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

Sunday 30 November 2014

My Mischievous Toddler

Online bed retailer, Time4Sleep are on the lookout for the nations most mischievous toddler.

Holly, as cute as she is, is my little terror.  One minute she can have the cutest, most roundest, squidgiest face and offer me the most scrumptious cuddles.  The next minute, Holly will be destroying something or else, legging off at full speed in totally the opposite direction.

I think Holly should win the prize for the UK's most troublesome toddler.  Most of 2014 has been spent clearing up after her.  Literally.

Back in April, this happened.

Holly, aged nearly 2, discovered the joy of taps.  She would switch them on and giggle loudly.  Holly would find every opportunity she could to turn the taps on.  One morning in April, as we were leaving the house at 8am to spend the day at work, Holly shut herself in the downstairs bathroom, cackling with mischievous glee.  We did eventually coax her out and we disappeared off to work, blissfully unaware that Holly had left the tap running.

That night, as we got home from work 10 hours later, I opened the front door to be confronted with a wave of water sloshing out over my feet.  The entire downstairs of the house was about 2 inches deep in water.  Holly thought this was hilarious.

Quick thinking on our part managed to stem the damage but we did end up having to lift and replace all of the ceramic tiles, vinyl flooring and laminate flooring in our house.  Even after the house insurance claim, we had to fork our quite a large chunk of money to recover from the damage.

For 2 and a half months we lived with the sound of a big blue industrial dehumidifier whirring all day trying to suck up all of the moisture from the floors.  We took the destruction of our hallway and bathroom as an excuse to redecorate and so last weekend, seven whole months after the original incident, I put the finishing touches to the replacement bathroom and this is what it looks like now.

Holly seems oblivious to the change.  For several months she was in my bad books (my properly bad books) and we banned her from using any room with a tap unless she was accompanied.  But in the last few weeks Holly has been toilet trained (a process that was about 2 million percent easier than it was for her older sister) and now she needs to be in and out of that downstairs bathroom quite frequently.  Every time she goes in there I cringe and my senses are heightened, waiting for her to leave the tap running.

So far, Holly seems to have been reasonably well behaved when it comes to the taps in the new bathroom.  But, with a face as cheeky as this, I'd assume that there was more mischievousness just around the corner.

To make your own entry into the Time4Sleep competition, and be in with a chance of winning a £200 family day out, all you have to do is to visit the Time4Sleep blog and upload your cheeky toddler photo and a caption before the end of the year.  You can view some of the current entries on Facebook.

Friday 28 November 2014

Stirring it all up - our Aldi Homemade Christmas Pud

Until Aldi pointed it out to me, I had no idea that last Sunday was supposed to have been the very traditional "Stir-Up Sunday".  No, this is nothing to do with wok cookery (though I think I may invent Stir Fry Sunday anyway) - no, Stir Up Sunday is the day of the year on which people traditionally make their Christmas puddings so that they can mature in time for Christmas.

I had never attempted to make a Christmas pudding before in my life and, to be honest, I was a little daunted.  But, Aldi sent me the ingredients from their range of products which would help me make a perfect Christmas pud.

  • Dried fruit such as prunes, sultanas, currants, apricots and raisins
  • Whole almonds, ground almonds and walnuts
  • Dark brown sugar
  • Brown bread (who knew???)
  • Honey and marmalade
  • Fresh oranges and apples
  • Dried sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice
  • Eggs and best of all...
  • Brandy

So this week we have been creating our pudding mixture together as a family.

First of all, Lara prepared all of the dried fruit.  She loved chopping the sticky dried prunes and very much enjoyed weighing out all of the ingredients - always a great maths challenge opportunity!  We added sugar and a touch of Napoleon brandy and left it all overnight to soak in.  Oh my goodness did it smell divine... I kept having to go back to the bowl and give it a sniff!

On the next day Lara, Holly and I added all sorts of other yummy Aldi ingredients including freshly grated crunchy apples, orange zest and juice which, when combined with the dried mixed spices, left the entire house smelling REALLY Christmassy.  We all took it in turns to stir the pudding mixture (and that includes Mr. B.) so that we could each make a Christmas wish.

The mixture needs to soak up all the Christmassy goodness for another 24 hours so next up I will need to pack the mixture into pudding bowls (I'm planning on making a couple of little ones) and steam for literally FOREVER so that we can then store the Christmas puddings for Christmas.  Woop.  I can't wait.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

World Vegan Month - Lavera Cleanser and Toner Review

You know me, I love a good cleanser and toner combo and what better way to celebrate World Vegan Month this November than with a Vegan Society registered skincare routine from online eco retailer, Big Green Smile.

The Lavera Gentle Cleansing Milk is a creamy cleanser but it isn't thick - just thick enough to stay put on a cotton pad.  It is a very mild cleanser so is suitable for sensitive skins; I've found it effective at removing the general grime of the day from my face but I've yet to give it the challenge of a full face of make-up.  The active, soothing ingredients include organic almond milk and organic mallow flower.  I like it, its everything I look for in a cleanser and, combined with the Lavera toner, makes a perfect first step in my daily cleansing routine. This cleanser currently costs £7.50 at Big Green Smile for a 125ml bottle.

