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

Sunday 30 September 2012

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely Bath & Shower Gel Review

When I was pregnant with Holly, I asked the wise people of twitter for recommendations on pampering products for me to enjoy as a new mum and almost everyone replied to recommend Neal's Yard Remedies. I bought a couple of bubble baths and then this month I was asked to review the new family range of Bee Lovely products by Neal's Yard Remedies.

The Bee Lovely range is made with organic bee-friendly honey to highlight the alarming decline in UK bee population of britain. The range features organic essential oils from orange peel and mandarin and is suitable for young children all the way through to adulthood because of its mild formulations.

We tried out the Bee Lovely Bath & Shower Gel. Neal's Yard aren't wrong when they say the shower gel is "light". It is a very fluid, transparent gel which foams a little, and reading through the ingredient list I'd have no problems using it on Lara's sensitive skin.

The scent is awesome. Properly mind blowing. The combination of sweet honey with zingy orange peel and the lighter hints of mandarin is like nothing I have ever come across before. The smell alone leaves you feeling refreshed and ready for action. The honey is intended to offer moisturising qualities. I bliming LOVE this shower gel but I don't want to share it with my family... I want to keep it all to myself.

The plight of bees is a topic close to the Mellow family heart. In the past 4 months since Holly was born, Lara has watched the movie "Bee Movie" over two million times (it feels like it). Interestingly Lara has taken away something useful from the movie... without bees doing what bees do best, our wild spaces change and honey would have to be brought in from elsewhere. Bees are important and we have to maintain their habitats if we are to maintain bee populations.

You can join the campaign to save Britain's bees with Neal's Yard Remedies by signing their online petition on their Facebook app or following the #BeeLovely tag on twitter.

Leapfrog Twinkle Twinkle Little Scout Review

Leapfrog sent us Twinkle Twinkle Little Scout shortly before Holly was born and I knew, before we even needed to use him, that he was going to be perfect.

When Lara was a baby we had a second (actually about fifth) hand Winnie the Pooh soothing toy that would sit in her nursery and play her lullabies and shine a steadily dimming light until she fell asleep. We loved it because the lullabies didn't need to be turned off or wound up and that they went on for a good 20 minutes to ensure she was asleep. We were sad when we had to give Winnie the Pooh back and I was worried that we didn't have an equivalent for Holly. Then Twinkle Twinkle Little Scout from Leapfrog came along and everything was good.

Leapfrog Twinkle Twinkle Little Scout

Scout plays some good quality lullaby music (some recognisable to me, some not) for either 10 minutes or 20 minutes and while he does so there is a little glowing, flashing light in the moon that he holds to help your child recognise that it is time for bed. Alternatively you can get Scout to play 10 or 20 minutes of 'environmental sounds' such as blowing leaves, falling rain, trains on a track etc and this is weirdly relaxing. We used the environmental sounds a lot with some success in the weeks after Holly was born.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Scout is the very first Leapfrog toy that Holly will own but it certainly won't be the last. Even at this age you can connect scout to your computer to monitor your baby's learning journey (although I think this is really meant for children who are a little older than 4 months!).

As your child grows older then little scout still has lots to offer and can become a trusty friend. He has a comforter blanket that is detachable so that it can be washed. Twinkle Twinkle Little Scout also has settings which sing about it being time to go to bed, introducing the first words that they will associate with bedtime for years to come. He also has some basic counting songs to offer which currently fascinate my three year old (although her counting is far more advanced than this, I think she likes the fact that the songs confirm she knows how to count!)

We love our Scout - he has become a permanent fixture by the side of the crib and I can't wait for Holly to fall in love with him too!

Thursday 27 September 2012

Hello Baby Mirror Board Book Review

Priddy books have just launched a new range of books designed specifically for very young babies from newborn upwards - they asked me and Holly to review the Hello Baby high contrast mirror book which is a board book.

I was fascinated to find out what a book for newborns would be like and I was really impressed - to me it is really important to get books in front of babies from a young age even if they can't read or don't even want to know what the story is about. Books are tactile things, engaging things, things of beauty and fun.

Hello Baby is a range of really high contrast books. The Mirror board book features lots of black, white, red, yellow and blue abstract images on pages with a die-cut hole cut right through the middle of the book. No words. I found the lack of words ever so slightly disappointing actually and have found myself playing with the book with Holly and saying things like "stripes", "spots", "cross cross", "triangles" to try and communicate with her as we play. I think the book would benefit from some words to encourage adults to engage with their children too.

Holly is certainly very interested in the book. She doesn't smile when she is using it but she concentrates REALLY hard as if it is a puzzle that needs solving. The hole through the middle allows her to grab the book and shake it about a bit herself and on the very last page there is a mirror that she can see throughout the book - this occasionally brings a smile!

