Mellow Mummy: 2015 : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Is Your New Year's Resolution to Learn to Code?

2015 has come to an end, and that means I get to look back on my New Year's Resolutions to see how I did.  Number one this year was to "stay happy" and I certainly did that.  2015 saw me say, "enough is enough" in my role as a software developer and so I found myself a new job - as a software manager.  Now, when Lara asks me what I do for a living, I can't really say that I write code.. I now tell her that I help people write great software!  And interestingly enough, Lara seems to understand my new role description more than she did before!  In 2015 Lara herself has learned to code and in 2016 the government are encouraging parents to learn a little coding skill too so that they can support their children at school.

All school children from year one onwards now learn the very basics of how to author code and this makes me very happy.  When I was at school, computing just about stretched to a knowledge of how to use a word processor.  Lara on the other hand, is 6, and claims to know how to write a "for loop".  This is progress.  And I'm immensely proud of her.

Code with Anna and Elsa

The UK government know that we can't bring up a generation of software engineers without the support of their parents and so they're encouraging parents, as well as children to try out an Hour of Code in 2016 as a New Year's resolution to support their children's coding skills.  The premise is that, with just an hour of learning, you can grasp the basic concepts needed to write your first algorithms.  

The Hour of Code website has links to several learning resources for adults and children of lots of different ages.  The VERY first thing we set up on Lara's new computer this Christmas was a link to the Disney Frozen Hour of Code website in which Elsa and Anna help you to put together loops and extract code into methods.  I'm genuinely impressed by this website and it is certainly challenging, but encouraging for children of Lara's age.

Lightbot Hour of Code
Our favourite Hour of Code that we have tried so far has to be Lightbot which is available on the web, or as an app for your tablet.  Lightbot requires you to program in commands to control a little robot who must switch on lights at specific times.  As you progress through your hour you learn how to repeat blocks of commands, and then how to extract groups into procedures that can be re-executed on demand.  By the end of the hour, Lara struggles but she sticks with it and feels very proud each time she completes a level.  I don't think that the concepts have stuck yet, but with enough practice it'll become second nature to her!

The Hour of Code website has lots of ideas of how to support your child through their hour of code and different activities that appeal to lots of different tastes. If you fancy going beyond one hour then there ideas of how to take further steps into learning to code; whether that is learning to write your own apps and games, or starting to program your own website.

So, if you'd like to learn some basics to support your child on their software development journey then why not resolve to complete your own Hour of Code in 2016?

Monday, 28 December 2015

Check out my Teletubbies Toy Reviews on the 11th January

This week a special box arrived from Character Options bearing the Teletubbies logo.  I'm under strict instructions not to open it until the 11th of January when you can come back here and find out what exciting things lie inside.  Holly and I will be reviewing the Teletubbies Toys from Character Options and we can't wait to find out what we have in store.

Come back on January 11th to share the Teletubbies fun with Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Super Scholastic Savings on Children's Books

This festive season, our house, as always, has been full of wonderful children's books.  If your family also love books of all types then you'll be excited to know that the Scholastic book sale is now on at  You may know Scholastic from their school book clubs and fairs; many of the children's favourite fiction and non-fiction books are on offer now with phenomenal savings of upto 88% off some titles.

Around six times a year Scholastic reveal a brand new Book Club selection of quality children's books at discounted prices. Any school can run a Book Club. There is no obligation to order, but for every £1 that parents spend on a school’s Book Club order Scholastic donate 20p in FREE BOOKS back to the school. Anyone can order from Scholastic even if your school isn’t running a Book Club. Choose to have your books delivered to your home instead (delivery is free over £25) and if you order over £10 then your free rewards can be assigned to a school or nursery of your choice at the checkout.

The Scholastic January sale features discounted books across all sorts of themes.  Prices start from a mind-blowing 75p! There are huge savings on best-selling children's authors such as Jacqueline Wilson, David Walliams and the Wimpy Kid series as well as classics from the likes of Roald Dahl, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. There are also some amazing value book packs to look out for.

Holly is massively into Frozen this year and so we've been on the lookout for Elsa and Anna anywhere we look.  This Frozen book duo is now just £3.99 (a saving of nearly £8!) in the Scholastic sale - it features one Frozen story book with CD, and one secret diary / scrapbook featuring activities and story snippets.  Holly absolutely loves both books and couldn't wait to listen to the CD on her own CD player at bedtime.

