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

Monday, 31 August 2015

Spot a Lot Animals Storybook and Jigsaw

Lara and Holly both absolutely adore the Spot a Lot books by Steve Smallman and Nicola Slater.  I would say that they are just about our most used books in our house because the appeal of spotting animals and creatures on a page seems to be endless.  If you've no idea what Spot a Lot is, then try reading my reviews of Spot a Lot Animal Escape and Spot a Lot Vehicle Adventure which both got raving reviews from my girls.

Recently, the girls were sent this fun Spot a Lot Animals gift pack which is a carry-along set that contains both a storybook and a jigsaw. I think its a wonderful idea as a gift, or as a book and entertainment to take away with you when you're travelling.

The set contains a compact copy of Spot a Lot Animals which is more or less the same as the Animal Escape paperback book but with smaller pages - lots to spot, and lots to count.  The spotting challenges on the page were slightly different but the illustrations were almost the same.  Some of the more complex spots were hard for Holly on the smaller pages but in general you get the idea of the animals escaping from the zoo and needing to be found, along with lots of their friends.

The jigsaw has 30 pieces and Holly found it suitably challenging, Lara found it fun.  They both struggled with the fact that the image on the jigsaw was similar to, but not exactly the same as one of the pages in the book and I think this made it harder for them.  On the reverse of the jigsaw is the same pattern but in black and white so that your child can colour it in.  The girls tried with washable pens but they just rubbed off - I think it would take thicker marker pens or high-quality colouring crayons o be able to colour in the cardboard effectively.

While I really like the idea of this storybook and jigsaw pack with lots of spotting challenges, I don't think that Parragon have quite pulled it off.  There are some little niggles which mean that my girls have already moved on and prefer to go back to the more traditional paperback versions of their Spot a Lot books; simple things such as the fact that it is quite hard for a child to slip a paperback book back into a box when it already has lots of jigsaw pieces in it; they get easily frustrated with it.

This gift pack costs around £7.99

You can follow Parragon Books on twitter and as @parragonbooks on instagram and pinterest.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Holiday of a lifetime aka "What I spend my money on"

We've just got back from a few days away on a truly magical family holiday to Disneyland Paris.  We have smiled, laughed, swum, sung, danced, hugged, rollercoastered (is that a word?) and eaten.  The girls smiled and giggled and their eyes were wide with wonder for the whole journey.  It was a wonderful family holiday and I'm so glad we decided to take Lara and Holly who were a brilliant age for their visit.  Our holiday to Disneyland Paris was a little bit of a last minute decision and a frivolous use of money but we knew that with a bit of sensible usage of our credit card, we could afford this holiday of a lifetime.

For us, a credit card isn't a way of creating money we don't really own.  We don't use it as a long term loan (there are far cheaper ways of borrowing money!)...Instead we use it to help us consolidate our monthly bills into one place AND, in this case, we use it to help us manoeuvre our big outgoings (such as holidays) so that we can pay them once we, ourselves, have been paid, or once we've managed to withdraw savings.

For our holiday of a lifetime, Mr. B. and I had been saving already for some months and had put some money aside for a bit of a summer holiday splurge.  We just weren't quite sure what we were going to splurge on, and only decided on Disneyland less than a week before we traveled.  Some of our savings accounts and investments require a little bit of time to get hold of the money (although instant-access is far more normal these days) so we didn't actually have all of the funds available when we purchased our holiday.  For this reason, we paid for our holiday on our credit card, knowing that by the time the bill has been generated, we'll have collated all the money we need to pay it off.

We also used our credit card a lot while we were on holiday.  We only took a few small notes of Euros with us for emergencies but in the end we actually used our credit card to pay for gifts and meals while were were away.  These days, most credit cards simply apply an exchange rate to your overseas transactions so in fact, it is an extremely stress-free way of shopping abroad (but check with your credit card provider before you travel to make sure you understand what types of overseas transactions you might be charged for).  

Being able to put our spending onto our credit card while we were away has meant that we didn't need to have cash available before we traveled - we can wait until we get paid before paying off our credit card in full.  It is also a comfort to have your card with you on holiday just in case of any unplanned spending in the event of an emergency; a hotel for the night or an alternative form of transport home!  For us, it was a complete new set of shoes after ours were all ruined from walking all the way around Disneyland in the pouring rain!

