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

Friday 28 February 2014

Mothers Day Book Ideas for Children by Tiger Press

Tiger Press sent the girls two beautiful story books to review, both of which would make beautiful Mothers day gifts for a mum of a young child and they are a fitting celebration for Mothers day which is on the 31st of March 2014.

I Want My Mummy by Tracey Corderoy (illustrated by Elison Edgson) is an outrageously cute book abut a little mouse's first day away from his mummy. Grsny tried everything to cheer him up (even wearing an oh-so-cute dragon costume) but it takes a lot to cheer him up because all he really wants is his mummy.

The illustrations of the tiny mouse, Arthur, are really sweet and both of my girls were instantly drawn to the book for this reason. This book helps a toddler or preschooler understand that they don't need to be scared just because they are apart from their mummy - it would make a good book for reading at bedtime if your children were away from home for the night to try and cheer them up.

I Want My Mummy is available in both hardback and paperback. The story is a good length for a single bedtime story - not too short, not too long.

Mummy's Little Sunflowers is also pretty cute and tells the tale of two cheeky little mice who want to impress their mummy.  The story is written by Angela McAllister and is also illustrated by Alison Edgson.

The story tells the tale of Scurry and his little brother Scamp.  Scurry gets a sunflower seed from nursery that he hopes to plant and grow into a big flower for his mummy but his cheeky younger brother can't resist the tasty treat and eats the special seed.  Between the two siblings they go on an adventure to try and find a replacement sunflower seed.

I loved the little mouse Scamp - I particularly liked the fact that he calls the flowers "funflowers" as this reminds me of Holly right now.  In fact, the two mice remind me quite a lot of my girls and the way that they interact... Holly is the troublemaker but Lara will lead them off into things they probably shouldn't be doing.  I can also picture Holly trying to grow a whole sunflower in a matter of hours - she's not awfully patient.

Mummy's Little Sunflowers is available in hardback for around £10.99 and would make a lovely Mother's day themed gift to read with siblings.

Sunday 23 February 2014

Very Hungry Caterpillar Baby and Toddler Book Review

We are very much enjoying being reviewers for the 45th Anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  Next month the celebrations over on the official website and on Facebook will come to a climax with lots of fun events and activities.

This month my two girls have been reviewing Very Hungry Caterpillar activity books for babies and toddlers.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Touch and Feel Playbook is ABSOLUTELY perfect for Holly right now - this is her favourite kind of book.  It is a large hardback book with lots of colours, shapes and textures for her to explore on every page.  There are words about animals and weather and colours for us to share together and she really likes to sit down and explore each page in detail.  There are a few lift-the-flap surprises too.  It is a good sturdy book which is suitable for older babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  I love this book and at £8.99 I think it is great value and likely to become as much a family classic as our traditional Very Hungry Caterpillar story book.

This is The  Very Hungry Caterpillar's Little Book.  It is a small square board book which contains all of the coloured fruits that the caterpillar munches his way through during the week.  Through the middle there is a big hole and from the back of the book there is a red plush finger puppet which can act as the munching crunching caterpillar as he munches through the book.  Holly really likes finger puppet books and this has been a fun way of her learning the names and colours of the fruits as well as starting to talk about numbers together.  I'd recommend this little board book for babies from birth up to about 3 years old.  It costs £4.99.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Fairy Non Bio and The Power of Soft

Holly is fast approaching two years old. I have no idea how this has happened.  She may be a total monkey for 23.5 hours of the day but when Holly gives me one of her trademark cuddles on my chest, my heart still melts even 22 months in!  Earlier this week I had a particularly stressful bedtime trying to get Holly to settle down for the night (it took me nearly 2 and a half hours in total) but at one point she climbed out of bed to lay down with me in the darkness.  She climbed onto my chest and lay there in her soft pyjamas with her head resting on my shoulder and her heart beating against mine just as she did on that very first day when we brought her home from hospital.  I couldn't feel frustrated (despite it approaching 10pm) and just lay there in the darkness with an enormous smile on my face.

In a recent survey by Fairy Non Bio and Mumsnet, over two thirds of the respondents said that if they could have done anything differently as new parents it would have been to have more cuddles.  And I totally agree.  I realise now that I never gave Lara enough snuggles when she was tiny so I'm trying to make up for it now.

