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

Tuesday 30 September 2014

The Sun Inn - Family Friendly Eating in Hampshire

As a family, we love to eat out.  Sometimes for a special treat, sometimes just as a means of release from the fast pace of life.  Our girls come with us 99.9% of the time, regardless of whether we are eating in a smart restaurant, or a local 'caff'. This weekend we were invited to test out the family-friendliness of The Sun Inn, a gastro pub near Dummer, just outside Basingstoke in Hampshire.  It was a brilliant meal out and I have a special discount offer for Mellow Mummy readers...

Our first impressions were great - it was astonishingly easy to get to, just a minute from the M3, junction 7.  In fact, if you've ever driven on the M3 near the A303 turning, you've probably seen the Sun Inn down below you!

Last week The Sun Inn launched their new seasonal menu and we were some of the first people to try it out.  I loved the great gastro-pub balance between classic pub dishes (such as fish and chips, pork ribs or beef burger) and more "restauranty" main meals; we visited at lunchtime on Saturday where there was also a range of sandwiches available, and my, did they look good!

I was most impressed by the children's menu which was just a mini version of the main menu.  Lara and Holly were both drawn to the idea of mini meatballs for their starter which arrived with a dipping bowl of ketchup.  It is a long time since I have seen Holly eat with quite as much enthusiasm - a big hit.

Myself and Mr. B. found it hard to choose a starter, there were so many tempting dishes.  In the end I chose a very delicate hand-made butternut squash and sage ravioli served with a red pepper and carrot broth.  I though the dish was elegant and executed to a very high standard, though I did find the sage and squash flavours a little lost in the strong red broth (though I wouldn't have sacrificed the pasta... it was perfect).  Mr. B. enjoyed his roasted pork belly but was most wowed by the smoked apple puree - both dishes were served with micro-leaves such as rocket which may sound very chef-y but it was quite comforting to see these growing in the greenhouse behind the restaurant after our meal!


For their main course, both Lara and Daddy chose fish and chips.  The title does it a dis-service. Beer-battered fish (made with local ales), crushed peas, tartar sauce and the most amazing triple-cooked chips.  Lara is a big fan of the triple-cooked chip and finished off every morsel of her food.  I would say that the silence from both her, and Daddy during the meal just went to show how much they enjoyed it.

Holly chose a handmade burger from the menu, also served with those crispy, chunky triple-cooked chips.  Their children's meals were part of a fixed-price two or three course menu with three courses costing £11.95.

I chose a main course from the A-la-carte menu to really see what all the fuss about head-chef  (and landlord) Gordon Stott was all about.  My Roasted lamp chump with wild rice, broccoli veloute, buttered curly kale, honey poached figs and star anise reduction was one of the more expensive dishes on the menu (£17.95) and was a flavour combination unlike anything I've ever tried before. I thought the partnership of star-anise with the wild rice and lamb was very clever (and not something I'd have been brave enough to try myself) and the figs paired with lamb is definitely a combo I want to eat again.  My lamb was tender and tasty but could have been improved by a bit more colour or caramelisation during cooking.

Our meal was finished off with a selection of Hampshire ice-creams.  Mr. B. and I were both a bit too stuffed to really appreciate the stunning dessert menu... I'm now regretting not having tried the "Taste of the Fair Ground" which featured candy floss, popcorn, doughnuts, marshmallows and candy apples.

We really enjoyed our meal at the Sun Inn and felt the dining area was well suited to children with easy access to the toilets or through the small bar to the sizeable garden which features countryside views, large grass areas and an excellent wooden play area.  On days when the children weren't in tow, I think we would also have enjoyed sharing a bar meal in the comfy sofa areas inside the Sun Inn.

SPECIAL OFFER: If you book a family meal at The Sun Inn, Dummer between now and the end of October, kids can eat free if you quote Mellow Mummy when booking.
  • One free child per one paying adult. 
  • Please quote 'MELLOW MUMMY' when booking.
  • The offer is valid until October 31st 2014.
  • Children can eat at any time during restaurant opening times.
  • This offer is not valid with any other offer.

On a Sunday you can enjoy a roast dinner at the Sun Inn (along with a smaller selection from the main menu).  You can find out more about the Sun Inn near Dummer over on Facebook, twitter and on their own website.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Mypure Natural and Organic Running Remedies #bbloggers #naturalbeauty #organic #review

This month, I decided to base my MyPure natural and organic cosmetics review on running remedies.  Having started running in June, I'm now building up my distance and my speed to get me through my 10 mile challenge; after every run my body feels like it needs a pick-me-up so what better way to test out some of the MyPure range of organic bodycare products?  For a relaxing post-tun bath I chose the Skin Blossom Therapeutic Bath Soak and for some TLC where my aches and pains need it most, the Bentley Organic Muscle Balm.

Skin Blossom Therapeutic Bath Soak
Skin Blossom Therapeutic Bath Soak

Skin Blossom is a new brand for me - I like the look of all of their products but the Therapeutic Bath Soak called me.  My post-run bath is a bit of a ritual and I've been on the lookout for something that would not only help me wind down in the evenings, but also help my legs on the way to recovery.  The combination of Lavender, Rosemary and Ylang Ylang essential oils makes this a beautiful-smelling bubble bath although I've noticed that the smell quickly disseminates and I don't really get the benefits of the scent once I'm in the bath.

