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

Monday 30 November 2015

One Snowy Night at Norden Farm, Maidenhead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 29 November 2015

Christmas Craft Activities with Yellow Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 28 November 2015

Youtube Kids App Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 26 November 2015

Disney Marvel Kids Interactive Review

At the weekends, I love to sit the girls down in the afternoon with a craft activity or a puzzle to do, as a bit of quiet time after lunch - this weekend Lara will be doing Spider-Man activity sheets that we have downloaded from the Disney Marvel Kids Interactive website where you'll find plenty of activity sheets for Spider-Man and Avengers fans.

Lara has been phenomenally keen to get started on the Spider-Man activity sheets and even asked me to print of a wordsearch that she could take up to bed with her!  Alongside word-searches you'll find anagram puzzles and sudoku too.  All of the activities are suited to children from about age 5 upwards - Lara finds them suitably challenging.

But Spider-Man isn't the only one of the Marvel characters that you'll find on the Disney Marvel Kids Interactive website.  You'll find games and activities featuring all of the Spider-Man villains as well as the full range of Avengers stars including Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Loki and more - you're children can read a short biography of every character to find out a little about them all.  There are short videos to watch too - fun snippets for Avengers fans.

Lara and I have also been playing a couple of the Marvel games on the interactive website.  Lara is just beginning to show an interest in games for the pure challenge of gaming (rather than the very basic games for kids such as matching pairs or word games).

So far, Lara has tried the Spider-Man Web Slinger game on the iPad and I've been somwhat absorbed by The Avengers : Bunker Busters which is reminiscent of Angry Birds; you have to target your avengers at a bunker of baddies and time the use of their skills to break through the bunkers.  I may have accidentally spent an evening trying to move through the many different levels (there are plenty of levels to work through!).  Thankfully your progress through the levels is stored (presumably through website cookies) so you can return later on.

It is a little frustrating for a 6 year old to have to sit through an advert each time they choose to play a different game - I'd much rather the adverts weren't there but I do understand that without them, we probably wouldn't get a chance to play these games for free.

I'm actually really impressed by the quality of the games on the Disney Marvel Kids Interactive website - they are all great platform games with classic qualities and they're easily picked up.  I thought they worked really well on the iPad screen which was pleasantly surprising! On the laptop we've found they work best when the browser window is zoomed in to make the game fit more or less full-screen.  Lara find the iPad controls much more intuitive.  I find the keyboard on the laptop more so.  Either way, there's many hours of playing fun to be had here.

Explore the world of Marvel characters for yourself at

Disclosure: Lara and I have been asked to review the interactive features of the Marvel Kids website in return for a voucher. We regularly use Disney websites for games and activities and we're happy to provide feedback.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Essence of Arcadia Aromatherapy Gift Set Review

When the lovely Rebecca from Essence of Arcadia contacted me to tell me proudly of her new range of Aromatherapy oils and diffusers, I was very excited. In my pre-Mummy days I had dabbled in aromatherapy for medicinal, cosmetic and relaxation purposes and I couldn't wait to rediscover the joys of using aromatherapy essential oils.

Essence of Arcadia have launched a small range of luxury aromatherapy products just in time for you to add to your Christmas lists.  This beautiful presentation box contains 14 different essential oils (one of which is a blend) and it is the perfect gift for anyone looking to explore the world of aromatherapy.  The set is packaged in a smart black box which provides a good place for storage, away from light.

In the 14-oil sample set you will find most of the essential oils you need to start discovering all of the different uses for aromatherapy and you'll be blending your own relaxing concoctions in no time!  The set contains Bergamot, Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemongrass, Orange, Peppermint, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Ylang Ylang and a Healing Blend made from tea tree, cinnamon, ginger and eucalyptus.  Each oil comes in a small 10ml darkened bottle and is 100% pure organic essential oil.

Essential oils can be used in so many different ways.  Essence of Arcadia sell a couple of stunning-looking oil diffusers for evaporating the oils in water but by far my favourite way of enjoying aromatherapy oils is to drop a few droplets into a warm bath so that I can enjoy the scents.  When I first received this sample set of oils, the first thing I did was run a bath with bergamot and grapefruit oils - a zingy combination that I remembered always used to cheer me up.  And that it did.

