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

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

#StreamTeam Our NYE Party - All Hail #KingJulien

Phew.  That was a manic afternoon.  Traditionally Mr. B. spends the entire day on New Year's Eve making a phenomenal meal for the two of us.  This, of course, requires me to be in sole charge of Lara and Holly for the whole day.  This afternoon we have made jigsaws, played Uno, crafting, dressing-up and also managed to fit in a few chores.  But finally it was time for the girls to have their tea and afterwards, while Mr. B. was putting the finishing touches to our dinner, I treated the girls to their own special New Year's Eve party.

Our party was themed to co-incide with us watching the first episodes of the Netflix original series, All Hail King Julien which is a spin-off from Madagascar featuring the king of the Lemurs.  I will admit that King Julien isn't really my cup of tea (the risque adult humour sets my teeth on edge and without the adult context, I can't see him being very funny other than when he struts his stuff to "Move It").  The girls were interested for about 10 minutes but I think they miss the other fun Madagascar characters.  One thing that King Julien does do well though is dancing... to classic party hits which was the theme for our NYE party.

I downloaded a brilliant kids party album - 105 Hit Kids Party by the Kids Fun Crew.  105 cheesy current and classic pop tracks which have been scaled down just a touch to make them suitable for small people to listen to and dance to.  Our top tracks included "The Ketchup Song", "Gangnam Style", "Roar", "What does the fox say" and an all-time classic, "The Chicken Dance".  My two girls were unstoppable.  I've never seen so much hip-wiggling on one dance floor!  There may also have been quite a lot of jumping from the sofa! It was great fun.

At the end of our mini King Julien party, we watched the King Julien midnight countdown and pretended it was midnight (well, as he says... it's midnight somewhere).  If you are a Netflix subscriber you can see the countdown here.  If not, here's a little sneaky peek.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Oilatum Daily Junior Review and Competition

Earlier this year we reviewed the Oilatum Daily Junior moisturising body lotion - a thick lotion that both moisturises and acts as a barrier against further drying.  The lotion is suitable for babies, children and of course, adults with sensitive skin.  Building on the success of the body lotion, Oilatum have now launched a full range of children's bathtime and skincare products for sensitive skin - the Oilatum Daily Junior range.

The Oilatum Daily Junior range includes Shampoo, Head to Toe Wash, Bath Foam and the original moisturising body lotion.  Bathtimes really are a struggle in our house for my two girls who really want to use all the brightly coloured shampoos and body washes they see in the supermarket but when we are tempted, both girls suffer a lot with blotchy dry skin.  For this reason, we always prefer to use bathtime cleansing products designed specifically for sensitive dry skin and this new range of Oilatum Daily Junior products is well suited to our needs.

The Oilatum Daily Junior range is not free from all of the chemicals that are commonly associated with irritated skin - in fact the use of mineral oils in their products is one of the things that they boast because these can act as a barrier against other irritants and prevent drying of the skin through things such as central heating or air conditioning.  We have found the Oilatum Daily Junior products to work well for us - I like the Soothe & Protect Junior Bath Foam best.

To celebrate the launch of the new Oilatum Daily Junior range, I'm giving away a beautiful Oilatum Daily Junior Bathtime Kit for baby and you.  In the kit you will find everything you need to keep your tiny person's skin soft and pampered as well as a relaxing treat for you.  The kit includes:-

A luxury hooded baby towel
A baby bath thermometer
A complete set of Oilatum Daily Junior skincare products
A selection of Sassy Baby bath toys
A gorgeous soft animal blankie
A gently scented candle to add a little relaxing touch for you and baby

To be in with a chance of winning this kit, all you need to do is to leave a comment below with a baby bathtime tip that you would share with other new parents.  The competition closes on the 25th January.

  1. There is no cash alternative.
  2. The competition is open to UK and Ireland residents only.
  3. Only one comment entry per person. Multiple, automated or bulk entries will result in immediate disqualification
  4. The winners will be contacted by email.
  5. Entries will only be deemed valid if a valid email address is provided when commenting - people who just log into intensedebate with their facebook account will not qualify for entry because it is too difficult for me to contact the winners
  6. The winners will be selected at random from all valid comments received by 11:59pm on 25th January 2015.
  7. The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into
  8. The winner's names will be published on this site

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Disney on Ice 100 Years of Magic, A Review

This weekend we took the girls for a very magical Christmas treat to see Disney on Ice, 100 Years of Magic at the O2 arena in London.  When Lara and Holly realised where we were taking them a great big smile broke out across their faces - Disney on Ice has now become a bit of a family tradition and we all love it, not just the girls.

