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

Friday 30 January 2015

Giltterbelle, the Sparkliest Princess. A book review.

Glitterbelle is worried that she isn't a true princess.  Everyone knows the story of the princess and the pea but Glitterbelle doesn't like peas and, much to her mother's frustration, won't eat her peas!

When princess Glitterbelle's friends start pointing out that she doesn't behave much like a princess, she really starts to become concerned.  Thankfully, Glitterbelle does pass the ultimate princess test and proves herself worthy of her title!

Giltterbelle (a character by Rachael Duckett and Harriest Muncaster) is the subject of The Sparkliest Princess Ever which is a series of books targetted at girls of Lara's age (she's nearly 6).  The book is filled with collage-style imagery made from a mixture of photographs and illustrations... and, of course, lots of sparkly bits.

The combination of princesses and sparkliness, with a bit of fun behaviour thrown in means that it is perfectly suited to Lara and she loved the story when I read it to her.

I think Lara's enjoyment of the tale of Glitterbelle, the most sparkly of princesses, was heightened by the accompanying book, Glitterbelle Doodle, Dazzle, Create.  This book is a creative activity book filled with themed activities based on the Glitterbelle princess character and her friends.

The activity book is so well pitched at girls of 5-8 - absolutely spot on.  Each page includes either a drawing activity designed to encourage imagination, a writing activity, a puzzle or a hands-on activity such as a cut-out craft idea, a game or a recipe to make.  Packed full of jewelllery, tiaras, dresses and general sparkliness, Lara has whiled away hours making up her own designs and working, on her own, towards many of the activities.

Glitterbelle. Doodle, Dazzle, Create also comes with a little notepad held inside a tin - the perfect place for secret doodles and messages.  At £4.99 I think this activity book is a bargain because it contains as much fun and entertainment as several regular kids magazines would!

The Glitterbelle books are published by Parragon and you can find out more about princess Glitterbelle at You can follow Parragon Books on twitter and as @parragonbooks on instagram and pinterest.

I received this product from the publisher for free. However, they have not paid me for this review, and they do not exercise any editorial control over my review or anything else on this site.


Monday 26 January 2015

The Playful Parent - A Very Mellow Book Review

I think it is fair to say that this past month has been the single most stressful of my career, and that of Mr. B. And so, I am very thankful to have rediscovered my Mellow Mummy status this month with thanks to the inspiration from the #31days2015 campaign and #ThePlayfulParent, a very mellow parenting approach by Julia Deering, author of The Playful Parent. You can find out more about the #31Days2015 campaign on twitter or tumblr.

There is one overriding lesson I have learned from The Playful Parent, and that is to plan. I think my "Mellow" approach to parenting had ruled out "planning" as an option, favouring a re-active approach to parenting. But, having read through Julia's book, I can see that I have all of the skills of play with my two girls already, I just need to be well prepared to deploy my skills when the girls need me. It isn't any use knowing how to make 101 creative craft activities if you don't have the materials on hand to make them. It isn't any use knowing that (a) a kitchen colander and (b) coloured pipe cleaners can make the simplest of toys if you have neither a nor b available. I've made an effort this month to plan my evenings and weekends to make sure that I have a few fun activities already pre-prepped and ready for action.

And yes, i think it has made a difference.

This weekend was the ultimate test. Mr. B. was away for much of the weekend so I was in charge of girls, and food, and fun. Because Mr. B. and I share so much of the time at home, it always seems to tip the balance disproportionately when one or other of us is away. But this weekend was unlike most. It was calm, and fun.

We made pink and orange cupcakes. We played "shops". We read books together. We made shrinkie dinks. We coloured in pictures of barns. We swept leaves. We played "cars". And most of all, we danced. I can't actually remember a weekend with less shouting of "Noooooooo". This makes me happy.

At the end of The Playful Parent there is a little chart as an example of how to plan out your days, very much like I would expect the nursery workers at Holly's nursery to have to fill out ahead of each week. I don't think I'll go as far as drawing up a chart (maybe I would if I were home alone with Holly during the weekdays?) but it certainly does help me to have an idea of two to four fun activities that I can have ready for when I need them.

