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

Tuesday 31 May 2011

Flying With Toddlers – My Tips

People who have been following me on twitter and my blog recently will know that I wasn't feeling entirely mellow about the prospect of a flight with my very-nearly-2-year-old sitting on my lap. I've flown with Lara on my lap on several occasions; I've even been transatlantic with her and yet this time, the idea of an hour and a half with a wriggly, heavy, angry toddler on the verge of the terrible twos just filled me with dread.

So what are my top tips for surviving flights with toddlers?

Tip #1 – Tire Them Out
On the way out to France we managed to keep Lara awake all the way through the airport despite having had an extremely early start by offering her food and by taking our Trunki pull-along suitcase with us so that Lara walked all morning rather than being pushed in the buggy. She fell alseep about 2 minutes after take-off and woke up about 10 minutes before we landed. Genius.

Tip #2 – Take Lots of Food
We packed loads of food to last us through each flight. I've learned that it is one of the best ways to distract Lara on a plane. We literally filled Lara's suitcase with crisps, dried fruit and biscuits on the way there and on the way home, we tried the bribery of a packet of chocolate fingers (very messy, but they certainly helped to achieve a level of calm).

Tip #3 – Take Books and Apps
It is tempting to travel as light as possible when travelling with kids because you know you HAVE to take the essentials such as nappies, wipes and drinks. This time, for the first time, I decided to take 'entertainment' for Lara on the flight. A handful of books bought us a few minutes of peace, a plain notepad and crayons seemed like a good idea but the crayons fell on the floor and it was tricky to recover them. We also took a couple of Ipod apps to play which ate up a little time in the airport but didn't seem to hold much interest for Lara once we were in the air.

Tip #4 – Bury Your Head and Hope For The Best
In the past I used to be really embarrassed when Lara screamed and cried on a plane but now I think I've resigned myself to the reality of travel with young children. It's life. It can be hard and the likelihood of ever meeting any of the other passengers again in your life is low so relax, and if it bothers other people... so what?

Tip #5 – Distract Yourself
My final survival tip is not one I'd recommend but it certainly took my mind off Lara screaming “naaaaappppppyyy change” at the top of her voice despite having just had her nappy changed by Daddy.

On the flight home to London, my Mum had breathing difficulties and the entire staff were scrambled to help her out with oxygen cylinders and whatnot. For half of the flight we were surrounded by panicking staff with clipboards; Somehow Lara's whining pailed into insignificance. Lara fell asleep halfway though a wail of “naaaaapppppy chaaa...” as we touched down at Heathrow airport.

Note: This is a sponsored post, but that doesn't stop it being fun to read.

Monday 30 May 2011

Lara Does … The Beach!

There was something rather fantastic about showing Lara the sea for the very first time. OK, I'll admit that she has seen the sea before... from her pushchair... in the freezing February winds... in Southsea. But, last week we took her to the REAL seaside – we took her to paddle her toes in the clear waters of the Mediterranean sea in the warm French sunshine of the Cote d'Azur and to build sandcastles on the long, clean beaches.

At first, Lara seemed a bit wary of the sea and didn't want us to put her down on the sand. Due to luggage contraints, we hadn't taken a bucket and spade for Lara but her ingenious Grandparents fashioned a set from the inside of a pedal bin and a rather battered plastic rake they had found in the garden of the self-catering villa!

There was a point when Lara realised that the beach was indeed a giant version of the sandpit she plays in at home or at nursery. Being outside in the sunshine with the gentle sea breeze rushing through your hair, the heat of the sand warming your toes with the gentle lapping of the waves on the beach is a far cry from our back garden in Berkshire.

The difference in location is more than just a change of weather; It's about experiencing the real world and understanding the wonder of the natural world. I'm so glad to have been able to show Lara the enormity of the sea;I think it phased her for quite some time but hopefully, in years to come, she will share the same mesmerising fascination as I do each time I see the sea and will enjoy, as much as I do, scouring the beach for plants and creatures that you never find anywhere else.

Being outside on the beach is also incredibly good exercise – walking on sand uses muscles you never knew you had! And swimming in the sea is about three times as much effort as swimming in the pool and is incredibly invigorating.

