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

Thursday 29 November 2012

Fairy & Make-A-Wish Foundation

This Christmas Fairy are once again launching their campaign to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Make-A_Wish grant the wishes of children who are suffering from life-threatening conditions and so far, in the past 9 years, Fairy have raised over £1 million for the charity.

This year, getting involved is incredibly easy and probably won't cost you a penny. You could be a Fairy Godmother (or father!) simply by 'Liking' or 'Sharing' the Fairy facebook page For every new liker, or share, Fairy will donate 50p to the Make-A-Wish Foundation upto £40,000. There are also limited edition Fairy liquid and dishwasher tablets to look out for.

So next time you have 2 minutes to spare... pop over to facebook to like and share and make your donation. Easy.

Monday 26 November 2012

Mister Maker Watch & Make 4 DVD Review

Lara has developed somewhat of an obsession with Mr. Maker and his competitor, Art Attack! Abbey Home Media fuelled this passion by sending her a copy of the new Mister Make Watch & Make 4 DVD to review and she loved it! We watched it non-stop for about 4 days and then it dropped down to just one episode a day. Given that there are only five episodes on the DVD, we all know how to make the art and craft projects VERY well now!

The episodes of Mister Maker on the Watch & Make 4 DVD are mostly ones that I remember seeing on television but that doesn't make them any less enjoyable. Mister maker gets to work making bubble-wrap cacti, pop-up scenes, an ancient picture out of bandages and a quick one-minute lizard out of a lolly pop stick.

There are lots of ideas in here for craft projects Lara can attempt on her own and picture ideas for when she is a bit older so there is plenty of life in the DVD.

And of course, there are those pesky 'shapes' who annoy the life out of me (this along makes Lara giggle) when they jump down off the shelf and do their funny dance. Lara gets great pleasure out of guessing the picture that the shapes will make, or guessing what the brightly coloured children will make too. Even after watching the episodes so many times, she hasn't quite grasped that it isn't going to be a brand new picture every time she watches! hehe.

The best thing for me about the latest Mister Maker DVD is that it comes with a free mini make. The box comes with instructions and all of the craft materials that you need, including glue. Lara's mini make was a spotty giraffe and she had great fun making it and felt so proud afterwards. I think that with the mini-make included, this is an awesomely good value DVD.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Fisher Price Chatter Phone Review

The classic Fisher Price Chatter Phone has been on my wishlist for a long time so I was overjoyed when The Handpicked Collection sent Holly one to review.

The Fisher Price Chatter Phone was selected for the Handpicked Collection because we all had one when we were young! But that isn't the only reason why I wanted a Chatter Phone for our household - Lara and Holly's grandparents have a more recent version of the Chatter Phone and despite being battered and worn, both girls love to play with it whenever we are there.

The appeal of the Chatter Phone obviously goes much further than role play because these days I am not sure that either of my girls would recognise the shape as a phone - Lara certainly didn't know what to do with the dial!

Lara likes to hold the ear/mouthpiece up to her face and talk into it but Holly just likes to grab the receiver. Holly also likes to watch as Lara pulls the phone along by the little string - the eyes move up and down and it makes a funny chattering noise which, when Holly hears it, makes her head turn in an instant.

The classic shape (slightly square) version of the Fisher Price Chatter Phone costs £14.95 from The Handpicked Collection who have loads of gift ideas.

Hunter Kids Wellies Review

I had no idea that Hunter Wellies were available for children in such a wide range of colours. Before we tried out these original kid's Hunter Wellies I had known about the brand but didn't really know what all the fuss was about.

Simply Hike sent Lara a pair of shocking fuschia pink Hunter Wellies to try out and now I understand what all the fuss was about! These original Hunter Wellies for kids are available in gloss and matt colours, some bright, some dark but all fab! They come in children's size 7 through to adult's size 5.

The boots have a shaped sole so they aren't totally flat across the bottom. There is a proper raised heel which makes them really smart and really comfy. These are the welly of choice for royalty, after all!

I really like the buckle on the outside of each boot. I don't think they offer any adjustability on the kids boots but they do help Lara to know which boot is for which foot! There are two reflective patches on the back of each boot which makes them perfect for this time of year as they add that little bit of safety when out and about in the dark.

The Hunter kids boots are a nice high boot to stop puddles and leaves getting in and they are gorgeously tailored. The inside of the rubber boot is a nylon kit which stays nice and dry.

The hefty price tag (£35) for a pair of Hunter wellies is certainly worth it once your child's feet start slowing down their growth as these are a really great quality pair of boots that look fabulous. As you can see, they are a bit of a fashion statement as well as being totally practical.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Clothes for Christmas! I've shopped

It has become a little bit of a tradition in our house, ever since Lara was born, to splash out on a few special outfits as a Christmas present.  Of course, this year we have two girls to buy clothes for and that makes it all the more exciting.

Last week I put in a mahoosive order at Vertbaudet who have recently become my clothes supplier of choice for both of the girls.  I love their grown up yet dainty designs and muted colours which make them both look so feminine.  We are all really in to purples and greys in this house right now.

The best thing about buying the girls clothes for Christmas is that it is the only time of the year that Mr. B. actually gets involved in clothes shopping.  For some reason he actually quite enjoys choosing clothes at this time of year and no other so I embrace it and let him get really involved in the decision.  

This year Mr. B. and I set ourselves a budget of £100 for Christmas presents for each of the girls and I'll admit that we used over half of that budget for Lara on clothes and a third of it for Holly.  We think me might get away with that for Lara this year but next year when she is 4 and has started school, we suspect we may have to buy the things she asks for rather than things we thing she would like!