The survey found that 74% of new parents most savoured “cuddle time” over any other moment in the day and that 60% of parents to new babies would spend upto a quarter of their day cuddling their newborn baby. Sigh. I miss those days. These days, apart from the rare bedtime snuggle, Holly's cuddles only last a few seconds before she is up and off to the next exciting thing to do (or in Holly's case... destroy).

Fairy Non Bio produces this little cuddle mantra which explains their findings - taking the time is chill out and enjoy parenthood is very important!

Fairy Non Bio is proud to have seen millions of mums through their journey with their new born, helping them to enjoy every cuddle by leaving baby’s clothes super soft. Like me, many mums start out with Fairy Non Bio when they first become a parent. Back then you'll do anything you can to provide soft, safe places for your little one. But you never stop caring which is why, to this date, I still use Fairy Non Bio, particularly for Lara's sensitive skin which developed when she was about 6 months old.

Fairy Non Bio sent me and Holly this personalised cuddle cushion to help us savour our cuddles together.  Somehow Holly just knew it was for her even though she can't read it; "Holly cushing" she says.

Fairy Non Bio's survey with mumsnet also resulted in a short list of recommendations from parents of tips for new mums to help them savour those first newborn moments.  As the mellow mummy I would tend to agree with most of the recommendations such as "housework can wait" and "don't compare yourself to other mothers - every baby is different" but I think the tip I most identified with as a truely mellow mummy is "trust your instincts".  If I could pass on any tip to future parents then it would be to chill out, relax and enjoy - let thousands of years of built-in motherly instinct drive your approach to parenthood so that you don't have to stress about it.  Save the time that other mums would spend stressing so that you can spend it cuddling your scrumptious baby.  That, is the power of soft. 

Sunday 16 February 2014

#FlavourOfTogether - Kashmiri Blackened Sea Bass, Fragrant Dahl and Beetroot & Carrot Bhajis with Minted Pea Puree - Recipe!

McCormick are celebrating their 125th year in the food industry with a special anniversary Flavour Forecast. Each year their Flavour Forecast brings together the emerging trends in food and flavours for the coming year.  Schwartz, part of the McCormick group, sent us a selection of the herbs and spices from this year's predictions and I used their 2014 forecast as inspiration for tonight's dinner - Lara had great fun helping me; she is always happy to help me in the kitchen when there is curry on the menu!

I chose to explore the "Modern Masala" flavour trend which allows Indian food to break free of its traditional confines; I also used one of the year's Top 5 flavours (as highlighted by Schwartz) - a homemade Kashmiri masala.  My dish was very much an experimental one (I felt like Heston as I 'invented' the components in the kitchen with Lara) but I tried to capture a good mix of textures and flavours based on traditional Indian combinations but with a slightly modern twist.  This is my recipe for Kashmiri blackened Sea-Bass on a fragrant yellow dahl served with beetroot and carrot bhajis and a minted pea puree.

Serves 4.
Total cooking time 3 hours (approximately)

For the puree
100g frozen peas
150ml chicken stock
1 inch fresh root ginger (peeled and chopped finely)
1/2 small onion (finely diced)
1 heaped tsp dried mint
A tiny knob of butter or drop of sunflower oil

For the dahl
100g red split lentils
100g yellow split peas
1 small onion (chopped roughly)
1 inch fresh root ginger (cut into two big chunks)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground corriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
5 green cardamoms (bashed gently with the back of a knife to bruise them)
2 strands of saffron
A knob of butter
1 tsp sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
250ml chicken stock
250ml water
1 tsp black onion seed
1 tsp whole cumin seed

For the bhajis
2 carrots (peeled)
1 small onion (peeled and sliced reeeeaaallly thinly)
3 small, whole uncooked beetroot (peeled)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground corriander
150g gram flour
1 tablespoon ground rice
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 fresh green chilli (copped)
100ml tepid water
oil for deep frying

For the fish
4 sea bass fillets (skin on)
A knob of butter and a dash on sunflower oil
2 bay leaves
5cm of cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
4 whole green cardamoms
4 whole cloves
1 heaped tsp whole cumin seed
1 heaped tsp black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon whole fenugreek seed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (I would have used 2 tsp if I weren't feeding a 1 year old and a 4 year old!)
1 heaped tsp ground corriander
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic granules
The juice of one lemon

1. Soak the lentils over night in two separate bowls of water.  Drain well before cooking.

2. Make the pea puree well in advance as this is easy to heat up when you are ready to serve.

Fry the onion and ginger in a little oil or butter until softened.  Add the dried mint.  Then add the frozen peas and the chicken stock and bring to the boil.  Reduce the temperature and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before using a hand-blender to blitz it into a smooth puree.  If the puree is too thin, you can return it to the pan and cook gently to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.

