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

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Gazillion 33-in-1 Incredibubble Wand Review

Today was Holly's 4th birthday party and we played host to a very wild group of 4 year old girls in our back garden. We had great fun playing outside and the star of the show was this amazing Gazillion 33-in-1 Incredibubble Wand which we used to create clouds of brilliant bubbles to chase and pop.

Tha Gazillion 33-in-1 Incredibubble Wand is so easy to use even for small people - simply pour a thin layer of the Gazillion preium bubble mixture into the tray, dip the wand and then wave the wand as slowly or as quickly as you like to produce gazillions on bubbles!  With 33 bubble wands in one wand head you quickly fill the air with bubbles.

Lara and Holly really enjoyed whirling around the garden creating bubbles and it was brilliant to see all of the faces beaming with smiles at Holly's party when we blew so many bubbles for them to chase.  Lara's technique of choice is to stand still and then whirl around in a circle until she gets dizzy.  Holly likes to wave the wand around more gently in a figure of eight.

The volume of bubbles is quite frankly astonishing.  Within seconds our entire back garden was full of bubbles and the girls were all running around trying to pop them.  Unlike a little pot of bubbles (your usual party bag fare) there is far less chance of sticky fingers having to dip in and out of a tiny pot because the wand itself has a nice long handle so you can stay well out of the way of the bubble mixture yourself.

If you are very careful you can also use this bubble wand to blow really big bubbles that are absolutely mesmerising - in the middle of the wand is a single round circle which can make long, wide bubbles that you'd never manage using an old-fashioned bubble wand.  The Gazillion Incredibubble wand really has taken our bubble-blowing antics to new heights.

The Gazillion 33-in-1 Incredibubble wand comes with a bottle of bubble mixture - Lara and Holly quickly used it up so it is good to know that you can buy 2l bottles of it at Argos.  Right now at Argos you can buy this 33-in-1 Incredibubble wand AND the Gazillion Incredibubble Wand (which makes super-sized bubbles as big as yourself) for just £19.99.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Summery Sand Art Ideas

We're loving the spring sunshine, getting in the mood for warmer weekends over the summer and so the girls have enjoyed doing some summery-themed craft activities together.  Sand art is one of the craft activities that both girls enjoy doing together.  Lara has now learned how to avoid getting sand EVERYWHERE but Holly on the other hand... sigh...needs a lot of assistance.  It is very easy to turn your floor into a sandpit if you let the kids play with coloured sand unattended!

This month Yellow Moon sent us some summer themed sand art picture cards and a selection of their neon coloured sand which has a great number of uses.

Sand-art pictures are sticky cards with a picture stamped into it.  When you peel away part of the coating you reveal the sticky behind and you can pour on sand that will stick to that part of the picture only.  Pour away the remainder (the bottles of sand come with a handy little funnel to make it easy to get the sand back into the bottle) and then move on to the next colour.

Lara has really got the hang of this and has enjoyed meticulously filling in these seaside pictures with lots of brightly coloured sand.  Holly has joined in and is learning the skill but often forgets to pour the excess sand away after use so we have built up rather a collection of generic "rainbow coloured" sand for use in other activities.

Another way of really showing of coloured sand is to fill up little decorative bottles with layers of different colours.  Lara and Holly actually sat and planned the arrangement of colours they wanted to use for these bears (planning doesn't normally feature highly in Holly's skillset).  Once the bears were full the girls chose to use them as ornaments to decorate their new rainbow-themed bedroom.

All of these sand art activities for children can be found for sale at Yellow Moon - the biggest kids craft store you can think of!  Don't forget that you can earn between 5% and 20% cashback for your school on most Yellow Moon purchases.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Leapfrog Imagicard Letter Factory Adventures

Both Lara and Holly are really enjoying using the Leapfrog Epic at present.  They use it a lot more than they have done any previous incarnation of the Leapfrog kids tablet and I think this has a lot to do with the speed and responsiveness as well as the wider range of games/apps on it.  Our recent discover is the Leapfrog Imagicard games which are interactive card games that come to life when you use your Leappad or Leapfrog epic to take a picture of the card to unlock fun educational games and activities.

Letter Factory Adventures is a Leapfrog Imagicard game suitable for children from 4 to 7 years and I can confirm that both Lara (nearly 7) and Holly (nearly 4) are playing it, enjoying it and gaining from it.  The game features cards with the recognisable Leapfrog characters posing with different letters of the alphabet.  Different cards unlock different games related to the letter sound.

For Holly, the spelling pirate game is perfectly pitched - change the letters to make new words while keeping the primary vowel sounds the same.  This is a great way of learning that the vowel letters make a consistent sound even in different words.  Even just seeing these first words on the screen is great practice for her to see and recognise how familiar words are written.

I've enjoyed sitting with her playing rhyming games - I need to read and help direct her on occasions but it is fun to listen and identify matching sounds, or to match the letter on the card to letters on the screen.

Lara, being a clever bean, quickly worked out that she didn't actually need the cards to be able to play most of the games in Letter Factory Adventures.  Lara has spent quite some time playing this game which is interesting because I wouldn't have said she necessarily needed to practice her spelling, vocabulary or basic vowel sounds but there is obviously something there that brings her back to play.  There are little games and videos and so many different things to do in this game.  I think Lara enjoys the challenge of trying to get all the answers to puzzles right, first time, within a time limit so even though the puzzles themselves seem easy to her, there is further skill needed!

The Letter Factory Adventures Imagicards come in a metal presentation case.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Casdon Woodplay Wooden Toy Kitchen Review

We love playing with wooden toys - there is something enjoyable about the simplicity of chunky wooden toys that appeals to both Lara and Holly.  This fun wooden play kitchen from the Casdon Woodplay range is a brilliant idea for take-and-play role-play fun on the move.

