Mellow Mummy: January 2014 : Taking life as it comes...

Friday, 31 January 2014

Very Hungry Caterpillar Placemats, Carry Set and Activity Fun Pack Review

This year the Very Hungry Caterpillar is celebrating its 45th Anniversary and there are a number of fantastic Very Hungry Caterpillar products launching - we've been trying out a few creative and activity ideas for children.

This Very Hungry Caterpillar Carry Pack is a fab idea for taking on holiday or to a relatives house to provide lots of ideas for fun activities.  The pack contains a couple of wipe-clean colouring pages, a door hanger to make, re-usable stickers, a giant poster, a colouring poster and a height chart.  Both of the girls went straight for the colouring pages and stickers.  It costs just £3.99 for plenty of entertainment value.

Holly was particularly taken with the Very Hungry Caterpillar Activity Fun Pack which is a more compact travel kit containing a colouring pad with images to colour in, a set of small colouring pencils and a small sheet of stickers.  It was a nice small size for her and she loved all the images which are inspired by Eric Carle illustrations.  This smaller Activity Fun Pack also costs £3.99.

But the item I am most impressed with is these Very Hungry Caterpillar Placements which come in a pad of around 30 perforated tear-off sheets which can be used as disposable placements.  Each placemat features an activity of some sort - sometimes a puzzle, sometimes a challenge, sometimes a colouring sheet.  The girls LOVE them.

This does, of course, mean that I now need to put colouring pencils or crayons up at the dinner table... not something I would normally encourage... but it is a bit of fun and it makes Lara feel like she is out at a restaurant.  I think these placements, at £5.99 for a pad, would make a great addition to a birthday party or a special meal.  The Very Hungry Caterprillar placemats are available at Debenhams.

You can find out more about the Very Hungry Caterpillar 45th Anniversary activities on the official website and facebook page.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Bunny Loves To Play - Board Book Review

Bunny Loves to Play is a cute little board book with built-in fluffy finger puppet for tiny tots.

There are lots of games that Bunny likes to play - dress-up, hide and seek, splashing...

...I've enjoyed reading this little board book to Holly because we can now try and talk to each other about the games she can see the rabbit playing.  Rabbit is a new word for Holly and I love it when she says "wwwwabbbit".

At 20 months old, Holly still seems to enjoy the funny, tickly games that I can play with her with a finger puppet and she will grab the rabbit's face when I read.  Bunny Loves to play is a short board book with just six double-page spreads.  It is also a compact book and would work well as a book to take with you in your changing book.

Bunny Loves to Play costs around £3.99 and is part of Parragon's range of finger puppet board books.  I'd recommend these books from birth to around 2 years old.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Children's Book Review - Go To Sleep Or I Let Loose The Leopard

Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard is a new picture story book by Steve Cole and Bruce Ingman.

Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard features a little girl and a buy who have been left with a babysitter for the night and decide to play up.  The babysitter tries every trick up her sleeve to try and get them to settle down, but to no avail.  Eventually she threatens them with her trump card... the leopard.  And guess what, it turns out that all of her hollow threats weren't so hollow after all.

Lara really enjoys me reading this to her - I think that Lara is most fascinating in the tales of the naughty games that Ellie and Joe get up to at bedtime.  I suspect it has given her a few ideas!  I recognised a lot of myself in the babysitter and her threats of what might happen if the two of them didn't hurry up and go to bed.

Lara and I both laughed together at the very last page of the story... Lara was initially scared that there was a real leopard on the loose and it might hurt the children until we turned to the last page and she realised it wasn't meant to be scary.

We found the story very easy to read together and the brightly coloured pictures certainly got both Lara (4) and Holly (1) very interested.

I would recommend Go to Sleep or I Let Loose the Leopard for children from about 2 to 7 years old as a fun evening read together with parents.  It has been a good talking point for me and Lara to discuss her bedtime routine and how she would behave at bedtime when we are away.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Sending a Pushchair to France

This week I am singing the praises of Parcel2Go who helped me send a little (OK, quite big) present to my little sister in France.  I only discovered Parcel2Go shortly before Christmas when I needed to post a prize for a Mellow Mummy winner - a laminator.  The parcel was large and heavy and my budget would never have stretched to a visit to the post office so I decided to look online instead and found the Parcel2Go door to door service.

More recently, I really wanted to send my little sister a present.  My sister became a Mummy 5 weeks ago and is really looking forward to being able to take up running again next week after her 6 week check.  As a buggy-guru, she turned to me for my advice on pushchairs designed specifically for running.  They're not normally my forte; however, I did a bit of digging and found a few recommendations which were all out of her price range.  Prices for anything baby-related are sky high in the area around Geneva, even second hand.  I did a little more digging and determined that it would be cheaper to buy a second hand pushchair from the UK and post it over to France.  Bonkers, but true.

Parcel2Go was the first place I thought of, and they just happened to get in contact with me that week to ask me to spread the news and offered to fund the postage to France.  Parcel2Go have been in the news (such as this London Business article) because they offer a FAR cheaper alternative to the post office for sending large parcels... and it is more convenient.  I quickly snapped up a bargain second hand Red Castle Shop and Jogg pushchair and started investigating prices on Parcel2Go.