I would say that now at nearly 5 months old, Holly is getting to the point where the entertainment value in a purely abstract image book won't last long - she tends to now get more excited about books with animals or people in them but for a very young baby this would be perfect.

The Hello Baby Mirror Board Book costs £4.99.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

The Essential One - New Season, New Website

The more I see of the baby clothes from The Essential One, the more I fall in love with them!  We were sent a few items from the brand new Autumn/Winter range of baby essentials to review shortly before their launch and the big reveal of their shiny new website .

I am consistently impressed with the simplicity and quality of the every day essentials such as vests and sleepsuits and I think it says something that given a drawer full of different colours and designs of sleepsuits that we collected during Lara's days and which were given as gifts, both myself and my husband always ALWAYS choose the Essential Ones in preference!

There are lots of new designs for both boys and girls at The Essential One this autumn but, as you can imagine, I'm rather taken by the little girl's gift packs.  Holly regularly sports one of her sets of Essential One vests which come in packs of 5 in a gorgeous soft draw-string bag (I use the bags for Holly's belongings when I take her to the creche at the leisure centre and I also send Lara to nusery with one for her sports kit and outdoor clothes).  

The vintage floral design has fast become one of my favourite, despite Mr. B. worrying that it was a bit too girly for her.  Holly is incredibly feminine and it still surprises us both.  The rose design is complimented by a range of muted pinks - stripes, spots and roses.  We now have the matching jersey baby sleeping bag to go with the vests - it is so soft and snuggly.

The Essential One also do a range of slogan rompers - our velour "I'm the Little Sister" all-in-one always catches people's eyes.

But, I think my absolute favourite item from the entire Essential One range this winter is this knitted spotty button-up cotton all-in-one.  OK, so maybe its not as essential as some of the other clothing they sell but it is totally different to anything else we own and it is just as soft on the inside as it is on the outside - 100% cotton throughout.  The little details are so important on an item like this - it is no use it looking fab if it is too tricky to take on and off - and I'm really grateful for the slightly stretchy cuffs and for the fact that the buttons go all the way down each leg.  It is best worn with something pretty underneath though because the buttons do tend to cause the front to gape.

Do take a look at the shiny new website from The Essential One - there are some scrumptious baby clothes on there!

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Cooking With Children :: Blackberry Muffins

You may remember we ran a competition a week or so ago to win a set of 1-Up Super-Mario-Esque Cupcake cases from Just Mustard? Well last week Lara and I put the 1-Up cupcake cases to the test and made blackberry muffins using blackberries we foraged at the local park in Arborfield.

I will admit that I need to revisit the raising agents on this recipe to try and make the muffins rise and 'mushroom' up in the big 1-up cupcake cases if I am going to go for the full Super-Mario effect. More work needed, I think. This recipe makes 6 small muffins (fairy cake size ones) or in our case, 4 huge ones, the size you would expect in a good cafe!


75g well softened butter (we used Flora cuisine to give the muffins a really bouncy texture)
250g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
75g caster sugar
1 large egg (medium will do too)
200ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
A big bowl of blackberries. On reflection, I probably should have weighed how many we had but it was about one full cereal bowl.

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade
  2. Measure all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl. No need to seive.
  3. In a small bowl lightly beat the milk and egg together
  4. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and give it a quick stir - this is where using the Flora cuisine really comes in handy as it is pretty much liquid
  5. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients but don't beat it too hard, you want the muffin batter to be quite gloopy
  6. Gently stir in the blackberries. You might want to mash some of the blackberries up to give you a range of textures inside your muffin... personally I LOVE biting into a whole fruit inside a muffin so we didn't bash the blackberries up too much
  7. Pour the batter into the cupcake cases (making sure to wipe away any spillages so they don't burn
  8. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until you can put a knife (or in our case a wooden satay stick) in to the centre of the muffin and it comes away clean). Because our muffins were very big, they took an extra 4 minutes to cook.

Once the muffins were cool, Lara decorated them to look like Mario mushrooms. We made up some icing using icing sugar and milk and then added a little red food colouring. I have never managed to make natural red food colouring turn anything genuinely red so it came out a sort of gungy orange colour. Mind you, I didn't have any white chocolate buttons to act as mushroom spots either and only had orange flavoured buttons so in the end it worked out quite well. Not our finest baking moment in terms of presentation, but I tell you what, they were AWESOMELY good muffins, large, soft and totally immaculate because they came out of the smooth silicone muffin moulds without any sticking or hassle at all.

Monday 24 September 2012

New Swimmers All Round!

This past week was a turning point in the Mellow household.  Lara stopped her baby swimming classes and instead started her very first 'big girl' swimming lessons at our local leisure centre without me in the pool with her.  This feels like an amazing step.  I've been swimming in the pool with her every week since she was 16 weeks old and now, having achieved her 5 metre swimming badge with Aquatots back in July, she is ready to go it alone.  I'm a proud mummy.