The Lavera Purifying Facial Toner is intended for oily to combination skin but I think it is gentle enough to use on most skin types.  This toner is packed full of ingredients known for their soothing and cleansing properties - ginkgo bilbao, witch hazel, aloe, grape and calendula.  It has a soft, planty scent and leaves my skin feeling gorgeous afterwards.  A great toner like this always leaves your skin feeling a little tighter than normal after its astringent properties (probably the witch hazel in this case)  closes down the pores to protect against dirt. Lavera Purifying Toner currently costs £7.90 for a 125ml bottle at Big Green Smile.

If you are looking for vegan-friendly skincare products then Big Green Smile have a whole host of products from moisturisers and make up through to toothpaste and deodorant.  There are also lots of cleaning products in the Vegan Society registered range of products that includes soap, laundry detergent and dishwasher powder.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

A Christmas Dinner Dry Run

This weekend we had a bit of a Christmas Dinner practice!  Waitrose thought we would be the perfect people to try out their Christmas Dinner Calculator which can recommend how much food to buy for the big day.

Last year was the first time we had ever hosted Christmas at our own house and we had nooooooo idea how much food to buy, especially when it came to turkey.  As it was, due to the rather early arrival of my tiny neice, our Christmas day plans went a bit wonky but I would say that there were some foods we didn't have enough of, and others that we could have fed the entire street with (namely turkey).  The idea of the Waitrose Christmas Dinner calculator particularly appealed after last year's mistakes so I gave it a whirl...

You enter the number of people attending for Christmas day and the calculator will tell you how much of each of the common festive foods you should aim to buy.  The calculator can link you straight through to the page on the Waitrose groceries website filtered to those festive items.

We planned an early Christmas dinner as a bit of a practice.  Turkeys aren't yet available for non-Christmas deliveries so we ordered a chicken of the recommended size along with Brussel sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing (we couldn't decide which to try!) and 'pigs in blankets'.  Of course, we also ordered a few other festive bits and bobs just to make it feel especially Christmassy!

The girls spent the afternoon making their own Christmas Crackers and tree decorations.  They had an absolute whale of a time getting into the Christmas mood.

Dinner was great.  The amount of veg was spot on, saying that, I could ALWAYS eat more sprouts.  The potatoes were spot on as well; I'm generally eating less potatoes these days... in previous years it may not have been quite enough.  The girls don't eat red cabbage (but they did at least try it) so we didn't need anywhere near as much as the calculator recommended.  The only food which seemed to be a lot more than we needed for one meal was the meat; a 2kg bird was recommended.  We have plenty of meat left over but I guess that's exactly what you want at Christmas so that you can have cold turkey sandwiches on boxing day.  Woop.  It is making me hungry just thinking about it.

I'd say that our Waitrose Christmas Dinner Calculator experiment was a great success and I will definitely be using it for a larger party when it comes to Christmas day.

Monday 24 November 2014

#Streamteam - Just Staying In

These last few weekends have been very unusual for us - very little planned. No weekends away. No jobs that HAVE to be done. Just simple, scrumptious family time for us to do more or less nothing. Our Saturday afternoons and evenings have been spent snuggled up on the sofa watching television and this, according to Netflix, this is how the top celebrities like to spend their evenings too. Staying in is the new 'going out'.

Even supermodel mum Claudia Schiffer admits to enjoying a night in with the family watching TV box sets on the sofa and, just like me, once the kids go to bed, she sneaks in a few episodes of Breaking Bad with the other half!

Homemade popcorn

And of course, if we're not having a weekend away, or not having to go to the DIY shop to buy MORE stuff for jobs around the house then we're saving a few pennies as well. With a Netflix subscription costing from £5.99 a month, chilling out with a box set or a family movie is a great way to save cash you would otherwise spend going out. Today the girls made a bowl of chocolate popcorn using our popcorn machine, a tablespoon of corn kernels and a tablespoon of melted chocolate hazlenut spread. With cinema prices going up by a greater percentage than house prices this year - why go to the cinema and spend pounds on popcorn when you can spend pennies at home?

Our favourite family viewing this month has been:-

For the girls, the perennial favourites such as Bubble Guppies, Lazy Town and Fireman Sam but this month they have also tried a couple of new series' such as Dinosaur Train and Pocoyo.  Lara was excited to see that Monsters Inc is now available to watch on Netflix.

And in the evenings, Mr. B. and I have enjoyed The Hunger Games : Catching Fire (which we both watched from our own devices in small manageable chunks when the other one was out of the house!) and also House, starring Hugh Laurie which is something we used to watch together many moons ago - there are 177 episodes on Netflix so I think we've got plenty of nights in ahead of us!!!

