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

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Naked Mini Knee High De-Tangling Shampoo Review

Here in the Mellow household we love our natural and organic skincare and bodycare products for both Mummy and baby so we were excited to find out about Naked Mini. I've known about Naked skincare and bodycare products for a while but until recently I didn't know that they made a range of products specifically for babies and young children - Naked Mini.

Holly and Lara have been trying out the Naked Mini Knee High De-Tangler Shampoo. Naked make products using active natural ingredients instead of harsh cosmetics - their products are all free from parabens, sulphates and petrochemicals. It is an approach to skincare and body care that we are very familiar with in the Mellow household and for the girls, it is the most sensible option as they both suffer a lot from dry and sensitive skin so I have to be extra cautious about what products I use on their skin. I always look for products for them which are free from parabens and SLS - it is a choice I made very early on and I'm glad to say that this is the Naked Mini mantra too.

Naked Mini products are for people who want a little more cleaning power for their baby's skin and hair than just plain old water (which is as natural as you can get!). The De-Tangler Shampoo contains aloe vera extract to help keep your baby's scalp soft and avoid cradle cap - we found it to leave Holly's hair and face feeling beautifully soft. The Shampoo does lather, despite being SLS-free and so we are able to use it on our big girl's hair too which is so long that it needs lots of love and attention these days.  We loved the very gentle lavender scent (I can find lavender very overpowering sometimes).

In the space of the last month Holly has reached the age where she has started to moan about getting water and shampoo in her eyes (as her big sister did at exactly the same age). Because the origins of the ingredients in the Naked Mini Knee High Shampoo are all natural there is less chance of irritation so I know that if either of the girls complains about sore eyes, it is almost certainly them just playing up.

I didn't really understand the 'knee high' reference in the product name (OK, Holly is knee-high on me... but so?) but I thought that the Knee-High De-Tangler Shampoo was a good product at an attractive price compared to other natural baby products (currently £2.99 for 250ml on the Naked website). Having used this shampoo I will certainly be looking at the Naked for Kids range for my older daughter too.

The Naked Mini range also includes Go Ga-Ga Gentle Body Wash, My First Butter and Cute as a Button Bath Foam. You can buy the baby bath and bodycare products from Boots and online at and

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Hawes & Curtis - The Professional Me

This is Me.  The professional Me. The working mum, Me.

Truth be told, my job doesn't really require me to dress up.  Not even smart casual.  Most days, the working Me is a Jeans-and-a-baggy-top type of Me.  But I've just been promoted so maybe now I need to start taking things a bit more seriously and dress the part of a Software Development Lead?

Hawes & Curtis make Ladies fashion shirts like this groovy stripey one.  Some of their shirts are quite formal, ideal for a smart office job.  Others, like these fashion shirts are a bit more casual and I could even see myself wearing this at the weekend.

When I was asked to give my thoughts on the range, I chose this Ladies Red & Purple Multi Stripe Classic Fit Cotton Shirt.  It has a single cuff because I didn't feel like my job quite yet warranted a double-cuff with cufflinks!

I loved the bright yet feminine colour scheme - pinks and purples are definitely the theme in my work wardrobe at present.  The classic shirt is quite a loose fit, which is perfect because it makes me feel mellow and not uptight and feels more like my traditional work attire.  It is ever so slightly shaped at the back with two small darts to pull it in around the waist.

When Lara first laid eyes on the shirt she couldn't quite believe it was for me.  I rather suspect that Lara has never seen me wear a shirt for work.  The funny thing is that before I became a Mum I did dress up specially for work.  I started my current job about 2.5 years before Lara came into my life and would still make an effort each morning for work even though I am not customer facing in any way.  But, since becoming a mum I've blended in more with the guys that I work with and I don't normally have the time or the inclination to dress to impress.  Mornings are about survival these days.

But, last year I made myself a new year's resolution to take my career more seriously and I think it has paid off.  I really threw myself into my job when I returned from maternity leave after baby number two and 12 months on I managed to get the promotion I have been aiming for, for several years.

So maybe this is the new Me.  The smart Me. The boss.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Leapfrog Book Club - Sofia The First

April sees the launch of the Leapfrog LeapReader book club on the Leapfrog UK Facebook page.  Holly and Lara are big LeapReader fans and they were asked to give their thoughts on the first of the books to be featured in the Book Club, Disney Sofia The First - A Princess Thing.

Sofia The First A Princess Thing is a book for the LeapReader Junior reading system - ours is a green hand-held console in the shape of Scout the dog.  As you press the reader onto the page, it reads out the words from the pages along with sounds, music and conversation from the story.  The book is part of the Get Ready to Read Series which is designed to encourage younger children to start to understand the concept of characters in a book and to listen and comprehend - they are designed for children from about 2 years to 4 years old.

