Mellow Mummy: June 2012 : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Manukacare for Ceasarean scars

I have used Manuka honey as a natural remedy before, I've even used Comvita Manuka honey skincare and bath products but it had never crossed my mind that pure 100% Manuka honey could be used for directly medicinal purposes such as to aid the healing of ceasarean scars.

Comvita Manukacare is a medical grade Manuka honey.  Nothing more.  It has had all of the impurities removed from it (you probably shouldn't just slather on the same honey you had for breakfast!) which means that not only is it suitable for applying to wounds but it is also suitable for babies and young children.  It has a UMF (unique Manuka factor) of 18+ which means it has a high healing power which it gets from the Manuka flowers that the pollen came from.

Manuka honey has proven strong antibacterial properties which is why it is claimed to help the healing process of wounds - helping to fight off bacteria when your body is trying to repair itself.  Mellow Mummy reviewer Kate Allen recently gave birth to a beautiful girl and, following her C-section, tried Manukacare during her period of ceasarean recovery.  Kate found the honey tricky to apply (it is easier though than standard Manuka honey) because it was sticky and would stick to her clothes!  It is probably best applied when you have plenty of time to let it dry and sink in.

For Kate, the effects of Manukacare hard to measure because it doesn't physically heal you, it just helps reduce the risk of infection as your body does what it needs to do to heal itself.  It gave peace of mind during the healing process.

Comvita Manukacare UMF 18+, available from, £14.50 for 50g

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Get Your Little Ones Swimming This Summer

I LOVE the tagline for Huggies Little Swimmers nappies - Make a splash, not a plop with Huggies® Little Swimmers®. Genius! It exactly captures why I have been using Little Swimmers with Lara for the past 3 years (she now, thankfully no longer needs them) and why, when baby Holly starts her first swimming lessons in a little under 3 weeks time, she will also be sporting a pair of Huggies Little Swimmers.

For many people, it is the summer holiday season that gets them interested in taking their little one swimming. I know that Lara's first experience of swimming was in a sunny but chilly pool in the south of France when she was about 3 months old. When you get back from holiday you often feel inspired to start swimming lessons which is why Huggies have teamed up with ABTA and the Swimming Teachers Association to launch the Swim Savvy Campaign this summer.

The idea behind the campaign is to offer parents the information they need to try and de-stress the whole process of your first swimming experience with a baby. On the Little Swimmers website you will find a downloadable step-by-step guide to baby swimming but here are a few tips from Huggies swimming expert Anna Woodhart to inspire you:-

  • Always put a swim nappy on your little one before going into the pool Huggies Little Swimmers have unique leak guards to avoid little accidents escaping as well as easy open sides to make change time as hassle free as possible. Note from Mellow Mummy - some pools may insist on a 'double nappy' whereby the disposable nappy has to be covered by a really tight-fitting fabric nappy such as the Splash About Happy Nappy.
  • Avoid swimming if you or your little one has had a tummy upset in the past 24 hours
  • If you are going on holiday, it’s a good idea to get your little one water-ready first – even if it’s just splashing a little water over them in the bath
  • ,li>Stay by your little one at all times – not only is it safe, but it also helps form a close bond
  • Maintain eye contact with your little one, smile, relax and drop down to the same level – your baby will love seeing you splashing too!
  • You may want to have your partner or a friend with you when you first start swimming, just whilst you get used to handling a wet baby
  • One of the best ways to get into the pool is to lay your baby safely on the poolside, enter the water and then lift him in. Alternatively ask someone to pass your baby down to you once you are in the water.
  • If you are new to baby swimming go during off-peak times or earlier in the morning if you are on holiday - it makes the entire experience less stressful and enjoyable

With a very young baby like Holly (who will be 11 weeks when she starts swimming) you should aim to spend no more than 30 minutes in the pool at a time, even if the water is quite warm.  Swimming is hard work for a baby and exhausts them (and dehydrates) additionally, if the water is cold their body temperature may drop after a while.