3. Make the dahl next.  It will need some time to mellow before you serve it.

Cut the onion in half.  Slice one half very finely and put to one side.  Chop the other half roughly into pieces you wouldn't mind eating whole.

4. Melt the butter and fry the chopped onion and ginger until just softened.  Add the garlic, ground ginger, corriander, turmeric, saffron strands, bruised cardamoms and chilli flakes. Pour in the yellow lentils and the chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add in the red split lentils and top up with enough water to fully cover the contents of the pan.  Bring to the boil and them simmer on a gentle bubble for around 30 minutes.

6. As the dahl cooks, make some crispy fried onions.  Place the thinly sliced onion into a small frying pan with a tiny bit of sunflower oil and fry REALLY slowly for at least 20 minutes.  The slower the better as this will result in amazingly crispy caramelised onions.  Shortly before you remove them from the heat, add in the whole cumin and black onion seeds to fry for a couple of minutes.

7. Just before the dahl is fully cooked, the lentils will start to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Make sure you stir regularly to prevent sticking and burning.  When the lentils are totally softened, your dahl is ready.  Stir in the fried onion mixture and put the dahl to one side to soak up all the yummy flavours as it cools.  Once cool, you may wish to fish out the whole cardamoms and ginger chunks if you can see them (Mr. B. doesn't like finding large chunks of spices in his dinner).

8. Lara helped me make the Kashmiri masala paste which uses a classic combination of spices from the northern Indian region of Kashmir where red chillis are a particular favourite.  If had been cooking for just grown-ups, I would have used a lot more red chilli in my masala paste!

We dry-fried all of the whole spices in a hot frying pan until they made an awesome smell.  We removed the spices from the heat before they started to pop and placed them straight into a spice grinder (aka coffee grinder) to blend them down to a fine powder.  Lara mixed the blended powder with the ground ginger, corriander and garlic granules before stirring in the lemon juice to make a paste.

9. Next, we made the beetroot and carrot bhajis.  I used a food processor to grate the beetroot and carrots and mixed this with the sliced onion.

Lara sieved the gram flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground rice into a large bowl before stirring in the beetroot mixture and the chopped fresh chilli.  Add a little water at a time to make the mixture soft enough to be able to form balls (don't make it too liquid as it will be hard to make the balls keep their shape).

I cooked our bhajis in a deep fat fryer in batches of 5 at 170 degrees for around 10 minutes for each batch.  My mixture made 12 bhajis.  Make sure you cook the bhajis nice and slowly to avoid burning the outsides before the soft middles have cooked.  Look for a golden coating which is just starting to darken.

Drain the bhajis of fat by placing them onto a sheet of kitchen paper.  The bhajis can be served hot or cold and can be re-heated in a warm oven if needed.

10. About 15 minutes before serving, baste the skins of the sea-bass fillets with the Kashmiri masala paste.

11. About 10 minutes before serving, slowly reheat the dahl and pea puree.

12. The sea-bass fillets only take about 4 minutes to cook.  Heat the butter and oil together in a frying pan until it reaches a medium heat.  Place the fillets into the pan flesh side down for 2 minutes.  Turn them onto their skin side and cook for a further two minutes.  The lemon juice will cause the spices to blacken quickly but don't worry, they won't turn bitter or burned in such a short cooking period!

13. Serve the fish on a bed of the aromatic dahl.  Place the bhajis on a drizzle of the pea puree and finish off with a little freshly grated carrot and beetroot and a sprig of fresh mint.

My girls LOVED this fresh take on a fish curry and I found it to be an elegant and refreshing change.  I've never cooked with beetroot before and I think these bhajis were a triumph!  I loved the overall combination of savoury fish and dahl with sweet beetroot, carrot and peas.  Yummy!

Find out more about the Schwartz #FalvourofTogether anniversary flavour forecast on the Schwartz Facebook page.  Schwartz is looking for people to share their flavour stories on their facebook page and will donate $1 to United Way Worldwide and it's UK partner Focus on Food, for every story shared on the Schwartz website, Facebook page or other social channels

Friday 14 February 2014

Love Is... Blog Carnival

This Valentine's day I'm sharing the love with a collection of great blogs from across the Blogosphere all on the theme of "Love Is..."