My girls LOVE anything Disney Princess related and were both very taken with the story.  In the story, Sofia decides that she wants to train to appear in the Flying Derby race (flying horses AND princesses? it doesn't get more perfect if you are 4!).  Sofia's older sister thinks that the idea of a princess racing in the derby is terribly uncouth and tries repeatedly to convince Sofia to give up.

Princess Sofia is allocated an inexperienced flying horse called Minimus who needs a LOT of practice but they keep on trying and trying and eventually everything comes good for the race when even her older sister, Amber is proud of her.

This was my younger daughter Holly's first experience with the Leapreader Junior and she seemed genuinely fascinated.  She is very into ponies and horses right now so she loved turning to these pages and pressing Scout onto each of the pictures to find out more and to listen to Minimus speak to Sofia.

Lara is nearly 5 and most enjoyed listening and then answering the questions. The comprehension questions aren't taxing and are usually directly related to the story being told on the current page but it does give a sense of achievement when they answer them correctly.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Free Birds - Movie Review

Free Birds, the movie was released on DVD, Blu-Ray and for download this Monday, 24th March.

Free Birds stars Owen Wilson, a personal favourite of mine, as the voice of Reggie, a turkey who has an inkling about the farmer's plan for them - they are being fattened up for a reason... almost certainly the thanksgiving celebrations!

The other turkies don't like someone rocking the boat and Reggie gets kicked out.  In a weird turn of events, Reggie ends up being the traditional US "pardoned turkey" and is given a life of luxury with anything he pleases.  While he is chilling out at Camp David he finds out about plans for a time machine and he and his friend (played by Woody Harrelson) attempt to travel back in time to try and change the tradition of eating turkey for Thanksgiving.

Lara really enjoyed the movie but I think the context (thanksgiving turkeys) was a bit abstract to her, not k knowing anything about US tradition.  I also felt some of the humour was more adult than she would be able to understand, despite it being a U certificate.

I felt the movie was a bit weird and I struggled to sit through it all.  I felt the first part of the movie was fun but as soon as time travel was introduced I lost the thread a bit and it didn't feel like the same movie.


Kids Craft Ideas - Homemade Spice Cards

Last week, Mellow Grandpa celebrated a big birthday.  We bought him a voucher for a michelin-starred curry restaurant in London and the girls wanted to make him a birthday card each so I thought I would try something just a little different with them - I raised my store cupboard for spices and pulses that I would use in a curry myself and let the girls get creative.

Most people have a cupboard with little jars of spices, many of them go unused for months on end.  I love cooking curries and I have an entire cupboard dedicated to whole spices and ground spices and yet I still always find a rogue jar at the back of the cupboard that is many years past its use-by date.  This creative craft idea is a brilliant way of using up those lesser-used spices you have been hoarding.

I lifted out some whole spices such as cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, black onion seeds and star anise.  Then I also gave the girls some ground spices such as turmeric, cumin powder, asafoetida and clove powder which all have amazing scents.  Finally, I poured out a small bowl of red split lentils which are a curry staple of ours.  I covered the table with a large sheet to collect the debris and let the girls loose with the glue and glue sticks!

Both Holy (1) and Lara (4) loved choosing their own 'ingredients' for their card.  They enjoyed handling and sniffing the different whole spices and the mess on their hands and on the table brought much hilarity.  The girls concentrated very hard on getting their designs for Grandpa just right.

We loved this fun craft idea as it was colourful, smelled great and helped us all explore our ingredients cupboard.  We talked together about each of the spices as we used them - what they were called, where they come from and what we use them for.  It was a brilliant journey that resulted in some very personal touches to these spicy birthday cards.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Celebrating 45 years of the Very Hungry Caterpillar #VHC45

Today has been a fun day - not only is it my wedding anniversary, but it was also an opportunity for us to have a little celebration in aid of the 45th anniversary of the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Over the past week my girls have been helping we to make decorations for our little party - we made paper chain garlands for the living room using The Very Hungry Caterpillar Paper Chain Garland set (£5.95 from John Lewis or Bloomsbury) and party bunting saying "Happy Birthday" to our friend the caterpillar and an array of his favourite foods.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar Bunting Making Kit has so many different options for fun party bunting and costs £8.95 from John Lewis and Bloomsbury.

Holly was very excited by our party preparations and has recently learned the words to "Happy Birthday" so was singing until her heart's content.  Our party involved lots of different Very Hungry Caterpillar activities (and breakfast from our VHC crockery too!).

The first thing that the girls wanted to do was to make birthday cards - this card-making kit costs £8 and is available from John Lewis and Bloomsbury. It is packed full of base cards with stickers and decoupage pieces that allow you to personalise your cards for lots of different occasions.  The girls used their tin of chunky Very Hungry Caterpillar colouring pencils to further decorate their cards - we LOVE these pencils as they are brilliant quality and even come with their own wooden pencil sharpener.  The tin makes them great for taking out and about (or on holidays).