Using a credit card carefully and with a full understanding of your own spending limits can give you a lot of freedom for when and how you pay for things but it does require self-discipline.  

Disclosure: This post has been created in partnership with TSB

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Pictopia - A Disney Board Game Review

The Mellow family tradition dictates new board games should be played on rainy evenings during the summer holidays and one of our new family board games is Pictopia, Disney edition.

Pictopia is a picture-trivia quiz game suitable for children from around 7 years old.  We've played it effectively with Lara who is 6 - she needed some help to be explained the rules but quickly picked it up.  I think the primary age limit is that your child needs to be a confident reader in order to be able to pose questions from the trivia cards.

Pictopia, Disney edition features a board where your Mickey-mouse shaped counters have to reach the Disney castle to win.  Along the way you land on spaces which determine the type of question you will face.  All players are asked all of the questions but sometimes you have to answer alone, other times you have to answer as a team.  Before each question you have to place your stakes to show how confident you are that you can get the question correct.

All of the questions in Pictopia are image-based and in this edition each of the 200 quiz cards features 4 Disney images.  There are 1000 questions in total to really stretch your Disney knowledge of movies and characters.

Lara very much enjoyed the game but I think she would still struggle to host the game herself with friends for some time because there are so many different elements to the game - different question types, placing wagers, playing alone or answering together.  It's a game which really requires a "manager" parent to play with them.

In general, I found the game over-complicated; the wagers and answer wheel seemed like distractions from what is actually a very fun and simple picture trivia quiz.  Trivia quiz questions about Disney movies based on recognisable fun pictures should be a game that is simple and fun; but somehow the magic seems to be lessened by all the other activities that are taking place.

Pictopia, Disney edition is suitable for 6 players and the questions really do span the depth and breadth of all things Disney.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Leappad Epic - Leapfrog's First Android Tablet for Kids

I can remember the first year that I discovered the Leapfrog Leappad learning tablet, and its Vtech competitor, the Innotab.  I clearly remember the dismay, as a software developer, that neither kids tablet was running on a standard operating system.  Last week I received the wonderful news that this year Leapfrog are launching the Leappad Epic, their first kids learning tablet to run on the Android operating system.  Woo hoo.

As a software developer, some of the reasons why a kids tablet built on the Android platform is so appealing are :-

* More sophisticated user interface elements which, these days, come naturally to children and will be more like other tools they see and use
* Access to a wider range of kids favourite android apps (limited to those you approve, as a parent)
* Ability to draw upon industry expertise for app development; this should mean that the Leapfrog content is more diverse and cheaper to develop in the future.

Leappad Epic

The Leapfrog Epic promises to "grow with your child" and I'm looking forward to trying out its promise of content that really adapts to your child's age and ability. Little things such as the ability to remove the chunky bumper around the outside of the device mean that the Leappad epic is the first Leappad that will really hold appeal for children from age 3 upto around 10 years old. With every release of the Leappad, the Leapsearch browser evolves and I shall be interested to see how it sits on the Android platform, and how flexible I find it for Lara who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge (far beyond the content currently available on her existing Leappad Ultra).

As with all Leapfrog products, the Leappad epic is designed to encourage learning through play and the Leappad epic looks to be their most configurable, tailorable kids learning tablet to date. It has a quad core processor and a 7 inch touch screen. We CAN'T WAIT!!!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Massive Monster Activity Pack

I am often surprised by the scale of the range of children's books that Parragon publish and the Massive Monster Activity Pack has been another great surprise this summer.

The Massive Monster Activity Pack is perfect for taking as entertainment when you're travelling or on holiday, or is an ideal book pack for a rainy day during the school holidays.  The folder features 4 different activity books all with a monster theme; it also contains several sheets of monster stickers (around 500 stickers in total).

Lara's favourite book from the Massive Monster Activity Pack is the Monster Muddles book which includes simple puzzles - something Lara is very much into right now.  Spot the difference, mazes and dot-to-dot puzzles offer plenty to while away an evening.

