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

Monday 30 September 2013

Children's Book Review :: Spaghetti with the Yeti

Spaghetti with the Yeti by Adam and Charlotte Guillain is a really fun children's book with silly illustrations and memorable rhymes - just what Lara (4 and a half) enjoys right now. After I first read Spaghetti with the Yeti she asked me if she could take the book to school for reading time so that all of her new friends could join in with the story too.

The book is illustrated by award winner, Lee Wildish. I loved the pictures because there were lots of little details that you can look for on each page such as newspaper clippings or posters on some pages or little creatures and birds on others.

Spaghetti with the Yeti tells the tale of George who goes in search of the yeti prepared with nothing but a tin of spaghetti. George searches high and low and is just about to give up his search when luck comes his way.

The book is perfect for pre-schoolers and school starters because of the gentle rhyming flow of the story and the use of recognisable words sounds (sounds that rhyme with yeti!). It is also a favourite with Lara because of the monsters (whose names all rhyme with... you guessed it... yeti). Each monster has its own unique style. I think the Yeti is particularly cute.

Spaghetti with the Yeti was a hit at school too!

Saturday 28 September 2013

Barratts Shoes Review

Now that Lara seems to have settled well at school it is time to pick myself up and think about me again for a bit. And Barratts must be on the same wavelength because they asked me to take a look at some of their new arrivals to see if there was anything that would make the school run a little more glam.

Now, if you've met me recently you will know that glamourous isn't really where I'm at on a normal working day.  Practical yes, Glamourous.... well... the less said about that the better.  But that doesn't mean I can't do smart, does it?

I have a whole host of events planned in the coming months so when I browsed the range of women's shoes on I knew it would make sense to chose a pair of smart shoes that could see me through the winter.  These Natures Own Patent Toe Cap Court Shoes are like the little black dress of shoes!  Simple yet timeless and I can picture them working with Christmas party dresses just as well as they would with my work trousers.  They have a gentle heel which suits me well and the main fabric is a suede effect which contrasts well with the shiny patent toe cap.  At £28 I was really impressed with the quality of these shoes.

I also chose these very lady like wellies for the girls.  In our house wellies are almost always gungey green but these Butterfly Print Rubber Wellington Boots (£10) for little girls are traditionally shaped but with a fun butterfly design in dark pink and blue.  The wellies are available in children's sizes from 10 all the way upto junior/ladies size 5.

I was really surprised by the range of welly boots for children and adults alike on the Barratts website - even for adults there are around 50 different designs and styles.  Who knew wellies could be so much fun???  These wellies are certainly a long way off the quality levels of a pair of Hunters boots but then they are also a long way off the price tag! They aren't as rigid as I would hope for from a pair of wellies and the colouring around the point where the sole joins the boot is a bit messy but I still think they are good value for money.

You can find out more about the affordable range of shoes for all the family on the Barratts Facebook Page.

Friday 27 September 2013

Daisy Baby - Lazy Daisy Jazz CD Review

Daisy Baby music is a really calming CD full of totally mellow tracks designed specifically for chilling you and your baby out during massage or valuable bonding time.  I'm not normally a particularly jazzy type of person but I'm always on the lookout for new mellow music to play in the evenings to my girls.  My one-to-one time with Holly is few and far between these days but we still occasionally like to chill out with a bit of baby massage and what better way to do it that with a slow and funky musical background?

Lazy Daisy is a really inspiring company - founded by a mum of 5, Lazy Daisy is primarily concerned with offering relaxing classes for expectant parents and new parents up and down the country (and even further afield too!).  There are lots of different birthing and birth preparation classes on offer as well as new parents advice and baby first aid.  Each of the Lazy Daisy classes is built upon the fundamental principles of relaxation and parental ability to judge your own baby's signals and your own gut instincts (the fundamental principles behind my mellow mummy approach too).  Happy mummies = happy babies.

The Daisy Baby Music CD is the coming together of Lazy Daisy and 'Jazz for Babies'.  The resultant CD is 20 tracks of really recognisable tracks (such as Que Sera Sera, You are my Sunshine and Somewhere over the Rainbow) transformed into slow, mellow jazz.  Each track blends seamlessly into the next; there is a nice mix of tempos but nothing that will wake you up... everything is designed to slow you down.  Perfect for helping to settle a baby to sleep or to get you in the mood for a warming massage.