We have also noticed a few festive favourites starting to pop up on Netflix, especially with the kids specials such as christmassy Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar.  I'm sure we will be spending plenty of time watching festive films and TV on Netflix over the coming weeks as we get into the Christmas mood.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Le Toy Van Budkins Wooden Toys Review

My girls absolutely love playing with wooden toys - they are always the favourites in our house and at present, the dolls house and this wooden toy hospital are the two toys that really bring my two girls (now 2 and 5) together in imaginary play.

This wooden hospital by Le Toy Van is part of a range of wooden Budkins playsets.  If you;ve never come across Le Toy Van Budkins dolls before then let me explain - they are little wooden dolls with poseable legs and arms and they come in lots of different outfits and styles.  In our house we have a whole host of Budkins fairies and now our hospital comes complete with a nurse and a poor old invalid!

The hospital playset is a really nice chunky toy with some cute little details such as a flippy-flappy door on the entrance to the emergency room, a meal tray for over the hospital bed and a visitor's chair for the ward.  The Budkins patient even has a sling and a plaster on his leg which you can suspend in the air above the bed!

To access the ward inside the hospital there is a really nice big hole in the top of the hospital into which your children can reach to play, there are also large wide doors on each side.  The roof also comes off easily to really open up the space inside.  I can well imagine an entire Le Toy Van town laid out on our playroom floor one day!

As well as the wooden hospital, the Budkins playset range also includes a fire engine, a double-decker bus, a sentry, a farmset and a teepee.  We also love this Budkins Carriage with a Unicorn and a Fairy which was given to the girls by their Grandparents last Christmas.

Le Toy Van Unicorn Fairy Carriage

The Carriage & Unicorn with Fairy playset features a fairy in a glittery dress who sits atop a wooden painted carriage which is drawn by a detachable wooden unicorn with pink felt mane.  Unfortunately, our cat Bella became rather taken with the unicorn so now it's mane is only a couple of millimetres long but it still does a good job pulling the carriage.  At the back of the carriage is a little luggage compartment into which our fairy puts little bits and bobs (like hair clips!).

The Le Toy Van unicorn fairy carriage makes a lovely little playset to make the most of our Budkins collection and it works really well as an accompaniment to a fairy castle that we also play with.

You can buy Budkins dolls and playsets online at a number of specialist toy retailers such as and


Friday 21 November 2014

Personalised Christmas Gifts

The girls are both getting really excited about Christmas now - there is definitely a festive tingle in the air.  A couple of weeks ago I posted about ideas for personalised gifts at Christmas, having just purchased some little personalised baubles for the girls, after the success of that post I was delighted to be asked by Bundles of Joy to give the lowdown on some of their personalised Christmas gifts for kids.

As a child, I can clearly remember the joy of seeing my own special Christmas sack on the morning of Christmas Day.  It wasn't personalised (other than with a marker pen) and it wasn't anywhere near as special as this beautiful red fabric sack from Bundles of Joy and I know this will be something that Lara remembers for a long time.  This personalised gift sack is large (this is good!) and has a big 'envelope' at the front, into which your child can place a letter to Santa on the night before Christmas.  In our house we have a little tradition of leaving a card for Santa on Christmas Eve so I think Lara will love placing her card into the envelope this year and then I can't wait to see her face when she comes downstairs in the morning to find the sack filled to the brim with presents.

The sack is great quality and made from flexible, light red calico.  The draw string was a bit tricky to undo and tie back up but I think the excitement of Christmas day should do the trick.

The Bundles of Joy personalised Christmas stocking is awesome.  Thick and padded with fun Christmassy applique on the bottom and Holly's name sewn across the top.  We had been on the lookout for a stocking for Holly (after last year's purchase ended up being waaaaaaay to small to fit any stocking fillers in!) and this stocking is absolutely perfect.  Not only is it plenty big enough for lots of fun gifts, but it is squishy and cuddly and fun as well.  I love it and cannot wait to see it lined up alongside Mummy, Daddy, Lara and Bella the cat's stockings this Christmas Eve.

You can follow Bundles of Joy on Facebook and twitter.  The personalised Christmas sack costs £24 and the stocking costs £26 - Bundles of Joy do sell quite a range of personalised sacks and stockings (and baubles, advent calendars and much much more) for smaller and larger budgets so there is bound to be something to meet your needs and tastes.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Lara does... Ocado Taste Testing

I may have come to the Ocado party a little late but this weekend we had our first Ocado grocery delivery and Lara was tasked with taste-testing a number of Ocado's products to help assess their family-friendliness as part of their taste-testing panel.

Recent research from Ocado suggests that UK parents spend up to £2000 a year buying kid-friendly meal options but Ocado believe that parents shouldn't need to buy different foods for adults and children and that, with a bit of constructive input from taste-testers like Lara, it is possible for them to stock great food options that are loved by kids and adults alike.  This is music to my ears - part of my Mellow Mummy mantra is that mealtimes should be fun, not stressful and, ever since the very first day that I started weaning Lara (almost exactly 5 years ago) I've tried to ensure that, wherever possible, my girls have eaten exactly the same meals as us.

