Mellow Mummy: February 2016 : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday 25 February 2016

Mothers Day Craft Activities for Kids

With Mother's day fast approaching, I've been helping the girls get in the mood (it can't hurt to drop a few hints!).  The girls have been creating a few Mother's Day themed crafts using kits from Yellow Moon - our number one stop for craft kits and art activities.

Both Lara and Holly had great fun making these Mothers Day Rosette Badge Kits which cost £3.49 for a set of 6 different designs.  The kits are easy to create as they are made up of foam pieces which stick together. The last piece of the puzzle is a small badge clip which you stick into place -we've had mixed results with these actually staying on because the badge itself is a little too heavy.  Thankfully the girls aren't insisting that I wear the badges but I am under strict instructions to display them proudly on my desk at work.

Next up are these lovely Mothers Day sand art pictures.  If you've never tried sand art then I highly recommend it.  It feels so much more adventurous than colouring a picture but essentially that's what you're doing... colouring with sand.  Yellow Moon sell big packs of 8 different colours of sand which are incredible value at £10.99 because. if you catch all the run-off carefully so that you can re-use it, these tubs last for AGES!  Sand art is still a bit tricky for Holly but Lara very much enjoys it as she likes to think hard about the colours she wants to use.

Other than a card or a rosette, its nice to receive a little gift from the girls at Mothers Day.  Last year Lara very thoughtfully bought me a jewellery holder from a stall at school but this year maybe she might even make me one with these fun hand-made Jewellery Hands that you can paint or colour in yourself to hold rings, bracelets and necklaces. These come in a pack of two for £2.49 so I'm hoping both Lara and Holly can create me one.

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

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Cleo - A Movie Review

It is not very often that Holly, my three year old, sits still for more than 10 minutes in one go. Even her favourite movie (the one with Anna and Elsa... you know the one) is watched in bursts but this weekend I witnessed a little miracle.  Holly sat and watched a whole movie in breathless silence.  Cleo.

Cleo is the tale of an enormous cuddly dog (a St. Bernard I'd guess) who lives with his 11 year old owner, Luke.  Luke and his friends live in a very snowy small town and over the school holidays his friends challenge each other to a snowball fight on an epic scale.  Cleo encourages his owner to take part and is there egging them all on through thick and thin as the group of warring friends challenge each other to bigger and bigger snowball fights.

There are lots of different characters in the story from the tiny genius (who designed this amazing fort) to the grumpy early teens.  From the feisty new neighbours to the silly twins.  Holly enjoyed seeing all of the different characters develop.  But of course, the start of the show is Cleo the dog who takes on all of the challenges with such enthusiasm and is responsible for bringing all of the friends together in lots of different ways.

The animation in Cleo is quite unlike anything else you will have recently seen. The people style is distinct and the colouring is strange (mostly because, in a snowy environment the screen is either very bright, or else very dark when the sun drops).  The style is one of the things which I think intrigued Holly because it was so different to anything else she watches.

There were laughs (who doesn't enjoy watching people slurp cold drinks and get brain-freeze?).  There were also tears.  Be warned, there is a very emotional ending which got both of my girls snuggling me on the sofa.

Cleo is out now on DVD and digital download - it recently premiered at the Sundance film festival under the title Snowtime.

Sunday 21 February 2016

CreateMeBooks Personalised Childrens Book Review

There is something very magical about receiving a personalised book. Both Holly and Lara get particularly excited about a book that bears their own name and even I still have a personalised book I received when I was about 4 or 5 years old!  CreateMeBooks are personalised bedtime stories that feature your child's cartoon character and name to make a very special bedtime story to share together.

Creating your CreateMeBooks book is very simple, you choose whether it is for a girl or a boy, choose the skin colour, hair style and colour and facial features that you want your main character to have, and supply their first name.  You can also provide a small piece of text to place on the fly page of the book as a message to your child.  You use the online book designer and can preview your creation before you choose to buy.