Holly responds well to the mellow jazz, even if Mr. B. cringes a bit when I play it (some of the tracks are certainly not the kind of music he would listen to normally... jazz or no jazz) and when I answered the phone last night even the random market research tele-caller on the other end of the phone commented on how mellow the music was!!!

Lazy Daisy's CD of Daisy Baby Music costs £9.99 plus postage from the Lazy Daisy website... while you're there, check out their Daisy Birthing and Daisy Baby courses which cost between £6 and £12 per week.

Thursday 26 September 2013

The Bedding Company Silentnight Anti-Allergy Cotbed Bedding Review

We are fast approaching the point at which Holly will move our of a cot. In fact, Lara was already out of a cot by the age that Holly is now and sleeping in a cot bed. Every morning and evening Holly rattles the bars on her cot and she is attempting to escape so this time I am prepared and ready for the move from cot to cot bed and I have on stand-by this Silentnight Anti-Allergy Cot Bed Set from The Bedding Company.

The Bedding Company have a range of Pillow and Duvet Sets so they asked us to review this Anti-Allergy set designed specifically for toddlers. The set includes a 4.0 tog cotbed sized duvet and a slightly smaller-than-normal pillow to match.

I've tried Holly out with the pillow in her cot on nights a week or so ago when she had been snotty from teething and I've felt that the little extra height would benefit her breathing. This ingenious plan seemed to go very well because the Silentnight pillow is very thin so it doesn't come as too much of a shock in terms of posture when sleeping for a toddler who is used to sleeping on a flat cot.

all dora'd up and ready for action

The Silentnight Anti-Allergy cotbed duvet is made from a hollowfibre breathable filling and a polycotton covering which have been treated to reduce allergens such as dust-mites. It is washable in a washing machine which is a BIG must-have when it comes to toddler bedding. It is good to be prepared for potty training! The 4.0 togs means that for us it will be a good all-year duvet for use on the cotbed - it feels very light and very soft and combined with the pillow I think it makes a great first bedding set for a toddler (a duvet is suitable after 12 months... and closer to 2 years if possible as by then your children are able to regulate their own temperatures).

Part of me is really looking forward to when Holly graduates from the cot. I know, from experience, that it will be hard but I think the move is a turning point.

The Silentnight Anti-Allergy Cot Bed Set costs just £12.99 at The Bedding Company.  My top tip - buy two sets (you'll need them when it comes to bedtime potty training!)

Wednesday 25 September 2013

APPen Children's IPad App and Stylus Review

I am a big fan of allowing children to use a stylus with a tablet PC such as the iPad - it allows them to learn pen control and gives them a greater level of accuracy when using a touch screen. The new APPen is a lightweight pressure-sensitive stylus designed specifically for use by children and it comes with a free app which includes drawing, puzzles, games and writing practice.

Girl using the appen on tablet

The APPen uses the audio input (microphone) on your tablet or smartphone to send messages to the app about how hard your child is pressing. On the colouring app for instance, the harder they press, the thicker the line they draw. There are one or two other areas of the apps which rely on the APPen but most of the games and activites are just as good to use without the APPPen as they are with it.

APPen childrens pressure sensitive stylus

The APPen is a nice chunky stylus, ideal for smaller hands. Lara took to it instantly although, when she is tracing letters in the writing games she does have to press the pen down quite hard and this requires her to hold it at an unnatural angle. When colouring or playing games she doesn't have the same issues.

Lara most enjoys tracing the letters. I think she has other apps for colouring and puzzles and maths challenges that she prefers. However, I guess I'm quite unusual in that my ipad is almost totally devoted to apps for her; if you are someone who wanted to just download one app for your child with all the different activities in one place then this could work for you, especially given that the APPpen main app is free with lots of individual games and activities inside it - more in-app games will be added occasionally and I think the intention is that there will also be in-app purchases too.

Appen childrens drawing and colouring app

Lara finds the instructions for setting up the pen hard to follow (she can't read them yet!) so when she chooses to start the app she has to ask me for help calibrating the pen which puts her off.

The APPen nib is quite an important part of the pen and the APPen website claims that it is capable of upto 76000 rounds of play but I'm not sure they tested it against the curiosity of 4 and a half year olds. One of the very first things Lara did when she first played with it and could hear the noise it was emitting (a very feint beeping noise) was to pull the nib to see what happened... the protective rubbery coating tore off!  Thankfully the APPen comes with one replacement nib and if you need more you can contact APPen directly through their website.

