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

Saturday 31 October 2015

National Bug Busting Day

Today is one of the nation's officially designated bug-busting days; a day on which the nation is encouraged to check their family's heads for headlice in an attempt to help prevent and eradicate infestations after half-term.

To mark national bug busting day, Hedrin sent me some top tips for helping to banish headlice from schools and home.  They also sent me a box of headlice-shaped and nit-shaped biscuits - you can't beat a nit biscuit!

1. Once a week, take a peek.  Build a check for headlice into your weekly routine so that you can spot their arrival early.  We check the girls each week when they are getting ready for their swimming lessons.

2. Be honest if live lice are detected, and inform people who have been in close contact.  While it might feel embarrassing, letting your school and friends know can help stop the spread of an infestation.

3. Seek advice from a pharmacist, not online forums.  Analysis of popular parenting social media sits and forums has shown large numbers of conversations about headlice prevention but many of these contain common myths or inaccurate advice.  Hedrin highly recommend asking your local pharmacist for the most up-to-date clinical advice.

4. Treat head lice with clinically proven non-pesticide products. Hedrin Treat & Go contains Activdiol which is clinically proven to kill lice and eggs without pesticides. Treat & Go non-drip mousse is an incredibly easy way of applying the treatment and you can apply it to dry hair and leave overnight.  It is available in Boots and pharmacies for £11.49.

5. Protect against infestations,  If your school warns you that head lice are circulating, you might want to act to protect your children against an infestation by using a preventative product such as Hedrin Protect & Go- an orange & mango scented conditioning spray which disrupts the life cycle of the head lice and prevents their spread; it is intended for use twice a week and we found it just as easy to use as the girls' everyday de-tangling spray!

You can find out more about the national parents campaign to prevent bugs, in association with Hedrin, at

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Fisher-Price Rainbow Dazzle Minnie Review

Holly is my little fashion diva at present and Fisher-Price Rainbow Dazzle Minnie is a fun toy to encourage her fashion creativity while learning about colours, matching and combinations.  Holly has always been a big Minnie Mouse fan; there's something about her high heels and collection of spotty bows that fascinates Holly who has now started her own collection of high heels and hair accessories!

Rainbow Dazzle Minnie Mouse is a free-standing hard light-up toy who speaks and sings.  Press her hand to start the process of choosing a new magical outfit for Minnie Mouse.  She will ask you to choose a colour for her bow, her dress and her skirt. Each time you touch her magical touchpoints, the colour of the light will change and Minnie will make a comment about the colour, or the combination of colours you have chosen.

Once you are happy with Minnie's outfit you can press her hand to finish the outfit and Minnie will sing "True Colours" to you.  The lights change through a range of colours - green, blue, yellow, white, purple, pink and red.

Rainbow Dazzle Minnie also comes with a little camera-shaped toy which, when you look through it, shows all of the rainbow-coloured lights in sparkly wonder.  Holly loves looking through the camera and even likes to look at other things around the house - even the television!

I was worried that the entertainment factor of Rainbow Dazzle Minnie Mouse was very limited as she doesn't move when she sings and the range of phrases and music is very limited.  However, Holly doesn't seem to mind the repetitive music and genuinely seems to enjoy the challenge of choosing a combination of three colours that offer a new fashion outlook for the day!  Minnie's arms are poseable and even when she is not lit up, her pink dress has a pearlescent shimmer so she looks very pretty as an ornament on the shelf in Holly's room, even when she isn't singing.

This  Minnie Mouse Toy is perfectly suited to children aged 2-5 who want to explore colours and shapes and sing along with Minnie Mouse.  Fisher-Price Rainbow Dazzle Minnie costs around £24.99.

Sunday 25 October 2015

My Little Pony Style & Groom Rainbow Dash Review

I can't think of many toys more perfect for Holly than the new Rainbow Dash Style & Groom by HTI.  Both girls are very much into My Little Pony right now as there have been two recent DVD launches which helped them to rediscover their soft toys and My Little Pony models.  This Style and Groom Rainbow Dash is something a little bit special - a hair styling toy with clips, bands, beads and jewels that suits Holly - my little fashionista - down to a T.  My girls got a very special chance to try out Rainbow Dash for themselves at Happy Faces salon in London where they were able to style their own My Little Pony and then have their style recreated for them on their own hair!

I remember buying Lara a doll styling head when she was about Holly's age (3 and a half) so the age is absolutely perfect.  But what makes Rainbow Dash stand out (apart from her brightly coloured rainbow mane) is the wide selection of accessories that she comes with.  A hairbrush and hair bands is just the start.  There is a big selection of beads which you can place in the hollows at the base of Rainbow Dash's cloud and then use the special tool to thread them onto the hair - both my girls were in awe when they learned how to do this.  The set also includes stick-on jewels and tattoos that can be re-used a couple of times to decorate the pony all over.  Finally, Rainbow Dash Style & Groom also provides a string of thread and a necklace charm which you can combine with the beads to make a necklace for your pony.