At bedtimes, Holly very much looks forward to reading a picture book with us.  Holly really enjoys the rhymes and pictures in Julia Donaldson's picture books with Axel Scheffler (she very much enjoyed watching Stick Man on Christmas day!).  This Christmas Holly received Room on the Broom (and a matching dragon) as well as this excellent hardback copy of The Highway Rat which is down from £10.99 to £2.99 in the Scholastic sale.  The Highway Rat is one of Julia's most clever rhyming stories and it reminds me of the same magic as the Gruffalo.

Of course, Holly isn't the only one in our house who is keen on reading.  Lara is unstoppable when it comes to books at present.  She has around 4 books on the go at any one time.  Lara's favourites are Roald Dahl and so we thought it would be fun to introduce her to the books of David Walliams, who we have heard tends to appeal to Roald Dahl fans.  The Daemon Dentist is a tale of a town where instead of a coin under their pillows from the tooth fairy, the children are getting unpleasant surprises. Lara is a little daunted of starting a new book from an author she hasn't heard from before so we are going to share this with her at bedtime and read it together as a team.  The Daemon Dentist is now £3.99 as are Gangsta Granny, The Boy in the Dress, Mr. Stink and other David Walliams favourites.

The Scholastic book sale doesn't just feature fiction books for Children - Lara has wanted her own picture dictionary for some time and this Oxford Children's Colour Dictionary is now less than half price.  The first word she looked up in it?  Bed!!!  From science to georgraphy and french to cookery skills there are lots of non-fiction and reference books at wonderful prices and don't forget that if you spend over £10 then you can earn 20% back for your school or nursery at Scholastic.

Disclosure: Scholastic sent Lara and Holly some example books from their sale but we are Scholastic fans and regularly order from our school's fair!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas

This year I've made a little bit of a break from tradition when it comes to our Christmas cake. Not just that my cake is black, but also that I've strayed from Nigella's trusted chocolate Christmas cake and I've gambled on a traditional fruit cake.

This year's Mellow family Christmas cake is a square fruit cake topped with marzipan and then coated in black fondant icing. I've decorated with a stylised white piped Christmas tree (nicked from Pinterest) and gold sparkly buttons which were a chance buy in Tesco earlier this year. I finished the cake with a flourish of gold sparkly edible glitter spray.

We are now off to enjoy a slab of our cake.  So I'll take this opportunity to wish all of my loyal readers a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

#JustWrite The Art of Writing Thank You Letters

We have a little tradition forming in our Mellow household that the Christmas thank-you letters start on Christmas Eve. Lara and Holly like to write their first thank-you letter for Santa and they leave it with their stockings before they go to bed. This year Lara has made a little card to put her letter to Santa in. She spent quite some time penning a little note and sticking it inside ready for Santa to read on the night.

After Christmas my girls will be writing short thank-you notes to everyone who receives and distributes presents on Santa's behalf. As a child I remember writing letters to all of my family after Christmas and Birthdays and it is a tradition that I'm keen to pass on to Lara and Holly despite the changes in tech since my day! Did you know that over half of the UK's teenagers have never hand written a thank-you letter? Wowzers.

Interestingly, this year our main present to our daughters is going to be a computer.  So it would be rather tempting for their first set of Christmas thank-yous to be penned in Outlook as an email, right?  Wrong.  Lara and Holly are both at such key stages of their literacy learning that it is really important to me that we share every opportunity we can to #JustWrite.

The art of writing a thank-you letter is a craft that you can hone as a child. Remember who gave what, remember one good thing to share about the present you received and remember to describe something fun you did over Christmas. A thank-you letter is a little story that has a start (a thank you), a middle (a present or an anecdote) and an end (a goodbye) and it is such good practice for first writing skills such as spelling and letter formation, but also for key story telling skills as well as literacy exercises such as formation of sentences and learning how to address different people in different ways.

Because Bic have found that many teenagers don't pick up a pen more than once every couple of months they've launched the #JustWrite campaign to try and encourage people of all ages to pick up a pen or pencil and just...write.  In an age when much of our communication takes place in word processors and websites, its important not to lose the art of hand-writing for exploring, learning and sharing.  At this age it is about setting habits for life and helping to build hand-writing skills that children can use, if they need to, when they're older.  Even in a job where I use computers to write software that automates peoples lives, I write all of my notes by hand as a notebook is quick, easy and portable...and it is a little bit of me!

As a self-proclaimed techy I'm really eager that my girls are comfortable with technology from a very young age but I'm equally eager to give them the tools they need to learn the art of letter-writing.  So I'm popping an easy-grip pencil into both Lara and Holly's Christmas stockings in the hope that they will Just Write their Christmas thank-you letters.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Fancy a Festive TV Quiz from @UKTV ?