Interestingly, after a particularly "fun" trip to the shoe shop recently, Lara put a foot measurer on her Christmas list.  Vertbaudet actually sell foot measurers and I was going to have bought one but Mr. B. stepped in and told me that it was such a rubbish present that I wasn't allowed to buy it!

I thought I would give you a sneak preview of the clothes we have bought for Holly and Lara for Christmas. They aren't really matching but their outfits do have a similar feel about them, don't they?

Leggings are a staple in our house and right now we can't have enough long sleeved tops for either of the girls!  I also really liked this lavender grey coloured outfit for Holly.

Disclosure: I was asked to write this blog post but I bought the items myself before being asked to write the post.  This doesn't stop the blog being honest and fun to read.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Kiddy City N Move Stroller Review

As a Kiddy ambassador, when I visited Kiddy HQ in the summer as part of my epic family road trip, I was really excited to be shown the Kiddy City N Move Stroller and couldn't wait to get my hands on it.  The City N Move has now been available in the UK for a few months and here is how Holly and I have got on with it.

I shall be very honest straight away and say that I haven't enjoyed using the City N Move anywhere near as much as I enjoy using each of the different Kiddy car seats I've tried.  Saying that, there is absolutely no denying that it is by far and away the highest quality stroller that I have ever had the privilege to push - the fabric, the chassis, the handles and hood are all thick yet stylish and feel great in your hands.

Assembling the City N Move was quite easy - the wheels just clipped into place as did the bumper bar but the hood I found more tricky.  there seemed to be a lot of places that it needed fastening to the chassis or to other bits of fabric and I still don't think I've entirely got it right.

Kiddy City N Move Stroller in Hawaii Blue
Kiddy City N Move Stroller in Hawaii Blue

I really like the bumper bar as you can just flip it up to get your child out of the seat - no need to remove it.  I'm also extremely impressed by the recline on the seat - it is suitable for use from 6 months; the recline is a single clip at the back of the seat which is outstandingly easy to use, pretty much one-handed. I find that I can quickly move it back to sitting mode when Holly isn't in a sleepy mood.  The lower part of the seat also quickly flips out to provide a comfy leg rest to allow your baby's legs to lie straight rather than dangle down.

The City N Move is described as 'sporty' and 'lightweight' due to its aluminium chassis, but I don't think I agree.  Yes, I find it quite easy to manouvre and yes, it is admittedly lighter than my existing pram travel system but it isn't what I would describe as lightweight.  I actually find it very difficult to get into my car boot because it is surprisingly heavy (8.5kg compared to my old umbrella stroller's 5kg) and despite the small handle on the side, I struggle to find anywhere suitable to grip it when I am lifting.

I also don't like the folded shape when I am carrying it in the car - it is almost triangular when folded and takes up over 50% of my car boot (I have a big estate car).  My double buggy took up less space than this!  I have tried every angle and just can't find a way to get it into the car and still leave plenty of space for shopping.  This is a shame because I do actually like the way that the City N Move folds when I am storing the buggy indoors.  The City N move stands alone on its handles which is a lifesaver as I used to get so fed up of having to store my old stroller on the floor in the hall - this takes up less space indoors!  It is pretty easy to fold and unfold so no worries there.

Kiddy City N Move Stroller Folded
Kiddy City N Move Stroller Folded

The Kiddy City N Move comes with several pieces of kit that you would normally expect to have to pay extra for - a cup holder, travel system adapters (for Kiddy infant carriers but you CAN buy adapters for Britax and Maxi Cosi too), a rain cover and a thick sun hood that comes all the way down over your baby to provide protection from the sun - there is a little viewing window that you can look down on them through!

The Kiddy City N Move really is a mixed bag for me. For every feature I don't get on with (such as the under-seat storage space which I find infuriatingly difficult to store anything in), there is a different feature that I love (such as the nice high -fixed height- handlebars with bouncy soft-grip handlebars).  The Kiddy City N Move costs around £170 and is available in a good range of bright colours.

You can follow Kiddy on Facebook and Twitter for more news and competitions.

Monday 19 November 2012

Poppin Hoppies Family Game Review

We were sent a copy of the new Poppin Hoppies game to review by University Games.

Poppin Hoppies is recommended for children aged 5-10 but the box said it was suitable from 3 years upwards in terms of safety so we tried playing it with Lara. The aim of the game is to catch as many Poppin' Hoppies as you can and for each one you catch, you earn a piece of a puzzle. The winner is the first to complete the puzzle.

The Poppin Hoppies are brightly coloured spring-loaded critters whose springs pop them up at different times. If no-one catches it, the Poppin Hoppie has to be re-depressed and placed back on the board.

The game is very chaotic and involves a lot of laughter and scrambling! Lara enjoys it a lot but she hasn't quite grasped the fact you have to place the critters back on the board if no-one catches them and just goes around sweeping them all up. Us grown ups end up replacing all of the hoppies on the board so are too busy to catch any. Basically, Lara ALWAYS wins!

The board of the game folds but it wasn't able to withstand Lara's over-eager hands and it tore on the first use. Actually this doesn't make much difference to the game play though.

I thought that Poppin Hoppies was a fun game to play because of the shouting and chaos involved but I don't think it will become a classic in our house.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Sassy Baby Toys Review

How did I not know about Sassy baby products before now??? They are bright, high-contrast yet colourful, easy to grasp, full of textures and exploration points and totally perfect for babies like Holly who are starting to explore the world around them.

Sassy baby products are distributed by East Coast Nursery. Sassy make quite a phenomenal number of different baby toys and accessories for babies from birth upwards.

