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

Thursday 30 July 2015

Squeaky Jumpers Review

Holly is growing faster than I care to acknowledge.  Within the space of the last two months, Holly has magically transformed from a boisterous toddler to a talkative, tall young girl.  Holly is such a fun, smiley young girl with a cheeky streak and this beautiful brightly coloured sweatshirt from Squeaky Jumpers is a perfect match for her - it has its own cheeky little surprise as well.

Inside Holly's children's sweatshirt, one of the frogs is backed by a squeaker!  Sealed safely inside the fabric of the jumper, the squeaker has already provided so much fun - it certainly takes strangers by surprise!

Squeaky Jumpers are fun, novelty sweatshirts designed and made in the UK - the best thing is that they aren't just for kids!  Squeaky Jumpers make squeaky animal sweatshirts for men and women too.  Each jumper features a bold animal print such as frogs, dogs and pigs; on each design one of the prints is backed by the squeaker.

Holly thinks that this jumper is the business.  She loves it, and, as you can see, she's a bit of a poser in it.  This makes me ecstatic because, in recent times, Holly has actively refused a jumper or cardigan of any sort.  I think that the fleecy inside of the jumper helps because it means that its soft and comfortable to wear.

I'm extremely pleased with the quality of the jumper, especially around the neck and cuffs - the print is great too (nice and thick).  You can certainly tell that the quality of the product has been put high on the list of Squeaky Jumpers priorities.

Squeaky Jumpers are available for children ages 2-12 from around £24.99 and for adults from around £39.95.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

NEW! - The Furchester Hotel CBeebies Magazine

This week sees the launch of a brand new CBeebies magazine aimed at preschoolers -  The Furchester Hotel.  Based on the hit CBeebies programme, The Furchester Hotel CBeebies magazine is packed full of the bright friendly faces of Elmo and his aunt, uncle, cousin and friends in the Furchester-Fuzz family.

Holly is just at the perfect age to start reading and enjoying CBeebies magazines as she is starting to be able to write basic letters and numbers, and understands the challenged of puzzles.  Together, I read Holly the pages and she fills in all of the answers, sticks on the appropriate sticker or colours in the pages. It's teamwork and she absolutely LOVES it.  It is very unusual for Holly to spend more than 5 minutes doing any one thing, but a magazine such as the Furchester Hotel magazine seems to capture her attention as it offers lots of different points of interaction.

On the first edition of the new Furchester Hotel CBeebies Magazine there is a make-and-do project to make portraits of all of the brightly coloured characters from the show.  Everything you need to make four portrait frames including fuzzy felt, googly eyes and foam frames.  Holly loved this and created her own masterpieces.

Inside there are stickers to place on almost every page.  I was very pleased to see that Holly really wanted to put the stickers in the right place (rather than her normal "stick-everything-in-one-big-pile" approach.  She seemed to genuinely want to work through the magazine and tackle all of the challenges from counting to spotting, from sorting to sizing.  There are basic pre-school maths, reading and writing challenges to keep your children busy and encourage them to start applying simple pre-school skills with a fun angle.

Holly most enjoyed filling in a comparison of herself with Elmo.  She was very excited to learn that Elmo is 3 and a half and enjoyed tracing his name.  I taught her to write the number 3 (her own age) which she found very tricky but was unbelievably proud when she managed it.  Afterwards, she drew a picture of her favourite thing - a cucumber! (Elmo's favourite is the cookie monster).

This was also Holly's first experience of simple mazes (this helps them to practice pen control) and puzzles.  The Furchester Hotel magazine also features several colouring pages which are particularly fun to fill in because of all of the brightly coloured monsters.

This monthly magazine is out now.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Children's Book Review :: Smelly Louie

Lara, in particular, is very fond of Catherine Rayner's book, Ernest, in which a little friend struggles to get Ernest the moose onto one page of a book.  Lara was very excited to find that Catherine Rayner's new book, Smelly Louie, is out now.

Louie is a scraggeldy raggeldy dog who really doesn't like baths.  Baths smell of roses and apple blossom but Louie wants to smell of... Louie.  This dog on a mission goes in search of that certain something that will restore his own particular pong.