Appen childrens letter writing app

Compared to the Leappad or Innotab which are dedicated kids tablets I think the APPen compares well. At only £14.99 the pen stylus combined with the free download offers almost all of the functionality on the first generations of these two kids tablets but at a fraction of the price. The colouring app is very similar to that on the Innotab but the writing and puzzles apps are actually quite a bit better than any of the (paid for) VTech equivalents.

Find out more about the APPen at the APPen website  where you can find a full list of supported iOS and Android devices.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Pinkabella Activity Book Review

Lara is 4. There is something built into 4 year old girls that triggers an obsession with the colour pink (I am pretty certain there are few parts of her upbringing by me that have encouraged the pink thing... it just happened!) and so the Pinkabella activity books from Parragon are ideal for fuelling Lara's interest in all things pink.

The Pinkabella books are suitable for girls from 4 upto about 8 years old (or perhaps older?) - they bring together colouring, drawing, dressing up and creative activities into activity books that spark little imaginations. Each book features Pinkabella and her friends. Pinkabella wears pink, dreams pink and even has pink hair. Pinktastic!

Each book comes with a little set of accessories (things stuck to the front of a book always get Lara excited). Accessories include shaped crayons, pink erasers and stick-on gems and bows. When Lara completed her first day at school I gave her Pinkabella's Sticker Activity Book which includes several sets of sticky-notes as well as lots of themed activity stickers inside the book.

Lara isn't yet able to read so I had to explain several of the activities to her and Pinkabella's friendships were a bit lost on her because of this.  However, once I had set Lara down and explained the point of a double-page she wanted to work on, I was able to leave her for over half an hour to get on with her puzzles or drawing... or seemingly random application of stickers to a page!!!

Activity books such as these are EXACTLY Lara's kind of thing and she can absorb herself in and the Pink-ness definitely makes them more appealing.

Lara's next project is the Pinkabella Colours in activity book which features crayons in the shape of a butterfly - Lara finds this is absolutely fascinating.  I think that the second book holds more appeal for her now that she knows who Pinkabella is and what to expect of it.

I think that it is pretty clever that some of the books have carry handles - to me the Pinkabella books would make great holiday activities that your child could take with them in the car or on a plane and the handle would really help here.. Titles in the range include Pinkabella Colours In, Pinkabella’s Playhouse and Pinkabella Loves Drawing.

You can find out more about Pinkabella on her website where there are free colouring sheets and further activities.


Sunday 22 September 2013

Minnie Mouse Bowtique Polka Dot Jet Toy Review

I have been pleasantly surprised with how much of a hit the new Fisher Price Minnie Mouse fashion jet has been with both of my girls. This Minnie Mouse Bowtique Polka Dot Jet from Fisher Price is a simple play toy with no flashing lights, no sounds or music (phew) and just simple figurines and furniture that really allow both my toddler and my school age daughter to let their imaginations run riot.

Minnie Mouse Fashion Jet Toy

The toy aeroplane is suitably girly with a pink polka dot fuselage - it comes complete with Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck posable figurines and their own cabin luggage, a luxury food trolley, cosy chairs and even the wear-withall to make an in-flight hair salon!!!

The reason why I am so impressed is that it is just such a simple toy which brings simple pleasures. The unmistakable Minnie Mouse branding makes it appeal to my eldest daughter while the nice chunky play pieces make it suitable for my younger daughter who gets great pleasure from constantly re-arranging the chairs and their occupants.

Lara enjoys carefully bending Minnie and Daisy to place them carefully in their chairs to enjoy having their hair done. She also likes folding and unfolding the stairs which allow the two glamourous ladies to enter their private jet. Holly enjoys opening and closing the lid, forcing the toys in through the windows and then zooming the plane around the living room floor.

This toy features all the quality of Fisher Price (and in fact reminds me quite a lot of a 40-year-old Fisher Price aeroplane still in use at Mr. B.'s parent's house), it is chunky, sturdy and suitable even for toddlers (recommended for 2 years upwards). I was incredibly happy that the plane was so easy to put together; just push the two wings into place... simple.  More toys should be this easy to construct and to play with.

Minnie's Fashion Jet is available online and in store from amazon, Tesco, Toys R Us, Disney Store, Argos and Smyths Toys for £34.99.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Ultimate Tree Fu Tom Toy Review

One of Lara's favourite games to play with her friends at nursery, and now school is "being Tree Fu Tom". This involves running round in a circle pretending to fly and then stopping, standing with legs open wide and arms out in front shouting "Tree Fu Go". Tree Fu Tom seems to have appeal for both girls and boys in my experience and it is great to see a posable toy such as this Ultimate Tom which has global appeal.