And so starts a different swimming journey with Holly.  Holly and I started Aquatots baby swimming classes when she was 10 weeks old.  I would say that 10 weeks is probably a little young - she was a bit floppy in the water and now, at 18 weeks she is a lot more smiley and is able to hold herself more confidently in the water.  3 years from now I expect Holly to be swimming unaided too.

To celebrate Holly's first dip in the pool, Splash About sent Holly one of their latest Happy Nappy prints to try out.  And, if that weren't enough to celebrate, Simply Swim sent me a brand new swimsuit too (I'm celebrating the fact that I've now lost enough of my baby weight to fit into a non-maternity swimsuit)!  We both looked fab in our new swimming togs last week!

We wholeheartedly recommend the Splash About Happy Nappy and have done ever since day one of Lara's lessons.  The latest patterns of Happy Nappy include a union jack print, multi-coloured spots, pink frills and this star design which you can get in either blue/green or purple/aqua - a Happy Nappy costs between £7.50 and £12.99.  We love the Happy Nappy because it fits tightly around the belly and legs to give you confidence that accidents in the pool won't leak out.  We also love the fact that they are quite easy to put on and that once on, they are warm to wear as they are made out of stretchy wetsuit material.  I wouldn't put Holly in anything other than a Happy Nappy.

With both girls I have put a disposable swim nappy (we use Huggies Little Swimmers) on underneath the Happy Nappy - Aquatots call this a double-nappy system.  With Lara I let her wear just the Happy Nappy until she was nearly a year old at which point I added a tankini top and later a swimming costume over the top.  With Holly I went straight for the swimsuit option.

My new swimsuit is a Speedo Endurance Plus Lanesprint Powerback from  A bit like Holly's swim nappy, I wouldn't wear anything other than a Speedo these days (unless of course I'm pregnant in which case I'll just wear anything that fits!).  Years of swimming have taught me that Speedo swimsuits really are the best value for money and although there are lots of great-looking swimsuits in the women's swimsuits range at Simply Swim, the minute I saw this Speedo on the Simply Swim website I knew that I had to have it - the 'purple rain' is so much more striking than my normal plain black.

The Endurance Plus has a racer-back, my preferred style of suit because it holds everything in place and looks sexy too - sometimes a racer-back can make a suit hard to put on but this suit is really flexible and there is lots of room for movement while I'm putting it on.  It is chlorine resistant which is important for giving the suit a longer shelf-life (I swim at least once a week so it gets a lot of use) and it is really quick to dry.  The Endurance Plus costs £28 and Simply Swim also operate a price match promise.

All in all, us three girls are loving our swimming right now (and we look fab when we're doing it!)  Note: these pictures are courtesy of SimplySwim... they aren't me!  I don't look that glamourous in a swimming cossie.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Babyrug Bug in a Rug Review

The Bug in a Rug from BabyRug is a warm fleece baby wrap for keeping your baby snuggly and toasty when on the move. Holly and I were asked to review the Bug in a Rug and now is the ideal time for us to try it out.

As the temperature has dropped over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed how chilly it is as we leave the house in the morning to do the nursery run and yet within a couple of hours the sun is shining and the world has largely warmed up. Instead of going to the effort of getting Holly dressed into a snowsuit (which is quite frankly too warm at present) or into two million layers of clothing, I've taken to using the BabyRug Bug in a Rug.
Holly chilling out on an autumn morning

The Bug in a Rug is ideal because I can wrap Holly up really tightly in it OR I can unfold the front and pull down the hood to let her cool down. We have taken a couple of days out in the great outdoors this month and I've found it ideal for Holly to wear in the buggy because I don't need to faff about with a blanket (which she always kicks off!)

I think the Bug in a Rug will also be perfect for when I am carrying Holly in her baby carrier. I often worry about how to keep her warm in the carrier and ordinarily, a big bulky snowsuit would be the only option but this is a lot more compact and is likely to keep us both a little cooler when pressed against one another.

The Bug in a Rug is a bit different to other baby wraps and snuggles I have seen because it has two separate leg areas, very much like a snowsuit. This works well because I have also yet to discover another warm baby wrap which really and truely does fit in a car seat. I've seen several that claim they do with small holes to pass the straps through but they always bulk up - having separate legs like the Bug in a Rug means no bulking or having to squidge fabric out of the way.

I would say that at £21.99 the Bug in a Rug is quite expensive for the quality of fleece that you get (the one we tried is made from man-made fibres and has no fancy lining or patterns) - additionally you need to buy different sizes as your baby grows older (because of the legs, you see). It is however very easy to use and fastens with a velcro tab which is simple to undo and flap open the sides to cool your baby down.