All of Sassy's toys are designed to try and encourage your baby to use their sense and explore touch, sound, smell and taste. Techniques that they use to do this are high contrast patterns, bright colors, symmetry, multiple textures, specific color language and sounds. Holly has been trying out a few of their products. All of their products use plastics that are safe for baby and they are incredibly durable - they FEEL good in your hands.

Sassy Flutterby Teether

I Love: The mixture of different textures on the teether and lots of bright colours that make it look as lively as a butterfly can be.
Holly Loves: The bumpy textured wing to chew on and the soft and squidgy water-filled area.

Sassy Ring Rattle

I Love: The fact that it is easy to grip and it combines colours with high contrast so is suitable for small babies whose eyesight is still developing.
Holly Loves: Shaking it about (A LOT) and bashing it against things, she likes the noise of the rings rattling against other toys.

Sassy Click Clack Keys

I Love: Watching Holly's face when she realises that SHE made the toy make a noise by pressing the buttons.
Holly Loves: Shaking it like nothing else on earth. This is holly's No. 1 favourite toy right now.

Sassy Rescue Vehicles Bath Toy Set

I Love: The little lighthouse whose light glows red when it is floating in the water - it fascinates me!
Holly Loves: Watching her big sister play aeroplanes in the bath, delivering Holly's bottle of shampoo on the hammock it carries!
Lara Loves: Squirting her baby sister with water from the little tug boat!

I am really impressed with the Sassy baby range and will be hunting out some more pieces for Holly for Christmas.


Petalina - Corolle Chouquette Toddler Doll Review

I mentioned a little while ago that Lara was going to be a doll tester for online doll boutique, Petalina. Well, a couple of weeks ago a gorgeous Corolle Chouquette Blonde toddler doll came into Lara's life and here is what she thinks of it...

When Lara first set eyes on her new doll, an unforseen level of calm descended over her. Instead of rushing to rip open the box, Lara asked me very politely, "Mummy, can I play with her?" and it left me almost speechless! Since then, I've really noticed that when Lara is playing with her Corolle doll, that she is much more well behaved than normal. Very weird, but very welcome.

Lara named her doll Rosie after one of her best friends at nursery. Rosie is very much part of the family now. Lara likes to change her nappy (clearly, although Rosie is a toddler, she isn't yet potty trained!?!) and brush her hair with the brush that came with the doll. Lara also enjoys "styling" Rosie's hair. I say this in the loosest sense of the word... it normally involves clips and hairbands shoved in at all angles in a wild mess. Lara has obviously inherited my own hair styling skills.

Rosie is a Corolle Chouquette Blonde doll who is styled slightly older than a baby. She has blinking blue eyes and a simple outfit of a lightweight vest and bloomers that is easy for Lara to take on and off. She also came with a stretchy pink headband but I don't think Lara approves of it (she won't let me put a headband in her own hair and she obviously feels the same way about her doll!)

The Corolle Chouquette Blonde doll currently costs £54.99. She has a soft fabric body that makes her flexible and comfy to carry but has shaped vinyl limbs which are ever so slightly scented to make her seem like she has that 'baby' smell. Rosie can sit unaided when Lara wants to style her hair. Rosie the doll is small enough to fit into Lara's toy pram.

Lara has clearly taken to Rosie very well because she has the great honour of being allowed to spend the night in Lara's bed - something previously reserved for her two favourite cuddly toys only.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Indian SuperMeals: Baby & Toddler Cookbook Review

Those of you who know me well won't be surprised that I literally leapt for joy when Zainab Jagot Ahmed contacted me to ask me to review her electronic cookery book - Indian SuperMeals: Baby & Toddler Cookbook. It claims to be the first ever Indian baby cook book (long overdue, methinks) and to me it is totally perfect, nothing too outlandish in terms of Indian cookery but just lots of healthy and exciting recipes for stage 1 weaning upwards right through to family meals.

One of Holly's very first ever foods was a lentil and sweet potato curry and one of Lara's was a simple tarka dal. I'm not somebody who needed convincing that introducing exciting flavours and spices to a baby from a very young age can encourage a more adventurous palette but I was surprised to read so much in Zainab's book about the health benefits of different spices and it has really encouraged me to add different spices and ingredients to all of Holly's food, not just the recipes that I have followed from this cookbook.

Indian SuperMeals: Baby & Toddler Cookbook is available exclusively electronically - you can get it for various different e-reader devices including Kindle. I downloaded a copy for Kindle on my PC. I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to recipe books. A cookbook is made for sitting on the work surface next to you and getting covered in turmeric stains. I think this book would capture more hearts if you could buy it in hard copy to sit in your bookcase alongside your Annabel Karmel equivalent!

I enjoyed reading the introduction to Zainab's book - it reminded me a lot of Annabel Karmel's Baby and Toddler cookbook in terms of its thorough, no-nonsense approach to weaning but there was also a lot of useful information that explains what supermeals are (super foods and super spices) and what the benefits of different ingredients and spices are for your baby.

But really it was the recipes that I was interested in. There are a few stage 1 weaning recipes and lots of stage 2 and 3 recipes of mashed and pureed food as well as finger foods. When it gets to stage 4, there are a good selection of family-friendly Indian recipes that you can all eat together without having to worry about salt and sugar content.

I loved the balance of savoury and sweet foods - Indian sweets are not something I have experimented with before and I was really pleased to make my first traditional grated carrot halwa for Holly (and the rest of us). Almost all of the baby foods appealed to us and it was just a case of where to start first! My very first recipe from the book was an Aubergine Bharta because it was something I never would have considered making before and looked like it would be a good lumpy texture for Holly.

