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

Monday, 30 June 2014

Alton Towers CBeebies Land Review

A few weeks ago, my very lovely Mum treated us to a family day out at Alton Towers, the home of the brand new CBeebies Land.  Since then, Lara and Holly have talked about more or less nothing else - I think it had a big impact!  Tonight, in the car on the way home, they were comparing tales of when they met the Zingzillas and how they explored Tree Fu Tom's world.

Entrance to CBeebies Land
CBeebies Land Entrance

CBeebies Land opened at Alton Towers at the end of May and I think it is a great addition to the theme park which makes Alton Towers feel just that little bit more family-friendly.  CBeebiesLand is very close to the park entrance so you don't have to worry about little ones trekking all over the park; in fact, I think the girls would have been quite happy to spend the entire day in just CBeebiesLand even though there is a small number of other appropriate rides in other parts of the theme park.

Zingzillas at CBeebies Land
Zingzilla's show

Postman Pat ride at CBeebies Land
Postman Pat Ride

CBeebies Land features lots of the girl's favourite TV characters.  From Postman Pat's vans to Charlie and Lola's kitchen.  From Nina and the Neuron's invention lab to Mr. Bloom's allotment, there are attractions to suit toddlers, preschoolers and younger children and lots of recognisable names and characters to get them excited.  The biggest hit for us was the Tree Fu Tom themed outdoor playground which kept both our 2 year old and 5 year old entertained for ages because there were lots of climbing/hiding/exploring areas.

I thought the most magical part of CBeebies Land was Mr. Bloom's Allotment (seeing both girls sing along with the veggies brought a massive smile to my face) but I felt that the queuing time was far too long for small children to tolerate.  The biggest attraction seemed to be the In The Night Garden water ride which features Iggle Piggle's boat drifting through the Night Garden.

Tree Fu Tom Playground at CBeebies Land
Tree Fu Tom playground

Numtums ride at CBeebies Land
Numtums Merry-go-round

Holly most enjoyed riding on the NumTums roundabout and this is the thing she is still chattering about several weeks later.  Lara talks most about having had her photo taken pretending to be with Mr. Tumble!  I think it is fab that you can buy a digital download of the images you create.  There was so much to do at CBeebies Land that we didn't even get a chance to ride the over-head CBeebies monorail style ride (a re-incarnation of the old squirrel ride) or explore Mr Tumble's sensory garden. There are also LOADS of live shows throughout the day if you need a sit down or a sing song.

Mr. Tumble at CBeebies Land
Lara (and Holly!) in their Mr. Tumble Photo

Charlie and Lola's House at CBeebies Land
Chasing Fish Fingers at Charlie and Lola's House

We had lunch in CBeebies Land and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and value of the food.  Yes, it is expensive but certainly not as bad as several other UK theme parks I have visited (and the prices are pretty standard for Merlin attractions).  Inside CBeebies Land you can buy yummy healthy packed lunches for adults and children alike but there are lots of other food options throughout the park.  If you are visiting Alton Towers with older children (or if, like us, you have a friendly set of grandparents who can temporarily look after the kids) then I can highly recommend the Smiler rollercoaster - guaranteed to put a smile on your face and 'marmalise' you!

The Smiler at Alton Towers

Friday, 27 June 2014

Lovea Shower Gel and Lovea Avocado Oil Review

At this time of year I'm normally prepping for an overseas holiday and I have a little ritual every time I go abroad - a brand new bottle of shower gel.  This year we are holidaying in the UK but I'm not going to let that stop my shower-gel tradition!  As a Mypure blogger, this month I chose to review the Lovea Monoi Shower Gel because I thought it might bring a tropical feel to my very British seaside holiday.

This organic and natural shower gel by one of my favourite brands, Lovea, is a 100% natural gel which is totally clear.  The gel has a beautiful heady scent of Tahitian Monoi flowers which reminds me of the smell of tropical flowers from my childhood and it definitely makes me thing summery thoughts when I'm in the shower.

