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

Thursday 30 August 2012

Children's Book Review - Matlida's Cat and Farmer Clegg's Night Out

Over the coming months I am hoping to make the children's book reviews a more common feature on Mellow Mummy.  Lara loves books so much and is very slowly starting to learn some of the words herself.  At bedtimes Lara insists on at least 5 stories (sometimes she asks for 21) and her room is slowly resembling a library (we have many, many library books on loan at any one time).  Today I think I will get the ball rolling with two reviews of books that we were sent to review this summer.  They are both suitable for reading to preschoolers or for older children to read for themselves.

Matilda's Cat

I'm going to be a bit brutal with this review so prepare yourself!  Matilda's Cat is a short book about the relationship between an enthusiastic child and her slightly bewildered cat.  While Matilda loves doing all manner of activity with her cat, the cat on the other hand is not so enthusiastic.  Matilda comes up with lots of different activities that the cat might enjoy.

While I loved the illustrations and could totally associate with the story, I thought it was a difficult book to read and one which I don't think many children could read themselves easily.  The book is written as if it is hand-scrawled in pencil; this makes the lettering harder to read than normal.  The most difficult part though is the fact that for each activity Matilda tries with her cat, she then rules it out... literally.  I have NO IDEA how you are supposed to read out a crossed out phrase to a preschooler.  I tried many different approaches when  was trying to read it as a bed-time story and in the end instead of "Matlida's cat likes playing with boxes" I would have to say "Matilda's cat does not like playing with boxes", which rather defeats the point of the words in the first place.

It's a shame because, as an adult reading the story to myself it made me smile a lot and I think it would work well for older children who are competent readers.  In the end Matlida does find something the cat likes and it is a warm and snuggly end to the story, perfect for bedtimes.

Matilda's Cat is written and illustrated by Emily Gravett and published by Macmillan Children's Books. It is available in both hardback and paperback.

Farmer Clegg's Night Out

Farmer Clegg's Night Out is a really fun book suitable for children from toddlers upwards.  Farmer Clegg is a sleepwalker and finds himself competing in a late-night farmyard talent contest.  My husband and I both enjoyed reading this book because it rhymes and scans well and has a few silly giggles.

Once the talent show gets started, each page features a new act and our 3 year old now knows them all and likes to mimic the rhyme.  Her favourite is Dubbin' Dobbin the break-dancing horse!  We love the illustrations too because the more you look at each page, the more little details you see.  Each page is packed full of animals having fun in bright and busy illustrations.

Farmer Clegg's Night Out is now one of our most requested bedtime stories and the other day over dinner Lara even got down from the dinner table to do a little dance - when I asked her what on earth was going on, she said... "don't you like my tarantella?" - this book has a lot to answer for!  After a little while the rhyming verse gets a bit monotonous and hard work (I think the book could be a few pages shorter and not lose any of it's pull) but all in all we think it is a fabulous book that we expect to last us several years - we think Lara will enjoy reading it herself once she is old enough.

Farmer Clegg's Night Out is written by Peter Bently and illustrated by Jim Field.  It is published by Macmillan Children's Books and is available in both hardback and paperback.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Days Out in Hampshire - Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport

On saturday we were lucky enough to be treated to a day out in Hampshire at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum courtesy of Beko who are one of the largest charitable donators to the museum's campaign to save the HMS Alliance.

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum can be found on the harbour front in Gosport, Hampshire.  It makes a great family day out in Hampshire even for children as young as Lara (I suspect that Holly at 4 months took something away from it too).  The museum is home to the HMS Alliance, Britain's only remaining world war two era naval submarine which, as you can see, is in need of a little TLC.  The work to restore the HMS Alliance is planned for completion in 2014 at a cost of £6.75m but throughout the works the submarine remains open to visitors to get on board and get a taste for life onboard an active WW2 submarine.

HMS Alliance is being restored to its former glory

The museum surprised me.  I was braced for a musty, bleak room packed with black and white photographs and a series of rusty torpedoes.  Thankfully, the museum was nothing like this (apart from the weapons gallery, which also had an action-stations simulation so I shall forgive them).  Instead, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum is surprisingly modern and engaging with lots of exhibits to keep the whole family occupied.

Learning about how a submarine floats and sinks

As a family, we particularly enjoyed the hands-on science exhibits which taught the physics of submarine technology in a way that fascinated both myself and Mr. B (who has in the past dabbled in sonar) while teaching Lara the basics about buoyancy, sonar, pressure and the chemistry behind the generation of water and fresh air on board a submarine.  The museum offered history and science at equal levels and a fascinating background to prepare us for the tour inside HMS Alliance.

Twirling propellers to learn about propulsion

We were very impressed with the facilities for young children, specifically access for the buggy and baby changing facilities.  There was a small children's play area (very small) and also a cafe on site which offered a lovely range of cakes and hot drinks as well as a small selection of light lunches.

Alongside the HMS Alliance sits a purpose-built building that houses Holland 1 - the first Navy submarine built in 1901.  It's vast steel hull is an impressive sight to behold.