My girls must have spent hours in the last week plaiting, beading and tying Rainbow Dash's hair.  They both take it so seriously and concentrate sooooo hard when they are styling!  Hair clips and new hairstyles are something Holly "plays" at nursery with her friends every day and so this toy had given her lots of new inspiration. The beads and stickers have all very quickly been distributed around our house; under the sofa, under the dining room table and even in the bathroom; I would look upon these smaller accessories as "consumables" and honestly, they fall out of the cloud base very easily so I've given the girls a little clip-top bowl to store them in now.

Compared to a number of other Christmas toys we have seen recently I was really very surprised to find out that Rainbow Dash Style & Groom is priced at a very reasonable £24.99.  In terms of number of hours fun, I think this is really good value for money.  Be warned though, you may spend the rest of your evenings trying to carefully remove hair elastics from multi-coloured pony hair upon your child's request.

If you fancy recreating Lara's favourite My Little Pony hairstyle then I'd attached the step-by-step instructions below!


Thursday 22 October 2015

Imagine the Possibilities

Before motherhood, I always thought I would be the sort of Mum who would naturally divert my children away from Barbie dolls - they seemed to embody the outrageous girliness that I didn't want my daughters to to grow up thinking was expected of them.  However, motherhood changes a lot of things and these days I see the world a little differently.  I don't like to put boundaries on my daughter's play.  If they want to hammer pretend nails into wooden DIY workbenches then I shall encourage that... and if they want to play "sisters" with their Barbie dolls, then so be it.

So why the change of tune?  Well, motherhood has taught me that imaginative play is incredibly valuable for children to learn about the world and to form their own ideas of the way society works.  Our children aren't constrained by the boundaries that many adults think are placed on them by society.  When they play, children can be anything they want to be, and do anything they want to do.  Imagine the possibilities.

As a successful working woman in a male-dominated business (software), I'm keen to encourage my girls to think big.  I thought this video from Barbie was very clever.

Those clever beans at Barbie HQ are of course right.  When the girls are immersed in their imaginary Barbie world they think up stories and new ideas.  They plan, they succeed, they think big.  Of course, there are also days when the extent of their role play goes no further than Barbie and her friends going to the shops to buy cakes... but that's cool too!

I guess my big concern is that thinking big doesn't have to stop when the role play fizzles out.  When my girls stop playing and start "being", I want them to understand that there are no boundaries. They can be anything.

The Financial Appeal of Buying Wholesale

As a parent it is very possible that you, like the Mellow household, have already made the switch from the ‘big four’ supermarkets to the discounters Aldi and Lidl.  But what about the wholesaler? For the past couple of years we've been buying standard household cleaning products, fresh meat and cupboard staples from one of our two big local wholesale retailers.  Also known as 'cash and carries', wholesalers are no longer exclusive to small businesses. When you have a family to feed, clothe and furnish - they do help you save money.

By far my biggest household cost-savings come from buying home cleaning products such as cleaning fluid and fabric softener in bulk from Cash and Carries.  The largest of note is Costco but with only 27 UK stores they are yet to become a regular haunt for most families. Essentially a modern warehouse (imagine Ikea but with baked beans and TV sets), Costco sells pretty much everything.  You can also find more traditional ‘cash and carry’s’ like Bookers but you are currently unable to shop with them unless you hold a business membership card, time will tell if they change policy.  Thankfully, I do hold a business card for my local Makro and my local Chinese Cash and Carry (where I buy yummy food in vast quantities).

We always buy cleaning products in bulk to save LOTS of cash

So, what’s the difference between a customer wholesaler like Costco and a local hypermarket or discounter? The biggest difference is size. The packs are MASSIVE - they will last you ages, so long as you have the storage space for it. In our house we tend to find that some products disappear in rapid time such as toilet rolls, crisps and pasta - so it’s just as well that the packs are so big.  We tend to store loo rolls, big cases of tinned food and bottles of cleaning products in our garage.

When it comes to wholesale clothes, there a number of trading sites where you can purchase big name brands at lower prices, a notable one is ‘The Trader’ but buying through this channel is still unusual for individuals rather than trade.  Some of the bigger wholesalers like Makro and Costco do stock clothing but it is normally for uniforms and trade rather than families.

The savings on a big ticket items like furniture can be considerable at a wholesaler.  We've bought office furniture such as storage boxes and bookcases for use in the girls' playroom but, like traditional cash and carry’s, it is still a little unusual to buy through this route and not always cost-effective because they are very much tailored to business. Some retailers like Julian Bowen only sell to the trade but you can search for stockists online so you know where to hunt for a bargain. Another large household purchase is bedding and products for the bedroom. At direct sale retailers like Bedstar you can make significant savings. Bedstar are one of the stockists of Julian Bowen furniture and you can buy direct from a business awarded the best UK furniture wholesaler three times on the trot.