Lara was extremely proud of her birthday card for the Very Hungry Caterpillar and she loved layering the pieces to make a 3 dimensional effect.  I can see us doing lots more of these.  If you aren't the creative type, have a big range of Very Hungry Caterpillar Every-day Greetings cards on offer.

The main part of our morning was spent playing VHC games and puzzles in our party room.  Holly really discovered the joys of jigsaw puzzles with the Very Hungry Caterpillar My First Puzzles by Ravensburger (£5.99) which is a set of 4 small puzzles that range from 2 pieces to 5 pieces and is suitable from 18 months upwards.  Lara and Holly were beautiful sisters playing together at The Very Hungry Caterpillar Mini Memory Game (£3.99) - Lara even taught her sister how to play it by turning the pieces over so that Holly could understand that she had to look for matching pictures.  It was a great morning and the girls very much enjoyed themselves.


Find out more about the anniversary celebrations at


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

PurFlo Cot and Cotbed Mattress Review

As an ambassador for PurFlo, we were asked to try out the PurFlo breathable mattress on Holly's cotbed to see how it compared to her more traditional mattress.  The PurFlo mattress really is something different - it isn't a solid mattress but instead a breathable sleep surface stretched around a frame.

Our first challenge was to assemble the PurFlo mattress.  The frame of the mattress is made fro lightweight metal tubes which slot together using plastic corner pieces.  It was simple enough, and when constructed, seemed very stable.  Then we had to slip the frame into the PurFlo SleepSurface which was definitely a two-person job!  To make the surface taught you pull a series of belts tight - both myself and Mr. B found this a bit of a struggle and it was hard to tell when the surface was taught enough to provide support when the mattress was in use.  The belts tuck away nicely under a cushioned end-piece.

Once the mattress was assembled, we could really see the potential benefits.  Because the mattress is hollow it allows air to pass between the holes - this helps reduce the chance that your baby might overheat and reduces the pooling of CO2 around them as they breathe out during the night.  The hollow mattress also means that there is no foam centre which can house dust-mites and can therefore reduce the chances of asthma and is kinder to the skin - Holly and Lara have both suffered with irritated skin over the years so this is very appealing to us.

The PurFlo SleepSurface can be removed for washing and can go into your washing machine - this is great for accidents and I think it will work well as we approach potty training.  The PurFlo mattress also would work well when travelling because you can take off the cover, collapse the frame and place it into it's own travel carry bag.  This compact nature means it is an attractive option for if you are planning more children - most parents will consider saving their child's cot mattress even though the current recommendations are that, to reduce the risks of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) you should buy a new mattress for each child; with the PurFlo mattress I would be able to store the frame for future children and then by a new SleepSurface when needed rather than replacing the entire mattress.

Holly seemed very taken by the new mattress and we noticed no difference in her sleeping patterns.  I have had to tighten the SleepSurface once since we started using it but I think that may be from her standing and jumping up and down on her bed!

The PurFlo mattress does differ a bit from other cot and cotbed mattresses and there are a number of required warnings printed on the label which took me by surprise when I first saw the scale of them; however, most of the warnings are largely common sense.  The mattress is noticeably taller around the edges compared to Holly's old mattress and this can mean that your child might be more able to climb from their cot if they stand at the edge, but, to be honest, once your baby has made up their mind that they want to get out of their cot, they will find ingenious ways to do so such as standing on toys (or shouting for their big sisters!)

I think the PurFlo mattress will serve us well.  The cotbed mattress is recommended for a maximum child weight of 22kg which is well above what I expect Holly to be by the time she outgrows her cotbed.


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Mums - What Makes You Feel Mellow?

If there was one thing I would ask for as a Mother's Day gift this year, it it would be a whole afternoon of just me.  Nobody else. No noise. A chance for me to do whatever it is I want to do and not have to rush.  The thing that makes me feel most mellow is a long hot bath with lots of time to spend pampering.  As I write this on a Tuesday evening after work I feel exhausted, stressed, sweaty and exasperated that, once again, bedtime for the girls took so long that I missed my opportunity to take a long hot bath and instead, tomorrow morning I will rush to squeeze in a shower before breakfast time and the school run.

For me, bathtime is not only my chance to indulge in a few of my favourite skincare products (one of the original starting points for my Mellow Mummy blog!) but it also signifies time.  Time for a bath means time for me.

Pebble Grey, bathroom accessory specialists asked me to think about what it is that makes my bathroom my place of sanctuary.  I love my bathroom - the two keys to a properly mellow bath are my heated towel rail (got to love a huuuuuuge bath sheet straight from the nice warm towel rail) and my LED Mirror which makes a really lovely light glow in the bathroom if I switch the main light off.  These two things set the mood but it is the pampering smellies which really make the occasion.

So here are my top tips for a mellow mummy bathtime experience this Mother's Day.

1. A really good quality bath milk or bath soak.   Bubbles are cool but they tend to disappear quickly so choose a product with a scent that you love and which works as an additive to the water that can keep your skin soft and well-loved.  I LOVE the Elemis bath milk as it leaves my skin feeling wonderful but the Neal's Yard Remedies bubble baths all smell amazing.