I didn't even stop to find out how much it would cost me to post a 15kg parcel this big from my local post office - it just didn't even seem worth it!  Once I had worked out how to fit the pushchair into my one and only free cardboard box I measured it and weighed it and entered the dimensions into the Parcel2Go website along with the destination country (France is just one of a very long list of destinations you can ship to).

I'm going to need a bigger box

I was totally blown away by the prices on offer.  This parcel cost me just £22 to post to France. My head still hasn't quite got to grips with this.  Last Christmas when I posted a parcel a tenth of the size and weight to my sister from the post office it cost nearly that.  Sigh.

£22 wasn't the cheapest option that Parcel2Go offered me, in fact there were several quotes from brands such as UPS, TNT and Parcel2Go's own courier service.  There were even quotes for next day delivery but these were just out of my postage budget.  In the end, I plumped for ParcelForce Worldwide who seemed to have a high success rate at meeting their 3-5 day estimate for delivery to France.

I arranged for my parcel to be collected from my work address on Wednesday.  Printed out the label I needed and waited.  My parcel was collected about 10 minutes into the estimated pickup time of 9-5.30 and was whizzing off on its way to France before I knew it.

yay... it has arrived in France!

I was REALLY surprised to find out that the buggy had arrived at my sister's place on Friday.  That's quicker than if I had posted a local letter first class within the UK!

My sister seems really happy with her new jogging pushchair... I hope that she and my teeny tiny niece enjoy many miles jogging in it.  Thank you Parcel2Go.

You can find ParcelToGo on twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Valentines Day Cake

This is what I spent my afternoon doing!

Valentines Day Cake

I have been wanting to use the sugarcraft skills I learned last year and at last I found an excuse - a Valentines Day Cake.  Weekends on which I have enough free hours to spend the entire afternoon baking don't come around very often so I pounced on the opportunity, even though it is a bit early for Valentines day.  Think of this more as an un - Valentines day cake.

While Lara and Holly both napped for the afternoon, I baked, iced, coated and shaped.  I sourced my dark belgian chocolate curls from ebay, along with some delicate pre-coloured sugar craft paste.  The heart cake mould is one I got free from Lara's Dora the Explorer cookery subscription - I used it to make a three-tiered sponge filled and coated with bright pink buttercream.

The time consuming part was hand-crafting 12 sugar roses.  Especially tricky because Holly, once she woke, wanted to help me.  She had her first attempt at sugar roses today too!

The only trouble with this Valentines day cake is that it is too pretty for Mr. B. to cut into.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Blog Swap :: U Me and the Kids

Today's "New Beginnings' Blog Swap is by Rachel Hirst of

Last year was the year for new beginnings in the Hirst Household.

The first change happened when my husband completely changed his career and decided to become a Police officer. Now do not get me wrong I know the basics of what a police officer does, but I do forget sometimes the danger he faces every day when he goes to work.

I must admit he has changed slightly since joing the force, he has become more tired as he has struggled with new shift patterns and learning so many new skills. Thankfully, things have calmed down now but for about 6 months last year, there were so many days that he really wound me up, he gets grumpy when he is tired.

If dealing with a moody husband wasn’t enough to test me, I had to cut the apron strings as my son left high school with amazing results I should add and made me a very proud mum. He started college in September and I found it hard letting him out into the big wide world!

I was stressing out that he would be mugged traveling to and from college as he has to take very expensive kit with him.

If I was not worried enough, On day one as he was leaving college walking through the city centre he was asked if he had the time by some random man, he gave the man the time who then swiftly offered to sell him drugs. I felt utter disgust that drug pushers would target young 16year olds. I was very pleased my son felt he could openly talk to me about this.

I am a natural worrier so when my youngest left primary school to go to high school for the very first time, I was worried he wouldn’t fit in, get bullied or just be frightened.

I also mourned the fact I would never attend a Christmas nativity again, no sports day to cheer my little one on at and that I would never do the walk to school again!

As you can imagine I did shed quite a few tears in September, Only when I was alone of course.

The only person in the household that did not have a new beginning was me. I was still here cooking the tea, ironing the clothes and just trying to be the best mum and wife I could possibly be. Here to support all there new beginnings and I would not have had it any other way.

I love the fact that I can be here for them and celebrate all the new and exciting things there new starts will bring them.

As for 2014… I do not want any more changes, no little surprises just for all three of my boys to keep making me so proud and for them to know I am here for them, moods and all!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Peppa Pig Weebles Pull Along Wobbily Train Review

This weekend Holly became the proud owner of a Weeble. And no ordinary Weeble at that - a Peppa Pig Weeble! I'm not sure who is more excited about this... me or Holly. I remember having Weeble envy as a kid and I was delighted when I found out that Weebles still exist. The new range of Peppa Pig Weebles from Character is great news for our Peppa-obsessed family!

The Pull Along Wobbily Train comes with a Peppa Pig Weeble character.  The train has an engine and two carriages which can house further Weebles characters which are available to buy separately - to me this is a little disappointing as I'd much rather spend a little more on a and have enough characters to fill the train straight away but I suppose it does mean that the choice of additional characters is up to you.