The beauty of aromatherapy is that you can use the scents, and the properties of the oils to turn a rubbish day into a good day, or a manic day into a mellow day.  If you're feeling sluggish, you can find a smell, or create a body lotion that brightens you up.  If you've got a headache, you can make a gentle oil rub that releases tension and helps clear your head.  The Essence of Arcadia oil sampler sets come with a small booklet which explains how to use the oils as well as a few simple "recipes" to get you started.  The booklet also contains a summary of each oil, and its properties and proven benefits.

So far, I've been really impressed with the quality of the oils from Essence of Arcadia.  The 14-oil luxury gift set costs £39.99 and a 6-oil starter set costs £19.99.  From past experience, I know that as you explore aromatherapy, you are likely to use up some oils faster than others and it is great to see that Essence of Arcadia also sell individual 10ml bottles of each oil for £6.99 which is very reasonable for a high-quality pure essential oil.  Essence of Arcadia aim to make home aromatherapy feel as special as a luxury skincare product or pampering home-spa, rather than clinical, scientific or even quirky - I certainly think they've done well on this!

You can follow Essence of Arcadia on Facebook and Twitter.  Stay tuned to Mellow Mummy in the coming weeks to find out about their luxury aromatherapy diffusers and your chance to win a diffuser and oil set of your own.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

A Kids Shoe Christmas Wish List

This year, interestingly, each of my girls put on their Christmas list letters to Father Christmas a pair of shoes.  For Lara she has asked for a pair of black patent lace up boots and for Holly, a pair of pink sparkly slip-on shoes.  Just to complete the set, even I've put a pair of shoes on my list...all be it running shoes!

Because we've all gone a little bit shoe crazy, I've been putting together a Christmas list of shoe ideas for the girls and here are my top 6 ideas of fun, show-stopping shoes that my girls would love to receive as gifts this festive season.

1.  Number one on both girl's lists is a pair of black lace up patents boots.  Paired with a brightly coloured set of shoe laces, these are all the rage at school at present.  I found a bargain pair at Shoezone for just £12.99 so I wouldn't mind risking the inevitable scuffs at this price.

2.  Next up is a pair of Heely roller skate shoes.  I haven't seen anyone wearing these for a couple of years but Lara really fancies a pair.

3.  Sparkly slip-on pumps.  Ballerina pumps regularly feature in ranges of kids shoes these days and they look so tempting as they are easy to slip on and off; I'm sure that they are highly impractical for a 3 year old but they make a perfect combination with a party dress.

4.  A pair of Nike junior running shoes.  Both of my girls want to run like Mummy and I've learned that even little people, if they want to run and avoid injury, need a specialist pair of running shoes.

5.  Holly saw these Gruffalo slippers while I was browsing online for something totally different.  Neither of my girls normally wear's slippers so these would be a bit of a novelty.  Actually... I think I may need a pair of these.

6.  Frozen snow boots.  We first bought snow boots for Holly his time last year and, despite having not seen a flake of snow all year, I've been surprised at how much she managed to wear the boots so I'm not afraid to buy a her a new pair this winter and how could anyone resist a pair of Frozen now boots?  I found these ones at Brantano.

Monday 23 November 2015

#bestofleapfrog - Our Leapfrog Favourites

I have been an ambassador for Leapfrog learning products for a number of years now, and over those year's I've tried a fair few Leapfrog games and books with Lara and Holly.  There are a few outstanding books and games that my girls go back to time and again, and which I can see having made a big impact on their learning journey.

During November, Leapfrog are dedicating their Facebook page to The Best Of Leapfrog where you can vote for your favourite Leapfrog content for the LeapPad, LeapReader, Leapreader Jr. and LeapTV.  By taking part, you'll be in with a chance of winning Leapfrog bundles and spot prizes.  The most popular Leapfrog content will be revealed from each category in December.

