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

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Lara makes... egg men!

I love the family time that I get to spend with Lara at the weekend (and on our thursday mornings) and I always try and find time to do something creative with her every weekend. Quite often it is cookery but occasionally we paint things or draw things together. Over the past couple of weekends Lara and I have been creating egg men! Little egg characters inspired by our friends at Fairy who encouraged me and Lara to invent some egg characters of our own.

Lara seemed to get really involved in the process, which was brilliant. One weekend we sat down together and painted our eggs (they aren't real eggs... not sure I'm brave enough to trust my manic 2-year-old with a real egg yet). It was messy but Lara knew EXACTLY what she wanted each egg to look like.

More recently, now the paint is dry, we have transformed our eggs into people using pieces of wool, glitter, foam and anything else from the house that we could lay our hands on. Once again, I've been really surprised at how engaged Lara was in the process. She normally has an attention span of about 20 seconds but when it came to creating her own little characters, Lara knew her own mind and even if she wasn't able to make what she wanted, she was able to ask me to do it for her. With Lara's guidance we have created the following egg men.

The Pirate

The Princess

The Baby

The Clowns

Our egg men are not quite the 'athletes' that I think Fairy had in mind when they sent Lara her egg-decorating kit.

Fairy gave us some bunting so that we could host out own egg-and-spoon race. Lara loved racing up and down the garden against mummy and daddy in her races. I suspect there may have been a little bit of cheating going on though!

Fairy are encouraging little ones to get out and become budding athletes in the run up to the olympic games. You can find out more about their fun activities on their facebook page.

Sunday 28 August 2011

TumTum Toddler Tableware Review

Every so often, I come across a baby or children's brand that I simply can't fathom why I've never crossed their path before. TumTum is one such brand. Their products rock. Bright, functional and astonishingly high quality tableware, cutlery and travel products that toddlers (and parents) will find hard to resist.

Lara was lucky enough to receive a sample from their colourful range and from the very moment I opened the packaging Lara was hooked. Every single night since then Lara has insisted that we use her TumTum placemat and cutlery and I have even had to wash up her TumTum plate because nothing else would do.

The TumTum Tiny Dining Set (£14) comprises a plate and bowl. Both of them are made from firm BPA, phthalate & PVC free plastic. They really are two very good quality pieces that I know will stand the tests of time. They just FEEL good. And to top it off, the packaging is designed to be coloured in and re-used as a fun children's travel box after you have unpacked – genius!

The bowl has a picture of a cheeky mole inside it and the plate, which is a tear-drop shape, has a gorgeous little leafy hedgehog design. On the outside they are plain colours which look smart. We really like the plate because it has a high side which makes it easier for Lara, as a toddler, to use her spoon and fork effectively without catapulting food all over the table.

But, if she were to catapult her food, it wouldn't matter because our dining table is now protected by a TumTum placemat (£4). Lara's placemat is a piggy and she loves just staring that cheeky piggy in the eye!!! You can also buy the placemat in a frog or dog design. They are a really nice big size and have a wipe-clean top surface and a foamy backing which helps the mat to stay still on most surfaces.

Lara has also tried out the TumTum Tiny Beaker (£6) which is a shaped mug with a handle. The mug has a wide base to increase the likelihood that your child will manage to lay it flat on the table. It also comes with a lid and a straw (and a replacement straw) so that if your child isn't quite ready for a mug, or if you know they are in a mood where they will just throw liquid everywhere, you can prevent spillages. Once again, this just feels like a good quality product.

The final piece in the puzzle is the TumTum Tiny 3-Piece Travel Cutlery set (£12). A knife, fork and spoon designed for small hands that are still getting used to the idea of cutlery. The cutlery is actually designed to be effective (unlike some first cutlery sets). It comes with a hard plastic case so that you can take the cutlery out with you and not have to worry about bringing it home dirty in your changing bag. Lara really likes the mix-and-match design on the handles but I've found that the design has scratched easily (the packaging says they are dishwasher safe but I have my suspicions that this is what has scratched the design).

I am really very impressed by the toddler's tableware from TumTum and I'm really glad I've discovered them – their website even includes some fun colouring pages and children's cooking recipes. Find out more about TumTum (and some lovely competitions) on their facebook page.

Akin PureMan Mens Organic Cosmetics Review

Mr B has an expensive taste in skincare but he has incredibly sensitive skin so he tends to be very limited with what he can use on his face. His most recent products are a set of A'Kin pureMAN organic skincare products for men from Mypure.

akin pureMAN

The A'kin pureMAN calming aftershave balm is a thin lotion a bit like melted butter but with a peppery, cinnamony scent. It is intended to soothe the skin after shaving and to rehydrate the skin. It is oil free, alcohol free and also free from parabens, sulfates and pthalates. It is intended for guys with dry or sensitive skin so should be perfect for Mr. B.