The train itself fits together easily and, unlike any other toy train we have owned before, it stays together when you move it!  The carriages click together so even Holly's tiny hands can put them together.

The Peppa Pig Weebles character is nice and chunky for toddler hands to grasp.  The base is rounded so that Peppa never falls over... just rocks back up to an upright position.  As you move the train around she wibbles here and wobbles there.

My elder daughter Lara really enjoys playing with the Pull Along Wobbily Train too.  I think it most appeals to her because she recognises Gertrude, Grandpa Pig's train from television and from visiting Peppa Pig World!  Next time I'm at Peppa Pig World I'll think about wibbling and wobbling like a Weeble!

The Peppa Pig Weebles Pull Along Wobbily Train costs around £17.99.  Further individual Weebles characters cost around £4.99.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Blog Swap :: Journeys are my diary

Today's Blog Swap is with Bel of Journeys Are My Diary who is setting herself a lot of challenges for new beginnings in 2014. Please go and visit her blog, if only for the awesome-sounding Chewy Chocolate Cookies recipe!

Mellow Mummy New Beginnings Blog Swap

For the last year or so, my life feels like its been chock-full of new beginnings. 

Having been a single mum for 3 years, it came very much as a surprise to meet a new man and fall in love again. This in itself was a huge new beginning, a complete re-adjustment to life (and to that of my kids) and even a complication to some extent. 

This change was shortly followed by going back to work after almost 5 years of not working. I had been a stay-at-home mum for the whole time since having my youngest daughter who is now almost 6. 
Another change came only a few months later when we uprooted from a village we'd lived in the whole of my youngest daughter's life and the majority of my eldest daughter's life. We moved only twenty minutes away but to a town we had never really considering living in before then.

Image courtesy of / FrameAngel

Finally came 2014 and the beginning of a new year. That moment when you promise yourself that things will be different this year, that things will be better. You start with a clean slate and hope to enjoy an amazing year to come.

My new beginning now, is really myself. I've decided to look at things far more positively, to get organised both with small everyday things, as well as larger more permenant things. I've gotten off my bum and sorted out debt that was hanging over me, while at the same time throwing around the hoover and keeping on top of my house. I've divided my life into categories almost, aims and goals within each ones. I've promised myself to keep in touch with friends more, to make more effort with my blog, to lose some weight and eat better, to start saving instead of spending, to read more, to stress less and so on and so on.

Over this year I want a lot more new beginnings. I'd like to say "I've started a new business and now I work from home". I'd like to say "I've stopped spending and started saving. I have enough money to take my family to Rome". I'd like to say "I've managed to lose over 2 stone and keep it off! This is the new me". 

New beginings come along every day. Sometimes they are things we can control and other times they're not. The new year is a perfect time to start over and change the things in life that need changing. 

However any day is a good day to make a new beginning.

So what are you waiting for? What will you change today?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Hopster - Kids TV App Review

This week my girls have been trying out Hopster, an app for the iPad which allows them to watch children's TV programmes on-demand.  Lara and Holly are definitely of the on-demand generation and they know no different.  But since we downgraded our television package 12 months ago, I will admit that we have missed some of our favourite programmes which are available on commercial channels.

Hopster is available on iPad and is designed for 2-6 year olds.  The app itself is free but you pay a monthly subscription of £5.99 to access the on-demand content.  The subscription is all managed through your iTunes account where you can cancel it, should you want to.  The benefit of this is that there are no in-app purchases for your children to go wild with!

The app features LOTS and LOTS of episodes of many of our favourite television programmes such as Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom and Humf.  While these are available on terrestrial channels, they aren't at a time of day that works for us.  The girls have been so excited to watch these programmes together on the iPad screen.

I really like the fact that Hopster doesn't have any text or instructions that need to be read. Even Holly, at 20 months old, is able to navigate throughout the app because it is all driven by pictures.  Each episode is represented by a key image, rather than its title.

While I don't want my girls glued to the screen all the time, I am very relaxed (these days) about their screen time.  I'm happy for them to use the app themselves and so far they haven't sat for more than a couple of short episodes of any one programme.  I would certainly prefer for them to be watching through Hopster than on commercial channels because there are no adverts in this app so Lara won't be pestering me for expensive pink toys like she used to when we had Sky.

When I first downloaded Hopster, I did wonder about the cost.  Even though the subscription price is A LOT LOWER than our old TV subscription with Sky, I worried about the value for money.  After all, most of the children's TV programmes can be found online in other places such as the TV channel's own on-demand services but these are all tricky for my girls to navigate; I certainly wouldn't expect my 4 year old to know how to find her favourite programmes to watch through 5OD or iPlayer just yet.  And finding television programmes on Youtube is just a recipe for disaster as there are too many opportunities to find "the wrong thing".  So actually, I'm pretty impressed with Hopster's value for money here and I can see myself using it quite a bit at home and when we are travelling.

Hopster does have a 'learning' element with a games option available alongside the TV programmes.  The games are fine.  Lara quite enjoys the spelling and word games but my gut feeling is that it is an after-thought and I can't see the girls using this part that often as we have lots of other apps that focus on learning games.  The value of Hopster is definitely in the on-demand programming.