The Lovea Tahitian Monoi shower gel comes in a lovely large bottle (400ml for £5.84 at Mypure at present).  One of the active ingredients is aloe vera leaf extract which has a million and one health uses but in this case is designed to help prevent the skin from drying out after using a shower gel (an occupational risk when using many high street brands!).  I've used this new shower gel for a couple of weeks now and I'm really happy with how it leaves my skin feeling.

Feeling in a Lovea mood, I also plumped for a little 50ml bottle of  Lovea Avocado Oil (currently £4.94 at Mypure).  I'm not sure there are any hard and fast rules about what you should use pure avocado oil for but I chose it to act as an all purpose face and body oil.  Avocado oil can act as a very gentle moisturiser for sensitive skin and, although my facial skin is slowly returning to normality post-motherhood, I do find the skin on my arms and legs needs a bit of love and care these days so I have been using Avocado oil after a shower.

I like it.  The Lovea Avocado oil doesn't leave my skin feeling oily - it seems to absorb very quickly.  There is pretty much no scent at all so it doesn't leave me feeling that floral post-shower glow but at least it doesn't leave me smelling of fruit and vegetables.  On my arms I think it is helping to calm the skin down a little and I found it particularly refreshing after a day out in the sun this week.

These Lovea Bio products and lots lots more are all available online at Mypure.

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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Cooking with kids :: Orange Blossom & Mandarin Cupcakes

This weekend the girls wanted to do some cookery... so I obliged.  Neilsen-Massey sent me some of their natural flavourings to use in our cooker and, whilst I absolutely LOVE their really high quality vanilla extract when baking, I wanted to try out their Orange Blossom Water as it is not something I had ever used before.  The results were FABULOUS!

Chocolate Orange Blossom and Mandarin Cupcakes

The girls made these Chocolate Orange Blossom cupcakes with mandarins to decorate them.  Here's the recipe.


125g caster sugar
125g soft margarine
2 medium eggs
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon Neilsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water

For the decoration
2 heaped tablespoons icing sugar
2-4 drops yellow or orange food colouring
1 teaspoon Neilsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water
a touch of tepid water
12 tinned mandarin segments

Ingredients for Chocolate Orange Blossom and Mandarin Cupcakes

1. Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees centigrade.

2. Beat the sugar and margarine together.  Lara is just beginning to get the hang of this but they both usually need a little bit of help to blend the ingredients fully.

3. Add the Orange Blossom Water and beat in the eggs.

4. Sieve in the baking powder, cocoa powder and plain flour and stir in until everything is combined to a smooth 'batter'.

Making Chocolate Orange Blossom and Mandarin Cupcakes

5. Place into 12 cupcake cases.  We use an ice-cream scoop to make it easier for the girls to get the mixture into the silicone cupcake cases without tooooooo much mess!

6. Bake for about 15 minutes until well risen and bouncy but before they start to turn dark on top.  Allow to cool fully.

Chocolate Orange Blossom Cupcakes

7. While the cakes are cooling, remove 12 mandarin segments from their tin and place them on a piece of kitchen paper to drain fully.  If they are wet, they will cause the icing to go runny.

8. Mix the icing sugar with the food colouring and Orange Blossom Water.  Add tepid water a drop at a time to make a paste thick enough to drizzle from a spoon.

Chocolate Orange Blossom and Mandarin Cupcake

9. Add a touch of icing to the top of each cake and garnish with a piece of mandarin.

10. Devour in one sitting!

Chocolate Orange Blossom and Mandarin Cupcakes

We found the Orange Blossom Water to give the cakes and icing a sweet, yet mature flavour.  It reminded me a little of Earl Grey tea and I felt these cakes would be a great summery accompaniment to a lovely pot of tea.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Elmer's 25th Birthday - #Elmer25

Elmer, the funny, cheeky yet down-to-earth Elephant is celebrating his 25th Birthday this summer. Up and down the country there are Elmer elephant parades taking place - find out at your local library whether there are any activities near you. Here at Mellow HQ we are starting to plan our own Elmer's Day Parade and will be sharing some of our crafty ideas over the summer, inspired by this downloadable activity pack.

The original Elmer book, written by David McKee, was published 25 years ago. Until recently I hadn't read the original (though we do have a couple of family favourites already - our all time favourite Elmer book is "Elmer and Wilbur"). Elmer is a patchwork elephant who has developed a name for himself as a bit of a joker; in the original Elmer story he tries to make himself 'normal' and all the other elephants really miss the real Elmer. I'm glad he decided to go back to being himself!