Aloe Vera and coconut oils make this a gentle and kind addition to the bath with no irritants for my skin.  With over 98.8% organic ingredients it ticks most of my boxes. It is, of course, free from SLS, SLES, ALS, Phylates and Parabens, synthetic colour or fragrance.  The Therapeutic Bath Soak from Skin Blossom is a relaxing bubble bath but I think the short-lasting scent lets it down.  It costs £5.96 from Mypure.

After my bath, I would normally apply a body lotion but recently I've had some really really achey legs.  The tops of my legs feel stronger but this comes with a sacrifice after each run!  I've also struggled with the strength in my lower legs, ever since I twisted my ankle on holiday so the Bentley Organic Muscle Rub is a godsend.  It is a highly aromatic balm blended with natural oils with healing, relaxing properties for body and mind.

Bentley Organic Muscle Rub
Bentley Organic Muscle Rub

The scented oils of camphor, mint, cinnamon, clove and cajeput (similar to tea tree) are blended with sunflower oil, beeswax and shea butter.  The balm is soft and easy to apply and you can feel it getting to work instantly; a gentle warming sensation.  This organic muscle balm is exactly what my legs needed and I'm feeling so much more alive after my runs since using it.  Mind you, the cat isn't so much of a fan and runs away from me after I've applied it!  The Bentley Organic muscle balm costs £7.20 for

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

Saturday 27 September 2014

Phonics Fun with Biff Chip and Kipper - a Nintendo Game Review

This game review was first published on If you have a child at primary school in the UK then, more than likely, you will be familiar with the characters Biff, Chip and Kipper who feature in every Oxford Reading Tree story.  My daughter, Lara, has been reading the Biff, Chip and Kipper stories during her foundation year and we have come to all enjoy the tales of the magic key.

Lara was so excited to find out that there was a new Biff, Chip and Kipper game coming to Nintendo (launching today for Nintendo 3DS and 2DS).  Phonics Fun with Biff, Chip and Kipper is a learning game which comes in three different volumes for different stages of your child's learning journey.  Lara was given a sneak preview of volume 3 in which children get to practice words that should be fairly familiar but with alternate spellings and tricky sounds - I think it is the perfect level to challenge Lara who is currently reading at ORT level 7.

Lara wasn't familiar with the Nintendo console before trying out the game (we loaned a 2DS for the purposes of the review) but despite this, she very quickly learned her way around the game (a lot more quickly than I did!).

At Volume 3 of Phonics Fun with Biff Chip and Kipper, you are presented with a shelf of books to choose from.  Each book contains a story and there are several different activities that you complete for that story, each of which earns you a piece of a jigsaw puzzle.  Lara was instantly driven by this "need" to collect all the pieces of a puzzle and didn't want to put the game down without completing out an activity (there are save options but not within an activity).

At Volume 1 the game is all about practicing letter sounds - sounds you hear around you in daily life.  And in Volume 2 it definitely moves more onto word formations, alternative vowel sounds and building words using common word endings such as -ed.

Lara has very much enjoyed Phonics Fun with Biff Chip and Kipper.  She loves being able to "prove" to herself that she has understood a story by correctly answering comprehension questions about a passage that the game reads to her.  She likes to be able to record her own voice reading new words and I can literally hear her brain working into action as she runs through lists of new words, all of which share a word sound - words I never expected a 5 year old to be able to spell.  Gamification of learning is a very rewarding experience for both children and parents.

One of our favourite elements of the Phonics Fun game was the writing activity.  Presented with a picture of an object (a word she had learned in previous activities for that book), Lara had to write it herself using a stylus on the touchscreen of the 2DS.  This frustrated her at first because it wouldn't recognise her writing style but this simply forced her to write smaller and more neatly in a gentle cursive style for it to correctly register the letters she was writing... I've noticed the difference in her traditional handwriting since.

If there is one gripe I have with the game, it is that I found the amount of text for some of the reading and comprehension activities a bit too much for the screen.  The lower screen on the 2DS is small and for a child of Lara's age to read writing that small was a challenge.

You can find out more about Nintendo games for children by following Nintendo UK on twitter and the 3DS page on Facebook.


Friday 26 September 2014

Aromatherapy Associates

Since I started running, earlier in the summer, I've found myself really enjoying my baths after a long run.  I've always loved a bath but somehow I'm enjoying them even more now that they serve as my reward for a great exercise session.  I always like to add a little something special to my bath to help with that mellow mood and there aren't many things more mellow than this Aromatherapy Associates De-Stress Mind Bath & Shower Oil.

This bottle contains enough for 20 of the most relaxing baths ever.  Saying that, you're not limited to simply pouring this oil into your bath, you can also apply it to the whole body before you take a bath or shower; getting the maximum de-stress experience from the oil by applying it directly to the skin.  I think I prefer using it this way because I'm more in control of the level of oil used and I feel like some of the effects of the oil are more immediate.  Also, the first bath I poured the oil into was probably a bit too oily for me and did require me to clean the bath afterwards!