Ultimate Tom - Tree Fu Tom Posable Toy

Ultimate Tom from has moveable arms, legs and head so that you can try and move Tree Fu Tom into the positions that he demonstrates on his hit CBeebies show. He has a belt with buttons that allow him to say lots of his common phrases (enough that I don't get bored of hearing the same ones over and over again) and on his wrist his holo-thingamy-bob has a button you can press so that Tom can hear advice!

In Music mode, Tom is particularly clever. Press the button on his chest and his wings pop open behind him and if you lift and tilt him (as if he were flying) he plays the Tree Fu Tom theme music. It takes quite a period of inactivity for the music to come to an end so I have to keep reminding Lara to leave Ultimate Tom standing up so that the music stops! The movement sensor for the music is quite sensitive... one day Lara insisted on bringing Tom with her in the car and every time we went around a corner, the music started! I have since learned to switch him off if he is coming with us.

I think that Ultimate Tom is a really nice sturdy toy, chunky and tactile while being suitably interactive for a preschooler. My only small complaint is that the wings and cape come off more easily than I would expect (they are clearly designed to come off... but probably not as frequently as Lara and Holly insist on doing so now that they have found out that they do come off).

Ultimate Tom - Tree Fu Tom Posable Toy

Ultimate Tom is suitable for boys and girls aged 3 and over and costs around £24.99 and I think he would make a great Christmas Present for girls or boys.

Friday 20 September 2013

Jeans for Genes with Debenhams

Today is Jeans for Genes day and families up and down the country have been sporting their favourite jeans instead of their normal uniform or work attire in order to raise money for children with genetic disorders.

On Jeans for Genes Day, schools and workplaces encourage people, young and old, to wear jeans and donate a small amount of money to charity for the privilege. 1 in 25 children in the UK has a genetic disorder of some kind that makes their life difficult to manage. Not only can genetic disorders lead to pain, suffering and bullying but health problems that genetic disorders can cause in the early years of life mean that genetic disorders are one of the UK's biggest causes of children under 14 years.

Debenhams sent Lara and I each a pair of jeans so that we can get involved too (I've donated the value of our jeans to Jeans for Genes Day).

I'm loving Debenhams kids jeans at present - Blue Zoo is my current favourite brand of kids clothes because they are just soooooo practical. The chunky, yet soft and colourful elasticated waists on the Blue Zoo jeans are perfect for toddlers right through to primary school children and these jeans also feature a cute pink and pastel coloured cat design on the pockets. Since Lara started school last week she has worn a simple uniform every day but today she wore a much more casual affair - and why not?

Finding jeans that fit me is always very tricky. Long legs = very few pairs of jeans that actually fit! Usually I only get to choose from a boring selection of clothes specifically designed for tall people which is why I was genuinely surprised to find these Mantarray boot cut jeans at Debenhams with a long leg in my size.  Woop!

Today is going to be a great Jeans for Genes day but that doesn't mean you can't get involved. Fundraising for Genetic Disorders UK takes place all year round - why not arrange your own jeans day at your workplace or school?

Thursday 19 September 2013

Travelodge Cambridge - Our Family Weekend Away

We have done a lot of travelling as a family this year so far and Lara gets really excited every time we go to a hotel - there is something a little magical about staying away from home. When we go away we usually stay in budget hotels but I think we have learned over the past few occasions that budget doesn't have to mean that quality is compromised. Last weekend we were invited to stay at the brand new Travelodge in Cambridge on the Newmarket road which opened last month to see that Travelodge can offer quite a bit for their price!

Travelodge have been in Camrbidge for 25 years and to celebrate, they have built a shiny new hotel just outside the main shopping area in the centre of Cambridge. Their website warned us that parking was limited so when we arrived at about 6.30pm on a Saturday night I was a bit worried we would have to walk with our bags and the buggy from a nearby public car park but thankfully we found the very last space in their underground car park which meant we could take the lift straight into reception.

Our room was great. Functional, clean and tidy and surprisingly spacious. Lara had her own bed which had been made up for her on arrival and we had taken a travel bed for Holly. Lara's bed was a sofa by day and a bed by night - I think she found it a bit too firm. Our bed however was FAB - Travelodge pride themselves on the quality of the beds in their new-style hotels and I understand why; it was enormous!