I would expect to see a few bigger names of programmes available through Hopster in the future.  Lara was just a little disappointed that there was no Peppa Pig or Dora the Explorer available.  But, when she rediscovered Max & Ruby after a very long break she was happy to sit down and enjoy the show.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Creative Play - The Dolls House

You may remember that shortly before Christmas the girls became the proud owners of a beautiful, traditional dolls house that now takes pride of place in the brand new play room.

The dolls house has been used on and off by a series of teddy bears but it was looking a bit bare and lonely in there.  For Christmas, Lara and Holly received a couple of Le Toy Van themed Budkins dolls and fairies who took up residence in the dolls house but it was still lacking character.

In my Christmas break I decided to teach Lara how to use the sewing machine.  We knocked up a few set of curtains for the dolls house and a carpet or two made from old fabric scraps and curtain trimmings and this suddenly brought Lara's imagination to life... she wanted to furnish the entire house.

More recently we were lucky enough to be asked to review some of the wide range of wooden dolls house furniture available from the Big Game Hunters Dolls House website  And now the dolls house has really come alive.

The girls were sent a set of furniture for the living room - a Loganberry coloured lounge suite from Sugar Plum.  Lara loved the fact that there was a television and even a surround sound system as it made it feel very much like our home.  Immediately Lara started sitting the dolls down to watch television and was bossing the fairy children about!

We now also have a Sugar Plum dining room suite and a set of wooden Pink Bathroom furniture so the house is really coming along well.

I loved the fact that the Sugar Plum wooden furniture sets had addressed lots of the details.  Lara had great fun deciding where to stick the arty pictures on the dining room and living room walls and spent quite some time arranging cookie jars on the sideboard!

Since we first set up the furniture in the dolls house both Lara and Holly have been in to play each morning.  Holly's Happyland characters seem to have moved into the house.  I love hearing Lara's voice boss her big sister around as they move the dolls throughout the different rooms.  It will never cease to amaze me how creative their imaginations can be when left to their own devices.

You know, a dolls house is so far away from many of the other toys the girls have.  It is simply crafted.  Makes no noise (other than Lara's voice as she chatters on to herself and to Holly) and requires no batteries.  And yet the value we get from it in terms of hours of play is endless.  We love it... and I can well imagine a few more choice pieces of furniture being added to the dolls house over the coming months!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Blog Swap :: Discipline, D-Cups and doing it for the kids

Today's guest post is from Helen Neale of Kiddycharts fame who blogs at Stickers, Stars and Smiles.

Mellow Mummy New Beginnings Blog Swap

2013 was a good year.

It was the year that I finally got my KiddyCharts blog off the ground, that Chatterbox made it into Junior school, and that Stuntboy found a passion for reading so he would actually sit still for five minutes. wasn't all good. It was also the year that:
  1. My boobs went on strike. Not literally of course. But oddly I thought they would stay the same size after pregnancy and breast-feeding. They don't...and they are pretty good at telling you they aren't happy with how you have been treating them for the last six years
  2. Social media took over my life, so much so that I have had too many late nights, and learnt that over-sharing really can be a wee bit scary, and
  3. Success proved to be a pain in the arse. Being successful at what you do isn't necessarily all that it is cracked up to be. Particularly if you find that the blog you started to fit in with your life as a parent is starting to take over that life....

Do you know what this all means?

It means that 2014 has to be a year when I find the discipline that I have been hiding at the bottom of the wardrobe along with the bloody annoying toy that I can't switch off...

All of these problems are under my control. No excuses, it is all my fault.

I solved the boob problem with a trip to John Lewis. The boobs are now disciplined. I was wearing a bra four sizes too small. That can't be good for your boobage now can it?

Social media is a different matter entirely. John Lewis' excellent bra fitting service is not going to help with that.

We are in week two of January.

Yet, I have already spent one evening this year faffing on Facebook until after 1am. It was all for charity you know, but Teamhonk can't be blamed for the lack of organisation that mean I was sorting things out at that time of day. Me again.

Applying discipline to social media use is not easy. I need to wise up to the fact that I am not going to see my kids grow up on Facebook. If I spend too long on there in 2014; I will miss parts of their life I won't get back. I gave up work so I could be there for them; not be on social media "absent lost in my iPhone" when I am with them....

Finally, 2014 will be the year that I reign in my blog.

I know that sounds counter-productive but I can't keep up with commenting, posting, writing, parenting, tweeting, FBing, Gplusing, and everything-else-ing without part of my life falling apart.

I want to craft with my kids. I want my hobbies back; to do Origami again. I need to be able to read again. I didn't read one book in 2013. Not one. Appalling. All because every spare minute I was on social media or writing and blogging. I set the blog up for the kids, so I could be with them when I wanted.

What has happened is that it has taken on a life of its own, and I want to get it back under MY control.
I am not going to have 2014 pass me by because I have my nose in FB or in my blog ALL THE TIME.
Discipline. One little word. But one hell of a big challenge.

Are you going to be more disciplined in 2014 too? What does it mean for you? Are you the same with social media and blogging? I would love to know.

