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

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Start-Rite Shoes - Our Measuring and Fitting Experience

Lara starts back at school in Year 1 this Wednesday and, like families up and down the country, we have had Lara's feet measured for a new pair of fitted school shoes as part of a trial for Start-rite shoes. Start-rite interviewed us ealier this year to find out about some of the issues that we face with shoe-buying for school shoes for Lara. You can read my interview here but in summary, Lara is incredibly fussy when it comes to shoes and she is at an age when she is just beginning to take notice of fashion and will express her own tastes. Lara goes to a very outdoorsy school so her school shoes need to be up to the challenge of lots of outdoor time, especially as she spends her early evenings in the playground at after school club which can lead to scratches a-plenty.

Start-rite sent us a foot measuring gague which came with detailed instructions of how to measure Lara's feet at home, including the width fitting.  This is the important part for us because Lara really likes girlt styles of shoe which usually strap over the feet, it is really important that we get a shoe that is neither too narrow or too baggy.  I found the width measurement fairly stressful despite the printed and online instructions - because it isn't something I do regularly, I found it hard to be confident that I had measured from the right points on the foot.

Lara's feet measured at 13E which is a half-size larger than she had previously been wearing.  Start-rite sent Lara a pair of shoes in her size - these Princess Serena black leather shoes with a riptape opening.  Lara only learned to tie her own laces in the last couple of weeks so I don't think she would be ready for a pair of lace-up shoes for school just yet but it is important that she isn't simply wearing slip-ons; these are a good middle ground and are easy for her to put on.

We were sent a link to a video from Start-rite that helped us to ensure that the shoes that arrived through mail-order were indeed a good fit.  I'd say that Lara's shoes are a bit longer than I would have bought for her if I was just buying based on the feel of the shoes but, having measured them with the tool I'll admit that maybe I don't normally allow enough space at the end of the shoe.  The fit of the shoe around the main part of the foot is perfect though.

Lara, being Lara was wowed by the princess pictures on the shoebox and by the very cool clip-on charms on each buckle (a crown on one side, a heart of the other but any clip-on charm would work well).  I did warn you though that she was a fusspost and on her first outing in the shoes she had a tantrum about them being too big (this is the story of my life... too big, too small, too thin) but then inside a clothes shop on the same trip she complained about a pair of trousers being too "shmoosh" around the legs.  Sigh.  I'm hoping its just a stage.

Over the coming weeks I expect Lara to wear her new school shoes to primary school; I've a few day's left to talk her into it!  Come back soon to find out how we get on (and how the shoes stand-up to the school test).

You can find out more about fitted shoes and foot measuring from Start-rite on facebook and twitter.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Disney On Ice - 100 Years of Magic Preview

As we walked out of the O2 arena way back in January, following our first ever Disney on Ice experience, Lara picked up a leaflet for Disney on Ice, 100 Years of Magic which will be playing at major arenas up and down the country from the 26th of September 2014 to the 5th of January 2015.  She was so wowed by the amazing show that she had just seen and begged me to take her again next year.

We've now seen a couple of Disney on Ice shows and they have both been AMAZING.  Magical, musical and full of smiles.  We are planning on watching Disney on Ice 100 Years of Magic at the O2 again this Christmas as a special treat for the girls.

100 Years of Magic promises to be a skating spectacular that celebrates 100 years of Disney.  The show features over 60 Disney Characters from 18 different stories so it is guaranteed to appeal to girls and boys and people of all ages.

As usual, Micky and Minnie mouse will be leading the show but this time there will be lots of other favourite faces too as well as favourite songs to sing along to as the skaters show us how its done; "A Whole New World", "Beauty and the Beast" and "Can you feel the love tonight" are all songs I'm looking forward to.

I'm sure Lara will be on Disney Princess-spotting duty but for me it is about the stunning costumes, clever choreography and the genius bits such as character outfits and vehicles that really make the Disney on Ice shows stand out.  I really can't wait to see the show!