Lara has also enjoyed using her imagination to fill in the Monster Doodles book.  This paperback book includes 20 monster-themed scenes for you to fill in with stickers and drawings of your own to complete the picture.

Holly most enjoys playing with the stickers and where better to place them all than in the Icky Sticky Sticker book which is a smaller book with 8 scenes as a blank canvas for you to place all the crazy monster stickers.

Holly also enjoys simple colouring right now and the Monster Colouring book is the final book in the Massive Monster activity pack.  Coupled with a pack of coloured pencils, this pack makes a perfect set for the girls to take on holiday.

The Massive Monster Activity Pack costs around £9.99 and comes in its own carry-along presentation box.

You can follow Parragon Books on twitter and as @parragonbooks on instagram and pinterest.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Peppa Pig Summer Holiday Fun

We're getting ready for the long bank holiday weekend and trying to make the most of the last week of our school summer holidays with a sneaky trip abroad.  Holly, who is a big Peppa Pig fan is fully kitted out with Peppa Pig holiday gear to help her enjoy the sunshine.

Check out these fun Peppa and George passport covers and luggage tags to help bring a little bit of magic to the stresses of travelling abroad. Holly and Lara don't yet know we're going away on holiday so we're saving these as a surprise for our journey.

Holly loves her new sunglasses with Peppa on either side and they are perfectly finished off with this hard glasses case which has handles so that Holly can carry it around with her, a bit like a handbag or purse.

If your little one is a water baby then you'll find lots of new toys and accessories in the Peppa Pig range.  At Argos you can find the new Peppa "tweet" design on beach towels and this VERY CUTE hooded poncho towel - Peppa and George can be with you by the poolside.  Holly is very proud of her new goggles and can't wait to play with Peppa and George water squirters, water soakers, both from Zoggs; I think these toys are just as much fun in the bath, or a water tray as they are in the pool.

If you are looking for some frugal holiday activities to fill the bank holiday weekend, you can find lots of printables and craft ideas on the Peppa Pig website at

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Disney Frozen Craft Kits from Cool Create

Cool Create is a selection of fun craft activities for children from Flair.  The latest additions to the Cool Create Club range are Frozen craft activities and both Lara and Holly have had an absolute ball creating their own ornaments, lights, jewellery and decorations and have enjoyed sharing these craft activities with friends.  This weekend we had visitors on a rainy summer day and it was wonderful for the girls to be able to sit quietly in the front room creating their own Frozen jewellery.

Lara and Holly were sent three different craft activities from the Cool Create Frozen Range.  First up is the Frozen Shaker Maker which is a fun, mess-free way of making plaster of paris models.  Lara placed water and plaster mix into her Frozen shaker along with a mould of either Anna or Elsa and skoke the globe vigarously for about a minute.  The plaster takes just 90 minutes to harden, after which you can paint it with the paints supplied.  Lara hasn't yet quite mastered the art of mixing paints but she spent a long time concentrating hard on painting her creations.  The mould and shaker can be re-used if you can purchase some quick-drying plaster so you can create little Frozen plaques for all of your friends.

Our biggest hit was this Frozen Fun Tiles Jewellery box which Lara and her friend decorated using soft and hard stick-on jewels and decorations.  Inside the box you can store your own hand-made jewellery which the girls made from shrinky materials.  If you've never met a shrinky then you haven't lived.  The girls used coloured pencils to decorate the special plastic and then we cooked it in the oven for a couple of minutes to let the magic unfold.  Each tiny piece of plastic shrinks down to about a quarter of the original size, causing the colours to brighten and the plastic to harden into shiny, sturdy charms.  The kit comes with some ring mounts, a charm bracelet and a dangling brooch to which you can attach the hand-made Frozen charms.  There are lots of different designs suitable for both girls and boys to colour in and Lara spent nearly 2 hours with her friend making their shrinky jewellery.

The jewellery box itself is made from card and was hard for us to open (one of the handles fell off) but nevertheless, Lara loved decorating it with sparkly jewels.  Lara is someone who loves having a pattern to follow rather than making up a design herself.