Helen Neale is a mum to two and owns; a parenting tools and advice blog where she ruminates on having kids, as well as offering printable personalised charts for free (From mid January 2014). Her personal blog is a little more disorganised (mind the toys on the floor), and takes a tongue in cheek look at life with little people. Occasionally, she is serious when the mood takes her too. Pop along and see her on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and G+ if you can. She won't be on there as much this year though ;-)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Blog Swap :: Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else

Today's Blog Swap comes from the very awesome Claire at Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else.  She is blogging about a Frugal start to the year.

Mellow Mummy New Beginnings Blog Swap

Frugality it's not a ugly word.

Frugality doesn't mean boring.

Luxury can be born out of frugality

The period after Christmas can, dare I say it, leave somewhat of a lull , it can leave you staring in the ether . The children can be climbing the walls and you are not sure , but you think the mince pies are duplicating themselves because surely you should have run out by now?

We love going away as a family but it can be expensive , so what we do is sell things that we no longer need or want in order to go away . This time we sold a games console of J's for £149 to fund this latest trip to Bath ( don't worry he does get the profits mostly from what he sells !)

Bath is a luxurious city that are many types of accommodation on offer but we plumped for a Premier Travel Inn . If you look ahead you can get even better deals but with an impromptu visit you don't always get that, for our stay it was £104 including breakfast . It cost us about £32 to get into the Roman Baths and it was fantastic somewhere I definitely want to go back to perhaps this time at a luxury hotel ; that's going  to require some serious selling and planning . It's worth selling your items and putting the money aside for occasional treats like this , it helps with the monotony of life.

So what occasional luxury do you want to start planning for ?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Mr. B and the Tea (and a rather shiny new Teapot)

Big pot, little pot

In November, Mr. B. caught viral meningitis.  It was a scary time.  He was very unwell and it has taken him many, many weeks to slowly bring himself back to something approaching normality.  Well, I say normality... the one lasting change since Mr. B. fell ill is a taste for tea!
As you may know from my random ramblings on the subject of tea in the past, I'm rather partial to a nice cuppa.  I love a good strong coffee or two (or three) in the morning but in the evenings, while I blog, I like a hot cup of tea.  Until now, Mr. B. has never joined me.  Tea just wasn't his thing.  So I owned a teeny tiny single-person teapot for my own use.
Meningitis causes an inflammation of the membranes around the brain.  While Mr.B. seems well recovered now, I'm rather stumped by his one lasting side effect following his illness.  In the weeks that followed his illness, he wouldn't even drink a cup of coffee in the morning - this was totally unheard of.  And to choose to drink a cup of tea???? Well, this was all new to me.  Mr B's new taste for tea causes us one issue - we needed a new teapot.
And, as luck would have it, we were asked to review one of these gorgeous Emma Bridgewater Pottery Teapots. We love the classic Emma Bridgewater polka dot design and, in fact, have a couple of mugs already.  This teapot is CERTAINLY big enough for the both of us now that Mr. B. is joining me for a regular evening cuppa.  The Polka Dot teapot, like most of Emma Bridgewater's pottery teapots claims to be a 4-cup pot but I think you can squeeze a fifth out!
I will admit that it feels like a bit of a luxury to finally be drinking tea that has been properly brewed in a great big pot with enough room for the tea bags to move around in.  We have been together for 10 and a half year so it is about time that I got a cup of tea worth drinking... and I suspect my visitors, namely my mum, will appreciate it too!
Even Mr. B is a bit in love with our new piece of Emma Bridgewater.  He moaned about the spout being drippy but I suspect it is because he hasn't had 34 years of teapot practice like I have!  I love the (not-at-all-drippy) spout, the no-need-to-jiggle-it-about lid and the big-enough-for-my-enormous-hands handle.  Even Lara loves it because she thinks it is a Mr. Tumble teapot.  Top scores all round.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The back-to-work balance : My tips for House of Fraser

Sharing my tips on the House of Fraser blog

The perfect combination of work and parenting sometimes seems an unreachable balance. It’s what all parents find a struggle and settling back in to work life after family festivities can be daunting.

This is why House of Fraser asked me to give my perspective on making the most of time and getting that balance just right!

Every parent will have different priorities and ideas, but my own tip was to make the most of weekends:-

Even after 4 years as a working mum, occasionally I feel I’m missing out on valuable time with my daughters. When I’m feeling down, I remind myself that my career defines me nearly as much as motherhood and I find a little extra mummy-time such as an evening baking extravaganza with my girls. When I get home from work it can be tempting to put off the chores until the weekend. I’ve learned to distribute the boring bits throughout the week so that I can spend the weekend with my girls – lazy mornings, fun family days out and lots of cuddles.

Other Mum’s gave their own advice;
  • Have a regular routine
  • Plan your meals
  • Focus on what you want to achieve day by day
  • Make time for yourself
  • Ask for help when you need it
Take a look at tips for working mums on the House of Fraser Blog for the full piece.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Blog Swap :: You're Not From Round Here

January is Blog Swap month on Mellow Mummy with the theme "New Beginnings".  This is a guest post by Siân from 'You're not from round here' as part of the January Blog Swap. Siân writes about life as a parent, wife and full-time student, along with recipes, tips and 'how to' tutorials.