A dip in the Mediterranean is an experience that Lara won't get very often so I'm glad she took the opportunity to join us floating in the warm, clear salt waters and to feel the sensation of sand between your toes while also enjoying being surrounded by her family (and burying them in sand).

Lara's outdoor adventure has obviously had a lasting impression on her. Ever since we came back from holiday, when people have asked Lara what she did on holiday, the answer has always been “build sandcastles... with.. Grandpa”. That makes me smile.

This post was written for this month's Tots 100 Blog Hop .

Sunday 29 May 2011

The Sunday Review – Little Tikes 2-in-1 Cart and Wheelbarrow

Every gardener enjoys a new garden gadget! Lara loves to play with all of her garden tools in the back garden... digging, raking, moving compost from one place to another. Her latest garden gadget is a pretty impressive one – the Little Tikes 2-in-1 Cart and Wheelbarrow – it has brought (and will continue to bring) plenty of fun in the garden for Lara to push her tools and her compost from one part of the garden to another.

Like every Little Tikes product I've ever set eyes on, the wheelbarrow is bright and bold and irresistibly appealing to toddlers and preschoolers. Each piece is made with simple chunky plastic in a rounded, tactile manner which I'm sure accounts for the irresistibility! I have no qualms keeping the cart out in the back garden all of the time because I know it is so easy to clean.

When the wheelbarrow arrived, Lara was desperate to unpack it and assemble it IMMEDIATELY. Unfortunately it came in about 2 million pieces that I had to assemble with a hammer and a screwdriver so it was a great test of her patience. I'm not sure that the levels of stress involved in constructing the toy within the time pressures of an over-eager toddler merited the cost and space savings of shipping the toy in it's collapsed, DIY state. Personally, I think I'd be prepared to pay that little bit extra for it to arrive pre-assembled.

The cart has a removable shade at the top. It looks really cute, you have to admit, but actually it presents Lara with a few problems because really she is too tall for it. When the shade is in place, she can't see the potting tray without kneeling down. I've actually found that we use the cart without the shade more often than not.

I love the little potting tray – Lara genuinely does pot up seeds on it. I'm not entirely sure that Little Tikes expect their pre-school users to be using their wheelbarrow and cart for actual, real-life gardening which is why the product comes with two plastic plant pots and plastic flowers.

When you remove the potting tray and the shade, the toy is quite a simple wheelbarrow at just the right height for Lara to pootle around the garden. She loves bringing me things inside it such as more plant pots or a bag of seeds.

The wheelbarrow comes with a couple of little garden tools – a plastic fork and trowel which have proved to be more effective than I had thought. It also comes with a water spray bottle which Lara fascinates Lara (who can resist a water gun?) She uses it for spraying the plants but the spray is a bit weak so she quickly discards it in favour of a watering can.

The Little Tikes 2-in1 Cart and Wheelbarrow retails for around £48 which, for a product as hard-wearing and multi-purpose as this, is incredibly good value in terms of the number of hours of play that we have already got out of it.

The Sunday Review – Hair Conditioners by Lovea, A'Kin and Wen

Since the weather got a bit warmer about 6 weeks ago, I've been trying out a few new conditioners on my hair. I have highlighted hair which seems to behave very differently in the sunny summer months than in the winter – often in need of moisture and detangling, but very easily turning greasy if I over-condition.

Lovea Bio Tahitian Monoi Conditioner £5.49 for 150ml at

This time last year I reviewed a Lovea shampoo made with Argan oil. I really rated it as an organic product although, admittedly, I never bought more of it, so I can't have been totally won over. I've now tried out the Lovea Bio Conditioner and I feel the same way.

For an Organic, SLS-free hair product I'm really impressed at it's effectiveness. It competes well with the salon and high-street brands I use that are packed full of nasties. The tahitian monoi oil with which it is made has a heavenly, tropical scent and is a natural emolliant so it forms a protective barrier over the hair.

I've found that I have to use quite a volume of the conditioner to make my hair tangle-free but that using a large amount of it means my hair gets greasy quite quickly after use (I'm talking a day and a half). Before that point though, my hair feels really great and keeps a lot of its natural shine.

The product is french and the english translation describes it as a comb-out conditioner which worried me for a little while that I was meant to leave it on my hair and not rinse it out. My rudimentary french allowed me to read the instructions to work out that I DID need to rinse it out – the comb-out refers to the intensive treatment you can get by combing it right through to the ends of your hair before rinsing.