I let Holly loose on this set of DIY Frozen Fairy Lights which we will put up in the play room.  The kit includes a set of battery powered LED lights and all of the materials you need to turn them into a string of decorated, sparkly fairy lights with a Frozen theme.  You curve the light covers around each bulb and then decorate with stickers and sparkles safe for use with the LEDs.  Holly needed a lot of help as the paperwork for the lanterns is quite delicate but she decorated them all herself and is quite unbelievably proud of her creation.

All of these Frozen craft kits have surpassed my expectations and have provided plenty of entertainment for the girls.  The Frozen Cool Create kits would make perfect gifts for 4-10 year olds.  You can find out more about the Cool Create club on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 24 August 2015

#comfortintense - Getting Floral with my Girls!

As you may probably know, I love gardening with my two girls, Lara and Holly.  Admittedly, most of our gardening activities are fruit and vegetable related and at present we're enjoying harvesting tomatoes, potatoes and summer broccoli.  Something I'm never that green-fingered with is flowers.  Comfort Intense sent Holly her own little floral gardening kit to help encourage her to plant some flowers in our garden to celebrate the launch of the new Comfort Intense fragrances.

Holly planted her first seeds a couple of weeks ago and now her seedlings are just about ready to plant out.

Earlier this month Comfort Intense briefly appeared in a pop-up floral garden in Covent Garden launched by Kimberley Walsh and made entirely out of freshly washed clothing!  Holly's garden may be a long time in the making but I'm already impressed by the strong fragrances of Comfort Intense that pack a powerful punch in their little bottles of fabric softener.

One of the fragrances in the Comfort Intense range is Fuschia Passion - fuschias are one of my all-time favourite summer flowers with their stunning bright pink and purple delicate blooms.  My absolute favourite scent from the range is Sunburst which we are currently using in our family wash - everything comes out with a really uplifting summery scent which puts a smile on my face.

One bottle of Comfort Intense contains enough concentrated fabric softener for 38 washes (the RRP is £3.30).

Sunday, 23 August 2015

My Handy Hair Tips for Kids

I have no idea how I managed it, but I seem to have produced two girls with beautiful long blonde hair. As someone who herself has only ever managed a tangled mess of hair since she was about 5 years old, I'm not very confident in looking after Holly and Lara's luscious locks and, as they grow older they are increasingly asking me to produce them ever more complicated hairstyles.  Eeek!  I do have my coping mechanisms though...

...Vosene Kids asked me to share some of my own kids hair hacks for making the job of hair-management that little bit less stressful.  Both of my tips have been borne out of our weekly struggles at the swimming pool each week and the tears and chaos that would ensue after a shower.  One of my tips was only learned a few weeks ago from the woman who calmly prepares her 5 grandchildren for swimming lessons as I manically help Lara and Holly get changed.  Her one small recommendation has helped me regain some of my mellow mummy vibes!

Vosene Kids have also produced some videos starring Charlotte Hayward, a renowned movie stylist featuring her own kids hair hacks such as this dad-proof hairstyle for a special occasion.  Find more hair hacks on their Youtube channel.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

My Dream Home - Pinterest Ideas and Inspiration

It doesn't take much to make me happy.  My dream home isn't much different to my REAL home!  I've got grand plans for our current house which involves knocking walls down and building a grand conservatory but these plans do require rather an injection of money so right now they are just a dream.

There is a lot of swirl in my life at present and I must admit that I've been browsing the interweb for houses - perhaps a change of location might be wiser than a big injection of funds into our current home; despite the need for a new mortgage, it might be the quicker route to my dream home???

Over the past year I've been putting together a pinterest board filled with my ideas for my dream home - Mellow HQ.  I put colour ideas, room ideas and layout ideas on this board.

Follow Emma Button's board Mellow HQ on Pinterest.

My ideal family home would feature:

  • Large open bathrooms that offer a place to chill out
  • Play space for the girls - somewhere that they can make their own
  • Messy play and craft space (indoors and outdoors)
  • Room for a nice big vegetable garden
  • An enormous kitchen that is not only beautiful, but spacious and with LOTS of storage for all my kitchen gadgets
  • A bright, spacious dining area for us to share with guests, and which is easy to get to from the kitchen and the garden
  • A soft, warm comfy and relaxing living room which isn't packed full of toys

Obviously, there is quite a lot of work which would need to go into creating my dream home which is why I've been browsing for properties which fit the bill.  I've spent plenty of evenings dreaming and even using a mortgage calculator to see if there is any vague possibility that we could make the dream real.