I'm starting to wind down for Christmas and have been looking for fun but untaxing ways to relax in the evenings.  This fun UKTV online festive quiz has kept me entertained these last few nights as I guzzle some of the home-brewed Sloe Gin and munch on a mince pie.

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a TV buff then why not give it a whirl.  All you have to do is to spin the wheel to select one of the UKTV channels and then you are faced with a question topical to that TV channel.  On the Good Food channel you might be presented with a question about your favourite celebrity chef.  On Dave you might be challenged to answer a question about a classic comedy series.  For Home you might have to answer a general knowledge question about the home or garden.  For each channel that the spinner lands on, you can choose to answer a hard question, an easy question or one in the middle.- you get more points for the more challenging questions.

There is no grand prize but trust me, you'll find the challenge addictive.  My knowledge of TV drama is a bit ropey so I've not got much further than round 9 but if I get a series of questions from Dave then I'm well ahead on the score.  You get three lives each time you play the game and the aim is not only to get as high a score as you can manage, but also to try and survive a question from every single segment on the wheel.

If you're looking for a fun way to test your TV trivia this Christmas then why not try playing the UKTV Christmas quiz with your friends and family and see who gets the highest score?

Disclosure: I was offered a small incentive for sharing this quiz... but it is fun, and I've enjoyed playing it. Now I'm off to beat my high score.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Let's Cook Italian : A Family Cookbook Review

I have a kitchen full of cookery books and yet I'll admit that I've struggled for many years to find an Italian cook book which I actually want to go back to regularly. I love Italian food - one of the things I love about Italian cookery is the tasty simplicity and the great, great ingredients and many cook books are trying to add something innovative or fancy on top of this. Let's Cook Italian from Quarry Books is different. It's not a fancy cook book, its just a collection of simple hearty Italian recipes that were collected by the author, Anna Prandoni, to share with her family. The book is specially designed to encourage children to try to cook and eat Italian food and most of the recipes feature a tip at the side of the page about which part of the cooking or eating your children are most likely to want to get involved in.

I'm always a little concerned about a cookbook without photos, especially when it comes to trying to encourage Lara and Holly to get cooking but the lack of photography didn't seem to put Lara off. As soon as we received our copy of Let's Cook Italian, Lara started to browse. At first she was most interested in the fact that each page (including all of the recipes, introduction and chapter overviews) is printed once in English, and once in Italian. This really helps you get into the Italian mood before you start cooking!

Lara was really inspired. I've never seen her sit down and read a cookbook from cover to cover before. Totally unprompted she picked out two recipes and asked me if we could buy the ingredients. Of course we could!

So tonight Lara cooked dinner for us all - recipes she had chosen from this Family Italian Cookbook. She chose to cook us potato gnocchi which we topped with a Genovese pesto. She particularly wanted to serve the gnocchi with a dish of peas with Italian ham (Piselli al prosciutto). Two very grown up dishes indeed.

Lara had great fun in the kitchen. Yes, I'm always there to supervise and to provide help when she needs me but now that she can read the recipes and understand the measurements on the kitchen scales, Lara is very independent in the kitchen. Lara loved making the potato dough for the gnocchi - she cut them all, shaped them and then we cooked them in boiling water. Over the top she drizzled a really tasty pesto that she made from basil, pine nuts, hard italian cheese and olive oil. It was properly scrummy.

Let's Cook Italian has a good selection of Italian staples such as pizza, spaghetti carbonara, meatballs and tiramisu. There are also a few very traditional italian dishes with which you may not be so familiar. All of the recipes are short and easy to follow which is great for when I'm cooking with the girls.

I think I've forgiven this book for not having any photos if it can encourage Lara to cook italian food like this.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Vauxhall OnStar's #BackseatBedtime

Now that most schools have broken up for the Christmas holidays, lots of families will be travelling for the Christmas period.  Whether your journey is long or short, sometimes it is unavoidable that you will be on the road when your children are supposed to be in bed.  With Lara and Holly we have experimented in the past with trying to keep the girls awake when they are in the car, and we've also tried the total inverse...encouraging them into their pyjamas to fall asleep in the car, knowing that we will have to transfer them into bed when we arrive at our destination.

Unfortunately, neither myself nor Mr. B. has quite perfected that transition from car to bed and both girls are now getting far too big to carry without waking them!  This Christmas, if we have to travel to or from friends and family at the girl's bedtime, we will help them to settle in the car and we will just have to hope that they are relaxed enough (and not over-excited) when we arrive!