A'Kin Avocado and Calendula Conditioner £10.49 for 225ml at

I'm also not a stranger to A'Kin products – I love their natural ingredients and well thought out combinations of essential oils. The previous conditioner of theirs that I tried (Jojoba & Lavender) left me feeling underwhelmed with everything other than the sensational scent.

I chose the Avocado & Calendula conditioner this time for a bit of a change because my hair tends to be a lot drier in the summer and the Avocado oil is intended to combat this. The conditioner is really nice and thick and creamy, but is still easy to squeeze out of the bottle.

I've learned that with A'Kin products, a little goes a long way so I only need a tiny amount of conditioner to make my hair smooth and tangle free.

The scent is largely of calendula and geranium (both essential oils that I really like, which is handy) – it is an almost buttery floral smell. All of the ingredients are natural and come from cold-pressed organic Australian plants.

I'm enjoying using this conditioner as I find it really easy to manage my hair but, once again, it doesn't leave me feeling wowed. Maybe I'm expecting too much from a conditioner?

Wen Re-Moist Intensive Hair Treatment – Sweet Almond Mint £18.95 for 112g

At this time of year, when my highlighted hair starts to dry out for the summer, I like to use the occasional deep conditioning treatment on my hair.

The Wen Re-Moist intensive hair treatment is a thick cream, almost solid (but not quite). It is designed for use on dry, damaged, coloured or chemically-treated hair and claims to bring back your hair's natural shine and strength.

I properly love the smell of the treatment, it is minty and refreshing and very relaxing to sit there in the bath with it piled on your head! The treatment is easy to use – slather on, wait, rinse. Easy.

Unlike many other intensive conditioners that I've used, it doesn't leave my hair feeling heavy or thick the day after – just refreshed.

The downside is that it is pretty expensive unless you want to sign up to the Wen monthly package and as I have yet to try the Wen Cleansing Conditioner (for which Wen is better known) I'm not sure I'm ready to take that step. Another downside is that I rather suspect that the ingredients are not as natural, organic or skin-friendly as the other two conditioners!

Thursday 26 May 2011

Enjoying The Fruits of Lara's Garden

Earlier this year I showed you some pictures of Lara planting out her potatoes and some of her seeds in the garden. Lara has watered her plants religiously since then, and, over the past fortnight, we have started enjoying the fruits of her labour.

This is how Lara's veg plot is looking now – this year it's all in pots but actually, I think it looks pretty impressive. Back in March Lara planted, among other things, some little radish seeds. Radishes need a lot of watering, which is handy, because watering the plants is pretty much Lara's favourite pastime. This is Lara watering at her Grandpa's house...

… and this is her last week on holiday at a self-catering cottage in France!

We returned back from holiday to an impressive crop of radishes which Lara has pulled up herself, and has willingly tried (but doesn't seem to enjoy!).

This week Lara is incredibly excited about harvesting her first home-grown strawberry. It is hard to contain her excitement and we have had one or two moments when Lara has attempted to grab the lone fruit from the plant before it is quite ripe. I can't wait to see her face when she tries her own fruit because Lara is a strawberry monster at the best of times and you can't beat home-grown food for flavour.

At the weekend we planted a new tray of radishes and Lara got to try out her new 2-in-1 Garden Cart and Wheelbarrow from Little Tikes which we'll be reviewing at the weekend. It has a built-in potting tray and is ideal for Lara to transport compost around the garden.

Lara loves the garden, and she loves eating the fruits of all her hard work.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Poppy Cat - Lara's Bedtime Stories

In an attempt to wean Lara off her unhealthy obsession with Peppa Pig, I have this week, introduced her to the joys of Poppy Cat – another of Nick Jr.'s pre-school animations which was launched at the start of May.

In the Mellow household, our little Lara winds down for the evening with a couple of episodes of her favourite TV programme before heading up to bed for her bedtime story. The new programme, Poppy Cat, is all about a little girl called Lara (!!!) who likes to make up stories to read to her sleepy cat, Poppy.