I think that this Indian weaning recipes book makes a perfect addition to my ideas for nutritious, healthy and exciting baby foods for my little girl.  My only real niggle with it though is that some of the photos need to have a little more pizazz injected - they all look like baby food in a baby bowl which I know is what they are, but they don't sell the food to me; in most cases the photos aren't mouth watering enough to make me want to get up now and start cooking.

Indian SuperMeals: Baby & Toddler Cookbook is the perfect cookbook for people looking to find inspiring ideas for baby foods or for people who love Indian food themselves but are a bit wary of feeding them to their baby. It would make a great gift for new parents and you can buy it on Amazon, Waterstones or Kobo books as a gift.

You can find out more about Zainab and her cookbook at and on facebook.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Ergopouch Swaddle and Sleeping Bag Review

The ergoCocoon hybrid swaddle/sleeping bag is an ingenius hybrid of a swaddling blanket AND a sleeping bag for your baby. Holly has been trying one out for the last couple of months and is definitely loving it!

A few weeks ago I was following a conversation on facebook between a group of mummies who were wondering how to transition their baby from the tight swaddling they had used in those first precious few weeks with their newborn baby, into the relative freedom and roominess of a sleeping bag. I think a lot of parents worry that when you slowly stop swaddling your baby tight that they will feel uneasy when you lay them to sleep and it can affect their ability to sleep peacefully.

The ergoCocoon hybrid by ergoPouch is the perfect solution to this anxiety. It can be used as a tight, self-contained swaddling cocoon which holds your baby's arms tight against their body. Or, simply by unbuttoning the sleeves, it can be used as a more traditional sleeping bag with a little more room to move inside. ergoPouch sell a wonderful selection of swaddles and sleeping bags but this is the next generation - two in one!!!

Holly's ergoCocoon is a natural coloured light organic cotton (although it is available in grey, pink and blue as well). With the arm-holes fastened to make a swaddle, it is suitable from about 3 months upto 12 months but if you are happy to use it just as a sleeping bag then you can use it from birth. When we first got it, Mr. B. was worried that it was very tight already and that holly wouldn't fit into it but you see, that's the point! It's supposed to be tight to swaddle your child and offer them the comfort of closeness when they sleep.

The quality of the fabric is outstanding. This is a very luxurious item that any parent would be proud to place their baby in. At £42 it is more expensive than many baby sleeping bags but you can definitely see why.

The top half of the ergoCocoon Hybrid Swaddle is a 1 tog stretchy fabric and further down it is a 2.5 tog cotton sleeping bag. On the inside it is lined with organic bamboo terry fabric to be soft and reduce humidity. All in all, it seems to do a very good job of keeping Holly warm where she needs it, but cool enough for her to settle.

I love the flexibility that the hybrid swaddle has. Holly likes to fall asleep with her arms free but will quite often wake herself up in the night by bashing her face with her hands so with this I can gently slip her arms back in once she has fallen asleep and then fasten up the poppers.

I find the zip a bit tricky to undo and once or twice found myself having to really root around Holly's neck to unfasten the zip. Thankfully there is also a zip at the base (it is a two-way zip) so if all I want to do is to change her nappy then I can use the bottom one instead to stress her out a bit less. This is also intended to make it easier to put your baby into a car seat or pram harness without waking them but personally, I wouldn't attempt it just because it would result in bunching of the bag around the crotch strap of the car seat (and because Holly ALWAYS wakes up when I put her in the car).

You can find out more about ergoCocoon Hybrid Swaddle at

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Skoot Ride-On Suitcase Review

As you may know, last week the Mellow household had a very mellow holiday in the Canaries and Lara loved parading through the ariports on her brand new suitcase of her very own - the Skoot ride-on suitcase by Worlds Apart.

Skoot ride-on suitcase

The Skoot ride-on is part luggage, part retro scooter!  it comes in red, blue, pink and lilac and really does look like a mini motor scooter.  There is absolutely no doubt that Lara was turning heads as she shuffled through Gatwick airport from both adults and children alike.

Skoot pull-along childrens luggage

The Skoot, much like the rival Trunki, is specifically designed for children and can be used as hand-baggage.  The handle bars are easily detachable for when you want to stow it in an overhead locker on the plane.  Lara really enjoyed riding it although I would say, that at 3.5 years old and towards the lower age range for the product, Lara does seem to be a bit enormous on it and I think that by 6 years old she would be struggling to move herself around on it.

skoot scooter suitcase

Although Lara enjoyed using her Skoot, and felt very grown up with it, I have my reservations and feel that it is a little bit like style over substance.

Mummy & Daddy Like:-

  • Two secure clips to ensure the luggage won't come open or be too easily opened by your little ones when it is inappropriate!
  • Carry strap which clips on to allow you to pull your child along or carry the suitcase on your shoulder when your child gets bored/tired or when you are in a hurry.
  • The handle-bars were very easy for Lara to grip
  • It looks really groovy - I suspect it is more appealing to grown-ups than kids!
Skoot suitcase luggage

Mummy & Daddy Were Disappointed By:-

  • The internal luggage space is actually quite small.  We put in snacks, a teddy bear, headphones and games but couldn't fit in a picture book into the space inside.
  • The handle-bars allow your child to steer which sounds brilliant but is actually blimming annoying because when you are trying to pull the suitcase behind you, the handlebars have to be pointing exactly forwards or else it goes astray.
  • The suitcase gaped at the sides if it was heavily loaded and was hard to close and open.
  • There is not much growing space for Lara.
  • The clips on the strap regularly unclipped themselves and inverted the clip when you tried to carry it as a shoulder-strap.  This is particularly stressful when you have a queue of stressed passengers waiting behind you while you struggle to clip it back together.

