was instinctive - it was the only way I could engage with and learn about the new stranger in my life.

I clearly remember my 6-week health visitor appointment. She arrived holding my first Bookstart pack and was expecting to have to preach to me about the importance of reading to young children. Lots of new parents don't realise how the words and sounds that they share with their baby from a very early age contribute to their child's speech and learning ability. For me, it didn't need much explaining. When the health visitor came into my living room, she was a taken aback to find me reading out loud to Lara the instruction manual from my brand new laptop that had been delivered that morning. It may sound bonkers to be reading out the usage guidelines for your DVD drive, or the operating instructions for a web-cam, but really, at 6 weeks old, the words didn't matter to Lara. What did matter was the eye contact, the sounds and tones of the words and phrases I used and, most importantly, the interaction with me. Lara looked into my eyes and knew I was laughing with her at the sentences I read. She responded with wide open eyes. It was great fun and we both enjoyed it.

Talking to, and with your baby is an incredibly important part of your child's start in life. I find it hard to put into words how strongly I feel this. Can you believe that a recent survey by the National Literacy Trust as part of the Communication Trust's 'Hello' campaign found that as many as 1 in 5 parents don't see the necessity to communicate with their baby during the first 3 months and that 1 in 20 parents think that communicating with your baby is only necessary once they turn 6 months old?

If I hadn't chatted with Lara during those first 3 months I would have been a very lonely mummy. As it was, Lara and I had a ball together. I know that I was talking to her (it was instinctive) and it is demonstrated by the following inescapable truths...

  1. When I used to take Lara out in the buggy I would often give her things to hold or grab and say “there you go”. I probably said those three words far too often because, alongside 'peppa pig', 'doggie' and 'daddy', one of the very first word noises Lara made when she was about 8 or 9 months old was “dehroohgo”.

  2. Lara was given a horse-shaped rattle when she was born. We called it the 'clip clop horse' and would make the sounds and talk to her about it often when she was on her play mat or in her pram. Many many months later, when the rattle had been packed away as a 'baby toy' we were on holiday in Switzerland and were all flabberghasted when Lara, hearing the noise of a horse's hooves trot down the street, announced that there was a “clip clop” shortly before the horse came into view (at which point her eyes lit up!).

These may seem like little things but they are proof that every little moment you spend talking to, or reading to your baby can make a difference.

I know that talking to a baby isn't instinctive for many mums and dads. Lots of new parents feel self-conscious about talking to their baby. It can be a big step for people who had previously only been used to adult company to start jibber jabbering away to a baby who they know can't talk back. On the Talk to Your Baby website there are some tips on how to get communicating with your child (they call it TLR, Talking, Listening and Responding).

Talking to your child can fit easily into your daily routine. Why not:
  1. Recite a nursery rhyme while feeding your baby

  2. Talk about the things you see while you are out and about

  3. Describe what you are buying while you are in the shop

  4. Sing songs while you are bathing your baby

  5. Share a book with your child before bedtime

The most subtle of the TLR concepts that the National Literacy Trust mentions is 'Responding'. I realise now that this is also the most powerful. How do you think that a child as young as 12 months old learns to ask a question? How do they learn to communicate pain? To tell you they're tired? To let you know what they want to eat or drink? All of these things require them to communicate with you, but for them to know the right way of communicating requires you to responds appropriately. In the past fortnight, Lara has learned that saying “No, Mummy” with the emphasis on Mummy is far more effective than just barking “No” at me. This must have come from the different ways to which I respond to each of these statements. It never ceases to amaze me how clever toddlers are!

I've make a pledge on the Talk to Your Baby website to continue reading bedtime stories to Lara, even on the busiest of working days. I love sitting with her as she 'reads' books to me, but I still feel there is value in me reading slightly more advanced books to her as she can learn from my words as she drifts off to sleep. You can make a pledge too, here.

Monday 4 April 2011

Call For Posts – Real Nappy Carnival

On April 13th I will be holding a bloggers carnival all about real nappies. I'm looking for people to share their experiences with cloth nappies and to pass on any tips or tricks. Recently I've had several pregnant ladies ask me about reusable nappies – more people are thinking about them these days but until you've tried them, it's a big unknown. If you have a blog post you would like to share then either email me ( or add the link to the comments below. I'm happy to host reviews, commercial and sponsored posts as long as they are relevant because the more information we can offer, the better. I'm also happy to host blog posts from people who don't use reusables – perhaps about why. Views, experiences or topical pieces are all welcome too. Come back on the 13th of April to read all about people's experiences with real nappies.
Image courtesy of Bambino Mio

Sunday 3 April 2011

The Sunday Review – Cotswold Outdoor Children's Products, LittleLife LadyBird Backpack

Now that spring has finally arrived, its time for us to get outdoors as a family and start making the most of our weekends with Lara. Lara has been reviewing the Little Life Ladybird backpack from Cotswold Outdoor.