The bathroom in our hotel room was... compact. As a tall lady, if I had wanted to use the bath, I probably would have had to bend myself double. But for the girls it was fine and anyway, there was a shower to use too. Simplicity was key in the bathroom - no nonsense and no-freebies like shower gel but like everything else in our room and the hotel in general, it was done well.

Having had a long drive to Cambridge, we didn't fancy venturing out into Cambridge to find dinner so we tried out the on-site restaurant in the Travelodge. The menu was full of classic pub basics such as lasagne, burgers and a simple curry. The prices were reasonable, given the level of convenience. I've had better pub food, I've had better value-for-money too but it was easy and convenient and I think that's what counts.

The restaurant was large and bright. The girls both had children's meals which included ice-cream for dessert (or something resembling ice-cream, anyway); we paid extra to add a fruit-shoot to their meals, which was a mistake, because the sugar rush then meant that neither girl wanted to go to sleep when we went back up to our room after dinner! By the time we left the restaurant, the bar was filling up with guests getting ready to go for their big night's out.

Despite the numbers of people clearly going out on the town, the hotel was really quiet and we had a great night's sleep. We paid for breakfast in the morning (the kids ate free) which was functional and efficient (cooked breakfast, cereal, pastries) but the scrambled eggs were terrifying (I don't think they had seen an actual physical egg for some time). We came away with full bellies with lots of energy for a long walk.

We spent Sunday at Wimpole Hall and Home Farm which is a National Trust property just outside Cambridge. The girls had great fun walking through the vast grounds and exploring the walled gardens while looking out for cows and sheep.

All too quickly, our weekend away was over. I had a great visit to the new Travelodge in Cambridge and would be more than happy to go back in the future.

You can see my full set of photos on the Mellow Mummy G+ page (see the big G+ follow button in the sidebar on the right!)

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Bloom Beautiful Mother and Baby Cosmetics Review

Bloom Beautiful are makers of gorgeous natural balms, salves and butters for pampering goodness and the Bloom Beautiful Mother and Baby range is EXACTLY my cup of tea - 100% natural products made in Devon from local ingredients designed to help soothe and protect your skin and that of your baby.

Holly and I have been trying out some of the Bloom Beautiful Mother and Baby skincare products and we LOVE them!

mummy and baby massage oil

First up, we tried Bloom Beautiful's Mummy and Baby Massage Oil which is a gorgeous blend of sunflower, grapeseed, coconut and apricot kernal oil and chamomile for soothing and protective properties along with sweet orange oil and rose otto oil for a gentle uplifting fragrance.  The scent is simply heavenly and the orange oil really does make me feel bright and sunny when I'm using it on Holly - these days Holly still enjoys a massage but tends to wiggle a lot and I would say this massage oil was more energising than relaxing for bedtime.  The massage oil is beautifully presented with small rose petals suspended in the oil.  The Mummy and Baby Massage Oil costs £9.95.

baby bee butter

I have used the Baby Bee Butter from Bloom Beautiful on Lara's dry skin on her arms.  The Bee Butter is a mix of shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax so it is quite a firm butter but with added vitamin E it makes a brilliant natural moisturiser.  Lara likes it because it doesn't leave a moist residue on her arms.  I would be more than happy to use this balm on a newborn suffering from dry skin and to help protect skin from losing its natural oils.  The Baby Bee Butter costs £6.50.

baby bee botty balm

The Bloom Beautiful Baby Bottom Balm is a really firm waxy balm for soothing nappy rash and helping to calm reddened skin.  I found I had to really work the balm in the little presentation tin to soften it enough that I could easily use it in a hurry at the next nappy change.  The blend of olive oil, coconut oil and beeswax does mean however that once you can get some of the balm onto your fingers it is nice and oily so very easy to apply over the skin and rub in to provide a barrier against the nappy. The Bottom Butter costs  £7.75.

mummy bee butter

Bloom Beautiful's Mummy Bee Butter is a very similar texture to the Baby Bee Butter but with some more grown-up scents of lavender, tangerine, rosehip and rosewood.  The scent is still very subtle.  I've used this butter on my face, my legs, my arms and my tummy... I reckon you could use it anywhere where your skin needs a little bit of TLC but it would be ideal on skin shrinking after pregnancy.  It costs £7.75.

Bloom Beautiful products can be bought online from the Bloom Beautiful website and Not on the high street.