Lara tried out a range of different Ocado products, the same set that were recently tested by other members of the Ocado kids taste testing panel.  She had great fun rating each food for look, smell, texture and taste.  It was a real challenge for her to isolate her senses and really think hard about the adjectives she could use to describe how the food made her feel.  Here are her highlights:-

thinking of the correct word to use to describe taste!
Garofalo Kids’ Organic Anistelle Pasta 

These cute star and moon shaped paste pieces are just as groovy for grown ups as for adults.  Lara enjoyed the firm, traditional italian pasta texture and taste and, after she had finishes, I cooked myself up a bowl of them - fab!  Lara rated the Garofalo pasta as "awesome" across the board.

Tideford Organic Tomato and Basil Sauce

I never expected Lara to enjoy a basil sauce because she has never enjoyed my own attempts to introduce fresh basil into homemade foods.  But Lara thought that this tomato sauce was a great accompaniment to pasta and found it to be a light and smooth sauce that tasted great.

Ocado Fresh Mashed Potato

Lara loves mash and this was smoother and thicker (and less lumpy) than anything I would normally make at home.  Lara enjoyed the mash most as a vehicle for meat!

sausage and mash testing!
Laverstoke Park Buffalo Meatballs

Surprisingly, Lara rated these cute little buffalo meatballs far higher than a pork alternative.  The buffalo meat tasted really strong and "meaty" and I think Lara enjoyed the texture and the small bite size of the meatballs which were perfectly seasoned.  We'll definitely be trying buffalo again together as a family.

Good Little Company Good Little Sausages

Lara raved most about these tasty little gluten-free pork sausages.  We all tried some of these for dinner afterwards and I think Mummy, Daddy and Holly all agreed that they were very yummy and good-looking sausages (if a little salty).

All of the products above are available for home delivery from Ocado.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Wonderous Ink Personalised Children's Book Review

Wonderous Ink personalised children's books are just a little bit different from most personalised books that I've seen before. In Wonderous Ink story books, your child's name becomes part of the adventure and the letters are used to craft a tailored story where the letters become part of the illustrations and the tale itself. Lara and Holly both had personalised Wonderous Ink story books made up for them.

The story in each of their books starts and finishes in much the same way with a little girl going on an adventure but the main part of the story differs because Lara's story features pages and text for the letters L A R A and Holly's story features a totally different set of pages to correspond to the letters in her name. The girls think this is absolutely fascinating and love listening to each other's story to hear how they differ.

The books arrive in lovely little parcel packages which I think would look great given as a gift or posted straight to your child of choice! The books are suitable from about 2 years to 8 or 9 years old but I think they would also make a lovely Christening or naming gift.

At the end of the adventure your child's name is spelled out using the themes of each of the sections of the book - a descriptive word for each letter of their name is used to sum them up. Lara has recently been learning about adjectives at school so she very much enjoyed finding out about what each of the words for her name meant. The pages for that word in the book use a little tale (featuring a guest character) to explain what's so great about that word and letter.

I found the story itself a little hard going for Holly and Lara. It isn't short or punchy enough for either of them really. I also found the attempt at rhyme a little wearing (in fact, it took me a good few pages before I realised it was even supposed to rhyme!) and to be honest, I think (as the person reading the books!) that I'd have preferred it to be prose rather than poetry. Saying that, both girls found their stories magical and I'm sure they will go back to them time and time again over the years ahead of them - these personalised books aren't meant to be a one-off bedtime story.

At the back of each book there is a secret code which your child can use online at to register for their own Wonderous World; this currently consists of a little additional few excerpts for the end of the story and a quiz about the story to make sure they were paying attention!

Wonderous Ink personalised story books cost £19.99 and can be created and personalised online. The books are beautiful quality and the images and text are clear and bright and bold - perfect for children.

I think the magic of Wonderous Ink stories is in the letters and words that escape from the page and really get your child thinking about how special their own name is.

Monday 17 November 2014

Leapfrog Ultra XDi Review

As members of the Leapfrog Blogger Panel we have been trying out some of their most popular kids tech in the run up to Christmas and we were most looking forward to the Leapfrog Leappad Ultra XDi because it promised to be the ultimate kids tablet.

The Leappad Ultra XDi has a larger, higher resolution screen than the Leappad 3, and a larger volume of storage (8GB) for photos and music but it isn't as fast (and I would say it was quite noticeably slower) than its smaller counterpart.

The Leappad Ultra XDi is a tablet device designed for children from 4 years to 9 years old - I'd say this was a very good age recommendation.  My daughter is now 5 and is using her Leappad more and more every week - she uses it for everything from listening to her Frozen storybook to playing spelling games.  From dressing up Barbie to completing spy puzzles.  We have downloaded and tried out games which are currently far beyond her maths and comprehension capabilities but on the other hand we also have games which are simple enough for her younger sister (2.5 years) to have a play with.

 The Leappad XDi comes with a large selection out of the box apps (about 11) and lots of others that you can either download directly to the device, through your PC or Mac using the Leapfrog Connect software or by purchase in store or online.  Lara most enjoys the themed games and story books with big, recognisable characters such as Barbie, Minnie Mouse, Monsters Inc. and Frozen.