You can also buy a 100% cotton version of the Bug in a Rug and a water resistant version as well as a lighter summer wrap. The wraps are available in a range of plain colours (the summer ones come with stripes too!) and are available upto 12 months old.

Teether Reviews

I consider teethers and teething toys to be a demonstration of how different two baby girls in the same family can be - Lara would never let a teether past her lips and yet Holly now swears by teethers for relief from those pesky gnawing pains.

Because Lara had tried and hated a couple of different teethers when she was a baby, I didn't have anything appropriate in the house when Holly started teething. We were lucky enough to be asked to review each of the following teethers and so I thought I would share our experiences with them all.

Tommee Tippee Trio Teether

Tommee Tippee Trio Teether
Tommee Tippee Trio Teether

The Tommee Tippee Trio Teether is one of my favourites because Holly can easily grab on to it herself. It features three chunky 'tags' which dangle from a thick loop that is ideal for little hands. Each tag has a number on it so I can count to her.

Each of the three teethers a slightly different surface (although two of them seem quite similar to me!). One of the tags is water-filled and provides a different sensation when Holly chews on it - this is her favourite one to munch. You can put the teether into the fridge and this water-filled teether provides even more of a soothing effect. The tags also have little bumps and ridges for your baby to explore with their mouth.

This teether is available from Amazon or Toys R Us for around £4 to £5.

Lansinoh mOmma Gino Teether

Lansinoh mOmma Teether
mOmma by Lansinoh Gino Teether

We love this Gino chick-shaped teether from mOmma (part of the Lansinoh family). The teether is water-filled which means that when you place it in the fridge, it provides cooling relief for raw gums.

The reason why I like it is that the little handles which form the chick's hands (err.. wings) are great for Holly to fit into her tiny mouth. The teether is all BPA-free including the hard head of the chick which Holly gets great pleasure from sucking and dribbling on.

Holly seems to like it because the hole in the middle allows her to get her hand through and make a good grip on it. She holds on to this teether longer than most. The water-filled section has lots of raised bumps for her to feel with her mouth.

The mOmma teether is also available as a penguin or a walrus and costs less than a fiver - you can buy them at amazon.

Tommee Tippee Water-Filled Teethers

Tommee Tippee Water-Filled Teethers
Water-Filled Teethers

Tommee Tippee sell a number of different water-filled teethers and we tried out this pair of stars from the Essentials range. Because they are water-filled, they provide a slight element of chew rather than just a rigid gnashing! We put them in the fridge and then offer them to Holly when they are cool and I can only imagine how weird and refreshing it feels to have them rubbed on her gums.

Holly finds it hard to grip these teethers despite the hole through the middle.  These teethers are available from ASDA for £3.59.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Baby massage - The hidden benefits

Baby massage is a wonderful way to get to know your newborn baby intimately and to share a very special bond. When Lara (my first daughter) was tiny, I tried a baby massage class but she was already 3 months old at the time and had already started to make her own decisions in life - she wasn't much into the baby massage thing. So with Holly, I started baby massage at just 3 weeks and we have both loved every moment.

Not only does baby massage offer you to chance to explore every single last millimetre of your new baby's body, it is a great excuse for some quiet time together for just you and your little one to bond. These quiet 10 minutes to an hour have been welcome breaks from the chaos of motherhood over the past few months. It is also a natural way to achieve a number of hidden health benefits too...

...Baby massage is well known to help alleviate trapped wind, colic and constipation. Holly was a very windy baby until we started massage and within a week of starting I could see that after a massage she was a lot more comfortable. Baby massage helped me to find places and techniques that help her to bring up wind from her chest and relieve wind down below.

...Baby massage as part of a gentle regular routine can help to relax your baby in time for bed.

...Baby massage can help to strengthen a baby's digestive system and respiratory system and can stimulate the circulatory and nervous systems.

Until recently I had never considered massage of the face but for us it has brought two wonderful natural benefits for Holly - the ability to relieve the discomfort of a blocked nose during a cold and some slight relief (a distraction at least) from teething pains. To massage your baby's face you don't need much, if any, massage oil on your fingers; the residue from your main baby massage will suffice or you could use a specialist oil such as Organic Monkey cheek rub oil.

Holly caught her first cold aged 10 weeks and we opted for some natural remedies to help her through it - we used Sterimar Baby saltwater spray to clear her nose and baby massage to help her to clear her sinuses and unblock the passages in her nose. Here are a few great baby massage techniques for relieving the discomfort of a cold or headache.

1. Starting with your thumbs in the centre of the forehead, gently spread your thumbs out across the head towards the temples. Repeat around 4 or 5 times.

2. With your fingers or thumbs, gently rotate in small circles around the temples. You can do this to yourself to relieve your own headache too!