Disney on Ice 100 Years of Magic starts in Glasgow on the 26th of September and continues through Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Dublin, Belfast and then London.  It is a wonderful experience that I promise will bring a smile to your face and have your children captivated.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Elle Macpherson Hot Wax Review

Yay - more sunny weather coming next week which means, I may yet manage to wear my skirts again before the summer is out.  Traditionally I'm a razor sort of a girl when it comes to my legs but, when I'm feeling flush, I do like to get my legs waxed at the salon but there are four reasons why, until recently, I've done my best to avoid waxing at home:-

  • I'm rubbish at applying wax neatly with a spatula
  • I'm rubbish at getting the temperature of the wax right (I either get it so hot it burns, or too cold so it doesn't apply well)
  • I get bored easily of applying wax and ripping it off
  • It is sticky and messy work

The Elle Macpherson Hot Wax Epilator by Homedics was a little beacon of light that meant I might be able to avoid the cost of the salon and wax at home.  So, how did I get on?

The Elle Macpherson Hot Wax Epilator is a hand-held home waxing system.  You buy replaceable wax cartridges which you place into the epilator and then place it into its mount and switch on to heat it up.  The wax takes about 20 minutes to heat which takes some patience but compared to my normal microwave exploits the wax was certainly at a much more appropriate temperature for use!!!

You roll the wax onto the leg using the very nifty applicator and then apply a normal waxing strip over the wax for removal (there is an art to pulling off wax strips!).  I found the roll-on process to be so much easier than having to mess about with a pot and a spatula.  After application though, it wasn't any different to normal.  I was very grateful when I was finished though because there was hardly any cleanup to do.  Just put the lid on and let the wax cool down for next time.  Easy!

In terms of addressing my home-wax stresses, I think it has certainly helped with the application of the wax but I don't think it can help me with the time it takes and the mess I tend to make!  I think I'd need some sort of super-gadget to solve that for me!

The Elle Maxpherson Hot Wax Epilator costs £34.99 and you can buy it in Argos, Amazon, Debenhams and House of Fraser along with replacement wax cartridges.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Leapfrog Leapband Review

You may or may not know that earlier this summer, I started running.  For my birthday, Mr. B. bought me a GPS running watch.  After that, both girls wanted to join me running... so far I've managed to avoid it because I think they may slow me down while I'm trying to learn to run but eventually I'd love it if my two girls were to join me on my runs.  Then the LeapFrog LeapBand came into our lives and suddenly Lara felt all grown up with her own activity tracking watch - just like Mummy's!!!

Mummy and Kids LeapBand fitness watches

The LeapBand is the latest gadget from our friends at LeapFrog and it has a really different slant on things - in the past, most of our favourite LeapFrog kids tech has been designed to encourage learning but the LeapBand is designed to encourage fitness and activity through a virtual pet game.  I think it is a fabulous idea.

Physical activity and sport doesn't feature awfully highly in the priorities at Lara's school (although there are lots of other good things they do well!) and, until recently, I wouldn't have said that physical activity featured much in our home life either so I was really excited to be able to offer Lara the LeapBand as a way of inspiring her to get up and get active throughout the day.  I know from my own GPS watch that the little prompts to move throughout the day make me take a short walk around the office, or sometimes even longer.

The LeapBand was launched earlier this month by star athletes Greg Rutherford and Beth Tweddle who really wanted to stress the fun element of the LeapBand.  As with all Leapfrog products, the LeapBand is designed to use fun to create that little spark to make your child want to go and do more and find out more.  Maybe that two minute jumping up and down activity in your living room could be that spark which leads your child to be an Olympic gymnast or athlete?

leapfrog leapband

The LeapBand comes with a number of activities pre-loaded but, when you connect it to your computer (using the downloadable Leapfrog connect software) you can upload more onto it.  I've configured Lara's to have all of the 50 available activites to make sure she gets a lot of variety.  Some of the activities are challenges such as "jump up high and clap your hands 5 times" and others ask them to act like a different animal such as "wiggle like a caterpillar" there are lots of imaginative role play ideas too such as pretending to pick flowers or pretend to swim.  I had expected a few more traditional sporting activities for older children (the LeapBand is recomended for children aged 4 to 7 years old) because actually it is Holly, my youngest, who seems most taken by these role play challenges.

leapfrog connect for leapband

On the age recommendation, I think the LeapBand could be tricky for an older child to wear.  Lara is a very tall and well-built 5 year old and she finds the firm, semi-flexible strap on the LeapBand to be too tight and inflexible for her to wear comfortably, even on the widest setting.  It fits a lot better on her younger sister (2).

The thing that really keeps Lara interested in the LeapBand is the pets.  The colour-screen on the LeapBand displays your currently selected pet.  The more "joules" your child earns through physical play, the more pets they unlock.  The default pet is a colourful unicorn but so far Lara has unlocked two more pets.  These pets also feature in the matching Petathlon games app which you can download if you child also has access to a tablet or smartphone - the game is available on iOS, Android and on the LeapPad.