On his journey, Louie the dog is helped by a few animal friends to find the stinkiest of stinks for Louie to roll around in but still Louie can't quite get his own smell back. What is it that Louie is still lacking in the stink department?

Smelly Louie features beautiful sketches and watercolours of animals that really help to set the stinky, smelly, raggedy scene for the story.  Holly especially likes the fox who has a dark coat with a fresh white face.  Lara likes the stinky bins that make her go "eeeew" every time she sees them.

There is something very appealing to children about smells, dirt and disgusting-ness and despite wrinkling up their noses when I read Smelly Louie to them, both of my girls giggle each time Louie finds another stinky option.

We loved this book and I think it will become as much of a bedtime picture book favourite as Ernest.


Sunday 26 July 2015

Children's Book Review :: Where's Bear?

Holly, recently turned three, is really REALLY enjoying her "reading" right now.  Holly spends many a happy hour at nursery "reading" to her friends and to the staff and this last week she asked if she could take Where's Bear? into nursery to read with her friends.  

Holly does a very good job of "reading" this board book by award-winning author and illustrator, Emily Gravett.  For a book which was only published this month, Holly has read this so many times that she is now able to recite it.  She LOVES counting from 1 to 10 with Hare as he plays hide and seek with his good friend Bear and she giggles every time Bear finds another ridiculous hiding place...

...Bear really isn't very good at Hide n' Seek!  Finally, Hare gives up trying and so they change roles.  It turns out that both Hare AND Bear are pretty good at hiding.

The repetition and counting are really what makes this book so good for preschoolers.  The book has a natural rhythm that children get drawn into and both Holly and Lara (now 6) giggle every time they read it.  It puts smiles on their faces.

Where's Bear is the third book in the Bear and Hare board book series.


Friday 24 July 2015

Childs Farm Bubble Bath for Bucaneers

As you probably know by now, Lara and Holly both have very sensitive skin which dries easily so we try to be careful with which products we use on their skin at bathtimes.  One of our favourite brands, Childs Farm, has just launched a new raspberry-scented Bubble Bath for Bucaneers which is specifically designed for children with sensitive or eczema-prone skin.

Childs Farm 3-in-1 Swim Shampoo has become one of our family staples, due in part to its strong, yet natural scent that the girls both find fun. This Bubble Bath for Bucaneers is no different; the strong raspberry scent comes from raspberry extract and it very much reminds me of our recent visit to the pick-your-own farm in which Holly devoured her own weight in raspberries!  The smell is definitely one that the girls will remember and remind them of bathtimes as they grow older and yet you can feel comfortable knowing that the bubble bath isn't packed full of artificial ingredients which could wreak havoc on their skin.

The girls love the smell, and the bubbles - it just goes to show that a bubble bath doesn't need to be brightly coloured to get the kids interested in it!  Its gentle on the skin and a fun way to finish the day, getting out of the bath smelling summery and fresh.

picking fresh raspberries

Childs Farm bubble bath is available from John Lewis, Ocado and Boots.  Look out for other fun products in their range including hair detangler, hand and body lotion, hand wash, conditioner and hair & body wash.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Leapfrog Discover Summer Club, and Leapreader Interactive World Map Review

The end of term is here, and the end of year one for Lara who has really enjoyed the past year at school. The six weeks holiday ahead of us seems like a long time but I just know it will whiz by.

Leapfrog know how important it is to keep our children learning, but with a little less pressure, during the school holidays so that they can build upon all the reading, writing and maths skills they've acquired during the school year. Lots of parents worry (not me though, as I'm the mellow mummy!) about their children returning to school in the autumn having forgotten some of the things they've learned so Leapfrog have set up the Discover Summer Club to help provide ideas for six weeks of fun learning activities to keep kids laughing, thinking and secretly learning over the summer.  There are free downloads and a regular email with activities... PLUS the chance to win a Center Parcs break.

As part of the Leapfrog Blogger Panel, Lara was sent a copy of the Leapfrog Leapreader Interactive World Map which is an absolutely brilliant learning resource.  I would go as far as to say that it is the best Leapfrog product I have tried since I first discovered Leapfrog products, nearly 6 years ago.