Monday 12 November 2012

Poppy Cat Blast Off! Children's Book Review

Since we first discovered Poppy Cat, she has become a firm favourite in the mellow household - a children's TV programme that we ALL enjoy watching and a set of books that capture all of our imaginations. The latest two Poppy Cat books are designed to tie in to the TV series and are perfect 'First Storybook' style for toddlers who are just beginning to get to grips with sitting patiently and listening to a whole story.

Poppy Cat, Blast Off! is one of a pair of new books (the other is about pirate fun and is entitled All Aboard!). Blast Off! is a hard-cover board book with thick pages and is designed for children too young to read but who enjoy having a real story read to them, not just pictures with a couple of words dotted about. Blast Off! has a short story all about exploring space.

The book features all of our favourite Poppy Cat characters - Elmer, Zu zu, Mo and Owl as well as the very cheeky Egbert who this time is dressed up as a space monster. The friends explore their weightlessness, survive an asteroid storm and manage to prevent themselves floating off into space.

The colours are bright and the illustrations are fun. In our household, Holly (6 months) and Lara (3.5 years) enjoy the book just as much as one another and get two totally different things from it - visual stimulation as well as a short but engaging story.

Poppy Cat Blast Off! was the creation of Lara Jones and costs around £4.99.


Sunday 11 November 2012

Born Gifted Christmas Baby Outfit Review

Holly's first Christmas is fast approaching and, I will admit that I'm struggling a bit to come up with ideas for presents - for a second baby who already has a lot of toys and clothes to grow into, I can imaging this is a bit of struggle for many parents. But, there are LOADS of baby gift ideas over at Born Gifted, not just for Christmas but for all sorts of occasions. Or even just because...

For Lara's first Christmas, I bought her a Christmas Pudding outfit and this year, what better Christmas baby costume than this cute, cute, cute Baby Reindeer Coat that Born Gifted asked us to review?

The coat is made by a name I know and love - Gund. Gund are well known for their soft toys but, browsing through the Born Gifted website I can see that they make a lot of christmas costumes - baby santa, baby snowman, baby reindeer!

Holly's coat is made from a really soft faux fur on the outside and a gorgeous red satin on the inside. The hood has a reindeer face and antlers and there is also a tiny reindeer-shaped rattle that attaches to the pocket with a short ribbon that should keep Holly entertained. The piece de resistance is a tiny little fluffy tail at the back of the jacket. Too cute!

The jacket is a single size which makes shopping easier. It is for ages 3 months to about 12 months. Holly is 6 months old now and I think it is going to be a perfect size for her come Christmas Day.

The coat keeps Holly surprisingly warm and I think that she probably won't wear it for long inside on Christmas day but will probably wear it out and about in the run-up to Christmas and on our annual stroll through town after Christmas dinner. is LITERALLY overflowing with great ideas for baby christmas gifts such as 'my first christmas' nik naks or personalised gifts as well as personalised stockings, nativity characters, baubles, money boxes, chocolate and advent calendars. I'm also tempted by lots of their wooden toys and bath toys. Actually, I may have to buy the lot!

Fairy Tower Dollshouse Review

I had been on the lookout for a REAL dolls house for Lara. We come across a fair few plastic or 'play' dolls houses in our blogging travels but I really wanted something a little more grown up for her, something that would really stretch her imagination and role play skills and keep her interested for a year or more.

Then, as if the dollshouse fairies had been watching me, got in contact and asked if we would like to try out their Fairy Tower dollshouse which is part of their wide range of children's dolls houses. sell wooden dolls houses and thats what makes them stand out for me. This Fairy Tower looks and feels like a really good quality item that will last both Lara and Holly many years to come. Building the house was pretty painless and it now feels very strong.

We were also sent a set of three Truth Fairy dolls to live in the house. Lara likes to tuck them into their tiny beds complete with duvet and pillow sets and place them down to sleep in the drawers under the tower! We have already had a lot of use out of this dolls house and I expect there to be hours and hours more entertainment in it.

The Fairy Tower seems to capture the imagination of adults and children who come to visit. Even Lara's grandparents wanted to play! It comes with a table, two flower-shaped chairs and a small set of wooden crockery so that you can host tea parties! One of our teacups was damaged on arrival but we fixed it easily with superglue.

I love the colours on the Fairy Tower - it is painted with pink flowers and water lillies. I also like the fact that there are lots of cubby holes for your child to explore with their dolls - stairwells, arches, tunnels, drawers and towers. The flower on the top of the tower whizzes round.

The Fairy Tower costs just £32.99 and the set of three budkin dolls costs £12.99 which I think is a bargain compared to the big brand high street names. Both are made by wooden toy specialist, Le Toy Van. also sell more traditional dolls houses and accessories as well as castles, garages, arks and pirate ships!

Thursday 8 November 2012

Staying Mellow about... Central London!

Tackling central London with children (one or more) strikes fear into the hearts of many parents. In fact, if you look back through the Mellow Mummy archives you will know that the first time I attempted central London with Lara when she was a few months old I was anything other than Mellow.

More recently, I have taken both Lara and Holly into London on my own by train and I survived! In fact, several of the other people with me that day commented on how relaxed I looked given I had taken a car, a train, two buses and then a walk with a buggy and a wiggly preschooler.

Today I was following a conversation on one of the facebook groups I participate in all about someone's first ever attempt at central London with children and the fear that ensues. It inspired me to blog my top tips for how to remain cool calm and collected when it comes to visiting the city centre with young children.