3. Pressing your middle fingers onto the top of the nose where it meets the eyes, slowly work your fingers down the nose and over the nostrils, effectively squeezing out any goo that might be in the nose. Gently press your fingers together on the top lip, just below the nostrils. Repeat.

You can help to relieve teething by massaging gently along the upper gum line or lower jaw line.

I took my baby massage classes in my own home thanks to Bond with Bubs who I can WHOLEHEARTEDLY recommend. She was very patient with a new baby who wanted to feed ALL the time.

Disclosure:  I am a product ambassador for Sterimar Baby.  I do receive a financial incentive for this but I do it because I genuinely rate their product.  Holly's first cold wouldn't have been anywhere near as bareable without it.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Children's Book Review - Learn with Neddy Teddy and his Phonics Friends

Learn with Neddy Teddy and his Phonics Friends is written by Gill Davis and illustrated by Barry Green. This is Lara's first official delve into the world of phonics and I was really pleased with how quickly she grasped the concept.

Learn with Neddy Teddy and his Phonics Friends is effectively a board book with a very basic story running through it. On each page there is a wheel that your child can turn to display different objects which feature the letter or letter-combination for that page.

The book starts with simple short vowel sounds such as "a" or "i" and progresses through to much tricker combinations from which I think Lara is a long way at just 3 years old.

So starting at the beginning, Lara quickly grasped the spinning wheel concept and I was amazed that after just one use of the book she understood that the pictures that the wheel displays must always contain the sound that she is working on. Sometimes an object is thrown in there to test them... something that looks like a boat on the page featuring "i" must therefore be "ship" and not "boat".

Each item on the wheel is accompanies by the text of the word and Lara is already feeling brave enough to try reading the words to understand a picture she doesn't recognise. Mr. B. nearly fell off his chair when Lara managed to identify a "blob" from its picture but quickly realised that she had combined the letters she could read with the fact that we were on the "o" page.

This book is a perfect book to help your child through their phonics journey and it can really help to push their learning while still being fun.

Learn with Neddy Teddy and his Phonics Friends is published by Top That Publishing and costs around £5.99.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Tips For Getting Your Children To Brush Their Teeth

On Mellow Mummy over the years I have blogged a number of times about how un-mellow I am when it comes to trying to get Lara to brush her teeth.  Last week Holly cut her first tooth so now we are about to embark on the same struggle all over again.  New research from Aquafresh showed that I'm not alone in stressing about how to get my girls to brush their teeth - they found that more than 1 million under-fives already had 2 or more fillings.  Eeek.

Over half of the mums that Aquafresh interviewed said that they find it hard to get their children to brush their teeth and that the stress can lead to arguments.  Until about June this year Lara would fight the toothbrushing every morning and every evening.  I struggled to understand why, after 2 and a half years of doing the same thing every day she still tried to resist the inevitable.  Something finally changed in June - I'm not really sure what but a new electric toothbrush may have contributed to it, as did Lara's first ever trip to the dentist.  Lara now happily brushes her teeth but we still have days when there is less brushing and more messing about.

Aquafresh sent us a kit to help get the family brushing and Lara ignored all of the fancy toothbrushes and special children's toothpaste and instead went straight for the simple egg-timer.  This one little thing has made a big change to Lara's toothbrushing habits.  Teaching Lara the 2-minute rule (you should brush for at least 2 minutes twice a day) had been quite tricky until the egg timer came along.  Now Lara keeps her eyes glued to the timer and even when she feels herself flagging, she keeps going (well, at least sort of chewing her toothbrush if she loses interest) for the full two minutes.  I am convinced that this little timer will improve the health of her teeth which were definitely a bit icky beforehand.

Aquafresh collected lots of other tips from Netmums members about how to reduce the stress of toothbrushing time.  Here are a few that I really agree with:-

  • Let kids pick their own toothbrush – they will get really excited when it comes to brushing their teeth with the toothbrush they have picked!
  • Play their favourite song while they brush to the beat – as most songs last two – three minutes it’s the perfect length
  • Brush your teeth at the same time – kids love to copy mum and dad!
  • Tell your kids that the Tooth Fairy pays out less for decayed teeth – this will get them brushing better!
  • If you have an older child, get them to teach their younger sibling how to brush – this makes it fun and also reinforces good brushing tips for the elder one.
  • Make three animal faces for brushing: tiger teeth (together), hippo mouth (mouth open) and snake tongue (to brush tongue). It makes it more fun and gets their teeth in the right position.
  • With older kids, establish the link between bad brushing and bad breath – they will soon cotton on to this!
  • Get your kids to brush with disclosing tablets once a week – they will love the surprising effect and it can become a challenge to see who can get their teeth white the quickest!
  • Play ‘dentist’ with your kids – put them in a chair, inspect their teeth while they brush and provide a running commentary while they are doing so! 
  • Let your kids be independent! You will need to brush their teeth at the end but letting them do it first makes them feel very grown up and it’s good practice!
This post was brought to you in collaboration with Dr. Ang's Dental Practice .