2. Turn the lights low and zone out.  These days I most enjoy having a bath after the girls have gone to bed because it is more likely that I will remain uninterrupted.  Though not guaranteed.

3. Use a gentle body exfoliator during your bath to slough off dead skin and leave your body feeling renewed.  This Agent Provocateur Silky Body Scrub is one of THE most awesome products I've ever come across.  My legs and arms felt soooooo good after I had used it and the room filled with the heady Maitresse scent.

4. Use a face mask or dedicated facial wash on delicate facial skin so as not to dry it out or irritate.  Modern Friction by Origins skincare is my current favourite exfoliating face treatment.

5. Bathtime doesn't have to finish once you get out of the bath. Once you're wrapped up in that warm bath sheet you can still find time to treat yourself.  Finish off with a slathering of a sumptuous, sweet-smelling body lotion and let your skin drink it up.

6. Finish off with a home manicure or pedicure (to me, the fact that I only find time to do this approximately once every three or four months means this is the ultimate indulgence).  Give your feet a scrub, rub in a little hand cream or foot cream, touch up those nails and lie back and wait for them to dry - the perfect excuse to stay still, chill out in the bathroom and not go anywhere for a little while longer.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Peppa Pig Mothers Day Gift Ideas

I'm just a little bit excited about Mother's Day this year as I think Lara, who is nearly 5, really understands the idea this year.  Holly goes through stages of being a real Mummy's girl and she has also recently discovered the joys of Peppa Pig - I think I may have seen or hear approximately 20 episodes in one sitting this weekend.  These two fun gift ideas would make lovely gifts for mummies to share with their children this Mother's Day (30th March).

These fun Peppa Pig wash mitts cost in the region of £4.99 and come in two sizes - one is shaped like Mummy Pig in her bikini and is great for mummy to help out at bath time.  The other is much smaller and is for tiny hands like Holly's so that she can join in with washing at bath time too.  Both of my girls love these wash mitts and really got into the idea of washing being both of our jobs.  The Peppa-sized mitt really was quite small and was too small for Lara but it actually works quite well for our two girls to be able to share the set between them.  You can find these Peppa and Mummy Pig wash mitts online and in most major supermarkets.

Lara also is particularly taken with this Peppa Pig board book - "My Mummy". It is written such that she can read it herself and I almost melted when she first read it out loud to me - now Holly likes to take the book and sit on her bed and "read" it to me as well with lots of "Mummy" words. My Mummy is a fun book in which Peppa explains all the cool things about her mum, Mummy Pig. There are references to lots of Peppa Pig episodes that I recognise including the one where Mummy Pig lets the Peppa and George dress up in her clothes and the one where Mummy Pig gets stuck in a blackberry bush.

My favourite part of the book is where Peppa days that her Mummy works very hard on the computer - I tell Lara she can say the same about me! I think this book makes a wonderful mothers day gift to read with your little ones and this year I've really seen how books about Mummy can help children understand the role of their parents well within the context of other people's families.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Beautiful Day In the Sunshine

Today we took a wonderful day trip to The Vyne estate in Hampshire which is a National Trust property that is very family friendly.  We took the opportunity to try out the girls' brand new outfits from the Mamas & Papas kidswear range.

I have owned a few very gorgeous items of  babywear from Mamas & Papas before but I hadn't realised that Mamas & Papas made children's clothing right up to 6 years old.  When I first discovered the range of Mamas & Papas girls clothes I didn't know where to start... it's all perfect for Lara and Holly.  Casual, fun, bright.

Right now, Mamas & Papas have a Mix and Match offer with 3 for 2 on certain items from the range.  I chose the girls these similar long-sleeved jersey dresses in spots and stars, the normally cost £16 each.  Holly had great fun filling her pockets up with fir cones.  The dresses have three big buttons at the back to fasten them.  They really were the perfect item of clothing for a sunny spring day because it was still a bit chilly in the shade and it meant that they didn't need to wear a coat or cardigan.

For my third mix and match item I chose Holly a set of two pairs of stretchy leggings which were available in similar colours; even when they are not in the 3 for 2 offer they cost just £14 for the two pairs.  These leggings work perfectly with the long sleeved dress.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Easter Is Coming!

Easter is a little over a month away and I'm putting plans in place already with lots of fun Easter crafts for the girls.  We have made it a little bit of a tradition in our house that instead of buying chocolate eggs for the girls, we buy them an Easter themed book so I need to have a bit of a scout around for some book ideas.

That's not to say that the girls don't get chocolate Easter eggs at all, just that they receive them as gifts from friends and family.  This year Thorntons wanted to show us their  range of chocolate Easter eggs and gifts which all look scrumptious but we got a sneaky chance to try one out in the run up to Easter.