Lara appears to concentrate quite hard when she is watching Poppy Cat – it seems to require a bit more thought than Peppa Pig in order that she can take in the content. I find the programme to be a little more mature – not in terms of its content, but in the amount of artistic and story content such as a beautiful soundtrack and sound effects, and lots of small moving pieces throughout the whole screen during the animation. I think it is beautifully animated and, in a way, mesmerising.

Poppy the Cat is not the only lovely character in the series (although she is my favourite) – she is joined by a band of friends such as Alma the rabbit, Egbert the badger and Owl – they all have crazy walks and wonderful voices from well-known voices such as Joanna Page from Gavin & Stacey. We've seen episodes with fun stories featuring topics as wide ranging as singing crickets to hot-air-balloons adventures.

The complexity of the animation, the length of the episodes (they are 10 minutes long which is a welcome relief from the adverts!) and the levels of imagination required mean that I wouldn't expect Lara to sit and watch a number of episodes of Poppy Cat in one sitting as she would struggle to maintain her concentration but I'm glad to have something to offer her in the evenings that will help her develop her imagination and think up fun adventures and stories of her own.

The Poppy Cat TV series is based on a series of beautifully illustrated books written by Lara Jones – we have one which is a stunning pop-up book that is currently our own Lara's favourite bedtime story. It's just a shame that our own family cat (who looked remarkably like Poppy) passed away a couple of weeks ago :-(

Poppy Cat is shown every weekday morning at 10am during May.

Monday 23 May 2011

Your Trike Memories

Last month I ran a lovely competition to win a Smart Trike Recliner Stroller 4-in-1, I asked you to share your fond memories of trike and to submit your photos of you or your little ones enjoying their trikes and I wanted to share a few of the wonderful photos of the great fun you can have with a trike such as a Smart Trike.

It's so nice being able to take them out without putting them in a pushchair - trikes give them a bit of freedom which I think most children crave. My youngest is 6 months old now and I can't wait to get him his first trike and see the smile on his face the first time he goes on it.

I had a big black tricycle with solid tyres so that there was no chance of getting a puncture & a big basket on the front to put my teddy bear in!!

My eldest had a trike with a long handle on the back for us to push him along...trouble is he prefered to put his toys on and push them instead!

My favourite memory is when my son got his trike at about 18 months, father christmas brought it for him and it was hidden behind the door so he didnt see it till all the other presents were opened. His dad called him over and he got halfway to the door before he saw it and literally ran as fast as he could go to get to it. My parents and sisters spent the rest of christmas day walking up and down the street in the freezing cold pushing him along as he wouldnt come in!

My grandchildren all have trikes and they all enjoy riding on them, the older ones can now peddle themselves, the little one still needs pushing, but these days you buy one trike and it changes as your child grows.

I used to childmind and had four lovely trikes that my daughter and her friends used to race around the garden

When I was a little girl I had the most beautiful bright red shiny trike. My dad spent hours customising it for me and I had a magical horn that played a little tune everytime I pressed it. It had lots of beautiful red and silver sparkly ribbons coming off the handles. The spokes had little lights attached that flashed when the wheels went round and I even had a little number plate attached to the back of the trike that featured my initials and the number 1!! My dad even made a gorgeous little basket for the front for my favourite dolly to travel on. I loved my trike so very, very much and cried when the time arrived that I no longer could fit on it.

I remember being at playgroup and zooming round the room on a trike, its probably my earliest memory so I must have loved it lots, I also remember being hotly pursued by a tot on a motorbike and I was thrilled he couldn't catch me!

I think they are soooo much better than a pushchair as far as getting baby tired out goes. We don't use a pushchair anyway, so my arms are pretty strong from all the carrying, but I would love to have my little girl getting active from a young age.

I loved my trike as a kid. My Dad said it was as though I was welded to it for the first five years of my life. Apparently I wore it out and one of the wheels fell off. It was completely irrepairable and so I made my Dad bury it in the back garden like it was a dead pet!

We sat my daughter on one of these in the shop the other day- her face absolutely lit up as she put her feet on the pedals and thought she was going somewhere on her own bike! Reminded me of that amazing feeling of my first trike!! Made of metal, with an orange seat and black frame.

I remember waking up on Christmas morning to a beautiful shiny pink trike, it had a basket on the front which I used to carry my barbies in. It brought me many hours of joy.