Mr. B finds the feeling of his skin afterwards to be really nice. He has commented that he hasn't felt any dryness at all. I think he finds the scent quite strong but in his words, 'it certainly did calm my face after my shave'. He found the runny texture to be really easy to apply and it is extremely quick to be absorbed into the skin.

akin pureMAN

The A'kin pureMAN dual action face wash and scrub is another product ideal for Mr. B. It is an invigorating, warming face wash with jojoba beads designed to scrub away dirt, dead skin cells and excess oil. The scent is spicy and citrusy.

I think Mr. B. was underwhelmed by jojoba beads (I love them); he said that he felt that this face wash wasn't the greatest face wash he'd ever used and wasn't the most effective face scrub he'd ever used but he admitted that his face did feel really clean after use.

Both of the products are made with primarily natural ingredients which are certified as organic where possible. I must say I was quite surprised at how many ingredients they had – it felt like a lot more than the A'Kin products that I've used myself.

Currently at Mypure you can Get a free A'kin PureMAN Face Wash & Scrub when you buy 2 or more products from the A'kin PureMAN range.

Saturday 27 August 2011

My @ThinkingSlimmer Journey - Week One - #Slimpod

I've heard a lot of buzz about ThinkingSlimmer over the past few months but wasn't sure if it was for me. I don't have an enormous amount of weight that I NEED to lose (but a lot i'd like to) but the thing I struggle with is willpower. I love food. I love wine. I work full time (in an office that supplies free ice cream). I'm a mum. I struggle to find the time for exercise. Lots of excuses.

I know I can lose weight if I put my mind to it because I have been down to pre-baby weight once already but then I settle back into the comfy zone and put it all back on again, plus some.

And so, I've agreed to try out the new 'Drop Two Jeans Sizes' Slimpod from ThinkingSlimmer to see if I can do just that.... drop 2 jeans sizes. If I can, then I will be back to my pre-baby clothes and closer to my pre-marriage size.

The Slimpod is a downloadable mp3 track which you listen to once a day just before you go to sleep. The gentle, encouraging words of the voice (aka Trevor) filter into your brain and the idea is that your subconscious will subtley start to change your habits after about 21 days. I'm expecting good things.

I downloaded my introduction and daily mp3 onto my ipod and started listening to my slimpod on Monday night. My initial reactions:-

  • Really pleasantly surprised at how non-eerie the voice was. I had been expecting it to be floaty and a bit silly but it wasn't. It didn't feel funny or stupid listening to it.

  • The recording quality wasn't as high as I'd expected, you can hear the faint buzz of feedback and some interesting background noises. There is also a really obvious edit half way through. The trouble is that I don't know if these are accidents or deliberate cognitive techniques.

OK. So now for the important bit. My starting stats.

Start Weight: 87.2kg (eek).

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Miscarriage - Stories and Experiences From Bloggers

Last month I blogged about my own early miscarriage and I had such an overwhelming response from so many people who had been through the same thing as me that I decided that miscarriage should be the theme for this month's mellow mummy blogger's carnival.

Jo from LadyBlahBlahs has listed some of the strong feelings she felt having experienced at least 5 miscarriages before conceiving. She feels cheated out of having been able to enjoy pregnancy.

Ellen from In a Bundance wrote a heart-breaking piece about having to experience the pain and trauma of labour after a miscarriage she had previously not known about.

Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews featured a campaign last year for The Baby Loss Awareness Campaign which features some comforting statistics and advice. At her other blog, Welcome Back To The Madhouse, Cheryl shares a picture that her daughter drew in memory of her little sister who was never meant to be.

Hannah from Muddling Along Mummy wrote this lovely post about how, even with a miscarriage early in pregnancy, the baby feels real to you. More recently Hannah has blogged about the mixed emotions she has felt learning that a relative is pregnant. Hannah has some wonderfully honest posts about miscarriage on her blog that I've found touching and inspiring, do go and have a delve in her archives.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Cooking With Children : Crispy Chicken Goujons Recipe

chicken goujons recipe
I have been wanting to cook a chicken goujons recipe with Lara for some time - there is something rather irresistible about the amount of mess it involves. Perfect for big kids like me, and toddlers like Lara. The art of cooking goujons of any sort is to be well prepared. Lay out all of your ingredients in a supply chain within easy reach of each other and everything will work like clockwork.

Crispy Chicken Goujons (serves two adults and one hungry toddler)

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 slices of stale white bread (or fresh bread that has been blasted in a hot oven for a few minutes)
3 eggs
125g plain flour
1 tablespoon polenta / cornmeal
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celsius. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or else spray it with non-stick cooking spray.

  2. Blitz the slices of bread, including crusts, in a food processor until they form breadcrumbs. They don't need to be too fine. Place them in a bowl next to the baking tray.

  3. Beat the eggs and put them in a bowl next to the breadcrumbs.

  4. Mix the flour and polenta together with a little salt and pepper (and the chilli powder if you are using it). Place this in a bowl next to the egg.

  5. Slice the chicken breasts into long strips about 2cm wide and place these next to the flour. Now you have your supply chain.