To celebrate his 25th anniversary, Andersen Press have released a brand new Elmer book - Elmer and the Monster. In this story all of the other animals are running away from a scary monster but Elmer can't see anything to be scared of. What could be the source of all the scary roaring noises?

Also this summer look out for these bright and chunky Elmer Colouring Felt Pens which cost around £4.50 for a set of 12 different colours (6 pens). The pens feature the iconic Elmer patchwork pattern and they have a different colour on each end of the pen. Holly finds these pens nice and chunky and I'm happy to let her use them because (a) they are washable and (b) Holly is able to protect her clothes from pen marks in her groovy Elmer tabard.

The tabard is a sleeveless overall with a wipe-clean fabric that can protect your children's clothes when doing craft, art, cookery or outdoor activities. At £5.99 I think this Elmer Tabard is great value. The Elmer apron is made from cotton with a PVC coating, it has the same bright Elmer pattern on both the back and the front. It is available in one size which is suitable for children of around 2 years to 4 years old.

To me, Elmer is a perfect elephant role model! He is a little bit cheeky, very cheerful and yet he has a sensible head on his shoulders. If Elmer wrote a blog, he'd be the Mellow Elephant.

Five of the Best Family Days Out this Summer

Not planning a big family holiday this summer? Never fear! There are hundreds of fantastic places to go for brilliant days out with the brood to break up the never-ending school holidays. Here are five of the best, with top tips on what to do when you get there.  This post was written in collaboration with Travelodge.

Alton Towers
Alton Towers in Staffordshire is a classic themepark day out, and there’s so much to do for all ages that the whole family will be thrilled with this suggestion. If you’ve got little ones then the brand new CBeebies Land is sure to put a smile on their faces. They can help Postman Pat do his rounds, meet Iggle Piggle on the In the Night Garden Magical Boat Ride and train with Tree Fu Tom – watch their faces light up as they meet their favourite characters face to face!

For bigger kids, last year’s big addition to the park, The Smiler, is waiting to marmalize visitors. And don’t forget Thirteen, a unique coaster-come-ghosttrain that will leave your hair standing on end!

Cadbury World
Cadbury World is a brilliant day out when the weather is being typically British and temperamental. Most of this walk-round attraction is undercover, but there’s also a playground for if the sunshine does decide to make an appearance. Discover the origins of chocolate, ride the cute Cadabara ride and play with chocolate in the factory, for a day full of chocolate-flavoured surprises – plus free chocolate bars at every turn!
If you want to make a night of your family day out, there are several great value Travelodges in Birmingham. Make the most of your mini break and check out the Travelodge get up and go guide to see what other attractions and events are nearby.

Legoland in Windsor is a fantastic choice for little builders who love their lego blocks! All the rides and attractions are lego themed, including the Dragon coaster, the Atlantis submarine ride and the Drench Towers duplo themed water park. Little pirates will love the new Pirate Shores area of the park, where you’ll find the Pirate Falls flume, Jolly Rocker pirate ship and the new Castaway Camp adventure playground. Yaa-arr me hearties!

Brighton is a brilliant choice of day out destination for both young and old, mixing traditional seaside town with a cosmopolitan and vibrant city vibe. Iconic Brighton pier is a great place to start, with classic attractions like the stripy helter-skelter, carousel and amusement arcades. After all that fun, fish and chips on the pebble beach are in order, followed by a wander of The Lanes for souvenir shopping and a visit to the landmark domed Pavilion.


Northern gem Blackpool is the place where dream days out happen, with everything you could wish for to make an amazing mini-holiday in the UK. Book into a Blackpool Travelodge for a night or two and have fun in the Pleasure Beach, make a splash in the Sandcastle waterpark and head up Blackpool Tower for incredible views from the SkyWalk attraction – if you dare!

With so much to do on the doorstep, there’s no need to break the bank to take your brood abroad this summer. Stick a pin in the map and get up and go to one of our great UK attractions, for a low cost summer of fun.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Netflix #StreamTeam - Me Time!