Do you need your buggy? Trust me, even with a baby or a toddler, if you can possibly cope without a pushchair or pram then travel in central London will be a lot easier. Train stations and pavements in the city simply aren't cut out for pushchairs. Unless you know your route like the back of your hand (see below) then you are bound to run into a flight of stairs or a cobbled road you hadn't bargained for. I remember taking Lara across Hungerford bridge shortly after she had learned to walk; I was determined not to take the buggy that day and it took us nearly 30 minutes to cross the bridge but she managed it and it was worth it! Being buggy-free means you can use the tube without hassle too. I tend to opt for a baby carrier instead of the buggy these days.

Know your route. Like I said, London can be tricky if you don't know EXACTLY where you are going and when. It sounds over the top and very much against the Mellow mantra but if I am travelling with a baby and a preschooler then I plan every single bit of my journey in advance these days. And I'm not just talking train times and tube maps... no. When I say "know your route" I also mean, what exit are you going to take from the train station? which bus stop will you use? if you're walking, which is the best buggy or child-friendly footpath? which platform is your train likely to leave from when you return? If you miss your train or bus, when is the next train? Only experience can give you some of these things but I know now that at Waterloo, the step-free exit is between Costa and the cashpoints and that at Paddington it is by the taxi rank. These nuggets of information will make your route plain sailing! If you need help planning your route, try which I find really useful.

Eat in peace. Always take LOADS of snacks with you on the train but also try and plan your day around meals. You don't want to have to eat on the move if you can possibly help it. I often plan my day so that we arrive in London with time to eat lunch at the station before we head on to our destination or, on our return, we have time to eat before catching the train.

Avoid rush hour. I'm not very good at this one, despite my best intentions. I always plan for us to be eating an evening meal during rush hour so that we can return home on a cheaper train ticket once all the commuters have left but almost every time I get too impatient and decide to risk the rush hour. I ALWAYS regret it. Having been a commuter in and out of London on packed trains I fully understand why no-one has any sympathy for a person with a buggy and kids. It makes your life miserable, your children's lives miserable and everyone on the crowded train miserable. Breastfeeding on the floor of a commuter train with a crying 3 year old is no fun, trust me.

Train tips. Take lots of snacks (it's worth repeating this one). Make sure your phone is fully charged before you travel. Take a book for young children to read - it seems to be the best form of entertainment I've found. Know where the nearest toilet is! If you have your buggy with you, try and collapse it and put it in the storage areas as it saves a lot of space and means you don't have to keep checking to see if it is in people's way.

I hope there is something of use to someone there! Most of all, HAVE FUN!

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Leapfrog Motherboard Event

Over the past year, Lara, Holly and I have been extremely lucky to have tried and tested a number of learning and play products from children's technology specialist, Leapfrog.  I've grown to know what Leapfrog products suit my girls best depending on where they are in their "Learning path" of life and this summer the girls were invited to be part of Leapfrog's Motherboard event at the Museum of Childhood in London.

Motherboard was an exciting opportunity for Lara and her peers to get their hands on the latest and greatest Leapfrog products and to really put them to the test.  The bigwigs from Leapfrog were there to observe how the children interacted with the toys and to feed what they had learned back into the development of toys in the future.  They were also able to show the children how to get the most from the different products and to listen to our feedback as parents.

Leapfrog make learning toys suitable from birth right through to school age children.  Over the past few months we have shared our thoughts as a family on Twinkle Twinkle Little Scout, the Scout and Friends Baby Walker, Tag Junior reading system, My Own Leaptop and the two new TouchMagic products which allow preschoolers to interact through touch and sound.  Lara is now moving up to the Tag reading system and trying out the Leapster GS so stay tuned for more feedback on these preschool Leapfrog products.  Holly is also trying out a couple of gadgets such as the Learn and Groove Music player.

The Leapfrog Motherboard event was a lot of fun and I really hope I can share with you here on Mellow Mummy and over on FamilyTech some of the things I learned about Leapfrog that day.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

The Back-to-Work Jitters

I'm getting the back to work jitters. Maternity leave is coming to an end sooner than I want to admit. SIGH.

I have already notified work that I intend to return to work in January after just 8 months of my maternity leave and with every day that passes I am becoming more and more aware that January is just around the corner. The days are slipping away faster and faster. Before I know it, Holly will be in nursery 4 days a week and I will be back to the grindstone. ANOTHER SIGH.

The cash flow is running dry and without some major life changes, I don't have much choice but to return to work in the New Year. I loved my job. I guess I still do. I have been "keeping in touch" with my team and my manager and regularly refreshing my skills (which is vital in the fast-moving world of technology) but it is hard to get enthusiastic about work right now.

Every day I look at Holly and it does make me question whether going back to work is the right decision. I love her to bits and each time I go through this mental turmoil a tear nearly makes it to my eye. I give her a big kiss on the top of her head and remind myself that I went through exactly the same feelings with my now 3-and-a-half-year-old girl. I remind myself that actually, once I was back at work, it didn't feel weird at all and that my daughters will get opportunities for fun, learning and social skills that I could (or is that would?) never offer them as a SAHM.

So now I am cramming in as many activities as possible into my last couple of months of maternity leave. Baby yoga, baby music lessons, coffee mornings, walks in the park, messy play, cookery and fun days out with both of my girls to make the most of our days together. Maternity leave is certainly a very different way of life to my "normal" working days.

But, as we enjoy each day I can't help feeling that there is a great big ticking clock lurking behind me counting down to my return to work after maternity leave. GREAT BIG SIGH.

Monday 5 November 2012

Snowman 30th Anniversary Edition DVD Review

Today sees the launch of the brand new 30th Anniversary edition of The Snowman on DVD and Blu-Ray.  Yes, you read that right, 30TH ANNIVERSARY.