If you are going on holiday with your baby this summer don't forget that babies under 6 months shouldn't spend very long at all in direct sunlight because their skin can't produce the chemicals needed to protect themselves. Make sure you stay in the shade and use UV protection clothing. For older babies and children, slather on the factor 50+ and stay out of the sun during the middle of the day. Baby swimming is great fun and has been an activity that Lara and I have been able to do every week together since she was tiny - it is our bonding time and is so rewarding to see her develop. She is on the verge of being able to swim unaided. I can't wait to start the whole process all over again with Holly.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Of Gift Boxes and Party Dresses

If you saw last week's birthday cake then you will probably have gathered that it was Lara's 3rd birthday. Lara had a small party with a few special friends and just before her guests arrived I took some photos of Lara and Holly in their party dresses of which I am enormously proud.

Both of these outfits were sent to us by Boots Mini Club and many of our guests were astonished to find out that Boots sell clothing. Mini Club clothes are quite mind-blowingly good value for money. They are good quality, there is a wide range of styles for both girls and boys (from summer casuals right up to this collectable lace-style dress). Mini Club clothes can be found in larger Boots stores and online. Holly has received a new baby gift of Boots Mini Club clothing from friends recently and the quality and innovative designs and bright colours really made me smile.

Lara was totally and utterly spoiled for her birthday (as befits a new Big Sister) - one of her gifts was a mysterious box that was sent to her from The Cocoon Collection, an online gift store who feature a really interesting range of children's gifts all a little different than anything I've seen on gift websites before.

Once Lara had opened her beautifully packaged Doodle Doo gift box she found a whole host of exciting things - a cuddly meerkat, chocolate mice, jumping beans and lots and lots of craft materials which, over the past week have given her hours and hours of entertainment already (although she did try and pester me to make her plaster-of-paris mirror at about 10pm one weekday evening).

The Doodle Doo box from the Cocoon Collection costs £17.99 and I think it is a great idea for a child's gift, perhaps for someone you don't know so well or when you are in a hurry. It is nice for a child of Lara's age to receive a mix of toys and sweets AND crafty things to inspire them and in a box like this you know that something will hit the spot.

Lara had a very busy and happy week with presents from friends and family as well as one or two nice surprises such as these from friends of Mellow Mummy. I think the lace dress was the biggest hit though because it makes her look totally stunning and so grown up that she is barely recognisable! When she wore it last weekend and started twirling around and around like a ballerina I couldn't keep my eyes off her - how can someone so beautiful, blonde and (dare-I-say-it, dainty?) be related to me? My great big beautiful ball of sunshine.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Mash Junior - Kids Summer Clothing Review

Lara is so much better dressed than me! The spring and summer collection from MASH Junior is out and Lara was sent a couple of pieces of really summery clothing to try out.

One of the things I like about the MASH junior clothing ranges is that all of the pieces are totally individual and stand alone but when you see the complete range put together you really get what they are trying to achieve - a very grown up set of clothes for young people.

Lara's T-shirt is girly yet bright. It has little ruffled sleeves which keep her really cool and a printed design of a young woman in black, blue and pink.  The t-shirt oozes quality and has a wonderful stretch to it.  Lara has worn the t-shirt to preschool a number of times and it has survived (which is more than many of her clothes!)  There are a number of other similar-styled t-shirts in the summer range from Mash Junior, none of them have the same imagery, just the same sort of feel about the graphics and shape.

Lara also received a pair of shorts from the italian design house, MASH.  Do you know, that until these shorts arrived I had never considered dressing Lara in shorts!?  I was so impressed by how well they suited her and how practical they are for a 3 year old running around the garden that I rushed out the very next day to buy more shorts!

The Mash Junior shorts are a really thick jersey and they look very comfy.  I could really do with a pair of these myself for pootling around the garden in too!  I love the fact that the legs are slightly tapered, it gives the shorts a little bit of shape.

Mash Junior and the more casual MASH Kiss clothing ranges can be found online at

Dino Express Book Review

I find it hard to keep up with Lara's appetite for books which is why I was pleased to be asked, by the author, to review Dino Express.  Dino Express is a picture story book by Tim Beaumont and the front cover boasts amazing pop-ups, pull-tabs, lift-up flaps and glow-in-the-dark ink.  Sounds amazing!