We have had our Netflix subscription for a few weeks now and I admit that it has come in handy for providing weekend entertainment for Lara and Holly while Dave and I have managed to slot in a couple of hours of DIY in the afternoons.

But Netflix isn't just for the girls.  In fact, in this past few weeks I have watched one or two things just for me.  I can't begin to tell you how unusual this is.  Usually, television is chosen by the girls.  If the girls are in bed then Mr. B. chooses.  It isn't that he is in charge of the remote control, just that ordinarily I'm happy just to watch whatever is on and I tend to trust his judgement.  Mind you, there is more sport on our television that I'd naturally choose myself.  All this means that it is incredibly unusual that I would ever sit down on my own and choose to switch the TV on and watch something.

Since we joined Netflix, I've found that the flexibility that I have means that I can sit with my iPad in bed and watch something totally different to what Mr. B. is watching downstairs.  Alternatively, if he is reading, I can plug in my headphones and watch something without disturbing him.  The very first thing I chose to watch on Netflix was Pulp Fiction!  A proper chill-out, relaxation choice.

Let me explain... I'm a media studies student at heart.  I may have re-qualified as a geek but my first degree was in media studies, due partly to my love of films.  I have slowly slipped out of the habit of watching and dissecting classic films.  So when I first got an opportunity to watch something all of my own choosing, I went back to a classic that I had watched so many times before when studying film at university.  It felt good to get back to my roots.  There are a few other classic movies that I'm looking forward to watching again; Fargo and High Fidelity are both films I studied parts of at uni (though I can't for the life of me remember why).

But I don't think classic movies are going to be the main thing that I invest my me-time in.  I'm looking forward to dipping in an out of TV series.  Relaxing with a cuppa to watch an episode of some of the big TV hits that I simply haven't taken one look at before.  Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black are both on my list of things that Mr. B. simply wouldn't take one look at so I can chill out with my iPad and watch in isolation.

The new series of Orange is the New Black is exclusive to Netflix, and to celebrate, they've recommended a fun Orange cocktail to enjoy during your me-time.  Given that I'm trying very hard (and succeeding) to reduce my alcohol intake right now, I won't be partaking but you can find the recipe here for the Orange Chill cocktail.  It is a bit extravagant for a school night, but I think the cocktail would still work well without the rum.  Maybe I'll get Mr. B to make me one this weekend while I chill out for some me-time.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. In return for my monthly subscription, I blog about my experiences.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Disney Minnie Mouse Bath Toys by Fisher Price - A Review

Minnie Mouse is pretty popular in our house. To be very honest, I've never seen the attraction but both of my girls enjoy playing their Minnie Mouse game on the Leappad and will quite often gravitate to their Minnie Mouse aeroplane when they wake up in the morning and start to raid the toy boxes. These days, I guess Minnie gets more of a look-in than she did when I was a child and with her own bow-tique and a group of very girly friends, including Daisy Duck, Minnie is popping up all over the place. Including our bath!

Fisher Price sent the girls some Minnie Mouse bath toys to try out. We always like to try bath toys because the girls definitely need a distraction from hair washing in the bath; I have great memories of bath toys and yet I am still on the lookout for a toy which I think will hold as many memories for Lara and Holly.

This Disney Minnie Bow-Rific Vanity set is a mirror which sticks to the walls of your bathroom beside the bath. It features a squirty perfume bottle and a little comb to encourage a bit of role play in the bath (Holly didn't need much encouragement!) The Mirror has three bows and when you pour water into one of them, the bow rotates and splashes water on the bows below. The bows are easy to swap - one of them can act as a cup, another has holes in the bottom to let water trickle through.  The Minnie Bow-Rific vanity set sticks well to the wall (one of my bugbears with many a bath toy).  This bath toy is currently on offer at Argos for £9.99.

This is the Fisher Price Disney Drizzly Day Daisy which features a Daisy Duck character, a squirter in the shape of her little duckling friend (a pet?) and an umbrella.  I think Daisy is supposed to be able to hold the umbrella while you pour water over it - the brolly has holes in it to let the water drizzle through - but I simply can't get it to stay in Daisy's hand.  Holly doesn't seem to mind though.  Holly quite liked using the umbrella upside down to fish around in the bath for bubbles and for the bath squirters.