We chose this amazing, large, Banoffee Pie Easter Egg which is very representative of the Easter Thorntons range and includes a squiggle of different coloured chocolate as well as a huddle of exciting yummy goodness at the front - these are sweet dried banana chips and small chunks of crispy caramel.  The girls went wild for it.

Mr. B. and I loved the fact that it wasn't overly banana-y and most of the egg was pure unadulterated chocolate.  More Easter eggs should be like this!  I would be more than happy to give one of these eggs as an Easter gift... but even happier to receive one myself.

I always find Easter a really fascinating time of year.  Mr. B. and I got married on the 22nd of March which, that year, was Easter Saturday.  It is really interesting to see how much the Easter weekend can move and this year it is nearly a whole month later and will be on Sunday April 20th 2014.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Leapfrog Musical Rainbow Tea Party Review

When Holly was sent the Leapfrog Musical Rainbow Tea Party set to review, I knew that it would set her imagination alight and I was right - I get served a cup of tea by Holy every evening now!  I hadn't quite expected my older daughter Lara to be as inspired but even she has enjoyed playing with the teapot to listen to the little ditties that it plays!

Leapfrog Musical Rainbow Tea Party
Leapfrog Musical Rainbow Tea Party

The teapot is accompanied by two small tea cups and a plate with a cake that is made up of six pieces of pretend cake, each with a different colour of icing and a small picture on top of a different fruit.  But really, the teapot is the star of the show.  Just watch this video to see why Holly loves it so much!

There are 7 different learning songs and over 50 different combinations of phrases and chants which means that it takes a while to drive you around the bend.  Holly for some reason loves the music more than any other musical toy we have ever owned!  The lid of the teapot opens and closes and inside there is a reflective mirror cover to add a bit of sparkle.  We love the fact that when you pretend to pour a cup of tea, the lights on the front change so that it actually looks like the level of the water has gone down!

The Leapfrog Musical Rainbow Tea Party set at first glance seems very similar to another pink children's teapot, cup and cake set from a big brand of toys that may or may not have the initials F.P.  But, I would say that it goes that little bit further - we particularly appreciate the English accent on the Leapfrog teapot and the fact that interaction is encouraged - each time the teapot sings a song it references a different colour or fruit on the cake to inspire your child to fetch the right piece.  For Holly this is a nice early introduction to words and colours and she eagerly rushes off to fetch the right piece of cake.

The Leapfrog teapot changes colour depending on which colour of cake she is singing about.  We love the sound effects and the fact that she tells you when she has run out of tea and needs you to press her buttons to refill her.

The Leapfrog Musical Rainbow Tea Party set is recommended for children aged 1-3 years old and costs around £19.99.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Kettler Scooter Review

Holly has been absolutely desperate to get a scooter so that she can play like her big sister but I was a little retiscent given that she is not yet two years old. Then this beautiful, chunky Kettler Scooter came into our lives!

The Kettler Scooter is really nice and tactile. I think it is perfect for a younger child because the footplate is a nice size for them to practice balancing on it and because the wheels and handlebars are nice and chunky. Holly finds it easy to grip and it is able to withstand the slightly chaotic careless attentions of a toddler! The Kettler scooter is recommended for children aged 2-4 (from approximately 90-110cm tall) but Lara is quite a lot taller than this and I still think it is a good size for her, with the handlebars at their highest setting even though she is approaching 5 years old.

The scooter was easy to assemble (once I had managed to identify a suitable tool from our rather jumbled stash in the garage) and I quite liked the fact that the bolts were hidden away with a little plastic cover to hide them from tiny fingers. The front casing (over the bolts) has a little reflective piece on it which glints in the sunshine and may help in the evening light to ensure your child gets seen. The handlebar can be quickly adjusted (to suit children of different ages who want to play with it in quick succession) using the groovy little knob at the front.

The steering on the Kettler scooter is a little rough but I'm not sure how much a two year old really needs to be able to fine-tune their steering! It is fine, just not as fluid and responsive as Lara's big-girl scooter and I think this is to do with the size and chunkiness of the Kettler scooter so I'm happy to trade in speed and responsiveness in return for quality. And this really is a quality item. Lara has owned a Kettler balance bike for a few years now and we have been endlessly impressed by the quality. Until now, we had't known that Kettler also made scooters and we haven't been disappointed - Kettler clearly know how to make lasting outdoor vehicles to withstand day to day use from young children.

The Kettler scooter is available in both pink and bright blue and costs around £45. It comes with a 3 year warranty.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Zoe and Beans Board Books - Hello Ladybird! and We're Not Scared

We LOVE, Love, Love Zoe and Beans books in the Mellow Household.  In fact, I think I average 6 times a week at bedtime in the presence of Zoe and Beans.  These days the Zoe and Beans books by Chloe and Mick Inkpen have lots of familiar faces (not just Zoe and Beans the dog) who have come together for the new board book, We're Not Scared.