  6. preparing to make chicken goujons

  7. Get your little helper to take one piece of chicken and dip it into the flour, making sure it is well coated.

  8. chicken goujons

  9. Then dip the chicken into the egg mixture briefly before then dipping it into the breadcrumbs.

  10. Make sure the chicken is well coated in breadcrumbs before placing the completed goujon onto the baking tray.

  11. chicken goujons

  12. Repeat! (note, it is actually less messy if you do a number of pieces of chicken at each stage so that you are not repeatedly placing your fingers in and out of the egg mixture.

  13. Once all of the chicken goujons have been coated, put the baking tray into the oven and bake until golden. This will be about 20 minutes but keep a close eye on them so that they don't burn or dry out too much.

  14. chicken goujons

  15. We served our chicken goujons with a yellow tomato salsa and wild rice salad (recipe coming soon on Mellow Mummy!). These goujons go brilliantly with ketchup or chilli sauce.

chicken goujons

Sunday 21 August 2011

Organix Mighty Meals Review

Organix Mighty Meals are a new range of pre-prepared meals designed specifically for toddlers aged 1 to 3 years. Lara and I have been putting them to the test, which I think is a pretty strenuous test given how much of a foodie I am (and Lara is becoming). Despite being a foodie, there is a place in my diet and my routine for convenience foods but when it comes to pre-prepared meals, I am definitely a label-checker and would never feed my toddler anything that was made with ingredients that I couldn't (or wouldn't) use myself at home.

And it is for exactly that reason that I am impressed with the Organix Mighty Meals. There are no nasties hiding on that nutritional information label. In fact, when I read the lists of ingredients, there is absolutely no reason why I couldn't make exactly the same meals myself. Oh no, I lie, there is a reason... I'm not superhuman and I don't always have time to make all of our meals from scratch, especially on swimming days when I have one hour to get Lara fed, changed and delivered to nursery before I start work in the afternoons.

When I first received a sample of each flavour of Mighty Meal in the post I immediately had a look inside the packets. Usually the real contents of a ready meal bear no resemblance to the tasty-looking dishes depicted on the labels but these ones REALLY do look like the pictures! They look good - they look like I could have made them! Below, Lara let me take a picture of her Spinach Falafels in Big Beany Sweet Red Pepper Sauce.

Lara's favourite of all the 5 flavours of Organix Might Meals was the Pork Meatballs in Tomatey Chickpea and Sweet Potato Sauce (Lara LOVES chickpeas). She also enjoyed the Lamp Hotpot. On the other hand, Lara has turned her nose up at both of the pasta meals (Creamy Chicken Pasta and Tomatoey Beef Bolognaise) ; I put this down to the disappointment of the pasta itself. Lara normally loves pasta but the nature of a ready meal means that the pasta is overcooked and very soft compared to how she would normally experience pasta. I polished off the Creamy Chicken Pasta for her... and loved it!

I found all of the meals to be of a good quality and to be packed full of vegetables and pulses. I found them very easy to cook (heated through in a pan of hot water or blasted for less than a minute in the microwave). I'll admit that they don't taste EXACTLY like the meals would do if I had made them myself because the Mighty Meals have been cooked and prepared at high temperatures to eliminate bacteria (which means they don't need to be refridgerated and have a nice long shelf life) - it does affect the taste. As a foodie mum, I have absolutely no qualms at all feeding the Organix Mighty Meals to my toddler. In fact, I may try and make my own version of the Spinach Falafels in beany sauce some time soon.

Perfectshun – Permission To Be Human by Teejay Dowe

Perfectsun Permission to Be Human is a book by Teejay Dowe, a life coach and motivational speaker. I'm not normally one for self-help books but the marketing material for the book seemed to say a lot of sensible things which rang very true for me and the drivers behind my 'Mellow Mummy' approach to life. Take for instance this quote from Teejay about the pressures on modern mums to be perfect;

"It’s so easy for any of us to get caught up in the trap of trying to be all things to all people, especially if you are a modern mum attempting to have it all, do it all and be it all!  Ladies is this you?
  • Got to look my best at all time

  • Have the perfect house even if that means getting up super early to get the house work done

  • Have the perfect kids, must make sure they have it all

  • Must stay in shape

  • Be the perfect wife – efficient, organised, taking care of everyone’s needs

  • Must be sexy

  • Must have the best job

  • Be the best at my job

  • Must be liked by the people I work with

  • Must be in control

  • Must be sociable and have lots of friends

I’m exhausted just writing it let alone doing it all! Stop! Take a step back and realise how crazy it is to put that kind of pressure on yourself. Instead be kind to yourself by not expecting the impossible of yourself."

I can't deny that almost every single one of those applies to me BUT that I'm surprised at how many mums around me really do try and achieve all of those things.

Teejay's book, Permission to Be Human is a series of observations about the pressures we put ourselves under and patterns of human behaviour that put us in the place we are – striving for a perfection we can't humanly meet.

"It’s time, now, to stop beating yourself up for something that is not even possible to achieve and instead celebrate being human and embrace all that that means. Set your own standards, discover or re-discover your emotions and be the most Amazing person you can be.”
says TeeJay.