After lunch we took our guided tour inside the HMS Alliance which is included in the price of the ticket.  The tour guide was a former submariner;  he was passionate about the history of the vessel which was one of the last submarines to be built for the Navy during WWII.  Once inside, the doors were shut and we were able to get a taste of the cramped, gloomy conditions for submariners inside the submarine.  Holly seemed absolutely fascinated by the new sights and sounds.

I loved the fact that all of the descriptions of the functions of the submarine and its battle torpedoes were accompanied by real sounds recorded during active service.  The vast noisy engines, the "dive" alarm and the eerie sound of sonar waves from a passing battleship bouncing off the outside of the submarine shortly before releasing a depth charge.  The sounds and smells added to the atmosphere of the tour.

All of the children on the tour seemed totally absorbed as we explored the cramped living quarters.  Lara, at 3 years old, was perhaps a little young to take it all in and began to tire by the end of the tour but she has talked a lot about it since so it obviously left an impression.

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum offers free parking which is well sign-posted from the M27.  A family ticket for two adults and upto three children costs £30.60 if you buy it online in advance.  There is also access to the Portsmouth harbour water bus which can take you across the harbour to Portsmouth town centre.

For us, because we have two young children, the Submarine Museum was plenty to keep us entertained for one day but if you were looking for more to do then there are lots of other attractions in the area to make a full day out.  The Explosion! museum is just down the road in Gosport and there are several museums on the other side of Portsmouth Harbour.  We checked out before we went and saw that they currently had discount vouchers for the Blue Reef Aquarium, Spinnaker Tower and the Royal Marines Museum.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Am I pushing my daughter too hard? The Lego conundrum.

This blog post was written for a client but all opinions are my own and it doesn't stop it being fun to read, does it?

Lara is an incredibly bright young girl; last week I blogged about her difficult behaviour and sometimes I think  this is down to the fact that her mind is whirring and life isn't challenging enough for her.  In general, as Lara has grown from a tiny newborn baby into a confident, dextrous young lady, I have offered her toys that I feel push her development a little and have totally ignored the age guidance for toys and followed my own instincts instead.  I'm wondering whether maybe I've taken too big a jump this time.

For Lara's third birthday we asked friends and family for a number of things but particularly Lego because she had started to lose interest in her large Duplo and Mega Bloks.  It was only after I had put Lego bricks down on Lara's wishlist that I even thought to look at the suggested age range for smaller, traditional style Lego bricks.  Most of the sets of Lego that I looked at were suitable for 4+ and Lego City and Lego Friends is usually suitable from 5+.  This didn't worry me - Lara has nimble fingers and a problem-solving brain so I thought we would go for it anyway.

Lara was given two sets of Lego for her birthday.  One of the other mums at nursery had obviously gone through the same thought process and had bought Lego City for the kids at each of the birthday parties we went to over the summer.  This simple fact made me feel better about the decision because other mums were thinking it was a good idea too.

As it turns out, I'm going to admit defeat on this one.  Lara is still a bit too young for the small Lego pieces.  We quite regularly sit down and try to help her create things with the bricks but she finds it hard work.  Lara can't see her imaginative creations forming quickly enough and loses her concentration. The small pieces such as flowers and headlights just get scattered all over the floor.  What Lara really wants us for us to make the cars, houses, trucks and castles for her so that she can play with them and the Lego figurines.

So the Lego City is there for when Lara grows into it.  I don't know when it will happen but occasionally there are waves of interest and we will be prepared when it does.  We have some new and exciting Mega Bloks instead that I shall tell you about another day!

Now I'm presented with the worry (I do worry sometimes you know) that I was pushing Lara too hard and that maybe she would have preferred a birthday present that didn't push her boundaries.  In the evenings when I try to help Lara actually read the words in her story books, am I wishing away her childhood?  Am I a pushy mummy?

Sunday 26 August 2012

Cheeky Baby Tees Review - STOP sniffing my bum!

When Cheeky Baby Tees asked us to review their range of novelty t-shirts for babies I simply couldn't resist this one...

.. "Stop Sniffing My Bum!".  Very apt because all of Mr. B.'s family are people who like to sniff baby's bottoms (!!!)  I guess it's a bit like sniffing their heads... only with a very different outcome!

Cheeky Baby Tees sell some very simple t-shirts and bibs but with fun slogans - you can even choose your own text.  Some of my favourite slogans include "Daddy's gadgets are my toys", "If it sparkles, I want it" and "If you think I'm cute, you should see my daddy".  T-shirts are available from 3 months all the way upto 5 years old and there are a few of them that would be very apt for Lara right now ("I'm not scared of the naughty step).

The T-shirt is a nice thick jersey knit of cotton and has survived the wash well.  Holly's is the smallest size and it comes with two poppers on the shoulder to make it easier to take off.  I will admit that at just £7.99 I was expecting a lower quality as the images of the prints on the website didn't look very sophisticated but I was proven wrong when it arrived.

Cheeky Baby Tees also have a very small range of baby body suits (I wish they did more) and their bibs are nothing fancy but with personalised, cute or funny slogans they would make a great gift for under a fiver.

It is also worth knowing that they make big sister and big brother t-shirts which are great for older siblings as a gift when a new baby arrives.