The 100 years of magic show celebrates 100 years of Disney classic movies and features lots of favourite Disney characters.  From Aladdin & Pinocchio to Nemo & Mulan.  From Toy Story to Beauty and the Beast.  The show features loads of different family favourites so it has a wide appeal for adults and children and it was great to see a bit of excitement to balance the princess-factor!

As we have come to expect from Disney on Ice events, the souvenirs and food on offer are all very pricey but we did notice that the prices had dropped a little this year (and we came well prepared with our own snacks and drinks).  If you are planning a family visit and want to make it into a really magical affair then there is the opportunity to buy Disney princess dolls, plush toys, glow in the dark accessories and clothing featuring your favourite Disney characters.

The show features skaters performing beautiful routines and some cleverly choreographed group dances.  The costumes of the non-human characters such as Nemo and Dory from Finding Nemo are all stunning.  I loved watching Pinnocchio and Gepetto being eaten by the whale (though I'm not sure Holly would agree).

Lara most enjoyed watching Belle and the Beast which was certainly one of the most romantic and traditional ice skating routines in the show.  Holly most enjoyed watching Woody, Buzz and Jessie perform a Toy Story dance.  The middle part of the show featured a beautiful number set to "It's a small world after all" which may have been a bit lost on anybody who has never visited a Disney park but the dance included stylized costumes from all over the world - the blue and white outfits were all beautiful and we loved the sparkly Christmassy lights which reminded me of the traditional Disney parades I'd expect to see at a Disney park.

The exciting news is that this spring, the starts from Frozen will come to Disney on Ice.  From the 11th of March to the 17th May, Disney on Ice Magical Ice Festival will be touring the country from Aberdeen all the day down to London. Tickets are on sale now.

Disclosure: We were sent the tickets for the show so that we could conduct a review.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Streethub online independent homeware and fashion boutiques

As you know, I am a massive fan of online shopping.  There are three reasons for this:-

1. I work full time.  Lunch times in Bracknell town centre aren't the most ideal shopping opportunity
2. I hate crowds.  High street shopping at the weekends isn't really my thing
3. I LOVE discovering the smaller, niche retailers online.  Without the internet I almost certainly wouldn't discover some of the online gems that I've found.

My absolute favourite online explorations are always ones which involve clothes shopping for Lara and Holly.  There are so many amazing small clothing boutiques for children which are simply out of my reach by any other means.  Streethub is an online shopping portal that brings together some beautiful online independent homeware and fashion boutiques in London.

Streethub introduced themselves to me last month and I had a great time exploring all of the innovative and cute Christmas gifts on offer.  There were some amazing toys and I even found a set of very special kitchen knives specially designed for kids - awesome!  But most of all, I've been wowed by the children's clothes on Streethub which is why we chose Lara this beautiful Lilly and Sid girls ruffled cotton dress from a boutique called Teds based in Teddington.

Streethub features around 300 different boutiques across London and Brighton.  Many of the boutiques offer delivery options throughout the UK but almost all of them offer local collection too.  Streethub is an online means of browsing the products and stock from lots of different, small boutiques and is perfect for people like me who simply don't have the time, or inclination, to spend time browsing in "real life"!

We ordered this dress from Teds because we knew the Lilly and Sid brand of luxury children's clothing well.  The dress is a beautiful, floaty dress which twirls and swirls when Lara dances - it is 3% elastene so it stretches nicely over the body and arms to make a snug, flexible fit all over.  It is a nice heavy cotton that works well at this time of year paired with either leggings or thick tights.  This dress is sooooo Lara.

We were really pleased with the delivery time from Teds through Streethub and would certainly order this way again as it opens up a whole new genre of shops.

This Lilly and Sid dress costs £36.50 from Teds and is available in sizes 2 years up to 8 years.

Friday, 26 December 2014

#VoteFun The Merlin Annual Pass Sale

The Merlin Annual Pass sale has started to become as much of a festive tradition as the high street boxing day sales. The Merlin Annual Pass sale starts today with the lowest prices you will see all year.