Daisy duck's dress changes colour in hot water from a deep pink to a light pink but I'm not sure either of the girls noticed.  I'm a bit underwhelmed by this bath toy, as I suspect are the girls.  I think it is lacking movement of some sort.  Also in the range is a similar Minnie Mouse bath toy featuring Minnie in a swimsuit and fins with her cat Figaro in a rubber ring!


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Is Holly part cat?

My cat Bella is just a little younger than Holly. Sometimes I wonder about them two. They show the same signs of cheekiness - biting, playing, hiding things in places you wouldn't expect. They sleep in the same funny positions, demand constant attention and seem to share the same lack of appetite at times. Perhaps Holly is part-cat?

When I first came across TellTails and their fabulous dressing-up tails, I instantly knew that Holly NEEDED a fluffy cat tail in the style of the Cheshire Cat.  When Holly grins, her teeth sparkle and her eyes widen just like the mysterious, yet wise Cheshire Cat from Alice's adventures.

This fun dressing up accessory is one of several fun animal designs from TellTails designed specifically for children (although their range also features adult tails too!).  From foxes to monkies... dinosaurs to tigers... the pink panther to the cat in the hat; Telltails make tails to suit all tastes ranging from £18 to £30.

Holly's Cheshire cat tail slips on over the waist using a wide elastic.  There are also two arm bands to help keep the tail upright and close to the body.  The tail works best when worn with a separate t-shirt and skirt or trousers because then the tail can poke out between the clothes but today, in the sunshine, Holly insisted on wearing her tail with her sundress while she made sandcastles so I had to poke the tail out through the button-holes of her dress!

Holly just gets on with life when she is wearing her tail.  Occasionally she has to stop to hitch up the arm bands.  She sometimes forgets she is wearing it. It's almost as if the tail felt natural to her.

I don't think Holly needs any additional cheekiness but the Cheshire Cat tail does make her seem that little bit more...feline.  The tail itself is slightly squishy and infinitely shape-able so that you can bend it and mould it into whatever position you like... very much like the Cheshire Cat does.

I love this tail and it is proving a very popular dressing up choice (which is a very welcome change from princesses).

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Thomas & Friends By Mega Bloks

Both of my girls love to build.  Holly's nursery have commented to me about how, recently, Holly has shown an interest in building very tall towers.  It was fabulous to be contacted to try out one of the sets of Mega Bloks from the new Thomas & Friends™ range; Holly emptied out her bag of bloks and instantly gravitated towards the pieces that would make up her own Thomas train and then was eager to move on and build him some track to travel on.

This Thomas Visits The Castle set is designed for children from 3-6 years.  It features the slightly smaller Mega Bloks bricks which we had never tried before and in fact Holly managed really well with them and enjoyed building towers and shapes with them. The carry bag of bricks features a design for building a castle for Thomas, it also contains three pieces of track that Thomas can travel on as well as a small sheet of stickers for making the bricks look that little bit more realistic.  I really liked this set and it has inspired me to get a few more Mega Bloks of this size for both of my girls to play with.

Holly was also sent a First Builders bag of Lil' Princess Mega Bloks.  These are the larger, iconic Mega Bloks bricks suitable for tiny hands to explore their first attempts at building.  The set comes in a pink bag and features a small selection of pink, green, blue and purple bricks with instructions to build this small princess tower.

Because of the princess theme, Lara immediately took an interest.  I love that Mega Bloks are timeless.  Even myself and Mr. B. can while away an hour building a castle!  This First Builders set features special sparkly bricks in pink, purple and blue that give a fairy princess feel.  The set came with a sheet of stickers that both Lara and Holly had GREAT FUN sticking onto their tower.  The poor L'il princess didn't get much of a look-in to her new castle!  She has a sparkly crown which bobs up and down when you place her on top of a blok.

You can find out more about the different types of Mega Bloks and their themed sets, as well as the educational and imaginative qualities of building bricks at

Friday, 20 June 2014

Sunuva Summer Girls Swimwear and Beachwear Review

In the Mellow household we have, for a number of years, been big fans of the beautiful beachwear and swimwear for the girls from Sunuva.  This summer's new range of summer clothing from Sunuva features lots of their classic shapes but with some new prints and fabrics.