I've also spent a lot of time thinking specifically about the girls bedroom; its time for us to create them a special place for "grown up" girls which is relaxing and inspiring without losing their innocence.  I've got soooooo many ideas for their bedroom.

Follow Emma Button's board Rainbow Bedroom on Pinterest.

Disclosure: This post has been created in partnership with TSB

Monday, 17 August 2015

Dobble Kids - Family Game Review

Last week we were away on our family holidays in a self-catering cottage in the Lake District with the girls and my parents.  As is traditional on our family holidays, we took a few new family games to play together in the evenings and Dobble Kids came out as one of our favourites.

Dobble and Dobble Kids are fast, fun and easy to play games which are perfect for taking with you on your travels. We took Dobble Kids which is suitable for children from 4 upwards but we did manage to play it (of a fashion) with Holly as well.  The game comes in a metal tin which protects the cards when you're travelling and is compact and easy to put into your suitcase.

Dobble Kids comes with recommendations of 5 different ways to play with the brightly-coloured animal-themed cards.  We chose to play the two most simple games with Lara and Holly as we thought it would be easiest for them to understand.  Every card shares one picture with any other card, the aim of the most simple games is to get rid of all of your cards as quickly as possible by shouting out the name of the animal that matches the central car.  Adults can play with more cards and younger children with less cards to give everyone a similar chance of success.

Each card in the pack is unique; they feature a selection of animal characters of different sizes which makes it hard to pick out the matching animal on each card - this all adds to the fun.

We loved this game because it didn't require Holly and Lara to be able to read - this opens it up to everyone.  Holly took to it instantly and started to make up her own rules (which is absolutely totally fine with me!).  Holly, who is younger than the recommended age for Dobble Kids, did struggle a bit with the speed element of Dobble Kids so prefers to simply take it in turns to try and find the matching animal from one of your cards with the central animal card.

Lara became very competitive when playing Dobble Kids and I think she is ready to try some of the harder game ideas.

Dobble also comes as a family-friendly version suitable for children from 6 years upwards, featuring different images on the cards.  I think its a wonderful game based on such a simple concept that makes it timeless; a game that you can come back to time and again.  It costs around £12.99.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A Surprise from Spicers of Hythe #LoveHampers

I do love a surprise gift, especially when it is packed full of yummy food and drink.  While it may be a little early for me to start thinking about Christmas (I like to let the school summer holidays pass at least!), the family behind Spicers of Hythe hampers are already putting together their plans for the bumper Christmas season.

Spicers sent us a sample of one of their range of 55 Christmas hampers which they are planning for this festive season.  This year they'll be sending out around 100,000 Christmas gourmet hampers.

Opening up our hampers was a little bit like opening presents on Christmas day - hidden inside the box was an assortment of sweet and savoury treats as well as drinks (soft and alcoholic), cake, preserves and oils - lots of specialist products from small and large suppliers all over the UK.

For us, our slightly-out-of-season Christmas hamper was a wonderful surprise and perfectly timed so that we could take lots of the treats with us on our self-catering holiday.  From jam for breakfast to wine with dinner and a sneaky chocolate afterwards!  We even took our bag of luxury lemon biscuits with us on a family hike in the lake district to keep us going when we needed fuel to inspire the girls to keep on walking.  Its a lovely selection to suit lots of different tastes.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Ecover - Cleaner, Greener Washing Up... My Way

Pretty much since day one of becoming a homeowner, I have been an advocate of Ecover's greener cleaning products - household products that take their inspiration from nature to deliver effective cleaning without the harsh chemicals.  I've had my successes with Ecover, and I've also tried a few of their products that didn't work for me - products which previously couldn't live up to the cleaning challenges I was facing.  Over the years, Ecover have worked hard to develop powerful cleaning performance using natural ingredients and recently they asked me to try out their new formula of washing up liquid which they claim can wash upto 40% more plates than before.