The final chapter in The Playful Parent is about sanity savers. The chapter started with an explanation of some of the science behind why toddlers and young children behave "badly", especially for their parents. It does help to remind yourself of the emotional and physical changes and learning that is taking place in your toddler's body. I think I'm guilty of expecting too much from Holly, as a little sister. At present, I feel more confident about "managing" her "bad" behaviour and helping to calm her down by ensuring that she always has lots of play opportunities at home.

You can find out more about The Playful Parent on Julia's website and the Harper Collins website.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Five Great Sources of Inspiration for Home Decorators

2014 was a big year of changes in our house and now that 2015 is here, I'm beginning to think about decorating another room of the house. If you are going to decorate a room in 2015, then take the time to have a look around and gain inspiration from a range of sources. Having a nosey online gives you a chance to really think about what you want and find out about the latest home decor trends. Here are some places you can turn to for additional home decor inspiration.

Show Homes
Not many people see show houses for inspiration, but they can be a great source of ideas for colours and designs because they are usually styled by professional home decor specialists. When you visit a show home, you can take your time and have a good look around but you do have to be ready to talk homes with a sales representative!

Most firms do not mind you opening the cupboards and trying out the storage solutions. Show homes are decorated to a high standard and they tend to feature all of the latest mod cons, including new storage ideas that you can use in your own kitchen and bedroom cupboards.

In a show house, you can look at every room, so get inspiration for any area of your home. It is normally also fine to take photos, which you can use when speaking to your decorator or shopping for furniture.

Pinterest is a fantastic place to get visual inspiration. My advice is to avoid the commercial boards to start with.  Start by finding people with similar taste to you and investigate their boards. Once you have some ideas from those photo boards look for something similar on commercial Pintrest boards to find places to buy what you need.  My Mellow HQ board is where I pin ideas for my future decorating projects.

Furniture showrooms and websites
This one is obvious, but furniture showrooms and websites are great sources for decorating ideas. Most firms set their furniture in mock rooms that are decorated in the latest styles. This means that even if you do not want new furniture you can still use them as a source of home decor ideas and inspiration.

Home decor magazines
If I am planning to update a room in my home, I still like to browse a couple of home decor magazines.  In the days of Pinterest, it feels like an old-fashioned way of looking for inspiration, but it still works for me. Perhaps it is because that is how I used to plan updates to my home or perhaps it is because you can just sit back and relax while flicking through a magazine. I am not sure what it is about magazines, but I do know that they are a fantastic place to find new ideas when decorating a home.

Your neighbour’s homes
Naturally, you do not want your home to end up looking like everyone else’s in the street, so many people do not think of looking at their neighbour’s homes for inspiration. However, you could be missing out by taking this approach.

You do not have to copy the decorating style of your neighbour’s homes exactly. Looking at your neighbour’s rooms can still give you ideas, which you can use in your home.  Because the layout and dimensions of your neighbour’s homes are similar to yours it can really help you when trying to decide whether you have room for a table in the kitchen, or a home office on the landing.

It is also great for judging how a new piece of furniture may look in your home. The last thing you need is to buy a lovely super-sized sofa with chaise only to find that whilst it fits into your lounge it overwhelms everything else.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of home decorating ideas inspiration sources, but these are my favourites and I am sure you will find using them helpful.

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration for Emblem Furniture, but that doesn't stop it being fun to read

Monday 19 January 2015

Charlie Cook's Favourite Book

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are perhaps the most successful author-illustrator partnership of all time and I can't believe that I am still discovering books of theirs that we have get to read.  Charlie Cook's Favourite Book is one such book and, thanks to this sparkly new 10th Anniversary special edition, we've discovered another children's classic picture book to enjoy over and over again.

Charlie Cook's Favourite book is a very clever rhyming tale about a little boy who is reading his favourite book about a pirate... who finds a book about some bears... who have a book about a knight... who reads a book about... You get the idea.

Each double page represents a new book within a book and is amazingly illustrated to look like a book, or a magazine, or an encyclopedia.  I think these are some of my favourite Axel Scheffler illustrations and it is great to be able to see just a hint of the work that went into them in the sketches and watercolour paintings at the start and end of this special edition version.