Mellow Mummy Love Is

I'll kick things off withe this recipe idea for a healthy valentine's meal that is bound to impress - Slow-Cooked Persian venison with pomegranate and a parsnip & cumin mash.

Actually Mummy...has totally captured the essence of a great marriage in this, the online renewal of her wedding vows.

Louise from 'A Strong Coffee' has perfectly captured her love for her three boys in this beautiful photo collection.

Kheira from Array O Style has shared a soppy love poem for our blog carnival today - let's face it, if you're ever going to get a chance to be soppy, it's Valentine's day.

Donna from The Little Lillypad Blog has a series of Love Is... blog posts - this beautiful blog post captures the little things which made her engagement something very special.

Very Victoria Vocalises is celebrating a third anniversary and tells us what makes her relationship strong and why, for her, 3 is the magic number.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

The Disney Princess Palace Pets Review

Lara is just a little bit Disney Princess mad.  She sleeps with her cuddly Rapunzel at night and dresses up as Snow White, Aurora or Merida at every opportunity.  About a fortnight ago Lara was walking across the living room when she stopped.... absolutely stock still... in the middle of a sentence.  She had seen an advert for the new range of Disney Princes Palace Pets on television and both Lara and her Daddy were starring at the screen in awe.  Cute cuddly pets for each of the Disney Princesses? What more could a 4 year old girl long for?

We were just a tiny bit jammy to then be asked to give our opinions on the Disney Princess Palace Pets Pamper & Beauty Salon from Character Options.  This is the ultimate pamper destination if you are a rabbit, cat, pony, bear or pooch who belongs to a Disney princess!!!  The salon features a bubble bath and a styling chair which fold out.  There are brushes, hairclips and a pretend hair drier to use on your Palace Pet's hair as well as a mirror and shelves to put your crown on!  Lara thinks that the pull out shower (no water required) is fun for giving Rapunzel's cat a pretend wash in her bath.  I am unsure how our own, real pet cat feels about this but she does think that the Palace Pets are fun and tries to steal them by picking them up by their fluffy tails and running off with them!

The Disney Princess Palace Pet Pamper & Beauty Salon Set

The Pamper and Beauty Salon comes with one Palace Pet included and you can buy the other pets individually as Furry Tail Friends or Primp & Pamper Pony toys from the full Disney Princess Palace Pets range.  Each toy comes with a little booklet that explains which pet belongs to which princess and what their characteristics and likes are.  The box describes this as a story book but I think I'd describe it as marketing.  Now Lara wants the entire set.

Lara was particularly taken by Rapunzel's cat who now follows her around the house (a bit like a real cat) when she is carrying her cuddly Rapunzel doll with her.  Each of the pets comes with a brush for their tail, a crown for their head and some clips for their hair.  In some cases there are other small accessories too.  Lara likes the fact that all the animals are different - I think it helps her imagination fun wild.  I found the Primp & Pamper pony to be a little front-heavy so she topples over easily.

Disney Princess Palace Pets Primp and Pamper Pony

There has been a lot of attention to detail on each of the toys.  Snow White's rabbit, for instance, has little red apple motifs on it.  I think that the targeting to Princess-obsessed girls is absolutely spot on.  I guess my only real disappointment was with the hair clips which are very small (easily lost) and actually blimming hard to open and close.  I may disappear them, especially because Lara's little sister keeps finding them and scattering them across the floor.  I'm sure the Palace Pets won't mind.

Disney Princess Palace Pets Fury Tail Friend

Lara has most treasured this slightly larger Disney Princess Palace Pets Talking and Singing Pet - this one is Berry the rabbit and she has been given pride of place on Lara's window ledge, out of the reach of her little sister's hands.  The Talking and Singing pet is just under 20cm tall and has a larger tail with a larger brush that is a lot easier to use.  When you press the button on her collar she speaks or sings a limited set of phrases.

The Disney Princess Palace Pets Pamper & Beauty Salon costs around £34.99 and is recommended for age 4 upwards (there are lots of small parts such as brushes, hair clips and crowns).  The Furry Tail friends cost around £5.99, The Primp & Pamper Ponies cost around £7.99 and the Talking & Singing Pets cost around £12.99.

Monday 10 February 2014

Great Gizmos PlanToys® Rocking Pony Review

Great Gizmos Plan Rocking Pony

We have a new favourite toy in the Mellow Household.  I fell in love with this gorgeous rubberwood rocking pony from PlanToys® the very moment that I set eyes on it and Holly is almost inseparable from it.

