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

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Nursery Wall Stickers by Witty Doodle

As you know, I've become a bit of a fan of wall art stickers since discovering how much of a big difference they can make to a room without the need to entirely re-decorate.  These nursery art wall stickers from Witty Doodle are just a little bit different; they've been designed specifically with babies in mind.

Witty Doodle introduced us to their range of Little Journey nursery wall art; we chose the Safari range.  The set starts with a single, large bold sticker designed for newborns and very tiny babies who can only distinguish strong contrasting colours, geometric shapes and lots of black and white repetitive patterns.  As you baby gets older (about 4 months) the set includes some extra bold stickers with bright colours and smiley faces; a chance to recognise first animals.  These stickers are designed to stimulate vision and promote brain development.

Then finally, once your baby starts to notice the stickers and look at complex things in more detail, there are lots of additional smaller stickers to add to the scene to help promote curiosity and interest as your baby's vision develops.  The stickers are made from a material which makes them really easy to re-position.  The material is very different to other wall stickers I have used, much thicker and less "sticky" so I was confident that they would withstand tiny grabby hands and thought I would let the girls choose where to position them.  You can easily peel them off and re-position them to motivate further interest and keep your toddler thinking and exploring the images.

Our nursery had been looking a bit plain and these Witty Doodle nursery stickers have totally transformed the room.  It was so easy to apply them compared to other wall stickers I have used and they haven't left the wall feeling sticky.  I'm really impressed. These Witty Doodle nursery sticker sets cost £55 and you can also buy matching prints and canvases to complete out the room.

You can find Witty Doodle at and on twitter and facebook.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic DVD Review - May The Best Pet Win

May the Best Pet win is the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic DVD which is out now to buy.  This is the second DVD in series 2 of My Little Pony : Friendship is magic and my two girls have absolutely loved watching it; Lara is a big My Little Pony fan but she doesn't get much opportunity to watch the Friendship is Magic series on TV so this has been a little luxury for her.

May the Best Pet win is a DVD which features 5 episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and the DVD gets its title from the first episode in which Rainbow Dash hosts a competition to try to find her new pet.  Lara is now of an age where she really understands the morals behind children's TV stories and explained to me that the reason why Rainbow dash chose her new pet was because they stuck with her when disaster struck (she got caught in an avalanche during the race... love my little girl for understanding this.  Every My Little Pony episode has a clear moral behind it but the topics are still fun.

Other episodes include Sweet and Elite (in which Rarity risks her friendships by socialising with a group of elite ponies) and Secret of My Excess in which the pony's friend Spike over indulges and regrets it.  There are lots of fun stories, songs and new characters to meet.

Each of the episodes of My Little Pony:Friendship is magic lasts 22 minutes which is a good length for children of this age who have a longer attention span.  Lara ABSOLUTELY loves this series and, of all the programmes that she likes to watch, I find this DVD one of the most bareable to watch as an adult (maybe it's that level of nostalgia?)

May the Best Pet Win is out now on DVD and there is a special edition boxed DVD available which also includes a My Little Pony Toy (this, in Lara's eyes, was the coolest thing... EVER).

Monday, 23 February 2015

Children's Cookery Book Review - Noodle Kids by Jonathon Sawyer

As you've probably gathered by now, here at Mellow HQ we all enjoy getting creative in the kitchen together.  Teaching my girls the wonder of great food and inspiring cookery is one of my favourite pastimes.  Noodle Kids by Jonathon Sawyer is a new fun cookery book designed for families.  Packed full of pasta and noodle recipes from all over the globe; it's a fantastic book which has already inspired new family meal ideas for me and my girls and which I expect to provide many years of cookery fun.

Noodle Kids contains 50 recipes for cooking with children or for children; there are plenty pictures for you to sit down and drool over (or in Lara's case, so that she can browse for what she wants to cook next weekend) but the book is also very content rich.  In among the recipes you will also find pages featuring the cartoon Noodle Cat who explains different pasta and noodle cultures from around the globe - this book is a learning experience as much as an eating experience.