Both of my girls are active users of an iPad tablet and I regular readers will know that I am a big fan of the learning opportunities that non-kid-specific tablets offer.  However, in the Leappad Ultra XDi I've seen the first signs that a Leapfrog tablet really could become Lara's primary learning tablet because it is beginning to offer features that appeal to both her, and to us as parents. Things we all love about the Leappad Ultra XDi:-

  • The screen size on the Leappad Ultra is a good 7 inch touch screen which is about the same size as many adult tablets - small people find big screens easiest to use.
  • The quality and range of the downloads is always increasing.  While you will still pay a lot for games or stories which feature your child's favourite movie characters, there are plenty of affordable apps available to download and every single one of them represents a learning opportunity and you can have confidence that they have been pre-screened for suitability and quality for children.  However, I would still say that Android and iOS apps still present a far better value for money and a broader range.
  • Wi-Fi comes as standard on the Leappad Ultra XDi.  It was pretty much stress-free to set up and I'm impressed with the speed and level of connectivity that the device gets around the house.  My two girls can connect their Leappads to play games together but we don't really make the most of the Wi-fi connection because we find the kid-friendly Zui browser (Leapsearch) very restrictive.  Lara tried to do some research into Racoons for school on hers and managed only to find one silly youtube video.
  • The Leappad Ultra XDi comes with a built-in battery and comes with a mains charger.  I've found the Leappad Ultra XDi to hold its charge very well.
  • The stylus for the touch screen is attached to the tablet so that you can't lose it.
  • It is sturdy enough and tough enough to withstand being dropped by Lara's little sister!
  • You can store photos and MP3 music files on it, this is something that Lara is just beginning to get into and I can see her using more and more as she gets older.  You can also save to your computer the artworks and images your child creates on their tablet.

Currently, Lara's most played with game on her Leappad Ultra is the Barbie Malibu Mysteries (spelling, sorting, searching and of course... fashion selection!).  You get three free downloads when you first set up the Leappad Ultra XDi and I chose a simple maths game called Cha Cha Chicken.  I've also downloaded Lara some games for learning the first concepts needed towards programming and computing (spy games and puzzles).

I like the rotating screen functionality on the Leappad Ultra XDi (you can lock this in the parent settings so it doesn't rotate).  My only real gripe (other than the cost of the downloads) is that it is too hard to alter the volume on the tablet - I'd appreciate a button to do this quickly and easily.

Disclosure: As a member of the blogger panel I was sent the Leappad Ultra XDI for review but my opinions are my own and I pride myself on honest feedback


Sunday 16 November 2014

#TeamChallenge10 #Running in the Cold, Wet and Dark

Another month into my 10-month, 10-mile challenge and reality has kicked in. Running in the Summer, during the warm evenings with all of the sights, sounds and smells of a dusky evening is a distant memory now. Now the clocks have gone back and, other than the weekends, I have no choice but to run in the dark. The days are getting colder and the weather is no longer treating me so kindly but I'm proud to say that I've kept running.

Running club has helped. I am still doing a regular speed session once a week to try and pick up my pace (and it's working). Running with a group (and having to pay for the privilege) helps to ensure that I get myself up and out of the door.

This month I've scaled back the distances I was running. I had made it up to 15km on my weekend runs and I had really noticed that this has improved the strength in my legs (and in my head). But this month I've made the conscious decision to drop the distances back to no more than 10km so that I can prepare for a series of 10k races that I have booked over the coming months while really working on getting faster - not further.

Post-Race Selfie!

Since I last wrote, I have managed to fulfill another big milestone in my running journey - the ability to run 5km in less than 30 minutes. 29:35 to be precise! I guess the next challenge is to carry on this pace and crack the 1 hour 10k but I still have another 5 minutes to knock off that one!

Today I raced my first ever 10k race in the fog through the countryside just outside Swindon.  I wasn't really in the mood so my game plan was thrown out of the window straight away but I still managed to knock 55 seconds off my 10k best which now stands at 1:05:05.

I'm really enjoying my running at present. I enjoy it most when I'm alone because I have time with my own thoughts but I still find it fairly fun when I'm running as part of a group. One of my best ever runs was a cold, dark run between 8 and 9 at night while it was hammering down with rain. We were running sprints so I couldn't stop to avoid puddles as I ran which resulted in water up to my knees on a couple of occasions. This time last year I would have thought it was the stuff of nightmares but for some reason, that night, despite being soaked to the bone, I ABSOLUTELY loved it.

Plans for the coming month include starting my half-marathon training plan and running an off-road 10km race. I really have caught the running bug, haven't I?!?

Saturday 15 November 2014

MyPure Natural Christmas Presents and Stocking Fillers #bbloggers #naturalbeauty #organic #review

I flippin' love this time of year.  Planning and buying for Christmas.  Plotting gift ideas for friends, family and of course me!  This month as a MyPure blogger we were encouraged to explore what has on offer that would make a good Christmas gift or stocking filler for someone in your life who deserves a natural or organic treat.

