Mellow Mummy: July 2013 : Taking life as it comes...

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Neil the Seal by TOMY

Meet Neil the Seal!

Neil is part of the Play2Learn range from TOMY which are all toys which are designed for toddlers to encourage them to play while learning about the world around them.

Neil is a VERY clever little seal who, as you push him along, will pick up his ball from the floor... toss it up in the air... and then spin it on his nose. Genius! Even though Neil has been with us for a few weeks, we all still stop and stare in wonder at him every time he does this - even the grown ups. Lara, at 4 years old, is the most fascinated by Neil because she has already formed opinions about what is or isn't normal about the world. Holly on the other hand seems to think that this is quite normal but it does make her giggle every time.

I like this toy because it encourages walking. The handles are at a great height for Holly right now (she is 15 months) and it is suitably challenging for her to direct Neil to pick up the ball - not so hard that she loses interest, but hard enough that she has to think and try a little to catch the ball. The brightly coloured ball itself is actually quite fun for Holly and myself to play with because it is a nice size to roll to one another and it rattles slightly as it rolls.

I think it is great to see a fun and engaging kids toy which doesn't make noises and doesn't require batteries! My gut feeling is that the entertainment value of Neil the Seal catching his ball and spinning it on his nose will reduce a little as time wears on and as Holly becomes more mobile herself but so far, he still seems to be offering entertainment. For this reason, I think it would make a really ideal toy for a nursery or play group where lots of children would get short bursts of fun from it.

Neil the Seal costs around £20 which I think is reasonable value for money as long as you get good usage from it.

Monday 29 July 2013

TLC Baby Nasal Wipes and Baby Eye Wipes Review

I'm quite picky about when I will or won't use baby wipes of any sort - as a mum who tries to keep up an even-slightly-green approach to life, baby wipes are a bit of a conundrum to me and I would generally rather avoid using them unless necessary but when I heard about TLC baby wipes, they immediately struck a chord with me so I decided to try them out.

TLC make Baby Eye Care Wipes which are individually packaged so that they remain sterilized.  They are designed for wiping away the goo that collects in your baby's eyes as they nap, or if they have a cold.  They can also be used for wiping away dirt if it gets in their eyes.  They have been specifically tested for use on eyes and they contain chamomile extract to soothe the eye.  They have no artificial fragrances or colours in them but I wouldn't necessarily describe them as all natural as there are other ingredients common to baby wipes.

The reason why they particularly appealed is that I very clearly remember the first week of Lara's life when she had gunky eyes and, as a new mum, I had no idea whether I should rub them or not.  A piece of tissue paper or a baby wipe seemed too harsh to rub on her tiny soft eyelids and I wasn't sure whether water would be effective at cleaning them or whether I should be using something else.  There is something quite comforting about knowing that a product has been specifically tested for the purpose you intend it.  I think that with experience I am probably able to make my own judgements of what to use on the girl's eyes and when but I know very well that eyes are not an area of the body you want to risk with infection or irritation.

This week we have had to use the TLC Baby Eye Care wipes on Holly's eye.  Holly fell from a piece of furniture (she has learned to climb!) and has a very close scrape millimetres away from her eyeball.  The cut healed overnight but the crusty blood and tears had formed a gunky crust over her eyelid so we needed to clean her whole eye area and water just wasn't up to the job.  The TLC wipes did a great job at cleaning her eye and we found them to be very soft so we didn't feel too guilty about rubbing.  Holly didn't find them irritating on the eye.  I think these wipes are useful and comforting but I would suggest they are a luxury rather than a necessity.

TLC also make these Nasal Care moist wipes which are designed for wiping stuffy little noses when they have a cold.  Once again, this is something I've always struggled with as a parent because repeatedly wiping a little nose with a tissue or indeed a wet flannel seems to greatly irritate the very sensitive skin around the base of the nose.  I think the addition of a little menthol is a clever touch (although they may need to be a little stronger to combat some of the stuffy noses we've seen in the Mellow household this past year) and I can see that the addition of Aloe Vera, Chamomile and Vitamin E would help with moisturising the sore nose area and I know from experience that, when your baby is really suffering with a cold, you will look to try any secret you can find to help ease their symptoms.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Natures Purest- Organic, Natural Cotton Baby Gifts

Most of my favourite clothes and gifts for both Lara and Holly when they were babies were always the most simple, natural items.  Natures Purest asked us to review some of their beautiful organically grown, natural cotton baby gifts and we weren't disappointed.