Cheeky Baby Tees are offering a 15% discount off your first order if you use the code MELLOW15.

Philips Avent 3-in-1 Electric Steam Steriliser Review

Even though I am still mainly breastfeeding, our steam sterliser is one of our most used kitchen gadgets. Every evening I use it to prepare a bottle, the breast pump and my milk saver - our Philips Avent 3-in-1 Electric Steam Steriliser takes pride of place in our kitchen nestled between the smoothie maker and the coffee machine!

Philips Avent 3-in-1 Electric Steam Steriliser - SCF284
Philips Avent 3-in-1 Electric Steam Steriliser - SCF284

The 3-in-1 Avent sterliser claims to be good for saving kitchen space because you can use it in three different formats. With just the big basket (for tall bottles), just the small basket (for soothers and teethers and small bottles) or with both baskets stacked on top of one another. In reality though it doesn't save much space because, when you are not using one of the baskets, you have to find somewhere for the spare basket to live - don't you? To me, the advantage of being able to only use the size of basket you need means that the time taken to sterilise is ever so slightly shorter because you only need to steam enough water for a smaller basket.

Sterilisation takes about 6 minutes.  It is incredibly easy; put water in the well at the base, put the baskets and the lid on top, press button and wait.  A small amount of excess steam escapes from the top of the baskets.  So long as you leave the lid closed, the contents stay sterile for 24 hours which is fab for me because sometimes Holly doesn't need a bottle in the evening so I can leave the bottle and breast pump there for the early morning feed without having to worry about sterilising in a hurry in the morning.

When Lara was a baby I had a second-hand (perhaps even third-hand) traditional Avent steam steriliser which served me well but which died after I failed to keep it descaled well enough (we live in a VERY hard water area).  I actually find it easier to descale this new style of steam sterliser because the well for the water is bigger and it is easy to see when the heating element is clean.  When I first started using it, I would occasionally suffer from the base of the bottom basket turning brown and smelling a bit caramel-like and the water well would go dark brown and icky... I read up about some tips on the Philips website and found it was to do with small remnants of milk remaining in the bottles etc. and that keeping the heating element clean would prevent this.  These days I clean and descale my steriliser once a week to keep it ship-shape.

Both of the baskets of the steriliser can take any brand of bottle (both wide and narrow neck) and have plenty of room for the various bits and bobs you need for feeding or weaning.  When it is fully loaded it takes 6 large bottles.  The SCF284 electric steam sterliser comes with one small newborn bottle and teat, a pair of plastic tongs (for taking the contents out without touching them with your fingers) and a newborn soother.

At around £60 it is quite an expensive piece of new baby kit but I think that it is good value for a product you will use daily for at least 6 months.

Saturday 25 August 2012

A fiery start to the weekend

Earlier this week I blogged about how our bank holiday was going to be spent at home - a playcation.  Our bank holiday weekend got off to a fiery, fun start with out own Mexican Pizza Party at home!

We were asked as a family to try out the new Mexicano pizzas from Dominos and were sent the kit to host our own family party.  I put up the bunting, blew up the balloons and surprised Lara and Mr. B. when they came home.

We often order pizza online but this was our first Dominos experience and we were happy with how easy it was to order online and how quickly our pizza arrived - I was even able to pay by paypal.  Woop.  We ordered a great big beef pizza (with extra chillies!) for sharing and a little chicken Mexicano pizza to see what it was like.  The Mexicano pizzas feature fresh tomato, red and green chillies and a drizzle of sour cream on them.  Just our kind of thing and we had an awesome dinner that we all enjoyed.

Lara particularly enjoyed the party atmosphere and COULD NOT WAIT to get started on the Piñata.  We couldn't find anywhere to hang our Piñata but once Lara was blindfolded and armed with a big stick it didn't really seem to matter!  She absolutely bashed her heart out, bless her.  Eventually she couldn't wait any longer so Daddy and Lara took it in turns (officially Holly took a turn too!) to pull a thread from the tail and eventually the secret trap-door opened and out poured treasure.... sweeties!

It was a lot of fun having a party to start the weekend and actually I think Lara took something away from it. We talked about the Mexican flag and the language that they speak in Mexico and we talked about how some of Lara's friends are Mexican - it was a great opportunity to explain the party atmosphere to her.  Plus, there was Pizza and food is the best way to get Lara interested in anything.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Samsung Baby Monitor SEW-3035 Review and Giveaway

The Samsung SEW-3035 is a wireless video monitoring system ideal for use as a wireless video baby monitor. It has a very smart looking remote camera that you place in the nursery and a hand-held parental unit (about the size of a large smartphone) with a 3.5 inch video screen to receive the images of your baby.

A little over 18 months ago I reviewed the precursor to this video monitor (the SEW-3030) and I am really glad to see that some of the feedback I gave at the time has been taken on board by Samsung. The SEW-3035 is a big improvement on the old monitoring system.

The Samsung wireless video monitoring system is an advanced piece of kit. Not only does it allow you to see and hear your baby upto 100m away but it also allows you to record the images directly onto Micro SD card (see a very sleepy Holly below!). You can connect the parent unit directly to your TV or computer using the AV output and USB connectors to allow you to either download the video images or to play them directly on a larger screen.