This Christmas Vauxhall have acknowledged that there are parents up and down the country who have to tackle the tricky 'backseat bedtime' and so they have joined forced with DJ and presenter Edith Bowman to produce a set of bedtime stories that you can stream into your car via audio or video to share with your small people if bedtime needs to take place in the car.  With the Vauxhall OnStar in-car system streaming via Wi-fi is a doddle, so with this set of pre-recorded bedtime stories it should make your backseat bedtimes a little less stressful.

The bedtime stories are available to view at and on youtube. There are three stories by author Tracey Corderoy and read by Edith Bowman. Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam is a tale of two robber dogs.  The second story is another of their adventures called The Cat Burglar.  Lara and Holly's favourite of the three stories is Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble which is all about a Grandmother who is very unusual, but who you really wouldn't want to change.  These stories are all fun ones that I'd happily read to my girls as part of our everyday bedtime routine, so its a really nice idea to make them available for when you are travelling.

Watch out for the #backseatbedtime hashtag from Vauxhall on Facebook and Twitter .

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Festive Minions #MinionsXmas

Lara, and especially Holly are both mahooooosive Minions fans and they were both eagerly awaiting the release of the new Minions movie on Blu-Ray, DVD and 3D having enjoyed it an awful lot at the cinema earlier this year.  In the movie, minion friends Kevin, Stuart and Bob search the world for a new master for the minions who are only ever truely happy with a master to follow.  The movie is packed full of minion madness and the girls giggle a lot when they listen to the minions talk in their own special language.

To celebrate the release of the Minions movie, the girls were tasked with the creation of their own very special minion baubles.  The girls had great fun painting ceramic baubles with yellow paint (I'm not sure my dining room table had so much fun).  Lara and I painted faces onto the baubles and then I let the girls loose on their minions with a selection of christmassy craft materials to see what they could come up with.

The girls chose to decorate their minions with sparkly pen - one of them is sporting a beautiful blue sparkly set of denim dungarees.  There is also a lot of festive bling going on.  This one has a three-tiered Santa hat!  One of them is even wearing Holly leaves!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Leapfrog Frozen Favourites

All through November, Leapfrog were inviting you to vote for your Leapfrog favourites on their facebook page.  Your favourite games and books for Leappad, Leapster GS, LeapTV, Leapreader and Leapreader Junior.  The votes are now in and the nation's favourite Leapfrog content has been revealed as:-

LeapReader Junior - Disney Princesses
LeapReader - Paw Patrol
LeapPad - Frozen
LeapTV - Paw Patrol

Of course, we all have our own favourites but Holly is largely in agreement.  Right now Holly has her very own favourite Leapfrog games - the Disney Frozen games for Leappad and LeapTV.

The Disney Frozen game for LeapTV is an interactive game to be played with the Leapfrog learning games console plugged into your TV.  The game features a series of mini-games set around the Arandelle winter festive; each game which practices first number skills and rewards your child with fun activities to take part in.  The game is recommended for children aged 4-7 years old but I'm finding that Holly is eager to play and in fact, many of the first levels of each of the games is well suited to her.  In one game she has to identify from sight, numbers between 10 and 20.  In another she has to match patterns of numbers in sequence.  Some of the interactive points in the game which require strong hand-eye co-ordination (such as making Anna and Elsa skate around a rink, or selecting points on the screen) are perhaps better suited to a slightly older child but Holly absolutely loves the magic of the game.

Holly's favourite element of the game is building jewellery with the snowflakes that she has earned from her maths puzzles. Once she has chosen the layout of coloured snowflakes she can stand in front of the screen and take a photo of herself "wearing" her new jewellery creation!  We love this game and it is a brilliant opportunity for us to help her practice her counting skills while immersing herself in the wonders of Arandelle.

Holly also has a Disney Frozen game to play on the Leappad (not Leappad 1) - this is a reading learning game with simple spelling and reading skills for children aged 4-7 years.  Once again, the game is just a little advanced for Holly but she is so eager to play that she is really stretching herself.  This is wonderful to watch - Holly is just learning to read and she can quickly recognise letters but has to push herself hard to sound them out and put them together.  One particular mini-game that I've been very impressed with sees Olaf challenge you to build flower-patterns by spelling out words using the letters from a bigger word such as "ballroom" or "snowflake" (I'll forget I saw a spelling mistake in the game itself).  I'm so impressed that, using the visual clues on the screen, Holly is able to put together words and string together letters.  She doesn't realise it, but this game really is helping Holly to read.