Addis sit n store - Cash and Carry Storage Goodness! We're just about to buy another

Many businesses have a traditional wholesale arm and a customer arm and increasingly the margins between these are getting blurred. Even, Amazon is part wholesaler with its awesome and eclectic range of goods and its interactive marketplace. The internet is a great way of cutting out the middle men as the retailers don’t have to pay for the logistics, storing and lighting of stock and all the other associated costs; so if you buy in bulk then those cost savings are passed onto you.  Baby goods such as baby wipes, nappy sanitiser and stairgates are good things to look out for on online wholesalers - once again, as long as you have the space to store 6 months worth of baby wipes, there are big savings to be made.

Buying at wholesalers can feel a little daunting at first but if you think of them as just another retailer where you can choose to buy what feels right for you, at a price that makes sense for your family then you can't go wrong. I don't buy everything in bulk.  I still shop at Lidl once a week, but I leave the big things to the cash and carry and tend to head there once every few months to stock up for the house.

This post was written in collaboration with Susannah Wang but my wholesale experiences with Costco, Makro and other local wholesalers are ones I'm happy to share.

Monday 19 October 2015

The Magic Cauldron - Halloween maths fun!

It is hard to go wrong with an Orchard Toys board game - they are firm favourites in our house.  Orchard Toys wanted to get Lara and Holly into the magical halloween mood by sending us their Magic Cauldron game - a board and counter game packed with spooky spell ingredients and yet which tests their maths skills at the same time!

The Magic Cauldron is suitable for 2-4 players and is recommended for children aged 5-8 years old.  I think it is perfectly suited to Lara who is aged 6 and currently in Year 2 at school.  Holly finds it fun, but very tricky and always needs our help but it is still a brilliant opportunity for us to help her learn about numbers, addition and subtraction.

Each player takes a cauldron-shaped board featuring a witch or a wizard.  The aim of the game is to fill your cauldron with spooky ingredients to make a spell.  Each ingredient corresponds to a number and you have to identify a sum which results in that number.  Most of the sums are very simple addition or subtraction with numbers upto 10 and it is a brilliant exercise for Lara to remember her number bonds.  There are also a handful of very first multiplications and some additions which require three numbers.  

From eyeballs to stinky cheese, and bats to poison... each ingredient requires your child to search for a new sum.  Holly uses it as a chance for her to recognise her numbers upto 10.  We play with the girls and look to Lara to confirm that we have chosen the right sum to match the number but there is also another magical way that you can check that you have the right result... the ghost.

Each maths puzzle has a ghost on the back.  Rub the ghost very quickly with a warm finger to reveal the answer to the sum so that you can check it is correct.  The girls both find this hard to do and will always ask us to do it - it does require a fairly vigorous rub!

We have found The Magic Cauldron game to be a big test of concentration and observation for both girls.  Lara is more than capable of the sums but with them all laid out in front of you, it does take a lot of concentration to spot the one you want.  Despite this, the girls have come back to the game several times and I'm sure we will play it a lot more in the run up to Halloween.

At £11.75 this board game from Orchard Toys is a bargain - lots of family time spent together having fun and (secretly) learning.  Awesome stuff.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Dora and Friends Train & Play Dora and Perrito Review

Dora is one of my girls very favourite TV characters - both girls regard her fondly both in her original Dora the Explorer mode, and in her slightly more grown up Dora and Friends style.  Unlike many TV characters, my two girls don't obsess about Dora, more that they respect her; they won't pester to watch and yet when Dora just happens to appear on the television, they sit quietly with smiles on their faces - quite unlike many of the other characters they know and celebrate.

Dora and her puppy Perrito came to live with us and both girls have enjoyed playing with them.  This Dora and Friends Train & Play Dora and Perrito doll from Fisher-Price features both Dora (in her more mature reincarnation) and her puppy who performs tricks and responds to Dora's commands.  The Fisher-Price Dora and Perrito set allows your child to take Perrito for a walk, teach him to sit, lie down, dance and even high-five.  Dora can speak commands to her dog and uses different arm movements to initiate new tricks.

We were all impressed by the range of tricks that Perrito performs, and the range of phrases and songs that Dora speaks.  Perrito is attached to Dora by a lead (without this attached, Perrito won't move) which somewhat limits their mobility but the girls do enjoy seeing him perform tricks on demand - they giggle if he falls over when trying to show off.  Perrito also comes with a little toy which, if you wave it by his nose, encourages him to sit up and beg or perform a new trick.

Holly enjoys taking Dora's shoes and clothes off as well as styling Dora's hair.  Lara has taken it upon herself to try and get Dora to walk with her dog...this is particularly tricky because Dora is actually quite unstable on her own which is why both girls usually play with this toy together - one to hold Dora and one to perform tricks with the dog either by pressing the puppy design on Dora's top, or by moving her arm.

There is now quite a range of available Dora and Friends toys; its nice to see Dora get a new lease of life.  At around £35-£40 this toy is quite expensive for a role play doll but it will make Dora fans like Lara and Holly smile - especially when Dora and Perrito share a cute puppy kiss together!