We LOVE, Love, Love the Leapreader learning stylus and the Scout-shaped Leapreader Junior.  Our absolute favourite books for the Leapreader Junior have been the books in the Ready to Read set featuring Meg, Og, Izzy, Al and Gus.  These are brilliant books for children aged 2 and 3 to start learning the sounds of the basic vowels and understanding the structure of simple sentences.  On a similar first words theme, Holly has very much enjoyed this Mickey Mouse Clubhouse :Mickey's ABC Friends for Leapreader Jr.  It stars all of her favourite Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters - each double page features a number of letters of the alphabet and as you pass the Leapreader over the page it says the letter and the name of the object of character starting with that letter.  Holly is already starting to recognise and sounds out the words for characters she knows.

There are lots of fun story activity books for the Leapreader and Lara enjoys reading about her favourite movies such as Monsters University and Tangled but the Leapreader products she goes back to time and again are always the ones that require a greater level of interaction.  Our single most popular Leapfrog product over the past 4 years with Lara is the Leapreader Interactive World Map which to me embodies everything that Leapfrog is about - learning concepts for small people right through to big people (like me!) while all wrapped up in a lot of fun.

Animal Adventure is another similar interactive learning game from Leapfrog that you play with the Leapreader stylus.  The game is suitable for children from 4-8 years old and involves moving your animal counters across different themed world zones if you correctly answer a prompt about animals or birds which appear across the board.  I have been very impressed to see both Lara and Holly correctly identifying mammals and reptiles and searching frantically to find more of them before the time runs out.  This is a brilliant family game that is fun to play and packed full of science and georgraphy learning opportunities.  I'm so glad to see that Leapfrog continue to offer learning options for older children as well as early learners.

Don't forget to vote for your #bestofleapfrog books and games over on Facebook.


Sunday 22 November 2015

Christmas Surprises - Orchard Toys Review

The Christmassy magic has begun in the mellow household and the girls are just beginning to feel that first spark of festive fun with this Christmas Surprises game from Orchard Toys.

We love a good family game, especially a game where even Holly, the littlest member of our family feels that she can play as an equal.  Christmas Surprises is just as fun if you are 3, or 33 (or indeed a little more than that...) although it is recommended for children aged 3-6 years old.

Christmas Surprises comes with two different boards to play - Father Christmas or a Christmas Tree - this makes it feel like two different games.  Bonus.  If you play the Christmas Tree board then the aim of the game is to fill your board with coloured baubles by throwing the dice and revealing a different colour of bauble.  On the Father Christmas board you throw the dice to select a shape of present to place into Santa's sack on your board.  Lara and Holly very much enjoy this version of the game as, when it gets to the end, they like turning over their parcels to see what gifts are in them - from teddy bears to cookery equipment!

If you, like me, are a big Orchard Toys fan then you will recognise this game as a festive version of Dotty Dinosaurs (another family favourite).  All four of us can play together so we can can all join in the seasonal fun - I'm quite looking forward to having this as an option to play together on our very first ever Christmas Day with just the four of us (no other family this year for a change).

For Holly, Christmas Surprises is a good exercise in practicing her colours and her shapes.  Lara is currently learning 2D and 3D shapes at school so it is also good practice for her when naming the Christmas present shapes in Santa's sack.

If your are looking for an educational, fun way of getting the whole family into the Christmas mood then I highly recommend Christmas Surprises.  The game costs around £9.50.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Bayer Chic Baby Dolls Pram and Sleeping Bag Review

I've been having a bit of a clearout of my own baby products recently - making space as we redecorate parts of the house.  I'm currently trying to find new homes for a pushchair, a cot and a safety gate now that Holly no longer needs them.  Interestingly enough, as I wind down my baby products, Holly is building up a collection of her own!  Holly and her friends at nursery are very much into role play at present and Holly loves to play Mummies and Daddies (and sisters) with her baby dolls. sent Holly one of their baby dolls pushchairs to encourage her imaginative play, along with a baby doll's sleeping bag.

It feels like just yesterday that Holly herself was snuggled in a baby sleeping bag.  This Bayer Chic 2000 sleeping bag is designed for dollies and Holly loves zipping her different dolls up in their sleeping bags as it feels so real - somehow, a little bit more real than tucking them in under a blanket. mainly focus on baby products for human babies but I LOVE the fact that you can buy a matching sleeping bag for your doll too and Holly thinks it is wonderful.  The zip is easy for her to do up with her small hands and the bag is slightly elasticated so that it is easy to take on and off a doll with very rigid arms.