Sunday 15 September 2013

Cooking with Kids :: Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes Recipe

This morning we took the girls for a walk through the grounds of the National Trust property, Wimpole Hall. It was a really autumnal, early morning walk through wet grass (avoiding the cow pats) and among fallen leaves and apples. I loved it.

After we had driven home, I was feeling in an autumny mood so I got Lara and Holly to help me make some halloween cupcakes to practice a design I had been planning - I'm hoping we can make a big batch of these pumpkin cupcakes next month for Halloween trick or treaters.


3 large eggs
175g melted butter
175g self-raising flour
175g caster sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder

150g icing sugar
50g butter at room temperature
45 raisins
Yellow and red food colouring (or orange, if you can find it)
Green sprinkles or coloured sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (less in a fan oven).
  • Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add half of the flour, sugar and baking powder and mix REALLY well.
  • Now add the other half of the flour, sugar and baking powder and stir again until well-combined.
  • Pour in the melted butter and mix well.
  • Pour the batter into 15 muffin cases (nice deep ones) until each of them is about half-full.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes and once well risen and golden, remove and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  • Allow to cool COMPLETELY before decorating.
  • For the icing, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and add the butter. I use an electric mixer to beat it really well and if it needs a little help to combine, I add a tiny touch of milk. Stir in a couple of drops of both the red and yellow food colouring to make a pumpkin orange colour and mix well.
  • Using a pallete knife, 'brush' the icing onto the top of each cake, turning as you go.
  • Cut each of the rasins into a triangle shape (reserving the pieces that you cut off each side)
  • Sprinkle a little green sugar at the top of each cake for a stalk (if I had angelica sticks I would have used them to make stalks)
  • Arrange the triangular raisins for eyes and mouth. Use the left-over strips of raisin to make mouths.
  • Enjoy

Saturday 14 September 2013

Gumigem Bubba Bag Teething Toys Review

Holly has a new handbag!  OK, so she is just 16 months old but she has a handbag all of her own.  A Bubba Bag.  I'm a big fan of Gumigem teething jewellery and the Bubba Bag is a new venture for Gumigem - a handbag full of baby teething toys.

The Bubba Bag is a neoprene flexible bag that is 5 toys in one.  The bag itself brings a whole lot of fun, especially for a toddler!  Inside, there are 5 silicone toys designed especially for teething babies.

  • A set of chunky car keys which can reach all the way back to your child's molars.
  • A toy credit card with raised numbers which offer a nice texture against the gums.
  • A small purse with a pretend bobbly fastener to chew on.
  • A tiny toy mobile phone with different textures and shapes to feel and gnaw.

All of the toys are suitable from birth, with the exception of the keys which are suitable from 10 months upwards.  The toys are all absolutely perfect for Holly right now because, not only are we going through a really really tough period of teething which have brought night times of misery to us all, but when Holly is feeling more cheerful during the day, she has recently discovered an element of role play and likes to dress up and pretend to do the things I do around the house such as making tea or answering the phone.  The role play element of the Bubba Bag is brilliant.

The toys are all CE certified and made from non-toxic and washable materials so they are suitable for your child to munch on to their heart's content.  I would like to see a few different textures on the silicone toys for younger mouths - perhaps some larger areas of small bumps or some silicone brush effects - many of the surfaces are quite smooth.

While I think the idea of the Bubba Bag is absolute genius (and Holly seems to agree), there are a few areas that I'd like to see developed as the Gumigem range grows and evolves... The neoprene bag doesn't feel... well.. finished.  It feels a bit raw and doesn't ooze quality like I would expect from Gumigem.  I also felt that the colours of the gadgets and the bag were all a bit muted and could do with being more striking and fun.

I think the fact that each of the toys has a small hole that allows you to attach it to a buggy clip or dummy clip is a really clever idea.  I felt that the purse toy was a slight anomalie in the bag because the size is very different to the real thing and it seems small compared to the credit card, phone and keys.  The keys are the biggest hit with Holly because they are the biggest and chunkiest of the lot.

I think that the Bubba Bag is a great idea but it needs a little bit of refining to make it a market-changing idea in the world of teething toys.

Friday 13 September 2013

Kensington Safegrip iPad Case - Protection Against Toddlers!