While I love to choose organic and natural clothing, bedding and blankets for my girls, I will admit that the first time I visited the Natures Purest website, I was a little taken aback by the prices.  However, as soon as I received the items, I totally understood why Natures Purest consistently win awards for their new baby gifts and that the quality and origin of their products justifies the costs.

I think my favourite items from the range are all clothing (there are some beautiful natural cotton dresses on the website.  The cute baby booties are stretchy and soft and they come presented in a recycled cardboard box with a heart-shaped aperture which they recommend turning into a photo-keepsake box after use.

This gorgeous stretchy cable knit blanket also is beautifully presented to make a lovely gift and yet it is totally practical.  I love the simplicity and the fact that as a real knit, it is warm yet breathable so it is perfect for a newborn.  Actually, i quite fancy one for myself.

Holly has been very taken with this Natures Natalie Ragdoll.  At £25 she would make a very special gift for any little girl.  Natures Natalie is suitable from birth and she fits right in with Holly's nursery.  Holly likes to snuggle her soft velour face and arms whereas her older sister enjoys taking her cardigan and dress on and off!  Natalie gets a lot of attention in our house - she is pushed in the pram, fed food and offered milk!

One of the most popular products on the Natures Purest site is this ballerina bunny which is made from a really light coloured fabric and looks almost angelic!  I'm saving this for a very special niece due to make their appearance in 2014 as I think she will make a fabulous natural and organic newborn gift.

Do take a look at Natures Purest - their baby gifts are absolutely stunning.  All natural fabrics, natural colours and with quality in every single detail.

Friday 26 July 2013

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Love to Play Puppy Review

Laugh & Learn Love to Play Puppy is an interactive soft toy with a happy smiling face and soft floppy ears. This puppy is very recognisable to Holly who has seen and played with the Fisher-Price learning apps since she was very small so it was lovely to see her recognition when she first met her new puppy toy.

The Laugh & Learn Love to Play Puppy by Fisher-Price is part of the Laugh and Learn range which is suitable for toddlers. This toy is designed for babies from 6 months upto about 3 years old. At first I thought the upper age guidance was a bit optimistic but in fact Lara does still quite enjoy playing with him; partly because of the challenge of reading the words on his body such as "Tummy", "Foot" and "Hand" but also because she too recognises the character so he feels familiar.

There are buttons on each hand, on his tummy and in his ear. Each button is really nice and chunky so Holly had no problem finding them. The hands have different colours to encourage colour recognition and some of the puppy's words and phrases encourage this further. You can choose to play with the puppy in learning mode or music mode.

In learning mode the buttons cause the puppy to talk about the colours and body parts. In music mode the puppy sings songs and plays games. All of the songs are well known ones such as Incy Wincy or Pat-A-Cake and they are sung in a really fun (British) voice.

I think because of the words and body parts, the learning appeal of the Love to Play Puppy is greater than equivalents we have tried but the one thing I think it is missing is a little bit of quiet time - some slightly more chilled music for a child who simply won't part with their toy but really should be going to sleep!

Thursday 25 July 2013

My first foray into the daunting world of school clothes! #MatalanSummer

In two months Lara starts school.  For both of us this is a scary yet exciting time.  I think, after the first bumpy weeks, Lara will love school and her settling in sessions have seemed promising.  But with the new routine comes a new wardrobe... Schoolwear from Matalan!

Lara's school doesn't have a uniform.  When we first started looking at schools, I found this unsettling but the idea has grown on me. One of the founding principles of the school is that children are encouraged from a very young age to assert their independence, celebrate their differences and learn to make sensible decisions. However, having just turned 4, I'm not yet totally comfortable with Lara choosing her own clothes for school... I just don't think that a long flowing Princess Merida dress was quite what the school were thinking of.  And so, like around 60% of parents of the infant school children, I have decided that for these early years of primary school I will send Lara to school in something approximating a casual school uniform.

Because there is no uniform guide to follow, I more or less had free range to choose a wardrobe of school clothes for Lara.  Matalan asked us to take a look at their Back to School clothing range and choose some pieces to try out.  I chose Lara a good mix of plain coloured trousers, skirts and pinafores with some bright plain coloured polo shirts.