Of course, no game of Mummies and Daddies would be complete without a doll's pram, pushchair or buggy; would it? sent Holly a Bayer Chic 2000 dolls buggy which has the same fabric as the sleeping bag (they also sell a changing bag and mat set too to make the full role play experience!).

At a little under £26, this toy pushchair is quite a lot more expensive that the previous equivalent that we used to own but then it is a very different quality of toy - this Vita dolls buggy feels and looks as real as any of the full-sized pushchairs on the site.  It looks like a real pushchair and it folds and operates like a real pushchair; it also has the sturdiness and quality I'd expect of a genuine pushchair, not a toy!  The only problem with this is that both Lara and Holly expect it to be just like a grown-up's pushchair and have both been seen attempting to get into it - at 6 years old, Lara is faaaarrrrrr to big for a baby doll's pushchair but it seems to have survived so that baby John (aka Tiny Tears) can still make the most of it.

One of the biggest hits on this toy pushchair has been the detachable carry net at the base of the buggy for putting your shopping in.  Holly and Lara think this is fabulous and love finding more and more things to carry in there - one such thing is the sleeping bag which gets taken off when baby John gets too hot!

There are lots of different designs of dolls pushchairs and prams to choose from, and loads of different fabric options too.  I knew Holly would love this hot pink design with concentric circles.  I love seeing Holly play imagination games like this - it is something Lara didn't really do much of.  I can see a very gentle, caring side of Holly comes out when she is looking after baby John; this makes me realise that Holly isn't just about chaos, noise and rushing around... there really does exist a softer and less chaotic Holly.

Friday 20 November 2015

Design your own Elfie Selfie t-shirt with the Selfie Clothing Company

**  Get a 20% discount if you use the code mellow20 at the checkout **

The Selfie Clothing Co. print personalised clothing featuring your selfie photos and they've got a very fun selection of festive selfie clothing this winter.  My own little elf, Holly is now sporting a very awesome long-sleeved t-shirt with a selfie she took herself earlier this week - an elfie selfie.

The concept of the elfie selfie is very simple.  Upload a photo of your small person into the Selfie Clothing website, choose one of their range of festive designs and within a matter of days, your personalised clothing arrives in a gorgeous presentation box.  There are a number of fun Polaroid-esque designs to choose from including a couple of different elves, Santa, a snowman and some reindeer.  Each one comes with a smattering of fun festive designs around the photo (and on the sleeves) as well as a fun pair of ears or antlers on either side of your selfie.

I absolutely love this top.  It is a natural off-white colour and made from a thin, high-quality jersey cotton.  It looks so comfy and Holly was over the moon when she saw it.  She simply can't wait to show her friends at nursery a picture of her being one of Santa's helpers.

These unisex tops are available for ages 2-8 years old and cost from £15 but Mellow Mummy readers can get a 20% discount if you use the code mellow20 at the checkout.

You can see more of the fabulous Selfie Clothing designs on their facebook page.

Thursday 19 November 2015

#GiveTheGiftOf reading with Miles Kelly this Christmas

Lara is turning into a fountain of knowledge - she just LOVES devouring facts about life, the universe and everything and then sharing her new-found knowledge with us in the evenings. As Lara's reading improves, she becomes even more eager to explore new types of books where she can learn new facts for herself. Lara recently received a Miles Kelly science book as a gift from her Grandma and she just absolutely loved finding out all about the human body, electricity, the solar system and lots more besides.

This Christmas, specialist children's publishers, Miles Kelly, are helping everyone give the gift of reading (or in our case... the gift of knowledge) with their special themed gift sets which bring together a collection of different children's books in a special set which offers phenomenal savings of around 60%.

Miles Kelly sent Lara a very special gift set which they tailored to her interests so that she could experience a little bit of Miles Kelly Christmas magic. Lara had great fun opening up her surprise parcel which was wrapped in colour-me-in Miles Kelly wrapping paper featuring the familiar cartoon characters of Miles Kelly picture books.

Lara's books were all themed around the planet earth; a set of beautiful hardback geography books for children around 7 years upwards. This set of three books is known as The Earth Gift Set and currently costs £20 - a whopping 63% saving off the cover prices of the three books if you buy them individually.