Our year of magical Merlin adventures started with a Christmassy festive day out at Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey at their Winters Tail zoo day.  Over the winter months, Chessington runs Zoo Days where you can visit the animals and explore the Sea-Life centre but where the theme park rides are out of action for the winter.  Until the 4th January the Winters Tail event is on where a few select rides are open and the theme park is decorated with beautiful festive touches - there was even a chance to visit Father Christmas in his Grotto.

We surprised Lara and Holly by taking them for a day at Chessington.  The loved the Christmas decorations and the occasional reindeer or little donkey pottering around!  Both girls very much love zoos so we had great fun exploring the big cats, watching the sealions, lurking in among the creepy caves and of course, exploring the Sea-Life centre.

A select few rides were open - The Bubbleworks and Hocus Pocus hall as well as the traditional carousel.  We took some time to watch the live stage show - a Christmassy story starring the one and only Gruffalo.  It was an excellent day out and I really enjoyed visiting at this quieter time of year because it was a little bit more peaceful than during the peak season and we didn't feel so rushed to fit everything in.  I'd definitely go back for another zoo day in the future.

Our Merlin pass will gain us entry into attractions up and down the country for a whole year including Seal-Life centres, Madame Tussards, Warwick Castle, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Legoland, The Blackpool Tower and The London Eye.

Disclosure: We were offered a Merlin Annual Pass in return for our involvement in this promotional campaign. We will be sharing out family adventures and Merlin days out in 2015.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas! Mellow Christmas!

Wishing each and every one of my Mellow Mummy readers a happy, relaxed Christmas full of scumptiousness.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

#StreamTeam The Netflix Guide to Surviving Christmas

Who would ever have known that I would have been so grateful to Netflix for saving my own sanity.  With the stresses of work the past few weeks having rubbed off on my two girls as well, the atmosphere in our house is a little tense in the run-up to Christmas and I have two very over excited girls, one of whom is poorly.  As I've been prepping Christmas baking and craft activities I have been so thankful for our Netflix subscription which remains as popular as ever with both Lara and Holly.

Both girls have really enjoyed the wide selection of Christmas themed animations and movies (Mickey Mouse seems to be a MASSIVE hit right now) and it is quite a relief to know that when I need the space in the kitchen I can distract the two of them with a well-timed episode of Lazy Town while I prepare for the next round of baking chaos.

And chaos I think is the right term for how I'm expecting Christmas to roll this year.  I feel under-prepared for the whirlwind that is about to hit us.  Thankfully, Netflix have sent me over their Christmas survival kit which includes:-

  • sticky tape so that I don't run out just when I'm entering my wrapping zone
  • a wireless charger so that I needn't worry if my phone or tablet runs out at an inopportune moment
  • batteries to power all of the noisy toys I've warned people not to buy the girls
  • headache tablets so that I can recover from said noisiness
  • relaxing Jo Malone bath oil and fragranced candle so that I can chill out once the girls have calmed down and headed off to bed
And, of course, Christmas wouldn't be fully complete without a Netflix subscription to get you through the festive period.  With lots of new Netflix original productions such as Marco Polo and All Hail King Julien there is something to suit everyone in the family this Christmas.  I can't wait to settle down and find some time to relax this Christmas and, who knows, I may even find a night when I can settle down with Mr. B. and marathon my way through an entire series of something!


Monday, 22 December 2014

Winding Down for the Christmas Holidays with Waitrose Cellar

Woo hoo, only one more day at work before I can relax and start to enjoy the Christmas period.  It is fair to say that the last 8 weeks have been some of the most stressful of my career and so I really feel like I deserve a special treat.  And what better way to wind down in the run-up to Christmas than with a mixed case of Christmas favourite wines from Waitrose Cellar.

This pre-mixed case of Waitrose Christmas Favourites is a 6-bottle case featuring a wonderful mix of reds and whites that work well with Christmas dinner and alone for those celebration meals.  The case features some of my all time favourite wines including a Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc (perfect with Turkey) and a Cave de Roquebrun St. Chinian red which makes a brilliant medium-bodies red wine to accompany red meats or indeed, Christmas pudding!  Mind you, I think we will save our bottle for with a roasted rack of lamb as part of our very traditional annual cookery extravaganza that we have every new year's eve.

Also in the case is this Villa Vincenta prosecco which is a light and refreshing alternative to Champagne for Christmas and New Year's celebrations.  It is a cracking prosecco and we will definitely be buying more of this one!