I created two books - one each for Lara and Holly.  On each book I chose a different coloured outfit, and different hair.  In general though, the book is the same; as a small company it doesn't surprise me that Lisa, the owner, has only written one story (prince and princess versions) but as a parent buying for two children of the same sex, it would be preferable if there was a little more choice.  And, while my two girls do very much enjoy pinks, purples and unicorns these would be nice to be given the choice of unicorn vs dragon, and blues vs purples rather than having the decision made for you.

The story itself is a lovely bedtime story about your child settling down to sleep and drifting into a dream about animals, magical kingdoms and soft, bouncy clouds.  It is a versed story which seems to rhyme at the start, but by the end is more descriptive and less about rhyme.  Holly particularly enjoys the story and asks to hear both her story and her sisters in close succession.  Lara's favourite parts are in the middle when a series of forest animals all refer the princess to one another for help finding the Land of Nod.  For Holly it works very well as a bedtime story as it helps her wind down at the end of the day.

Each personalised bedtime story book from CreateMeBooks costs £17.99 plus postage.  I think the book is of a better quality (nice thick pages and lots of them) and it has a more personal feel than the big-brand personalised story books.  I felt the choice of skin colour, hair style and outfit colour really helped to pinpoint the appeal to each of my girls.  And designing the book online at CreateMeBooks was a breeze.

Friday 19 February 2016

Orchard Toys Woodland Party Jigsaw Puzzle Review

My girls LOVE jigsaw puzzles.  Whenever Holly is getting a bit restless and over-excited, I always recommend a jigsaw puzzle to help her refocus.  We own a lot of jigsaws but Orchard Toys puzzles always stand out as ones that are particularly child-friendly and puzzles that the girls will go back to time and again.  The Woodland Party puzzle is a new "talkabout" floor puzzle from Orchard Toys and Holly has very much enjoyed playing with it.

The puzzle is suitable from about 3.5 years - about 6 or 7 years old.  It has 70 pieces which makes it a challenge for Holly, but one that she is more than capable of applying herself to.  I love seeing the concentration that she puts into puzzle-solving and it is so fascinating to see her little brain working overtime to try and find the right pieces.

A talkabout puzzle is one specifically designed to promote discussion with your child.  On the box you will find a few ideas of things you can talk about together but really the options are limitless.  The picture that the puzzle builds is so packed full of activity that you always notice new things when you go back to it.  You might want to count the numbers of cupcakes, or try spotting as many different types of animals as you can.  You might talk about why the squirrel is taking a photo of the badger on its smart phone, or wonder where the other squirrel managed to find so many coloured pencils.

The jigsaw really is a big party full of activity.  There are patterns and colours to match as well as animals and birds to help you work out where each piece goes.  There are lots of different people of all colours, shapes and sizes and this really got Holly talking - I'm not totally sure she knew what a wheelchair was until we started talking about the picture in the puzzle so this was a great opportunity for us to talk.


This is so much more than a jigsaw - its a chance to chat, a chance to test Holly's observation skills (spotting is one of her hobbies!) and a chance to think up crazy stories about what is going on in the picture.  We love it!

Of course, the jigsaw puzzle comes with nice chunky pieces which are easy to fit together and they all go into a handy carry box.  The woodland party puzzle from Orchard toys costs around £9.75.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Fairy Tale Activity Book Review

We are taking a few days away as a family over the half term holidays and I always like to pack a few activities that the girls can do while we are away in the evenings, or to break up the travel.  This time I've packed My Giant Fairy Tale Activity Book.

This bumper book is filled with over 100 activities including colouring, doodling challenges, puzzles and mazes.  The book is split into four themed sections where all of the activities correspond to a well known fairy tale - Hansel and Gretel, The Three Little Pigs, The Princess and the Pea and Little Red Riding Hood.

Because the stories are familiar, Lara finds this activity book really engaging - the fairy tale is the starting point for lots of different imaginative games and doodles that she can explore.  Lara is very much into drawing at present but she is definitely someone who needs a prompt and do the little hints and challenges on each page are the trigger for her imagination to flow.

On this page, for instance, your child is asked to find a tall princess, a pink princess, a sleepy princess etc.  And then they are prompted to doodle more princesses dancing to the music, and draw tiaras on those princesses who have forgotten theirs!