The World Map is designed to work with the Leapreader interactive reading aid.  The map has two sides, one traditional atlas-style map and the other is a more illustrative map with pictures of people, animals and landmarks across the globe.  As you place the Leapreader onto the map it will read the name of the country and tell you about the things you are looking at.  As a first introduction to world geography, it is an incredible tool. Lara instantly took to it and wanted to explore every detail of the globe.

Both sides of the map feature a series of interactive games that you can play with the Leapreader pen and which encourage you to explore the map and learn fun world facts.  Our absolute favourite of these games involves locating as many named countries on the map as you can within a fixed time period.  There are three levels so it is as suitable for a 4 year old as it is for a 40 year old.  In fact, grown-ups seem to find it an irresistible challenge once a record is set that has to be beaten.  Would you be able to locate Guineau-Bissau under pressure?

I'm really pleased that Lara is enjoying her interactive world map because I have fond memories as a child of exploring my parent's printed world atlas - this feels like the equivalent! In just a couple of weeks I've seen Lara's knowledge of countries, continents and points of the compass improve noticeably.  I'm also glad to see that Lara has a renewed interest in her Leapreader (many of our existing books are now a little young for her).  I'm looking forward to seeing how often Lara dips into this map over the school holidays.


Monday 20 July 2015

Race for Life - WE DID IT!!!

Yesterday, Lara and I joined nearly 2000 women and children at Prospect Park in Reading to run the Cancer Research UK Race for Life.  Almost a year since I ran my own first 5km race, Lara ran her first.

It was tough.  Even at 10 o'clock in the morning, the sun was high and the park had very little shade to offer. Our 5 kilometre route took us up and down the park through the fields and up a very steep path indeed.  Lara struggled.  She went off fast with a smile on her face but my 1 mile she was hot and tired.  We walked for most of the middle of the race and Lara needed a lot of convincing to carry on going!  We talked about why we were there, and why people had sponsored us to take on such a tricky challenge - to raise money to fund vital research into the causes of, treatment of and prevention of cancer.

At about 4km we were able to see the finish line.  The promise of a shiny medal, a drink, and a chocolate spurred her on and we ran the final stretch hand-in-hand through the crowds.  Despite Lara's reluctance, she finished with a beaming smile as she picked up her medal, knowing that she had beaten her own previous 5k personal best with a race time of 38:42.  Lara was really dressed the part for her race in her own "active wear" so that she looked like Mummy! stock sports and activewear for young and old.

Over the past few months, Lara and I have been collecting sponsors for our Race for Life.  This weekend, we smashed our target of £500.  When we started, I set a very adventurous target that I thought would help drive us both on the day - knowing that so many people have donated their hard-earned cash for you to run is a great incentive to keep moving.  I'm very proud of us both to have raised the full target amount.

At each Race for Life venue you can also donate unwanted goods at their Donation Stations, the proceeds also going to charity.  Every stall at the event also contributes a portion of their profits to the charity as well.  As we were running, Holly bought us both a special pink gerbera to celebrate our success!

The event itself was well organised; easy to get in and out of, lots of space, plenty of toilets and a pretty park route.  It was the perfect event for a race newbie because there was no pressure or expectation of time.  You could choose to run, jog or walk the 5k route and everyone was so supportive.

Lara and I have been very proud to be part of the Cancer Research UK Race for Life this year. #PinkArmy.  If you fancy joining in with the Race For Life challenge yourself then I have a £2 discount code off the cost of entry to any 2015 Race for Life.  Just quote RFLMel when entering the race online.  if you do join up, please leave me a comment below to let me know when and where you will be running - it'd be great to give each other support.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Laser Pegs Construction Toy Review

Lara is very much into construction toys at present.  Almost every weekend is spent building new creations from bricks, creating, destroying and then building again.

Laser Pegs are an exciting construction toy with a bit of a difference...the bricks light up.  Using connectors to a power base, you can make your creations light up or flash.  Lara was sent a Laser Pegs Racing Car Kit to review and threw herself into creating it.