Unfortunately the pop-ups, tabs and flaps were a bit of a disappointment (Lara owns some pretty awesome pop-up books) and the glow-in-the-dark ink is only effective at bedtime.  Mind you, the book, as you can see from the images in this blog post, features some brilliant imagery with bright colours and impressive patterns of trees and flowers.

The story of Dino Express is about three 'Dinos' who are searching for the biggest 'Dino' by travelling on the Dino Express.  Like many story books for young children, it uses repetition to build the excitement of the story but I found that the repeated sections took up too much of the book.

Throughout the book I struggled with the rhyming and scansion of the words (I assume it was supposed to rhyme and scan) - in places the rhymes were contrived and didn't naturally roll off the tongue.  I also found the layout of the words on the page to be all over the place and sometimes I didn't know where to read from next.  Unfortunately this means that I don't enjoy reading Dino Express to Lara as it is all too much like hard work for me.

However, Lara seems to enjoy it and will regularly ask us to read it to her several times in a row.  I think this is partly to do with the bright illustrations but has a lot to do with the simple fact that it features dinosaurs - children are fascinated by them.  Lara also seems to get a lot of pleasure out of the surprise ending every time we read Dino Express.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The one with the epic Winnie the Pooh Birthday Cake

This weekend was Lara's third birthday and to celebrate, I made her this.

You have to admit that for my very first attempt at sugarcraft and fondant icing, it is pretty impressive huh? I'm enormously proud and Lara LOVED it!

The cake came from a recipe that the wonderful people of twitter pointed out to me for a madeira cake - I removed the lemon and replaced a few tablespoons of flour with cocoa powder to make a chocolate cake. I made three times the recipe which is a cake volume that is massively hard to stir and bake! In total the cake comprises 18 eggs, 1kg butter, 1.5kg flour, 1kg sugar, 1.5kg marzipan and about 2kg of icing. It is a heavy cake to say the least.

A cake of such epic proportions takes a long time to create at the best of times but when you have a 6 week old baby demanding attention in 15 minute bursts all day it is even trickier. The cake took me 10 days from start to finish and I just did bits whenever I could find a small 5 minute slot in my day.

The sugar work is done using Regalice and a number of push-down cutters. Cake glue and cake smoothers have become my friends. The finishing touches were put on with some food colouring and a paintbrush. And no, the figurines aren't my creation... they are plastic!

I hope I haven't now set myself a precedent of 1 tier for every year of Lara's life because I'm not sure the foundations of the house can take the weight.

I really enjoyed my first foray into cake decorating. Now I just need to find some more excuses for cake.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Blue Nose Friends Review

Team Mellow are celebrating a summer of british sports with our own family of My Blue Nose Friends each with their own sporting prowess. These brand new characters from My Blue Nose Friends were sent to us by Carte Blanche and we have each claimed one as our own.

Mummy Chose: Shelter the Woodlouse
Skills: Gymnastics, especially roly polys
Special Characteristics: Perhaps the cutest cuddly toy EVER!

Daddy Chose: Ocean the Sea Turtle
Skills: 100m Freestyle
Special Characteristics: Looks remarkably like baby Holly!

Lara Chose: Ramble the Centipede
Skills: Speed walking
Special Characteristics: Shimmery gold body to celebrate being the 100th character in the My Blue Nose Friends collection to commemorate their 4th birthday.

Holly Chose: Treetops the Gorilla
Skills: Wrestling
Special Characteristics: Looks timid on the outside but is a real winner.

I can't believe that there are now 100 characters in the My Blue Nose Friends range - there is even a Corgi character to celebrate the jubilee. Each of them comes with a name, number and identifying tag to make them even more collectable. They cost around £5 each.

Our little friends are now lined up on top of the Mellow TV ready and waiting for the Olympics!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Behold The NEW Avent Natural Bottle

I was quite genuinely pleased to find out about the launch of the new Avent Natural range of bottles and breast pumps which were first seen in stores this week.

With both Lara and Holly I have used a lot of Avent products and, like many UK Mums, when I first found out I was going to become a Mum, I invested in an Avent newborn starter kit. While we loved both our steam steriliser and microwave sterliser as well as all the accessories, we never got on with the bottles with either Lara or Holly and ended up using the classic Avent bottles for breastmilk storage instead. I always found the shape of the bottle uncomfy for me and neither girl manages to grasp the teat. The popularity of a bottle so far removed from the shape of the breast surprises me and, while the competition were fighting over themselves to come up with a bottle that accurately mimics the feeding action of the breast, it seemed disappointing that Avent were sticking to a design they had been using for over two decades.