There are nearly 130 pages of activities in this book so I'm really hoping that it will last Lara for most of our half term holiday!  I'd recommend the activities for children from around 4-8 years old.

You can find out more about children's books such as My Giant Fairy Tale Activity Book if you follow Parragon Books on twitter and as @parragonbooks on instagram and pinterest.

Monday 15 February 2016

Panasonic Viera 4k Television Review #VieraVIPClub

For the past year and a half I have been learning about 4k Ultra High definition television with the Panasonic Viera VIP Club.  This past few weeks I've finally been able to experience the difference that UHD 4k makes in my own home - I've been borrowing the TX-55CR852B, a 55 inch curved TV featuring Panasonic's 4K Pro technology.

The TV is stunning.  We love our existing Panasonic 55 inch model but the CR852 is even more beautiful (and noticeably lighter!)  Sleek, dark and with a very thin surround so that you can make the most of the picture.  It comes with two remote controls and even they look stunning.  The main controller is a brushed steel effect and the first button that jumps out at me when I use it?.. the NETFLIX button!

And that's important because Netflix are one of the few UK providers who are currently streaming 4k ultra high definition content.  I must admit that when we upgraded our Netflix account I was expecting there to only be two or three things that we could watch in 4k but in fact, many of the latest Netflix original series from Narcos to Breaking Bad and Marco Polo are all filmed and available in 4k if you upgrade your account.  There are a few "moving art" shows you can watch - and very stunning they are too, really showing off the power of 4k to demonstrate detail and depth.

When we first started using the new Viera television, I instantly noticed the difference in colour.  It is amazing how in one year Panasonic have made such big leaps forward in terms of colour reproduction.  Most of the television we watch during the day is CBeebies animations which demand bright colours and crisp lines - while CBeebies might not be pushing this TV to its limits, it REALLY is a noticeable difference in picture quality.

Panasonic Viera TX-55CR852B 4k TV

Once the girls are in bed, then the TV really comes into its own.  Over the past few weeks we have watched a lot of different materials on the television and we've used several of the different pre-set colour options (you can totally customise the colour display and brightness of the backlight but it comes with some handy pre-sets to get you started).  Here's our verdict...

SPORTS: Mr. B. watches a lot of football and rugby.  We don't think we can see a noticeable improvement over our existing HD TV for regular HD sports footage but, when you use the 4k power to watch some of the UHD material available on youtube (for instance, FC Barcelona material) then the difference in image quality is amazing.

NATURE: Watching nature and geography programmes on this TV is awe-inspiring.  We've tried some of the Netflix art materials such as "oceans" which are designed to showcase 4k in all its glory but we have also watched a few regular BBC programmes in regular HD and still been impressed.  If you experiment with the backlight settings you can really bring a programme alive.  The 4k pro televisions from Viera feature professional-grade colour accuracy that has previously only been used in monitors for the TV and film industries.  Using CMYK as well as RBG means that there are over 8000 different colours that this screen can display!

DRAMA: The most memorable content I've watched on the CR852 is Batman: The Dark Night.  It is a long time since I've seen the movie but I remember it being frustratingly dark and gloomy in places.  On this television, even the dark areas of the screen are visible.  I know, having seen the next wave of Panasonic Viera OLED technology being shown off at IFA late last year, that black colour reproduction ( the art of displaying black, and things approaching black) is going to become even more impressive in the coming years but I was still very impressed with how the movie displayed.

One more thing to note about the TX-55CR852 is that this year's move to use a mozilla browser and a more visual menu system is a MASSIVE step forwards for Panasonic.  Lara (6) finds the interface easy to use and navigate and I've used the apps on it, and the freeview channel browser a lot more in two weeks than I've ever used on our existing TV - when a user interface is easy, you use it!  We haven't really explored the power of Freeview Play as we have a BT box that does many of the things that Freeview play can - but when we have dabbled, it has been easy to navigate.