The bricks in the Laser Pegs set are very similar to those in other construction toys, and in fact, you can join them together with your existing bricks to help bring a new dimension to your traditional bricks.  Most of the Laser Pegs bricks are translucent in bright colours to really allow them to dazzle when the lights shine through them.  The kit contains a number of special Laser Peg blocks which connect together to allow the electric current to pass through and light up the bulbs inside - these blocks are very easy to slot together but I found the more traditional bricks to be hard to squeeze together.

Lara enjoyed the change in this set and liked slotting the larger pieces together but she was totally blown away when she first plugged the car into the triangle power base and saw it light up.  A single button allows you to switch to different flashing modes.

Lara's Laser Pegs kit claims to allow to construct 12 different models but it only provides instructions (very easy to follow instructions) for one of them and pictures for the rest. You can download the instructions for the other models online using the QR code from the box.

Laser Pegs

The lights on the Laser Pegs car kit look most impressive in the dark but its still pretty fun during the day. I'm looking forward to seeing how Lara gets creative when combining the pieces with her existing construction bricks to make her own creations.

Laser Pegs kits are available in a number of different designs and cost from £14.99; they are suitable from 5 years upwards.


Friday 17 July 2015

Roald Dahl - My Messy Adventure

If you are looking for a fun idea to entertain the children over the summer holidays, why not let them try making up their own free 'My Messy Adventure' story using the handy online story-creator from Persil at

For the first time ever, some of the best loved  Roald Dahl characters have been brought together in a brand new interactive adventure by Persil, the Roald Dahl Literary Estate and the illustrator, Quentin Blake.

The ‘My Messy Adventure’ story is a tool which helps your child to create their very own Roald Dahl story featuring themselves as one of the main characters who stars alongside The Witches, Matilda or James (of Giant Peach fame).  Each story evolves with your child as they choose options and take photos to fill the story in their own way.  The story is interactive and prompts your child to get up and take photos of things they can see and collect both indoors and outdoors.  Lara found the reading manageable but I think I would recommend it for assisted reading from about 4 years old and self-reading from about 6 or 7.

Making her own My Messy Adventure

The ‘My Messy Adventure’ story can be accessed on a smartphone or tablet or you can access it from a laptop or PC as long as you have access to some stored photos to use as you go along.  Lara preferred using it on the big screen so she used my phone to take the photos she needed to, then emailed them to herself for use from the laptop.

From the very start of the process, Lara was enthralled.  First up, she had to choose a Quentin Blake illustration that looked like her, so that she could appear throughout the story.  Then she set to work taking photos of places, faces and people as the story unfolded.  She kept disappearing out into the garden to collect things for her story - but that's OK, dirt is good, isn't it?


We very much enjoyed making a Messy Adventure with Persil and I imagine Lara will want to create a few more over the summer!

Look out for special limited edition Persil Small and Mighty wash packs in store!

Thursday 16 July 2015

Our Three Sunset Safari #OnSafariWithThree

This weekend we were incredibly lucky to be invited to Marwell Zoo after hours for our own Sunset Safari thanks to Three.  We had our own private tour of the zoo after all the paying public had left.  it was an amazing opportunity to be introduced to the animals by the zoo keepers themselves and Lara and Holly both loved the experience, getting to chat to the keepers about their favourite animals (the giraffes) and about the magical big cats.

Obviously, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip like this, you want to take a lot of photos to share with family and friends and so Three loaned us one of their LG Spirit handsets for the evening with which to take photos and videos; the idea being to share them online for the world to see.  We were even furnished with our own selfie stick!

Ordinarily I'd be a bit scared of uploading photos and videos while I'm out and about because of the data that they use, but Three were confident that with their Pay As You Go rates (the lowest in the UK market at 3p a minute, 2p a text, 1p per MB of data) we'd be able to share all of our special memories without having to worry about using up all of our credit.

And they were right!  That night I managed to share almost 100 photos, and lots of videos to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and, by the end of the evening, I'd barely made a dent in the credit on the phone.  Awesomeness!