MyPure currently have quite a phenomenal range of Christmas gift packs from natural fragrances to skincare collections for both men and women.  This Acorelle Eau de Toilette Jasmine Allure gift set contains two bottles of natural fragrance - a 50ml bottle for home and a little 15ml atomiser bottle to put into your handbag or take in your hand luggage when travelling.

The Jasmne Allure scent is a very classical scent which starts light and summery with hints of jasmine but finishes with quite an earthy, woody lasting smell - I think it is a perfect autumnal scent.  I'd be over the moon if someone bought me this Acorelle gift set for Christmas and I think it is a total bargain at £12.50.

In the Mellow household, I am the person responsible for provision of all stocking-fillers, even my own.  I chose myself this Madara tinting lip gloss to be a little treat for in my stocking this Christmas.

I have become a big fan of Madara skincare (both for me, and my little ones) but this is the first time I've tried a lipgloss from Madara and I tell you what, it is just as luxurious and heavenly as any facial product I've tried to date from Madara.  This gorgeous muted pink lip gloss sets me up for the day in terms of colour and moisture - it also has just a teeny tiny hint of sparkle.  I loved trying it out so much that I decided not to save it for Christmas!  At £7.50 it is fairly pricey for a lipgloss, even a plant-based one, but it is definitely worth it.

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

Last date for Standard Delivery (FREE) before Xmas – Order by 2pm Wednesday 17th December
Last date for Premium Delivery (£2.95) before Xmas – Order by 2pm Friday 19th December
Last date for Predict Next Day Courier Delivery (£4.95, free when you spend £60) before Xmas – Order by 2pm Monday 22nd December

Thursday 13 November 2014

Splash About at Christmas

It's funny, swimming doesn't cross many people's minds as a particularly Christmassy activity but when Splash About contacted me to ask me to spread the word about keeping kids swimming over the Christmas holidays it made me think that maybe we are the odd ones out to find swimming so much part of our big family break at Christmas time.  Well, I'm here to tell you that it is, indeed, a fantabulous thing to be considering over the festive period!

For us, Christmas time is the single biggest break from work that myself and Mr. B get all year.  Two whole weeks to spend with our girls and with our wider family.  We like to get up to as many family activities as possible over the Christmas break but swimming is our number one choice.  It is local.  It is fairly cheap (especially given that our local council offer free swimming sessions for children during school holidays).  It is brilliant exercise (allows you to work up an appetite for more festive food). And best of all, the girls absolutely LOVE swimming.  During the Christmas holidays you will be surprised how quiet and inviting your local pool is - it is a great opportunity to get out and get swimming!

My Splash About Hot Picks
This Christmas, one of the girls' presents each will be a brand new swim suit and a new pair of goggles each.  Something fresh and new to start the new year with.  Discovering the Splash About float suit earlier this year has been life-changing for Holly.  At 2.5 years old she swims confidently (and quickly) unaided thanks to her Splash About float suit (pictured top left) which contains removable foam floats that allow you to manage your child's buoyancy as they learn to swim.

I built up this Splash About mood board with some ideas of our favourite Splash About swimming items for children and our favourite designs and patterns (mine are very girly picks for Holly!)  We love these Goggles because they are suitable for babies right up to 6 years old so they are suitable for both of my girls and make great stocking fillers.

We are looking forward to trying out the innovative Splash About Fings which is a clever flotation device.  Half-float, half-arm-band designed to support toddlers from below and help teach them to be buoyant  This could be another life-changing Splash About gadget!

And of course, don't forget the classic Splash About Happy Nappy.  No baby should be without one of these clever neoprene nappies which give you the confidence to go swimming without worrying about the contents of your little one's nappy.  We've worshiped the classic Happy Nappy for over 5.5 years now.

If you've never considered taking your children swimming over the Christmas break before, there is no better time.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Color Me Mine Girls Bag Review - Colour-your-own activities

Color Me Mine bags are fun stencilled bags with designs that your child can colour in to their own tastes using the supplied felt tip pens.  Lara was sent a Color Me Mine Hipster Bag with Glitter to colour in and try out - she absolutely loved creating her own fashionable look.

Color Me Mine bags come in quite a large range of different bag styles ranging from about £7.99 to £16.99.  There are lots of different shapes and sizes, each with a bold pattern which can be coloured in using the special pens.  The pens are designed to effectively paint the area of fabric within the borders of the bold black stencilling and they bleed naturally to the edges, there is an element of colour-fastness to the bags - the pens are permanent but probably best to avoid taking the bags out in heavy rain or putting them through the wash!

Lara's hipster bag is a fully functioning bag.  Nice and compact.  Perfect for taking a few bits and pieces out with her when she goes to holiday club or visits family.  She had so much fun colouring the bag in - trying to decide which colour to choose for each new section.  Some of the areas on the bag required very fine motor skills so Lara asked for help filling the finer areas of detail.