Each of the bottles in this mixed case of Waitrose wines comes with a short set of tasting notes to help you pair it up with the right foods or occasion this festive period.  Christmas delivery dates have just passed (unless of course you read this as I publish it and get your ordering fingers going online in the next 15 minutes) but there is still time to order for new year's deliveries to help you stock up on some really special drinks for sharing with friends and family.  This mixed case was a really impressive set of wines that I thoroughly enjoyed (strictly speaking, I'm still enjoying them... even as I type!)

Disclosure: I was sent a case of Christmas Favourites for the purposes of my review.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

My Festive Finishing Touches

This weekend has been all about putting the finishing touches to our Christmas preparations.  The girls and I have spent quite a lot of time baking over the past few weeks so I thought I would share some of our festive foods.

First up, my Frozen-inspired Christmas cake.  It is a rich cocoa and prune fruit cake topped with hand-piped icing.

These fun reindeer cakes are made with chocolate buttercream, heart-shaped candied chocolate and wafer accessories.

And of course, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without mince pies.

Beyond the kitchen we have been decorating the house in preparation for visitors.  

Snowman and the Snowdog Toilet Paper

From this Snowman and the Snowdog toilet paper (bought from the milkman!) to some really Christmassy-smelling Mulled Cider natural handwash from Method, all of the little details are now complete.  

Method Mulled Cider Foaming Hand Wash

Just a couple more days at work and then the festivities can begin!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

#poweringsmiles This Christmas with Duracell and Barnardo’s

This Christmas, my friends at Duracell will make a donation to Barnardo’s for every ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ of a DuracellUK Facebook post or any Tweet using #poweringsmiles - giving everyone the chance to get involved with their big Christmas charity campaign at the touch of a button. It is so easy to get involved.

To get involved with #PoweringSmiles, just head over to Duracell on facebook or twitter.

Monday, 15 December 2014

#TeamChallenge10 - Baby, It's Cold Outside

Brrrr, it has got a bit chilly and, I will admit, that I have struggled to find the motivation to get out and get running this month.  Right now, I am very glad that I booked myself onto a couple of races for December because I need a good reason to force myself to get out in the dark and the cold and pound those streets.

I have found that 'Virtual Races' from have been a great source of inspiration for me this month.  I very nearly didn't register for the 4 December virtual 5km runs as I wasn't sure that it was a good use of my money but I am sooooo glad that I did.  A virtual race works by allowing you to run (or walk or crawl) your race distance at a time and location that suits you.  Then you go out and run your little legs off and report back with your time.  Every person who completes their virtual run wins a medal and there are spot prizes on offer as well.  In most cases, a portion of your race fee goes to a nominated charity.

During the first week of December, I hardly got out to run at all.  All of my planned runs were postponed due to work, Christmas parties or birthday lunches.  By the time that it got to Sunday afternoon I couldn't escape the run any longer.  I put on my shoes and focussed my mind on that 5k virtual race.  I pushed hard.  My head hated it and tried on many many occasions to stop me.  But I stuck with it and shaved another 11 seconds of my 5k personal best.  I jogged on, planning to finish a circular route home with a couple of very slow kilometres of warm-down.

As I completed out the next couple of k, I realised that even if I just kept jogging at my warm down pace, I would manage a 10k personal best as well so I quickly altered my route home, added a few more kilometres to my plan and picked up the pace.  I eventually knocked two and a half minutes off my 10k PB.  Whoop.  Strava loved me that day.  And I earned myself a festive medal as a bonus.

Yesterday I completed my first real race of December - a muddy and frosty mixed-terrain route at the Muddy Welly 10k.  By my Garmin's calculations it was quite a bit short of 10k but I was still REALLY pleased with my time of 1:02:49 including a storming sprint finish!  All in all it was good practice for the now infamous "Gutbuster" race on the 28th December when I'm expecting it to be brrrrrrrrr freezing!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

ASDA Best for Mums Christmas Beauty Gifts

You know me, I love a bit of a pampering treat.  ASDA sent me over one of their pampering beauty gifts from the nSpa range as a bit of a peak at their ASDA 'best for mums' range of Christmas gifts.

This nSpa Spa Rituals gift set features their uplifting Orange Blossom and Honey range of pamper products presented in a bright, floral gift set.  The set includes a large body polish and a showe/bath wash as well as a fragranced body mist, small soft body polisher and a tub of luxurious body butter all scented with the sweet fruity smell of orange blossom and honey.