This week however saw the launch of the new Avent natural range which target my two main concerns - it is a bottle more comfortable for me to hold and more natural for Holly to feed from when I am offering her a bottle once or twice a week. Avent's own research showed that 8 out of 10 babies accepted the new Avent natural teat instantly and Holly certainly took to it from the first bottle. I like using the new teat - it bears a resemblence in shape and style to the Tommee Tippee teat (which Lara also never got on with!) but with added 'comfort petals' to increase the flexibility of the teat and help prevent it from collapsing.

The bottle vents air out from small holes in the teat. I don't find it 100% successful at this if Holly is holding the bottle close against her skin. Mr. B. doesn't enjoy using the new Avent Natural bottle for this reason.

The new Philips Avent Natural bottle is compatible with the entire Avent feeding range and the bottle tops are interchangeable which means I don't have to throw away my old products just because I have a few new bottles.

Visit the Philips AVENT website at or Facebook page at to find out more about the Natural range.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Babies are gross!

I never realised babies could generate so much vomit. No, really, this is all new to me. I wasn't well enough prepared for baby sick!

I had a whole stack of tiny baby bibs packed away in a box from when Lara was a baby, all totally unused and now I realise what they are for! Protecting baby clothes. My purchase of a bumper-pack of muslin cloths shortly before Holly was born was a bit of an afterthought as well. I really never needed them for Lara. But for Holly things are different.

People always talk about how babies puke all over the place and I'd previously just dismissed them as being a bit wet. I was only going on experience. Lara has only ever vomitted 7 times in her life (that I recall) and every single one of those occasions has been since she turned One (thus producing actual real vomit rather than just milky dribbles). Two of those vomit occasions have been in the past month! Lara never did the whole baby sick thing. She wouldn't have wanted to waste valuable milk!!!

And so baby sick has come as a bit of a surprise to me. My poor old shoulders have seen far more milky deposits than I care to mention and my hair is frequently sticky at the ends. I have had warm vomit between my boobs (a very offputting feeling) and a very near miss when dangling Holly directly above my face. Eeeew.

I wonder what it is about babies that make them a sicky one, or a not sicky one? Vomit; just one of the many differences between my two little girls. Motherhood brings new experiences every day!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Cooking with Children :: James Martin Chocolate Cake

james martin bakery chocolate cake mix

Lara's attention span currently maxes out at about 2 minutes for any one task, which is why I shudder when she asks "Mummy, I want to do some cooking". By the time I have lifted out all of the ingredients and equipment, got her to wash her hands, put on her apron and got into her Funpod, Lara has lost interest and says "No Mummy, I didn't want to cook THOSE biscuits/cakes/salad/pasta/vegetables" and bursts into tears. A ready-to-make cake mix isn't something I would ordinarily use for myself but for Lara, at this impatient stage in her life, it seems to solve a need - cutting out lots of the prep time and offering her a slightly increased level of independence

Lara was sent one of the latest cake mixes from the James Martin Bakery range to try out. The James Martin Chocolate Cake Mix is a lot more grown up than 'kids' cooking mixes and the ingredients reflect this. Yes, being a packet mix it does contain emulsifiers and raising agents that I wouldn't add if I were making it from scratch but it does at least contain cocoa (unlike some kids 'chocolate flavour' baking products I have seen) and in general, I was happy with the ingredients - they certainly led to a very tasty and good looking cake!

All Lara had to do to make the cake was to stir the cake mix with one egg (she can crack them herself now) and a small cup of Cola!! The secret ingredient.

Then I constructed the paper baking tray for her and she scraped it in. We cooked the cake on a low heat for 45 minutes until it was firm and well risen.