The only negative I have to say about the CR852 is that it's curved!  I can honestly say that it hasn't contributed anything to my viewing experience.  Even when playing on the kids consoles I haven't really noticed it.  When I sit in my seat on the sofa at the edge of the room, I am just aware of the curve and infact, it ever so slightly interferes with my viewing.  I think I'd choose a flat screen myself!

Saturday 13 February 2016

What We're Watching - Youtube Kids

Lara and Holly got a PC from Father Christmas which means that they haven't been using their tablet so much as they used to.  There is, however, one thing that the tablet really does do best - it gives the girls access to YouTube.

I'm fairly relaxed about most things tech-wise when it comes to the girls but YouTube scares me - partly because I just don't understand the kid need to watch other people playing games (gah!) but mainly because I watch Lara using YouTube in a browser and see her so quickly drift from one topic to another without any ability to pre-screen the content for suitability.  The YouTube kids app for our iPad (and Android) has remedied much of my worry because it limits access to only content which has been deemed suitable for kids.

Right now, there isn't anything equivalent to the YouTube kids app in the windows store for PC (I'd love it if there were) so I kindly request that Lara limits her video watching to only take place on the tablet!

Lara's current favourite shows to watch on YouTube kids are:-

* Oggy and the Cockroaches (slapstick animation featuring a cat who is bothered by a pair of naughty cockroaches)

* Masha and the Bear (a tale of a cute but very cheeky little girl who lives with a bear that seems weighed down by the challenges of looking after her!)

* Searching for anything related to Emperor Penguins as she has been studying their lifecycle at school recently.  The educational menu in the YouTube kids app was one of her starting places for finding out penguin facts.

You can search for inspiration in the YouTube Kids app by looking at the "Popular This Week" playlist which lists the shows that lots of other users are watching.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Andy's Amazing Adventures Childrens Magazine Review

Today sees the launch of a brand new children's magazine from the BBC - Andy's Amazing Adventures.

This brand new monthly magazine is based on the hit CBeebies television shows, Andy's Wild Adventures and Andy's Dinosaur Adventures (and new adventures coming soon!).  Lara and Holly are both massive fans of Andy's Dinosaur Adventures and watching snippets from the show is one of their favourite things to do when they get home from school and nursery in the evenings.

The new Andy's Amazing Adventures magazine brings together topics on animals, dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures into the now tried and tested CBeebies magazine format.  With a great mixture of sticker scenes, colouring, puzzles and simple maths and writing challenges, this new periodical for kids is well suited to children from 3-6 years old.  Both Lara (6) and Holly (3) found content in the magazine to interest them.  Lara liked to read the cartoon stories about Andy returning to the time of the triceratops.  Holly most enjoyed the sticker pages but also really rose to the challenge of some of the simple maths puzzles that practice early KS1 and foundation skills such as comparing sizes or counting instances of animals.

If you have a mini dinosaur fan then I think they will absolutely LOVE this magazine.  It is packed full of prehistoric facts, all of which are written in really consumable format suitable for small people to digest.  There is even a T-rex rap that you can fill in using your stickers and use to practice writing the shapes of the letters in his name!

If you're a regular reader of CBeebies magazines then you'll recognise some of the 7 key areas of learning that feature in the magazine - from tracing letters and numbers to drawing in your own interpretation of a scene.  There are also activities to cut out and glue together.  Perhaps the biggest hit in our house for both girls is the fact that they can now make their own (paper) version of Andy's famous gizmo... I shall leave them to argue over who gets to create it.

I like this magazine because of the wide range of ages that it appeals to.  There are some genuinely interesting facts (you can cut out and keep fact cards from each issue) to be found in the magazine as well as the fun and games.

Of course, no kids magazine would be complete without a free gift on the front, would it?  After all, that's what really draws the little people in!  The first issue of Andy's Amazing Adventures comes with a T-Rex dinosaur grabber who chomps up a selection of mini dinos!  How could you possibly resist?