Note: Dora doesn't come with a hairbrush, the one in the photo is a toy Holly uses on all of her dolls!

Saturday 17 October 2015

#StreamTeam The One Where I Get a Rare Lie-In

It has been a funny old week.  With a new job come some sacrifices - no more half day off work, no more school or nursery drop off, or pick up.  One night this week I only just got home in time for snuggles with my girls before bed.  These are all special times of day that I had been lucky enough to share with my girls in the past and this week I've really missed them.  On the days when I have made it home at a more sensible time of night, we have chatted about the exciting things they have done at school and nursery and I've listened to them both read.  Happy Times.

This morning I woke up with the alarm at stupid o'clock for Holly's swimming lessons and the exhaustion of a new regime and a new job finally hit me.  Mr. B. was lovely; he hopped out of bed and whisked Holly off to swimming leaving me and Lara snuggling together in bed.  I was treated to a lie in.  Unfortunately Lara wasn't tired any more and wanted to get up and get going.  Sigh.  She asked if she could borrow my iPad and then disappeared into her bedroom mysteriously.  I will admit that I did drift back off to sleep, only to wake when Holly got back from swimming!  What luxury.

Lara's No. 1 Netflix choice this October
So, what was Lara upto on my iPad for an hour in such silence?  Well, apart from playing matching pairs, she settled down to a couple of episodes of her favourite shows on Netflix.  Lara is so independent now that she will happily browse Netflix on her own (with Kids mode switched on, I might add) and occupy herself.  While I feel a little bit guilty for settling back down to sleep this morning, it does feel like a rare luxury to which I am indebted to Netflix!

Barbie, Life in the Dream House is one of Lara's favourite shows right now.  If, as an adult, you've never watched it before then I challenge you to sit and watch a whole episode.  It is so surreal.  It is a self-mocking Barbie programme based in Malibu and each show is made up of lots of quick-changing, parody sketches.  When we first discovered it on Netflix, I think Lara was just drawn in by the pink-ness but now she is starting to pick up on some of the silliness and quite grown-up humour.

A very big My Little Pony fan

After the lie-in, I took the girls into London for a My Little Pony themed event.  They both absolutely LOVED their day and came home very much enthused about My Little Pony so it was no surprise that the very first thing they asked to do when they got home was to watch some My Little Pony episodes on Netflix.  On Netflix there is a good range of My Little Pony series to watch ranging from 2005 episodes right through to the latest Friendship is Magic and Equestria Girls series which the girls seem to prefer.

So now, after an exhausting day battling the crowds at Ascot and Twickenham with two enormous My Little Pony toys and two tired My Little Pony fans I'm settling back into bed as I'm home alone.  I'm tucked up and ready to log onto MY Netflix account for the first time in a while - I'm ending the day with a little luxury, just like I started it.  Tonight I'm starting to watch a new series that was recommended to me by friends who, like me, had also enjoyed Breaking Bad. Episode 1 of Narcos... here I come.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

What Makes You #SaySi

It has been a whole week of "new" for me.  A new job, a new half marathon PB and a new scent.  These are all things that make me say "YEsssssss".  Taking the decision to run 13.1 miles in the capital was not one I took lightly, nor was deciding to pack in my perfectly acceptable job to gamble on a potentially awesome career move.  I've said "yes" to positivity over the past few months and believing in myself, I've said "yes" every time I've questioned whether I can or should try and push myself.  I am in control.  And I'm loving it.

This Autumn, Giorgio Armani want to know what makes you say yes, or, perhaps more glamourously, "Si".

The Si collection from Giorgio Armani is a set of three fragrances and they've each helped me define the last few days.  Their scent will remind me of these pivotal few days in my life - great memories captured in a scent.

The Si Eau de Toilette is a really light an playful scent that I've worn at home and I wore to the race through Hyde Park at the weekend.  It is a crisp scent with hints of bergamot and mandarin.  I love it.

The Si Eau de Parfum has been with me every day at work this week in my new office for the new me.  It reminds me a lot of lychees and tropical fruit but with a woody, exotic undertone.  It is really quite different from the Eau de Toilette but retains the same theme.

Finally, Mr. B's favourite of the lot - the Parfum Intense which is a deep, strong, syrupy version of the Si scent which can last the entire evening.  It is dark and certainly very intense.

There is nothing like a brand new bottle of perfume to put a smile on my face.  Oh, OK, a new happy job and an amazing half marathon race can put smiles on my face.  I say yes to happiness.

So, what makes you say "Si"?

Disclosure: I received these fragrances as a Klout perk.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Lanolips Lovely Lanolin Intense Body Balm Review

MY skin gets a bit of a battering these days.  As I'm running more frequently, I'm having to shower a lot more than I used to and for me (and my girls) baths and showers are, undoubtedly, one of the causes of dry skin due partly to the REALLY hard water we have in our area.  I regularly use a body lotion in the evenings just to keep on top of things and this Lanolips Lovely Lanolin Triple Buttermilk Body Balm is the perfect thing to put the life back into very dry skin.