Holly may look incredibly serious in these photos (I put that down to Mummy having given her a silly hair style) but even in the few short days that this delightful wooden pony has been with us, he has brought giggles, shouts of glee and massive, massive smiles to Holly's face.

Plan Rocking Pony Wooden Rocking Horse

I love the classic, simple design of this rubberwood wooden rocking horse.  The shapes are clean and simple and the appeal is timeless.  The toy just oozes quality - the finish is professional, safe and tactile.  Our pony did need a small amount of manual assembly when he arrived but it was easy to put him together with no additional tools needed.  Holly was playing within minutes.

The rocking motion is gentle and it works just as well on carpet as on our hard floors.  There has obviously been a lot of thought put into the design of this rocking pony - there are no sharp edges or exposed joins.  The handles are a nice chunky size for small hands to grasp and the little details such as the fabric ears and the wobbly eyeball really bring him to life.  I'm sure it wasn't in their grand plans, but Bella the cat enjoys sleeping underneath it too!

PlanToys® specialise in creating environmentally friendly toys that encourage early learning as well as early teaching about the origins of materials.  The rubberwood used is a by-product of latex rubber plantations in Thailand and everything from the non-toxic paints to the glues, printer inks and the recycled packaging has been chosen with the environment and safety in mind.

Holly has played in lots of different ways with her pony.  She has gently rocked to her own lovely singing voice.  She has pretended to 'race' her sister across the room. She has even learned how to shuffle her horse around at speed.  Her rocking pony is very lucky and has even been fed the occasional raisin!

Plan Toys Wooden Rocking Horse

The Plan Toys rocking pony costs around £78.95 and is available from Great Gizmos.  It is suitable for children over 12 months old.  Holly is 21 months old and it is a perfect size but it is sturdy enough to accommodate her older sister too (Lara is a VERY tall nearly-5-year-old).  I think that there are many many years of use in this beautiful wooden toy.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Popbands and Poplaces Review

Lara is very much like me and has inherited a dislike or (or should that be an acknowledgement of our own total inability of) putting her hair up because it 'hurts'.  Lara can be particuarly troublesome when it comes to swimming lessons when she really does need her hair tied back but will bawl her eyes out when I remove her hairband after the lesson because it has tangled in her hair.  So, when I was contacted to try out Popbands soft elasticated hair bands with a promise that they are kinder to your hair... I jumped at the chance.

Popbands are a very simple stretchy hair band made from a soft, highly-elasticated fabric (they also make head bands too).  They are designed to prevent damage to the hair (there are no joins or sticky outy bits!) and prevent denting of the hair where they are worn.  I found them to have the level of control that I would expect from a thinner, more wirey hairband but with the softness and flexibility I had been promised.  They have worked extremely well for swimming and they MUST be more comfortable because yesterday, for the first time ever, Lara left her ponytail in all afternoon.

Popbands come in a range of colours - brights, pastels and prints.  Many of the designs can also come with beads on which add a little sparkle.  Lara enjoyed choosing a colour to match her outfit but also likes to wear one on her wrist as a bracelet - they have some very cute valentine's designs on right now.  Popbands are suitable for kids and grown-ups alike.  A set of coloured Popbands costs around £6 with novelty beaded Popbands costing around £5 each.

Also from the same clever people, these are Poplaces which are suuuuuuper stretchy shoelaces.  Lara's white shoelaces bring a feminine touch to her trainers but these aren't just for show.  Right now, Lara really wants to wear her trainers to school (it's a non-uniform school) but if she has to take her shoes off during the day then she struggles to tie the laces back up - she hasn't quite grasped the skill yet.  So to have a pair of shoelaces that need never be undone and which will stretch as you put the shoes on, before returning to their original tightness, is perfect for Lara right now.  Poplaces would also work well for me as I much prefer to slip my shoes on in a rush than faff about with tying laces every time!  Poplaces come in black, white and neon colours and cost £6.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Slow-Cooked Persian Venison with Pomegranate with a Parsnip & Cumin Mash Recipe

I was asked to help Waitrose show that it is possible to have a very special valentine's meal and still eat healthily so I got a little creative in the kitchen today.  When I started cooking, I wasn't 100% certain how this was going to turn out but let me tell you this... my slow-cooked Persian venison stew with pomegranate was one of the most awesome things I've ever tasted.