Mellow Mummy New Beginnings Blog Swap

I am very good at new beginnings. Well, the planning, the diving head first into something new and exciting. I am not so good at fully thinking things through, the actual implications, the impact it will have on our family. Before we had children, big life decisions were simpler. They only impacted on the two of us. We moved from London to Yorkshire without much thought. It was exciting, and I still love it up here, so definitely a good decision. It helped that I was born up here and that we have family here, but it was a pretty major move. We also got married a month after we moved up here, so it was pretty full on, but worth it.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, our second child, we realised that if I were to go back to work, my salary wouldn't cover the cost of childcare. I was studying for a degree with the Open University, having gained certificates and a diploma already, but it was hard. Working full time, being a parent and also being pregnant meant I was struggling to put in the required effort. It was suggested that I apply to university, to see if I could study there. I left school at 16 and really hadn't ever considered going to university, it just wasn't something I thought I would ever do, but it was a chance, and it was also the last year to apply for university before fees went up. I applied to Oxford, Durham, York, Lancaster and Manchester, receiving unconditional offers from York and Lancaster. So that was it, I was off to university, another new beginning.

I started when my daughter turned seven months old. I was desperately sad to be leaving her with the childminder, because I felt it was too soon. Her brother was there though, and she barely even noticed I had left. Fast forward two years, and in six months time, I will be facing another new beginning. This time I don't yet know what it is! I will admit to being slightly unsure about an unplanned new beginning. Initially I thought I would simply get a graduate job and start work. In my second year I realised this would be near impossible to navigate around school pick ups when we live in a small town. So the future is uncertain. We have ideas which may become reality. They would mean moving again, and running a B&B in the Yorkshire Dales. This will probably be the option we choose. It would involve as little money as we have survived on while I am at university, but we would be together as a family and get to spend far more time with the children, and have a garden.

My blog is also going to have to undergo a change. I will no longer be a student, my tag line will have to change. I'm a bit unsure about what to do with it yet, but I have more important things to worry about first and foremost! If you have new beginnings that you are facing, whether through choice or not, I have found that the only way to deal with them is through embracing them, hitting them head on and running with it! The future is undecided for us. What is certain is that we will be facing our new beginnings together.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Holly Monkey - The Mellowness Challenge

Holly Monkey

Holly can really only be described as a monkey. A monkey is cute. A monkey is, undoubtedly, clever. A monkey can do fun tricks, jump around a lot and put a smile on your face. But, if you're in a safari park and a monkey pulls your wing mirror off they suddenly don't seem that cute or fun any more, do they? This is just what Holly is like. She is the cutest bundle of scrumptiousness I've ever come across and yet she is also a whirlwind, a wrecking ball, a handful from the very moment she wakes up until the moment she finally drops off to sleep at night.

Having been through the 'terrible twos' and the 'even more terrible threes' with my Lara, I would say that Holly's behaviour has, since she was 9 months old, mirrored that of a child almost exactly 2 years older than her. Right now Holly, at 20 months old, is behaving very much like her big sister did aged 3 and a half and... to be honest, it is exhausting.

My new year's resolution is to stop shouting at Holly and to try not to let it get to me. To stop letting her push my boundaries of sanity and to try and understand her a little more. It is hard when your toddler can't tell you everything they are thinking and I know this is the source of much of the tension and frustration between us.

It has recently crossed my mind that Holly may have some level of hyper activity that we need to address. But she's only 20 months old. It is hard to tell at this age whether it is just cheekiness, or the early signs of longer-term behavioural issues. So I'm going to start with exploring Holly's diet to see if there are triggers for her behaviour there – ketchup, orange squash and chocolate are all on my lists of suspicions.

In the meantime, myself and Mr. B. are looking out for one another and effectively sharing shifts of time with Holly – stepping in when we see the other one being pushed towards the edge by Holly's behaviour. This week we have shouted less at Holly and seem to have had a few more successes when it comes to convincing Holly not to hit us repeatedly over the head with a toy.

We are working with nursery to try and identify the things that make Holly most happy – they've bought her things to climb on and I think we will try and do the same. It will feel nice not to have to say “No” when she climbs on something. Music is another thing nursery have noticed helps Holly to focus so I'm going to spend more time with her listening to different types of music and playing with musical instruments.

I'm hopeful we can make 2014 the year in which Holly finds the mellowness too!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Blog Swap :: Mummy hood and mayhem

January is Blog Swap month on Mellow Mummy with the theme "New Beginnings".  My very first guest poster is Nicola from Mummy hood and mayhem who is a blogging newbie that I'm really proud to be hosting here on Mellow Mummy.  This is her take on New Beginnings.

Mellow Mummy New Beginnings Blog Swap

New beginnings usually means a lot of positive and rewarding things in January. It’s where we all make New year’s resolution about ‘eating healthy’ ‘going to the gym more’ ‘not getting stressed in work’ and all the usual things that we start out with tons of motivation on.

My new beginning for this January is something completely different and quite alien to me.