My oldest son had a Smart Trike and we had HOURS of fun with it. It had to go everywhere because he absolutely loved it (not easy when your car is already full of camping gear!). When he outgrew it though we gave it to another small person to enjoy. Now we have another little one and I definitely want him to have the same fun experiences we had with our other son.

Sunday 22 May 2011

The Sunday Review - Melissa & Doug Easel

Meet my own little Monet! Or do you think she's got more of an Andy Warhol style to her work?

Lara has been having hours of fun in the world of wooden toys. We've been reviewing the deluxe wooden art easel by Melissa and Doug.

I think that the easel is a work of art itself. It is, like many wooden toys, built to last. All of the pieces have been well thought out to provide many years worth of use. The easel has three heights which, as you can see, mean that it is suitable for toddlers upwards.

On one side there is a whiteboard to which you can attach paper using clips. Underneath it there is a storage area of paints, brushes and pots. On the other side there is a green chalk board which is easy to wipe clean and below that, another storage area for chalks and crayons etc.

In the centre of the easel is a pole to which you can attach a long roll of paper that will flip up and over the easel meaning there could be an 'endless' supply of paper to get your little ones's creative juices flowing.

I really love the thought that has gone into this product. When we first opened the box we shuddered at the number of wooden and plastic pieces that we needed to assemble. In reality, assembly was a breeze because it didn't require any tools - all of the pieces fit together using screws with brightly coloured plastic toggles that hold them in place... no need for a screwdriver!

The easel is collapsable on one side so that it will fold and take up a little less space. Despite this, it is pretty bulky and I could do with a bigger house to put it in!

Lara loves the easel. I think it has given her a new level of independence. When she is painting or drawing on the easel I am more relaxed and don't have to hover over her to make sure she's not scribbling on the table, or the sofa - the easel is hers and it's her grown-up toy!

At £44.95 for a sturdy, smart, bulky piece of kit that is going to stand the test of time, I think it is incredible value when I compare it to the plastic, fixed-height, short-term easels that lots of the big-stores stock.

The Melissa and Doug Deluxe Easel is available from

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Potty Training - Tips and Experiences from Real Mums

Welcome to the Potty Training blogging carnival. I've brought together some of the many blog posts out there that offer tips and advice, and which share experiences. Thanks to everyone who got involved.

Here at Mellow Mummy we started Potty Training at 13 months, as soon as we saw the signs of readiness. We're taking it slowly and steadily. I gave a 16 month update but it has all gone a bit quiet since.

I found this comprehensive post from Cheshire Claire to be a REAL account of when she chose to potty train, the decisions she made, the approach she took and the results.

Little M at Mummy's Busy World has been blogging about pooing on demand and about the feeling of finally managing to use the potty.

Red Ted Art kept a potty diary some time back and hopes to inspire people to persevere when it seems to be taking a long time.

Sandy from Baby Baby posted this blog post on the subject. I shall say little about it, other than that it embodies the sense of pride that you get, even as a parent, when it all comes together!


For a complete guide to the different products on offer out there, check out this great roundup of potty training aids at New Mummy's Tips. Really useful stuff.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

My Cosmetics Stash aka A Promise to Use Stuff Up!

A wise person (aka my Mum) once told me that cosmetics companies make their money out of all the bottles and jars of smellies that sit unused on your dressing table. I think there is probably some truth in this – the cosmetics industry is centred around a marketing concept of perfection – you'll buy anything you can get your hands on in order to achieve that perfection. If you're always on the lookout for the next magic product then the old ones quickly get discarded.

Welcome to my cosmetics cupboard!

This is the place where I stash all of my goodies that aren't currently in use. They are all products I've bought, received as gifts, won as prizes or been asked to review. Many of them are unopened! Some of the products are things I love and I'm just stockpiling or saving for a rainy day. Others are things I'm not that keen on, but it seems a waste to throw them away.

I have a similar stash in the bathroom where I keep all of my bath and hair products.

At the start of this year I made myself a promise to start using all these things up. I gave away a few items to friends and fellow reviewers. I asked Mr. B. not to give me any new smellies for Christmas, our Anniversary or my Birthday.