We're Not Scared features the neighbour, Oscar (who makes Lara and Holly giggle every time I read his name) and Oscar's little sister Evie.  On each page, the children show an activity which demonstrates that they are not scared of thing such as spiders, swimming, going fast... or even bedtimes.

This little board book has some beautiful illustrations and I have already used it to try and remind Lara that she isn't really scared of the dark at bedtimes.  The text isn't so much of a story as the other Zoe and Beans books that we have read - it is a bit more like a poem where each page is a statement.

Another new Zoe and Beans board book is Hello Ladybird! and this, despite being a board book for small hands, is a full Zoe and Beans story, much more like the other stories that we have read in the series.  Holly ABSOLUTELY loves this book and will sit and read it to herself in her own little toddler jibberish.

Hello Ladybird is such a simple tale with simple, beautiful illustrations using the red, black and white theme (like Zoe's iconic dress).  Zoe and Beans find a ladybird but it soon disappears and they can't find it. After an eventful search they find it again and say "Hello Ladybird" which puts a smile on Holly's face when I read it to her.  Holly attempts to say this too.

I'm so glad that there are Zoe and Beans board books that I can let Holly loose on without fear of pages being torn in what I know will become family favourites.

You can find out more about Zoe and Beans on the fun website and at

Monday, 10 March 2014

Leapreader Books - Our Progress

Back in August, Lara first reviewed the Leapreader electronic reading aid from Leapfrog. That was shortly before Lara started school - she was eager to explore books but hadn't yet really learned to read. Seven months on, Lara's reading has progressed more than I could ever have imagined and this weekend I saw Lara sit down with one of the Leapreader books that she received in August and, without the aid of the Leapreader, she read the book to me herself.

The Leapreader from Leapfrog is largely designed to encourage a child's interest in books... not so much to teach them how to read. Through interactive page elements and recognisable characters, children are encouraged to engage with a book. On each page your child can touch the page to hear the Leapreader read the words of the story to them but now Lara doesn't NEED the words to be read to her. The stories Lara has for the Leapreader (such as Tangled, and Monsters University) are quite advanced books so she still struggles a little with the more unusual words and today she knew to turn to her gadget to help her when she needed it.

It's interesting to see the way that the inclusion of a favourite film or television character somehow makes a book seem more appealing to Lara. I'm not sure how I feel about that! Last week I felt a bit exasperated at all the activity on Facebook and twitter about dressing-up outfits for World Book Day (or British Book Day as I think it should more correctly be named). Some of my local friends with children at different schools had to dress up and I saw one child going as a character from Monsters University. It frustrated me that the point of World Book Day had been lost in the campaign for an acceptable dressing-up outfit and that movie characters were being chosen over book characters.

But, on reflection, I can see that the inclusion of a film character in a book such as Lara's Leapreader books does wonders for getting children more interested in books. And that's what matters. Growing an enthusiasm for exploring more books. And a movie seems like a sensible starting point. Think of all the people who have gone on to read the Harry Potter stories since first watching one of the movies.

Perhaps even more interestingly, Lara much prefers character stories (mostly with her Disney favourites) when she is looking for a book to read herself.  But, during the evening when we are choosing a bedtime story for us to read to her, Lara often prefers to go for something more traditional - maybe her other books feel a bit less accessible to her at present?

On World Book Day, Lara's school asked the pupils to bring in their favourite book to share with their class-mates and to inspire arts and crafts throughout the day.  Do you want to know what book Lara chose (from her rather enormous stash?)... she chose One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Suess.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Rockley Cove Children's Rashkini Review

With the weather starting to take a very welcome turn for the better, I'm allowing myself to think ahead to the summer. We have two holidays planned for over the school holidays and it makes me feel that little bit more mellow just thinking about them! We were asked to take a look a the new range of 'rashkini' swimwear from brand new children's beachwear specialists, Rockley Cove and Lara herself has been getting into the summer spirit by testing out this UPF50+ matching bikini and rash vest.

Lara chose this geometric contrast pattern of rash vest with a matching tie style bikini.  Unsurprisingly, we haven't quite yet had the chance to test it out by basking on a beach anywhere but Lara jumped at the chance to try out both the bikini and the rash vest at her swimming lessons and they have now become her primary swim suit at her lesson on a Thursday evening!

I really like the range of colours and designs at Rockley Cove - all of the patterns and colours are feminine without being traditionally 'girly' which means they are perfect for Lara.  The designs are modern and striking and I know they will look well-placed on any beach.  It is great to see fashionable swimwear for girls which aren't trying too hard to look like adult fashion - there is definitely still a good element of childhood fun in the Rockley Cove designs.

The bikinis are available in a few different designs depending on your daughter's tastes.  I think the frilly skirt designs would look great on Holly but I felt this tie-style bikini was more Lara's thing.  The bikini doesn't actually tie (thank goodness... we have enough other things to worry about at kids swimming lessons) but looks like it would tie behind the neck and at the sides of the hips.