The first book that Lara unwrapped from her surprise bundle was the Children’s Encyclopedia Earth - it is a geographic encyclopedia with over 500 facts and beautiful photographs and illustrations of animals, landscapes and geographic wonders to really whet the appetite for learning all about the world we live in.

Next up was the Children’s Encyclopedia Ocean which is a similar book but all about the underwater world. From coastal geographic phenomena to the mysterious animals of the very deep oceans. From whale migration to polar animals and lifecycles. This is a really amazing book with some fascinating photos that I am absolutely sure Lara will want to show her friends at school. The patterns of animal behaviour that follow the movement of the oceans is something that I've always found amazing and I really hope Lara shares this feeling of wonder when she reads this book.

To complete out this brilliant book set, Lara unwrapped the Earth Book which includes 500 facts covering the most amazing things about the planet - from caves and coral reefs to volcanoes and earthquakes.  This book has the sort of images which children will go back to time and again so that they can get their heads around the magic of the real world. It is such a brilliant foundation in geography basics and touches on all of the topics that I remember from secondary school but presented in a format full of short sound-byte facts that younger children can digest and use as starting points for further investigation if they are interested.

The Earth Gift Set is available for a special price of £20 for a limited period in the run up to Christmas - a super saving for a fantastic selection of children's non-fiction books. If you'd like to find out more about some of the different Miles Kelly Christmas book bundles you can download their Christmas Gift Guide or follow them on Facebook and Twitter where they will be sharing some of their favourite gift sets in the coming days.

Sunday 15 November 2015

Children's Book Review:: The Curious Tale of Fi-Rex

Fi-Rex is part girl, part-dinosaur - any book with a character like this is going to be a hit with small people!

To celebrate Children in Need, this fun story book has been launched with at least 12% of the purchase price of each book going to Pudsey's charity. This is no ordinary story book... oh no...

Every page of the story is written by a different celebrity.  The curious tale of Fi-Rex is particularly curious because it has been written a bit like a game of consequences.  Each celebrity writes one page which follows on from the other.  This means that the story is very random and has a slightly different style on each part of the story and yet it all comes together.

Celebrity authors such as Andy Murray, Sir Paul McCartney, Kylie Minogue, One Direction, Bear Grylls and Ronan Keating have all contributed a part to the story of Fi-Rex and her trip to the Land of Your Imagination.

The curious tale of Fi-Rex has fun illustrations from Julia Patton. Each page has something different for different tastes.  Lara always seeks out the page from One Direction but my favourite is Sir Paul McCartney's which is clearly a reference to The Frog Song and brings back great memories.

It is a fun book with a great charity behind it.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Bedtime Battles #StreamTeam

Mummy: Girls, it's time to get ready for bed
Mummy: No...really
Mummy: Come on girls, let's go upstairs...

Half an hour later once I've convinced the girls to go upstairs, get changed and brush their teeth...
Mummy: Time to settle down you two
Girls: Aawwwwwww
Mummy: Let's settle down and get some sleep so that you're bright and fresh in the morning

This post was written as part of the Netflix Stream Team. This week Netflix are celebrating the launch of Dinotrux favourites - a series of short 5 minute Dinotrux episodes; just enough that you can promise your child "one more episode" before bed.

Monday 9 November 2015

The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen

The classic fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen have a very special place in my heart as I can remember both my Mum and my Grandma reading to me from hardback books these timeless stories.  I was over the moon to find out that Parragon have printed a hard bound treasury of Andersen's most famous stories so that I could share the tales with my girls.

This beautifully illustrated collection of fairy tales comes in an absolutely stunning cloth-effect hard cover with sparkly silvery foil detail around a beautiful picture of a swan (who features in several of Andersen's tales).  The book is itself something to remember.