The Samsung monitoring system also allows you to connect it to your computer and use the camera via Skype (or other video applications) so that you can use it as a remote monitoring system. You can even connect another 3 cameras to one video unit (I know that one of my readers did this with their SEW-3030 successfully so that they could monitor more than one child at once).

I found the menu system and buttons on the parent unit very intuitive to use - I didn't even need to read the instructions, it just all felt natural. Using the shaped button on the front of the unit moved the menu options left/right/up/down and pressing the central button selected the different options.

I found the image quality to be EXTREMELY crisp, the best I have seen yet on my family tech travels and I was glad to see that the colour during daylight hours was less washed out than in the old model. I was also glad to see the back of the tinkly honky tonkely lullabies (there are no lullabies on the new version) and the sound quality was marginally improved although still nowhere near as crisp and reliable as the image quality.

There is a talkback feature on the SEW 3035 that I used a couple of times successfully to calm Holly back to sleep and there is also a sleep mode which allows you to switch off the screen of the monitor (perhaps to reduce light emitted while you sleep, or to save battery power), it takes some configuration to get the sleep mode to kick back in when it hears noise coming from the nursery though and I still think this is an area for improvement by Samsung.

My only real disappointment with the Samsung SEW 3035 is the temperature sensor. It seems like such a good idea that you can set an alarm to sound if the room goes below or above your chosen range of temperature but I actually had to set it to alert me about 4-6 degrees hotter than it really was in the room because it claimed that our nursery was a steady 28 degrees (errr, it isn't). I remember this being a problem last time too but once you have altered the alarm settings it isn't too much of a problem.

At around £149.99 I think that the SEW 3035 is a good value wireless video baby monitor considering how much tech it packs into a tiny little package!

To celebrate the launch of the SEW 3035 by Samsung, I have 5 Samsung baby blankets to give away. If you would like to win a snuggly baby blanket then leave me a comment below before the 7th september to let me know what your favourite bit of baby tech is or was - perhaps a baby monitor you loved or a kitchen gadget you couldn't have lived without or even a favourite techy baby toy.

Disclosure: I loaned the video monitor for the purposes of my review.


  1. The competition is open to UK residents only.
  2. Only one comment entry per person. Multiple, automated or bulk entries will result in immediate disqualification
  3. The winner will be contacted by email.
  4. Entries will only be deemed valid if a valid email address is provided when commenting - people who just log into intensedebate with their facebook account will not qualify for entry because it is too difficult for me to contact the winners
  5. The winner will be selected at random from all valid comments received by 11.59pm on 7th September.
  6. The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into
  7. The winner's names will be published on this site

Have I brought up a monster?

Lara's behaviour is pushing me to the boundaries of Mellowness.  Lara was three in June so I know that difficult behaviour is to be expected (I read a great blog post by Emma at Me, The Man and Baby about how the terrible twos really doesn't prepare you for three-year-olds).  But, with every day of bad behaviour that goes past, I begin to wonder whether this really is just a phase that she is going through or whether this is just Lara and it is how she will be until... well... ever?

Lara's awful behaviour started a couple of months before Holly was born.  At the time myself and Mr. B talked about it and decided it was probably just because she knew something was happening and she wanted to make sure that she was cementing her role as the boss of our family.  Understandably, things got a little worse after Holly was born.  Not immediately, but a few weeks down the line.

Lara never directly competes for attention with Holly.  She rarely does anything to Holly that worries me particularly (usually she just gets in her face or occasionally tries to move her across the room).  I know that however hard you try, the attention levels won't ever be the same for the eldest child and it is a trying time for them.  I KNOW these things but I don't know what to do about it; I already feel like Holly is sometimes neglected during our attempts to constantly entertain/placate Lara.

I'm also not wholly convinced that all of Lara's noise, violence, disobedience and stubbornness is down to Holly.  I think that tiredness and hunger have a lot to do with it but Lara outright refuses to nap during the day unless she happens to fall asleep in the car and our attempts to move bedtime slowly forward have been met with 1-2 hour tantrums resulting in bedtime being later than it was originally.

Lara bites.  She throws.  She deliberately ignores instructions and she is a cunning and manipulative individual - she ALWAYS has an excuse or a witty retort to offer.  Part of me is proud that she has the resource and intelligence to behave like this but it makes me deeply upset when I hear her lie or witness her calculated plots from afar (I walked in on her at nursery trying to talk her way out of having pulled the curtain down).

Lara is also noisy.  Now I know that all preschoolers are noisy when they want to be but Lara never every shuts up.  After a particularly heated discussion with Mr. B about Lara's compulsion to talk, I started to watch and listen to other people's children more closely.  Other people's kids talk and shout and sing and chatter but only ever in bursts.  Lara talks from the very second she wakes up until that last, glorious moment before she falls asleep at night (and we secretly rejoice).  Her speech is a lot more advanced than most of her peers and she has a wild and vivid imagination that I want to encourage.  But, for large chunks of the day Lara doesn't have anything she really needs to say or sing... she just talks nonsense.  Noise for the sake of noise.  It is a compulsion.  You can see her get physically twitchy when there is silence.  Holly has already turned into a chatterbox just to try and get herself heard above the barrage of noise that is Lara.