Noodle Kids features recipes with dried pasta, homemade pasta sheets, hand-shaped pasta, gnocchi, dumplings and noodles of lots of different types.  Unlike many cookbooks designed specifically for children, the recipes in this book are challenging.  That suits me perfectly.  All to often, cookery with kids is dumbed down and it is refreshing to see a cookbook for children which encourages parents to learn and share cookery skills, flavours and ingredients which, for many adults, are adventurous.  This is great news, especially because Lara (5) and I made a new year's resolution to learn at least one new recipe together every month during 2015.

So this weekend, Lara and I learned how to make ravioli from scratch.  We had a little help from Holly (2) and yes, it was messy and chaotic but wow, they both loved every minute of it.  We followed a simple pasta sheet recipe from the book and then used the ideas for ravioli fillings as inspiration for our own filling using ingredients that we had in the house (we chose an Italian turkey and basil mix).  Next weekend, at Lara's request, we will try our own homemade gnocchi.

Throughout the book you will find ideas of how to make the recipes seem more accessible to children; from ravioli parties to ramen noodle parties there are ideas which help to simplify and encourage participation in the act of cooking and enjoying food together.  From Japanese ramen to Italian gnocci, Greek noodle bakes and South-East Asian noodle and dumpling specialities, Noodle Kids features recipes from all over the world and is a great introduction for children of all ages to the diverse range of pastas.

I'm really gushing about Noodle Kids, and rightly so.  It is so unusual to find a cookery book that has had thought put into it for how to make the recipes suitable for cooking with children, but which isn't over-simplistic.  As I read through this book I see recipes that I've never tried before, let alone my daughters.  I see recipes with ingredients I've never tried and with techniques that scare me a little (I'd LOVE to try making my own dumplings) and I can't think of a better time to try them than with my two girls alongside me in the kitchen.

Noodle Kids is available in paperback and on kindle from Amazon.
To order Noodle Kids at the discounted price of £12 including p&p* (RRP: £15.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG291.

*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Kids in the Kitchen with Hintons

Hintons is a homeware and gift store based in Dorset and they've recently revamped their website so that people all over the country can browse and order from their range; having taken a virtual tour of Hintons' website, I think their stores would be just my kind of place with lots of kitchen goodies and fun games and gifts.  Hintons wanted to give us a taste of their range of bakery items because they knew that Lara and Holly love spending time in the kitchen.

Last weekend, Holly, Lara and I made homemade jammie dodgers for the first time ever with a very handy gadget from Hintons.  Our jammie dodger cutter was very popular with both Lara and Holly who were unstoppable when it came to punching little biscuit shapes.  The cutter comes with 8 different shapes of inserts including all of the playing card shapes.  We chose some valentine's themed jammie dodgers (and, for Lara, who won't eat jam, we invented choccie dodgers filled with Nutella).  I thought this gadget was great fun... until I had to clean it.  It is dishwasher safe but took a fair few trips through the machine in order to come clean!

Today, Holly and I baked again.  Holly tends to help me in the kitchen three or four times a week at present (it isn't all baking!) and today she wanted to make cakes.  Inspired by The Great Comic Relief Bake Off this week, we made marbled cupcakes in these decorative cupcake cases from Hintons.

Baking with Holly is never an exact science and I've learned not to stress if she wants to chuck everything into a bowl in one go...or mix the cake mixture for 30 minutes... or put ALL of the mixture into one cupcake.  It really doesn't matter, so long as Holly is enjoying herself.  Holly swirled vanilla cake mix with chocolate cake mix and topped them off with a thick chocolate icing and some rapunzel cake toppers (as you do).

Holly simply couldn't wait for the icing to set.  Which was a bit of an issue.  Because it meant that post-cake she looked a bit like this.

You can find Hintons online at or on Facebook.  I've picked out a few of my favourite items from their range for cooking accessories or gifts for children; the full range can be found at Hintons Home Childrens Kitchen.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Children's Book Review :: Max and Tallulah, A Little Love Story

The girls have an appetite for books right now that I'm struggling to keep up with.  We have an entire room full of books and supplement them every other week with a trip to the library (not to mention Lara's school reading books) and yet the girls want more... more... more. And who am I to stop this?  This week the girls have been reading Max and Tallulah at bedtimes, a very cute picture story book by Beverley Gooding.