Inside there are 8 of Hans Christian Anderson's most well known stories; The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes, Thumbelina, The Princess and the Pea, The Fir Tree, The Nightingale, The Snow Queen and The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

Holly had already been enjoying the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes from a picture book we have so she listened intently as I read to her from the book - I think she discovered and understood a lot more about the meaning behind the story.  The stories have been "retold" in that they aren't exactly the same as the original translated text but they are very close and capture all of the magic and intrigue of Andersen's story-telling.  The stories aren't rushed, and are full of rich scene-setting which I think is often missing in simpler re-telling of the classic fairy tales - The Princess and the Pea for instance, takes up around 26 pages of of text and illustrative plates.

Lara's favourite story is The Nightingale which is the tale of a beautiful bird whose song brings happiness to an oriental emperor, but captivity causes the bird to cease her captivating song.  When I read it to Lara she really disappears into the story with big wide eyes.

My favourite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale in the book is the story of the tin soldier - the sad tale of a lost toy who goes through all sorts of stresses and unwanted adventure.  The story is slightly magical when you read it - with several places where it is hard to explain what's happening.  In the end, the story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier centres around the mysterious unspoken love between a moulded tin soldier and a pretty little dancer.  I've always found it to be a tragic tale.

This hardback edition of The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen is a beautiful book that I hope will become a family favourite.

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

Sunday 8 November 2015

Neusu Bath Toy Scoop Review

If your bathroom is anything like ours, it is littered with bath toys.  Over the years we have tried all sorts of ways of storing the toys but everything we had tried to date was either too small, or else it just got in the way, meaning we avoided using it.  That's why I was so pleased to be asked to try out the Neusu bath toy scoop, a self-draining bath toy tidy. sell high quality storage solutions that are made to last - we tried out their premium bath toy scoop but Neusu also make shoe and clothing storage such as heavy-duty vacuum storage bags.  The bath toy scoop is a rigid, brightly-coloured plastic scoop which, if it didn't have holes in it, has a capacity of about 3 litres (which is just about enough to house our collection of kids bath toys).  You attach it to the bathroom tiles for storage using a sucker which the scoop will hang from; when the kids have finished in the bath, you simply woosh the toy tidy around the bath to scoop up all the toys and then clip it back onto the hanger while you let the water drain away so that your toys stay dry and mildew-free.  Very clever.

I've been really impressed with the level of suction of the toy tidy; even when it is full to the brim with heavy toys, I can relax in my own bath knowing that its not going to topple down on me!  The scoop is designed and shaped such that it encourages optimal suction against the wall.

It is very satisfying to finally have an option for storing the toys out of the way, but even more rewarding is the fact that you don't have to take the toys out of the bath one by one.  However...the very best part of the Neusu toy scoop is the fact that Lara and Holly find it fun to use and so they volunteer to tidy up the toys from the bath before they get out.  Genius.

You can find out more about Neusu household storage solutions on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

The Neusu Premium Bath Toy Scoop costs around £11.99.


Friday 6 November 2015

Kate & Mim-Mim: A Christmas Wish DVD Review

We are definitely beginning to get into the Christmas spirit now; Holly has been practicing for her role in this year's pre-school Christmas show and Lara has helped me make our Christmas cake so I'm allowing myself to start thinking about festivities. To get us into the Christmas mood we have been watching Kate & Mim-Mim: A Christmas Wish, out on DVD on from today, courtesy of FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment!

Kate and Mim-Mim was new to me (although the girls had seen a couple of episodes before) - I really like the animation style and the honest simplicity of a story about a little girl and her toy bunny Mim-Mim. A Christmas Wish is a DVD full of wintery and festive episodes featuring snow, twinkly stars and Christmas wishes.  Each episode features a problem that Kate needs to solve so we twirls with her toy bunny rabbit until they are magically transported into a special world together and Mim-Mim is able to help her find new friends and clever ways to solve her problem - this often takes them on fun adventures together.

Both Lara (6) and Holly (3) very much enjoyed the DVD, especially the episode about snow bowling which sees Kate need to find enough snow to build a fort. I think this particularly appealed to Holly because she hasn't had more than a couple of minutes of snow play in her whole life and she still finds the idea of snow and ice extremely magical.  I think my favourite episode was the first one in which a house is overrun by kittens which are actually woolen mittens - very cute!

Kate & Mim-Mim: A Christmas Wish features 7 episodes in total as well as a music video.  My girls always go all gooey whenever they watch a TV show based around a Christmas theme and, while there is a wintery theme to the entire DVD, one of the episodes centres around Christmas Eve and it is this episode they have asked to watch again!