I've tried using the nSpa orange and honey blossom body polish with the soft hand-held body polisher and I think it works a treat.  A good balance between a practical exfoliating body scrub and a fragranced shower gel.  The soft polishing pad is made for petite hands (not like mine) but it does compliment the product well.

nSpa products are inspired by Nirvana spa, a stunning day spa no more than a mile from my house (and a favourite haunt, when I have the time or the money).  The scents remind me a lot of my rare, luxuirious days at Nirvana and it is great to be able to bring the feeling of a spa into my own bathroom.  The nSpa products are enjoyable to use, even if they aren't the very peak of cosmetic luxury.

I'm really pleased with this ASDA nSpa gift set and would certainly be happy if I received it as a gift from someone special this Christmas.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Good Bubble Natural Children's Toiletries Review

It feels like a very long time since I've tried out a range of Children's natural bathtime toiletries so my recent discovery of Good Bubble toiletries has re-ignited my interest in great children's skincare and bath care products that are gentle and kind to the skin and yet still fun to use.  And it couldn't come at a better time - Holly has recently shown the first real signs of sensitive skin since she was a small baby; dry skin, raw, blotchy and itching at times, but with no clear cause other than just "irritation" - maybe I had become too complacent and had slipped back into using bath care products and washing products packed full of nasties?


Good Bubble are very proud of the fact that their range of hair and bath products do not contain nasties in fact, their website is very transparent about the ingredients that do make up their products and you'll find that behind some of the more scientific-sounding ingredients there are in fact natural origins.  Good Bubble products are free from phthalates, parabens, PEG and sulfates which gives me the confidence to use them on the girls' skin and hair (although I would say that as a conscientious shopper, I do still worry about the number of palm-oil derived ingredients in my products like these).

The most interesting thing I found about the Good Bubble products was that they have strong, bold scents and bright, fun packaging but they are also natural in origin.  The cloudberry and dragonfruit "flavours" are fun yet real and these fruit-based extracts come with lots of other super-fruit benefits for the skin too such as anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals which the skin can make use of.

We loved the Clean as a Bean Shampoo as it smelled awesome and was very effective at cleaning.  Combined with a gentle yet fruity shampoo my girls smelled super sweet!  The Cloudberry bubble bath smells fabulous while the bath is running and it offers a good foam for a natural-derived product but our favourite product of all was the Good Bubble body wash which was a nice thick consistency and both girls enjoyed using the dragon-fruit-based Bish Bash Bosh body wash!

Good Bubble products can be found online at and you can find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Yellow Moon Christmas Crafts and Stocking Fillers

Everyone in the Mellow household looks forward to the run up to Christmas as a great opportunity to get crafty.  My girls are both very much into craft activities from colouring and painting through to building foam pictures and, more recently, simple sewing projects.  Yellow Moon are a one-stop shop for all of the festive craft materials you will ever need and they sent us a few examples from this year's range to get our Christmassy activities off to a flying start.

Lara has very much enjoyed colouring in these pop-up Christmas card templates for her friends and teachers. They come pre-printed and pre-cut and complete with envelopes and they are so easy for children of all ages to personalise.  A pack of 8 pop-up cards cost £1.99.

Holly enjoyed her first foray into the world of stamping with a bumper set of self-inking Christmas stampers. They are so easy to use, especially for Holly who likes to bash stuff! Stamp, Stamp, Stamp.  I think they'd be great for stamping on the outside of a Christmas card envelope or to add a personal touch to a card.

Lara and Holly can quite happily while away hours creating their own Christmas art work and decorations.  From hand-painted wooden trinket boxes to glittery festive foam stickers, Lara and Holly have filled our house with festive goodness this year!  Love them!  Love their mess!

Of course, Yellow Moon are not just one of the most awesome suppliers of Baker Ross craft materials, but they are also the place to go for party bag fillers and, at this time of year, stocking fillers.  I'm always on the lookout for small trinkets and Christmas themed additions to the family stockings and Yellow Moon always have lots of fab ideas at great prices.


Don't forget that you can earn between 5% and 20% cashback for your school on most Yellow Moon purchases.  The last date for standard UK Christmas delivery is the 17th December.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Leapfrog LeapTV Review

We have been quite incredibly excited in the run up to trying out the Leapfrog LeapTV gaming console.  The first video gaming console designed solely for young children - a LOT of fun, with a big helping of education along the way.  From the very first moment, earlier this year, when the launch of the LeapTV was announced to us as Leapfrog blogger panelists, Lara and Holly have been looking forward to trying out the LeapTV gaming platform for themselves.