The new improved Ecover washing up liquid is now 99.8% plant-based with clever natural cleaning agents such as sugar and coconut oil instead of petro-chemical detergents.  This ticks an awful lot of boxes for me because, if it weren't for the challenge of actually getting glasses and pots CLEAN, I'd really rather do-away with washing up liquid altogether!  For me, a natural product which can get things really clean is a happy compromise between clean and green.

I don't do an awful lot of hand washing up - I really only wash expensive glassware, tupperware boxes and my cafetiere but it is really important to me that these all remain spotless and beautiful.  I'd expect a bottle this size to last me the best part of a year as I hardly need to use any of the liquid each time I wash.

After use my glasses are clean and smear-free and, just as importantly, my hands are neither dry nor oily.  I'm a happy customer :-)

In order to further reduce your impact on the environment when you're washing up, remember that there are some simple tips you can apply to help you need to use even less washing up liquid:

  • Pre-treat food stains with lemon juice before washing so that you don't have to soak in liquid or scrub really hard!
  • Make sure you clean your sink and your washing up-tools before and after use - no point trying to keep your dishes clean with dirty equipment.  This also helps to reduce bacteria build up.
  • Baking soda is a great tool for removing dried-on food from dishes before washing - particularly groovy for removing baking residue from cake tins!
  • Dry your dishes with a tea-towel after washing to help reduce water stains.
  • Follow the instructions on your washing up liquid and only use the amount it recommends - more liquid doesn't necessarily mean better cleaning.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Children's Book Review :: Zippo the Super Hippo

Zippo is a Hippo who wants to be so much more than 'just' a hippo.  This fun children's book by Kes Gray and illustrated by Nikki Dyson reminds us all that you don't have to try hard to be something you're not and, most importantly, that every one is SUPER in their own way.

Zipp the Hippo wants to be a superhero - don't we all?  Zippo wants a cape, a costume and a super power.

With the help of his bird friend Roxi, he gives the whole flying superhero thing a try.  But it turns out that Hippos aren't really cut out for flying.  Eventually , as the result of one or two nasty falls, Zippo discovers the one thing about himself that really is super - his bottom!

As with any story about bottoms, this book made Lara and Holly giggle... a lot.  To me, Zippo the Super Hippo isn't a story that will stick in my mind as first choice for bedtime reading.  That said, simply because it involves enormous bottoms, I know that it will be one that Lara and Holly request regularly!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Leapfrog Number Loving Oven Review

It is quite hard to believe that Holly still has another 13 months until she will start school... in fact, I'm not really sure how she is going to cope between now and then as she asks, every morning, whether she can go to school instead of nursery.  Holly can write her name, she is eager to learn to read and can identify and write all of the letters of the alphabet.  Holly is already performing simple arithmetic with her fingers and can count beautifully.  I'm trying to find as many ways as I can to feed her thirst for learning and try to keep things exciting for her until she starts school - I think I'm going to need as many ideas as I can get!

The Number Loving Oven from Leapfrog is one of my ideas for helping Holly to practice her basic school readiness maths skills such as counting, sharing and simple fraction sills.  Leapfrog's Number Loving Oven is one of a few new preschool learning toys launched this summer to help your under 5's practice the skills they'll need once they get to school.

The Number Loving Oven is a compact toy oven and hob which allows your child to role play while practicing their numbers.  The Oven sings about the ingredients and encourages you to select the correct oven timings and temperature, she also encourages sharing.  The Oven comes with plastic cupcakes, bread, pizza, baking tray, service slice, frying pan and oven tray.  One of the challenges that the oven will set is to cut the bread or the pizza into the correct number of pieces using the serving slice, this helps to practice sharing a whole and breaking it into simple fractions.

Holly very much enjoys the oven and finds the singing very cheerful.  In our house, as big Leapfrog fans, we can all often be heard singing our favourite Leapfrog songs but the Number Loving Oven has a few ditties that I think will be memorable for the rest of our lives - we particularly like "put an egg on it" which brings a smile to all of our faces.

I think that the Leapfrog Number Loving Oven ticks an awful lot of boxes for us - counting, maths AND cookery.  Simply cutting the bread into pieces and then sticking them back together again can keep my two occupied for quite some time!  That said, I think that Holly could have done with this toy about a year ago - indeed, it is recommended for children from age 2 upwards and I think it could really boost learning for a child who is just starting to learn and read numbers.