And that is perhaps the most satisfying thing of all.  As a big Leapfrog fan, I've always sought to use Leapfrog games and books to support Lara's reading and maths skills in a fun way.  But with Holly, she has access to them much earlier in life than her big sister did and now I can genuinely see that the games and books are teaching her.  They are more than just fun ways of re-inforcing a message; they are learning tools.  What better way of helping Holly on her learning journey than through the medium of Anna and Elsa - her two favourite princesses!

The Frozen game for Leappad also includes handwriting skills for tracing letters (perfect for Holly to practice pen control) and a read-along story with which you can interact.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

A Stylish Cuppa

If you're looking for stylish gift for a tea or coffee lover this Christmas then you'll love the new limited edition printed tableware designs from Portmeirion featuring fashion-inspired floral designs from Ted Baker.

I was sent a really smart china mug and coaster from the Shadow Floral range which features deep, dark pink, purple and blue flowers but with a delicate white interior.  The mug is a shape suitable for either tea or coffee.  I love the little coaster that it comes with - it means I can claim this coaster as my own and not have to search around the living room for one of the main set of coasters that the girls insist on moving!

Alongside the shadow floral design you can also find a technicolour bloom which has reds, whites and teals among the floral flashes.  The new Portmeirion Ted Baker range also includes a set of two stacking mugs, and a set of two floral plates (20cm).  They are available to buy in John Lewis, House of Fraser and online at

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The #JingleEffect - a festive family meal at TGI Fridays

We had a really wonderfully festive day today.  One of those days which really gets you into the Christmas mood.

After swimming lessons and Rainbows this morning we headed over to Reading for a spot of Christmas decoration shopping and a festive meal at TGI Fridays.

TGI Fridays had invited us to experience their festive fun this Christmas.  Their children's menu has received a festive makeover with options for both smaller appetites (The Little League) and larger appetites (The Major League) from just £4.99.  The most fun thing on the festive menu being a gloriously exciting Rudolf milkshake topped with whipped cream, chocolate eyes and a big fat cherry for a nose.  The girls LOVED this chocolate milkshake.

For grown ups you can ask for the #JingleEffect menu which has also had a bit of a festive makeover but we stuck to our favourites - I chose a very yummy burger topped with pulled-pork, choose and BBQ sauce.  Lara's major league meal of meatballs, pasta and garlic bread was a portion big enough for an adult... and she very nearly ate it all!  Holly chose Chicken Tenders with crudites, waffles and beans.

The girls both received a fun pack to keep them entertained while they waited for their food - the pack contained Christmassy puzzles, colouring pictures and festive facts.  While we were waiting for our food, the girls got busy colouring in their #JingleEffect bells with their own designs and, as we left the restaurant, they hung their bells on the big Christmas tree at reception.  

We thought the staff and food at TGI Fridays in Reading (Caversham Road) were perfect - we had a fabulous lunch and it really set our weekend off to a wonderful Christmassy start without losing that American style.  The best moment of the meal was when Lara pointed out that there were black music circles on the wall of the restaurant... they would be vinyl records my dear!

After lunch the girls had a quick nap before we went shopping for a Christmas tree.  We surprised them with a visit to see Father Christmas - the girls were soooooo excited and totally enthralled by the magic. In the evening we decorated our tree together.  It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

DIY Rainbow Bedroom

As you probably read, earlier this week, we are now full-steam-ahead in decorating Lara and Holly's bedroom.  As with all of our DIY projects, the process isn't a fast one because we both work during the week and have lots of exciting things to be doing at the weekend which normally take priority over decorating.  

This project has proven particularly difficult because we decided to paint the walls white as the background to our rainbow room.  White paint is all very well but when the evenings are drawing in, and the wintery weather is around, the light is very poor and it is incredibly hard to see where you've painted and where you haven't.

Work in progress (and in need of a book shelf)
So far we have painted all but one of the walls white. We have removed all of the furniture other than Lara's bed and Holly's cotbed so that we can make space for new storage solutions.  Once the painting is complete, we are going to order the girls a white bunkbed.  This is something, about which they are INCREDIBLY excited.

I've already bought most of the accessories for the room.  We are completely replacing all of the sockets and switches (which in our house have all been a bit iffy) with plain white simple jobs.  I've bought an amazing blue sky dangling light pendant for the ceiling and a pair of thick white and rainbow-starred blackout curtains from GLTC.  We are going to replace all of their current bedding with bright rainbow colours.  I plan to buy a brightly coloured rainbow decal for the wall once we have all the furniture in place and I've bought the girls each a rainbow button personalised picture to go next to their beds.