In the past 4 months I've made a significant dent on the stash (these photos would have been a lot more chocca full of bottles and pots a few months ago!). I've enjoyed furtling through the cupboard for the next item to use – it means I've rediscovered some favourites and forced myself to try some products that I was previously avoiding.

It feels good to be using stuff up and getting to recycle the empty bottles. I feel like I'm achieving something! I feel like I'm beating the system. The best thing about it is that I'm slowly making space on my window ledge and in the cupboard so that when it comes to Christmas 2011, Mr. B. will have free reign to buy me smellies galore!

Monday 16 May 2011


I've discovered a new side to Lara. A Lara I didn't know existed. Lara is shy. Lara is scared.

Other than a few short weeks when Lara was about 9 months old, I'd have never thought to use the word “shy” to describe my sociable, happy little girl. With children and adults alike, Lara was able to settle in quickly with a new group of people.

We've always maintained that Lara should be able to enjoy the same events we do which is why, the day before the royal wedding, we took Lara with us for our regular pub date with the guys from work. Lara seemed really excited about going for lunch with Daddy and Mummy's friends. The minute we walked into the pub she changed into a different human being.

Lara went totally silent and hid behind my legs. She wouldn't eat or drink (this happens so rarely with Lara that I worry when she doesn't eat). She wouldn't even show her face. She clung to me like a limpit and squawked whenever anyone tried to speak to her. I was expecting Lara to warm to the people around her. She didn't. This unusual behaviour lasted for a full hour.

As soon as all of our work colleagues left the pub and returned to the office, Lara reverted to her normal smiley cheeky self and polished off her lunch. She wiggled and giggled and even struck up a conversation with the strangers on the table next to us. She wouldn't explain her behaviour to me – what had upset her so much. When I returned to the office, people who have seen Lara as her normal cheerful self commented on how out of sorts she had been.

On the May Bank holiday we took Lara to the May Fayre. She loved seeing all the people, the fair ground rides, the loud stalls and the performances on the stage. But, she did have two episodes which were so unlike her. First, she burst into tears when she saw someone dressed as Iggle Piggle I've always hated people dressed up as characters, but this had never seemed to bother Lara before. Then later, she refused point-blank to get into the children's train; through her tears she described it as 'the scary train'. This coming from the little girl who has been on all of the toddler's rides at Legoland and Peppa Pig World!

That Lara's behaviour has changed does not surprise me. All of her NCT friends are going through similar changes right now and I'm sure that as Lara grows through toddlerhood into childhood that there will be plenty more changes in her behaviour. What leaves me feeling uncomfortable is being unable to help her. I wasn't prepared for this new Lara's arrival and I'm not sure what comfort or support I can offer her.

Sunday 15 May 2011

The Sunday Review - Wonderkind IPhone / IPod apps for Toddlers

This month we are going on holiday by aeroplane to France. Last time we travelled by plane, Lara screamed blue murder for the duration and wriggled and jiggled across several rows of seats. I'm not hopeful – I've little mellowness left when it comes to air travel with kids. After the success of the Humpf app, I've been on the lookout for some more apps for my Ipod touch that are suitable for Lara as a means of entertaining her at the airport and in the long queue while waiting for our hire car.

We've been trying out two different apps from Wonderkind, both of which feature stylised hand-drawn images of animals that they describe as 'charming' and 'enchanting'.

The Wonder Memory Classic Matching Game – matching pairs, if you like is a game for all ages. You can play it at a very basic level (with 3 pairs) or at a series of more advanced levels for children and adults alike. Lara seems to have already grasped the concept of the basic game – remembering where the images of animals or vehicles have already appeared. It surprised me how quickly she picked it up.

Other than the classic game, there are two other game styles that I really like. The 'living pictures' game features sounds and animation as a reward when your child finds a matching pair. There is also a 'sounds' version where you have to match sounds, not pictures. Trust me, it's trickier than you think!

Wonder Memory is a good game for me to have on my Ipod touch because I can while away the time as well as playing it with Lara – at 59p I think its good value in terms of entertainment value. Simple, yet endlessly playable. There is also an HD version available for the Ipad.

The other game that we tried out is called 'Toddler's Seek & Find'. It features three different scenes in which are hidden a large number of animals or people who, when touched, play a short animation to reward you for having found them. I thought it would particularly appeal to Lara because of the animals.