I quite often use the in-store recipe cards and monthly magazine from Waitrose for evening meal ideas but this month I have been exploring the healthy meal ideas on the Waitrose website.  Right now they have a Healthy Heart hub to celebrate Valentine's day with ideas for healthy dinners to cook for you loved one, along with ideas of foods which are particularly good for heart health.  With these ideas to guide me, tonight I cooked Mr. B. (and the girls) this slow-cooked Persian venison stew.

You may not know that Venison is a meat which is naturally low in fat so it represents a far healthier option for a special meal like this.  I paired it with Pomegranate which is believed to help combat the risks of heart disease.  Add to this walnuts and sunflower seeds which are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which help to reduce blood cholesterol.  There are no added fats anywhere in this recipe because cooking this in the slow-cooker means there is no need for oil.

Ingredients for slow cooked Persian venison with pomegranate and a cumin and parsnip mash


300g Diced stewing venison
40g Waitrose Love Life walnut halves
1 Medium onion, sliced roughly
250ml Pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon Rose water
A couple of strands of saffron
1 teaspoon Ground allspice
2 heaped tablespoons Waitrose half-fat creme fraiche
1/2 Pomegranate (seeds only)
1 tablespoon Sunflower seeds
1 dessert spoon whole cumin seed
6 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
A few sprigs each of chopped fresh mint and chopped fresh parsley

1. Place the venison pieces and onion slices at the base of the slow-cooker pot.
2. Using a hand-blender or food processor, blend the walnuts down into a soft powder (be careful not to blend them so much that the oils release and it turns to butter!)

3. Sprinkle on the all of the walnut powder, the saffron strands and the ground allspice.  Pour on the rose water and the pomegranate juice and cook on a high heat setting for 4 hours.
5. One hour before the stew is finished, check to see if it needs a top-up of pomegranate juice... you don't want it to totally dry out.  Add in the creme fraiche and half of the pomegranate seeds as well as some salt and pepper to taste.  Now leave to cook for the final hour.
6. To serve, boil the parsnips until they are soft.  Drain and mash finely (I used a potato ricer) before stirring in the whole cumin seed.
7. Serve the stew and the parsnip mash with the remaining pomegranate seeds, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and chopped mint and parsley.  We also served steamed green beans.

Recipe for slow cooked Persian venison with pomegranate and a cumin and parsnip mash

Mr. B. was suitably impressed.  I think this would make a stunning romantic Valentine's meal.  Both of the girls tucked into their meals but I think Lara found the stew a bit alien (I think she has only eaten venison once before).  I absolutely LOVED this meal and will definitely be cooking it again.

Friday 7 February 2014

The Wiggly Jiggly Worm Children's Book Review

The Wiggly Jiggly Worm is a lovely children's story book from first time author Cassandra Kelvin and illustrator Jason Kelvin. Both of my girls (aged 1 and aged 4) enjoyed The Wiggly Jiggly Worm... so much so that Holly stole the book and sat and "read" it alone in her bedroom with a big smile on her face.

The Wiggly Jiggly Worm

The Wiggly worm wants to be like his friends the butterfly, the mouse and the frog but I guess the moral of the story is that it is OK to be different from others and that we are all individuals who have our own qualities that we should be proud of. It is a clear moral that my girls both understood from the first day that we read the story, but it isn't patronising or preachy! The story reads very well - I always prefer a rhyming story book that I enjoy reading as much as the girls love listening too. I found that the words and the text flowed well and the rhyme wasn't strained.

The illustrations are fun, bright and engaging. I loved the painted style of the images and the purple worm really stood out so that both girls recognise the worm the minute that I lift The Wiggly Jiggly Worm out of the bookcase.

The Wiggly Jiggly Worm is aimed at preschoolers but I think the book is just as suitable for me to read to my younger daughter as my older one and I can see that they both enjoy it. I also think that it has several years worth of interest in it.  It is a short book, in a small paperback format but I think it is a bargain at £4.99.

The Wiggly Jiggly Worm is available from and online from the Wiggly House website in both paperback and audio format.  It is also currently available on Amazon.

You can follow Wiggly House on twitter.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Children's Book Review :: Talk to the Paw Cos the Cat's Not Listening

Talk to the Paw Cos the Cat's Not Listening is a new children's rhyming story book by Loreta D'Souza and Neil Seddon.