One the cake was cool, we made up the frosting by adding a small amount of butter and milk to another mix. We slathered it on and then threw chocolate curls at it. I must say, it looked like a very smart cake for a 2 year old to have made!

james martin chocolate cake

I can now see the attraction of a ready made cake mix - it certainly solved the attention span problem we are currently going through. Of its kind, I think this James Martin Bakery Chocolate Cake Mix was very good. It was a good texture, if a little lacking in flavour for the cake itself.  I'd be happy to buy these again to cater to the urgent cookery demands of a preschooler however, I'm still pretty certain that both Lara and I would prefer to eat a chocolate cake made by James Martin himself - he being an awesomely good pastry chef.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Fisher-Price Woodsy Friends Comfy Time Bouncer Review

Holly in her Fisher-Price woodland animals rockerIf you have been following my blog posts, twitter feed or facebook status then you can't have escaped the photos of my scrumptious bundle of deliciousness, Holly, frequently posing in her new bouncer from Fisher-Price.

The Fisher-Price Woodsy Friends Comfy Time Bouncer was a gift from Fisher-Price that quite conveniently arrived on the day that we were about to go out and buy a rocker or a bouncer ourselves and it is absolutely perfect colours for us - neutral yet not plain.

Fisher-Price Woodsy Friends Comfy Time Rocker
There are three things I look for in a baby bouncer. 1. It must have a manual, gentle rocking or bouncing motion... nothing too fancy for us in the Mellow household 2. It must have a calming vibrating function - we literally couldn't have survived Lara's first few months without a vibrating bouncer as it was the only way we could calm her sometimes. 3. It absolutely has to have a cover that is easy to remove in order to clean it. The reason why we never kept our first bouncer was because the cover was too stressful to remove when it needed cleaning! The Woodsy Friends Comfy Time bouncer meets all of these needs and more.

Fisher-Price woodsy vibrating bouncer
The other thing I remember from when Lara was tiny was that when the toy bar was above the bouncer, you had to remove it or else there was no way you would be able to get her out. This was particularly frustrating when she was screaming her head off! The toy bar on the Woodsy Friends bouncer doesn't go the whole way over the chair which means I don't have to move it in order to lift Holly out. The toy bar features a removable 'teether in the shape of a green apple and two rattling red apples that are also removable. My favourite part is the owl which, when Holly is older, she can pull on and it will either twit-twoo or play a little ditty. At present Lara's favourite pasttime is to pull the owl and then prance around the living room to the short burst of music! I'm not sure Holly is that impressed by her antics.

The fabric on the rocker is a nice thick, slightly padded and smooth fabric that can just about be wiped clean. There is an integral harness and also an extra padded area you can flip into place for tiny heads. We use our Woodsy Friends bouncer every evening to sit Holly in while she watches us eat our evening meal around the table - it is very mobile and easy for me to carry between rooms. For us, you couldn't get a much more perfect baby bouncer. Thank you Fisher-Price.

Gunapod wearable blanket review

Gunapod wearable baby blanket / sleeping bag

Holly has been trying out the The Gunapod from Gunamuna which is available in the UK exclusively from Tesco. We have used the Gunapod since birth as a wearable blanket for Holly both at home, at family and friends houses and in the pram.

The Gunapod isn't really a sleeping bag, it's more like a wearable fleece blanket. The genius of it is that it features a set of different zips and snaps which mean you can open and close it in numerous difference combinations. This seems to baffle Mr. B to the point where he can't use it - he just hands Holly over to me and gets me to do it!

The zips are designed so that I can put Holly into the Gunapod from the front, back, top or bottom. I can unzip it to give her feet some air or I can unpopper it to slip her out for a feed or a change. Personally I think it's a work of genius. I particularly like using the Gunapod in the pram because I can lay it down on the pram base and then place a sleepy Holly onto it before zipping it up around her. I don't need to wake her up at all. The video below gives you an idea of how easy it is to use.

top of the Gunapod wearable blanket / sleeping bagIn terms of weight, I found the Gunapod to be refreshingly light compared to other sleeping bags - this makes it more appealing for me to take out and about, especially in the pram, and because it is a low tog (1.6 tog I think), it is suitable for summer nights - I think I'd probably want a more traditional sleeping bag in the winter. Saying that, the Gunapod is made from man-made fibres (polyester) and so, during the recent hot weather I chose not to put Holly in it because I was worried she could get a bit hot and sticky - the fabric can be a bit slippery when I pick Holly up in it. Despite this, the fabric is deliciously soft and makes me want to snuggle Holly when she is wearing it.