Lara can spend quite some time sitting and playing with this game without any help from me. The deer who eats a woman's cabbages makes her giggle every time and she always mimics the gribbeting frog! I think she is too young to understand the hilarity(?) of a farting pig but the makers go to some lengths to explain that you can switch off this feature if it causes offence!!!

I found the images to be a little too small for Lara. Some of the birds and small
creatures are really very tiny and hard to find so I always switched on the 'zoom' feature which zooms in when you've found an animated creature – it helped a little but I still feel that the pictures are too detailed for a toddler and the drawings of people are not as realistic as those of the animals.

I also didn't feel that there was as much play value in the Seek & Find picture book. There are three scenes, each with two screens. I was a little disappointed that there was no more to it than that, no new scenes to reveal once you'd found all of the things hidden in the first three levels. Maybe I'm not looking at it from the toddler's point of view because Lara seems to find plenty of entertainment in it and I think that between the two apps, we'll have plenty to keep her occupied in airport departure lounges this month.

The Sunday Review – Nougat London Nurturing Hand Cream

The arrival of a little pot of Tuberose and Jasmine Nurturing Hand Cream from Nougat London was perfectly timed on the day when my last hand cream ran out – a good omen if ever there was one. The glass jar looked smart, I'd go so far as to say 'luxurious' and incredibly inviting – I just couldn't wait to delve in and take out an enormous scoop of the stuff!

The hand cream is very thick and rich. It reminds me of the sloppy bits of clotted cream! Despite this, it actually absorbs quite quickly into the skin and didn't leave my hands feeling greasy.

The key ingredients are cocoa butter, almond oil and macadamia oil which are all moisture-replenishers. The cream also contains Comfrey extract and Vitamin E to help sooth cracked or dry skin and heal damage to hard-working hands.

In terms of effectiveness, I'm happy with the cream although I don't wake up in the morning and notice how scrumptious my hands look (it's hard to find a hand-cream that gives that feeling but when you do, its an amazing feeling). The thing that really really wins me over though is the scent. I've never come across Tuberose before but, combined with the exotic scent of jasmine (one of my favourite flowers), the smell of the Nougat hand cream is so sweet, summery and floral that I just want to sniff the pot! This hand cream smells elegant rather than hard-working.

Nougat London Nurturing Hand Cream also comes in two different sizes of tube (great for when travelling) or a larger 200ml glass jar which would look great sitting on your dressing table. The 50ml pot costs £7.00 and can be bought online through their own store or in department stores such as John Lewis and Harrods or a number of smaller boutiques.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Teaching Children the Origins of Food

This year I resolved to teach Lara to cook. I'm passing on my passing for food and it is important for me that Lara understands, from an early age, where the food on her plate comes from. By that, I mean more than that learning to cook will teach Lara that food doesn't magically appear on a plate. Further to that, I want her to understand the origins of her food so that she can make informed choices about what she eats and can really learn to enjoy food and drink as she grows older.

Learning about the origins of food starts at home. Last year Lara learned how to grow potatoes with me. This year, with a new garden, we're still planting in tubs and pots but we're taking on a few more challenges. Lara helps me at every stage. From the planting of the seeds to the potting out. She especially loves the daily trip around the garden to check on all of our crops (I used to have a cat who enjoyed the same walk with me!). Lara is an expert at watering and will regularly be spotted on my Dad's gardening blog with a watering can in hand.

But gardening isn't just about the fun. It's about understanding and sharing the hard work that goes into preparing food. I know, by the way that Lara dotes on her Grandpa, that she values the passion and effort that goes into growing fruit and vegetables. I'm hoping that by spending the time and effort herself to grow tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, lettuce, runner beans, dwarf beans, courgettes, physalis, chillis, thyme, parsely, rosemary, chives, corriander, oregano, bay and much more, that Lara will stop and think about all of the food that she eats, not just the food she grows; That she will question the origins of the fruit and vegetables she eats on a daily basis (i.e. the ones we buy from the supermarket) and will savour the flavour that little bit more. I'm also hoping that by getting involved in the growing of herbs and vegetables, that she'll be adventurous enough to try a wide range of foods, knowing that she, her mum, or her Grandpa grew them.