The story appealed to me because of the feline theme and I thought that, given Lara and Holly became proud owners of a little black cat, Bella, late last year, I thought it would particularly appeal to them.  Talk to the Paw Cos the Cat's Not Listening is about a black cat with attitude and our tiny Bella cat certainly has lots of that!

From the words of the story, It sounds like author Loretta's cat is also a bit of a handful like ours.  The story is written using a rhyme and each double page has the repeated text "Talk to the Paw Cos the Cat's Not Listening" written across the bottom.  Both of my girls appreciated the repeating pattern of the story but I'm not sure that the rhyme stands out enough and I found it quite tricky to read out loud to them.

Silly cat antics are something any cat owner will understand and I've seen many a poem and comedy sketch in the past which has built on this shared understanding of cat-owners everywhere but there were a couple of parts of this story book that I found to be a little abstract... almost as if they were a very personal observation of a cat that I didn't understand and I don't think my two girls really bonded with the cat in the story either.

Saying that, Lara (age 4) did recognise the naughtiness of the cat and she particularly enjoyed the illustrations by Ewa Poklewska because she was able to follow the iconic motif of the black cat who featured several times on each double-page.

Talk to the Paw Cos the Cat's Not Listening is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

MyStyle Craft Design & Make Shamballa Fire Jewellery Kit Review

Lara recently received this MyStyle Craft Design & Make Shamballa Fire Jewellery kit to review and she has been totally absorbed in it.  The kit is available from Tesco for £12.99 and it includes the materials you will need to make two different necklaces, two bracelets and a pair of earrings in the Shamballa style.

The Shamballa Fire Jewellery set features a re-usable craft box which includes knotting cord, Shamballa beads, sparkly beads, earring wires and necklace attachments.  The Tesco website recommends this jewellery making kit for children from 3-4 years so I had expected it to be well-targeted for Lara (age 4.5) but in fact it was very tricky.  I spent an entire evening making this simple knotted bracelet... there is simply no way that a 4 year old would have the dexterity, attention to detail or attention span needed to make the bracelet.

That said, Lara did manage these earrings with only a little help from her Daddy to make the spirals a little tighter.  She very much enjoyed choosing the beads and threading them onto the wire.

This MyStyle Craft Design & Make set comes with a 16 page colour guide that walks you through the steps needed to make your own jewellery.  I found the instructions very easy to follow, including the detailed pictures that show you how to make the knots.  I found it tricky to thread the cord onto the Shamballa beads because it frayed easily.  Once again, I think the instructions and the threading are more suited to an early teen than a younger child.

I think this craft set presents good value because of the materials provided and the life-long skills that you will learn.  Equipped with Shamballa knotting skills you could take on the world!

Monday 3 February 2014

Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy Preview

Having enjoyed our first ever Disney on Ice experience this Christmas, both Holly and Lara can't wait to see the next Disney on Ice extravaganza coming this spring - Worlds of Fantasy.

Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy is an ice-show for Disney lovers which features some Disney favourites including Cars, Toy Story 3 and The Little Mermaid as well as Tinker Bell’s mystical world. Mickey and Minnie mouse host the show and introduce each of the different worlds of adventure.

Disney on Ice - Worlds of Fantasy looks like it has something for everyone (and probably isn't as girly as the show we went to see over Christmas) so it should appeal to the whole family.  I am particularly looking forward to seeing these full-sized cars take to the ice and I'm intrigued to see how they work.  Lara is most looking forward to seeing Woody and his friends from the magical world of "Andy's Room"

Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy is on at the following locations.

First Direct Arena Leeds
Wednesday 5th March 2014 – Sunday 9th March 2014

LG Arena Birmingham
Thursday 13th March 2014 – Sunday 16th March 2014

Capital FM Arena Nottingham
Thursday 20th March 2014 – Sunday 23rd March 2014

Hydro Arena Glasgow
Thursday 27th March 2014 – Sunday 30th March 2014

Echo Arena Liverpool
Wednesday 2nd April 2014 – Sunday 6th April 2014

Wembley Arena London
Thursday 17th April 2014 – Sunday 20th April 2014

Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
Wednesday 23rd April 2014 – Sunday 27th April 2014

Tickets are available from Ticketmaster from around £13-£43 per person.

Sunday 2 February 2014

Could this be the Roast Dinner of the year?