I found the book to have some pretty useful exercises that did make me evaluate my role as a working mum. I think that the chapter “So what Do You Really Want” was perhaps the most useful as it helped me to focus on my own goals, not on the imposed goals that life seems to set us.

In general, I found the book itself lacked focus though. There were some really interesting anecdotes from Teejay's own fascinating life and from some of her life-coaching clients but I felt these could have been more effectively turned into concise and powerful case studies. The book contains loads of different ways in which Teejay tries to highlight what is wrong with society and with the way we regard ourselves but even though I know there were several examples of how to avoid life's pressures, I didn't feel like it came to any strong conclusions on how to combat the causes of the problems. I finished the book wanting more direction on where to go next.

Despite this, I'm grateful to Teejay for putting into words many of the things I think and feel every day. People, especially busy mums, expect too much of themselves (and too much of others). Life doesn't NEED to be stressful, we make it so. Perfectshun Permission to be Human documents some effective techniques for finding the right life balance, a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

Perfectshun Permission to be human is available from ecademy press for £14.99

Thursday 18 August 2011

Potty Training the Mellow Way - An Update

Last week we made the big decision to start taking potty training seriously. Regular readers may know that I first introduced Lara to the potty at about this time last year when she was 13 months old and that earlier this year we started getting some success on the potty. Lara is now 26 months old and we felt that we had reached a wall and although we both still had doubts about whether she really was ready to go for it, last weekend Mr. B. and I decided that on Monday morning we would take the plunge.

Potty training when your child goes to nursery full-time has its pros and cons. On the plus side, the nursery staff do take on a lot of the responsibility AND they do this a lot more often than we do so they know the tricks of the trade. On the otherhand, it does make it hard to find a routine and impose house rules. When we take Lara to nursery they ask that we take her in a nappy because they are too busy at drop-off time to be able to rush off for emergency loo visits. In the evenings, our approach to potty training may be totally different to that at nursery and I'm not sure how much of a problem that has been other than that Lara asks for stickers and chocolate at nursery as a reward, which she obviously doesn't get.

Anyway. Week one had its ups and downs. On Monday and Tuesday Lara had 2 accidents at nursery but we got through the evenings just fine. Wednesday and Thursday were pretty disasterous. Lara only spends half a day at nursery on a Thursday but she still managed to get through 6 changes of clothes! Friday was better.

The weekend was a bit tricky. We went to Legoland and decided not to risk it and put Lara in a nappy but in fact she was really good at asking to use the toilet. On Sunday she also did pretty well with about 3 accidents. I did try and take her out to the park without a nappy but regretted it after a puddle appeared in the car seat!

This week at nursery we have so far had two days with only 1 accident and one day with no accidents at all so things are definitely getting better.

I shall keep you updated.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Stuck On You Name Labels and NameTags Review

You may think that Lara is a little young for me to have to worry about labeling all of her clothes for school but actually, I have found that name labels are really handy for nursery too. We quite often forget to search around the room for Lara's cardigans and hats when we leave nursery each evening so name tags make sense for us. We have tried out the personalised iron-on and stick-on name labels from Stuck On You.

Choosing the clothing labels I wanted was really easy. I just selected a style and colour of label (I chose some rectangular stick-on labels and some circular iron-on labels) and then added Lara's name to the design before choosing an icon to go alongside the name. There was an enormous range of icons to choose from with pictures for every taste.

name tags

Lara's stick-on labels have a little elephant design. They come with a firm peel-off backing that is easy to remove. You wrap them around the care label and press them into place. I've found them to stick really well. If you want to apply them directly to the fabric then you also have the option of ironing them on or sewing them on.

Lara's iron-on labels are bright pink with a butterfly design. The iron-on clothes labels come on a sheet. You remove one, place it onto the fabric and then, with a small piece of parchment between the label and iron, you iron them into place with a medium-hot iron. Slightly more effort than stick-on labels, I'll admit. But still, considerably easier than the days and days of sewing that I remember from my own childhood. I've found these labels to be really durable and I'm impressed at how they fuse to the fabric - the fact that the label isn't actually part of the fabric is almost imperceptible.

clothing labels

I'm really impressed with my Stuck On You labels and will definitely be back for more as Lara grows older.

Stuck On You don't just sell name and clothing labels. They also sell personalised bags, bag tags and pencils among other products. Stuck On You have a back-to-school sale on with savings of up to 35% which ends TOMORROW! You can follow them on twitter or join them on facebook.

VTech InnoTab Review - Children's Tablet Computer

NOTE: You can read my preschooler review of the VTech innotab here.

I'm a geek. Mr. B. is a geek. It is almost a given that Lara will grow up to be a geek. I cannot wait to get Lara one of the new VTech InnoTab learning and play tablets when it is launched next month! This week I was lucky enough to get a hands-on sneaky preview of the new VTech InnoTab and I loved it.