When Mr. B. bought my my iPad earlier this year he made me promise to keep it out of the girl's hands. This is easier said than done, especially when there are so many great apps for kids available. I can't resist! I've tried a couple of ipad cases designed for use with kids but each time I had reverted back to my own cheapy unbranded case after a few weeks because it was easier for me to use. However, this time, I think I've found a keeper!!! The Safegrip from Kensington.

The Kensington Safegrip is a rugged iPad case (suitable for iPad 2 upwards). The reason why I think this is a keeper is that it isn't specifically restricted to use as a tablet case for children or toddlers. The Safegrip is a generic rugged iPad case which just happens to offer some protective value around kids which means that lots of the usability features such as access to the buttons and controls on your iPad are not sacrificed.

The Safegrip is really chunky and I can categorically state that it protects from bumps. Holly is such a cheeky monkey that she will quite regularly wrangle my iPad from my hands and disappear off through the house with it. It has been dropped! And the iPad remains unscathed thanks to the protection, on the corners at least, from the Safegrip. There is no direct protection for the screen when it comes to dropping but it does come with a screen-protection cover for you to apply that protects against minor scratches and grubby toddler fingerprints.

Holly particularly loves the big chunky handle on the Safegrip as it allows her to walk around with the iPad. I actually find it pretty awesome too! The handle folds over to double as a stand and I find this really useful - far more so that the foldy-over style cover I was used to.

The Kensington Safegrip has a stylus holder (I don't trust Holly with a stylus yet... but Lara has one) and a little pocket at the back where you could put a name label or picture of some sort.

I find it really easy to use my iPad while it is still in the Safegrip case and this makes it perfect for sharing with the girls. I no longer have to take the iPad out of a secure child-proof coating in order to simply change the volume or switch to a different app... in the past those niggly things just made it too stressful to use a case and lead to me risking the protection of my tech for my own convenience.

I think that with the addition of some mechanism to cover the screen when not in use, the Safegrip would be a perfect family-friendly iPad case.

The Kensington Safegrip iPad case costs £39.99; there is also a version available for iPad mini which costs £35.99.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Pillow Pets Dream Lites Review

Holly and Lara are both already big fans of the original Pillow Pets and our thumpy bunny cuddly pillow pet gets a lot of love and attention every morning when they wake up. But this piece of cuddly loveliness is the brand new Pillow pets Dream Lites Rainbow Unicorn who, in the space of a week, has vastly improved the ease of bedtimes!

The Dream Lites from Pillow Pets are a range of slightly smaller Pillow Pets which have a gentle starry lamp that glows. Our Rainbow Unicorn projects a pattern of stars on the ceiling in green, orange and blue. The pattern also has a little unicorn motif on it. To switch on the calming night light there is a small button on the back of the pet, you can press it to cycle through the colours and to switch it off.

There is a timer option on the light as well which means that I can leave the light gently glowing in Holly or Lara's room and let it time out so I don't need to go back into the room to switch the light off.

Holly seems particularly taken with the Pillow Pets Dream Lites. She is young enough not to want a light to read by when she goes to bed so she doesn't need a strong light in her room, just a gentle and soothing glow which is exactly what this gives. Both girls seem to be relaxed when they lie in bed and look up at the stars projected on their ceiling.

The Dream Lites pets are a good size for cuddling. They fold and fasten in the same way as their larger, original companions but because of the plastic covering over the lights and the chunky internal battery pack, they aren't that good for cuddling or resting your head on but this doesn't stop both girls from carrying the Unicorn round the house with them.

The Pillow Pets Dream Lites from Mookie Toys are available in 7 different animal designs including a vert striking penguin, a jolly giraffe and a snuggly puppy. The Dream Lites cost £19.99 which is great value considering the soothing effect ours has had on bedtimes.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Childrens Book Review :: Animal Opposites by Petr Horáček

Animal Opposites by Petr Horáček is a beautiful new pop-up picture book which is perfect for both of my girls (now 1 and 4 years old) because it is fun, bright, educational and appealing to a wide age group.

My eldest daughter, Lara now totally 'gets' opposites and you can see that glint in her eye when she has worked out what the correct opposite term is on each page, even before I read it to her.  Lara is just about able to read so she has been trying to read the words in Animal Opposites too.

Holly, at 16 months old, gets great pleasure from listening to me and her older sister use our voices to alter the way we speak for each of the opposites - quiet, loud, fast, slow, etc.  She thinks it is funny to see and hear about tall giraffes and colourful peacocks.  It brings me great pleasure to see the recognition of the world around them that both the girls get when the begin to understand the concepts of opposites.