Max and Tallulah arrived with us for review just before Valentine's day - perfect timing for a little love story such as this.  Max and Tallulah are zebras.  Max likes Tallulah and wants her to notice him but he's too shy to make a move.  Max tries all sorts of silly subtle ways of impressing Tallulah but every time something goes wrong and she doesn't notice it was him.

Eventually Max has a clever idea.  He simply smiles.  And Tallulah smiles back.

This is a very cute story about how people can love you for simply being yourself.  Lara totally understood the messaging and spoke to me about it afterwards.  I always love to read them a story that they can both immerse themselves in, but which leaves a lasting impression.

Max and Tallulah features bright but comforting illustrations - this really is a feel good book.

Find out more through the paragon books social channels on twitter and facebook.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

ChillFactor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker Review

My 5 year old is surprisingly conservative when it comes to drinks so I'm often looking for ways to get her to be a little bit more adventurous.  This Slushy Maker cup from Chillfactor is just the ticket - it adds a little excitement to her drinks by putting her in control to make iced slush drinks on her own, simply by squeezing the cup.  The new Tutti Fruity range of squeeze cups come in bright orange, blue, purple and pink.

The Chillfactor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker can turn most liquid drinks into an ice slush.  You place the cup in the freezer for a few hours, then pour in your drink and then squish, squish, squish the cup to turn it into slush.  Lara thought this was EXCELLENT.  Her first choice of drink to experiment with was chocolate milk.  We made up the chocolate milk mix as normal and then poured it into the Squeeze Cup.  Lara tried to squeeze the cup but it was too cold for her to touch, so I wrapped it in an oven glove!  Since then, I've learned to only place the ice-pack insert for the cup into the freezer so that it isn't so cold to touch.

It took about 1 minute of squishing and squeezing for the milk to fully turn to a thick slush which came up above the top of the cup, and into the round cup lid.

The cup is easy to assemble.  It comes in about 4 or 5 pieces which can be washed easily.

We have tried a strong orange squash mix and different milk flavours and Lara loves them. She likes the novelty and intrigue of the ice cold lumps.  She slurps until her heart's content and uses he other end of the straw (a little spoon) to scoop the best bits out.  The straw is the only part of the cup that I found tricky to wash because it is inflexible.

Lara isn't much into fizzy drinks or strongly flavoured drinks but I think she may give some bolder colours and flavours a go in this slushy maker.  Its so easy, and more or less mess-free so I can let her try new things without worrying about having to lift out a blender or crush up ice.  I'm looking forward to cherryade flavour slushies.

The Chillfactor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker Tutti Fruity comes in lots of bright colour combinations and costs £12.99.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

#Knorr #ProductOfTheYear Thai Chicken Laksa with Sweet Chilli Rolls

I'm not a great fan of the cold and at this time of year, I turn to warming soups and hot bread rolls.  I had been stuck in a bit of a soup rut (curried lentil or parsnip soups are my staple diet) so I found the lastest Knorr blogger challenge to be a good way of inspiring me to create something a little different.  This warming soup and rolls has a bit of a twist - it is a spicy oriental chicken noodle soup that uses a few of the different flavours of Knorr Flavour Pots, this year's Sauce & Seasoning Product of the Year winner.  It was a bit too spicy for Holly, but her older sister very much enjoyed making and eating this soup and bread.