Sunday 16 September 2012

Babymule Changing Bag Review

Anyone who has ever met me in the flesh will know that I am not a handbags and heels type of lady - trainers and laptops bags are more my kind of thing. I will admit that somewhere deep inside me there is a primeval instinct that knows I am meant to get excited about bags (and shoes) and getting excited about a changing bag is about as close as I get. New on my scene is the Babymule which, as a very busy new mum on the move, I was asked to review.

baby mule with accessories

The Babymule is a 3-in-1 changing bag. It's a backpack, its a messenger bag and it can dangle from your buggy bars. The Babymule is practical and for me it features pretty much everything I look for in a changing bag.

Babymule changing bags are spacious. I love a changing bag with acres of space inside and this one reminds me very much of Mary Poppins' bag in terms of the contents it can hold. The main pocket is just that... a great big enormous pocket that I know from experience can hold 6 nappies, a packet of baby wipes, a changing mat, two changes of clothes for a 3 year old and a 3 month old, a wallet, two sunhats, two story books, my raincoat, Lara's raincoat, a blanket, a drinking bottle, a breastfeeding cover and three afternoon snacks. There are two additional main pockets as well along with a couple of small little pockets to place secret things (OK, an umbrella).

babymule backpack
Actually, I think perhaps I'm tempted to put too much stuff in my Babymule because there aren't many separators or cubby holes inside the pockets and I end up losing stuff in the bottom and having to rummage like a bag lady to get what I want.

I like to use my Babymule in backpack mode most of the time because it is incredibly comfy. The straps can be hidden away if you want to use it as a messenger bag or dangly bag instead but I think the padded straps are fab and when it is fastened to my back my hands are free (and it helps to balance Holly's weight when she is in the baby carrier).

babymule waterproof bag and mat
If I am strolling with Holly then I turn the bag on its side and hang it from the hooks that I dangle from my buggy bars.

The Babymule comes with a whole host of accessories - the Essentials Kit.  Normally I take out all of the accessories from a changing bag and leave them in the nursery never to be seen again but this time I have actually used them!  There is a nicely sized changing mat with waterproof, padded backing which folds up into a slot in the main pocket.  There is also a zip-up waterproof bag for carrying home dirty clothes or nappies and a small carry bag that you can use to hold just the essentials if you are short on space.  There is also an insulated bottle holder.

The Babymule is very 'me' and I always use it when I am travelling with both girls (it is comfortable and makes life easier) and when I am meeting up with the guys from work (its a bag a bloke can appreciate too).  My bag is largely grey (with green pattern) and I left it on the floor or a pub only to find that it was covered in ketchup or relish or something - it has stained and I've not been able to shift the stain from the grey water-resistant material.  Boo :-(

At £84 the Babymule is a little beyond my normal changing bag budget but it is EXACTLY right for me and for my everyday style so I think its worth it. Halloween Fancy Dress Review

We have a run of fancy dress parties over the coming weeks. A birthday party at nursery, a fancy dress 5th birthday party and then, before we know it, halloween. Last year Mummy was hoping to get away without buying a halloween costume but the night before the big day I decided that Lara couldn't be the only one to turn up to nursery in her everyday gear and did a last minute panic shop for an outfit.

This year we are a lot more organised and have been reviewing this kids skeleton costume which is part of the range of halloween costumes at Joker's Masquerade.

I chose this halloween costume because I thought it was a bit different to the run-of-the-mill outfits.  Lara can be ultimately girly when she chooses to be but is a bit scared of witches so doesn't want to be a witch whereas skeletons she can handle!!!?!?!

The outfit features a printed top and leggings with the pink bones on them as well as a pair of fingerless gloves with finger bones on them.  Our favourite piece is the floaty pink tutu!  All of the material is surprisingly thick but the hems and elasticated waist are not elegantly sewn (there were threads dangling off the gloves and t-shirt) but then the outfit is really only designed to withstand one use, isn't it?  Saying that, I think that the outfit is ideal for sending Lara to nursery in because it isn't too heavy and for the price I wouldn't worry that she might wreck it in nursery.

The bone motifs feel quite sticky and Lara struggled to get the outfit on without my help.  The sizing of the costume is good - we ordered size small based on the sizing guide and it fitted my 3 year old well (she wears age 4 clothes in general).  The gloves are slightly too big for her and so her fingers don't quite point out of the end!!!  I think Lara is going to stand out from all the pumpkins and witches at nursery this year!

The kids skeleton costume costs £16.99 at present from

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Children's Book Review - The Tangle Fairy

Does your little girl wake up every morning with tangly hair? Mine does. Lara always looks like a scarecrow in the morning and convincing her to brush her hair before nursery is often a battle. I'm sure this is why she is particularly taken with the book The Tangle Fairy by Seema Barker.