Color Me Mine bags are largely intended for creative young girls (aged about 6-13) who like to add their own stamp to their style.  Alongside the abstract patterns there are also animal and bird scenes, citiscapes and well-recognised characters such as Disney princesses and Monster High.  I think it's an awesomely well-targeted range of bags and I can well imagine Lara choosing to have an entire wardrobe full of these to suit her mood!

My only niggle (and I'll add that it isn't one that Lara shares with me) is that the novelty of colouring in her own bag only lasted an hour or so.  Yes, she gets to use her own creation whenever she fancies it from now on but I wish I could have dragged out the magic of the colouring experience a little bit longer... she wanted MORE to colour in.  Maybe to colour in both sides of the bag? Or some further accessories?

Color Me Mine bags are available from amazon, Argos, Smyths, Toys R Us and a number of other retailers.


Monday 10 November 2014

Children's Book Review :: Bully and the Shrimp

Bully and the Shrimp tells the tale of little Noah who moves house, and moves school and despite making a couple of really good friends, also finds himself the subject of unwanted attention from a Bully.  This picture book is designed to delicately tackle the subject of bullying for children by adding a narrative around it and the book has been developed with input from school teachers and child development experts.

Lara listened intently when I read her the Story of Bully and the Shrimp - I'm not sure if it struck a chord with her, or whether she recognised the theme but she sat there in silence from start to finish (this is unheard of).

The pictures show a recognisable school classroom and playground scene which I think helps children to identify with the theme.  I wouldn't say it was the most uplifting of picture books we own, but it does have an important message (be strong, say no, confide in your friends) and certainly a happy ending when the Bully then turns into a friend too.

I'd recommend Bully and the Shrimp to any primary school aged child, not just those affected by bullying.

Bully and the Shrimp is written by Catherine Allison and illustrated by Kim Geyer and is published by Parragon books.  You can follow Parragon Books on twitter and as @parragonbooks on instagram and pinterest.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Classic Tiny Tears Interactive Doll Review

I can't help but feel rather nostalgic about Lara's new doll - a classic Tiny Tears interactive doll from John Adams. As a girl, about the same age as Lara, I had my own Tiny Tears doll who drank, cried and wetted and who stayed by my side most days and nights until I was in my early teens. For many mums up and down the country, Tiny Tears was a first introduction to role play and the responsibilities of motherhood and now, 40 years since Tiny Tears first arrived, this new classic Tiny Tears doll adds an interactive element.

This Tiny Tears interactive doll is a baby design (they make a toddler doll too).  As well as drinking from a bottle and wetting on her potty, Tiny Tears responds to your touch.  If you press her tummy she cries or asks for "mama" and occasionally giggles.  If you feed her with her bottle she makes a gentle gulping noise.  And if you press the button on her back, she cries tears (assuming she has drunk enough!).

Both of my girls seem most fascinated with Tony Tears' toilet activities; so much so that they will force feed her bottles and bottles of water and then place her on the potty purely for the entertainment factor!  It's the little thinks which make them happiest.

This Tiny Tears doll has a firm body and the main core of the body is very hard which makes it a little tricky to get her baby grow on and off - the girls have to ask me for help.

Tiny Tears interactive comes with a bib, cloth nappy, headband, refillable bottle and potty.  The clothes are all soft and fleecy and make her that little bit more cuddly.

I like the doll's shape and character - her eyes, cheeks and smile really make her feel like she has a character of her own and this sets her apart from other dolls.

Tiny Tears is a perfect size for most doll's accessories such as prams and baths and so she gets a lot of attention in her house.  Now I just need to drop some hints to some talented family members to make her some outfits as cool as the outfits my own Tiny Tears doll had many years ago.

I haven't yet worked out how to switch off the sounds on Tiny Tears - when I tidy her away at the end of the day she starts to cry and I worry that she will wake up Lara or Holly with her crying!

Classic Tiny Tears Interactive costs around £26.99.

Disclosure: We were sent the Tiny Tears doll for review


Friday 7 November 2014

Disney On Ice presents Magical Ice Festival - Including Frozen on Ice

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am at today's news that the 2015 Disney on Ice extravaganza will feature Anna and Elsa from Frozen.  Today saw the launch of the tickets for Disney on Ice presents Magical Ice Festival with lots of icy fun with all of the magic, drama and theatre of Disney combined with all of your favourite Disney characters.

We have attended a couple of Disney on Ice shows and always find them truely magical - the girls get totally swept away in the music and glamour.  This year, Lara and Holly are massive fans of the hit movie, Frozen and even simply showing them the photos from the press release of the Magical Ice Festival left them speechless.

The Disney on Ice Magical Ice Festival isn't simply a retelling of the Frozen story on ice, there are lots of other favourite Disney characters too.  Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse guide fans through a winsome wonderland where they encounter Sebastian and the Daughters of Triton from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the rowdy pub thugs from Disney’s Tangled and the loyal enchanted servants from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

But I think that the special guest appearances of Anna and Elsa from Forzen are really going to steal the show. If you're in the audience next spring you will journey up the North Mountains with the hilarious snowman Olaf, rugged Kristoff and lovable reindeer Sven as they help the sisters along the way in a story full of action, adventure, magic and unforgettable characters.