This Aromatherapy Associates bath and shower oil is designed to help you release the stresses of a long day.  For me, bath time is my time to switch off from work and from the noises and pressures of a busy evening with the girls.  The blend of oils includes essential oils chosen for their ability to help you focus and relax the mind. Frankincense, petitgrain, wild camomile and rosemary to help your mind sort out all the stresses of the day.

To me, the most intense note of the scent is the camomile oil which is an essential oil I sometimes use to help sooth inflamed skin for me and the girls.  I'm absolutely loving using this de-stress mind oil - it adds a chill-out element to me post-run schedule without making me so sleepy that I can't finish off all my jobs before I go to bed!

Thursday 25 September 2014

#StreamTeam After School Club - Some Autumtunal Activities

School is very much back in full swing and Lara has settled really well in her new class with her new, Year 1 routine.  As a working family, we don't normally get home in the evenings until well after 6pm so there is normally a mad rush to make dinner as soon as we get home, this usually involves me bundling the girls into another room to either watch some of their favourite TV shows or to get creative with their collection of arts and crafts materials.  This helps them chill out after a busy day at school or nursery but it also gives me a little space in the kitchen to get on with cooking.

This month, Netflix asked StreamTeam members for some after-school inspiration.  For my girls, when they come in through the door and crash on the sofa, they now pester me to watch something from Netflix.  There are lots of new children s television series' available on Netflix to coincide with the start of the new school term.

Lara and Holly have been so excited to see some new episodes of Bubble Guppies and Go Diego Go.  Lara has also really got into the animated TV series, Turbo Fast which features the gang of snails from the Turbo movie.

And, I know I go on about this, but the Kids interface on the Apple TV for accessing and browsing Netflix is so easy to use that the girls are very independent and can choose their own shows.  This means that I don't have to keep rushing in from the kitchen every two minutes to choose another program.  Their Netflix profiles will only show them kids shows, so there's no fear that they may accidentally end up watching Breaking Bad!

If you are looking for some crafty inspiration for autumnal after-school activities then Lara and Holly have some ideas for you.  On your walk home from school, collect as many different shapes of leaf as you can find... and as many different nuts and seeds as you can discover.

1. Trace around the seeds and nuts onto a piece of paper.  See if you can remember which outline is for which seed and write down the names.  We found hazelnuts, conkers and chestnuts on our travels and Lara has loved learning how to write these new words.

2. Make leaf rubbings using chalks, pastels or crayons.  Explore the different shapes of leave and the patterns of the veins on them.  Try experimenting with different colours of paper for dramatic effects.

3. Build patterns and pictures out of leaves.  Use plenty of PVA glue to stick the leaves and seeds to card or paper.  In the past we have had GREAT fun building big pictures out of different things we have found in our garden or on the way home.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

My 5* Bathroom

Viakal sent me a handy guide - "How to Achieve 5-star Results in Your Own Bathroom" in which Louise O'Mahony, provider of housekeepers to 5* hotels across the capital shares some of the industry secrets on how to make your own bathroom look as stunning as those in top hotels.  Knowing that I live in a MEGA hard water part of the country, this seemed like rather an optimistic challenge but probably not as much of a challenge as dealing with this...

Little did Viakal know that my planned bathroom rennovations would take 'for-ev-er' and that when my 5 star guide arrived I would be clearing up plaster dust on a daily basis.  That said, I knew that a shiny new bathroom would be the perfect way to put Louise O'Mahony's five-star bathroom tips to the test.  What better challenge that to try and keep a new bathroom looking like new?


Even two days after our beautiful new bathroom was complete I could already see the effects of the local limescale on our taps and shower fittings.  I've resolved to keep everything looking as new so at the weekend I gave them a quick fix of Viakal bathroom spray to get rid of the water marks and after rinsing, I polished them with a soft cloth to make then look as good as new!

I've followed Louise's tips to ensure that all of the clutter is tidied away out of view; this required a bit of re-organising of the shelves in our cabinet but it was definitely worth it.  I've given the mirror cabinet a polish to get rid of toothpaste splatters! and limited the toiletries on show to be seriously scrummy ones only (functional ones hidden away from view).  I like it, it makes the room still feel like new.

I've placed a little aromatherapy oil burning stone on the window ledge with my favourite ESPA luxury aromatherapy oils (one for a pick-me-up in the morning, and a more mellow relaxing scent for the evening); it makes a much nicer touch than a bowl of pot pourri!

One of the things I'm not quite sure I yet agree with is a recommendation to avoid brightly coloured towels and bath-mats.  I love the crisp white towels but I feel like my room is crying out for a splash of colour.  I'm tempted by a vibrant green.  What do you think?


So here is what my bathroom looks like after this weekend's mini Viakal makeover.  I'm feeling inspired... it wasn't a lot of work and I think if I do a little bit of a tidy up every weekend I'll never be faced with the mammoth limescale clear up like I used to have to in my old bathroom.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Bio-Kult Infantis Infant Probiotic Review

I should probably start this review by making it clear that I don't normally blog about children's food supplements or health products for kids - worrying about the food my children eat isn't part of my Mellow Mummy mantra.  In fact, as a mum who tries her very best to provide a healthy, grown-up, home-cooked diet for my two girls I strongly feel that I shouldn't NEED to supplement my baby or toddler's diet... if I do, then surely I'm getting something wrong somewhere?