Petathlon Games is a good quality, free app with fun games featuring the pets, all with a sporting theme.  Finding out about the game has inspired Lara to want to unlock more pets through more challenges - exactly what the LeapBand was designed for!!!  

leapband petathlon games

My favourite feature on the LeapBand is the ability for me to configure quiet times when Lara shouldn't be using her gadget.  You can set times of day and days of week when restrictions should be applied and during this time, if your child tries to play, all they see is the watch face displayed.  Last week we took the LeapBand on holiday with us and I was stressed that it always kept showing the watch face... it was only later that I realised I'd configured it so that Lara can't use it during school hours during the week!!!

The LeapBand costs around £29.99 (which I think is good value) and comes in a range of different colours.  You charge it via USB through your laptop or USB charger.


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

My Little Pony Clothing and LOTS of other Licensed Brands

Lara is going through a My Little Pony stage!  Having recently discovered My Little Pony on Netflix, Lara has very much enjoyed playing ponies with her friends over the summer - every friend seems to come armed with a bag full of them!  So, when Lara and I were browsing the Lamaloli website for some new clothes, it is no wonder that she was instantly drawn to their range of My Little Pony licensed branded clothing.

Lamaloli stock loads of different licensed brands such as Angry Birds, Cars, Disney Princesses, Super Mario, Frozen, Hello Kitty and LOADS, LOADS more children's favourites.  And because the prices are incredible (t-shirts from as little as £2.10 in their sale at present!!!) they asked Lara to try out three t-shirts from their range to show that the quality is excellent.  And we really have been so impressed.

Usually I'm put off buying Lara big names and brands on her clothing because of the price but at less than £5 each these My Little Pony short-sleeved t-shirts are great value and the t-shirt quality is excellent.  The sleeves are slightly shaped and puffed which gives it a very feminine feel.  The fabric is thick and stretchy and I've found it to wash well with no puckering to the design. Lara, as you can imagine, LOVES it!

With the change in weather, Lara is pleased to also have a long-sleeved top.  The new range of kids clothing on Lamaloli features plenty of long-sleeved t-shirts, hooded tops and jumpers (you can find nightwear and swimwear too!)  This My Little Pony long-sleeved t-shirt costs less than £10 and is available in sizes from 2-8 years. The print on this top feels a bit more fine than the other one but the top is so cosy and it washes really well and I think this item of clothing is going to be worn a LOT this autumn and winter.

If your little one is mad keen on a particular kids character then I highly recommend checking out Lamaloli; there is a flat rate shipping cost of £4.95 and you can pay by Paypal.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Inika Mineral Eye Shadow Review

My make-up drawer is in need of a bit of a revamp.  Having sensitive skin these days, I normally reserve make-up for special events (my workplace isn't a make-up sort of place!) and when I do buy new additions to my make-up stash I prefer to go for more natural options; mainly as a way of reducing the likelihood that my skin will react to them.  This month I've been trying out the Inika mineral eyeshadow from

Inika eyeshadows come in an amazing array of vibrant colours so I feel a little embarrassed that I opted for two neutral tones like this!  I chose honeycomb (the lighter one) and burnt sienna (the darker one at the right) and I would say that the images on the Mypure website are very close in colour to the eyeshadows in real life even though they don't really look anything like their names!

I love these little pots of goodness and can well imagine owning an entire drawer full of these beauties. I've always struggled to know how you're supposed to dispense a mineral eyeshadow (you need so little of it that they protect the powder with a little mesh that only allows a small amount of powder through).  I tend to tap the pot on the work surface to release a little powder through the holes and then use a soft brush to apply.

I know this isn't the greatest of photographic achievements but I think it does demonstrate how the eye colour almost disapears when applied to me - the honeycomb in particular looks almost white as you apply it but almost instantly disappears into my skin.  The burnt sienna is a little more successful and I'm sure that, combined with a couple of other colours from the Inika eye shadow range (perhaps coco motion or gold dust?) that I could build them up to make a striking neutral pallette.

My skin likes these eyeshadows - no reaction at all.  These natural Inika mineral eye shadows are made from crushed mineral pigments. Inika is certified cruelty free and one of the few certified vegan makeup brands on the market. The eyeshadow is free from talc, bismuth oxychloride, GM ingredients, parabens, preservatives and fragrances so they are suitable for sensitive skin like mine.  The eyeshadows currently cost £10.88 each at Mypure.