Each morning the little girl in the story wakes with tangly hair and she can't work out why until she meets the Tangle Fairy who weaves a number of cheeky stories before she finally gets to the bottom of the hair tangling mystery.

I found the book to be beautifully timed because we have been having one or two issues with Lara weaving cheeky tales of her own and reading this story to her at bedtime has helped us explain that it is usually best if you just tell the truth in the first place.

The Tangle Fairy is written in verse and as such it rolls off the tongue. Often I am disappointed with children's books that try to rhyme and scan (not many people can pull it off well) but this book seemed to make the most of the verse and for the first few pages I was actually oblivious to the rhyme until I started hearing it in my own head. Like all rhyming books, I find that the verse tires towards the end (or perhaps it is me that tires) but I find it quite a good book for creating a nice peaceful mood before bed.

The Tangle Fairy by Seema Barker Top That Publishing and costs around £5.99 in paperback. I would say it was suitable for reading to toddlers up to school children who can read it for themselves.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Mega Bloks L'il Princess Review

You may have read my blog post the other day about how I think that Lara wasn't ready for Lego yet - the pieces are too fiddly and she doesn't have a long enough attention span. The thing is that Lara LOVES building things, especially castles and so we were over the moon to be asked to review the new L'il Princess Twinkle Castle by Mega Bloks.

The Twinkle Castle is just one of the sets from the new Mega Bloks L'il Princess range and it costs around £39.99. The set comes with over 60 pieces including two little princesses - Nova and Luna - and their flying pony friend. The building blocks come in different shades of pink and white, along with a few shaped green bloks.

There is a good mix of sizes of bloks for Lara to build with but to make the MOST impressive castles she mixes the bloks with her existing bag of basic Mega Bloks to build taaaaaall towers. Lara's favourite pieces from the set are the sparkly towers which are translucent with glittery bits - they make a brilliant finishing touch for any of her castle masterpieces.

Lara insisted that I build the castle courtyard exactly how it is shown in the instruction booklet and then spent ages playing princesses with her two little figurines. The two princesses have sparkly tiaras which pop-up when you place the princesses on a blok or on their pony.

As a mum with limited floor space the BEST thing about the Twinkle Castle is the big tub that it comes in! Not only is it a great starting point for building stable and sturdy castles but it is large enough to house our entire Mega Bloks collection which means that we can keep everything in one place and that Lara can build castles on a scale she never thought imaginable.

Japonesque Baby Grooming Review

When I first saw the new range of baby grooming products from Japonesque, I squealed with excitement. Here is a range of nail clippers, brushes, combs and scissors that are all small and delicate enough for use on a baby and yet bright, bold and a LOT of fun.

The new range of goodies from Japonesque is their first foray into the world of baby grooming and is now available in the UK at

Japonesque Baby is a small set of animal-themed tools and gadgets. We were sent a baby hairbrush, a set of safety nail clippers and a pair of nail scissors to review. The range also includes hair scissors, a comb and a pair of first aid scissors.

Believe it or not, this cute duckling is a pair of baby nail clippers!  It also comes in a dolphin and penguin design.  I know that lots of parents worry about cutting their baby's finger nails and toe nails because they don't want to hurt those tiny digits and this product is intended to be a solution.  Not only is it bright enough to distract your baby, the beak acts as a safety device to protect the cutting blades from tiny inquisitive fingers when not in use.  The little lever at the top of the head causes the clippers to close and cut and the blades are positioned a long way back into the beak so that you can't over-cut the nails.  I actually found these clippers very hard to use and preferred the safety scissors below; the head of the duck got in the way so I couldn't see what I was doing.  There is a small metal nail file on the base of the duck.

This pink hippo is my favourite product from the range.  He pulls apart to reveal a soft but effective hair brush (far better than our current brush which is too soft to be effective).  Holly really enjoys having her hair brushed with the hippo and Lara even enjoys getting involved with brushing her little sister's hair.

These safety nail scissors have a very cute design.  A tiny meta nail file in the shape of a joey tucks into mummy's pocket.   A small pair of sturdy nail scissors is a changing unit essential in our house so that I can snip little nails off the minute they start to catch on clothes or scratch faces.  The nail file is attached so that you don't lose it.

The Japonesque Baby products range from £6 to £15 and would make fun gifts for new parents.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Happy Birthday Dear Zoo

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday Dear Zoo,
Happy Birthday to you.

Dear Zoo is celebrating its 30th birthday. Woweeee, that's nearly as ancient as me!