The InnoTab by VTech is, to all intents and purposes, an IPad for kids! Designed for children aged 4-9 it brings together learning and fun on a hand-held computer that is tough enough to cope with the demands of a child. I played on the InnoTab for about half an hour and could have spent a lot longer ( I didn't stay longer because I was being shown up by a group of under 9s!).

The InnoTab comes with a wide array of built in apps and you can download more from the VTech website for a few pounds each. This means that the InnoTab can grow with your child by updating the content to their abilities and interests. Out-of-the box applications include a basic colouring application, a drawing app, an e-book, an interactive calendar and the ability to store and play videos, photos and music.

The InnoTab has a touch-screen that your child can use with or without a stylus. It has 128MB of built-in storage but additional apps can be dowloaded onto an SD card which you slot into the back. It also supports plug-in cartridges and you can buy a number of these with your child's favourite TV and movie characters.

I found one of the most impressive features of the InnoTab to be the built-in gravity sensor. It means you can play games that recognise the movement of the tablet and interpret this into actions in a game - the Spelling Pinball game was brilliant!!!

I think Lara's favourite app would be 'Colour and Pop' which is a colouring in application where you fill in a picture by picking from a wide range of colours that you can scroll through on the right hand side. As she gets older I already have images of her storing all of her friend's names and birthdays in her organiser and writing little notes to herself.

The InnoTab is battery powered but you will be able to buy USB and AC chargers for it. Photos and Videos can be transferred to the device directly from VTech Kidizoom cameras and video cameras and with a little more effort from your PC or memory card through the VTech software.

I found the InnoTab very instinctive to use. The touch screen navigation was very familiar and easy to pick up. I think that for pre-school and primary school children it will be a hit but I can't imagine there being many 9-year-olds who would prefer one of these to a 'grown-up' tablet.

The VTech InnoTab has no wireless internet connectivity so you don't need to worry about your child downloading hundreds of pounds worth of content, but I would recommend you keep your password for the VTech download site safe just in case they work out how to connect it up and download without your help!

The VTech InnoTab is launched in September and will cost around £80. It is currently available to pre-order.


Saturday 13 August 2011

Zoflora Review and Winner Announcement

Many many congratulations to Carolin Mader who won the Zoflora disinfectant hamper on Mellow Mummy earlier this month - I've heard good feedback already!

Over the past couple of weeks I have also been trying out Zoflora for myself. I've been using their new Apple Orchard scent of concentrated disinfectant, mainly for cleaning out potties over the past couple of weeks of manic potty training!

I just need to use the teeniest tiniest amount of Zoflora in the bottom of the potty and then top it up with 20 parts water to give it a thorough clean. The smell is astonishing. There is nothing chemically about it, it smells summery, fresh and crisp. Actually, the smell is so strong that it takes you by surprise... Mr. B. thought we must have a leaking bottle somewhere as the smell had overtaken the house!

When I'm cleaning out something bigger like our manky kitchen bin, I've taken to doing it outside.

For such a small bottle of disinfectant it is incredibly long lasting and powerful and at £1.39 I think Zoflora Apple orchard concentrated disinfectant is a bargain.


Friday 12 August 2011

Our Children, The On-Demand Generation

Our children have been born into an on-demand world. Television, images, videos and information is more-or-less immediately available in modern, online Britain. In a world where we can get what we want when we want it, how do I teach my children the virtues of patience and how they should deal with disappointment?

As a mellow mummy, I don't suffer guilt about the amount of TV my daughter watches or the number of electronic games she plays (I like to think that we've found a natural limit that works for us); but I AM becoming increasingly aware that Lara's own experiences of TV, video and the internet are very different to my own.

Lara is two. She will quite regularly ask me whether she can watch a bit of "Peppa Pig" or "Thomas Tank Enge", sometimes politely, sometimes agressively. When the moment is right, I will happily oblige. I switch on the TV and, if there is no Peppa or Thomas on right then, I will choose an episode from the many hundreds I have recorded on Sky+. If I really don't have anything available on disk (for instance when we last had our Sky box replaced) then I know I can turn to the internet or my ipod for a few episodes that I have bookmarked or downloaded.

Lara has Peppa Pig available at any time of day or night. On the otherhand, myself and Mr. B come from the channel-hopping generation. We quite often find ourselves sitting through adverts or trashy TV waiting for something worth watching. Our Sky+ disk is 90% pre-school viewing and only 10% adult viewing (no, not that kind of adult viewing!)

It wasn't until last week that I really began to think about the effect of the on-demand culture on my toddler. I had deflected numerous requests for Peppa Pig with jigsaws and play doh before Lara innovatively inserted the TV controller into my hand and said, "press the Peppa Pig button Mummy". For some reason this knocked me for six. Does Lara REALLY think that there is a direct 24/7 Peppa Pig feed streaming into our house? Have I denied Lara more valuable viewing experiences by satisfying her need for on-demand Peppa?

We have, on numerous occasions, been asked to play something that we have not recorded (Thomas the Tank Engine was one such thing - we've put that right since). In these circumstances we switch to CBeebies or Nick Jr. but if she doesn't want to see the programme now showing, Lara will burst into tears and throw a tantrum. I know that this behaviour is symptomatic of her age, but it does set a worrying precedent.