You can find out more about Mypure on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Gone Crabbing - Colin the Crab Pop Up Book

My two girls love a good pop-up book - there is something about the touchy feely element of a pop-up book which engages children of all ages so both Holly and Lara can enjoy a book equally.  Our latest book is Colin the Crab by Susie Mason which is part of the range of seaside-inspired gifts and accessories by Gone Crabbing.

Susie Mason is the founder of Gone Crabbing and this little pop-up book combines her passion for the seaside with the pop-up skills of Robert Crowther.  The story revolves around Colin the Crab who is one of the iconic symbols throughout the Gone Crabbing range of clothing and gifts and Lara was excited to have a story about a crab she already recognised.

Colin and his friends (Sally the Starfish and Mike the Mussel) live in a rock pool and one sunny day Colin's pals are scooped up in a bucket by two excited children who are exploring the beach.  Colin is distraught at the loss of his friends and, when the tide is right, he prepares o set off and search for them.  Thankfully, the two children have a caring streak and return the starfish and mussel to the pool where they found them and so Colin the Crab and his friends are re-united.

I thought this was a cute little book and we've read it as a family several times since we got back from our own beach holiday earlier this summer.  I think that, because the girls have fond memories of their own beach adventures this summer, the book really hits home to them and Lara has certainly picked up on the moral of the story - to leave the beach as you found it and to look after the creatures you find on the beach, however small they might be.

There is quite a lot of text on each page and I don't think Lara is quite ready to read it herself but she does enjoy exploring the pop-ups which include hiding crabs and flappy waves.  It isn't the most adventurous set of of pop-ups I've seen but I do think they add to the book.

I think both of my girls will enjoy returning to Colin the Crab every time they remember their trips to the seaside.  Colin the Crab costs £7.99 from Gone Crabbing.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Our Trunki Paddlepak Picnic Adventures with Ella's Kitchen

This past week, the Mellow family has been on holiday in the Yorkshire dales.  We started our trip with some concern that our two girls, 5 and 2 years old, wouldn't much enjoy walking through countryside but I'm glad to say that they both embraced the great outdoors, made all the more paletable to them through the medium of FOOD!  My girls are driven by their stomachs and so we took every opportunity we could to enjoy a family picnic out in the fresh air; Lara loved bringing along a bottle of water and some tasty snacks in her Trunki Paddlepak bag.

The Trunki Paddlepak is  a water resistant, really light-weight bag for children that comes in lots of fun shapes and colours.  Lara's is a purple octopus!  Because the Paddlepak is water resistant, it is great for taking out on walks (in the predictable UK rain) and, like us, to visit rivers, lakes and waterfalls (I think it would probably work well by the pool as a beach bag too!).


Lara and Holly's Trunki Paddlepak was filled with tasty, healthy snacks for big kids by Ella's Kitchen.  Holly single-handedly devoured a tub of "row row row raspberries and bananas multigrain nibbles" while Lara kept going back for more of her  "ee i eei oh raisins + spelt cookies" - any excuse for a snack break when you're 5 and climbing up a slippery stoney waterfall trail!  I was so impressed with how both girls took to the walking on our holiday - I think Lara clocked up about 40km over the course of the week over fields, through streams, gates and cowpats!

We found our Trunki Paddlepak ideal for taking on walks because it gave the girls a little bit of ownership - carrying snacks is a very important job!  Lara struggled a bit to keep the bag on her shoulders so I think it would benefit from a little strap across the front but I thought the weight, and the innovative roll-top closure were both excellent; as I'd expect from Trunki.

We had a wonderful trip to the Yorkshire dales - it was great to get out and explore!  You can find out about more Trunki Travels on their facebook page.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Our Amazing Venture Photography Images Revealed

A couple of days ago I blogged about our Venture Photography Experience.  We had a wonderful time and, after our short break on the south coast we came home and the very next day we were invited back to the Venture Photography Studio in Eton to view our photos in a personalised show.

The whole family were invited into a private viewing area.  We were made very welcome and comfortable.  The lights were dimmed and then we were shown a slideshow projection of all of our family photos.  There were smiles, wide eyes, some "aaaawwws" and perhaps a little tear of happiness when we saw the pictures.  They were perfect and really told our story.  Here are a few of my favourites.