The only thing we haven't quite worked out for their room yet is storage.  Ideally we'd like a wardrobe for them to store their clothes; but space is going to be limited.  We'd also like some corner shelves to store their current reading books - what normally happens is that, over the course of a week they gather a big pile of books on the bedroom floor and have to put them all away in another room at the weekend.  I think we will wait until the bunkbed is in the room before making any hard and fast decisions on storage.

Regalsystem von dearkids : Storage by MOBIMIO—Räume für Kinder
MOBIMIO—Räume für Kinder / Homify

I know this home decorating project is taking FOREVER but I'm still hopeful that it can be completed by the end of the year.

This post was written in collaboration with homify, a whole website of home decorating inspiration.  All words are my own, and my DIY project is my own!  Stay tuned for the finished bedroom photos in the coming weeks.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

My Top 5 Household Best Buys

As you may know, we are currently decorating the girls' bedroom.  We've cleared their room of furniture and sold off their wobbly wardrobe so that we can start from scratch in their bedroom.  As I waved goodbye (and good riddance) to one of my most hated pieces of furniture, it made me think about what makes a lasting piece of household furniture, storage or staples?  I know for a fact that it isn't just cost that makes a household item one that lasts - I've paid lots in the past for things I've quickly had to replace but then I've also had bargain items that I bought when I first moved out of home and I'm still using now and are still oozing quality.

So, as an aid to contemplating what sort of items to buy for the girls' newly decorated bedroom, I've written up a list of the items in my house which have lasted us the longest, and have become some of the most-used household items we have owned.  I am hoping that this will help me to understand what makes them stand out from the rest.  It is interesting to see how many of them now have the girl's presence stamped all over them!  Here are my top 5 household best-buys.

1. Ikea bookcase
This was one of the first items of furniture that we bought when we first became home owners. I remember having to pay a van driver to transport them home from Ikea in Wembley to our home in Bracknell.  These bookcases are so tall that you have to anchor them to the wall to keep them from falling over but they store so many books, CDs and games that they have been able to cope with our growing and evolving collection as our family has grown.

2. Brabantia laundry basket
I remember Mr. B. giving me a funny look when I bought a Brabantia laundry basket nearly 10 years ago.  For me, the new metal and wooden laundry bin was an important part of our new decoration and I still to this day feel that it makes the bedroom or hallway look stylish - it is a smart way of storing laundry which can sometimes be an unsightly afterthought in a room.

3. Oak bookcase
We LOVE this oak bookcase which was bought for us as a house warming gift ten years ago from a local furniture supplier. In our pre-parent days this used to house recipe books.  Now it hosts whats left of our grown-up book collection and is hidden away in the spare room but it is such a smooth and sturdy piece of furniture that I wouldn't want to rehome it any time soon.

4. Wooden mirror
Mr. B. and I were given this huuuuge wooden mirror as a wedding present. We are currently planning our new living room and we are both keen that this mirror remains a central part of our living area.  It is chunky and bold but natural at the same time. 

5. Boxer Bed
Our bed came with us when we moved house, even though it was originally bought for a very specific room dimension in our old house where space was limited.  It is a Boxer Bed which is surprisingly high because it features, underneath it, lots of different sized drawers for loads of storage.  It even hides away two bedside tables!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but that doesn't stop it being fun to read.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Barbie & Mango Fashion Collaboration

This week Lara has grown again.  And not just height.  Lara has grown up a little and is starting to discover a level of self-confidence that we didn't know existed. When I heard about the new collection of Barbie chic pop-art inspired clothing at Mango, I knew it was going to be perfect for Lara.  It's a range of clothing featuring Barbie designs for younger children but with a style suitable for older girls too - sizes from 3 years to 13 years.

Lara's Barbie Cotton Sweatshirt is a cropped jersey cotton top with a sequinned Barbie logo.  The sequins are sewn on really tightly packed to one another so that they are really nice and secure.  Lara instantly fell in love with the top and it seemed to make her want to pose - I suspect she has been inspired by Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse!

The base of this sweatshirt is designed to deliberately curl, as if the hem was raw but it is perfectly executed. We ordered Lara a size above her age because we know she is very tall for her age and the sizing has worked out perfectly on the arms and body.

This Barbie Cotton Sweatshirt from Mango costs £19.99 and is now available in all Mango kids stores across Europe, and online.  Also in the collection you will find a white long-sleeved t-shirt with a pink barbie portrait - I think Holly would love this.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

My Magical Seahorse Review

This is Ava.  She is a My Magical Seahorse from Zuru - the makers of the ever-popular ROBOfish.