30 years on the short movie of The Snowman is just as magical for me as it was when I first saw it.  I recently sat down to watch it with Lara for the first time and she sat in a stunned silence with a magical, christmassy sparkle in her eyes.

There are a number of other features on the anniversary disc such as commentary from some of the movie's key names, including Aled Jones who was the voice on the original recording of "Walking in the air".  To be honest, most of the additional features aren't of interest to my 3 year old but the movie is mesmerising and magical.

Watching The Snowman really got Lara into a wintery, christmassy mood.  There were giggles and exclamations as the snowman explored inside the little boy's house.  Lara seemed to really like the flying scenes as she knew this meant it there was magic at work.

I'm so glad Lara enjoyed the snowman and I hope that watching it together as a family becomes as much of a christmas tradition as it was when I was younger.


Sunday 4 November 2012

LeapsterGS Explorer Review

I wasn't sure how Lara was going to respond to the Leapster GS Explorer because it is unlike anything she has seen me or Mr. B. use but I needn't have been worried, she took to it instantly!

The LeapsterGS is the next generation Leapster Explorer from Leapfrog and it is suitable from around 3 to 9 years old (although actually I think you could get good use of it from slightly younger than 3 and slightly older than 9).

Playing with the leapster GS
Playing with the LeapsterGS

The LeapsterGS is a hand-held games and learning system. It has a small screen of very approximately 6cm by 8cm but when I compare the screen size to the learning tablets out there, in fact this screen isn't much smaller! The console has buttons for movement and actions on the front and on the top so that your child can use whichever feels most comfortable to them.

The screen on the LeapsterGS is a touch screen and it comes with a stylus which, quite sensibly, is attached on a string so it should be harder to lose (I'm not going to rule out a 3 year old just pulling the whole thing out!). It takes 4 AA batteries which means that actually it is relatively weighty for such a small piece of kit but thankfully I have found the battery life to be pretty damn good. You can also run it from the mains if you have a suitable adapter, or from USB (I haven't actually tried this).

The USB port is really intended for you to connect the Leapster GS Explorer to your computer so that you can download and upload images and movies as well as games and apps that you can purchase through the Leapfrog Connect software. I was REALLY pleased at how intuitive and easy it was to access lara's photos that she had taken with her Leapster GS - compared to the VTech equivalent software, I find this a lot more usable.

I also really like the fact that I can log into my Leapfrog account and see what games and apps Lara has been playing, or what stories she has been reading and see how this is helping her with her basic preschool learning skills.
Choosing a game on the LeapsterGS
Choosing a game on the Leapster GS

The Leapster GS allowed us to download two free learning games when we first got it - they were, as I had suspected, of dubious quality but they were free, and in fact Lara seems to very much enjoy one of the maths apps we downloaded. I also invested in a download card (you can get a £15 card for less than a tenner on amazon!) and bought Lara three branded downloads - A Finding Nemo story book, Umi Zoomi maths and shapes game and a creativity app which allows her to draw and colour pictures then save them and send them via email or facebook when we connect her console to the computer. You can store upto 2GB of data and apps on the console and you can also buy additional games cartridges.

I'm happy with the quality of the paid-for downloads - most of them feature well-known TV or movie characters or the Leapfrog characters. I would say though that at £5 upwards, you don't get a lot for your money compared to iTunes apps.

Lara has gained a lot of independence since she first started playing on her LeapsterGS. She will quite happily sit with a pair of headphones plugged in and challenge herself to complete a game. She also quite likes taking silly photos of us!

The LeapsterGS has nearly all of the features that the Leappad has - motion sensitive games, a built in camera and microphone and access to a HUUUUUuuuge array of downloadable apps. It is slightly more compact than the leappad so I think it is ideal for taking with you when travelling. We are planning on taking ours on holiday with us as it barely takes up any space.

leapster gs explorer
LeapsterGS Explorer

My only disappointments with the LeapsterGS were:-
* The battery covers are bliming hard to remove. It took two grown ups quite a lot of effort to manage to remove them. I suppose that's probably a good thing though as you don't want your children to be able to easily access them.
* The LeapsterGS Explorer didn't come with many apps installed on it - I particularly expected some sort of creativity/colouring/drawing app to come as standard, or a short story book. It does come with a 'pet' app which allows your child to create virtual pets and earn toys and accessories for it but this is a little beyond Lara right now.


Kozi Kidz Outdoor Clothing from Costwold Outdoor

Doesn't Lara look fabulous?  I am totally loving her look in this new rainbow-stiped Kozi Kidz Fleece-Lined Unisex Rainjacket.

Cotswold Outdoor have recently started stocking the KoziKidz range of outdoor clothing and this jacket it exactly what Kozi Kidz is all about. Bright, hard-wearing, comfortable and 100% waterproof - there is no way water is getting into this!

Lara's Varberg Fleece-Lined Rain Jacket is just one of the range of Kozi Kidz products that Cotswold Outdoor are now stocking for children this autumn and winter.

As a rain jacket it does more than I expect of it - the inside is a gorgeously soft and thick fleece which means that it keeps her very warm, not just dry. The sleeves and hemline are elasticated which means that they hold tight against the wrists and body to stop rain coming in that way. There is both a zip, and press studs on a storm flap which keeps the jacket closed and dry.

The outside fabric is bright and thick and repels water like you wouldn't believe. unlike some flimsy rain coats, this one is definitely worth of the pre-school challenge. I also like the fact that there are small reflective areas on the arms which help her become a little more visible on these dark nights.