After the slideshow we were given an opportunity to look at some of the photos in more detail.  The salesperson (who happened to have been our photographer) talked to us about our budget and about what type of photos we were looking to buy.  We were very honest about our budget and I was really happy that there was no pressure at all to buy - it was all about finding what was right for us.

Venture are a luxury photography brand and the prices reflect the luxury experience and the quality of the prints.  Their new Lumino metal prints are, quite frankly, awe-inspiring but at a cost!  Venture do offer credit packages to help spread the cost of purchasing their images with many families spending between £800 and £2000 on prints from a single photo shoot.

Thankfully, there are lots of ways to enjoy your Venture images and share them with others.  Venture offer packages of images so that you can purchase a small desk frame with your favourite prints from as little as £50 each, there is also the option to buy a digital photo frame that can show all of your Venture images.  As part of most photo packaged they also provide a sharing app for iOS and Android devices.

I thought the iOS app was a really nifty way of sharing my photos with family members.

There is absolutely no denying that our Venture images are the most stunning photos that I've ever seen of Lara and Holly.  The photographers worked so hard to find the right message to send for both girls.  If I had a house big enough to show off all of the photos (and a bank balance big enough to afford 60 by 40 prints of them all).

My favourite image of the entire set is this collection (a Venture Photography speciality) of gardening photos of the two girls - designed particularly with Marks Veg Plot in mind.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Nathalie Bond Organics Review - Soaps, Balms and Candles

There is nothing that makes me more mellow than a relaxing bath filled with beautiful scents and, most importantly, without the interruptions of little people.  Since I started running a few months ago, all of my baths have had to be post-run and hence, post-bedtime; this is a very peaceful time of day.  To make bathtimes even more mellow, I've been trying out a few luxury skincare items and candles from Nathalie Bond.

The Nathalie Bond brand was born when Nathalie first became pregnant and, like many mums-to-be her skin became sensitive to strong chemicals and fragrances and she tried to move over to more natural products.  Then, when baby arrived it became even more important to try and find natural skincare products that could still make you and your family feel wonderful.  Nathalie and Andy started making handmade soaps and candles in their own kitchen using natural ingredients and the business has grown from there.

A little candle in the bathroom is a luxury I can only afford when I know that there won't be toddlers rudely interrupting me.  The Nathalie Bond natural candles come in a couple of different sizes and in a range of scents.  My candle is a strong Siberian Fur scent which smells exactly like Christmas trees!  In fact, it makes me feel all festive when I light it.  The small candles cost £11 and last for approximately 12 hours when they burn.  All of the Nathalie Bond candles are made using essential oils and sustainably sourced wax.

These days, I more or less only use natural soaps - handmade from natural ingredients using traditional techniques, this is what soap used to be about.  Naturally occurring moisturisers, cleansers and healers.  This gorgeous lavender soap bar is one of around six different "flavours" of soap made by Nathalie Bond.  It is made from 100% natural and 98% organically sourced materials.

My soap has a gentle lavender scent from lavender essential oils but it also packed full of lavender blooms which, as you use the soap, create a sightly rough surface that helps to exfoliate the skin (and they make the bath look pretty as they fall out!).  The soap itself is made with olive oil, coconut oil and shea butter and leaves my skin feeling both clean, and soft.  Times like these, I wonder why I ever use a shower gel?!?

I absolutely love this 100% natural grapefruit lipbalm from Nathalie Bond.  Small enough to slip into my pocket, this cute little metal tin is filled with a firm balm.  Apply it by finger to the lips (and to little patches of dry skin on your hands and face - if you like!) to soften, nourish and protect.  I always find that a natural lipbalm gives a longer lasting result and I don't seem to need to re-apply it very often.  I've taken to applying this lipbalm last thing at night to give my lips an overnight boost.  

My lipbalm is a white grapefruit flavour and the scent makes me think of summery breakfasts - it is totally grapefruit!  Once applied, you can't really taste or smell the grapefruit much but you can feel the oily goodness doing its job.  As a natural balm, you need to rub your finger over the balm in the tin a couple of times to soften it enough to apply.  I felt that the lipbalm was the superstar in the Nathalie Bond range because it was so gentle, yet effective.

I really enjoyed trying out these beautiful natural skincare products and candles - I wish more evenings could be this mellow!

Find out more about the range at and on Facebook.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Venture Photography - Our Experience

I had always wanted to try a Venture photography experience.  From the very first day I set eyes on a Venture image at a roadshow in our town centre I had my heart set on some photos of our family and recently I was given the chance to have a Venture photo sitting and to review their luxury photo service.