Holly looks incredibly serious in these photos.  I like to think that she is developing her sultry modelling pose.  I think Holly looks stunning in this Star Flutter dress which is available for girls aged 1-14 years old.  The dress is an incredibly light, floaty dress designed for toasty warm days or mellow evenings.  The back of the dress features a pink bow at the base of the neck.

The bright pink stars and spots fabric combines really well with Holly's Star Canvas Hat which is also from Sunuva.  The hat is perfect for Holly as it can be worn with a full brim, or with the front turned up.  It is fuly machine washable and offers UPF 50+ sun protection.  All of Sunuva's children's swimwear has recently had its UPF protection validated by the British Skin Foundation.

Sunuva are probably best known for their co-ordinating swimwear designs for girls and boys which always feature some really gorgeous prints, quite unlike anything else you can find for kids.  We LOVE this pink print swimsuit for girls.  The design looks girly enough from a distance but is actually a series of skulls!  It makes a wonderful swimsuit for Lara who is balancing that fine line between wanting to be a little pink princess and yet wanting to be ultra grown-up.

When Lara wears her Sunuva swimsuit to the local pool, people always seem to notice the little pocket on the back of the suit.  It is a quirky touch but has become one I recognise on Sunuva swimsuits.  The swimsuit fabric offers UPF50+ sun protection and so, combined with some of Sunuva's co-ordinating rash-vests or kaftans, would make a great suit for summer day on the beach or in the garden.

Sunuva swimwear is stylish AND practical.  You can find their clothing and swimwear online at or in a number of high profile stockists such as Harvey Nicholls, Selfridges and Harrods.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

I've Joined The Netflix Stream Team

I'm really proud to have been chosen to join the Netflix stream team.  Over the coming months I'll be sharing with you some of my experiences as a newbie Netflix user as well as news and features about the Netflix streaming service.

About a month ago Mr. B. and I had been seriously considering changing our current broadband TV subscription.  We unsubscribed from our satellite service when I found out that I was pregnant with Holly (as a cost-saving exercise) and only now that Holly is two years old have we begun to feel that we could afford the few extra pounds each month to pay for some additional TV channels.  Really we wanted to find some extra programmes for the girls.  There is only so much CBeebies and Milkshake! that a parent can handle without breaching some sort of sanity barrier.

I did some research and found that it was going to cost us an additional £7 a month to extend our TV package to include more children's TV channels.  Would it be worth it?

At about the same time Netflix invited me to the Stream Team.  I didn't know an awful lot about Netflix at the time and had really assumed that it would all be movies that I could stream to my TV (or other devices).  When my Netflix welcome pack arrived with an apple TV device through which to stream Netflix content I suddenly realised that Netflix is so much more than movies.  The kids content is phenomenal.

In the past fortnight my girls have re-discovered (or in Holly's case, discovered for the first time) the joys of Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies and Monster Maths Squad which previously would have only been available to us through a TV upgrade.  Astonishingly, the unlimited Netflix subscription costs less per month than the additional kids channels would have cost us and yet there are so many other benefits.

  • Unlimited movies and tv series' for Mummy and Daddy to watch.
  • No pesky adverts to tempt your kids to part with your money.
  • Full TV series playable in order (no need to chose a random episode and hope it makes sense)
  • Really easy to use software on several different devices (we have tried  appleTV, ipad and android tablet so far).
  • Great choice of kids content.

I'll be blogging in more detail about most of these over the coming months, I should imagine.

At the weekend, after Lara's birthday party all she wanted to do was curl up in an exhausted heap in front of the TV and watch Tangled on Netflix.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Lara's 5th Birthday Rapunzel Birthday Cake Step-By-Step

Today Lara turned 5.  My little princess.

This year Lara asked for a Rapunzel (Disney Tangled style) birthday party and, having decided that I wasn't brave enough to attempt a tower of cake, I plumped for a very traditional Barbie-in-a-cake style Rapunzel birthday cake.  I started the cake last Monday and completed it on Saturday morning, I very much enjoyed making this one so I thought I would share the steps that I took to make this, my finest birthday cake to date!