Disney On Ice presents Magical Ice Festival is appearing across the UK from 11th March - 17th May 2015 in Aberdeen, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham, London, Cardiff, Nottingham and Leeds. Click here for ticket details and show times. Tickets are on sale from today!

Thursday 6 November 2014

Barbie Chelsea Flippin' Pup Pool Playset Review

Barbie and her friends and family have recently become THE BIG THING in the Mellow Household what with the recent arrival of the Malibu house and a number of new and exciting Barbies that the girls have received as presents from various people over the summer.  The Chelesa Flippin' Pup Pool set is a great addition to our Barbie play house and we have been reviewing it for a few weeks with much hilarity from both girls whenever they play with it.

Chelsea, for those who don't already know, is Barbie's younger sister.  Chelsea and her three (count them) puppies have a fun paddling pool complete with diving board and slide.  You can choose to fill it with water but, on the whole, we don't as it would mean we were less likely to play with it other than on special occasions.  The slide and diving board clip to the side of the pool and then the three pups can bounce and jump into the pool.

Chelsea herself is modelled in much the same way as you would expect from Barbie's younger sister.  She comes with a swimsuit and rubber ring for when playing with water.  The girls love having another family member to play with and it really encourages roll play and imagination to have a new person, of a different age, for them to interact with when playing "Barbies".

One of Chelsea's puppies (Taffy) has springy legs that fold as they slide down and, thanks to a nifty little clip at the bottom of the slide, this causes the puppies to catapult into the sky with dramatic effects.  I have, on occasion, seen this particular puppy loop the loop before landing in the pool - but more often than not they just sort of plop off the end of the slide of catapult in a totally different direction... hence the unstoppable giggles from Holly and Lara.

The two other puppies are soft and squidgy (they act like squirters in the water) and can either slide down the slide themselves, or you can place them in their own little sliding vehicle for them to slide more smoothly down.  These two puppies work really well on the flipping diving board which is simply finger-operated to plop the puppies down into the water.

This is such a simple Barbie playset and, when we were first sent it to review, my immediate thought was that it was a bit gimmicky, but I think the simplicity has lasting power and I've been really pleasantly surprised by the amount of play that this Chelsea Flippin' Pup Pool set has seen.  The set costs around £23 and requires a small amount of construction before use (probably no need to pre-construct it before the big day though if you are giving it as a gift).


Tuesday 4 November 2014

Children's Book Review :: Happy Hooves Oh! Oh! Oh!

We are really beginning to get into the festive spirit here in the Mellow Household as all the shops are now suddenly full of Christmassyness and we made our Christmas cake together at the weekend.  We've lifted out a few Christmas themed books to start getting into the mood and Happy Hooves Oh! Oh! Oh! is another fun addition to our festive bookshelf.

Earlier this autumn, Happy Hooves Ta dah! was released by Fat Fox Books which introduced Anna Bogie's farmyard friends.  Happy Hooves Oh! Oh! Oh! is the next in the series and features a cow, sheep, horse, pig and a donkey who really want to get into the festive spirit but each begins to worry when they realise that they don't have a chimney in their part of the farmyard for Santa to bring them presents.

Happy Hooves Oh! Oh! Oh! is a smiley, fun book with a subtle message about teamwork in it but which also explains that it doesn't matter where you live... Father Christmas will always find a way.

The book benefits from lovely illustrations, each with a wintery, snowy theme, by Rebecca Elliott.  The animals are very stylised and we love their Christmas hats and outfits!  Lara really got into the whole panic about how on earth Father Christmas was going to deliver all the presents (she had a backup plan just in case... the magic key would have done it).  Happy Hooves Oh! Oh! Oh! is a fun little Christmas picture book.

I would recommend Happy Hooves Oh! Oh! Oh! for children from age 2 to 7 years old.

Monday 3 November 2014

The Snow Queen - Out now on DVD

Today sees the release of The Snow Queen on DVD which is a magical wintery tale based on the classic story by Hans Christian Anderson.

We all know that the story of the Snow Queen was the original inspiration for the Disney Frozen movie but this animated depiction of the classic fairytale is far closer to the original.  In the story, Gerda, an orphaned girl must take on the evil Snow Queen in order to save her kidnapped brother.  The story is given a light-hearted twist with the addition of two fun characters - Gerda's pet ferret Luta and a friendly troll call Orm.

Lara was enhanted by the snowy, icy theme of the movie and I witnessed her laugh out loud at some of Orm's silly antics.  I think, at 5 years old, she found some of the darker elements of The Snow Queen a little uncomfortable - she is a fairly evil woman, it has to be said!  The movie does have a happy ending though so it is a great family movie and perfectly timed for festive christmassy-ness!

If you enjoy The Snow Queen then be sure to look out for the next part in the magical story - The Snow Queen : Magic of the Ice Mirror which is coming to cinemas on December 11th 2014.

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