The Lanolips body care range features Lanolips medical-grade Lanolin which is ultra pure.  Unlike the other ladies in my family, I'm thankfully not allergic to lanolin so I can really make the most of its highly moisturising and repairing properties. Lanolin has been used for eons as a nutrient-packed moisturiser - even Cleopatra swore by it!  The result of the Lanolin on your skin is a veil of protective moisture that sits on the skin and leaves it feeling smooth and soft - it's a great feeling and isn't greasy or heavy but, for a little while after application you are aware it is there.

Other active ingredients include Vitamin E and milk which are there to make this body balm into a rich, thick and luxurious treat.  The lotion smells sweet and comforting, a little bit like a traditional soap; I actually look forward to applying it before bed (often making the time for body lotion can feel like a chore).  In the few weeks that I've been using Lovely Lanolin, I've noticed my legs and arms feeling a lot less scratchy even after running.

And some of the greatest news for me is that this intense body balm isn't also padded out with nasties - its free from mineral oils (yay for my sensitive skin) and parabens and is also sulfate-free.  If you read through the ingredient list you can see all sorts of fascinating natural ingredients including shea butter, almond oil and even carrot seed oil.

At £13.99 for a 170ml tube, I think this Lanolips body balm is a great beauty buy.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Cooking with Kids - Lets Cookalong with Tesco

As you know, I encourage my two girls to join me in the kitchen every weekend - they absolutely love learning how to bake, slice, mix and blitz with me.  In fact, recent research by the Tesco Eat Happy Project shows that around 80% of kids say they love cooking and making food but that when asked, the numbers of children who had never turned their hands to some basic cookery skills such as chopping vegetables, making a simple salad or boiling an egg was incredibly low.

The Tesco Eat Happy project is an initiative which, through in-store, at-home, community and school activities, aims to encourage children to learn more about the provenance of their food.  If your child can learn about the origins of their food, and how it is cooked, they can build a healthy, happy relationship with food from a young age.  New to the Eat Happy Project is a brand new series of Let's Cookalong videos presented by Farah Larnauti and her young helpers.  Each video introduces a simple, but accessible recipe that either practices a new cookery skill, or introduces flavours and styles from a different country.

Lara has enjoyed watching the Let's Cookalong videos with me - flatbread pizza, morrocan falafel and lamb samosas have inspired Lara to ask for some slightly different meals recently.  The Eat Happy Project website has all of the Let's Cookalong videos in full and at present there are also lots of fun activity sheets to download, all about spices (a family favourite theme!).

To take part in a Let’s Cookalong tutorial, or for more information such as recipes, resources and activity sheets, visit the website

Saturday 10 October 2015

Vosene Kids Everyday Haircare

I often sit and simply watch my two beautiful blondies - their long, straight blonde hair mesmerises me, especially when we are out in the sunshine.  They've been blessed with gorgeous hair and I'm determined to help them keep it looking that way; clean and tangle-free.

Lara, very seriously digestingthe instructions on her shampoo!
Over the past few weeks we have been using the Vosene Kids Fruity Goodness range of 2-in-1 shampoos which have recently received a packaging facelift.  The girls are both great big fans of the Vosene Kids Strawberry 2-in-1 shampoo which has an intense strawberry scent which reminds me of milkshakes!  I was surprised to learn that these shampoos are paraben-free and MIT (Methylisothiazolanone)-free which would explain why the girls can use them without getting irritated skin - they do both still on occasion experience dry itchy skin from bath products.  I'm really happy with this shampoo for the girls but I'm still a little confused about what the 2 in the 2-in-1 label really means as it isn't clear from the label.  Traditionally I'd expect a 2-in-1 shampoo to offer both shampoo and conditioner so that I don't have to use two separate products but I certainly still find that both girls need to use a conditioner after this if I am to get a comb through their hair without tears.

Also in the fruity goodness range is the Vosene Kids Melon 2-in-1 Shampoo which promises soft and shiny great-smelling hair.  I much prefer the scent of this shampoo as the melon smell it is a little more sedate and fresh smelling.  It is a mild shampoo which Holly doesn't seem to mind if it accidentally washes into her face when I'm rinsing her hair.

I think both of these Vosene Kids Fruity Goodness shampoos are great everyday haircare solutions for kids - they are easy to find on supermarket shelves.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Balance Me Skin Brightening Body Polish Review

If you've never tried a bath or shower with a product made with mint oils - you haven't lived!  There is something phenomenally invigorating about washing with a body product that contains mint oil.  This Balance Me skin brightening body polish is a natural, exfoliating body wash packed full of natural ingredients and scented with spearmint oil which gives is a really fresh scent and makes the whole experience refreshing and renewing.

I tend to use a body exfoliant about once a week to help brighten the skin and bring out the "new" me but I'll admit, I do like a really good scrub to help me feel as good as new.  The Balance Me body polish helps exfoliate through its main ingredient - natural sea salt.  I find it most effective when I use it on dry skin but you can use it as a more regular body wash if you apply it to wet skin.  Because the product comes in a squeezy tube, the lotion has to fit through a small hole, which means that the salt crystals can't be that large...I think this limits its ability to give a really good scrub!