Now is the time that Lara needs to learn that we can't always get what we want... at least not right now, this minute. Some things (perhaps even Peppa Pig) are worth waiting for.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Cooking With Children : Mr. Tumble's Spotty Biscuits

These brightly coloured biscuits were inspired by CBeebies' Star Mr. Tumble and his yellow spotty bag. Lara and I made biscuits this weekend at her request and I thought I would add some brightly coloured fun to the mix. Cooking with children as young as Lara can be tricky because of the levels of concentration that need to be maintained (not a 2-year-old's forte) but iced biscuits make a great cooking experience because the process neatly splits into three stages, none of which requires a long period of concentration and, if your children really aren't interested in one stage, you can complete it yourself and hope that an hour or so later they will be more willing to engage in the next stage.

180g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
125g softened butter or margarine
125g granulated sugar
1 medium egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the decoration...
65g icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 to 3 drops yellow food colouring
Dr. Oetker sugar Polka Dots
4 or 5 glace cherries, halved


  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together. Start slowly and then move up to a medium speed until the mixture is really light and fluffy.

  3. Add the vanilla extract and about two thirds of the egg (if you add the whole egg, the mixture will be a bit too sloppy). Beat until the mixture is well combined.

  4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and beat until fully blended together. Alternatively, you can just shove everything into one bowl all at once and beat it together in the electric mixer, just as Lara did, and the result will be just as tasty!

  5. If the dough needs a little more flour, add it at this point and then place the dough in a piece of cling film, wrap it tightly and then put it in the fridge for an hour.

  6. * * * * *

  7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (or a little less for a fan oven)

  8. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough until it is just over half a centimeter thick. It is quite a sticky dough so make sure you use enough flour to stop it sticking, but not so much that you change the texture or flavour of the dough.

  9. cooking with children rolling out the dough

  10. Cut the dough into shapes with cookie cutters and place them onto greased or lined baking sheets. Our cookie cutters are quite small. The mixture made us 35 biscuits.

  11. Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes or until golden and still a little wobbly to the touch. Once cooked, transfer them to wire racks and let them cool completely.

  12. * * * * *

  13. To make the icing, stir together the icing sugar, lemon juice and food colouring until smooth. Spread the icing over the biscuits and then sprinkle them with the polka dots and glace cherries. Leave for a little while for the icing to set before eating.

cooking with children mr tumble biscuits

Note: Lara was sent the Dr. Oetker Polka Dots and vanilla essence for review.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Pixtrix Sticky Posters Now on Kidoo

This week, I'm proud to introduce a new sponsor for Mellow Mummy, Kidoo. is a family-focussed social buying site that launched this week with savings of family brands between 40 and 90%. One one of the opening deals you can find this week on Kidoo is with Pixtrix, an image printing company.

Pixtrix produce canvas prints and have some unique printing options such as mini-canvases and, my particular favourite, the sticky poster. Late last week I ordered a sticky poster from this image (a medley of some of my favourite pictures from MarksVegPlot aka Lara's Grandpa).

kidoo image

And no more than 48 hours later, this is the finished article. A really crystal clear image stuck to our living room wall!

pixtrix sticky poster

All I had to do was to upload the image to the pixtrix website (which, I found to be much easier than any photo purchase website I've ever used before) and then select the poster size I wanted. The pixtrix website gave me some guidance on the resolution and quality of my image and showed me where it would appear on the finished canvas. Every image ordered is also reviewed by real actual human people (!) and they will offer feedback to help you get the best results. I found the whole ordering process incredibly easy and the postage options at the end were clear (basic postage is FREE, yay!).

My only negative observation about the pixtrix site was that very few of the examples on the site seem to show REAL prints. It was hard for me to decide whether I wanted to use one of their pre-designed cartoon style frames as I couldn't really envisage what it would look like when printed and hanging on my wall. I opted to go for a really plain and simple design of my own instead.

My sticky poster is a 12 inch square that would ordinarily cost £14.10. The sticky posters can be printed all the way up to a massive 20 x 50 inch!!! The genius of the sticky poster is that you can peel it off and stick it somewhere else later. I placed my poster on the living room wall so that I could take the photo of it in daylight but it is going to move to its permanent home in Lara's bedroom tomorrow. Applying the sticky poster to the wall was dead easy because I knew that if I got it wrong then I could peel it off and try again.

Sticky posters are ideal for kid's rooms because you can move them and remove them frequently as their tastes change. They are also perfect for walls that you don't want to nail a picture hook into as the sticky backing is kind to most surfaces. I'm reliably informed that they also work in bathrooms for tiled walls.

The current deal for pixtrix images on Kidoo is to buy a £30 pixtrix voucher (valid for 3 months) for just £10 instead. Kidoo works by registering for your deal from them and then, once enough people sign up for the deal, you make your payment and receive your voucher. It's a simple model that means they can offer great savings if enough people are interested in a specific deal which is why they offer you the option to tweet and share the offer with your friends to try and increase the likelihood that the offer will 'tip'.