The LeapTV console connects directly to your television using an HDMI cable (provided).  The console comes with one controller which can be used in two different ways - as a traditional hover and click hand-held device or as a wireless pointing device - you twist the handles to move it from one mode to another and some games require one style of usage over another.

The LeapTV comes with one free game, a Leapfrog Pet Play World which allows your child to create their own pets and lead them through a pet world which requires you to interact, play games and really explore all of the features of the LeapTV from one place.  The final mode of play is a totally hands-free mode and there are several sub-games of Pet Play World that make the most of this feature.  Using the motion-sensing camera for the LeapTV your child stands in front of the television and the motion sensor helps them to feel like they are part of the game.  Very much like Kinect, but tailored and designed specifically for small people (something Kinect is traditionally very poor at!).  The girls took a while to get used to this play mode, but once they realised that their arms and body were causing the effects of the game, they were delighted.

The LeapTV console is designed for young preschoolers upwards.  I would say that the content of the games I've tried to date are reflective of this - perhaps a touch older as a starting point than many other Leapfrog toys but certainly something you could expect your child to be using before they start school.  Lara (age 5) took a good few tries to get used to the controls (in all three modes of play) but she was really eager to give it a try.  Holly (and advanced 2.5 year old) has some way to go before this will naturally come to her.

There is a wealth of content already available for LeapTV and games cost around the same as a kids equivalent on other console platforms.  With Leapfrog content I have the confidence that it will have been written specifically for small people, and tested for content and appropriateness and that, every game has an underlying learning objective (such as maths, reading, reasoning or phonics), however strong.

While the LeapTV may currently lack some of the more powerful cloud-based, interactive, sharing capabilities of the big-named brands of gaming console, this isn't a negative in any shape or form when it comes to a play system for children.  In fact, knowing that the LeapTV is limited to Leapfrog games comes as a comfort to me.  The price, also compares favourably for a family gaming console. You can buy additional hand-held controllers for multi-player gaming in some of the LeapTV games.


Sunday, 7 December 2014

Peppa Pig - 10 Years of Muddy Puddles

This year Peppa Pig and her family are celebrating 10 years of muddy puddles.  10 years of Peppa Pig - wowzers.  Lara was always a massive fan of Peppa Pig and is currently fighting with herself about whether or not a 5 year old is supposed to enjoy it so much anymore.  In the meantime, Holly is becoming more and more of a Peppa fan and is really starting to enjoy the wide range of storylines in the many Peppa Pig episodes.

To celebrate 10 years of muddy puddles, there are some awesome Peppa Pig products on sale this Christmas.  Holly was instantly taken by this waterproof apron which she has worn for festive cookery in the kitchen, Christmasssy crafts AND even for kitchen role-play in her wooden kitchen!

Lots of the new Peppa Pig products are crafty in nature - appealing directly to small creative people.  We LOVED this pack of chunky wind-up Peppa Pig crayons and travel activity set packed full of colouring in pictures.  I think both the crayons and the activity set would make perfect stocking fillers or entertainment if you are travelling this winter.

Other awesome Peppa Pig gifts include this Portmerion 3-piece ceramic set which includes a bowl, plate and small mug suitable for tiny baby hands right up to primary school children - it is a very special set which would make a lovely first Christmas present.  The design features lots of muddy puddles and is as suitable for George-pig fans as it is for Peppa fans.

Our other top picks include a Peppa Pig family calendar for 2015 which will take pride of place in our kitchen, new jigsaw puzzles and story books that will put a smile on every Peppa Pig fan's face.

And of course, a celebration of 10 years of Peppa Pig wouldn't be right without a special anniversary edition DVD featuring 10 classic episodes of Peppa Pig from across all of the series.  Our all time favourite episode, The Biggest Muddy Puddle in the World, features on this special DVD along with Lara's favourite, Cousin Chloe, and also some of our favourite Peppa Pig songs.  We LOVE this DVD.

Discloures: we were sent a sample of lots of different Peppa Pig products to review


Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Two Fairies

The two M&S fairies, Magic and Sparkle, are flying up and down the UK this Christmas to help spread kindness.  It has become a bit of a Christmas tradition in our house that Father Christmas sends a fairy to stay with us during advent to encourage the girls to be kind and helpful, the two Marks and Spencer fairies are on the same sort of mission - to encourage random acts of kindness.