So, you can imagine how much of a dent in my parenting confidence it was last month when Holly was diagnosed with "Toddler Diarrhoea", a generic term used to describe persistent diarrhoea in a toddler who is otherwise healthy, and for which the GP can find no other cause.  Toddler diarrhoea is commonly caused by an unbalanced gut - a tiny tummy that is still trying to cope with the challenges of an adult diet and is often seen in children who have a low-fat diet or who consume too much fruit, fruit juice or fruit squash.  Ouch.  That hit a nerve.

Having spent almost a fortnight off work looking after Holly (because she couldn't attend nursery due to her symptoms) it felt like fate when I was contacted to review Bio-Kult Infantis.  Bio-Kult Infantis is a multi-strain probiotic formula designed for infants, toddlers and young children.

Given Holly's sensitive tummy, I was happy to try out Bio-Kult Infantis as an addition to Holly's normal food and drink.  It comes in 1g powder sachets and, after a fascinating chat with Nutritional Therapist Natalie Lamb, I decided to start Holly on a half-sachet every day to see how she responded.  You can mix Bio-Kult Infantis with milk (breast milk, formula or cow's milk), or directly with food.  Each sachet contains 7 different strains of probiotic bacteria which are shown to reduce diarrhoea in gastroenteritis, improve constipation and even improve the symptoms of eczema.  It also contains high levels of Omega 3 (something I'm aware we lack in our family diet) and also Vitamin D3.

When I first started using Bio-Kult, I was a bit freaked out, I accidentally got some on the end of my finger and it felt funny - a bit like popping candy! I've mixed it with Holly's breakfast cereal and she has never noticed it so I assume that it mixes well!

Within 48 hours of starting Holly on Bio-Kult Infantis, her loose stools cleared up.  I can't tell if it is directly related, or not.  I continued giving Holly a sachet each morning for a fortnight but I have since stopped again.  I think I would happily start again if Holly showed any signs of an imbalanced gut again but for me, a daily probiotic isn't something I want to permanently build into her diet (as it wouldn't be for me, either).  I would expect to use Bio-Kult Infantis as an occasional boost to my toddler's gut-based immune system.

Monday 22 September 2014

Edition Edelweiss Cosmetics Review

I am a self-proclaimed lover of luxury cosmetics AND also an enthusiastic user of natural, organic and gentle cosmetics - quite often these two loves are at loggerheads with one another and it is unusual to find a luxury cosmetics brand that I feel pulls off the 'natural' or 'organic' thing well.  I think this Edition Edelweiss range of luxury skincare products is about as close as I have yet come to an effective, luxury skincare regime that ticks plenty of the natural cosmetics boxes.

Edition Edelweiss cosmetics are made by cosmetics company Siin in Austria using the iconic Edelweiss flower (organic, of course).  The Edelweiss plant was chosen for its naturally occurring active ingredients which have an antibacterial effect, are high in antioxidants. This rare and protected plant species includes ingredients which help with skin tightening and stimulate blood circulation and encourage cell renewal - perfect for reducing the signs of ageing.  An added bonus is that the products are free from parabens so suitable for sensitive skins.

I tried out this duo travel set of cleanser and moisturiser to get a feel for the Edition Edelweiss range.  Both products had that 'feel' about them that a luxury skincare brand does - a silky special feeling that reminds me of the very first bottle of big-brand cleanser that I saved up my hard-earned pennies for.  The Edition Edelweiss Milky Cleansing is a very gently foaming face wash which is perfect for use at the start of the day.  A facial wash has been part of my skincare routine for a very long time and this is as good as any I've tried, leaving my skin feeling squeaky clean, tight and ready for the day.

To follow up the cleansing wash I've been using the Edition Edelweiss 24 Hour Essence Cream which is almost mousse like in texture.  It is recommended as both a day and night cream (boasting 24 hour moisturisation) but I think I most prefer to apply it during the morning because it is such a light moisturiser that I barely feel that I have it on. Beyond the alpine spring water and edelweiss extract, this Essence Cream boasts aloe vera, olive tree, goji-berry, wheat germ and jojoba oil.  The ingredients are all clearly there to help kick start your skin into doing the things that it needs to do to start combating the signs of ageing.  So, while I don't come away from my Edelweiss experience feeling like this is the most effective moisturiser I've ever tried, I do have confidence that it has changed my skin over the past few weeks and that I've got a new bounce to my skin (but that may of course be the 2 stone I've lost this summer and the new energy I have from running!!!)

You can find out more about Edition Edelweiss on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Leappad 3 Review

Leappad3 Review
Leappad3 Kids Tablet
As part of the Leapfrog blogger panel, my girls were lucky enough to be sent one of the new Leappad3 learning tablets to try out.  In the past, we have tried the Leappad Ultra (this year replaced by the Ultra XDi) and also the closest competitor, the Innotab in its various forms so it was a very interesting comparison.

My initial reaction when I saw the new Leappad 3 was "wowzers, that screen is tiny" but actually, at 5 inches (diagonally) it isn't any smaller than the screen on the Leappad2 - it just seems a WHOLE lot smaller than the 7 inch screen on the Leappad Ultra and Ultra XDi.  For an older child, I don't think the small screen is a problem but with an age recommendation of 3-9 years old, I think a younger child (such as Holly) would struggle with accuracy when using the touch elements of the small screen.