Needless to say that Lara loved this story and she too thought that the book within a book concept was a very clever one indeed!  Lara is currently doing a school Read-a-thon and it did cross her mind that she might be able to count Charlie Cook's Favourite book as 10 books instead of one!

The 10th Anniversary Edition of Charlie Cook's Favourite book features a sparkly metallic-style front cover, never-before-seen early sketches for the illustrations and a special foreword by Julia Donaldson.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Meet our breakfast Weetabuddies!

At the weekends we usually have a little more time to relax and enjoy breakfast time than we do before school during the week so this weekend I prepped a vast array of different fruits and then let the girls loose with an array of healthy fruits, nuts and spreads so that they could hand-craft their own Weetabuddies.

Weetabix have created a collection of Weetabuddies to make breakfast that little bit more fun.  Each Weetabuddy has its own character and really comes to life once you get to know them!  I challenged the girls to make their own Weetabix characters - even myself and Mr. B. had a go at creating one as well - an entire mellow family of Weetabuddies.

Making a Weetabuddy is easy. 

Step 1. Grab a Weetabix biscuit.
Step 2. Top with lots of fresh or dried fruit, yoghurt, spreads or nuts to make a cheeky character of your choice
Step 3. Take a photo of your Weetabuddy and upload it to between now and the end of March 2015 to win prizes each day (and of course, fame for your Weetabuddy).
Step 4. Devour (well... that's what we did!)

Meet our Weetabuddy family.

The girls loved making Weetabuddies so much that I intend to make this a regular occurrance.  They both love fruit but I tend to avoid giving them 'just' fruit for breakfast and this is a great way of making sure that they have a balanced intake at breakfast time to keep them fuelled properly for the day.  It was also a brilliant way of convincing the rather fussy Lara that she really does enjoy cereal at breakfast time (we knew she did!)

Wednesday 14 January 2015

#31Days2015 - Playful Parenting (very mellow!)

This January I am "living" the playful parenting approach that Julia Deering introduces in her book, The Playful Parent as part of the Harper Collins 31 days of inspiration.  Harper Collins have brought together a selection of 31 of their most inspiring well-being publications. With tips and tricks on happiness, professional development, learning languages, diets, parenting, health and general well-being, you can find out more about the #31Days2015 campaign and sign up for regular emails or follow them on twitter or tumblr.

They Playful Parent, by Julia Deering claims that it can teach me 7 ways to happier, calmer, more creative days with my toddler.  Regular readers will know that with my second child, Holly, I have struggled to maintain my "mellow" mummy status and that, on very many occasions, I find Holly's behavior to push the very limit of my mellowness.  This book sounded like the secret to smoothing out our relationship and harnessing the fun, playful side of Holly rather than the wild, uncontrollable side.

The Playful Parent instantly gave me inspiration.  From January 1st I applied just a couple of the ideas from the first few chapters and saw some small changes straight away.  Something simple such as bringing in our pop-up lay tunnel from the garage (we considered it an outdoors toy) and bringing it into the living room provided a whole new angle of fun for the girls which was new, and exciting for them.

Julia Deering teaches playful parenting through 7 different types of play:-

1. Chores, not bores
2. 10-second set-ups
3. Invitations to play
4. Invitations to create
5. Make and Take
6. Stay and Play
7. Sanity savers

So far, I have read chapters 1-4 and I'm feeling a new level of enthusiasm for tackling the bad behaviour in our house through a relaxed and mellow approach to parenting, which is exactly the way I'd like things to be.  For me, I haven't learned anything ground-breaking because I do feel like I have already (whether consciously or sub-consciously) built a home with lots of different invitations to play and create and I do "know" lots of techniques for encouraging play... I think I just lack the discipline.

One thing I've learned in the past two weeks is that using play to help build a calm and happy relationship with your toddler or pre-schooler requires a little planning.  Beyond preparing places in your home or garden that can be play-spaces, you need to ensure that you have materials or ideas for play on hand.  I LOVED Julia's chapter on 10-second set-ups which are play ideas that take no more than 10 seconds to get going when you need them - including picture book ideas and song ideas that accompany the play recommendations.  In general, I've traditionally been against taking "distractions" for the girls out with us when we go out for dinner because I'd rather they were socialising with us than head-down in a colouring book... however, when we went out for dinner with colleagues this weekend, I went armed with two or three small play ideas (paper for folding, coloured cards for sorting and a magazine for Lara) and I will admit that it did make the whole experience feel a little bit more manageable.