Rockley Cove specialise in matching rash vests - a t-shirt style top made from the same fabric as the bikini and which is designed to offer more protection to the upper body in the sun and when swimming.  All of their fabrics offer sun protection of UPF50+ which means that, come the summer, Lara will be able to wear this in the garden or when we are away on holiday knowing that her skin is protected underneath her rashvest, for a while at least, from the sun.  I'd quite like to see Rockley Cove offer some long-sleeved versions too.

Lara actually preferred the rash vest to the halter top for wearing to her swimming lesson (a bikini did seem like overkill, I'll admit!) but she said the vest flapped around her tummy when she was swimming so I think it is probably best for use when she is not actively swimming but more for playing in or near water.

The Rockley Cove Rashkinis are sold as separate pieces; the girls bikinis start from around £18.99 and the rash vests start from around £22.99. They are available in sizes from 3 years - 12 years old.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Tesco Eat Happy Project

Tesco Farm to Fork Egg Trail
I have ummed and aahed about this blog post for a while. Those close to me will know that I am very passionate when it comes to teaching children about food and the origins of what we eat and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the big supermarkets.  For this reason I was intrigued when an email landed in my inbox to tell me about the new Tesco Eat Happy Project which is a huge campaign by Tesco (on the scale of their computers for schools campaigns) designed to help educate children about food.

For me, food is a central part of my approach to parenting.  From day one I've tried to teach my girls about where their food comes from. I've invited them into the kitchen to cook with me since they were able to sit up unaided and grasp a spoon. I've helped them grow their own fruit, vegetables and herbs. I've taken them to local farms... heck, we've even holidayed on farms. And, I hope I have started to teach them (through example) how to choose a healthy, balanced diet with the occasional yummy treat.  But I do understand that not all parents have the knowledge, skills, time, money or inclination to offer the same sort of teachings themselves.  The reason why I've struggled with how to approach the news of the Tesco Eat Happy Project and their first phase - the Farm to Fork primary school trails - is that I believe that the rise of the modern supermarket is, at least in part, responsible for the decline in the knowledge and skills about how to grow, choose, cook and explore great ingredients and amazing healthy homemade food.

Despite my concerns, I think there is great value to be had in the Eat Happy Project, particularly the Farm to Fork trails.  In their first year, Tesco aim to offer a Farm to Fork tour to 1 million UK primary school pupils - these are school tours of farms, factories and supermarkets up and down the country.  In my local area these are largely supermarket tours, which was a little disappointing.  That said, I think it is just as important that our children understand the processes and demands of our modern supermarket culture so to me a Tesco store visit could be just as fascinating as a visit to a local vegetable farmer or cattle farmer.

The Farm to Fork farm visits aim to show children where their food comes from and the processes that UK farmers go through to get the food from the farm to the store. Store visits are tailored for each school and each store, depending on the age group and class size. It could involve spending time with the in store baker who will show them how simple ingredients like flour, butter, eggs, sugar and water combine to make bread and pastries. Children may spend some time with the fish monger learning about the different fish and seafood and finding out where they come from. Often, children will be able to go on a trail around the produce sections of the store. They might be asked to find 3 red vegetables, or 3 products from a particular country as a way into discovering more about these ingredients. The trail could also involve going behind the scenes to see how everything is co-ordinated around the store to help build a bigger picture of the long journey their food takes from the farm to their fork.

The second phase of the Eat Happy Project, to be launched later in the year, will involve cookery courses for kids in stores, working with the Children’s Food Trust. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the Eat Happy Project unfolds and what it can offer to UK school children - even if it makes a small difference in understanding for more children it could make a long term difference to the nation's food habits. Find out more at

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Me and My Mummy - Mother's Day Book Carry Case Review

Me and My Mummy is a fun little carry case for young children (and their mummy's) this mother's day which this year takes place on the 31st of March. The Me and My Mummy carry pack by Little Tiger Press features 4 compact story books with a special mummy theme as well as a mothers day card to decorate and a set of themed stickers to personalise the card.

My two girls quickly got to work on the card (although I have been told that I'm not allowed to look at it and Lara has hidden it away in her room). The mothers day card has text pre-printed inside and all your child needs to do is to write their name and, should they want to, colour it in. There is a whole sheet of stickers that they can adorn it with and it also comes with an envelope.

The four books inside the carry pack are short paperback books with large coloured illustrations. The Most Precious Thing, Little Bear's Special Wish, My Mummy and Me and Big Bear, Little Bear. Each book has been re-printed especially for the carry pack in a small square format.

The Most Precious Thing is about a little bear who goes exploring with her mummy and every new experience seems to be the most precious thing ever... or is it?

Little Bear's Special Wish is about one bear's search for a really special gift for his mummy's birthday.

My Mummy and Me is a very simple book that my 4 year old was able to read to me.  It is a really tender tale of a little mouse who wants his mummy to know how much he loves her.

Big Bear Little Bear tells the story of a tiny polar bear who wants to be just like his mummy when he grows up.