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Essence of Arcadia Pebble Aromatherapy Diffuser Review

Since I started using Essence of Arcadia aromatherapy essential oils back in December, I've really enjoying making my own blends of essential oils for use in the bath, or for use in an oil burner to scent the room.  Until now, I'd never tried using essential oils in an aromatherapy diffuser but Essence of Arcadia have just launched two stylish luxury aromatherapy diffusers and I couldn't wait to try one out.

The Pebble diffuser from Essence of Arcadia distributes the scent of your essential oils evenly through a light mist of water so that they fill your room with scent and you get the full benefit of the relaxing or invigorating properties of the oils for upto 8 hours at a time.

To work the diffuser, you fill the inside with water and then add a couple of drops of one or more essential oils.  You place the lid on top, plug it in and press the button to start it up.  The diffuser gently agitates the water so that the oil and water mix evenly and then it generates a fine mist which is dispatched from a small hole in the top of the diffuser.  You can set it to work constantly, or just to dispatch a mist intermittently.  I've found it so easy to use and it is so much less stressful than using an oil burner!  Less cleaning and less worrying about whether the oils will dry up.  I'm also happy with the level of scent which is gentle enough not to overwhelm me (which burning oils can do sometimes) and yet the scent really does fill the whole room when the diffuser is working.

Essence of Arcadia Pebble Aromatherapy Diffuser

The Essence of Arcadia pebble diffuser looks like a highly shaped and polished wooden container but it is actually plastic - its very realistic and looks very smart in my bedroom where all of the woodwork is a similar colour.  The diffuser arrived in a beautiful luxury presentation case with instructions, a jug for filling it with water and also a set of three favourite aromatherapy oils - lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus.  You'll also receive a little book of aromatherapy recipes and some juicy discount codes.

One of the features I most like about this aromatherapy diffuser is not one that I was expecting.  The light.  I hadn't expected to want my aromatherapy diffuser to light up like a disco but in fact the gentle glow of the colour-changing light, along with the rhythmic hum of the diffuser as it works its magic is incredibly relaxing and in a dimmed room the light has an additional soothing effect.  You can switch it off if you want though!

Because this aromatherapy diffuser is so easy to use, and to empty, I'm expecting to use it a lot more frequently than I have used essential oils before.  I'm planning on using it for chilling out when I get home after a busy day at work, for waking me up on a lazy weekend morning, and for helping me zone out and relax after an evening run.

The Pebble aromatherapy diffuser is one of two luxury designs at Essence of Arcadia and is currently on offer for £49.99.

Sunday 7 February 2016

#StreamTeam My Own Mini Glitter Force

Over the Christmas holidays Lara and Holly discovered a new series on Netflix quite by accident - Glitter Force.  I have no recollection of how they stumbled upon it (Lara is in charge of the TV remote these days) and I know that if we had asked the girls if they wanted to see something new, they'd have moaned and whinged; they are creatures of habit and take a lot of convincing to watch anything new.  But it happened, and we haven't looked back.  Glitter Force is the new number one favourite show in the Mellow household - it is a Netflix original series that the girls have fallen in love with.

Glitter Force is a Japanese anime series about a group of high school girls who turn out to have magical skills - just the set of skills needed to defeat an evil emperor in a magical world where fairy tales and real life live alongside one another.  The animation is gloriously traditionally Japanese filled with cutsie characters, big wide smiles and cringe-worthy dubbing into American-English.  It reminds me a lot of animations I watched as a child and I understand completely why Lara and Holly instantly fell in love with the Glitter Force.

Lara and Holly have both taken Glitter Force into their playground games with friends - arguing over who gets to be the "blue one" or the "green one".  I think they enjoy the sparkly girliness of it (the Glitter Force get their skills by finding magical charms and putting them into their make-up compact) but this is mixed with strong images of girls taking on the world and blasting evil away with their moves!

At the end of every episode of Glitter Force there is a musical number where the members of the team come together.  Lara is very taken by the theme music and the pop songs in Glitter Force.