However, I do LOVE the minty zingy smell when I use it in the bath - it gives an instant cooling feeling after a hot run!  The polish does also leave the skin feeling good afterward - perhaps not as exfoliated as I'd like but certainly you can feel the effects of the moisturising ingredients such as Shea Butter, sweet almond oil and coconut oil.

If you have dry skin on your feet, Balance Me body polish makes an awesome foot scrub as the combination of exfoliation and cooling mint is the perfect pedi-combo!

The Balance Me Skin Brightening Body Polish costs around £18 for 150ml.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Children's Book Review :: Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Everywhere!

I must say that I've very rarely seen Halloween-themed pictures books so I was really interested when the girls received Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Everywhere! which is written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and illustrated by  Lorena Alvarez.  Lara and Holly have a bedtime story every night and we always like to tie it in withe the seasons, where possible.

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere is a picture book which follows a set of young trick-or-treaters as they make their way to the pumpkin parade.  Each page features carved pumpkins of different sizes that the girls enjoyed spotting.  

To be honest, there isn't much of a story to the book but it does make a good first reading book with simple sentences such as "pumpkin happy" or "pumpkin sad" and it allows you to sit with your child and look for the pumpkin that the text refers to.  Towards the pumpkin parade at the end, the story gets a little more adventurous but in general, I'd describe this as a picture book rather than a story.

The illustrations are fun with lots of darks to contrast with the bright orange of the pumpkins but I don't think the pictures are enough to keep the girls interested in the story.  I'm not sure this is a book that Lara and Holly would choose to go back to at any time of year other than at Halloween itself.

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

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Orchard Toys 3-in-1 App Review

Gosh, it feels like a lifetime since I last reviewed a kid's app! Orchard Toys, home to some of our most treasured kids games and jigsaws have just launched their first iOS app for iPhone and iPad and Holly has been trying it out. The app features 3 games in 1 app - Matching pairs, jigsaw puzzles and colour/shape sorting.

In our house we own a fair few Orchard Toys games and puzzles so Holly instantly recognised most of the characters in the app. From the iconic red dog, blue dog, through to the cakes from Where's My Cupcake, you'll find lots of familiar illustrations hiding among the different elements of this kids app which gave it instant appeal to Holly. I would say that, over the past couple of weeks, the Orchard Toys app has been the only app Holly has chosen to play with. Even her older sister is attracted by the familiar characters (even though she is now, aged 6, far too old for most of the games in the 3-in-1 app).

Each game has different difficulty levels so you can tailor the experience to your child's level. In the iTunes app store, the Orchard Toys game is rated for children from age 4 upwards but I would say that I would be happy to introduce it from 2 upwards. There are no in-app purchases or advertising so there is no distraction or temptation, just simple games that practice basic skills such as sorting, matching and remembering.

In fact, at 3 years old, I think that much of the app is actually a bit too easy for Holly, even in hard mode.  I do keep reminding myself that Holly is very advanced for her age but, even so, I think that the matching pairs and jigsaws in easy mode are suitable for a much younger child to practice simple app skills.  I'm worried that the game will quickly cease to provide enough to interest Holly.  The jigsaw game has so many wonderful pictures with lots of different themes, but they are just too easy for Holly to want to explore more than one or two.

We like Dotty Dinosaurs the board and counter game from Orchard Toys and so Holly very much enjoys playing the same game in the app (it saves us having to find all of the small counters which have a habit of disappearing under the sofa).  This game allows you to match coloured dots, shaped counters or patterned counters with those on the dinosaur's back.  The different levels have different numbers and ranges of things to match.  This is a great example of the Orchard Toys app building upon a pre-existing game idea and adding a little more depth and variety.

Whenever your child gets something right in the app, a little fanfare is played.  If they get something wrong, a cheeky character will commiserate with you!  Lara seems to enjoy this, but interestingly, her younger sister gets frustrated at the interlude and just wants to be moving quickly onto the next task without having to wait for a yay or a nay!  She is an impatient one, that one.

I think that the Orchard Toys 3-in-1 app is a wonderful introduction to the iPad for a toddler to learn key skills and I'll admit that it is cheaper (it currently costs only 99p), and more convenient that buying all of the equivalent board games.  However, there is a little part of me that feels that actually the girls get a lot more out of playing with the physical counters and pieces of the "real" games.  Is that wrong of me?

Monday 5 October 2015

DVD Review - Tree Fu Tom and the Carrots of Doom

Tree Fu Tom and the Carrots of Doom - how could we possibly resist a DVD with a name like that?

Lara (6) and Holly (3) very rarely agree on a television show that they would both like to watch but Tree Fu Tom seems to perfectly bring together their two age ranges and they were excited to hear that Tree Fu Tom and the Carrots of Doom is released this week on DVD.  As is the norm, both girls spent most of the time watching this DVD while stood up in the living room so that they were ready for action as soon as Tree Fu skills are required.  I love this interactive part of Tree Fu Tom which encourages kids up and out of their seats to get active.