I am sure that it is the noise that makes everything else seem so bad. Here I am with a quiet, placid 3 month old who is so easy to look after compared to Lara, it is bound to make Lara seem noisier and less co-operative than she really is.  I find it REALLY hard to keep my temper when I am trying to explain to Lara what she has done wrong and all I get in return is a rendition of "Eh-Eh-Eggs in a pan" at full volume.

Last week I consulted the health visitor on Lara's behaviour.  The text book advice she gave me was to ignore bad behaviour and reward good behaviour. The problem with this approach is that many of the things Lara does simply can't be ignored because they are too dangerous - take for example climbing up on to the garden table in order to stand and fetch a packet of matches we had put out of reach while she knew I was feeding Holly and couldn't get up quickly enough to stop her.  Sometimes I feel like my whole day has been spent saying "No", and it depresses me that Holly will hear so much negativity from me when I am speaking to her big sister.

I've no idea what I'm going to do about it other than hope that it really is a phase and that she will grow out of it and hopefully come out of the other side with as much enthusiasm for speech and music and as much self-confidence and authority as she does now but without the throwing, biting and nonsense talk.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Bank Holiday Playcation

Our plans for the bank holiday weekend are somewhat low-key having wiped ourselves out on our road trip across Europe (maternity leave has a lot to answer for) but just because we are not going to be going away for the weekend as we often used to, doesn't mean we can't have fun.

We have one day out planned but other than that we are hoping to spend lots of time in the garden - our own mini 'playcation'. Since Lara was born over 3 years ago I have been stock-piling garden toys waiting for her to reach an age when she can really get involved with games in the garden because I have such great memories of summer holidays in my own back garden.  Now that time has come and Lara loves rushing around the garden on her own, with us, or with friends. Garden games don't need to be expensive or sophisticated, we have inflatable footballs that I got free from the front of magazines, a bag of plastic balls for a fiver and a mini croquet set that Argos sent us (£3.99) to get the Playcation off to a start.

Lara and her friends can screech and shout for hours in the garden! Argos sent me a set of top tips from Laura Hamilton (see the video below) of how to make the most of garden games so I set up an obstacle course in the garden which required sploshing in the paddling pool, bouncing around the washing line on our Argos hoppers and through the swings before accurately putting the ball through a croquet hoop! Other ideas include a treasure hunt - perhaps I'll set up one in the garden this weekend.

You don't need a lot of space to get out and get active this bank holiday weekend - if your garden is not quite of obstacle-course proportions why not gather your friends or neighbours and each take along a toy or obstacle to the local park... I'm thinking It's A Knockout stylee!

Sunday 19 August 2012

Lilly + Sid Baby Clothing Review

The internet is a wonderful thing - without it I would never discover little gems like Lilly + Sid. Lilly and Sid contacted us to ask Holly to put their range of funky and contemporary clothes to the test.

Holly is a lot more feminine than I am, or Lara ever was and tends to look better in pinks than I had been prepared for which is why this red and pink combo suits us both - Holly gets to look suitably girly while I am kept quiet with the brights and bolds of the red stretchy trim and those gorgeous leggings.

I'm loving how practical the Lilly + Sid clothes are; lots of very fashionable baby clothes simply haven't been thought through but all of the Lilly + Sid clothes we have tried are easy to put on and take off for nappy changes and all wash well.

Lilly + Sid have a range of fun t-shirts too. Lara, at 3 years old REALLY wanted to wear Holly's boo rabbit t-shirt and when I explained that it simply wouldn't fit she said "Maybe when I grow smaller it will fit". Errr... OK.

My favourite item of clothing so far is this summery checked dress. It is still a touch too big for Holly who is far more petite than her sister but it was particularly perfect for on our hot summer holidays.  It has a floral bow on one of the straps which Holly very much enjoys chewing right now!

Itti Bitti Tutto Cloth Nappy Review

I like to think that I've become a bit more open minded when it comes to different styles of cloth nappies the second time around. Different styles work for different parents and different babies which is why I was really excited to try out the new Itti Bitti Tutto all-in-one nappy.

Itti Bitti is the very first brand of cloth nappy that I ever heard of and the only one that I knew before I became an expectant parent but until now I had never tried any of their nappies.

Itti Bitti tutto cloth nappy eton print

The Itti Bitti Tutto is designed for use from birth right the way up until potty training. It uses a series of snappers to alter the length and width of the nappy as your child grows. On the outside there is a gorgeous and fun fluffy fabric but on the inside where the series business of absorbency goes on it is made from stay-dry suedecloth to try and keep your baby's bottom dry. A series of different snap-in boosters are used to alter the level of absorbency needed.