Friday 5 February 2016

Making Plans for our Summer Holidays

I'm definitely not a winter person.  Even though this winter has been mild so far, I still struggle with the relentless greyness at this time of year.  Now I'm marathon training, it is extra depressing because I 'have' to get out there in the drizzle and grey to get my training miles in.  That's why I always like to have a warm holiday to look forward to - something to incentivise me to survive the winter months!  This month I've teamed up with Thomson to share the things I look for in a family-friendly summer holiday.

This year we have booked a family holiday in the Algarve in Portugal for our main summer holiday.  It feels like such a long way off, but I can't wait for it;  I know that with all the chaos at work, the months will whizz by and it will soon be the school holidays.  Because Lara will be preparing to move up into junior school, and Holly will be preparing to start infant school for the very first time, we decided to splash out on our summer holiday and we've booked an all-inclusive family holiday in a very smart hotel perched on a cliff, over-looking a beautiful sandy beach that the girls can play on.

For us, the decision to go abroad was a big one - we normally spend our holidays in the UK.  Mr. B. was, quite understandably, fairly worried about travel to a number of different popular tourist resorts and we both also worry about travelling for a long distance with Holly (who has a phenomenally short attention span and requires constant entertainment!).  We were looking for a European beach holiday within 4 hours flight from London and which could offer lots of family-friendly options without being too full-on!

Neither Mr. B. nor myself have ever been to Portugal before so the Algarve will be a bit of an adventure for us all - a totally new experience.  While we were researching and choosing our resort we had a few family holiday success criteria to fill:-

* Away from the main tourist hot spots (Mr.B. and I much prefer a peaceful holiday away from the bustle of the town) but within a short drive, bus journey or reasonable walk from civilisation so that we can explore!

* Swimming pools with warm, fresh water and lots of options for swimming with the kids.

* All-inclusive.  Mainly because, once on holiday we don't really want to have to think about sorting out money, or shopping for food.  We've had some great all-inclusive package holidays in the past and it works well for us.

* Kids playground and kids activities.  The hotel we have chosen has a pirate-themed kids area and a kids club with qualified staff; at our hotel the kids club costs extra but many resorts and hotels now include this in the price of your holiday.  I don't think Lara and Holly will want to spend a lot of time in a kids club but it is good to know that there is the option for them to do some activities that they wouldn't normally try.

* Accessible beach with plenty of sand and gentle waters for the girls to play in until their heart's content.

* Great views and beautiful sunshine.  I love taking photos on holiday and can't wait to bring back some more memories from Portugal this summer.

Thursday 4 February 2016

Yellow Moon Valentines Craft Ideas

Its February already which means that its time for us to start thinking about pancakes, and Valentines day!  In our family, and at Lara's school, Valentines day isn't so much a day for celebrating romantic love but instead it is a day to remind yourself about all of the people who mean a lot to you, and who you love as family.  For the past couple of weeks, every time we have had family or friends to visit, the girls have given them a valentines card as a little token.

Yellow Moon sent us a selection of their Valentines Day craft ideas for children.  From wooden trinket boxes for decorating, to mini hanging heart-shaped photo frames, Yellow Moon has sets of kids craft kits with lots of topical themes.

Holly has given each of our guests a little hand-coloured and hand-written "with love" card printed with an animal friend.  A pack of 8 of these cards costs just £1.99 and that includes envelopes.  They are such an easy little time-filler that I can pull out when the girls need a little bit of entertainment and the results always put a smile on our guest's faces.

Lara has enjoyed making these woven hearts.  The Yellow Moon kit includes 10 blank hearts with pre-punched holes.  Lara coloured in the hearts using pens and crayons (you'll noticed that she steered clear of pinks and reds...I thought that was very interesting!).  Then she embelleshed them with stickers and cut-outs.  We rummaged around in our boxes of wool and thread offcuts and found some brightly coloured yarn to match her colouring and then she tied it and weaved it through the holes herself.  To start off with, Lara found it hard to get going and got easily confused about which hole she needed to thread to make the design she wanted to - but by the second heart she had got the hang of it.  Lara wants to hang these from our front window when it gets to Valentines day.