From the very minute that Venture got in touch, I felt comfortable that they knew what they were doing.  I was given a very thorough briefing about what to expect, including a helpful conversation about what budget to plan when coming in to view the photographs (I know some photographers like to leave this bit as a surprise for after you've had your photos taken!).

About 2 days before our family photo shoot, one of the two photographers rang me to "interview" me.  This was not only their chance to start finding out about who we are as a family, and what we were looking to get from our experience, but it was also a chance for them to help me talk through some ideas and plant some sparks of inspiration for photo themes for the day.  The Venture studio we were booked into was Venture in Eton - they have a large door into which you can bring many an imaginative prop!

On the call the photographer and I talked about the things that currently make the girls tick - their scooters, their dressing up clothes, all things rapunzel and helping Mummy and Daddy in the garden!  This got my mind racing so on the morning of the shoot we filled up the car boot with lots of different gardening paraphenalia as well as the girls scooters and princess dresses.  We chose lots of different outfits for both us and the girls.

We all really enjoyed our morning photo shoot at Venture.  Little things such as a welcome note for each family booked in that day put a smile on our face during our short wait.  The girls had plenty of toys to entertain themselves with while we talked to the photographers about the plan for our 1-hour shoot.

For the duration of the shoot we had the use of a private changing room with family changing facilities but most of our time was spent in the spacious photography studio itself.

We had two photographers working with us.  They chatted briefly about our favourite styles and about what percentage of the images we wanted to be just the girls compared to the whole family.  The photographers were EXCELLENT when it came to working with the girls.  Surprisingly Holly was very timid that morning and it took a while for her to warm up but they were very gentle and understanding and had plenty of ideas of how to bring her out of her shell.  Lara on the other hand was in an incredibly boisterous and chatty mood and loved every minute of her moment in the spotlight!

At the end of our shoot we were given a date to come back and view the finished photographs.  I have put a few examples of the beautiful, stunning images in this post but I'm saving the best for later this week when I'll reveal a set of amazing family portraits totally tailored to the Mellow family!

While we were on holiday Venture sent us a little taster of our photo show by sending us a text message with a sample image in it - it was a wonderful surprise.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Recipe Book Review :: Easy Indian SuperMeals for babies, toddlers and the family

I am, a rather big fan of Zainab Jagot Ahmed and her simple, tasty recipes for indian-inspired foods suitable for babies, toddlers and the WHOLE family.  Zainab's new book, Easy Indian SuperMeals for babies, toddlers and the family is released next month and I got a sneaky peek - I have to say that if I had to chose one baby and toddler cookery book to recommend to new (or experienced) parents, then this would be it.

In our house, we eat an Indian-inspired meal on two to three evenings a week and have done ever since our girls were teeny and tiny.  Easy Indian SuperMeals (available to pre order now) features recipe ideas packed full of nutrients and exciting textures and flavours suitable from stage 2 of weaning (at around 7 months old).  We love the sweet fish and fruit curry which is suitable for small babies just taking their first foray into the exciting world of food - made with yoghurt, apple, pear and banana as well as white fish fillets and a selection of gentle spices such as ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and turmeric - it is just as yummy as a grown up!

Later in the book there are recipes for finger foods such as apple french toast with blueberries and cinnamon or minted green beans.  And then for the more adventurous toddler there are some beautiful curried dishes designed to start building a love of healthy, exciting spices - Cardamom Chicken Curry is a tomato based curry with a hint of sweet cardamom and an optional zing of fresh green chilli.  Zainab's own daughter is now school age so the final section of the book features "booster snacks" and quick-to-prepare meals that are great for the post-school rush!

I find it hard to put into words how much Zainab's approach to mellow weaning and family mealtimes aligns with our own family's approach to food.  But, even sharing a love of Indian-inspired healthy food for kids, I still find a lot of new inspiration in Zainab's recipes.  I recognise a lot of the recipes in Easy Indian SuperMeals from Zainab's first electronic book but this new cookery book is packed chock-full of recipe ideas and I think I will be trying new things for many months to come.