These school polo shirts have a gorgeous shape which makes them that little bit more feminine than normal. When they are paired with a plain dress or skirt they can look as smart or as casual as you want them to - they are a bargain from Matalan at just £4 for 2 t shirts!  I found all of the Matalan schoolwear sizes to come up a little small; I know Lara is very tall for her age but she did find it a little bit of a struggle to get into the trousers, dress and t-shirts even though they were all either age 5 or age 4-5; I think in future I would order a larger size because the trousers and skirt have elasticated waistbands which can be brought in.

I liked the fact that the Matalan school range featured a range of colours - grey, black and navy - and many of Lara's items of clothing have a small amount of embroidery on them to make them stand out, little butterflies in the corners.

Lara's complete school wardrobe including underwear cost just £50 at Matalan... Two pairs of trousers, a skirt, two pinafore dresses, two cardigans, 4 polo shirts, ankle socks and knickers!!! I think that any of her items could be paired with some more casual leggings or her favourite t shirt when she fancies something a bit different.  One of the key benefits to choosing to dress Lara in official school clothes is cost... these days a wardrobe of generic school clothes that you don't mind risking against the daily trials of a 4 year old is considerably cheaper than a wardrobe of 'other' clothes.

Lara is very excited about starting school and I think her new selection of outfits has added to the excitement... Everything is a brand new experience for her right now.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Michelin I-Spy Spotter Guides - Summer Holiday Fun!

We seem to have done an awful lot of traveling with Lara and Holly in the last year or so.  Time spent in the car with children... it can be trying!  On our recent trip to France we must have spent about 30 hours in the car together; that's a lot of games of I-Spy.  While we were away, Mr. B and I were reminiscing about spotter guides such as the Michelin I-Spy guides that we used to take on holiday as children and then Michelin contacted us to see if we would like to try out some of their current range of books for our forthcoming trip to Cornwall.

The Michelin I-Spy guides are designed for both children and adults.  Each book contains upto 200 photos of places, things or people to spot on your travels.  The topics of the books are really varied from "I -Spy in the aiport" to "I-Spy Dinosaurs".  There are books to cover different aspects of nature, of technology or different parts of the UK.

Each item from the book that you spot earns your child points, you have to record the date that you spotted it and you can choose to add a small note.  The harder to find things score more points.  Once you have earned 1000 points you can write for, or apply online for a spotter's certificate to celebrate your hard work!

To me, the beauty of the I-Spy books is not just that they will keep Lara busy on our next long road trip and holiday away from home.  I'm also looking forward to her challenging herself to find out more about the world around her; the books will encourage Lara to stop and think about the places we visit on our holiday and the natural world around her.  In "I-Spy by the water" there are a number of things that I expect Lara to be able to spot in Cornwall and the fact that each item has both a photo as well as a description means that she can spot them even though she can't yet read.

Lara was also the lucky recipient of an I-Spy Out and About Card set which is a shiny box full of laminated spotting cards.  The set comprises 70 cards which give you a taste of lots of different spotting themes - ours included vehicles, road-signs, nature, trees, birds and a whole lot more!  The box set of cards comes with a spotters notebook so that older children can make notes about the things they have seen and where they saw them.  I think this set is a brilliant thing to take on a holiday as it can be used while traveling and while away.  Lara is EXTREMELY excited about starting her spotting journey and has already been through the set to let me know which things she has seen before.  Holly, meanwhile, just enjoys putting the cards in and out of the box!

Each Michelin I-Spy book costs around £2.50 (a bargain!) and the box set costs around £8.99.

Monday 22 July 2013

Kixi Razor Mixi Scooter Review

I had been beginning to think that Lara was approaching readiness for a 'big girl's' scooter and so the timing of the arrival of the KIXI Razor Mixi Scooter from Flair was perfect. At 4 years old, Lara has been scooting (or scooterling as I call it) for a couple of years and is phenomenally confident when on a three-wheeled scooter and I had imagined that, within the next year, she may well be ready to move up to a two-wheeled scooter, something that seems as significant in a child's life these days as the day they learn to ride a bike without stabilisers!

KIXI Mixi Razor Scooter From The Front

The Mixi scooter is part of the KIXI Razor range of scooters and the reason why it is such a perfect product for Lara is that it is specifically designed to help children transition from a three-wheeled scooter to a two-wheeled scooter.