It has been a while since I've used an Android phone and I was really pleasantly surprised by the LG Spirit which I found very easy to configure, and fast to use when taking and uploading my photos.  I managed to take a few really good photos but I'd say that the image quality, when the camera was zoomed, was low.  We loved experimenting with family selfies though!


Wednesday 15 July 2015

Paleo Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes

It is a little over a year since I started my new approach to life.  A healthier, happier me.  I haven't made big changes but last spring, when I decided that I needed to turn things around, I started off with a very big change to my diet which helped me kick start my metabolism - I spent a few weeks on a wholly paleo diet.  Since then, I've learned a few things about generally reducing the amount of grains and unrefined sugar in my diet and I've found a nice settling point for me but I do quite regularly still cook paleo dishes.

For those not familiar with the paleo approach to eating, it is based on the concept that paleolithic man lived a healthy, long life with just the foods that they could forage.  A paleo meal is usually grain-free, dairy-free, and free from refined sugar and refined vegetable oils.  Other foods should be unrefined where possible, and produced using natural processes.

Coconut Oil is big in the world of paleo cookery because it is a healthy, unrefined fat that can be used in both savoury and sweet recipes.  I'd never used it until very recently when Monkey Nutrition asked me to give coconut oil a whirl as part of my healthy eating approach.

Coconut Oil comes in a jar in a solid state.  As it warms, it melts.  In the recent warm weather my jar of coconut oil turned totally liquid and see-through!
coconut oil in its raw form

I've used my coconut oil successfully in paleo curries which I absolutely love and I've even tried it as a simple fat for cooking eggs but I do notice the flavour when I use it this way.  This weekend, I even tried it for baking and I think it is blimming brilliant!!!

I made these paleo chocolate and raspberry cupcakes which are gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free (but they do contain eggs).

I'm not awfully proud of the recipe (I need to work on my sugar-free frosting attempts!), so I'm not going to share it with you in detail but I was actually reasonably surprised at how tasty the cupcakes were, and how much they rose without flour and raising agents.  The girls absolutely loved these cakes.

Raspberry frosting

2 tablespoons of coconut oil
150g raw honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
125g ground almonds or almond flour
65g cocoa powder from a responsible source
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the frosting
30g coconut oil
50g fresh raspberries, plus extra for decoration

Mix all of the ingredients together roughly with a wooden spoon, or an electric mixer.

Place the batter into 9 cupcake cases and cook in an oven (approximately 170 degrees centigrade) for about 25 minutes, until they are risen and the surface of the cake has crusted over.

Allow to cool.

Melt the 30g of coconut oil in the microwave or over a low heat and combine with the fresh raspberries.  Mash with a fork, or an egg-masher and then place in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.

Spread the frosting over the cakes and decorate with fresh raspberries.

Monkey Nutrition's Coconut Oil costs around £10.99 for a 500ml jar.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Barbie Spin 'n Ride Review

In our house, Barbie has now become a firm favourite with both of my girls, aged 3 and 6.  The girls quite regularly will role play and make games up with their Barbie dolls as an occasional game, but it isn't very often that a Barbie toy becomes the primary focus for a few days in a row.  the Barbie Spin 'n Ride set is a bit of a change to this, in that both Lara and Holly seem to return to this play set each evening to play - I think it has a bit more of a "toy" appeal than a "I'm another Barbie doll in my set of role play dolls" appeal.

Barbie Spin 'n Ride doll with puppies

The Barbie Spin 'n Ride doll is a little bit different from most Barbie dolls in that Barbie has a fixed outfit (a pair of blue jeans) and movable limbs with rotating knee joints.  Barbie sits on her own bike which steers and moves just as a real bike does.  Alongside her ride her two puppies on their own skateboards, one of them even spins around and around as Barbie pedals.

Both girls enjoy attaching and detaching the puppies and their skateboards from the main bike and there also seems to be a strange fascination with taking Barbie's cycle helmet on and off!  I think its a little disappointing that the bike won't stand alone without the puppies riding alongside (you have to hold it to balance it... or else whoosh it REALLY hard across the floor) but to be honest, most of the time the girls want Barbie to be accompanied by her pet pals!