The Carrots of Doom is just one of six episodes on this DVD (132 mins in total).  In the title episode, the Tree Fu Rangers have to harvest some enormous carrots that have grown too huge; the team use some ingenious inventions and work together to solve the problem.

The gardening theme runs through quite a few of the episodes - Lara and Holly most enjoyed the episode, Range Tom : A Badge Too Far in which the rangers are competing to try and get more badges than each other.  I think this really appealed to Lara now that she is in Beavers and is trying to earn badges of her own.  There is an important lesson in this show that trying to cut corners and do too many things as once can often result in nothing being done very well at all.

The last episode on the DVD has a Christmassy theme so we are saving that one for watching a little closer to the time to find out about the Tree Ranger's Winter Fest.

The girls both enjoyed this DVD - the mix of nature challenges, Tree Fu skills, mild peril, silly stinky mushrooms and collectors badges captures the imagination of both girls and boys from age 2-7.  Tree Fu Tom and the Carrots of Doom is out now on DVD by Freemantle media and costs around £6.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Halloween Sticking, Stamping and Puppetry!

Both Lara and Holly have very much been enjoying their autumnal crafts together at the weekend.  At this time of year we start looking forward to Halloween; it isn't a day that we particularly celebrate at home or at school but the idea of spooky goings on and "frights" is very much encouraged as a theme to explore at this time of year.

Yellow Moon sent the girls a selection of halloween craft activities which are perfect for the run up to half-term and would all make wonderful activities for a halloween party with friends from school.

One of Holly's favourite things to do is sticker-craft as she can now do this independently.  With a bumper pack of glitter foam stickers and a pack of plain black paper, Holly was able to make fun, striking images.  The foam stickers have lots of small parts to pop-out for the most striking effect and Lara was better suited to this element of the activity.

These spider finger puppet kits come in a pack of 4 and make a variety of designs - I think they'd be perfect at any time of year but they do seem very fitting right now!  The girls had great fun performing a spider-show for me after they had made their spider puppet kits.

The girls had most fun with these simple halloween foam stampers which come in the same designs as the foam stickers so that you can make co-ordinating halloween crafts.  From cauldrons to skulls, pumpkins to witches, these chunky hand-held stampers work well with paint or ink on autumnal coloured card and paper.

We played outside in the garden with these paints so that we could collect fallen autumn leaves to stick onto the pictures as well.

Yellow Moon stock a massive array of halloween themed craft activities and craft essentials such as these but you may be surprised that they also stock party bag fillers which make great ideas for trick or treat surprises on the night.

Don't forget that you can earn between 5% and 20% cashback for your school on most Yellow Moon purchases - if your school or PTA isn't already registered, why not drop them a hint?

Saturday 3 October 2015

Mellow Mummy's Travel Sleep Tips for Kids

Lara and Holly are very lucky to have had plenty of opportunities in their short lives to travel with us both in the UK and abroad.  As a family, we very much enjoy spending weekends away from home to visit family, visit a special children's attraction or simply to explore the country.  I will admit though that, as fun as our travels are, sometimes it can be very hard work to get the girls to settle to sleep when we are staying in a hotel - the excitement of a night in a new place often means that the girls are unsettled or over-exhausted.

Premier Inn understands that getting your child into a regular sleep routine can be one of the biggest challenges as a parent and, if you’re staying in an unfamiliar environment such as a hotel, they may become unsettled. This autumn half-term, Premier Inn are working with the founder of The Children’s Sleep Charity to find solutions and advice for parents who may be travelling with kids.  As we are a family who travel quite a bit, they've asked me to share my Mellow Mummy tips for helping your children settle to sleep while travelling away from home.

When we stay in a hotel together as a family, we always try and book a family room which has enough space for all of us.  Even though the girls sleep in the same room us as, we like to try and make sure that they go to bed as close as possible to the same time as they normally do at home.  We have found that the best way for us to get the girls to sleep is to make sure that there is a total blackout at bedtime.  When the girls were younger we used to try and simply dim the lights so that Mr. B. and I could read, or we used to try and watch the TV very quietly but we found that the girls wouldn't settle, or if they did, they would wake up and desperately try and stay awake with Mummy and Daddy.

Unfortunately, enforcing bedtime at the normal time of night means that Mummy and Daddy end up having to settle down at the same time of night!  Switching the lights off is by far the most effective way of getting the girls to fall asleep...but it almost always sends us to sleep too.  Thankfully, when we are travelling, we've usually had a really exciting day out, or else we have a very early start the next morning so an early night does us good too so these days we tend to settle down to sleep at the same time as the girls.

Before blackout we calm the girls down with a bit of quiet time, either chilling in front of the TV or else we dim the lights and read them a bedtime story.  Teddy bears and story books come with us on EVERY trip.