The KIXI Mixi arrived in three-wheeled mode. We had to assemble the upright bar (which was easy, and all the tools were supplied in the pack) but soon enough Lara was scooting off into the distance. The scooter seems pretty stable, is a good height for Lara and the wheels are made from a firm plastic compound. Lara immediately found it easy to steer. The most noticeable feature for us was the textured panel on the scooter base which meant that Lara was able to grip the scooter with her feet - something she had struggled with on her first trainer scooter.

KIXI Mixi Razor Scooter From The Side

Within a couple of days of using the Mixi scooter, Lara had gathered from our conversation that it was possible to convert the scooter into a two-wheel alternative - and then she wanted to try it! The instructions recommended that a child might have gained the balance needed to use two wheels by the time they are 5 years old and having just turned 4, I didn't think Lara was likely to be able to manage it. However, the beauty of the KIXI Mixi scooter is that we could try it! Mr. B. adjusted the scooter to two wheels using the spanner etc. supplied and Lara tried the scooter in two wheel mode. It wasn't a great success and she asked for us to put it back again. So we did!

KIXI Mixi Razor Scooter Close Up

Easy. It is such a simple idea that makes this scooter one which will last us quite some time and will see Lara through the next couple of years as she develops her balance and confidence.

The KIXI Mixi scooter costs around £44.99 and is available in both pink and green from, among other places, Amazon.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Britax MAX-FIX Rear-Facing Group 0+ - Group 1 Car Seat Review

In my role as ParentWheels car seat guru I have been frequently asked for recommendations of rear-facing Group 1 car seats for toddlers and preschoolers upto 4 years old but until now I had not tried one myself. Britax asked me to test-drive the Britax MAX-FIX which is a rear-facing car seat for children from birth upto about 4 years old.

Britax MAX-FIX rear-facing car seat installed

Rear-facing car seats are proven to offer greater safety benefits in the event of a crash and in some parts of Europe they are mandated for children upto 4 years old. In the UK there are currently campaigns to lobby the government to make it law here too. Having tried the MAX-FIX I am still torn. My heart says "yes" because I've seen the stats and it feels safer to have Holly facing backwards in the car. But... my head says "no" because I struggle to see how I could keep a growing toddler in a rear facing car seat for very long.

There is no denying that the Britax MAX-FIX is easy to install.  I've seen photos and scare stories of rear-facing seats which require levers and pulley systems and bring people to tears when trying to fit some of the competing rear-facing seats.  But the MAX-FIX was almost as simple as any other Britax car seat I've tried.  The seat fastens to your car using ISOFIX mountings and is anchored into place against the floor using an extending pole.

Britax MAX-FIX rear-facing car seat viewed from the boot

The seat looks very similar in style to the Britax VERSAFIX which is the seat we use in our main car and I'm really happy with the style, the level of comfort and ease of using the straps - there is a small soft insert to provide added comfort if the seat is being used by a newborn.  The MAX-FIX is nice and deep so Holly has plenty of wiggle room for her legs.  The front of the seat (the part that rests against the car) has a rebound bar which helps to prevent the car seat from rotating in the event of an impact.

Britax MAX-FIX rear-facing car seat in the car

Even at 14 months old, Holly's feet rest against the rebound bar and the main car seat.  The 5 point harness in the MAX-FIX has a good level of adjustment over the shoulders so I will be able to sit Holly up straighter in the seat as she grows taller but I am really worried that her legs will not have any space to grow into.  Take for instance her older sister Lara.  Lara has only just turned 4 so theoretically she 'could' have still been in a Group 1 car seat until recently.  Lara's legs would be up by her armpits if she had to sit in a rear-facing seat as there is nowhere for her long legs to dangle!  So in general my feeling is that a rear-facing Group 1 seat is probably most appropriate for the younger end of the age range... it is almost like there needs to be a Group 1- which is for children upto about 2 years.

Britax MAX-FIX rear-facing car seat close up

On the Britax website you can check which cars (and which seats within the car) have been approved for use of their seats and our car is on the recommended list but I think it must have been tested with adults who have very short legs!  In order to fit the MAX-FIX in the rear of the car, the passenger or drivers seat has to be pushed right forwards; as a passenger I have to sit with my knees pressed against the dashboard.

So for me I think the Britax MAX-FIX will be reserved for our soon-to-be second car where there will rarely be a passenger.