The Leappad3 is all about compactness.  It is a neat, light tablet but packed with tech.  It has both a front and rear-mounted camera, an integrated soft-headed screen stylus (attached to the tablet so that you won't lose it) and it comes with a number of games and creativity apps installed by default.  As Leapfrog fans, we already have a lot of apps downloaded ranging from £2.50 simple maths apps right up to the pricer big-named characters such as Frozen, Minnie Mouse and My Little Pony (which can cost as much as £20).  We were tempted to download the Frozen soundtrack but we already have it as a digital download from iTunes and it is a shame to have to pay for it all over again so that Lara can play it from her Leappad.

The single biggest draw for me of the Leappad 3 over the other kids tablets around is the speed.  Compared to other dedicated kids tech (Leapfrog, VTech or even kid-specific Android tablets) the new Leappad 3 is noticeably faster.  I don't know the tech spec but I do know that the speed at which apps loaded and screens transitioned was instantly noticeable compared to previous Leappad incarnations.  It is a big improvement and one which I think will mean that we use the Leappad as much as, possibly more than the family iPad.  I also like the clean and easy to use parent settings for configuring wi-fi set up.

I won't dwell on the Leapsearch capabilities other than to say that I don't feel kids tablets should bother.  For me, a good set of parental controls on your broadband account is a better way of limiting web content.  Lara came home from school this week wanting to find out more about the topics of "Dead Sea Scrolls" and "Hannukah", neither of which she would have been able to using the "kid-friendly" browser on the Leappad.  But Cat videos... oh yes.

Lara's favourite elements of the Leappad are definitely the learning games.  Recently she has discovered Lula Ladybird (a maths and spatial awareness game) and Secret Agent U which is a game for slightly older children to build basic computer literacy skills with some very basic software, hardware and networking concepts (I admit it, I was won over by the geekiness).  Holly also likes to play with her sister and most enjoys the Petathlon games app which accompanies the Leappand activity watch that they both use; it is a great way to bring the two Leapfrog toys together.  They both enjoy taking photos and it is very easy for me to transfer them to my laptop but they aren't particularly high quality so I'm not expecting many keepers!

Leappad 3 Lula the Ladybird
Leappad 3 Lula the Ladybird

The Leappad 3 comes with a mains adapter for charging but we don't use it - I tend to charge it via USB from my computer while I am synching it with the Leapfrog Connect software (so that I can upload new games, take a look at Lara's learning journey and have a sneaky peak at the photos she has taken!).  I'm loving the idea of being able to 'tweak' settings on the Leappad to encourage your child to practice specific skills (although we don't currently own any games that support this).

Other than the tiny screen, I'm very impressed with the Leappad 3.  I'd prefer it if the grey colouring on the front wasn't already scraping off (not very kid-proof, that) but I think that's largely cosmetic and it would be EXCELLENT if it didn't reset the volume (up to about 75%) every time you switch it off.  I expect the Leappad 3 to be one of our most-used pieces of kid tech in the Mellow household.

Leappad 3 Selfie


Saturday 20 September 2014

Childs Farm Bathtime Skincare Review

Lara is absolutely LOVING her swimming lessons at present; I'm sure it is something to do with the stage of development she is at and the realisation that she is control of her strength and power.  After swimming, Lara and I ALWAYS fall out about a shower.  Week in, week out.  I don't know why it has to be such a stressful thing but it almost always ends in tears.  Thankfully, my new buddy is this bottle of Childs Farm Quick Dip! 3 in 1 Swim which at least helps me make the process short and sweet.

Childs Farm Quick Dip! 3 in 1 Swim offers head to toe cleansing for kids - it is a shampoo, conditioner and body wash all in one and the best thing is that it is made with 98% natural ingredients.  One of the reasons why I always insist that Lara showers after swimming is because she suffers from dry skin and ezcema so not only is it important to wash away all the cholorine but it is also important to me that her post-swim routine is as natural and gentle as possible.  Childs Farm toiletries for kids are free from parabens, SLS, mineral oils and artificial colours.

The 3 in 1 Swim has a very sweet scent of strawberries and mint... I found myself standing at the side of the swimming pool this week watching Lara swim while unconsciously sniffing her bottle of Childs Farm shampoo and body wash!!!  I have struggled a bit with the lid on the bottle which seems a bit wonky and so far has leaked inside two of my sports bags but I hope this is a one-off because the lid on our Childs Farm bubble bath seems fine.

After swimming, Lara's long hair does need a bit of attention when it comes to knots and tangles so to avoid another argument in the shower we normally use a spray-in conditioner on her wet hair. The Childs Farm detangling spray is quite a thick spray for help with removal of knots and we get some particularly evil knots after swimming.  I'm really pleased with this detangler; it is very effective compared to other sprays that we've tried and yet it is also 98% natural.  I absolutely love the smell (again, another difference compared to big brand named detangler sprays!), this one is scented with grapefruit oil and tea-tree oil which also has the added benefit of deterring head lice!