I loved the fluffy fabric of the Itti Bitti nappy, it really makes it stand out from the other nappies in my collection but the fluffiness did diminish a touch after the first wash. I found that I needed to pre-wash the nappy a lot before it was able to offer a level of absorbency I was happy with (I think about 8 washes).  I also find the Tutto nappy to take the longest to dry of all of my cloth nappies.

itti bitti tutto stages

I really like the shape of the Tutto nappy as it sits against Holly's bot - it is nice and tight around the legs without seeming to restrict her movement. The design of the inside of the nappy is unlike anything else I have seen - it has a raised edge which they call their 'poo fence' which really does seem to work to stop wet tiny baby poo leaking out. The number and shape of the different snap-in absorbent layers bamboozled me a bit and I'm still not sure that I have entirely settled on the right combo for us but I would imagine that Holly's needs will change as she grows and I will have to re-learn which pieces to use inside the nappy.  You can get the inserts in microfibre or bamboo - we use bamboo and they tend to take longer to dry but I believe give a better absorbency level.

Due to the time it took to build up a good level of absorbency in the nappy, I haven't been brave enough to try the Itti Bitti Tutto at night time yet - I should do one day really though to see if it is up to the challenge.

Itti bitti tutto red

One of the things I like best about the Tutto nappy is that there is one extra snapper right back by the hips that allows you to really make sure that the nappy is tight all the way around a small baby's waist. This is an area where many other all-in-one and snapper-based nappies can struggle. As Holly grows older, we probably won't need to use this extra snapper but at present it prevents the 'wings' from working loose.

If I were to give the Itti Bitti Tutto a mark out of 10, I would go for a 7.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

I want life to slow down

I want life to slow down.  I NEED life to slow down.  I can't believe how quickly Holly is growing up; she isn't a tiny newborn any more and that scares me.  Before I know it, my maternity leave will be over and I will be back at work.

Last Friday I worked.  Actual proper in-the-office work.  I'll admit that it felt good and not only because it gave me a whole day away from the constant barrage of conversation that is Lara.  I felt like I achieved something - it was a very productive day and it felt a bit like life was normal again.  As normal as it ever can be after becoming a parent.  Friday was one of my KIT (keeping in touch) days.  I don't intend to return to work full time until into the new year but I genuinely do want to keep in touch.

Friday did also highlight to me how far down the line of maternity leave I really am.  Holly is 15 weeks old today.  She is beginning to lose her dependence on me and enjoys other people's company a lot.  I am still breastfeeding her but she does know how to take a bottle (if still somewhat grudingly) and delights in the company of both sets of grandparents which is handy for when I need a babysitter!  Before I know it, Holly will be weaning, crawling, talking, walking, telling me off for not singing the right words to her favourite songs.  Sigh, her life seems to be rushing by and I can't catch up.

Holly is growing quickly.  She is still nowhere near as big as her older sister ever was, but after feeding like a baby possessed during our holiday, she has now moved out of all her 0-3 month clothes and is definitely now into 3-6 month ones (or bigger if she is wearing a particularly bulky reusable nappy).  Holly has character now - she is a little monkey and I enjoy playing with her.  I'm aware that when Lara is at home Holly doesn't get quite as much playing, reading or singing as I want to give her, but on days when it is just the two of us, we have a lot of fun together.

I don't want this fun to end.  I'm enjoying myself.  I love going to meet other mummies, visiting my family during the day, chilling out with Holly in the garden and taking sneaky naps in the afternoon.  I don't want this to end.

But...On the other hand, I do want to go back to work.  You know me, I love what I do (and I need the money).

It's a funny old thing - The conundrum of the working mum.

For the time being, I just want life to slow down so that I can enjoy every single moment of my maternity leave with Holly.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Angela Langford Natural Hand Cream Review

Angela Langford Natural Hand Cream

Hand creams are one of my weaknesses. I love them. To me, the relaxing effect of squiding on a dollop of hand cream before I go to bed is just about one of THE most pampering experiences. Such a little thing that makes such a big difference. My latest find was sent to me for review - Angela Langford's "In Safe Hands" natural hand cream.

This is one of my greatest finds to date on Mellow Mummy. Angela Langford skincare products are all made with natural ingredients and active essential oils. They are free from parabens, petrochemicals and synthetic fragrances and colours so are exactly my kind of thing.

I have been sitting here for the past 10 minutes sniffing my own hands and trying to put my finger on exactly why I love this hand cream so much. My hands feel oily in exactly the way they would if I had just rubbed pure essential oils straight on them - that's a good feeling but the texture is something more than that, my hands feel fluffy, if that's possible??? Perhaps it is the Rice Bran oil that does this?

I think the thing I enjoy most is the scent. Active ingredients include Calendula, Marhsmallow and Evening Primrose, chosen for their anti-inflammatory and moisturising properties but the scent to me smells citrussy - it is a perfectly uplifting combination of floral rose geranium, sharp and planty pettigrain and citrus lemon oils. The smell is as soothing for the mind as the ingredients are soothing for your hands.

Angela Langford's "In Safe Hands" natural hand cream is ideal for people with dry hands but it also makes a perfect treat to keep your hands feeling soft and supple every day. At £17.50 for 100ml it is a special treat for me, but I'm REALLY enjoying using it so I think it is good value at this price and because it is so rich in essential oils, you only need a tiny bit.

Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Travel Products Review

Having recently got back from our first holiday abroad with baby Holiday I have a few tips to share on products that made our lives easier. today I'm sharing my thoughts on a few Tommee Tippee travel products - some of which I bought, and some I was sent to review.

Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Single Bottle Travel Steriliser

Tommee Tippee Single Bottle Steriliser

Experience told me that in the hot climate of Poland I might struggle to keep up my breast milk supply so I wanted to take bottle feeding kit with me on holiday without it taking up valuable luggage space in the back of my car.  I invested in a Tommee Tippee single-bottle steriliser which is less than 30cm tall.

The steriliser can be used for microwave sterilisation or for cold-water sterilisation (this was more suitable for us as we were staying in hotel rooms for the duration of our holiday).  I invested in some sterilisation solution and each evening I prepared a bottle just in case.  The steriliser features an internal cage into which you place the pieces of the bottle, sterilisation solution and water.  Our solution took 15 minutes to sterilise and it kept for many hours if the steriliser remained unopened.

I found the Single Bottle Sterliser indispensible on holiday and will definitely be using it again when we travel in the UK and abroad.

Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Insulated Bottle Carriers
Tommee Tippee Insulated Bottle Carrier
The Tommee Tippee insulated bottle carrier appealed to me because it only takes one bottle (unlike my previous carrier which was designed to take several bottles).  I took it on holiday because it was compact and because I knew that I could use it to carry cool water for Holly to drink on hot days, or warmed water if she needed it for a feed.

My only complain about the Closer to Nature insulated bottle bag is that because it is designed for Tommee Tippee bottles, it is quite short and so other brands of bottle struggle to fit.  I do like the velcro handle though as it means you can strap it to the buggy.

Tommee Tippee Sangenic Wrap & Go (Travel Nappy Wrapper)

Tommee Tippee Wrap & Go
Now, if you have been a reader of Mellow Mummy for some time you will know that me and nappy wrappers don't get on because of my green credentials.  I also tend not to use nappy sacks unless absolutely necessary (normally when I am out and about or travelling) and when I do, the sacks are always biodegradable.

Therefore, the Tommee Tippee Sangenic travel nappy wrapper isn't really my thing but I was sent one to try and it seemed to make good sense to take with us on our road trip where I wouldn't necessarily be able to find a sealed dustbin in a hotel room or at the side of the road.  The Wrap & Go is a little case which you can strap to your buggy which dispenses scented, anti-bacterial, tie-top nappy bags.

The bags are garish colours and the citrussy scent is overwhelming when you first open the packet (although it does quickly disappear and the bags are more or less unscented after a few days in your changing bag).  The refills of bags on a little roller are easy to put in and out of the dispenser but not so easy to re-wind when your three year old pulls out the entire roll and winds it all around your hotel room.

I'm not sure that the Wrap & Go offers me much more value than my normal nappy sacks but if you are someone used to using a nappy wrapper, I can see that they would be appealing.

Thursday 9 August 2012

A Flying Visit to Kiddy HQ (and a sneaky peek at the new City n Move stroller)

Last week, as part of our epic family road trip across Europe, the Mellow family dropped in to say Hi to our friends at Kiddy headquarters in Hof, Germany. When I first visited Kiddy HQ last summer I knew I had to take Lara and Mr. B. there too (I didn't know that Holly would be with us as well!) - Hof is a beautiful place with a lake and leisure complex of which I am very jealous and exploring the internals of a big car seat and children/baby product manufacturer is a fascinating experience I wanted to share with them.

We spent the night in a hotel by the side of the lake and, in the afternoon we all took a relaxing stroll around the banks of the lake in the warm sunshine. Lara had great fun on the playground and she even stripped off and went for a dip in the lake with all the local children. I must say it did look very inviting.


Lara and Holly were both very well behaved when we took our tour of the new Kiddy offices. Lara had never before seen quite so many car seats in one place (and I doubt she ever will again) - thousands and thousands lined up and ready to be sent out to customers. I think Lara was particularly fascinated to see a new Kiddy pushchair being tested using a dummy weight by being pushed down the corridors of the R&D department - it makes your own pushchair seem that more "real" when you know someone somewhere put in the hard work to make it just right.

While we were at Kiddy HQ they introduced me to the new City 'n' Move stroller which will be hitting UK stores very very soon. This is the first time that I have come face to face or hands-on with a Kiddy pushchair and the first thing I noticed was that it felt just as good quality as I expect of their car seats.

The wide array of features and accessories of the City n Move were demonstrated to me. Lots of things that you would pay extra for elsewhere such as a cup holder or a large thick hood that comes all the way down. Perhaps the thing which stood out for me was the fact that when folded, the City n Move stood up on its own. I wish more pushchairs did this!

I'm looking forward to seeing the City n Move in the UK soon. Note: I am a product ambassador for Kiddy - this doesn't mean that I receive payment for blog posts, but it does mean that I receive products for review occasionally. This was the first time I had seen the City n Move.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

The Solitude of Maternity Leave

Lots of people see the break from work that maternity leave offers as a chance to build (or indeed rebuild) friendships with other mummies and to get out of the house to socialise.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the change in scenery that maternity leave offers me - it is great to be able to meet up with women rather than being surrounded by guys like I am at work.  However, one of the things I enjoy most about maternity leave is the solitude.  This is my chance to find quiet, quality time to spend with just me and Holly.