For the bread:
500g strong white flour
1 tsp fast action dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
350ml tepid milk or water
1 Knorr Mixed Chillis Flavour Pot
1 tblsp clear honey

For the laksa:
1 tblsp vegetable/sesame oil
1 large chicken breast
1 Knorr Ginger & Lemongrass Flavour Pot
1 small sweet potato
1/2 a head of fennel (you can use 2 sticks of celery as an alternative)
1/2 a butternut squash
1/2 a red onion
1/2 a can coconut milk
1 Knorr Curry Flavour Pot
1 tblsp crunchy peanut butter
1 pint chicken stock (Knorr stock pots work well here too! but I had some homemade stock available)
200g rice noodles
1 tblsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 lime
4 spring onions
A handful of fresh corriander leaves

  • Make the bread by combining the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl and then slowly adding the warm milk until it forms a soft dough.  Place on a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.
  • Make a well in the centre of the dough and place the contents of one Mixed Chillis flavour pot into the hollow.  Fold the edges of the dough over carefully and then squish and knead for another 3-5 minutes until all of the chilli mixture is well combined into your dough.  Leave the dough in an oiled bowl, somewhere warm (but not hot) for 1.5 hours until it has doubled in size.

  • Place the chicken breast on a piece of greaseproof paper or cling film and then spread the contents of the Ginger and Lemongrass Flavour Pot all over it, covering both sides.  Leave to marinade for at least 1 hour.

    • Once the dough has risen, knock it back by kneading gently for a minute.  Break it into 8 equal sized pieces and roll them into neat balls.  Lara (5) absolutely loved helping me do this, and between us, we could have taken on Paul Hollywood with our rolling skillz.  Place the rolls onto a baking tray (I sprinkled some polenta onto mine to stop the rolls from sticking) and leave to rise for another 30 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees (or a little less for a fan oven).
    • Put the rolls in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown and sound hollow when you tap the bases. 
    • As the rolls cool, brush them with a little honey on the top of each roll.  The combination of spicy, savoury chilli with the sweet honey is delicious.

    • Peel and grate the sweet potato and butternut squash.
    • Slice the red onion and fennel (or celery) and fry for 2-3 minutes in a large saucepan with half of the vegetable oil.  Add the contents of a Knorr Curry Flavour Pot and stir to coat.

    • Add the grated vegetables, soy sauce, sugar, peanut butter and then the stock.  I also needed to add about 1 pint of boiled water to fully cover the vegetables.
    • Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.

    • Meanwhile, prepare the chicken.  Fold the paper or cling film over the chicken and bash with a rolling pin until it is flattened.  Lara LOVED this!
    • Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and then fry the chicken well on both sides until well-blackened.
    • Once fully cooked, place the chicken breast on a chopping board and slice thinly.

    • To finish the soup, add the coconut milk and the juice of half the lime.  Add the rice noodles and simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
    • Serve the noodle soup into bowls and then sprinkle the chicken pieces, spring onions and fresh corriander over the top.  Squeeze over the remaining fresh lime for an extra kick!
    • Serve the soup with the warm chilli rolls.  Nom.

    Thursday, 12 February 2015

    A Valentine's Meal for Under £10 #LoveALot

    I love a recipe challenge and I couldn't resist the challenge, laid down by Aldi, to spend just £10 on the ingredients for a Valentine's day meal for myself and Mr. B. Of course, I had to get in a little practice tonight and so Holly and Lara helped me create a meal that everyone loved. Aldi are hoping that this weekend, people up and down the country will spend a little but #LoveALot.

    My three-course Valentine's meal has a largely Italian theme and was (for me and Mr. B. at least) accompanied by a really enjoyable crisp white Andara Chilean Sauvignon Blanc which cost a mind-boggling £3.99 for a bottle.

    To start with, I served toasted ciabatta rolls (a bargain at 49p a pair) rubbed with garlic butter and topped with mozarella, tomato and basil.  Holly really enjoyed brushing the garlic butter onto the rolls.

    For the main course I served a roasted chicken, fennel and basil tagliatelle with a side salad and we all LOVED it.  I cheated a bit and used ready-cooked sliced roast chicken but this meant I had more time for making pudding!

    And finally, to finish off, a simple plain sponge cupcake decorated with pink buttercream and fresh raspberries. I noticed this week that Aldi had in stock lots of fun pink cake decorating items for Valentines day - very romantic.

    My sugar, flour, food colouring, eggs, garlic, tomatoes and pasta will all see me through a few more meals so I came in just a teeny tiny bit over budget but given that my 3 course Valentine's meal included a bottle of outstanding-value white wine, I was seriously impressed by the quality and value.