Holly struggles to grasp why her other Barbie dolls can't use the bike and also keeps trying to take off Barbie's special boots.  But despite this, she has formed an attachment to this doll - I think this is something to do with her big sister having recently learned to ride and having received a new bike for her birthday.

Barbie can be taken off the bike and played with, as any other Barbie doll would be, but I think this doll is a little bit special.  OK, she's not wearing sparkly glam clothing, but her appeal is very different and it has hit all the right notes with my two girls.

The Barbie Spin 'n Ride Pups set costs around £24.99 and is available from Smyths Toys.

Thursday 9 July 2015

#StreamTeam Netflix #TBT

Today is #ThrowbackThursday and I'm reminiscing about the cartoons and TV programmes of my childhood.  Now that I've become a parent, I'm suddenly more aware of the longevity of some of my own childhood favourite television programmes, movies and music.

Thanks to our Netflix subscription, I'm able to share some of my classic characters with the girls - there are a few good characters who have stood the test of time.  Our experiments in retro cartoons are sometimes a bit hit and miss - the girls don't always see the appeal!

For instance, I have wonderful memories of watching a classic heartwarming tale of dinosaurs, The Land Before Time at the cinema as a child and yet now it looks dated and slow - Lara and Holly just didn't see the wow factor!

We've had more success with the Care Bears - there are old and newer episodes on Netflix, and with My Little Pony, the newer version often appears on Netflix and Lara is a big fan.  Other classics from my childhood which have had a makeover since my day are Strawberry Shortcake (I actually quite enjoy watching the new episodes with the girls) and also Dennis the Menace and Gnasher who, in my day, only ever appeared on the page of the Beano.

Mr. B. is glad that Lara seems to enjoy Power Rangers (she re-enacts it in the school playground) but he's also disappointed that the girls refuse to let him put on Danger Mouse!!! They don't know what they're missing.

Netflix for Kids is filled full of characters that the girls simply step over in favour of their current fads and its such a shame that they won't even try some of the oldies but goodies such as The Tweenies!  They have however discovered the Rugrats and will both sit in silence watching it.  To me, the theme tune brings back lots of memories and I do still remember quite a few of the episodes that they have watched.  It feels very weird to watch it with them.

What are your favourite throwback cartoons?  And have you shared them with your kids?

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Dreambaby® Nightlights Review

I've been trying out a couple of different nightlights for the girls in their bedroom and on the landing.  Holly is now fully out of nappies, even at night, and she is able to wake herself up and head to the bathroom in the middle of the night and I'm always worried that she bumps into things and loses her way - I've been keen to help her find her way, so that I don't have to go and rescue her in the wee hours!

Dreambaby® sent us a couple of their children's nightlights to try out - one is designed for use as a soothing bedtime lamp and can live on a bedside table.  The other is a movement-sensitive light that can automatically switch on and off when needed.

This fun ladybird battery operated nightlight is wire-free and provides a gentle soft light in Holly's bedroom as she falls asleep.  It has LED bulbs which cast a nice white light out of the sides, and a soft red glow from the top without generating noticeable heat.  

There is a chunky button on the ladybug's back that you press to start the light and, if you don't switch it off beforehand, it will automatically switch off after 30 minutes.  It holds three AAA batteries which are well stored away so the lamp is entirely safe to leave alone with a child from 1 year upwards.  Holly is very keen on on this nightlight and insists on me leaving it on, next to her when I leave her room at night.  I haven't yet noticed her use it at any other time of night.  The ladybug light costs around £12.99 and is available from

Next up is this nifty Movement Sensor Nightlight which I have placed in our hallway to help light the way when one of the girls gets up to go to the toilet during the night.  On the front of the light there is a PIR movement sensor which switches the light on when it triggers - I've found that we have to get quite close to it to cause the sensor to trip.  It is more effective if you place it higher up the wall (mine currently stands on top of my radiator which is about half way up the wall).  The light has holes on the back to help hang it from a hook or screw - which I shall do in due course.