The Britax MAX-FIX has all of the features of a Britax car seat that I like - high quality covers and straps.  The covers are easily removable for washing.  The strap features a simple mechanism which you pull to tighten, then press a button to release.  The straps can be held out of the way by placing them into the little press-in sections on each side of the chair... this is good for when your toddler is in a very wiggly mood.  There is a good level of protection around the head and sides which would come into its own in the event of a side-impact.  Like other Britax seats we have tried, the ISOFIX fitting can be hard because the clamps  retract as you push them against the seat - there is certainly an art to it.

The MAX-FIX by Britax retails at £275. For more information and details of where to buy you can visit or call 01264 386 034. Follow Britax at or

Friday 19 July 2013

Britax B-Motion 4 Pushchair Review

The day that I had to pack our Britax double buggy away (because Lara grew out of it) was a sad day!  So i was REALLY excited to be asked to review the new Britax B-Motion 4 pushchair which is described as Britax's lightweight pushchair with air-filled rubber wheels.

I've recently got on my high horse about pushchairs that claim to be compact so the VERY first thing I did when the B-Motion 4 arrived was test it out in the back of our car and I'm happy to say that it is by far the most compact non-umbrella pushchair I've tried.  The folding system is brilliant - to unfold you simply undo the clip and then woosh, it pops open in one swift movement.  To fold, you have to release a catch and then pull hard of a single strap on the seat base and woosh, it folds in half.

But despite being compact when  folded, the Britax B-Motion is not a small pushchair by anyone's standards.  It is huuuge and really spacious.  Holly looks tiny in it!  I can see that the B-Motion 4 really can be suitable upto 4 years old as Lara can still sit in it (which she only does when she is being a minx).  I think I would probably contest Britax's claim that the B-Motion 4 is 'lightweight'... OK, at 10.5kg it probably is lighter than many others on the market, and certainly lighter than many travel systems... but to me it does feel chunky and bulky (and relatively heavy when I lift it into the car boot).

I like the adjustable handlebar which offers enough height for me, but is easily folded down for my slightly shorter husband.  I also think the fastening is one of the best I've tried in terms of ease of use and ease of adjustment (funny... because I remember the Britax B-Agile Double being much harder to adjust!)

The Britax B-Motion 4 is one of the only pushchairs in the Britax range that has air-filled tyres - the benefit here being that it makes the buggy suitable for lots of different terrains and I've certainly put it to the test both walking around town and also out in the woods... it took me a while to work out that I needed to lock the wheels in place if I was planning a bumpy ride but once I worked that out, it became MUCH easier to travel even over roots and branches while out for a walk in our local woodlands.  When the wheels are unlocked and I'm pushing the B-Motion 4 through town, I find it (as I did our double Britax buggy) extremely manoeuvrable for such a large buggy.

The B-Motion 4 is suitable from birth because the seat is reclinable all the way to a lie-flat position.  I find the recline really easy to use and great for when I'm trying to get Holly to sleep.  I also like the large sun hood but wish there wasn't a mesh part in the middle as this limits the protection I can give Holly from the sun tright now.  The B-Motion 4 can be used as a travel system for Britax BABY-SAFE infant carriers too with clip-in adapters (which I found tricky the first time I used them but once I knew the mechanism, I found it easy to replace them with the bumper bar).

The basket underneath the B-Motion 4 is reasonably sized and reasonably accessible (not the best but certainly not the worst in recent experience!)

To me, the nice compact fold and ease of fold makes the B-Motion 4 the most appealing general use pushchair that I've tried with Holly.  The Britax B-Motion 4 is available exclusively at Kiddicare for around £249.99.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Debenhams Kids Clothes - bluezoo and Junior J by Jasper Conran

I'm always on the lookout for fun, practical but great-looking clothes for the girls and right now there are some awesome kids' clothes both online and in the high street.  Debenhams offered the girls an outfit each to find out a bit more about some of the kids fashion brands they stock - BlueZoo and Junior J by Jasper Conran.

These complete outfits cost just £40 each (and in fact they each came with an extra t-shirt too!) and I REALLY think that I've managed to put together an outfit for that budget which balances fun yet stylish kids' clothes with our every day need for practical and hard-wearing outfits.

Let me talk you through the outfits...