The Gunapod comes in brown, pink or cream and comes in three different sizes; it costs £20. Find out more about the Gunapod on the Clothing at Tesco website.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Cloth Nappies Make Me Smile

God, it feels good to be back using cloth nappies.

When Lara moved out of reusables into disposable nappies at about 18-20 months old (due to the fact they just weren't up to the job any more), I felt a pang of disappointment. I also felt the effect on my purse strings. Disposable nappies cost a lot of money (I was going to say "cost the earth" but then I realised that was a given!). Don't get me wrong, I really do appreciate the convenience of disposable nappies when I'm out and about or travelling. I use them for exactly that - a convenience - in the same way that I use ready-made foods or takeaways. However, you can't beat the warm glowy feeling of changing a cloth reusable nappy.

There was an element of nostalgia when we lifted the old first-size Bambino Mio pre-fold nappies out of the loft for Holly's arrival. We moved Holly into disposables at about 2 weeks old once her cord stump had dried out and was clean and tidy so that it wouldn't get in the way of the top of the nappies. The first thing we noticed was that Holly is a lot smaller than Lara was at the same age so we were able to use the newborn size nappy wrap that we had got for Lara but never used. We have also tried out our one-piece nappies on Holly which we only started using with Lara later on in her nappy journey - they look very cute when they are all buttoned down to their smallest size!

As a second-time mum, I think the pleasure of using reusable nappies is even greater than before. Each time I change a nappy I can't help but gloat at how much money it is saving me. My outgoings on nappies for Holly this time were more or less zero. Yes, I still have to pay for water and electricity to put on a nappy wash every 3 days and yes, I have had to buy more nappy sanitiser and (when Holly gets bigger, liners) but other than that, everything is paid for already from our initial outlay for our first child.

Most local councils in the UK offer a financial incentive to parents who choose to use cloth nappies due to the reduction in landfill costs to themselves if their residents reduce waste levels. Unfortunately, most councils also require you to show recent receipts for the cost of your nappies and nappy equipment. Somehow it feels a bit wrong that a second (or more) time mum can't also claim the incentive for subsequent children. It would have been very easy for me to acknowledge the convenience of disposable nappies and revert to them full-time for Holly but instead I have stuck with it and not only am I eliminating a whole load of landfill due to not using disposables... I'm doubly saving them landfill space by reusing all my equipment from last time. Perhaps I should get twice the reward?

Anyway, I devised a plan that would mean I could benefit from the cloth nappy incentive this time too. I calculated approximately how many Mio Liners and how many tubs of Mio Fresh nappy sanitiser I had used for Lara right through to potty training and then bought the entire 3 years supply of these in bulk all at once. The council have acknowledged my outgoings and sent me a cheque for my incentive of £30 which is approximately what I spent. This means that the only cost ahead of me for using cloth nappies is energy and water bills.

Anyway, enough about money. The best thing about cloth nappies is seeing them dangling from the washing line, naturally bleaching in the sunshine, all clean and fresh, knowing that Holly's bot is being looked after!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Love My Street? Love Lara's Cottage!

As I type this Lara is sound asleep on our sofa after a busy jubilee celebration with her Grandparents. OK, so the planned BBQ turned out to be a 'grill' instead and all of the garden toys had to be brought inside to avoid the rain showers but who cares? We had fun!

Yesterday Lara made bunting for her playhouse - the Sweetheart Cottage from the new Love My Street range from Worlds Apart which was launched just in time for the jubilee.

Earlier in the week we did manage to get out in the garden with Lara's new playhouse.  Sweetheart Cottage is more than just a wendy house, it really encourages imaginative play with the accompanying cooker that comes as part of the set.  The cooker also comes with an apron, baking tray, cookies and servers.  My budding chef Lara was in her element and within minutes of first laying eyes on her cottage, Lara was cooking for us all.

The Love My Street range by Worlds Apart is a little girl's dream - if you can afford the complete set of four playhouses (Little Miss Boutique, Cupcake Corner and Penpal Post Office) then you can join them all up with their flowery bunting and have a street party all of your own!  How's that for role play?