Lara and Holly are both absolutely fascinated with their robo seahorse; so much so that I'm thinking of buying it a tank all of its own!  Then we may need to buy a whole family of My Magical Seahorses (Ava, Coral and Jewel) to go in it.

My Magical Seahorse is from ZURU and available from all good UK toys stockists (rrp: £9.99).  You can find them in Argos, Amazon, Smyths Toys and Tesco, among other places.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015


There is something so simple about a pair of tights or leggings that makes them such an appealing choice of clothing for a toddler, or a baby.  We've always opted for simple tights or leggings for our girls either alone, or under a skirt or shorts.  Tights4Tots is a website dedicated entirely to luxury tights for little people; from babies through to toddlers and even children upto 5 years old.

As you can see, Holly looks the business in her special Number 3 footless tights.  Because she normally wears them under a skirt, she hadn't even realised that there was a special number on her bottom!  When she did, she was very proud that she was sporting her age on her behind!  These grey tights with bright pink stars are one of a large range of Blade and Rose knitted footless tights.  Blade and Rose are a big favourite of mine - Lara owned a pair of pink cupcake tights when she was tiny and they lasted us so well and were certainly her most comfortable and well-loved item of clothing when she was two.  The tights are a high-quality knit made from 75% cotton mixed with nylon and spandex to create a comfortable stretch.  They are warm, and comfy and Holly feels right at home in them.

Blade and Rose knitted tights all have a very cool design knitted into the bottom which makes them great fun to wear as leggings and, if your baby is sporting a cloth nappy, it makes a lovely squidgy baby bottom look even more squidgable!  I absolutely could not resist these zebra-striped Blade and Rose leggings for Holly.  The zebra bottom is a bonus but the tights look awesome whether she wears them alone, or under a skirt.

These Blade and Rose tights and leggings are available in sizes from birth upto about 3 or 4 years.  There are loads of designs to choose from suitable for baby girls or boys.  From fire engines to daisies and pirates to apples - each with a colourful pattern along the legs that really make you stand out from the crowd.

Tights4Tots also stock other brands of luxury baby tights and toddler tights - many of them are full-feet tights with non-slip soles designed specially for recently mobile toddlers.  The designs are all bright and fun - you'll be spoiled for choice. are offering free delivery on orders over £15 (thats around 2 or 3 pairs of tights).  Look out for their VERY cool reindeer and christmas pudding tights too!  You can find Tights4Tots on Facebook and twitter.

Monday, 30 November 2015

One Snowy Night at Norden Farm, Maidenhead

Yesterday I took the girls to Norden Farm theatre and centre for the arts in Maidenhead to see One Snowy Night - a theatrical adaptation of one of Nick Butterworth's tales of Percy the Parkeeper. It was a really magical way to get our festive season off to a start and it was Holly's first real theatre experience.  She loved it!

In fact, we all did.  One Snowy Night is a perfect introduction to the theatre for children and is probably best suited to children from 3-6 years old.  At only 55 minutes long, it is short enough that even the smallest members of the audience can concentrate for the full show.  Holly got a bit fidgety towards the end but she was enjoying the music so much that she was stood up from her seat hopping along to the tunes.

The story of the show is a beautiful tale about the animals from Percy's park all feeling the cold from the very snowy night - they seek solace in Percy's hut.  It is a soft, tender tale but presented in a fun, engaging way.

Both Lara and Holly loved the musical numbers which feature throughout the show - they seemed most taken with a silly ode to the humble sandwich!

One of the things that really struck me about the show was that it was real theatre - not panto and certainly not dumbed down for the tiny audience. Myself and Mr. B. were very impressed by the clever stage management which features two cast members (other than Percy himself) who are there to help the story unfold.  Both Lara and Holly are still talking about how the piece of the park hedgerow magically fell off in front of Percy as he trimmed them, even though they both know and understand that it was the cast members who made this happened.  It was just so cleverly done, and the sign of a good stage performance.

The entire second half of the show is filled with all of Percy's cuddly animal friends.  Quite how the cast managed to remember which accent they were supposed to use for each animal is beyond me.  Each animal (or set of animals) had its own strong character.  Lara enjoyed the fluffy squirrel whose tail tickled everyone.  Holly enjoyed the cheeky fox who stole all the biscuits.

One Snowy Night is showing at Norden Farm in Maidenhead, Berkshire from now until the end of December.  A family ticket costs £45.  We thought the intimate location really added to the family-friendliness of the event and the girls both enjoyed searching for Percy's animals who are hidden throughout the arts centre.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Christmas Craft Activities with Yellow Moon

At this time of year I move a big box of Christmas craft materials into our dining room so that the girls can help themselves in the mornings, evenings and weekends to create Christmas ornaments, pictures and cards until their heart's content.