Dear Zoo has been a favourite picture book in our house for nearly three years now. Our slightly battered and scribbled-on copy has an interesting story behind it. We found our copy of Dear Zoo underneath the sofa of our room on our first ever stay at Center Parcs with Lara when she was six months old. Quite what we were doing scrabbling under the sofa, I don't know; but I do know that Lara instantly fell in love with the book. I'm sure there is a very sad child or desperate parent somewhere that was searching for their copy of Dear Zoo but there is no way Lara would have let us hand it in to lost property!

Dear Zoo is a wonderful collection of bright illustrations of zoo animals with lift-the-flap fun too. The story is simple, repetitive and brings a smile to children's faces.  Three years on, Lara can recite it with her eyes closed.

Last week Holly discovered Dear Zoo for the first time when we attended a birthday party in honour of the book. Lara met a zoo keeper who told the tale of Dear Zoo in a fabulous way with animals galore! We also got a chance to meet Rod Campbell who made the book.

I was really impressed with Rod who seemed totally unfazed by the room full of crazed toddlers. Rod likes to use the term "make" a book rather than to write or to illustrate and I think you can see that in all of his books. The latest touchy-feely version of Dear Zoo has interactive parts on each page and is much more than just a picture book. When asked which of his books was his favourite, Rod replied that making a book is very much like having a child... you love them all for their differences and what makes them, them!

There are lots of new and exciting Dear Zoo products out to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first publication of the book and we love the look of all of them!

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Children's Book Review - When I Dream of ABC

Lara is doing pretty well at learning her alphabet. She is also taking the first steps in reading and can identify most letters and their sounds. When I Dream of ABC by Mr Henry Fisher is perfect for Lara because on each page there is a large captial letter and underneath, in clear writing, it tells you something that the letter starts with. In addition to this, there is a short piece of text that I can read to Lara to tell her more about each item.

When I Dream of ABC is beautifully illustrated. The images on each page are magical and, when Lara was sitting reading her book in the Doctor's surgery, two different people stopped her to ask for a look because they had noticed the striking pictures.

Picture the scene. Lara is sitting obediently next to me, engrossed in her book. She gets to "L is for..." which in our house traditionally stands for "L is for Lara". She reads each letter in turn, "L-e-p-r-e-c-h-a-u-n", and then she looks at me blankly. She looks at the picture of a cheerful chappy with a pot of gold and a rainbow. "L is for Goblin". Err... not quite.

Admittedly, Leprechaun is going to push the reading abilities of most 3 year olds!

Following this Lara proceeded to tell everyone in the doctor's surgery what every other letter of the alphabet stood for and was extremely proud of herself when she remembered that V is for Vampire. She couldn't wait to show the little old lady next to us the picture of N for Nurse and had to take her through the entire book looking for it.

We have had hours of entertainment from When I Dream of ABC already and as Lara gets older I expect her to be able to read much of it herself. I just hope she doesn't take all of the text too seriously or else she may actually start to believe that most queens eat too much chocolate and that Eskimos eat a lot of ice cream (she may be disappointed to find out that they mainly eat dried fish in real life).

When I Dream of ABC is published by Top That Publishing and costs around £6.99 in paperback.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Cooking with Children :: Mini Blackberry and Apple Oaty Crumbles

Yesterday I took Lara blackberry picking down the country lanes near to our house.  A child hasn't really lived until they have innocently plunged their arm into a bush of brambles and stinging nettles right up to the shoulder, have they?  Our pickings weren't that impressive but we wanted to make something from them straight away and I knew Lara wouldn't be that into a big crumble so I thought we would try making mini individual blackberry and apple crumbles to see if they were more appealing to her.


For the filling
150g blackberries (washed)
65g light brown soft sugar (we used a light muscovado)
50g butter
2 small eating apples

For the topping
100g rolled oats
80g plain flour
30g light brown soft sugar
30g granulated brown sugar such as Demerara
75g butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Core and chop the apples.  I thought peeling them would probably be a bit beyond a three year old so we left the skins on - it also helps the apple chunks to keep their shape.
  3. Melt the butter for the filling in a medium-sized pan and then add in the apples and coat them in the butter.  Put the lid on the pan and let the apples stew in their own moisture for 5 minutes.  Then add the blackberries and sugar for the filling, stir very gently and then stew for another 5 minutes.
  4. Rub the butter and flour for the topping together until it resembles breadcrumbs (actually due to the volume of butter, it'll be more like moist breadcrumbs).
  5. Stir in the oats and two types of sugar and combine well. 
  6. Place a little of the blackberry and apple mixture in the bottom of 12 cuupcake cases and top each of them with some of the crumble mixture.  Pat them down a little with your fingers.
  7. Bake on a baking tray for 15-20 minutes until golden on top and the filling is blackening around the edges.
  8. Best served with a scoop of ice-cream on top (but Lara doesn't like ice-cream so she's a spoil sport).
Mini blackberry and apple oaty crumbles

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