We have found, over the years, that settling the girls to sleep in a hotel room is easier if we haven't spent very long in the room during the day.  We try and get out to explore (and wear them out) during the day.  On rainy days when you're tempted to spend more time in your room, it can often result in the kids feeling that the hotel room is a playground...which spells trouble at bedtime.

Unless we are travelling for a specific evening event, we always like to eat dinner either in the hotel, or within walking distance of the hotel.  This makes sure that the girls haven't got the opportunity to fall asleep in the car on the way back to the hotel.  The transition from car to hotel room can often result in everyone feeling wide awake again.

Finally, after the ULTIMATE stressful night in Cambridge last year, we have a strict rule of no sugary drinks before bedtime.  We learned that lesson the hard way.

Friday 2 October 2015

Salcura Bioskin Review

Lara and Holly have both being using Bioskin Junior bathtime products for a while as they are incredibly gentle on their super-dry skin.  This past month I've had the opportunity to try out a couple of grown-up skincare products for very dry skin by Salcura Bioskin - a daily moisturising serum and a daily cleansing wash.

The Salcura Bioskin DermaSerum is made from 98% natural ingredients - it is a light gel-lotion which you apply to your face as a moisturising serum after cleansing.  Unlike many thick moisturisers, the DermaSerum is suitable for use on facial skin which suffers from acute dry skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis.  These days, I do still suffer from dry skin (but nowhere near as badly as I did during the first few years of motherhood!) and from occasional stress-induced psoriasis on my body.  I normally use a thicker moisuriser on my face but I've been reasonably pleased with the moisturising results when using DermaSerum.  I'm actually more impressed with how refreshed and relaxed my skin feels after application.  It's almost uplifting!

DermaSerum from Salcura Bioskin is great for applying to patches of dry, itchy skin and I can understand how its soothing effect would help prevent itching.  I think the relaxing, soothing feeling is intensified by the natural scents from the oils of eucalyptus, tea tree and sea buckthorn.

DermaSerum costs £11.99 for a 50ml bottle.

Sea Buckthorn is one of the primary ingredients of the Salcura Bioskin facial cleanser, giving it an intense orange colour!  This cleanser is a foaming face wash which I have been using in the mornings to wake me up.  Often I find that a facewash can leave my face feeling stripped of all its goodness but I think, because this is a largely natural product with a very low level of foaming (due to it having no SLS or parabens), this facewash doesn't have such a strong stripping effect.  So, even if you are not a sufferer of dry skin, this facewash is a great alternative to soap.

I'm not a big fan of the smell of the sea buckthorn in this cleanser (I know from cookery programmes on TV that its a bit of a love-hate thing) but the scent is certainly very distinctive and Salcura Bioskin products depend upon the skin-healing properties of sea buckthorn berries.  

I think its a great store-cupboard cleanser for me to use on a daily basis.  I can see that, if you are an acute dry skin sufferer, it must be really hard to find a facewash or cleansing lotion that can clean the skin without making the suffering worse.  I'd definitely recommend trying this product if you've struggled to find a suitable cleanser in the past.

The Bioskin Face Cleanser costs £12.99 for 200ml.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Humble Natural Beauty - Bath Honey Review

One of the problems about blogging my reviews of beauty products is that the interweb has yet to invent the means of me transmitting the smell of the products I review.  And that's an issue because I find it hard to put into words quite how heavenly the scent of the new Rose and Frankincense bath and body range, Humble.

It has been a couple of years since I've tried a bath product (for me) which has blown me away; but the Humble Rose and Frankincense Bath Honey brought a massive smile to my face!  It is a gorgeous, pampering, relaxing, mellow bath additive which made me, and the entire bathroom smell fabulous.  And what's more, this luxurious range of bath products launched by TV's Kate Humble, has guilt-free green credentials.

I don't normally set much weight on a celebrity name when it comes to cosmetics but I understand why Kate Humble might seek to launch a natural and biodegradable range of cosmetics - somehow her name makes the brand seem genuine.  All of the ingredients in the Humble range are sustainably sourced and are chosen such that, when the products are used and then washed away down the drain, they have minimal impact on our waterways.  Of course, the range is also free from SLS and parabens but importantly, where ingredients can be sourced in the UK, they are... this helps reduce the "beauty miles" of your cosmetics.

The Humble eco-friendly natural beauty range is available exclusively in Waitrose and features bath and body products in two different scents - Rose and Frankincense, and Sweet Pea and Verbena.  Both fragrance ranges feature a handwash, hand lotion, body lotion, body wash and intense hand cream.

I was lucky enough to try out the luxurious Rose and Frankincense bath honey which is a sweet-scented runny bath foam.  For an SLS-free product it produces a great foam.  The bath honey comes in a large (300ml) jar with a screw top lid.  It looks luxurious, it smells luxurious and trust me, when you shut the door and shut out the world for your own rose-scented bath, it feels luxurious.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this product and it has definitely made me want to try out the other products from the Humble range.
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