Disney Tangled Rapunzel Birthday Cake
Disney Tangled Rapunzel Birthday Cake

Step 1. Bake it!
I bought an 8 inch tiffin tin from ebay but had read tips online that suggested it would be very hard to get the cake to cook in the middle.  I fashioned a conducting device out of kebab skewers to ensure that heat would get to the centre of the cake.  I made an 8 egg chocolate sponge and used it to make a small round 8-inch cake as well as filling the tiffin tin.  The tiffin cake took very nearly 2 hours to cook at a low temperature (my oven has no markings on it so I can only guess that it was around 100 C.)

Baking a Disney Tangled Rapunzel Cake

Baking a Disney Tangled Rapunzel Birthday Cake

Step 2. Crumb Coat
I covered the cooled cake with a chocolate buttercream icing to ensure that the crumbs were sealed in and wouldn't cause lumps in the decoration.  I also used the buttercream to join the tiffin cake and the round cake together (Rapunzel's legs were too long for just the tiffin cake).

Preparing a Disney Tangled Rapunzel Birthday Cake

Step 3. Marzipan
Not strictly necessary with a buttercream crumb coat but I wanted to make sure that the cake was really really smooth so I put a layer of marzipan onto the skirt.

Building a Disney Tangled Rapunzel Birthday Cake

Step 4. Skirt
I used ready-coloured lilac fondant icing to make the underskirt (the triangular panel at the front).  I bought a very cheap mini rolling pin from ebay to make the floral design.  Then I used LOTS of dark purple fondant to make the rest of the skirt which was in three pieces.  I pressed it down around the waist and used a paintbrush with water to blend the joins.  I used a playdoh cutter to make the white ripples for the lace trim around the hem of the skirt which I 'glued' on with cake glue.

Making a Disney Tangled Rapunzel Birthday Cake

Step 5. Bodice
This was hard!  I made a pattern from paper to match the shape of the doll's upper body and then cut this out of the dark purple icing.  I used lilac icing to wrap around the arms.  Dark purple was used for the puff sleeves which I found hard to puff up.  A small paintbrush helped me to shape and blend the pieces.

Disney Tangled Rapunzel Doll Bodice Cake

Step 6: Detail
I used a piping bag with a very fine round nozzle to pipe coloured icing (icing sugar,water and a couple of drops of food colouring) around the sleeves, neck-line, bodice and corset.  I used an even finer one for the design along the sides of the skirt.  Once dry, I painted the dress in several places with an edible lustre dust (another ebay find) to make the floral pattern stand out and to soften all of the joins (and give it a general magical glow).  Finally I used edible jelly jewels on the cakeboard.  I didn't feel adventurous enough to try modelling Pascal the chameleon out of icing so I bought a little plastic one instead!

Disney Tangled Rapunzel Doll Cake
Disney Tangled Rapunzel Doll Cake

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Fairy Princess and Pirate Bath Sponges Review

A couple of weeks ago I was working in the US and on an afternoon off I managed to get in a little bit of shopping. I found a very groovy gift shop which had an eclectic mix of gifts for kids and adults and I wanted pretty much everything in the store.  The whole store reminded me of The Handpicked Collection which I know and love... when the Handpicked Collection catalogue plops through my door, I usually want one of everything!

In that quirky US gift shop I saw some fun sets of bath sponges.  It put a smile on my face because I knew that the Handpicked Collection had just asked me to review the exact same sponges which were waiting for me at home for my return.  Since I have been back, these fun bath sponges for kids have certainly lightened the atmosphere at bathtime.

When the girls start their bathtime, they quite civilly negotiate who will use the princess bath sponges and who will use the pirate bath sponges.  I think that secretly Holly would very much like to be a pirate.

The sponges come in pairs - the pink princess crown comes with a purple wand and the green pirate hat comes with a blue sword.  The wand and the sword don't really maintain their shape when they get wet so you have to wring them out if you want a sword fight.  The crown and the hat have surface areas big enough to actually use for washing rather than just playing.