I've tried lots of the ideas from Julia's book already.  From lifting out the contents of my baking cupboard for Holly to play filling the living room full of balloons.  From laying out a few tempting craft items on the dining table for when we get in from work... to letting Holly be in charge of "making" dinner (something we do a lot of anyway but normally only at the weekend).  There is nothing new or different about most of these things - they are things we tend to do as a family already but I guess the difference is that I'm consciously finding the time to prepare these activities.  I do feel a little less stressed when I'm better prepared with some ideas like these.

This weekend I plan to put in place lots of Julia's ideas for 10-second set-ups so that, if I'm in need of a distraction when preparing the dinner, or sorting out the washing then I have a quick play idea that I can whip out of the cupboard and turn a potential boredom moment into a play moment instead. From a make-up bag full of grown-up beauty product sample bottles for pretend play, to a big carrier bag full of fabric offcuts... I'm beginning to realise that anything can be deemed an invitation to play.  I just need to make sure I have some of these things prepared and ready for deployment when I need them!

I'm really looking forward to seeing whether there are more clever ideas in chapter 7 - Sanity Savers.  I'll be posting my progress on twitter and back here on the blog before the month is out.

You can find out more about The Playful Parent on Julia's website and the Harper Collins website.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Tales from Acorn Wood, Hide-and-Seek Pig Book Review

Despite a love of all things Julia Donaldson, I had never come across the Tales from Acorn Wood before.  Hide-and-Seek Pig is a new board book released to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Tales from Acorn Wood series of books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

Hide-and-Seek Pig is a beautiful board book with lift-the-flap pages.  It is perfectly suited to Holy who is 2 and a half and who loves to sit on her bed and "read" a book alone.  The book is part of a collection of new lift-the-flap books featuring Acorn Wood characters such as Postman Bear, a forgetful fox and rabbit, who naps!

In Hide-and-Seek pig, little pig is looking for her friend hen and looks under, over and behind lots of little obstacles (great opportunities for your child to investigate independently behind the little flaps on each page).  The book features the recognisable rhyming fun of Julia Donaldson's writing style and the awesomely fabulous animal characters from Gruffalo-illustrator Axel Scheffler.

Holly loves this book.  So much so that I'm thinking of buying her the set, all of which are beautifully illustrated and with sparkly foil lettering on the front cover.  She actively seeks this book out in the bookcase at bedtime and will not let me read it to her... she has to "read" it.


Wednesday 7 January 2015

The House of Magic DVD Review

This Christmas, Lara wrote her own Christmas list for Father Christmas.  On that list there were lots of Frozen-related goodies, sparkly pens, roller skates and the DVD of The House of Magic which she had seen at the cinema with Daddy during the school holidays and enjoyed so much that she wanted to watch it again.

The House of Magic is an animated tale of Thunder the cat who is abandoned by his owners when they move house and who stumbles into a creepy yet fascinating old house which is home to a funny old man, Lawrence, who used to be a magician.  Lawrence has a number of magical friends such as a big white rabbit, a mute light bulb and a little white mouse.  Thunder becomes part of the family.

Lawrence and his clan of magical creatures are trying to protect the magic house from being bulldozed by the man's nephew who is an over-eager estate agent.  The tale is a familiar struggle between greedy family and ageing man but with the added twist of magical creatures.

Lara really enjoys the animation in The House of Magic.  The people are recognisably people and the animals have realistic shapes - it isn't overly stylised and Lara likes that.  Neither myself nor Mr. B. were totally enthralled by the story but there is something in it that really struck Lara (age 5).  Perhaps it is because it is the first time that Lara has really understood the emotional element of a film - the struggle between a greedy family member and an honest one.