This January I have had to take the opposite approach to life. To actually understand that when everyone else is off to the gym and doing the health kick that I need to take it easy a little more, to not be hard on my body, to stop pushing myself. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I am a pensioner now, but in fact I am 31. I’ve also just been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

I’m not going to bore people with the details. It basically just means life can be pretty poor on some days. Sort of like your most stressful day at work followed by rubbish at home, it’s just that my days can be more like this and making the bed can feel like running a marathon.

So my new beginning is about learning to adapt to my new body. To carry on with my dancing that I absolutely love (Belly and Burlesque), but to know my boundaries. I’m not going to let whatever this is embrace me and hold me, I’m going to rule it. It will fit with my routine.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Children's Book Review :: Everybody Loves Butterflies

Everybody Loves Butterflies is a beautiful story of a rather apprehensive caterpillar who doesn't really fancy turning into a butterfly.  Everybody he turns to tells him how much they love butterflies and all the groovy things they get up to but it still doesn't really cheer him up.

Everybody Loves Butterfield is written by Tanis Taylor and the brilliant brightly coloured illustrations are by Masumi Furukawa.  Every page has a basic colour theme and each picture uses a range of different colouring techniques to make the pictures look fun yet perfectly crafted.  I love the bright sunny pages best - who wouldn't want to be a butterfly when the world looks this fab?

Of course, once the caterpillar does finally change, he is perfectly happy and didn't know what all the fuss was about!

I think that this picture book is great for me to read to both of my girls (currently 1.5 years and 4.5 years).  I don't think it will be long before Lara can read it herself.  At the back of the book there is a page which explains all of the amazing stages in the cycle of a butterfly's life and Lara thought this was particularly fascinating and went back through the book to spot the pictures of the different stages.

Everybody Loves Butterflies is released next week in paperback and will cost around £5.99.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Disney on Ice Review

This weekend I took the girls to see Disney on Ice - Dare to Dream. This year's Disney on Ice festive extravaganza.  I really wish I could have captured the look of awe on both Lara and Holly's face when the show started it went a bit like "Oh my goodness, there is actual Mickey Mouse and actual Minnie Mouse skating on an ice rink".

Both girls had an amazing time; I think they were in the minority in that we hadn't dressed them up in Disney princess costumes!  Lara sat on the edge of her seat for the entire Dare to Dream show.  She clapped, and shouted and loved every minute.  Even Holly got into the swing of things and could be seen bopping and clapping along to the music.

I thought the story telling in Disney on Ice was brilliant.  We saw the skaters perform part of Princess and the Frog, Snow White and quite a bit of the Cinderella story with characters true to their Disney representations.  Much of the second half of the show was a re-telling of the Tangled story of Rapunzel which is Lara's all time favourite movie.  The effects were amazing and even I was left gobsmacked by the ice-skating rope trapeze antics of Flynn Rider and Rapunzel in the ribbons of dangling hair.

For both me and Lara the finale was the most impressive as all of the Disney princesses featured alongside Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy.  It was all very sparkly and fun.

I was very impressed by Disney on Ice - I felt the tickets represented very good value for money, especially compared to panto.  I was a bit disappointed in the pricing of the Disney merchandise on offer though... the Disney food products were, quite honestly, extortionate but if you looked hard among the sparkly things and soft toys you could find a good memento such as a T-Shirt.

I was certainly impressed enough with the show to be quite excited when someone handed me a leaflet about next Christmas' Disney on Ice show which will be celebrating 100 years of Magic.  I'm also excited about the Easter show - Disney on Ice presents World of Fantasy because it features some of Lara's favourite non-princess characters such as Toy Story, Cars and Tinkerbell so I think it will be a bit less overwhelmingly girly.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

YVolution Y Fliker Air Review

Before Christmas we reviewed the YVolution Y Fliker Air 3 scooter and loved it - Lara has now been using the Y Fliker for a few weeks and our opinion still stands - it is awesome!

Almost daily during the school holidays Lara has requested to go out on her "double foot scooter" as she calls it.  Sometime Lara likes to just pootle up and down the street, on other occasions she wants us to push her or ride with her at speed to try and pull some tight corners or drift across the street at an angle.  I think Lara could turn out to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie!

The YVolution Air series is available for ages 5+ (the A1) and ages 7+ (The A3) - because Lara is so tall she is already riding the A3.  Lara loves to push herself along until she has gained enough speed and then uses the handlebars to wiggle too and from, a bit like a skiing motion to propel herself further along the road.  She hasn't attempted any flying stunts yet other than with me riding on too... we have tried using the hand brake which isn't awfully effective for bringing the scooter to a standstil but can help if you want to pull a wheelie!

The YFliker A3 is, even in a short space of time, our most used outdoor toy ever.  It has been an even bigger hit than the new bike Lara got for her birthday in the summer!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Koo-di Bathtime Ideas

Koo-di are a brand whose guiding principle is making parents lives easier - exactly the same as the Mellow mummy mantra!  The Koo-di Parent Kneeling Mat totally embodies that goal - my knees say thank-you!