For us, bathtime is normally a bit of a struggle with quite a lot of barking orders so it has helped to lighten the mood and make bathtime more of a fun time of day.  As long as the negotiations remain civil I think the sponges will survive but I would say that because of the fancy shapes, the sponges probably won't withstand a heavy hand and I can imagine the crown and wand could quite easily tear if the girls were to argue over them.

These fun sets of bath sponges for kids from the Handpicked collection would make great gifts and each set costs under a tenner.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Brazilian Garlic-Marinated BBQ Picanha with Zingy Gaucho Potato Salad - #UnileverRio Recipe

Unilever Kitchen challenged a number of bloggers to create a summery Brazilian BBQ feast using Unilever food products to celebrate the launch of the World Cup in Rio.  On Saturday night we enjoyed our Brazilian barbecue as a family.  I spent the afternoon marinading beef steaks in garlic puree and also marinading slices of fresh pineapple in a chilli puree with mint.  We cooked them on the grill in a traditional Brazilian Picanha style and served with a really summery salad inspired by a traditional Gaucho salad with a bit of a lemony twist.

Brazilian Garlic-Marinated BBQ Picanha with Zingy Gaucho Salad
Brazilian Garlic-Marinated BBQ Picanha with Zingy Gaucho Salad


4 thick rump steaks with plenty of fat (top rump is as close to picanha as you are likely to find in a supermarket)
1 pot Knorr Garlic Flavour Pot

Half a small fresh pinapple
1 pot Knorr Mixed Chillis Flavour Pot
2 sprigs fresh mint

250g new potatoes (chopped into 1-inch pieces)
1 Granny Smith apple
2 tablespoons raisins
2 large carrots (chopped roughly into 1/2 inch pieces)
2 tablespoons tinned or frozen sweetcorn
2 tablespoons frozen or fresh peas
2 tablespoons Hellmann's Mayonnaise with a zing of lemon

1. Traditional Brazilian grills don't put sauce on their barbecue meat but instead use a series of marinades to provide flavour before cooking.  A thick garlic puree is a traditional Gaucho marinade.  Spread the puree from the Knorr Garlic Flavour Pot generously over both sides of the steaks and leave for 2-3 hours before cooking.

2. Remove the skin and thick 'eyes' from the pineapple.  Cut the pineapple in half (we saved half for pudding!) and remove the core.  Cut thick slices from the pineapple and then, using a brush, lightly coat each piece with the puree from the Knorr Mixed Chillis Flavour Pot.  Sprinkle on the leaves from the mint sprigs and leave to infuse for 2-3 hours before cooking.

3.  Shortly before you start barbecuing the meat, prepare the salad (which is best served still warm, but not too hot so you can prepare it before you start cooking on the grill).  Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the potatoes.  After a few minutes, add the carrots then a little while later, the peas and sweetcorn.  Once all of the vegetables are cooked, drain them well.

4. Place the vegetables in a large salad bowl.  Slice the apple finely (it is up to you whether you choose the keep the skin on or not... I liked the bright green colour) and add this, and the raisins to the vegetables. Stir in two tablespoons of Hellmann's Mayonnaise with a zing of lemon.  Your salad is ready to enjoy!

5. Unless you are a massive garlic fan, I would recommend scraping the bulk of the garlic marinade from the steaks before cooking.  Place the steaks on skewers.  Traditional Picanha is curved as it is placed onto the skewer to ensure that the thick layer of fat on the outside can seep into all of the meat as it cooks.  Cook on the grill, turning frequently to ensure that the steaks are juicy and cooked evenly.  If you have thick rump steaks you may wish to follow the traditional Brazilian style of slicing layers of the cooked meat off the outside and eating these while the rest of the meat cooks.

6. While the meat cooks, grill the spicy pineapple.  I'd recommend using a grill pan or disposable aluminium tray on the BBQ so that you can 'fry' the pineapple on a flat surface.  Once the pineapple starts to caramelise and blacken it is ready to serve.  This sweet and spicy treat is very moreish and makes the perfect balance to the Gaucho steak.

Brazilian BBQ Garlic-Marinated Picanha & Spicy BBQ Pineapple

Zingy Lemon Gaucho Potato Salad

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