The two fairies are encouraging children across the UK to make a Christmas decoration onto which they place a little tag that tells the world about an act of kindness that they have done for someone else recently.  Once they've made the decorations they can take them along to their local Marks and Spencer store where the decorations are being collected for the two fairies to perform a very special act of kindness.

Lara has made a whole host of Christmas decorations.  From these two peg-doll fairies of her own, to a long paper chain.  She has painted, cut, stuck, sewn until our entire house has been covered in glue and glitter.  This week we will take all of the decorations into town.

Lara has taken the acts of kindness very seriously, knowing that Father Christmas is expecting her to work hard to appear on the 'nice list' this year.  Her acts of kindness this week included inviting Father Christmas to a picnic so that he could take some time off, donating some of her books to the school fair and offering to help her teacher tidy up after school.

You can #FollowTheFairies on twitter for small ideas of acts of kindness or to find our where they will be visiting next.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Minnie Mouse Polka Dot House Review

Both Lara and Holly very much love Minnie Mouse (there will certainly be some Minnie Mouse Christmas presents arriving in our house later this month!) and they were both instantly taken with the Minnie Mouse Polka Dot House, part of the Minnie Mouse Bowtique range of toys from Fisher Price.

The Minnie Mouse House is chunky and bold with four main colours - pink, purple, turquoise and yellow.  I think it really stands out.  The house comes with 16 different household accessories from a fridge freezer (with opening door) to a sunlounger for Minnie to chill out on when she is catching some sun in her little roof garden.

The Minnie Mouse Polka Dot house is primarily intended for Holly as the pieces are nicely sized for smaller hands; the toy reminds me of the Barbie Malibu house that Lara owns and it certainly encourages the same sort of role play with Minnie and her pet cat Figaro getting a chance to relax on the sofa, go to sleep, make a meal or rush up and down the stairs depending on what sort of mood Lara and Holly are in.

In terms of simple role play, this house has all of the features that a 2-4 year old needs.  Holly enjoys using the front door to let Minnie and her friends (from other Minnie playsets) into the house.  They also both enjoy pretending that Minnie and her cat are going upstairs to bed.  It is a fairly simple toy with simple pleasures - a bath, a toilet, TV, bed and even a cat bed and cat bowl are all colourful accessories that help your child to create an imaginary world.

The Minnie Mouse House is nice and compact.  I'm not entirely sure if the staircase is intended to come off so easily as I find it does, but it certainly helps when I'm packing the toys away at the end of the day because the house can take up less space this way.

The Minnie Mouse Polka Dot House is available from Smyths Toys, Toys R Us, Argos, Hamleys and ASDA for around £30.

Disclosure. We were sent the Minnie Mouse Polka Dot House to review.


Thursday, 4 December 2014

My Home-Moving Timeline

The moment we moved into our 1st house
At the weekend, I told my folks about our grand plan for restructuring our house. Walls knocked down, extensions built... that kind of thing.  They looked a bit shocked at the scale of things!  We have lived in our house for just over 4 years and our plan is slowly but surely coming together.  When we bought our house, we knew that we were in it for the long-term and that, even if it isn't our 'forever' home, we certainly plan to be here until our children are most of the way through school.

Because it was a long term commitment, we were prepared to wait and work through the long process of moving house... and for us, it was a fairly long time!  This is the second house that we have owned as a family, therefore when we moved house, there was always going to be a chain - here is how our home moving timeline panned out.

#1 Sell the house
This was the easy bit. Ten days on the market and we had an offer we were happy to accept.

#2 Find the home of your dreams
Also easy.  We had been driving the local streets for months looking for the perfect place and we were ready and waiting to make an offer on our intended home within 24 hours of finding a buyer for our own place.  All going to plan. The very first thing that the sellers asked was for proof that we could get a mortgage for the house (an indicator to them that the sale would go through).

#3 Get a mortgage quote
Still easy.  We had made a couple of appointments with mortgage advisors earlier in the year (one independent, one linked to a local bank branch.  We did plenty of research and knew where we wanted to apply.  Within a few hours of having made an offer on a house, we had submitted an application for a mortgage and had a piece of paper to prove that we were going to have a mortgage approved to the value of our house.