The Koo-di Parent Kneeling Mat is designed for parents as a handy aid for while you are bathing your baby or child in the family bath.  With two children, we usually share the load with one of us sitting by the bath on the toilet and the other one making do with the hard cold bathroom floor.  We did once try a kneel mat but the fabric perished and we found it got in the way for the rest of the day but Koo-di have tackled both of these things in their brightly coloured kneel mat.

The Koo-di Kneel Mat has a handy hanging hook at the top so, after use, I simply hang it up on the back of the bathroom door handle and it is tucked away until the next time we need it.  The material is a firm anti-slip foam-type shock-absorbing plastic that is pthalate free so safe for use around babies.  We found the parent mat to be very quick drying (for when your 4 year old decides to dump an entire bucket of water over the edge of the bath) and I'm really pleased with this product, it certainly does help make bathtimes easier when you are more comfortable yourself.

Over our taps we have a Koo-di bath tap protector.  I have wanted one of these ever since I first became a mum but I'd never previously been able to find one big enough to go all the way over our mixer tap; the Koo-di tap protector has a really big push-in aperture so it should fit on a wide range of bath fittings.

The Koo-di Bath Tap Protector performs three functions.  Most importantly to me is to protect against scalding - Holly has a tendency to reach up to the tap and I always worry that it will still hold residual heat and has the potential to scald badly.  Secondly, it helps protect against bumps or sore eyes... why do toddlers insist on walking around in the bath???  Finally, the Koo-di Tap Protector changes colour as you run the bath water to tell you whether the tap (and the water coming from it) is too hot but I normally tend to trust my own judgement on the water so I find it more useful if it can tell me that the tap is hot.

Mr. B. prefers to put the Koo-di tap protector on after he has run the bath as he has found that if you place it just ever so slightly off the centre of the tap head that water flows into the cover and comes out of the back.  Maybe I just have the knack of getting it 'just right' because this has never happened to me yet.

The bright colours of the Koo-di tap protector are in keeping with the rest of the Koo-di brand but they make the cover look like a toy and Holly and Lara both try to pull it off the tap and play with it by filling it up with water and pouring it out through the holes - rather defeating the point of the product!

And after Holly has emerged from her bath I can wrap her up in this SUPER soft (the softest I've ever come across) snuggly polka dot blanket - perfect for snuggling tiny babies or for use as a play mat.

The Koo-di Parent Kneeling Mat costs £12.99 and the Koo-di Tap Protector costs £9.99. The Polka dot blanket costs around £21.


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Fergus Ferry Children's App Review

Fergus Ferry is a new app for children ages around 2 to 6 years old and as a special festive celebration of the new app it is currently available to download for FREE from the iTunes app store until the end of January, that is a MASSIVE saving because it includes all 24 Fergus Ferry ebooks and the total estimated value of the app is around $89.

Fergus Ferry is a friendly ferry boat whose adventures are recorded in 24 already-popular books which are available in both electronic and paper format.  Fergus has lots of friends who he meets in his stories, some are people, some animals and several are other boats and vehicles.

As well as the complete set of Fergus Ferry stories, the new Fergus Ferry app features a small fun game to play.  In the game you play Fergus and you have to use the boat controls to move around the harbour to save people who have fallen into the water.  For every person you manage to throw a life ring to, you get points.  You have to watch out for other boats as well as fighting off sharks!  The controls are pretty basic so even Holly has some fun moving Fergus left and right and tapping the screen when she sees a person in need of help.

Lara instantly took to the Fergus eBooks (totally unprompted by me!).  Each of the stories has a simple moral behind it - don't play with fire, the value of friendship, it takes time to learn, etc.  While the moral is usually the main theme of the story, the books aren't patronising at all and the stories remain fun and engaging.  Yesterday Lara and I read "Fergus at the Fireworks" together (you can read it yourself or let the app read it aloud for you); the story was really topical as it was based in Seaport Harbour on the night of New Year's Eve but among the fun and fireworks there was someone letting off flares which caused a boat to set alight; I thought the story was a good mix of fun with an important message.

Lara's favourite Fergus story so far has been "Fergus at the Zoo" in which Fergus Ferry is enlisted to help when animals escape from the harbour zoo. Each of the stories is written in a comfortable rhyming pattern which small children love.  The stories on the app are read in a slow, quite deep male voice which is a very interesting change for my girls - I quite like it because so few of our other ebooks are read in a mature male voice.  The stories are set in Australia (Seaport Harbour bridge feels very familiar!) and several of the voices have strong Aussie accents; the stories regularly feature Australian sights and animals so this offers an extra level of learning for the girls.

The final feature of the Fergus Ferry app allows your child to explore Fergus' harbour.  Your child can tap on each of the buildings in the harbour and all of Fergus Ferry's friend to find out more about them.

Next week I will be running a giveaway to win the complete set of printed Fergus Ferry books so stay tuned to Mellow Mummy!

All of the Fergus Ferry ebooks are also available to download for FREE until the end of January from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes and Noble.  The Fergus Ferry app is on offer for a reduced price of 99 cents on Android.  You can find out more about Fergus Ferry at .

Disclosure:  I have an advertising relationship with Fergus Ferry but all words above are my own.
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