The hood is detachable which slightly worries me because when it is hanging on a peg at preschool, it is liable to get pulled off but so far it has withstood that challenge too. The hood itself has a lovely deep peak which overhangs the face to keep rain off but the hood could benefit from a bit of elastication because it is a bit big for Lara and tends to slip down.

The Kozi Kids Varberg Fleece-Lined jacket is available from Cotswold Outdoor for £35 and is available in sizes from 18 months right up to 6 years. If you order online you can also get free delivery on all orders over £30.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Sponsored Video::Win £1000 With Master Moves Mickey!

Last month my daughter, Lara, got the chance to show Master Moves Mickey her own cool dance moves! Master Moves Mickey (aka M3) is a phenomenal new breakdancing toy who gets a "wow" or an "awesome" every time a new guest experiences his hippin' and hoppin' dance moves. In fact, he does leave some people gawping when he dances on his hands.

Master Moves Mickey by Fisher Price can perform 15 different dance moves (and teach you how to do them!) and has 8 very funky music tracks. He twirls and jiggles, bounces and flips around your house and is suitable for children from 2 years upwards.

We have a full review of Master Moves Mickey over on Family Tech if you fancy finding out more about him but in the meantime, I have news of a fab new competition to celebrate the launch of the Fisher Price Master Moves Mickey!

Can you spot Lara and Holly in this video? Whenever any of us are feeling a bit grumpy, I always lift out Mickey and press his nose to start his actions - there is no way you can remain down when he is bopping around the living room!

There is a £1000 cash prize along with a bundle of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse goodies on offer as well as runners up prize of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse toys. To enter, you have to upload a video to youtube of your children bustin' their moves like Mickey and then submit the link to the video on before the 30th of December.

All of the accepted entries will be put into a youtube gallery.

This post was sponsored by Mattel.


Friday 2 November 2012

Tips for Choosing Christmas Presents, an Interview with Leapfrog

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Dr. Jody Sherman Levos, a Child Development Expert from Leapfrog toys in the USA.  I asked Jody a number of questions about how to choose the right gift for your baby, toddler, preschooler or school age children this Christmas, including a couple of questions on behalf of Leapfrog UK facebook fans.

Watch the video to find out what nuggets of wisdom Dr. Sherman Levos had to offer.

I'd also like to take this time to congratulate the winners of the Leapfrog competition this week who were :- Sue Wilshee, Sarah M and Tiffany O'Connell.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Cooking with Children :: Chicken Soup for the Soul

There is nothing quite like a steaming bowl of soup to make you feel better when a cold is getting you down. As a brand ambassador for Sterimar, I'm big on natural cold remedies ; Chicken Soup may be a clich̩ when it comes to natural cold remedies but trust me, it works! The warmth of a bowl of soup helps to raise your body temperature and the calories are just what your body needs when trying to fight off a virus Рsoup is easy to make and even easier to eat when you your body feels tired and unwell.

This recipe for Chicken Soup is one that I recently cooked with my 3 year old girl (we sort of made it up as we went along). I have filled the freezer up with single-portion servings of the soup so that if (or should that be when) one of us comes down with a cold we can just defrost a portion and eat it to help perk us up on a wintery day.

To make it you will need a whole chicken carcass – my advice would be to have a nice family roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings and then save the carcass for use the next day to make a batch of this warming soup. Making the soup well in advance and then freezing it in single portions means that it will be ready and waiting for you when you most need it.

A whole chicken carcass
Around 2.5 - 3 pints of cold water
2 onions
2 sticks of celery
2 large carrots
2 bay leaves
1 medium potato
1 tablespoon plain flour
50g butter or margarine
Ground black pepper

  1. Pick all of the remaining meat pieces from the carcass and break into shreds – you will need this meat later so put it in the fridge.
  2. To make the stock, break the carcass and place it, the skin, bones and any gravy you might have left over from your roast dinner into a big saucepan and top up with the cold water until it covers the bones.
  3. Cut one of the onions in half and place in the saucepan. There is no need to peel the onion, just make sure that the skin is clean and plonk the whole thing in.
  4. Cut one of the celery sticks in half and place in the saucepan.
  5. Cut one of the carrots into 1-inch chunks and place in the saucepan. There is no need to peel the carrot, just make sure that the skin is clean before you cut it into chunks.
  6. Place the two bay leaves in the saucepan and then bring the contents to the boil.
  7. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours until the volume of water has halved. If the water level goes down too far before the two hours has passed, top it up with some boiling water from a kettle and turn the heat down a little bit.
  8. Once the stock is made, turn the heat off and allow it to cool for at least half an hour. Then place a sieve above a large bowl or another large saucepan and strain the stock through the sieve. You can leave the bones and vegetables in the seive to drip so that you get every last drop of chicken stock in your bowl. Allow the stock to cool and then place it in the fridge to cool further.

  1. To make the soup you will need 2 pints of the stock. Skim the fat from the top of the stock before you use it.
  2. Roughly chop the other onion, the other carrot and the other celery stick.
  3. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat until melted. Add the carrot, onion and celery and fry gently until very lightly browned and softened. Then add the reserved chicken shreds and fry for a further 2 minutes. Now add the plain flour and fry for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add some ground black pepper and then 2 pints of your home-made chicken stock.
  5. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 10-15 minutes until all of the vegetables are soft.
  6. Pour the soup into single-serving plastic containers with lids and allow to cool fully before freezing. The soup will keep for 2 or 3 months in the freezer if the containers are well sealed.
  7. To reheat the soup, defrost fully (either overnight in the fridge or in the microwave) and then heat until piping hot all the way through.

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