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

Tuesday 2 February 2016

#Lechuza - Planting with kids

Holly has suddenly become very keen on cookery so she has started her own indoor herb garden.  We've encouraged both of the girls into the kitchen from a VERY young age but traditionally it has been Holly's big sister who wants to help us with the cooking.  Recently, Holly has shown an interest and often volunteers to chop vegetables or mix things for us and she is eager to learn about new ingredients.  That's why, when the new Balconera 50 Lechuza planter arrived, I knew that I wanted to offer it to Holly as a place where she could grow her own ingredients that we can cook together when they're ready.

Over the years I've extolled the virtues of gardening with children as a great way of learning and developing fine motor skills.  At this time of year it is far too chilly for us to be digging in the garden with the girls but we do like to keep a few pots of herbs growing inside on the window-ledge throughout the winter months.  So I tasked Holly with planting up a decorative, yet edible planter full of herbs that we can eat.

Lechuza planters are clever things.  After the first week, they effectively become self-watering.  This is fabulous for when you are planting with kids because it means that you don't have to remember to water every day, and you don't risk over-watering (this is a very real risk when Holly has anything to do with it!).  You can use Lechuza planters indoors or outdoors (there is a little plug in the bottom that you remove for use outdoors to allow rain water to drain away).

Holly first of all sprinkled a thin layer of special Lechuza-Pon (a mix of fertiliser and volcanic rocks to help hold and distribute water).  Then a layer of potting compost onto which she placed her different herbs.  She had great fun squeezing the leaves of each of the plants and sniffing them so that she could guess which they were.  At present she can only recognise the smell of mint but with time I'm sure she'll learn the smells of the other plans - basil, thyme and parsley.  Holly used her hands to top up the planter with compost and then gave it a really generous watering.  This week we watered the herbs as we normally would, but from today onwards we can simply fill the reservoir and the plants will water themselves when they're thirsty!

Holly's brightly coloured Balconera planter has now taken its place on the kitchen window-ledge.  With the right attachments, I'm sure that it could serve as a real window box over the summer months.  Either way, it is right there in the kitchen where Holly can choose to snip some herbs to include when we are cooking together.

The Balconera planter comes in either a 50cm or 80cm width and this smaller size is available in 6 different colours.  The inside planter lifts easily out so that you can transport it around the house or garden and you could easily swap colours depending on your mood!!!

Monday 1 February 2016

Stick Man, Now available on DVD

One of my highlights this Christmas was settling down to watch Stick Man with my girls.  From today, you can now enjoy this classic animated story on DVD to share with your family all year round.   Stick Man is out on DVD, courtesy of Entertainment One.

Stick Man is the latest of Julia Donaldson's children's stories (and Axel Scheffler's amazing illustrations) to be adapted for an animated adventure. And an adventure it is...Stick Man is the tale of a stick who, due to a series of unfortunately timed events, ends up a long way from his home and his loved ones who are waiting for him in the family tree.

Stick Man's travels take him through a park with a dog, along the river to a swan's nest, across the ocean, washed up on a beach and eventually he is left, unconscious on a fire. Just when you think it's too late, a surprise visitor disturbs him - Father Christmas! Stick Man struggles but he does, eventually, find his way back to the family tree.

I've always found Stick Man to be a struggle to read (when compared to the magical rhyming wonderousness of the Gruffalo and Room on the Broom) and yet this animated adaptation of the book really brought the story to life for me and made me realise where I'd been going wrong trying to read it. He's Stick Man, he's Stick Man, he's Stick Man, you see!

Stick Man himself is voiced by Martin Freeman of Sherlock fame. Throughout the tale you can also listen out for Hugh Bonneville, Jennifer Saunders and Rob Brydon.

Both of my girls have been absolutely captured by the magic of Stick Man and ask to watch it every day. As the story travels through all of the seasons, I don't see this movie being limited to the wintery months and I think it will have year-long appeal for my girls.

On the DVD of Stick Man you will also find behind the scenes footage and live footage of Julia and Axel as well as special artwork from Stick Man.

If you have a little stick man fan then why not print off this fun activity sheet. Click on the image to open a full sized printable version.

Related Posts with Thumbnails