    There are lots of Valentine's day recipe ideas, wine recommendations, and tips for buying chocolates and flowers over on  So, as my two girls day "Happy Valentime's day".

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Dr. Cool Science Kits Review : From Fossils to Volcanoes!

    Lara is loving year one at school and always comes home enthused about the new topics she has learned - she seems particularly taken with the world of science and is often eager to conduct further research at home, either online or through experiments.  At 5 years old, it is great to see this sort of enthusiasm in her and I'm keen to encourage her interest.  Dr. Cool's Science Kits are a wonderfully interactive way of encouraging an interest in natural sciences and we were very lucky to be asked to review a couple of the Dr. Cools Science activity sets.

    Dr. Cools Science Kits range in price from around £10 to £30 with topics ranging from crystals, geodes and gems to dinosaurs, fossils and bugs.  We tried out the Mine for Fossils kit which is designed to inspire your children to find out more about the heady world of paleontology!  Lara couldn't wait to get started.

    In her kit, Lara received a digging brick, a piece of muddy rock, in which she had to very carefully dig for 10 real fossils.  Armed with her tools and her little brushes, Lara fastidiously scraped and sweeped.  She enlisted the help of her little sister with the digging!

    The digging was a fairly messy exercise with clay flying here, there and everywhere (the instruction booklet did warn us about this!  The girls were beside themselves with excitement.  When I first read the instructions, I was a bit worried that the Mine for Fossils kit would be a short-lived activity but in fact, it took Lara three full afternoons to uncover her 10 real fossils.

    The fossils range from sharks teeth to ammonites and even a large piece of dinosaur bone!  Lara was most excited to dig out a tiny fossilised poo!  The kit came complete with an activity guide which features a page of detail about each of the fossils, where they came from and how they were formed.  Lara thought this was the most fascinating thing ever.  I think it has really inspired her to learn more about fossils.  Even Holly has enjoyed going back to the fossils to look at them more closely with the magnifying glass and to keep on brushing them even cleaner!

    The Mine for Fossils kit from Dr. Cool also includes an activity book which features 10 puzzles and challenges on the fossil theme - the kits are suitable from around 5/6 years up to 15 years old and I felt the activity book and guide were more suitable to slightly older children than Lara who needed me to help her with the reading and puzzles.  We did like the activity book though, and felt it was a great way of extending the enjoyment of the kit beyond the initial dig.

    This week Lara is already getting excited about her next Dr. Cool's science experiment - The Ultimate Volcano Kit.  Daddy and Lara are going to create brightly coloured explosions this weekend and we can't wait. Stay tuned to my facebook page to see how we get on.


    Tuesday, 10 February 2015

    Hanging Up My Running Shoes #TeamChallenge10

    No.  Don't Panic.  I'm not giving up running!

    These are my trusty running shoes which have seen me complete my Couch-to-5k and well beyond but this week they are going to trainer heaven.  They helped me meet my MAJOR running goal, but now they are going into retirement.

    Way back in July, I invested in my first ever pair of running shoes, having been advised that the pain in my knees after every run was probably related to running in generic "trainers" rather than specialist running shoes.  After a gait analysis session, these Nike Structure 17 babies came into my life and suddenly running became that little bit more comfortable.

    Running shoes are recommended to be replaced between 300 and 500 miles but I had an alert set up on Strava to remind me to assess them when my shoes got up to 250 miles.  Which this weekend they did.  When I got back from my run, I just sort of "knew" that the shoes hadn't been supporting my feet in the same way as normal. I had blisters (not something I normally suffer with) and within an hour or so, one of my heels started hurting... possibly the first signs of the dreaded plantar faciitis (every runner's nightmare).  I knew my running shoes were done for.

    This weekend I ran for 10 miles without stopping.

    This is such a massive achievement for me.  Something I never imagined this time last year (in fact, running 10 metres hadn't even crossed my mind).  It is 8 months since I started jogging and just over 5 months since I joined Team Challenge 10 where a group of bloggers aimed to be able to run 10 miles in 10 months.  This weekend's run was hard.  And long. And, to be honest, a bit lonely.  But the weather was beautiful and the sense of reward at the end was immense.