It has become somewhat of a tradition in our house in recent months to share a big family roast dinner together and this weekend we have been joining in with the celebrations at Knorr HQ with our own 'roast dinner of the year' to celebrate Knorr's Gravy Pots having been awarded Product of the Year in the Gravy and Stock category.

Knorr sent us the starter kit for an award-winning family roast dinner along with some of their innovative Gravy Pots which come in a number of flavours such as Beef Gravy, Chicken Gravy and Onion Gravy.  I then let the girls choose all of the trimmings that they wanted - the overwhelming winner was some of my homemade oil-free Yorkshire puddings which, thanks to the joys of stoneware, I now seem to have mastered.

Our weekly gathering for a family roast is always the highlight of my week.  I will admit that I very rarely make gravy from scratch... perhaps once a year maybe.  This is mainly because I struggle to create enough cooking juices to warrant a home-made gravy.  Usually I opt for granules but Knorr's Gravy pots promised me that they would taste more like homemade gravy than instant options would.

I used my beef gravy pots in a hurry (we had a visitor arrive just as I was serving dinner!) but even so, I found them a very useful middle-ground between the efforts required for home-made gravy and the instant-gratification of granules.  You have to heat the Knorr gravy pots through in a pan of water until it comes to the boil.  I struggled to get them to fully dissolve because of the hurry I was in but I still found it about 200% easier than trying to mix flour with meat juices and trying to thicken a gravy manually (I always make lumpy gravy).

The girls loved the gravy.  Mr. B. felt it wasn't gloppy enough for him (sigh) but I certainly thought it tasted a lot closer to home-made gravy than our normal brand.

Our celebratory roast dinner was washed down with a glass of Cotes du Rhone and finished off with some homemade chocolate chunk cookies that the girls cooked with me.  I can't think of a finer way to finish off a weekend.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Freeva Jungle Animals Cloth Nappy Review

It has been quite some time since I have reviewed a cloth nappy but I'm excited about the launch of a new website - Freeva - which launched today selling some gorgeous designs of easy-to-use reusable nappies such as this Jungle Animals design which costs £10.95 and is suitable for babies and toddlers from birth to potty.

If you're new to cloth then let me explain; these re-usable, washable nappies are one size and they grow with your baby through a popper system that allows you to make them longer and wider.  Holly is now using them on their largest setting.  They fasten together using a velcro-style tab which means they accommodate tummies of all shapes and sizes and are so easy to put on and off.  Inside the nappy you place a very absorbent microfibre insert (and in our case, an additional ultra-absorbent booster pad for extra absorbency).  The fabric shell keeps the moisture inside and, after use, you simply fold the tabs back, remove the inserts and wash everything in your washing machine.  You do have to change them more frequently than disposable nappies and you need to have a strategy for dealing with soiled nappies - experience tells me that our most effective way is to not bother using a flushable liner of any sort and to just live with any stains that really won't shift.

I've been a cloth mama on and off for nearly 5 years. Cloth nappies are soooooo much cheaper than disposable nappies so long as you are happy to place all your nappies in a pail and wait a few days between washes.  Now that Holly is at nursery, we don't use enough nappies during the week to make it worth it but we can still use cloth at the weekends.  I know from a quick analysis of my water bills and elecricity bills over the past years that cloth nappies cost me around £8 a month when we are using them full time in comparison to the £4.80 each week I currently spend on budget disposable nappies.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that cloth nappies save you money and... perhaps most importantly... are kinder to tiny bottoms (neither of my girls ever suffered from nappy rash until I moved them out of cloth and into disposables).

We love the simplicity of these Freeva cloth nappies.  The tabs are so easy to use and the elasticated waist results in a really good leak-free fit.  The opening where you insert the absorbent core is just at the top of the nappy and doesn't have a flap to cover it over like some better-known and more expensive brands.  I think this makes the Freeva cloth nappy a lot easier to use when adding and removing the insert but I did notice at times that the insert can ride up when Holly is wearing the nappy and, if it is wet, then it can result in the wet core touching her clothing and causing leakage.  This may just be a sign of quite how active Holly is.

Freeva have some absolutely stunning fabric designs for their nappies, many of them unisex.  There are also lots of bright and plain coloured nappies but I think the Jungle Animals design is my favourite and it looks so cool on Holly.  It really makes me want to use cloth nappies more permanently.

I have a discount code for use on the shiny new Freeva website if you fancy some of these cloth bottoms for your little one - use the code MELLOWMUMMY at the checkout.  You can find Freeva on Facebook and Twitter.
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