The four stories in this Me and My Mummy carry pack make lovely bedtime stories for both my 1 year old and my 4 year old. I think the carry pack would be a good idea for taking with them when they stay overnight at their Grandparent's houses. This special carry pack costs £9.99.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Shingles! Age 22 months

Last week I was working away from home. Quite a long way from home. Like 4,295 miles away. It is always a bit weird being away from the girls but one morning last week I logged on to my computer and was met by this photo in an email from Mr. B. with a request for motherly advice.

My first reaction was "eek" then that changed to "urgh" and then I asked a few questions. Was Holly itchy? Was the skin raised? Was Holly showing any other signs of illness such as a temperature or sickness? The answers (delayed by email... obviously!) didn't ring any alarm bells so between us we decided to just keep an eye on the rash (OK.. a very remote eye for me) as it might just be a bad case of eczema; after all, her older sister has suffered quite badly with skin conditions over the years.

When I got home at the weekend I noticed that the rash was a LOT larger and was turning darker and feeling rough to the touch; but I still wasn't that worried. In fact, it was Holly's nursery who worried; they rang me at work on Monday morning to say that Holly would need to go to the Doctor for a diagnosis or else they wouldn't be able to accept her back at nursery. I managed to get an appointment within an hour. Sat in the Doctors waiting room for an hour (Holly was astonishingly well-behaved) and the Doctor diagnoses it instantly. He knew within about 2 seconds that Holly had Shingles.

For those who don't know, Shingles is caused by the same virus as Chicken Pox. Holly was unfortunate enough to contract Chicken Pox when she was just three weeks old so I had always been preparing myself for the possibility that the virus might become re-activated. The virus remains dormant in the nerves of your body after the pox have healed and re-exposure to the virus can cause Shingles to re-activate in the nerves.

Shingles commonly only infects one side of the body and appears in patterns that follow the line of a nerve - the most common of these being in a diagonal line along the shoulder blade and under the armpit.  It can affect other parts of the body and it sounds like it is most horrific when it affects the nerves around the eyes.

I think Holly has been VERY lucky that her spots have not been itchy or painful in any way. In fact, Holly has been as right as rain and seems quite proud of all the attention that her spots are getting. The only difference in her behaviour is that she has become REALLY clingy but that may just be because of me having been away for a while.

Because other people can catch Chicken Pox from someone with Shingles she was, understandably, not allowed back to nursery until the spots had all crusted over. Holly loves nursery and was frustrated to the stuck at home with us but the spots have now started to heal so she was back to normal today.

I think we're very lucky that this Shingles infection hasn't caused that much stress for us, now we just have to wait and see whether it has caused any permanent scarring.  Poor old Lara has a large mark on her face still where the worst of her Chicken Pox spots was.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Red Candy Children's Wall Stickers

Since I first discovered Red Candy's range of amazing children's wall stickers, I've really wanted to try them out.  Red Candy contacted us at an opportune moment - Lara's room is looking a bit worse for wear at present but I'm loathe to completely redecorate it right now as I don't think Lara has quite grown out of her pink fairy princess stage yet.  Wall stickers seemed like a great way to breathe a bit of life into Lara's room without a total redesign.

We (OK, Lara) chose this Fairy Wall Sticker in a deep pink colour to contrast with the flowery pink of her bedroom walls.  The sticker is one of the smallest that Red Candy offer and costs just £23.  This fairy wall sticker is available in lots of different colours including green, orange and silver - certainly not just pink!

When the sticker arrived it was rolled up in a cardboard tube to protect it (there were staples at the top which I had to remove carefully to avoid damaging the sticker).  The sticker is made by the Spin collective and there are lots of designs from their range on the Red Candy website and they are ALL stunning.  From rainbows to robots. Height charts, slogans and glow-in-the-dark specials. I could decorate an entire house with them!

To put the sticker on Lara's wall was pretty straightfoward.  We quickly cleaned the wall first to make sure it wasn't gunky (it's a good job we did because the wall WAS gunky!). The sticker came with a little plastic squeegee; to start, we had to run the squeegee over the sticker to loosen it from its backing before peeling off the backing paper.  Lara and I carefully placed the sticker onto the wall and she used the tool to press out all of the bubbles from the centre, outwards.

We had to leave the sticker for 10 minutes to get a good grip on the wall before we could remove the plastic cover.  Because the fairy design was very intricate this was a little tricky in the finer details where I had to press the sticker back carefully to the wall but it still wasn't that hard.  In fact, the whole process took less than 15 minutes and I'm really impressed with the result.

Lara is over the moon with her new bedroom wall and her little sister seemed to like it too!  It is such a small change to her room but somehow makes it feel fresh and new.  This should see us through until the two girls are old enough that we decide to move them into a bedroom together. And, should Lara suddenly decide that she is no longer into princesses and fairies, we can simply peel the sticker off.  Genius.
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