Childs Farm is a cartoon on Cartoonito which features Radar the dog and his farmyard friends.  All of the labels on the Childs Farm toiletries products feature images from the cartoons and they all have a strong farmyard theme.  The range features bubble baths, body washes, hand washes and body lotion as well as detangling combs, hair ties and gift bags.  I think its a fun range with a really wide appeal to children from birth right upto pre-teens.

Thursday 18 September 2014

SillyBillyz Painting Aprons Review

BPM Childcare contacted me to see if we could put their Sillybillyz painting aprons to the test - I can't think of two better little girls to test them out than Holly and Lara who spend almost every moment of their spare time at the weekend either helping me out in the kitchen, or creating artistic, crafty creations in the dining room.

These SillyBillyz aprons come in two different styles - long-sleeved or no-sleeves - and the girls tried both of them.  For us, a long-sleeved apron is most appropriate when painting (painting always means chaos in the Mellow household) but a sleeveless apron works better in the kitchen, and when doing craft activities which require a lot of careful attention to detail.

I love the flexibility of the Sillybillyz aprons.  The fabric is water proof and provides excellent protection from paint and cookery ingredients and yet it isn't as thick and unwealdy as most painting tabbards.

Both styles of apron fasten closed behind the neck with a velcro-style fastening which I have found to hold closed very well.  Holly and Lara both need my help in order to undo them.. this is a good thing because it means I don't leave the room for two minutes only to find them sitting painting with their aprons hung up over the side of their chair!

The flexibility of the fabric means that the girls are happy and comfortable to wear their aprons even when cooking so they've been wearing them pretty much all weekend.  I was specifically asked to give my feedback on the sizing of the aprons.  Holly is now 28 months old and is wearing the 0-3 years apron which is a perfect size for her.  Lara is wearing the age 3+ apron which is stated as being suitable upto 5 years old; as a tall 5 year old I was expecting it to be a bit snug but it fits her perfectly (mind you, now I'm looking at these photos, it looks like the sleeves are a little short... much like most of her other clothes).

The Sillybillyz painting aprons are machine washable but so far I haven't needed to put them through the wash as I've been able to wipe all the chocolate and curry powder and chalk from them with a cloth.

Sillybillyz painting aprons cost from £9.95 to £13.95 from BPM Childcare and I think they are brilliant quality.  Right now, I can't see us using any other apron in our house!

Wednesday 17 September 2014

The Logitech Big Bang - An "Oops-proof" IPad Case?

A couple of months ago, Lara and Holly became the proud owners of their own iPad Mini.  It is a relief not to have to worry about them damaging my own iPad, and not having my own tablet full of games and apps for them.  However, now that they are regularly using their own iPad Mini, we were in need of some protection for the little bundle of awesomeness... and that is where the new Logitech Big Bang rugged iPad case comes in.

Logitech asked us to put their oops-proof ipad case through its paces with the ultimate in rugged tests - a weekend in the life of a two year old and a five year old.

Logitech Big Bang

Friday Night:  Lara and Holly were fighting over who would play what on the iPad while I'm cooking dinner.  This results in tears, shouting and pulling too and fro of the iPad.  It is dropped on the floor several times before they come to some agreement on "Dr. Panda's Restaurant".  The Big Bang case can withstand drops of less than 1.4 metres with rounded edges that protect the corners as well as a screen cover that is made from shock-absorbing material.

Saturday Morning:  Lara loses the iPad down the side of the bed while trying to play "Monster Phonics".

Saturday Afternoon:  Lara and Holly help me make curried chicken marinade (very icky and sticky) and indian flatbreads (very floury!) using recipe ideas from the internet.  We placed the iPad nicely on the folding cover to stand it up like a recipe book.  Lara reads all of the ingredients and instructions by scrolling with her floury sticky fingers.  Thankfully the front and back of the case can be easily wiped clean.

Sunday:  Daddy wants to watch TV this afternoon so the girls watch Netflix together on their iPad (well-behaved this time) upstairs.  Holly drags the iPad upstairs by its cover with the iPad dangling as she bumps up each of the stairs.  No scratches or bumps thankfully and the iPad is still intact.

I am very impressed by the Big Bang.  I've tried a number of "kids" ipad cases in the past and they do tend to be bulky and restrictive but this is REALLY lightweight and compact and barely adds anything on top of the existing size of the iPad. I think it is a great family tablet cover and I'm tempted to get one for myself now to add extra protection to my own tablet in case of prying hands.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Cooking with Kids :: Tandoori Chicken Roti with Tikka Quark and Chana Saag

This weekend the girls spent quite a while helping me out in the kitchen.  We were experimenting with the Lake District Dairy Co. Cooking Sauce which is a range of flavoured stir-in sauces made with quark - a low calorie, high-protein dairy food which make a great alternative to creme fraiche or double cream when cooking.  We made our own Indian roti bread and filled them full of tandoori (OK... grilled) chicken and topped it off with a generous helping of Tikka Cooking Sauce and served with a home-made spinach and chickpea curry.