The t-shirts are part of a set of two girls petal t-shirts by bluezoo who specialise in fun casual clothes which are really good quality.  Lara infact owns a pair of bluezoo trousers that we bought 16 months ago and have been worn week-in-week out from the day we bought them (they were absolutely massive on her then... now they are teenie weenie on her but she still loves them and will wear those bluezoo trousers until the day she can no longer pysically squeeze into them!)  These petal t-shirt sets are currently in the sale for between £5.50 - £6.50 and are sold for ages 1-6 years.

The jeans are TOTALLY perfect.  Lara often refuses to wear jeans because, at her age, they often have a fixed waistband with a button and she finds this uncomfortable.  These bluezoo cat ribbed waist jeans have a softly ribbed elasticated waistband so they are comfy for Lara and practical for taking on and off Holly.  I think the cat detail on the front pockets is great fun!  These bluezoo jeans are currently on offer for £11.20-£12.80 and are sold for children aged 1-6 years.

And the stunning designer red cable knitted cardigan really turns an otherwise casual outfit into something a little bit special.  The designer kids cardigan is from the Junior J brand by designer Jasper Conran and it has a cute little skirt around the base; the knit is quite light weight so will be good to wear in the autumn to finish of an outfit like this.  At between £12.60 and £14 in the sale, I think it is a great value knit that looks really beautiful.  Once again, the Junior J knitted cardigan is sold for ages 1 to 6.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Ben and Holly Magical Castle Playset and Sparkly Domino Set Review

Lara and my own little princess Holly are both keen fans of TV's Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom and were excited when they were told that there was a new range of magical, sparkly toys to accompany the programme and that they would get a chance to try them out!

Ben & Holly Magical Castle Playset

This is the Ben & Holly Magical Castle Playset from Golden Bear toys which is a comprehensive toy.  The iconic castle opens up to display every room of the house with flights of stairs that the toy fairies can climb up.  But everyone knows that fairies don't need to climb stairs and in fact, with the clever little 'magic' (magnetic) wand, the fairies appear to fly.  This magical addition is really what makes this toy because my girls are totally fascinated by the magic wand.  There are also clever little nick nacks throughout the castle which cause the fairies to pop out (of the bath for instance!)

The set comes with several fairy figures included so that your child can re-enact their favourite magical scenes from the show.  I think this playset is clever and great for a slightly older Ben and Holly viewer (Lara at 4 is probably a perfect age for it) but I was a bit disappointed with a couple of features.  The stickers that decorate the castle had to be applied manually and I know that this means the price of the product can be reduced but it took Mr. B. nearly an hour to apply them all!  And in hot weather, the stickers struggled to stay stuck.  I also found the opening of the castle wall to be tricky... Lara certainly can't manage it herself.

You can buy some of the magical Flying Fairies on their own (without the playset) with a wand to activate them.

Ben & Holly Wooden Sparkly Domino Set

A much bigger hit in our house across the whole family was this Ben and Holly Sparkly Domino Set.  We are always on the lookout for simple family games that our girls can join in with and this picture dominos set is perfect as it doesn't require your child to yet be able to read or to write.  Dominoes encourages simple matching and counting skills.

I'll admit that Holly is a touch too young to play sensibly (and is well below the recommended age for this product) but the sparkly decorative wooden tiles are great for her to hold (when supervised) and explore.  For Lara, she has enjoyed playing Dominoes in the evenings with us and it is great to see her engaged with an activity like this... it is also cool to see her tidy up afterwards and put them all back into their cute wooden box.

My Princess Holly playing with the Ben & Holly Wooden Sparkly Domino Set


Tuesday 16 July 2013

Stain Art

This weekend Lara created her own piece of stain art - a masterpiece made from household stains inspired by artist, Dermot Flynn who made me this amazing t-shirt depicting one of my favourite photos of Lara and Holly snuggling one another.

Dermot painted his picture onto my t-shirt using household products that commonly cause stains in clothes.  Lara painted her work of art using ink, green paint and homemade curry powder!

Lara had great fun helping me raid the cupboard for potential artists materials.  We found chocolate buttons, turmeric powder and red wine which would all have worked well.  But Holly wouldn't let us squash up any of the strawberries from the garden to turn into paint!  After she had painted her flower, Lara used a round sponge to splodge ink around the print to give it her own personal touch!

Interestingly enough, stains aren't just for art's sake in our household!  Both girls come home from nursery each day having got through at least two outfits and, because both Holly and Lara enjoy helping us in the kitchen and in the garden, stains are a common feature on all of their clothes - baby led weaning doesn't do much to reduce the stains at dinner time either!