Uniquely, allows shoppers to interact with brands. So alongside time-sensitive deals there is the opportunity to chat with those brands and benefit from special promotions and more discounts directly from them, setting it apart from all other social ‘buying’ sites. Look out for loads of great new offers over the coming weeks on

Sunday 7 August 2011

Car Safety Ideas for Mother & Baby From Clippsafe

Clippasafe are one of the biggest names in baby and child safety and this week, with my ParentWheels motoring hat on, I have been asked to review two of the new car safety products from the Clippsafe Auto range designed for mums to be and small children - the Clippasafe Bump Belt and the Clippsafe Secure belt Travel Pillow.

Clippasafe Bump Belt

The Clippasafe Bump Belt is designed for pregnant mums to protect the unborn child in the even of an accident. If you are sporting a pregnancy bump then you should wear your belt below the bump in order to reduce the impact on the abdomen in the event of a crash - I know from experience how hard it is to keep your belt under the bump as they always ride up. The Clippasafe Bump Belt is a handy gadget that helps to ensure that the belt is always in the right place and therefore reduces the risk of harm to your baby on impact.

The Bump Belt is a padded seat pad that you sit on with flaps that fold up and around the main car seat belt to hold it in the correct position. We loved the fact that it was really easy to use (the instructions were very clear) and that the seat pad was comfortable to sit on. Using it gave our reviewer a great peace of mind.

We found the seat pad to be easiest to install if we sat in the back seat of the car! Moving it from one seat to another was a bit of a faff so you would probably just leave it in the seat you most frequently travel in.

The Bump Belt is designed to ensure that if you have to brake suddenly, all of the impact forces are directed to your hips and pelvis and not to the abdomen and womb. It is suitable from 2 months of pregnancy up to birth.

Clippasafe Secure Belt Travel Pillow

The Clippasafe Baby Neck Supporter is a neck and head support for young children to use in the car. It attaches to the seat belt or to the straps of your car seat and prevents your child from straining their neck if they fall asleep in the car and generally make it more comfortable.

We have been trying to use the Secure Belt Travel Pillow with Lara in the car because she quite often falls asleep and lolls her head to one side. Lara never really seems to settle when she has the travel pillow around her neck so I have never actually seen her fall asleep with it - I think she finds it a little restrictive and a bit out of the ordinary.

The Secure Belt Travel Pillow comes in three sizes for ages 1-3, 3-8 and 8-adult. I think they are a great idea for younger children, especially smaller children who have just moved into a forward facing car seat. Because the pillow straps to the belt, it sits in just the right place and your child can't accidentally (or deliberately) throw it on the floor. I do worry a little though that when she is wearing the pillow around her neck, Lara is sitting more upright than normal and her head seems further forwards in the car seat so the side-impact protection of the top car seat may no longer be in the optimal position for her head (note, I've no science to back up this theory, just a gut feeling).

The pillow comes in pink and black and the fabric is a really nice velvety style.

I suspect that the Secure Belt Travel Pillow would be most effective for older children who use an adult seat belt (either with or without a car seat). A Group 1 car seat tends to have a lot of support already and, many brands of car seat already come with big thick supporting straps (I know our two do). Seats without this support would definitely benefit from the Secure Belt Travel Pillow.

Cake Maternity Bra and Lingerie Review

Today's guest review comes from Hayley from Bracknell who is mum to a two-year-old and is expecting her second child in November. Hayley has been reviewing Cake maternity lingerie from

We Love...

We tried two different sets of maternity bras and briefs by Cake Lingerie. The quality of the fabric on both sets was really impressive and they are certainly a different to my current M&S ones!

The lingerie sets are both really good looking and a lot prettier than the nursing bras that I have just got out of the loft from my first pregnancy.

The bras are easy to unclip when needed for nursing and I would also be happy wearing them throughout pregnancy.

The maternity briefs are really comfortable, they look great and are great quality. I've never worn a dedicated maternity brief before so they felt like a little bit of luxury - perhaps a bit of an extravagance but a must-have if you want a great-looking matching set. The briefs are lowered at the front to accommodate your bump.

We'd Prefer It If...

... the sizes were a little more consistent. I found the sizes to be very different to my existing bras and the sizes even differed between the two bras from the same Cake Lingerie brand.

Friday 5 August 2011

Mascaras on Trial

Mascara is just about the only make up that I regularly wear. It is surprising just how quickly I get through mascara. For some time, I was a loyal Maybelline mascara wearer but when my last one ran out, I decided to be a little more adventurous and try some of the new masacaras on the market this summer. Did any of them live up to the challenge?

loreal lash architect 4d mascara

L'Oreal Lash Architect 4D Mascara

The L'Oreal Lash Architect 4D Mascara sounds and looks like it means business. It comes in a long, chunky, metcallic tube (err... what is the thing that mascara comes in called?). I actually do think it is the most impressive of the mascaras I have tried this summer.