The light is brilliant though, for such a small device(its about 10cm wide by 15 high) it casts a really bright glow and it more than lights the way.  This Dreambaby® movement-sensing nightlight is an interesting shape and features a small butterfly design along the front.  I think it would be perfect for use in a nursery to cast a crisp, but not overpowering light as you enter the room so that you don't have to struggle to find a switch each time you attend to your baby.  It costs about £14.85.

You can find out more about Dreambaby® on Facebook and Youtube.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Matalan School Shop

It is that time of the year when we all start to think about replacing and refreshing the school uniforms over the summer holidays.  Lara's current clothes are looking tired and small but they only need to last a couple more weeks!  Lara is very lucky in that her school has no fixed uniform so, when her normal school clothes (skirts and polo shirts or checked summer dresses) get a little small or worse for wear, she can still wear other items from her wardrobe - however I'd really rather she wasn't wearing her favourite clothes to school.

We have, over the past two years, become big fans of the Matalan School Shop and now, almost all of Lara's everyday school clothes come from there.  Lara can be very fussy when it comes to clothes but she seems to have happily settled on the combination of a brightly coloured polo shirt paired with a blue, black or grey skirt.  In summer she wears this with socks and trainers but in winter she adds woolen tights and a cardigan.

Matalan Flippy Skirt (from £5.50) and Unisex Polo Shirt (from £3 for two)

I'm very happy with the quality and durability of the Matalan school clothing and I haven't yet had to throw an item away; our only casualties have been plain white t-shirts which Lara has a tendency to get food all over.  We now reserve white t-shirts for PE lessons, which is the only clothing that the school do impose uniform rules on.

Thankfully, Matalan stock a complete range of schoolwear which includes sports wear.  We've found the sizes to be a little on the small side when it comes to sports trousers and shorts so we order a size up.  This year I ordered Lara two plain white t-shirts and two pairs of shorts so that we can always have one set of PE clothes at school while the other set is being washed and ironed.

Matalan Ruche Detail T-shirts (from £4 for two) and Girls Cycling Shorts (from £3.50 for two)

I'm genuinely pleased with all of the Matalan school uniform items we have tried over the years.  Now I just need to get the shopping list sorted for the bits and pieces we will still need to buy before Lara enters year two - I'm thinking some wintery pinafore dresses, a warm jumper and some tracksuit bottoms as well as some plimsolls for her ever-growing feet and yet another swimsuit.  When will she stop growing???

Disclosure: We were sent the items from the Matalan School Shop for review of their summer 2015 range but we do buy most of Lara's school clothes there anyway!

Thursday 2 July 2015

Viva la Viera #VieraVIPClub

This past year I've been a member of the #VieraVIPClub, a small group of online peeps who have had the chance to find out more about the Panasonic Viera range of smart televisions, and spread the Viera love.  I've visited Panasonic UK's HQ, visited IFA, Europe's biggest technology showcase in Berlin, and been one of the first to hear exciting news about the world of 4K HD television.  All along, I've been blogging my experiences over on my sister site, Family Tech.

As part of the Panasonic Viera VIP Club I've been putting the family-friendly features of smart TVs to the test.  I've been lucky enough to pose some of my questions about the future of family viewing experiences to senior engineers at Panasonic so I shall be excited to see how the brand responds to the ever-growing demand for usability and performance as well as great image quality and an immersive viewing experience.

I've used a couple of the Viera smart TV range now and now I'm the proud owner of this beauty, the TX – 55AS740B.  I'm still learning about all of the different viewing features (it shall be a while before I get used to 3D viewing) but the most overwhelming differences from my old TV are:-

  • Depth of colour, especially dark colours and blacks which used to look washed out and grey in comparison.
  • The mahoosive screen.
  • The thin edge around the television means that more of the total size of the television is available for viewing.  I think it looks very sleek.  It's also surprisingly light.
  • Not having to faff around with the BT box or Apple TV in order to watch BBC iPlayer or Netflix - I can do this directly though the apps on my Viera's home page.
I haven't yet set up any of the more advanced home network capabilities of the AS740B yet but I do plan to - it'll be great to be able to watch the TV remotely via TV Anywhere.  Plus... I must find time to set up the voice recognition.  So many things to do, so little time to do it.

I think I'll just chill out here in front of 'House'.
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