    But my running challenge doesn't stop here.  Between now and June, the Team Challenge 10 members will be working up to a group run together to "celebrate" our 10 mile achievements.  In that time, I have two half-marathons planned.  Also not something I ever imagined I would be typing.

    And, if I am to complete these challenges, of course I need new running shoes.  Which is a fantastic opportunity for me to go shoe shopping.  I shall share my running shoe goodness with you next month!

    Monday, 9 February 2015

    mylittleduckling Pilot Hats Review

    I always know when a product I'm trialling is going to be a hit.  It is a sort of gut instinct.  When mylittleduckling first contacted me to tell me about their awesome baby pilot hats, I just KNEW.  For me, the ultimate tests for a new piece of baby or toddler clothing are
    • is it comfortable?
    • is it practical?  as in, will it stand-up to the test of tiny hands? and wiggly babies?
    • does it make heads turn?

    The answer, for this gorgeous baby pilot hat is a resounding Yes, Yes, Yes!

    mylittleduckling make gorgeous, imaginative hats for babies and toddlers from 6 months to 4 years.  The hats come in a range of colours suitable for both girls and boys - our favourites are Dragonfly blue and this Lollipop purple which Holly loves to pieces.

    When Holly first received her mylittleduckling hat, she wanted to wear it straight away and insisted on wearing it in the house.  I thought we were going to have arguments about it!  The hat is a soft, knitted cotton on the outside, with a snuggly bright yellow cotton fleece lining.  On the outside, the pretend goggles really perked Holly's imagination.  The goggles are fabric and are well-attached to the hat (trust me, Holly has already tried to move them!) and each side of the hat is covered with decorative "flaps" with press-studs.

    On our first weekend of day trips and shopping trips, Holly was stopped by at least 3 different parties of people interested in finding out more about her hat.  It really is something different and brings a smile to people's faces.  Above all though, this 100% cotton hat is warm, flexible and comfortable... it's a hat that is practical, yet gorgeous.  We LOVE it.  In fact, when my husband saw it, his words were "it's almost like it was tailor made for Holly".  I can't think of a style or colour of hat that would suit her better.

    I have a special 10% discount code for all purchases from, just quote the code PILOTS at the checkout. Or, if you are visiting The Baby Show at ExCel, look out for them on stand F39 for a 10% discount as well.

    And, if you are planning a visit to The Baby Show at London's ExCel then you have a chance to win a pilot hat. mylittleduckling is giving away 2 pilot hats at #TheBabyShow ExCel. All you need to do to enter the competition is LIKE mylittleduckling Facebook page, INVITE your friends to like their page and MESSAGE them via Facebook or at to say when you are planning on attending #TheBabyShow Excel. Be quick the competition closes on Monday 16th Feb - 2 lucky winners will be notified via Facebook and will choose the hat of their liking at The Baby Show ExCel!

    Thursday, 5 February 2015

    Children's Book Review :: The Best Birthday Present Ever

    The Best Birthday Present Ever is a gorgeous picture book with a story that put a great big smile on my face, let alone my daughters!  Written and illustrated by Ben Mantle, this is a new picture book from Macmillan which has a really feel-good factor.

    The story features squirrel and his best friend bear.  Squirrel umms and aaahs about what to buy his friend for his birthday.  When the big day arrives, Squirrel gets worried when he realises that all of the other party guests have really splashed their cash on whizzy toys and gifts.  As it turns out, Squirrel's simple gift goes down well and he and bear spend the whole week playing together.

    I loved the message that the best birthday present ever doesn't have to be fancy - it just needs a little thought put into it.  To me, this is a really important message for my children to learn.

    The illustrations are all great fun and I loved the characterisation of the animals throughout the book.  Little details such as the text on the amazing gifts that bear receives, really helps to add weight to the story.

    The Best Birthday Present Ever is a beautiful story book that made both Lara and Holly laugh.  It is a story suitable for age 2 upwards - both my girls loved it.

    Can you guess what present Squirrel gave to his friend?

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