Beyond the vegetable patch, I want to educate Lara about meat and fish – something I can't yet do in my own back garden! We are lucky enough to live within a very short drive of two or three meat-producing farms. The meat is awesomely tasty (but at a price). I've taken Lara with me several times to the butcheries and farmyards so that she can see the animals in all of the forms. It doesn't scare me to show Lara farm animals in a setting that is so obviously geared towards their consumption. I know this will upset some strongly-willed vegetarians but on a farmyard, the animals are bred for food. Lara has seen the pigs, ducks, chickens and cows in the fields enjoying their lives. She has seen them sliced and ready to cook in the butcheries. I think she gets that now. It is OK to enjoy seeing, touching and admiring farm animals at the same time as appreciating the meat that they will eventually give us.

Last week when we took Lara to the farm, they had just received a delivery of day-old chicks. Small, yellow, fluffy, cheepy and INCREDIBLY cute. Lara's response when she saw them was “yum, yum”. It freaked me out when she first said it (it was a little sinister, I'll admit). But, when I thought about it, her reaction made sense. Lara enjoys food. Chicken means food to her, and very little else. I think she is a little young to understand right now, but hopefully one day she will appreciate the fact that those chicks she saw were about to live a far more enjoyable life and be treated with so much more love and attention than most livestock or poultry in Britain that is bred for our dinner tables.

So how about you, do your children understand where the food on their plates came from?

Monday 9 May 2011

Do Your Children Eat The Same Meals As You?

This blog post is sponsored by Giraffe Childcare.

Do you eat the same food as your children? Do you share the same mealtimes? We do. If you've read any of my blog posts about weaning you'll know that I feel strongly that children shouldn't be treated any differently than adults at the dinner table and, wherever possible, they should be encouraged to eat the same food as you do. It's not something I'm religious about but I really do think that a love of food, cooking and eating doesn't need to be reserved for grown-ups. Children don't NEED to eat “Children's food” (although I'll admit to serving Lara kiddies food as a special treat on occasion).

When I look back on my own childhood I sometimes question my decision. Some of my fondest memories are of the special feeling of being privileged enough to share a meal with my parents for sunday roasts, or family events. Not until I started college did I regularly share an evening meal with my parents. Perhaps Lara will miss out on that feeling if she eats with us for every meal? Perhaps she's missing out by not getting to eat branded 'children's' food and her childhood friends may think that she's weird as she grows older?

But, the more I think about it, the more I struggle to understand why children are commonly expected to eat differently to us. Different times of day, different foods, different expectations. Admittedly, Lara goes to bed later than many children her age, so she doesn't need to eat earlier than us. We are also in a situation where, given that both parents work, we would never have time to cook a separate meal for Lara even if we wanted to. There are sacrifices we have to make at meal times so that Lara can share with us – a reduction in salt, pepper and chilli are really the only compromises that we still make. But why should Lara not share the same quality of food as us? Why should she not be able to share the pleasure of an amazingly cooked meal with incredible, fresh ingredients?

Which is why, last weekend, Lara sat down to dinner with us and enjoyed a gastronomic extravaganza cooked by the lovely Mr. B.


Pan-friend scallops with a butternut squash purée and a bacon and fennel-seed dust


Slow-roasted Barkham belly of pork served with a celeriac mash, tenderstem broccoli, carrots and an onion and apple gravy


Home-made strawberry ice cream (actually, Lara won't eat ice-cream!), fresh strawberries, blueberries and meringues.


For some reason, this makes me incredibly proud. I'd like to point out that Lara didn't share our bottle of Beaujolais! I wish you could have seen the look on her face as she devoured a scallop for the first time in her life – right then, I knew my decision was right. Lara is enjoying gastronomy at 23 months.

She is still, like many toddlers her age, what I would consider to be a fussy eater; she refuses to eat potato in my presence (but will eat it at nursery) and screams if anyone so much as whispers the word 'yoghurt'. However, I like to feel that Lara has a wider repertoire of foods than most toddlers so if she finds two or three things she doesn't fancy eating right now then there are plenty of other things to choose from. I'm hoping that the yoghurt fear will sort itself out given time, and I'm aware that over the years Lara will go through fussy periods. In general I'm astonishingly proud of her appetite and adventurousness when it comes to food. She's my superstar.
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