Quite often Lara gets a bit grumpy when we suggest going out for a walk (this is probably because she knows it means that we're trying to wear her out for a nap!) but this toddler's backpack seems to have changed her mind – see that cheeky smile!

She doesn't like to put anything in it normally but it does have a 3 litre capacity which is plenty of space for a toddler to put their prized possessions such as a plastic comb, a half-eaten biscuit and a toy tractor.

The backpack has a clip at the front to strap the bag on so that it doesn't keep slipping down off their shoulders and the straps are adjustable. It has a zip compartment that contains a lightweight water proof hood (Lara looked very silly wearing it and much preferred to wear a hat). It also has an internal tag onto which you can write your child's name so you have no worries about letting them take it to nursery or pre-school.

The best thing for me, as a mum, about the Little Life ladybird backpack is the attachable toddler strap. I've resisted toddler reins for Lara for as long as possible because until now, she has been incredibly well behaved when walking with me, but the other day Lara and I attempted to cross Waterloo Bridge by foot together in the freezing cold and she insisted on running off away from me, into the crowds and towards the traffic. I decided I had to do something, and the Little Life backpack is the perfect solution. The safety strap is pretty sturdy and is easy for me to hold in my hand or around my wrist. I clip it on to a tiny little hook just behind the bag and then let Lara do her worst. It does sometimes feel a bit like I'm waking a dog but in terms of letting Lara feel like she has her freedom, it has done wonders for our weekend walks.

I've heard people complain about the strap of Little life animal bags pulling the bag down and it not being a strong connection to the bag but I had no problems with the bag at all. Perhaps they've improved the design a little?

Cotswold Outdoor have lots of appealing products, clothing and shoes designed for little adventurers.

The Sunday Review – BumGenius V4 Reusable Nappy from BabyKind

I'm not a total stranger to Bumgenius nappies as we reviewed the limited edition nappies just before Christmas when we had our little reusable nappy wobble. Over the past few weeks I've bitten the bullet and gone back to using real nappies at the weekends and so I was grateful to get the chance to review the BumGenius version 4 nappies from online nappy and nursery retailer, BabyKind.

The BumGenius V4 nappy is a self-contained pocket nappy which has a brightly coloured waterproof outer cover and a soft inner lining which together form a pocket, into which you can add highly absorbent inserts. They are (allegedly) suitable right through from birth (around 7lb for the V4) to potty (around 35lb) and you tailor them to the size of your child by extending sections of the nappy using the built-in poppers.

Lara is currently 15kg (33lb) and we have the nappy fully unfolded. The stretchy lycra tabs come nicely around her belly and on the version of the nappy with a popper fastening, we use them on their widest setting. Depending on how full her belly is, I can fasten one side a little tighter but this can cause the elastic around her legs to rub a bit. I'm not convinced that Lara would last another year in the BumGenius nappy but then that's a good thing right? An incentive to get a move on with the potty training!

For this reason, I actually prefer the hook & loop (velcro-style) tab version of the nappy. I feel it gives me a bit more flexibility in fastening it around Lara's belly and, having used a velcro nappy (Bambino Mio) for the first 18 months of Laras life, she is well-trained not to unfasten the tabs herself, which is something lots of mums worry about. I find them less faffy than the poppers and, as you know, I find the sheer number of poppers on a BumGenius nappy mindblowing!

The BumGenius all-in-one nappy is a very easy nappy to learn to use. I like having them all ready made up so that a nappy change can be quick and stress-free. The disadvantage with the all-in-one is that you have to wash the whole thing every time, regardless of whether the nappy was soiled or not but if you have enough of them (6 a day?) then that isn't an issue.

The BumGenius nappy is really fast to dry, noticeably faster than others I've tried. Lara, being Lara, I do struggle quite often with absorbency. The nappies come with two terry inserts, one designed for newborns. I use both for extra absorbency and sometimes I also use a bamboo or cotton insert as well (unbranded ones I bought from ebay), but even with all the added bulk really they can't cope with Lara's wetness and I HAVE to change the nappy straight away.

I've taken to cutting my flushable liners in half to use with the BumGenius nappies because they are quite narrow between the legs and my existing liners stuck out of the edges. I wash the BumGenius nappies at 40 degrees and they seem to come out OK but I have suffered with staining, even when using a liner.

BabyKind sell a wide range of reusable cloth nappies and nappy accessories and they stock The Bumgenius V4 nappy in several colours either on their on or in sets (Blossom, Bubble, Butternut, Grasshopper, Noodle, Sweet, Twilight, White).
BumGenius image courtesy of BabyKind
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