Unlike most children's movies, the House of Magic features some strong "baddy" characters.  Not only the nephew but also Jack the white rabbit and Maggie the mouse who start plotting to get Thunder the cat kicked out of the house.  It's thought provoking.  Of course, by the end of the movie, all of the animals become friends when Thunder the cat helps the team pull together not only to save the house (well, nearly) but to save each other.

Our The House of Magic DVD was a little Christmas gift from Father Christmas, aka Cash Generator who buy and sell lots of goods, including DVDs and Blu Ray.

Monday 5 January 2015

My 2015 Resolutions

I never used to be someone to make New Year's Resolutions.  But, ever since starting this blog, I've felt compelled to blog my annual resolutions.  Somehow, writing them down and publishing them for the world to see helps me to keep my resolutions!

1. Stay Happy
Work wise, 2015 is going to be very challenging.  I have big projects ahead with ambitious deadlines and a variety of challenges.  Mr. B. and I both know that when work gets stressful, the stress rubs off on the two girls and behaviour starts to become an issue.  So for this reason, I'm promising myself and my family that I'll not let work get to me.  If I can stay within a reasonable stress boundary and embrace happiness then we'll all keep smiles on our faces.

2. Keep Running

My training for #TeamChallenge10 continues.  Before very long I should be able to run 10 miles without stopping.  This is mental!  I have my first half marathon scheduled for March this year.  I'm promising myself that even after I've reached that big hurdle, and when we all complete our Team Challenge 10 mile run that I will continue running.  I can feel all of the health benefits that running is bringing me and I don't want them to stop.

3. Spend Less
Mr. B. will be grateful for this one.  I don't think we spend a lot on unnecessary stuff anyway but we do seem to have massive outgoings every month.  Lots of that is on savings for the girls and for us but lots of it is also on bills and food and luxuries.  This year, I'm going to find us some ways of bringing down the everyday cost of living our lives.  This way we can save the money to spend on holidays.  Perfect.

4. Look after the Garden
This is the year that I'll give the garden some TLC.  I've no idea where I will find the time to do so but I want our garden to feel loved.  That way it'll bring us lots of lovely fruit and veg.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Lexia First Reading and Writing Learning Workbooks Review

Everybody Learns is an online learning support company who provide materials for parents and teachers to help maximise your children's learning potential.  Everybody Learns believes that everyone has the potential to read and write to high levels, you just need to find the stimulus to harness it.  We've been reviewing some foundation level, first writing and reading exercise workbooks from the Everybody Learns range.

The Lexia First Reading and Writing workbook series accompanies the Lexia Reading programme which is a piece of software that you subscribe to to help your child develop their reading skills.  The workbooks work very effectively without the software though and Lara has really thrown herself into them.

The Lexia reading and writing workbooks come in pairs and can be used from foundation level right up to older readers.  I started Lara on level 3 book 1 which I think is a little below her current reading level but I wanted to get her used to the types of exercises to expect in the Lexia books (and, being the school holidays, I didn't want to frighten her off with too much 'homework').  I think Lara is probably a little unusual in that she absolutely loves the challenge of sitting with an exercise book and working her way through them - we've had a lot of success in the past with maths workbooks but I'd never tried reading and writing skills beyond simply tracing letters.

At the very early levels, the Lexia workbooks do feature letter tracing, but by level 3 and 4 they feature a lot more comprehension and practice of the common phonemes using real works and sensible sentence-building exercises.

Lara actively chooses to fill in a page or two every time she happens to walk past the table.  She can spend 5 minutes, or 30 minutes.  The book she is currently working on features words she knows well and uses sounds she knows well but it is great practice for her to write full sentences and to repeat common patterns and sounds.  If she whizzes through this book, I will move her onto level 4 which seems a bit more advanced.

As a parent to a second child, I can really see that Holly is soaking up everything that her big sister learns.  Even at 2.5 years old, Holly wants to be reading and writing and will copy her sister. I can't see it being very long before Holly starts the first of the Lexia workbooks to start learning letter sounds and shapes with me.

Lara's school is a very "mellow" and relaxed school and I simply cannot imagine them ever sitting down to perform a reading or writing activity that follows this much structure.  I think this is why Lara enjoys it so much - it is something very different for her and so she doesn't see it as a chore, or a challenge.