I found the Sweetheart Cottage incredibly easy to construct and the beauty of it is that when the weather turns, or when we run out of space in the house I can collapse it and store all of the pieces inside the cooker and it will still be usable as a toy cooker!  Genius. The decoration is so detailed and I love the fact that the shape is something more than just a simple square - it has a shaped roof!

In a little over a fortnight's time our garden will be packed full of little girls (and boys) celebrating Lara's birthday and I think this play house is going to be ideal for letting them all run away with their imaginations.

The Love My Street range is available exclusively from the Early Learning Centre at present. Sweetheart cottage costs around £39.99 and some of the smaller playhouses cost £29.99.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Cooking With Children :: Peach and Parma Ham Salad

Lara and I were challenged by Apetina cheese to come up with a Lively and Leaf-Free summery salad that made great use of their Apetina crumbly white cheese.

Our Apetina recipe was inspired by one of my first memories of ever seeing Jamie Oliver on television. I've no idea what book or TV series it was in, but the flavour combination of peach and parma ham has always stuck in my head so Lara and I got busy in the kitchen to create a summery lunchtime salad.

Peach, Parma Ham and Cheese Salad


2 fresh peaches
4 slices of Parma Ham or other air-dried ham
150g Apetina crumbly white cheese (classic)
Handful of chives
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Ground black pepper and salt to taste

  1. Remove the stone and slice the peaches as thin as you fancy (I had to do this as our peaches were a bit too firm for my nearly-3-year-old to cut herself) and then arrange them on a wide, flat plate.
  2. Tear the slices of Parma ham and drape them over the peaches.
  3. If you are using a block of Apetina cheese you will first need to cut it into cubes - then sprinkle them over the plate.
  4. Snip the chives with a pair of scissors into 1cm pieces and sprinkle over the salad.
  5. To make the dressing, stir together the olive oil, vinegar and honey along with the pepper and salt and then drizzle as much or as little as you like over the salad (Lara isn't a fan of salad dressing so we reserved her share of the salad before this point!)
  6. Eat in the sunshine! We highly recommend eating this with a glass of old fashioned lemonade and a toasted flatbread!!!

The tangy taste and crumbly texture of the Apetina cheese, cold from the fridge works really well in contrast with the sweetness of the peaches and honey - ultimately summery!

Right now on the Apetina facebook page they are running a competition where you could win a summer salad picnic hamper just by voting for your favourite of their weekly salad recipes. In the final week of the competition there will be a BBQ on offer as a prize.  Go forth and vote and who knows, you could be a lucky winner.

Big Green Smile - Pure Beginnings Baby Cosmetics Review

I LOVE a good set of baby cosmetics! And, as you have probably gathered by now, I'm a huge fan of organic and natural cosmetics in the first instance, especially for young skin. Eco shopping website Big Green Smile is just my kind of website and they asked Holly (and me) to review one of their new ranges of baby skincare products - Pure Beginnings.

Pure Beginnings is a family business from South Africa who make organic and natural cosmetics for babies. Pure Beginnings specialise combine herbal botanical ingredients with plant ingredients, many of which are unique to Africa. They also pride themselves on the fact that they contribute to the welfare of South Africa's rural communities and protect its biodiversity.

Our favourite product from the range was the Pure Beginnings Baby Bum Cream which has a self-explanatory name! We don't use a lot of nappy cream (no need if you have good cloth nappies!) but in the warm weather the nappies have become a bit clammy and Holly has needed a barrier cream applied. The cream is a really nice buttery texture - not too runny, not too thick and, when I apply it, it makes a visible barrier on the skin.

The Pure Beginnings baby bum cream contains baobab extract which improves skin elasticity and is packed full of anti-oxidants. It also contains olive, lavender and tea tree oil which make the cream naturally anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral; It can also be used to soothe insect bites and stings as baobab has anti-inflammatory properties. The scent of the cream is really floral - to me it is the organic geranium oil that is most distinctive in its scent.