Tandoori chicken roti with Tikka quark sauce

TANDOORI CHICKEN ROTI with TIKKA QUARK SAUCE (serves 2 adults and 2 children)

For the tandoori chicken
6 chicken thighs (skinned and boned)
1 dessert spoon vegetable oil
1 dessert spoon curry powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
Red and Yellow food colouring (optional)
Fresh Corriander (chopped)
1 pot The Lake District Dairy Company Tikka Quark Cooking Sauce

For the roti
 225g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the chana saag
1 tin chickpeas (drained)
1/2 red onion (thinly sliced)
1/2 a large bag of baby spinach leaves
1 desert spoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black onion seeds
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon curry powder

1. Roughly chop the chicken thighs into chunks about an inch long.  Place in a bowl with the oil, curry powder, turmeric, chilli powder and food colouring.  Stir well and leave to marinate for at least an hour.

2. Make the roti dough by sifting the flour into a bowl and adding the salt and oil with a dribble of water until it forms a smooth dough.  Need the dough until it turns soft and smooth and then leave it in a covered container for 30-50 minutes.

3. Shortly before cooking, break the dough into six pieces and roll each of them out into a thin round.  Brush with a little oil and fold in the edges to make a little packet.  Leave them for another 10 minutes.

4. If you don't own a tandoor, and, like me, you're also too lazy to light a barbecue then you can still cook the chicken under a grill.  My chicken pieces took about 10 minutes under a medium grill.  You can leave it to stand before serving.

5. Gently fry the onion with the vegetable oil in a large frying pan until softened, then add the chickenpeas and warm them through.  Sprinkle over the curry powder, cumin seeds and onion seeds and fry for a minute before adding in the spinach and a dribble of water.  The spinach will take a minute or two to cook while you serve the rest of the dish.

6. Just before the chicken is cooked, roll the roti packets out again into thin rounds and cook in a dry frying pan for a minute or two on each side until they start to colour and puff.

7. Heat the Tikka cooking sauce using the instructions on the tub.

Tandoori chicken roti with Tikka quark sauce

8. Place some of the grilled chicken on each of the roti breads, top with cucumber slices and then drizzle over a generous serving of quark Tikka cooking sauce.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh corriander and add a second roti to the top before serving with a spoonful of the spinach and chickpea mix.

10. Nom.

Tandoori chicken roti with Tikka quark cooking sauce

In the past I might have served a disk like this with a cucumber and thick yoghurt sauce but replacing this with a quark sauce means less fat, less saturated fat and more protein in the dish.  Everyone in the family enjoyed their tandoori chicken flatbreads and The Lake District Dairy Co. Tikka quark went down well - it was a perfect accompaniment to the dish.

Monday 15 September 2014

Melt & Make Chocolate Lollipop Animals Review

This weekend the girls and I had a bit of a cooking sesh.  They had been badgering me all week to cook but when I get home in the evenings, I normally want to get dinner ready as quickly as possible so I decline their help!  As a special treat, I let the girls make their own pudding using this fun Make & Melt chocolate lollipop kit from Choc on Choc.

This beautifully presented gift set for kids comes with five different animal shaped moulds, a chef's hat, one set of lollipop sticks and enough belgian chocolate buttons to make your first set of chocolate animal lollipops.

Making the lollipops was great fun.  I melted the chocolate buttons in the microwave and poured the gorgeous oozy belgian chocolate into a jug to make it easier for the girls to pour into the moulds.

Lara took the job very seriously.  Her little sister just set to with a spoon to scoop all of the chocolate back out of the moulds and into her mouth quicker than we could fill them!!!

They each placed the lollipop sticks into the moulds and then I placed them into the fridge to set in time for dinner.

The animal chocolate lollipops were VERY popular and very messy!  I must say that ordinarily, the quality of chocolate in kids cookery kits is poor but this Choc on Choc belgian chocolate was AWESOME.  Good quality chocolate really makes a difference and I'm glad to be able to start teaching my two girls that from a very young age.

The moulds are re-usable and Choc on Choc sell their dark, milk and white chocolate buttons so you can make more lollipops at a later date if you can find some sticks.

The Melt & Make Chocolate Lollipop Making Kit costs £12.99 and is suitable from 5 years upwards (or a little younger with plenty supervision).  You can find out more about Choc on Choc on twitter.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Storytime Magazine - Classic Tales to Read, Love and Share

This week sees the launch of a brand new children's magazine, quite unlike anything else currently available on newsagent shelves - Storytime.  Lara is one of the first people to have got their hands on this first issue Storytime and I'm delighted with it - I plan to subscribe (there's a whopping discount when you do!)

Storytime is a thing of beauty - it is filled with classic children's tales and amazing illustrations.  Each issue features around 6-10 stories or poems including fairy tales, myths and legends, folk tales, fables and rhymes from all over the world. Many of the stories are ones you will probably know and love already but for instance, in this first issue there was a beautifully illustrated Irish folk tale about the fairy bride which I had never heard before.

Lara was instantly captured by the magic of Storytime; she begged me to take it in to school to show her friends and teacher.  Lara has enjoyed trying to read some of the stories herself but I think, at present, Storytime is probably more designed for me to read to her.  In fact, there are tips and tricks for parents within the magazine to make storytelling a fabulous experience for everyone in the family.

At the back of the first issue of Storytime magazine there are a few puzzles, a board game and a colouring page - all activities to make your children think about the stories that they have heard; however, it feels like the stories are the main focus of the magazine.