NEW Persil Small and Mighty has an innovative Triple Cleaning System formulation and Stain Eraser Ball that can also be used as a pre-treater so it is designed to be up to the challenge of the types of stains we experience regularly on the girls clothes.  I'm planning on keeping these two t-shirts as works of art but the painting overall Lara wore that day made it through the wash unscathed!  We only use a biological detergent in our house when we have stains to shift (in order to try and prevent Lara's ezcema) so when we do use a bio detergent such as Persil Small and Mighty we want to know that it will do the job, first time.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Dressed like sisters

My two cheeky girls are beginning to get along like a house on fire.  Now that Holly is fully mobile and can keep up with her older sister, the two of them are starting to play together.  There are occasionally arguments (and I know I have another 15-20 years of that to look forward to) but in general the two of them now seem to be on the same wavelength and when you look at them, you know instantly that they are sisters and that whatever plan one of them is plotting, the other one is also party to.

Lara and Holly were offered an item to review from the Tesco F&F range and I knew instantly that they needed another set of matching outfits now that they are partners in crime.

I chose this deep pink and black F&F Rose Print Dress which at between £16 and £18 is one of their top of the range children's items.  The dress is fully lined with a cute integrated net petticoat which gives it some volume; it also comes with a patent pink belt which contrasts beautifully with the dark colour of the dress.  The dress is available online from Tesco F&F girls clothes range in sizes from x months to y years.  I love this dress because it is wonderfully feminine without being pastel coloured... Just what I look for in clothes for the girls.

While I was browsing the F&F range I also spotted these cute toddlers pyjamas ... Perfect for a growing Holly whose legs no longer fit into any of her sleep suits.  These soft cotton PJs cost just 7 pounds and I think you'll admit that they make Holly look even cheesier than she already did!

Friday 12 July 2013

My Glamourous Girls - Holiday Snaps from the South of France

It feels like a lifetime since we got back from our hols and yet I've not really shared many of my holiday photos so I thought I'd put that straight.  We stayed in a small town south of St. Tropez... just about my favourite place on the entire planet.  We stayed in a small apartment which had access to a residents pool but we also swam in the sea several times which was enormous fun.

The swimwear and dresses in these photos are all some of my favourite picks from the Sunuva website where I wrote about summer girls fashion before I went away so they sent me a couple of pieces as a thank you; The Sunuva high summer range is now online.

And these dresses... these were a gift from their Auntie and Uncle, all the way from Panama!

It was great to see the girls so relaxed and happy that week.  We can't wait to go to sunny Cornwall with their Grandparents in a few weeks time.

Thursday 11 July 2013

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Piggy Bank Review

The Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Piggy Bank is one of Fisher-Price's all time classic toys.  This big bold plastic piggy bank is suitable from 6 months to around 3 years (although Lara seems to enjoy playing with it too at 4 years old!).

Fisher Price Piggy Bank

As with most of the toys in the Laugh and Learn range of toys for infants and toddlers, the Learning Piggy Bank is designed to encourage role play and learning about the world around them in a fun way.  It introduces first numbers and colours.

Holly enjoys listening to the Piggy sing songs when it is in music mode and Lara enjoys counting along with it when it is in counting mode.  In counting mode, every time a big coloured coin droops through the slot, the piggy counts up and waits for the next coin.  The coins are a great size for Holly right now - big and chunky. Some of the coins have textured bumps around the outside and others have smooth edges so there is an extra dimension to the toy.

Fisher Price Piggy Bank Review

There is a very satisfying "clunk" when the coins drop into the Piggy's tummy and I'm sure this is one of the main reasons why this toy is such a hit with families across the globe.  The door to the piggy bank is easy to see through so your child can see the coins piling up.  The door opens (very easily so it doesn't frustrate tiny fingers) and the piggy tells you whether the door is "open" or "closed" and giggles when you press its nose.

Each of the coins has an animal's face on the front and an animal's behind... on the behind.  I think this is probably lost on the girls but I think its funny.  Holly seems to most enjoy handing me the coloured coins and watching me put them in through the slot!

The Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Piggy Bank and is available in lots of good toy stores.