If you're wondering what's so "super" about these Easy Indian Superfoods; it's the ingredients.  Each of the recipes features 'SuperSpices' which have been used for many generations for their health properties and antioxidant levels.  Combine these tasty spices with SuperFoods such as whole grains, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, a good mix of dairy and protein items as well as oily fish, olive oil and you have SuperMeals!  The first section of this cookery book features a lot of common-sense, scaremonger-free information about food groups and how to make sure your toddler gets a healthy, balanced diet that can set them on the right track from day one of their weaning journey.

It always puts a smile on my face when I see my own daughters enjoying Indian foods as much as I do - just last week Lara, my eldest, came home at the end of the day and asked me what's for dinner.  I told Lara we were having "curry"; she originally seemed a bit disappointed when she found out it was homemade curry and not "ordered curry" (her term for a takeaway) and I felt a bit deflated.  A little while later, as I served her "Classic Keema Curry" made with minced lamb, Lara exclaimed "Oh yay... I LOVE this curry" and demolished an adult-sized serving of it!

You can find out more about Zainab and her cookbooks at and on facebook.

To celebrate the launch of Easy Indian SuperMeals for babies, toddlers and the family, I'm giving away a copy of the book to one lucky Mellow Mummy reader so you will be among the first people to get your hands on this fab new recipe book.  To be in with a chance of winning a copy, all you have to do is to leave me a comment below with the name of one of your tried and tested family-friendly meals that you like to cook.

  1. There is no cash alternative.
  2. The competition is open to UK and Ireland residents only.
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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Nature Misses You! 50 Things to do before you're 11 and 3/4

This summer, The National Trust are encouraging families and children out into the wild to rediscover nature - Nature Misses You!  If you haven't yet come across the National Trust's "50 Things to Do Before You're 11 and 3 quarters" then where have you been (you can see the full list on the 50 things website).

Earlier this year we bought a family membership to the National Trust because we knew that we were planning two UK holidays and wanted to do some exploring while we were on our travels.  We have also used our membership to explore some local houses and gardens at the weekends because they make for great full days out with the girls.  I've totted up the cost of entry to all of the places we have visited so far in 2014 and I think we have already saved the full cost of our membership 2 times over!

No. 18 - Wild Art at Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall

Exploring Wild Art at The Vyne, Hampshire
Lara is doing pretty well on her list of 50 things which she started this time last year when we stayed in a National Trust holiday cottage in Cornwall right next door to the NT gardens at Trengwaiton.  Lara started off with No. 25 - Make a Grass Trumpet and No. 18 - Make Some Wild Art both on-site at Trengwaiton Garden.

I think we probably have No. 41 - Plant It, Grow It, Eat It covered at home in our own back garden but this spring we made an effort to get out and explore our local surroundings a bit more with No. 31 - Hunt for Bugs and No. 44 - Go Bird Watching and the girls loved it.

No. 31 - Hunt for Bugs
We've headed over the The Vyne in Hampshire a couple of times this year (they have a brilliant Tolkein-inspired kids playground and amazing country walks).  While we were there we got involved with No. 4 - Build a Den as there were lots of materials available for building.

No. 4 - Build a Den at The Vyne, Hampshire

When we visited the girls' Auntie in France we had some lovely country walks and managed several of the activities on the list including No. 16 - Make a Daisy Chain.

No. 16 - Make a Daisy Chain
This summer we discovered Cliveden near Taplow in Berkshire.  It is an amazing place packed full of things to do and the girls loved it so much that they asked to go back the next weekend!  Beyond the playground, tea rooms, slide and stunning formal gardens there are some wild and beautiful walks to be had in the grounds.  Both Lara and Holly LOVED No.2 - Roll down a big hill!

Exploring secret places at Cliveden, Berkshire

No. 2 - Rolling down a Big Hill at Cliveden, Berkshire
But our summer holiday in East Sussex was the climax of Lara's 50-things year so far.  We visited the beach, the downs, forests, orchards and farms.  We visited three National Trust properties at Bodiam Castle, Scotney Castle and Rudyard Kipling's home, Batemans.  Lara crossed off another 13 things off her list including jumping over waves, flying a kite, playing pooh sticks and climbing a REALLY big hill!

No. 28 - Climb a huge hill, near Batemans, East Sussex

Making Dens at The Vyne

If you fancy some fun and affordable outdoor activities, check out the 50 things list (you can download a copy from the website or you can pick up printed 'scrapbooks' at most NT properties).  It is a fabulous (and very cheap) way of encouraging your children outdoors to rediscover nature.

If you are looking for more inspiration for ways to rediscover nature with your kids, check out the National Trust youtube channel.

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