I now have three groups of mummies I regularly meet up with as well as friends and family.  I spend Mondays and Thursdays with both my girls (Thursday is still "Lara Day" and I take her swimming).  I am also trying to swim myself and, before the school holiday,s I was taking Holly to music classes and baby yoga.  After the normal admin and chores that doesn't leave very much time for just me and Holly to sit peacefully in the living room and stare lovingly into each others eyes, does it?

Maybe I'm unusual to crave silence?  I don't think so.  The chance to sit quietly in my own home without the whirlwind of a 3-year-old crashing about is such a rare thing that I savour every moment I spend with just Holly while she is still gurgling and immobile.  I love being able to grab a sneaky coffee while she sleeps or to quickly scribble a blog post (like I am doing now).  I secretly enjoy being able to watch TV when I want without being subjected to either Sky Sports, the Disney Channel or Nick Jr.

I don't feel like I need to fill my days with "fun" or "interactive" things to do with Holly.  In fact, I'm already slightly regretting signing up to the new terms for our two activities together.  I don't feel like I need to meet up with friends in order to go for a peaceful walk with the pram.  Life is pretty good when it is just me and Holly.

Sometimes I fancy just curling up on my bed with Holly and staring up at the ceiling until we both drift gently off to sleep.  I know it would never happen like that but I can dream, can't I?

Sunday 5 August 2012

Trunki Suitcase Review - Bernard the Bee

Idealo asked us to review the new Trunki which has lots of new designs and some design improvements so that
Bernard the bee Trunki suitcase
Trunki ride-on suitcase
Lara and Holly could bring their own trunki children's suitcases with them on our family road trip!

I left Lara in charge of choosing the design and she plumped for the Bernard the Bee Trunki, I suspect this has something to do with her complete obsession with Bee Movie and The Hive right now!

Trunki has regularly been voted as one of the best children's suitcases for flying but we wanted to test ours out in a different way. Trunki fitted easily into our car boot for our road trip because it is nearly rectangular. When we were driving we took the pull-along / carry-handle off but when we got to the hotels we would clip the strap on so that Lara could pull her Trunki along the corridors of hotels (clearly Holly, at 3 months old, didn't pull her own suitcase!)

Bernard the Bee is a vibrant yellow colour with black stripes and black 'horns' as I call them! The horns are good for your toddler to hold on to if they choose to sit on the suitcase and ride it along!

I was really impressed with the differences made to the design of the Trunki recently. The most important of these to me is the fact that the newer Trunki now has two carry handles on the top which means it doesn't wibble and wobble if you are holding it.

inside the Trunki
inside the trunki
Trunki comes with its own passport so that your child can give it an identity. Our Trunki crossed 9 country borders on its holiday!

Inside Trunki you get everything you would expect from a normal suitcase. An easy to use strap to hold everything down and a small fabric section to put bits and bobs in. The trunki clips closed and actually stays in place better than many of our grown up suitcases do. You can lock it closed with the key on the strap but I'm not sure that its a security lock, more to prevent things from falling out.

Every child NEEDS a trunki, right? - it makes travelling so much fun and it is a great place to keep those things such as snacks and colouring books that you want to have easy access to.

MaterniCare Pre & Post Natal Nourishing Cream Review

In the weeks following Holly's birth I used a new skincare product on my bump (and its remnants!) called MaterniCare Pre & Post Natal Nourishing Cream. It is a really nice thick and luxurious cream that feels very pampering. Unlike many of the oils and butters that I used throughout the bulk of my pregnancy (all of which were scrumptious), it doesn't leave a greasy residue - in fact my bump seemed too suck MaterniCare right up in seconds!

MaterniCare is made by the same people who make Colief. For me, MaterniCare is a nice mix of natural plant-based ingredients with a little dab of science to help it along the way. The cream is packed full of plant oils and essential vitamins to nourish and care for your skin as your bump grows and then to support your body as it recovers. It is hypoallergenic and containspro-vitamin B51 – a powerful natural skin healer and protector – as well as almond, avocado and grape seed oils, vitamin E and soothing calendula. All of these lead to MaterniCare cream having a very gentle, appealing scent (you know these things matter to me!)

During pregnancy, MaterniCare is designed to help prevent stretch marks (although I can't vouch for this as I only started using it in my final weeks) and to hydrate itchy dry, stretching skin. After pregnancy it is designed to help your skin recover from that stretching.

MaterniCare is suitable for breasts, tummy, thighs, hips and bottom where it can contribute to the suppleness of your skin. For me, the most noticeable thing from using MaterniCare Pre & Post Natal Nourishing Cream is a level of strength that has returned to my skin - even before baby was born. The way my skin feels after use is very much how my thighs felt after using Alva Naturkosmetik Intensive Refining Cream - firm and taught and strong. MaterniCare cream costs £14.99 for 200ml.

I seem to have got away without any new stretch marks this time around so I can't certify its effectiveness at tackling them!

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