I love the beautiful style of the illustrations which are big and bold and really stand out on each page.  Colour is used throughout the book to highlight some of the opposites too.

As a pop-up book, Animal Opposites works pretty well.  There is only one pop-up page which makes you go "wow" but most of the pages do have an interactive pop-up element and they seem very sturdy, if not the most adventurous of pop-ups.

I'd recommend Animal Opposites as a fun, interactive Christmas gift or as a great book to talk about with your child.  Lara and Holly made me read this book to them 3 times in the space of 30 minutes when I opened it and both girls keep lifting it out and placing it in my lap... I think it's the way I read it that makes them want more!

Monday 9 September 2013

Children's Book Review : My First Sewing Book

The crafty and needlecrafty part of me is desperate to get Lara joining in with simple needlecrafts. While 'My First Sewing Book' from CICO Kids may be a touch advanced for her, it has certainly sparked an interested in fabric crafts that I am keen to encourage.

My First Sewing Book is part of a range of books from CICO kids to encourage hobbies that require quite a lot of concentration - crochet, knitting, art and even bicycle maintenance for kids. My First Sewing Book is ideal for children from age 7 upwards but I think that many of the 35 sewing projects are the type of activity that Lara and I could get started on together.

Every project has step-by-step instructions that I find easy to understand.  Projects such as a simple felt bag in the shape of a cat, a sock monster or an egg cosy might be attemptable with a slightly younger child such as Lara - in fact, we intend to make a Christmas Stocking together in the run up to Christmas as well as some very simple felt tree decorations which she can help me to cut and can add her own embroidery to as a first foray into the world of needlework.

I picture Lara spending an entire school holiday at some point in the future working through lots of the projects in the book - for slightly more adventurous children there are instructions for making rag dolls and their clothes, a gardening bag or a lovely owl doorstop/cushion.

Lots of the projects involve recycling of fabric that you might already have around the house such as old t-shirts or fabric cut-offs.  Most of the exercises use simple running stitches but some of the gifts and more decorative pieces involve more decorative stitches.

I think this is a great introduction to sewing, both for creating pieces but also for decorating them and I can't wait to get started with Lara.

Sunday 8 September 2013

The Safety Risks of Blind Cords - What You Need To Know as a Parent

Image courtesy of Suat Eman /
I will never forget the first time I read a sad sad story about a little four-year-old girl who had lost her life when she accidentally hung herself on the cord of the blinds on her bedroom window.  The very next day I arranged for Lara's blackout roller blind to be fastened to the wall and when I moved house I bought cord-less blinds for her bedroom window.

Dangling cords can be a temptation to toddlers or an accident waiting to happen even for older children. According to a recent survey by Apollo Blinds, even though most parents are now aware that children can strangle themselves on looped blind cords in the home only a third of us have actually taken the steps to fit safety clips or make sure blinds are safe, even those fitted in children’s rooms.

Did you know it can take as little as five minutes to make window blinds safe? You just need a drill and simple safety devices such as the hooks pictured below so that you can keep looped cords away from tiny hands.

Or even better, if you’re decorating then consider made-to-measure window blinds Apollo Blinds who fit FREE child safety devices as standard on all of its blinds – from roller and romans to vertical and venetian binds.

Apollo blinds have put together a set of step-by-step instructions of how to make your existing blinds child-safe quickly and easily.

  1. Do an audit in your home – are any looped window blind cords dangling untethered? Even if they’re high up, they need to be tied back – children often climb!
  2. If you’re unsure, call your local Apollo store for help and advice or even a free audit. Visit
  3. Select the best type of safety device for your blinds – cord cleats can be used for romans and venetian cords, while P clips are great for vertical chains
  4. Place the cleats or clips where they can secure the cords. Mark the screw holes and drill holes. Insert raw plugs into the holes then simply screw the hooks or cleats to the wall.
  5. Wrap excess cord around the cleat hook or secure the chain/cord into the clip.

And their top tip??? Well Apollo Blinds recommend a bit of creativity this autumn to keep little hands busy and away from the blinds - how about a bit of crafty fun from Red Ted Art's book - Cute and Easy Crafts for Kids.


These two clips are both incredibly cheap ways of making blinds safe, but there are lots of other techniques and gadgets available and cord-alternatives. Apollo blinds also sell these nifty motorised blinds that are operated with a remote control and don’t need cords at all - the ultimate in household tech!

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