The biggest hit in this first edition of Storytime magazine, within our house, was an extract from the start of Lewis Carroll's "Alices Adventures in Wonderland".  I'd never thought of reading it to Lara before (partly because I thought the turn of phrase was a bit hard-going for a 5 year old) but when I read this passage in Storytime, Lara was totally absorbed and very disappointed when the excerpt was finished!

Storytime prides itself on the fact that it doesn't contain any advertising and it doesn't come with cheap plastic toys or sweets stuck to the front of it - this is a magazine your children will hopefully treasure for a long time.  I really hope my girls do.  I have wonderful memories of a similar magazine from my own childhood (called the StoryTeller) whose stories I still remember fondly.  I would say that there is one thing I think that Storytime is currently lacking if it is going to be a thing of memories and that is a couple of modern, brand new stories mixed in with the family favourites and classics.

Issue one costs £3.99 and Storytime will be issued monthly.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Dermaoil Review

I had hoped I wouldn't need to worry about stretch marks again... at least not for a while.  However, since starting running back in June, I've lost nearly 2 stone and my body is fairly rapidly changing shape so yes, the stretch marks from two babies are really very noticeable again!  Thankfully, Dermaoil asked me to try out their skin repair and stretch mark oil - perfect timing!

Dermaoil is a gentle oil which can be used on all sorts of different areas of the body to increase firmness and elasticity of the skin; not only is it recommended for use in the reduction of appearance of stretch marks but it is also proven to be effective at reducing the signs of ageing and for reducing the appearance of scars.

I've been using Dermaoil for about a month.  I use it on my tummy, the tops of my legs, the tops of my arms and on my face and neck.  The oil is a mix of different natural oils such as sunflower (the base oil), jojoba, macadamia and argan oils - all of which bring different restorative properties.  There are no artificial fragrances but the smell is gorgeous, a mix of calendula flower and mandarin oil extracts which is why I particularly enjoy using Dermaoil on my face.

I shall be very honest and say that, in the month that I've used Dermaoil, I haven't seen any ground-breaking results but then I don't think I have any particular problem areas that need to be addressed; the stretch marks are still very much as they were before but I'm going to keep applying the oil because Dermaoil recommend using it for at least 3 months.  I don't find Dermaoil to be a stand-out rehydration oil (although I do enjoy the feel of my skin when I use the oil as a base for my evening moisturisation routine).  Obviously, results will vary depending on your skin.

The place in which I've noticed the most difference is my knees and the funny bit of dry skin on the outside of my ankle... both feel less nobbly than before!

The oil is naturally a yellowy colour (it has no added colour, no preservatives and no wheat or yeast unlike some stretch mark oils).  The oil applies very smoothly to the skin and it is up to you how much you want to rub it in, but I like to perform little massage movements to help it absorb (very mellow when you are applying it to your temples!)

Over the coming weeks I'm going to try using Dermaoil as a nail and cuticle conditioning treatment as I have been suffering from broken nails for a few weeks - it'll be interesting the see whether Dermaoil can give my nails a boost.

Dermaoil is suitable for use during pregnancy (from the start of the second trimester) to aid elasticity of the skin and help prevent stretch marks.

Dermaoil is available from; 200ml for £15.99.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Pram Glam

Every so often, I have a crisis of confidence when it comes to my wardrobe.  At present, due to the fact that I've lost a little weight, I'm having a rethink of my clothes and, once again, I've come to the realisation that my two girls have a wardrobe full of stylish, beautiful clothes to suit every mood and yet I have a cupboard full of baggy jeans and fading polo shirts.  Sigh.

This should come as no surprise. In a recent study among new mums with children aged three or less, commissioned by detergent brand Persil Non-Bio and fabric conditioner Comfort Pure, it was found that more than seven in ten mothers feel their babies and toddlers are better dressed than they are. While new Mums tend to avoid tight and impractical clothing, many babies have the latest designer outfits, or at least, a more diverse range of clothing than their Mums!

The survey showed that after becoming a Mum, we spend nearly half the amount on ourselves with the amount spent on clothing dropping from an average £57 a month before pregnancy to just £29 a month after giving birth. Yup, that's about hit the nail on the head for me. So much so that back in May I resolved to buy myself one new item of clothing a month as a way of trying to slowly, but steadily refresh my dumpy wardrobe.

The researchers for Persil Non-Bio and Comfort Pure commissioned celebrity stylist and new mum Grace Woodward to compile ‘Pram Glam’; a post-pregnancy style guide for new mums. The style guide can be downloaded from the website

With nearly a third of new mums finding that they lack inspiration for what to wear, the Pram Glam guide provides practical and stylish wardrobe ideas and quick and easy fashion tips, giving new mums fashion inspiration without requiring them to worry about their wardrobe or investing in impractical and expensive clothing.

Grace says: "Having had my little boy six months ago, I have struggled with the overhaul my wardrobe needed to help me look and feel great. I’ve compiled these style tips as I want mums to give themselves some attention too, so that they can celebrate their bodies and this new chapter in their live. After all, there’s nothing more beautiful than self-confidence and the joy that comes from being a new mum.”

Have you struggled with ideas for what to wear since becoming a mum?  Perhaps you've managed to turn things around and pull yourself out of a rut.  I'd love to hear your ideas of how to move out of the "jeans and a baggy top" mode I'm in - leave me your comments below.
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