Monday 8 July 2013

A Greek Family Meal from ASDA for Less Than £10 #cbias

Enjoying a greek family meal for under a tenner

Yay - our weekly themed meals have returned; as part of a sponsored post for Collective Bias® I made this scrumptious Greek Pasticcio recipe along with easy Greek Honey Sponge Puddings with ingredients that cost less than £10 from ASDA. It has been far too long since we held one of our Mellow Mummy country themed evenings so the challenge from Collective Bias to make a family meal for a tenner seemed like a good excuse to bring back our weekly tradition.

Greek Pasticcio with Tsatziki recipe

On Saturday we did our shopping trip to a very busy ASDA (you can see my story here) and on Sunday we cooked. Lara was out with a friend for the day so it gave me and Holly a good chance to spend some quality time together in the kitchen. We pre-prepared some Greek Honey Sponge Puddings, some Tsatziki (cucumber and yoghurt salad) and a gorgeous meaty pasta bake of Pasticcio ready for Lara's return.

In total the complete set of ingredients that bough bought at ASDA came to about £15 but that included a lot of store cupboard keepers such as nuts and honey from which I should be able to make plenty more meals!

PASTICCIO - Serves 4 adults (£5.23 in total)

1 Onion (15p)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed (10p)
250g Macaroni (25p)
100g Tomato puree (24p)
500g beef mince (£2)
2 bay leaves ( we got ours for free from our front garden!)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (31p)
25g butter (10p)
1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs (approximately 5p)
2 eggs (34p)
300ml milk (26p)
20g plain flour (from our store cupboard)
250g mild cheddar cheese, grated (£1.43)

Pasticcio ready for baking

Fry the chopped onion and crushed garlic in about 5g of the butter. Stir in the minced beef and fry until browned. Add in the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and mixed herbs and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Part boil the macaroni for about 50% of the recommended cooking time and then drain.

Layer half the meat, then half the macaroni before adding a layer of the rest of the meat and the rest of the macaroni and then cover and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.

egg custard for pasticcio

Melt the rest of the butter in a pan and stir in the flour for a minute or two. Add the milk and bring to a simmer, stirring ALL THE TIME until it thickens. Take it off the heat and beat in the two eggs and all of the grated cheese.

Pour the custard over the pasticcio and bake it for another 20 minutes until golden.

Pasticcio with tsatziki

TSATZIKI (65p in total)
We made a very simple cucumber salad. A traditional tsatziki would contain lemon juice, garlic and probably some fresh herbs but I wanted to make sure that my girls would try it so I kept it simple.

1/2 a cucumber (25p)
250g greek yoghurt (40p)

Peel the cucumber and remove all of the seeds as these make the yoghurt soggy. Chop into small chunks and then stir into the yoghurt to serve.

Greek honey sponge pudding recipe

GREEK HONEY SPONGES - Makes 4 (£1.64 total)

40g butter and extra for greasing (16p)
2 teaspoons of honey plus extra for drizzling (25p)
50g self-raising flour (from our store cupboard)
25g ground almonds (25p)
50g light muscovado sugar (10p)
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (from our store cupboard)
1 egg (17p)
85g greek yoghurt (15p)]

1 heaped tablespoon of unsalted pistachio nuts, chopped (56p)

Grease four ramekins with a little butter and then place half a teaspoon of honey at the bottom of each.

Mixing honey sponges

Mix the dry ingredients together, ensuring all the lumps have gone from the sugar.

Melt the butter and stir it in with the egg and yoghurt to the dry ingredients and pour into the ramekins. Cook in a 180 degree oven for 20 minutes until golden and risen. You can bake these well in advance and warm them up in the oven or microwave when you want to serve them.

To serve, drizzle with a little honey and, optionally, some chopped pistachio nuts.

Yummy greek food for under ten pounds

The Pasticcio was an incredible hit with both girls and in fact we have left overs that Mr. B and I will take for lunch at work so this has been an incredibly good value meal. Mr. B. and I loved our simple sponge puddings and I can't believe how easy they were to make; I think they would work very well with a scoop of ice cream. Neither Lara nor Holly seemed keen on the honey sponges... I put this down to honey being a new flavour for both of them as Holly has only recently been allowed to try honey (it isn't advised before 12 months).

I really enjoyed doing this Collective Bias challenge because I don't often sit down and think about how much a meal costs me to make - I was very pleasantly surprised to find out how cheap my meal from ASDA really was!
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