On Lara I have tried out the Pure Beginnings Baby Lotion to soothe her dry skin on her arms and legs. It smells divine, the same rose hint. Baobab is also a key ingredient in the baby lotion along with moisturising shea butter. It is lovely to apply and having also used it on myself, I can vouch for the fact that it is both refreshing and soothing.
Also in the range is a two-in-one baby bath and shampoo. I haven't yet used anything other than water on Holly's skin in the bath (a lesson I learned from last time was not to introduce cleansers to the skin too early in life) but for Lara, the shampoo seems to be a success. Once again, I've fallen in love with this product for its scent - the organic rose geranium oil is such a summery smell and leaves Lara smelling scrumptious! Baobab and rosemary are also key ingredients in this body wash and shampoo. It seems like a good all-round baby product and I look forward to using it on Holly in the coming months.

Big Green Smile also sell the toothpaste and bubble bath from the Pure Beginnings range for slightly older children than Holly.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sadie and Frank Baby Clothing Review

When Sadie and Frank contacted me to see if I would like to review their funky, organic babywear, I was over the moon. The clothes that they sell are EXACTLY my kind of thing and even though I didn't know at the time whether I was having a boy or a girl, there were lots of items of newborn clothing that took my fancy.

Sadie and Frank don't sell an enormous range of clothing but those that they do sell are bright, bold and fun. All of their products are made from organic fibres (cotton or bamboo) and are ethically sourced.

I love the colours on show at Sadie and Frank - none of your traditional baby colours here (although, it turns out that Holly is a lot more feminine in her style than her older sister Lara ever was).

My absolute favourite item from the Sadie and Frank site was this rainbow stripe romper suit - it has no feet so has been good for the hot nights we have had recently. Wonderfully unisex, this playsuit is one of their awesome range of baby grows - I pretty much wanted ALL OF THEM when I first browsed the site. It is made from a luxurious thick cotton and oozes quality. At 0-3 months, Holly has just started wearing it and there is plenty of growth left in it.

I was also taken by this tiny owl body suit - I love owls and I thought this seemed fun and totally different to any of the other baby clothes I owned. It comes with a matching hat although it was a bit too snug on Holly and had a big label on the inside that didn't look very comfy - to be honest, Holly only ever wore a hat a couple of times before the hot weather kicked in.

We have a vibrant green sleepsuit that matches soooo well with the owl vest.  I love being able to dress Holly in bright colours without worrying that people will frown (OK, old people in the doctors surgery still frown!)

Sadie and Frank offer a gift wrapping service where you can add a card with a personalised message - great for new baby gifts you want delivered. My products were beautifully packed and when they arrived. Even Mr. B. was impressed with the clothes (this says a lot - it is hard for Mr. B. to get excited about baby clothes).

Friday, 1 June 2012

Veg Watch

It is now 3 weeks since Lara sowed her Birdseye Grow Your Own seeds so I thought, given the spell of nice weather, I would update you on their progress.

Well, first up, we had a 100% success rate - every one of the seeds that we got from the Birdseye Grow Your Own Initiative has germinated - much better than any of our other seeds we have sown this year together.

On the day I checked out the seedlings, Lara was at nursery so Holly helped me in the garden. You are never too young to start learning to grow veg!

All of the sweetcorn germinated - in a week or so they will be ready to plant out into their final position (or so that 'Grow With Us' app on the Birdseye facebook page says).

The carrots are on their way although I suspect that Lara's generous sprinkling of seeds my be a bit too crowded for this pot and she will need to prick some out in a week or two.

By far the most impressive of the veg (not just the Birdseye veg but all the veg in our garden) are the peas. As you know, peas and sweetcorn are both firsts for me and Lara so it is great to see the peas looking so healthy and putting on good growth. We watched the growing guide below to find out more about what we should be doing to our pea plants right now to get the most out of them and it told us to add canes which is exactly what I did after taking this photo. I have a good feeling about these peas!

If you're wondering what the blue things are - they are slug pellets to ward off hungry bugs!

You too can join in with the gardening fun by claiming your free seeds and there is even an incentive (should you need an incentive more than the prospect of yummy home-grown veggies and great fun in the garden). Birds Eye are offering several prizes of £100 worth of birds eye vouchers to people who take part and upload photos of their peas, carrots or sweetcorn to the facebook app by the 15th of July - winners will be judged on their crop!
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