Kate & Mim-Mim is targeted at 4-6 year olds and I think it would make an excellent stocking filler for little people this Christmas as well as a wonderful way to help get your children into a Christmassy mood.  It costs around £7.99.

For all the latest Kate & Mim-Mim news visit

Thursday 5 November 2015

Quick and Easy Christmas Cake Decoration Ideas

This weekend we have started making THE Christmas Cake.  It has become a little bit of a tradition that the girls help out with the Christmas Cake whether it is chopping the dried fruit, grating the orange zest or simply just mixing the gloopy dollopy mixture and making a wish.  We will make the cake now and then wrap it tightly in clingfilm and seal it in a box, returning to "feed" it with booze every few days between now and December.

Once December arrives we will decorate the cake together - I haven't quite decided on this year's theme but I think it will involve stars and gold or silver balls and glitter.  To help the girls get a bit of practice for the decoration, and to get them into the Christmas cake mood we made some simple Christmassy cupcakes together using a recipe from the Flora website where you can find 3 quick and easy Christmas Cake decorating ideas which can turn a simple cake into a wintery showstopper.

We made a simple chocolate cupcake recipe using 2 eggs, 125g plain flour, 125g caster sugar, 125g sunflower spread and a teaspoon of baking powder and then baked them in a medium oven for around 15 minutes until risen and golden (my own oven doesn't have any numbers on it any more so I have to guess what temperature it is!).

Once the cupcakes were cooled, we could have topped the cakes with a simple buttercream or basic icing paste made from icing sugar.  However, in my experience both of these things can get VERY messy when the kids are involved so instead we went back to basics and followed the Five Star Christmas Cupcake decorating instructions from the Flora website which are so simple that I could leave the girls to it and know that the cupcakes would look fabulous.

To make these Five Star Christmas Cupcakes you'll need a pack of ready-to-roll icing in a colour of your choice.  You have to kneed the icing until it is very soft, so that decorations will stick nicely to it but other than that you can leave the children to roll the icing and use cookie cutters to cut out festive shapes such as stars.

We used icing sugar, mixed with water to stick the stars to the top of the cupcakes and then decorated with sparkly edible balls and confetti and sprayed with a shimmery edible spray.  The girls always love sprinkling things onto the top of cupcakes but somehow this recipe, because it involved rolling and sticking, felt like they owned more of the process of decorating the cakes.

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

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Fireworks and Halloween Fun with #StreamTeam #NetflixHalloween

I love this time of year with the weird and wonderful costumes of Halloween followed closely by the magic and excitement of bonfire night.  Tonight we took Holly to her very first fireworks show at our local scout group - she went through every emotion from excitement, through fear and doubt to total amazement and then even disappointment once the show was over.

At the weekend we took the girls away for a fun weekend.  Lara and I were invited to be judges for the Great Pumpkin Carving Festival at the Tante Marie restaurant and culinary academy in Woking, Surrey.  We had a wonderful day watching a steady stream of people coming to carve pumpkins as well as exploring Woking Shopping.  The girls even got involved in a Sublime Science potion making experiment where they got to make their own sherbert fizz.

We stayed the night at the Premier Inn in Woking which was quiet and peaceful and made the perfect end to our day.  The girls had great fun colouring in spooky Halloween images for a colouring competition.  In the morning, we filled up with a brilliant cooked and continental buffet breakfast.

Because we had been away overnight for Halloween, we treated Lara and Holly to a little Halloween party at home.  They dressed up, we painted faces, lit candles in their pumpkins and even lit up sparklers in the garden.

Of course, we also treated the girls to a "dark party" in the living room where they could watch a little of their favourite TV.  This month Holly is very much into Charlie and Lola which is available on Netflix.  Lara is all over DinoTrux, a Netflix original series for kids by Dreamworks which features a world of dinosaurs made from truck-parts.

Mr. B. and I are continuing to watch Narcos which is spooky in its own special way - the brutal and bloody tales of the Columbian cocaine cartels is not the sort of show that you watch if you're looking for a light-hearted evening's viewing!
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