The Lexia First Reading and Writing workbook series also features a brightly-coloured laminated alphabet frieze that you can use to decorate a room.  You can buy complete sets but generally the individual packs of workbooks come in pairs which costs about £8.49 which is a really good price compared to the less-comprehensive workbooks you can find on the high street.  I'm really impressed and can imagine Lara happily continuing to work her way through these books alongside her existing school work.

Saturday 3 January 2015

#TeamChallenge10 Jantastic!

2015 is the year that I will run 10 miles non-stop as part of the Team Challenge 10 mile run in June.  To top that, 2015 is the year I will run my first half marathon.  And, all going to plan, 2015 is the year that I will run 10 km in less than 1 hour.

My #TeamChallenge10 journey has stalled a little over Christmas. I had great intentions and desperately wanted to get our running but I pulled a groin muscle on the 22nd December, attempted to run when injured on Boxing Day and then regretted it.  I could barely walk for a couple of days and then decided to chill out and recover fully before trying again.  It was heartbreaking watching all of my running friends clocking up the miles without me.

So, when the injury is fully recovered, it is going to take quite a lot to get me up off the sofa and out into the cold again. I blogged a little while ago about clever ways of making sure that I get out of the house and keep running of the wintery months and in the new year, my ingenious technique will be... Jantastic.

The Jantastic challenge starts on the 5th of February. Jantastic is an online community fitness programme designed to encourage and motivate participants to set and achieve their personal health and fitness goals for January to March. It's FREE and you can join in on your own, or as part of a team (I'm part of team RMR - the biggest movement of running mummies the world has ever seen!)

Over the period of the challenge you can set your own fitness goals for running, cycling and swimming (or a combination of all of them). You set your own personal goals through the Jantastic website and be receive regular motivation, reminders and encouragement, inspiring you to achieve their goals through the tough winter months. I've heard great things from last year and can't wait to join in this year - I'm hoping it will help me prep for my half marathon in late March.

When you run (or cycle or swim) with Jantastic you can also raise money for one of their nominated charities by getting your friends or family to sponsor you to meet your goals.

The other thing that I've done to help spurr me on in the new year is to sign up for Bounts rewards at . Bounts gives you rewards for every time you do exercise (either by linking to a Strava or fitness app or when you check in at your local registered gym).  You clock up points which can be used to exchange for rewards such as shopping vouchers.  If you use my code button1405 when you sign up, we both get bonus points.

Friday 2 January 2015

My British Gas Home Truths

If you are an avid reader of Mellow Mummy then you will know that 2014 was the year in which we had to re-decorate rather unexpectedly.  As I look back now through my blog posts for the past 12 months I can see that we had promised ourselves that we would redecorate the hallway as one of our new year's resolutions - well, we did that AND SOME!

Our house has always been planned as a long-term investment.  A house that was more or less ship-shape but which could be updated one room at a time over a long period as we evolve with it.  Year one we decorated our bedroom, year two the garden, year three the playroom and year four was intended to be the hallway.  Then our rather highly-strung two year old left the tap running one day and all our plans had to change.


After the flood we had to re-floor the entire downstairs of the house.  The hallway redecorations were suddenly accelerated and we had to re-fit the downstairs bathroom.  We took the opportunity to entirely redecorate the downstairs bathroom and, given that we were going to have to live in bathroom chaos for several weeks, we decided to bring forward our plans for year five - replace the upstairs bathroom too!


British Gas have worked with Channel 4 to put together a portal of videos which show what a home means to different people in their Home Truths Hub.  As an example, this family had to have a rethink about their home when they become proud parents of triplets!

Our house is slowly ticking over.  It isn't a project.  It is a house that can change at a leisurely pace as our tastes change and as our family needs change.  In 2015 we will spend a bit more time looking after the garden and save up some money for some big changes to the main living spaces.  I'm still holding off updating the girl's bedroom until they grow out of the pink stage!

This post was produced in collaboration with British Gas.

Thursday 1 January 2015

A Very Mellow 2015

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of my scrumptious readers for following Mellow Mummy during 2014 and to wish you all a prosperous and very Mellow new year.

Image courtesy of and Krishna arts

Here's to fabulousness in 2015!
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