Although I love the role-play element, I don't think I'd recommend this oven as your sole role-play kitchen product as it is quite small.  The knobs on the cooker turn and the hob makes a crackling sound when you place the frying pan on it but it is just a bit cramped to really get the creative role-play juices going.  Holly prefers to play with it as an interactive toy where she listens to the instructions, places the correct items in the oven and then sings along to the songs.

Now, I wouldn't be Mellow Mummy if I didn't also mention that REAL cookery with pre-schoolers is also an incredible way of teaching preschool skills.  Cookery with kids can be wonderful fun and is always packed full of educational opportunities that you probably never notice (weighing, measuring, finding ingredients, counting cupcake cases, splitting eggs...).  If the Number Loving Oven is the catalyst that can get you and your preschoolers cooking together in the kitchen then I'll be happy!!!

You can find out more about Leapfrog products on their Facebook page which is packed full of ideas and competitions.


Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Great Cream Robbery from Rodda's

You may have noticed special packs of Rodda's clotted cream recently that have codes you can use to enter to win a copy of a very special children's picture book - The Great Cream Robbery by James Medd and Victora Sawdon.  This fun tale of a feline criminal has been launched to celebrate Rodda's 125th anniversary.

The Great Cream Robbery is a tale about Merryn the cat, Cornwall's cleverest criminal. Merryn has a cunning plan to take over a clotted creamery and recruits Blue, the seagull, to help her.  Merryn tries a few different plots but the one that finally works really put a smile onto Lara's face as it is a topic that we quite often debate in the mellow household... do cows REALLY have to sit down when its about to rain?

Unfortunately, clever Merryn hadn't accounted for quite how popular clotted cream really is and finds her plans are ruined... but interestingly enough, this works out rather well for everyone involved.

The Great Cream Robbery is a fun story packed full of illustrations that bring back great memories of holidays in cornwall.  The story telling itself isn't the cleverest, sleekest or most appealing to children but its readable, and Lara and Holly both enjoyed the story behind the words and it has got them thinking about our forthcoming summer holiday...

...if there is one thing that Lara, Holly, Mummy and Daddy are looking forward to on our summer holiday this year it is the chance for plenty of cream teas with clotted cream!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

#VieraVIPClub 2015 - a new era of smart TVs

Today I've been schmoozing with other tech bloggers and family bloggers at Panasonic's UK headquarters.  This year I'm continuing as a member of the Panasonic Viera VIP Club, as part of which I get to learn about all the exciting new advancements in the world of smart TVs.

As a family blogger, I'm big on family-friendly features of home televisions and I'm so glad to see for myself what MASSIVE changes have been made to the user interfaces and smart TV offerings at Panasonic since this time last year.  The new Mozilla Firefox operating system has revolutionised the user interface on the Panasonic Viera televisions and has transformed what was previously a clever-but-clunky interface into something bright, bold and fully accessible to people of all ages.  Over the next twelve months I'm looking forward to getting a chance to road test the new interface with my 3 year old and 6 year old.

Panasonic Viera Mozilla Firefox Interface

This year, Panasonic have three BIG themes they're really shouting from the rooftops about.

1. Picture quality (this, after all, is what Viera's 4K Ultra High Definition LED TVs are all about)
2. Their shiny new user interface and browser
3. The forthcoming launch of Freeview Play; Panasonic TVs will be the first televisions to host this new era of Freeview which allows internet streaming of freeview programmes you may have missed.

Panasonic are, quite rightly, very proud of the quality of the picture on their 2015 range of Viera televisions.  Stand next to one of their 4K HD Pro televisions when it is showing something like this (below) and you'll understand why.  The colour is stunning and the contrast is astonishing, even compared to last year's offerings.

At the kick-off event for the 2015 Viera VIP Club activities we got to have a try at making our very own 4k Ultra High Definition movies using Panasonic Lumix cameras.  It was great fun trying to capture the very moment that a droplet of liquid splashes, or the gentle hum of a bumble bee's wings. I can't wait to share some of our creations with you (of course, they'll look their most impressive if you watch them directly from the camera on a 4K-friendly Panasonic Viera television!)

Exploring the exciting world of Panasonic Tech!

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