#4 Find a solicitor
For us, still very easy.  We have a family solicitor who we had used for issuing a will in advance.  After having bought two houses, I would strongly recommend finding a solicitor local to you that you can go in to visit, and take your documents to them rather than having to rely on the phone and postal service (in my experience, this is what makes for a looooooong house purchase)

#5  Arrange a surveyor
Theoretically, simple.  Most mortgage providers will recommend (or require use of a specific) conveyancing surveyor. After having had some issues come out of the woodwork (literally) in our last house purchase, we paid for a thorough house survey during our most recent house move.  The survey will detail the state of the building and any threats that may impact the decision made by your mortgage provider.

#6 Agree on the details
Fixtures and fittings... that kind of thing.  Why don't people ever list the random pile of junk they plan to leave in the loft?

#7 Transfer the deposit
Your solicitor should be able to manage this for you

#8 Exchange contracts and agree a completion date
The tricky bit.  This, dear readers, is where you are entirely in the hands of other people's solicitors.  Contracts can't be exchanged until after all of the 'searches' on land registry and council lists are complete. Chasing these can be stressful.  At this point you will be very glad to have spent money on a solicitor who is worth their fee!  Your mortgage company will communicate with your solicitor to handle all of the funds for the big day.

#9 Book a removals expert
This time around, we had too much STUFF to be able to move house unaided.  We got lots of recommendations from friends for a local removals company who were awesome from the very moment they entered our house to start packing, to the minute they tucked us into our new house.

#10 Completion Day

For many people, the entire process of moving house from offer, through mortgage application to completion can take as little as a month.  For us, it took 6 months... most of which was spent at stage 8.  Sigh.

But it was worth it.  We love our house and each year we make it just a little bit more "us".

Disclosure: This post has been created in partnership with TSB

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

My Christmas List 2014!

With all of the excitement of my #VEXmasList competition, I thought it would be fun to share my own Christmas List.

If you had suggested to me, back in January, that my Christmas list would mostly comprise running clothing, I'd have given you a very funny look and dismissed you as a lunatic.  But something weird has happened to me and now all I can really think of for Christmas is a shiny new pair of running shoes to set me up for my half marathon and ten mile challenges in 2015.  Strange, but true. But even the most hardened runner has to balance the exercise with a bit of food and drink... right?

On my list you'll find:-

  • A pair of new running shoes for my March half marathon
  • A complete running outfit for the new, slimmer me
  • A shiny Garmin Forerunner 310xt (currently on an awesome offer at amazon) to track my runs
  • A meal for two at Benares Indian restaurant in Mayfair
  • An overnight stay at a Champneys spa
  • A Decleor gift set
  • A Pandora bracelet
  • A year's supply of Stoli vodka (got to put those running calories back somehow)

My friends at Festive Lights asked me to share my list and to remind you about their Christmas Countdown.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Portable North Pole - a 20% Discount off a video from Santa

If you've never experienced the magic of a PNP personalised video message from Santa then I'd really encourage you to take a look. From the very moment we first set eyes on a Portable North Pole video, we've been captured by the magic of PNP and each year the videos get bigger and better.

This year, the free personalised PNP videos feature a fixed single storyline but the premium PNP videos offer a choice of three different storylines so that you can choose a theme that best suits your child or, as in my case, so that you can choose different stories for different children to really weave the magic of the 'personal' message.

Both of my girls now look forward to the day when they can view their incoming message from the big man and his troupe of elves (and very talented elves they are too).  Children can watch their videos online through an email link, or you can watch them through the free PNP iOS app which is coming soon.  Alternatively, if you purchase a premium video, you can save the video to your computer so that you can play it again and again.

This year, I bought the girls each a personalised premium video from Santa.  I tweaked some bits here and there and I uploaded lots of the girls favourite photos of their birthday parties and summer holidays which I knew would bring back lots of great memories.  I configured the videos such that santa gave them each a bit of a warning - he told Holly to behave at the dinner table and Lara to control her temper.  Neither of them made it onto the nice list.  Woops.

Lara's personalised PNP video

But thankfully, I've paid for an unlimited set of videos this year so, in a couple of weeks time (when, hopefully they've acted on Santa's advice) I'll be able to set up a new video with new photos and themes that tells them they've made it onto the nice list.

Also on PNP you can purchase telephone calls from the big man himself and I'm thinking that this might be a great idea to congratulate Lara if she does manage to control that temper and squeeze herself onto the nice list.

If you would like to make a personalised premium PNP video for your children (or there are special videos for the adults in your life!) then you can get a 20% discount off all digital PNP products other than in-app purchases if you use the code BLG20BKP at
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