The mascara itself is quite a lightweight one and doesn't hang too heavy on the lashes. Additionally, the brush seems to only hold a small amount of mascara so you don't end up plastering it on.

Lash Architect has a really nice long brush with a slight kink at the end which seems to make application so much easier than normal - you can really get to the root of the lash.

I don't think I would go so far as the packaging does and claim to have a 'false lash effect' when I wear it, but I do think it is the only one of the mascaras I have tried this summer which genuinely increases the look of volume in my lashes. I am also not entirely sure that volume, length, texture or curve strictly qualify as dimensions (hence the 4D name tag).

Despite the bling packaging and the overstated title, I'm happy to have the Lash Architect mascara in my bag, mainly because I think it represents good value for money.

alva coleur mascara

Alva Coleur

The Alva Coleur Mascara is an organic mascara available from mypure for £14.35.

The colour is a really nice deep black with no glossiness for a really consistent look. It is a really creamy texture with a very traditional brush so can be a bit lumpy to apply.

I found that the Alva Coleur Mascara was the only one of the mascaras that rubbed off during the day; actually, I don't think its do much that it rubbed off, but that because it is so creamy, it takes an incredibly long time to dry so if you blink, or accidentally rub your eyes before it is dry, you end up with panda eyes.

The Alva Coleur organic mascara features vitamin E and rosehip oil and is free from parabens, phthalates and sulfates.

estee lauder sumptous waterproof mascara

Estee Lauder Sumptuous Waterproof

The Estee Lauder Sumptuous Waterproof Bold Volume Lifting Mascara really surprised me. I've a fear with waterproof mascaras that they will never come off, even with hardcore eye-make-up remover... this one comes off really easily and yet is still true to it's waterproof title.

On my holiday earlier this year, I swore by this mascara at the pool and on the beach. It isn't a dramatic mascara by any stretch of the imagination - I wouldn't say that it offered dramatic volume or deep colour, just a little bit of something noticeable that you would miss if it weren't there.

The Estee Lauder Sumptuous Waterproof mascara comes in black or brown. I've tried the black which is a nice inky, matt black. The brush is quite traditional in shape but has very soft bristles and a nice long head so I found it easy to apply.

At £19.50 it isn't the best value for money in terms of volume but I think I would definitely buy it again for future holidays.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Cooking With Children : Raspberry & Rose Cupcake Recipe

Cooking with children isn't all about baking cupcakes... but I'll admit that cupcakes are a fun and simple recipe with which to start. For a toddler such as Lara, mixing the cake batter and then decorating the tops of the cupcakes is great fun and a brilliant way to introduce them to cooking.

The cupcake recipe that Lara and I cooked at the weekend was inspired by a recipe in a Dr. Oetker recipe collection. Dr. Oetker sent Lara a few different types of cake decoration to try out and this recipe seemed a little out of the ordinary so we gave it a try. I think these are the moistest, fluffiest, softest, cakiest cupcakes I've ever made - a great success.

Rasberry & Rose Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes


For the cakes:
115g soft margarine
115g caster sugar
115g plain flour
2 medium eggs
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
65g (about 12 teaspoons) raspberry jam

For the decoration:
100g unsalted butter
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon essence of rose water
Sugar decorations of your choice


  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (170 in a fan oven, 375 F or Gas Mark 5). Prepare 12 baking cases (we used silicone cases sprayed with Dr. Oetker's ingenious Cake Release Spray.

  2. In a great big mixing bowl, beat the margarine with the sugar until pale, creamy and light in texture. Little ones will probably need some help to get it to this stage but they can start it off

  3. Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and then gradually beat them into the margarine mixture

  4. Sift in the flour and the baking powder and then, using a large spoon, fold the dry flour into the sloppy egg mixture. Don't worry about being too precise with your folding, toddlers and folding are not a great combination!

  5. Spoon a teaspoon of the mixture into each of the cake cases. Then add a teaspoon of jam onto each. Finish off by splitting the rest of the cake mixture evenly between the cake cases. Bake in the center of the oven for about 16-18 minutes until they are a golden colour and are just firm on the top. When you take them out of the oven, put them straight onto a cooling rack and they will firm up as they cool.

  6. Make sure the cakes are totally cool before you ice them. But the butter in a bowl and beat until soft (for some reason, Lara hated this bit!)Sift in the icing sugar to make a smooth creamy icing. Stir in a really tiny amount of rose water to give the icing a distinct floral taste (a little rose water goes a long way).

  7. At this point you could put the icing into an icing bag and let your littlies loose on the cupcakes. I thought Lara was a little young to master an icing bag so I let her dollop the icing onto the cakes. Our icing was made with unrefined icing sugar so it looks kinda beige... a white icing sugar would probably be a more appropriate.

  8. And now, for the fun part, decorate the cakes in any way you see fit using exciting decorations such as Dr. Oetker's polka dots and shimmer sugar. Beautiful

Lara loved the cakes and their lively toppings but wasn't too keen on the jam-surprise inside them. This is a simple yet unusual recipe to help you start cooking with children.

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