I like to let the girls loose with felt and foam sticky shapes, coloured paper, Christmas printed paper, glitter and glue from Yellow Moon who sell craft materials for kids (as well as lots of fun stocking fillers).  I like to have lots of Christmas staples in the house.

But this Christmas, Yellow Moon sent the girls some slightly more adventurous Christmas craft kits that they have been starting on this weekend.

Both Holly and Lara very much enjoyed constructing these reindeer bags which are perfect for carrying festive treats, or for leaving out in the hope that Santa will fill them full of goodies.  Because these are made from foam sticky pieces, they are very easy for Holly to make too but it made a nice change for the girls to also need to use glue to help construct these kits.  The pack costs £3.75 and contains four individual craft kits.

Lara has recently discovered needlecraft so these Penguin sewing decoration kits were perfect for her. Each kit contains everything you need to make a fabric penguin Christmas decoration to hang on your tree.  The kits are well-suited to someone taking their very first steps into needlework - the fabric is pre-punched with holes so that the plastic needle passes through the fabric easily. Lara took to it very quickly and within ten minutes she had got the hang of it and was steaming through.  She even managed to finish it off and stuff her penguin using the instructions (rather than me!) to guide her.

Lara is planning on giving one of these hand-made decorations to her teacher this Christmas, I think its a lovely idea.

Don't forget that you can earn between 5% and 20% cashback for your school on most Yellow Moon purchases.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Youtube Kids App Review

It has been a while since I've reviewed a kids app but the new YouTube kids app is something so ground-breaking that I had to share it with you.  As the Mellow Mummy, I've always been relaxed about letting my two girls use the internet but I'm also increasingly aware of how easy it is for Lara to quickly drift into parts of the internet that I'd really rather she wasn't exploring.  In recent months, Lara has started to enjoy using YouTube and it had made my software developer brain start to tick...

...As a software geek, I'd started to think about all of the features of YouTube that could be subtly changed to help make it a bit more kid-friendly.  Then this month, lo and behold, YouTube released their own app in the iTunes app store and Google Play which does everything I was thinking of!

The YouTube Kids app has obviously had a lot of thought put into it.  It is incredibly easy to use and so intuitive that you don't need written menus or instructions to read.  The app largely surfaces YouTube channels of known kid-friendly sources such as kids TV channels, children's brands and cartoons.  All of the content that is surfaced in the app is categorised as suitable for children but presumably, this is based on algorithms and automated processes so you do still have to be aware that there is a remote chance your child could stumble upon something unwanted.  However, its far, far less likely.  Having watched the way my 6 year old uses YouTube, I see her watch one video and then move onto the next recommendation... on the grown-up app, or online, this can result in her quickly drifting off-topic and so I like the fact that the YouTube Kids app offers us some protection that her drifting can still be within kid-friendly realms.

The app has various parental settings you can control such as restricting the ability to search (if you switch it off, your child can only watch recommended content and can't use the text search capability).  You can also restrict the amount of time that your child spends on the app.  When Lara was ill during half-term I genuinely saw her spend 2 hours on YouTube watching pop videos (mostly of dancing pumpkins).  If she hadn't been unwell, this wouldn't have been OK in my books.  The new YouTube kids app allows you to set a timebox that your child can use the app for - this helps set expectations between you and your child for how much they can watch.  I like to apply my own limits, but I can see how this might help others.

The search capability in the app is excellent.  Lara has used it to search for videos of tudor houses as part of a school project - the font and icons throughout the app are all big and round which means Lara can easily read and access everything she needs.  There are also menu options which take you straight to music videos or education videos.  If you explore, you can still find your fair share of cat videos too!

From within the app you can easily cast to a bigger screen using Chromecast, Apple TV or to your smart TV.  We tend to find the big screen makes the viewing experience even more fun - we all watched SuperTed together the other day!

The user experience of the YouTube kids app is probably the most noticeable high point of the app because it is just so instantly accessible to children.  However, to me the biggest plus point is that, unlike the online YouTube experience, this app isn't tied to a Google account and doesn't feature any of the things like likes or shares which come with your traditional logged-in account on YouTube.  It is just a simple, exploratory viewing experience suitable for little people.

I love this app.  It does everything I was hoping for and it now means I can happily leave Lara to explore the exciting world of videos without having to lose my mellowness!
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