The entire kitchen, and all of the accessories fold away inside their cute bamboo carry box.  The door of the oven opens easily with an elastic clip and into it you can place your pans, or your pizza to cook... and when you are done playing you can pack everything, including the shelf, into the oven, close the door and carry the toy with you.  This makes it perfect as a toy for taking on holiday, or to friends and family when you need to make sure you have a little something to keep your small people entertained.

There are lots of paintings around the outside of the kitchen with cupboards and shelves drawn on. On top there is a hob which you can place your pan and eggs to cook. The set comes with utensils including a pepper pot.  Lara in particular has enjoyed using the Kitchen boxset with her dolls as it is compact enough that they too can play kitchens!

One of the most nifty things about this boxset play set is the little elastic clip - it is so easy to open and close and so the girls don't need help with it and yet it stays very well closed.  The door hinge is a bit delicate though and Holly does have a habit of pulling the whole door off (thankfully its easy to put back into place).

The Casdon woodplay kitchen is made from bamboo (sustainably sourced) so it is surprisingly light.  For such a small toy, it has an awful lot of play potential and I just know we will take it with us on our travels.  There are no noises, no twirly bits, no taps, no rotating stuff... just simply imaginative play which are always the most natural, and fun times that my two girls have together.


Monday, 18 April 2016

April Showers and Spring Sunshine

This weekend I got the perfect opportunity to put my new Lighthouse rain coat to the test.  Lighthouse Clothing is a brand new name in nautical-inspired clothing designed for allowing you to enjoy the beach and the great outdoors, without sacrificing style.  With the weird April weather of showers and sunshine, a light waterproof raincoat such as this green Fayda waterproof parka.

Over the past few days I've been trying to talk lunchtime walks during my lunch break so that I can explore the rivers and canals in Newbury and really get a chance to enjoy the first signs of spring; I absolutely love this time of year with the bright yellows and greens against the gorgeous blue sky.

As it has been a bit nippy, and the heavens have opened in between periods of sunshine, I've been greatful for the windproof and waterproof features of my Lighthouse raincoat.  It's incredibly lightweight (it came as a bit of a shock after having lugged around my traditional winter parka for months!) and feels like I'm wearing another layer of my outfit rather than hiding away inside a coat.

As a tall lady I could do with a bit more length on the arms of the jacket but because this Fayda coat is designed with fashionable cuff turn-ups, I can get away with a 3/4 length sleeve look. This jacket is, for me, best paired with a pair of jeans and some waterproof boots... not necessarily wellies I might add!

When I browsed the Lighthouse clothing website, there were very few items in their range that I wouldn't love to wear!  Their range for men, women and children, features waterproofs that would look just as fitting for a clifftop-walk as they would a stroll to the supermarket - just a a little dash of something modern and fun mixed with the practical.

Disclosure, I was sent a jacket to review but all views are my own.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Cooking with Kids :: Summery Chicken Curry

This weekend we were experimenting with our new Cuisinart Soup Maker plus - we were challenged to try out some non-soup recipes in it so Lara, Holly and I cooked a really light and fragrant chicken curry.  I will admit that I need a little bit more practice with the soup maker - it needs less liquid than if you were cooking in a pan and my curry paste was a little grainy because I used cashew nuts (not something I normally do) but I really liked the fact that I could see into the jug as it was blending and cooking and make decisions about what ingredients to add, or what temperature to use. Being able to see all of the ingredients in the pan is a little luxury!

Our summery chicken curry served four people easily and I was very happy that the Soup Maker Plus could hold all of the ingredients for a family meal.

3 large chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch chunks
A handful of green beans, chopped in half
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
1 tablespoon ground almonds
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 fresh chilli
The seeds from 4 green cardamom pods
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon ground corriander
1 large handful fresh basil leaves (thai or traditional basil is fine)
250ml chicken stock
200ml coconut milk
1 teaspoon black onion seeds
1 tablespoon vegetable oil


1. Place the oil, garlic, ginger, cashew nuts, ground almonds, half of the onion, ground corriander, the chilli, basil leaves, cardamom seeds, chilli flakes and half of the coconut milk into the soup maker, or if you don't have one, use a traditional blender. Blend for 1-2 minutes on a high speed until the ingredients form a paste.

2. Add the chicken and then heat the paste gently for 5 minutes on the 'SAUTE' setting.  You can also do this in a large saucepan.

3. Add in the rest of the onion, the chicken stock, the rest of the coconut milk and the green beans. Bring the liquid to the boil by using the 'HIGH' setting for 10 minutes, this will cook the chicken through.  Stir occasionally using the gentle stir function.

4. Now turn the liquid down and 'SIMMER' for 30 minutes, stir regularly to make sure that the chicken doesn't stick.

5. To serve, sprinkle with black onion seeds and fresh mint for a really summery hit.  We served our summer chicken curry with fresh mint, steamed rice and a salad of banana and raisins.

I enjoyed cooking the curry in the soup maker - I need a bit more practice to get it just right but I think the thing I enjoyed most was the fact that the girls can get a bit more involved in the cooking element than they would do when using the hob; it is a little safer for them than using a gas flame.

Disclosure: I was sent the Cuisinart Soup Maker Plus to review and help me create new recipes.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Cooking with Kids :: Mango and Cardamom Smoothie

This weekend, Holly and I had a rare morning together with no Daddy and no Lara.  Holly was desperate to do some cooking in her big sister's absence but because it was 9.30 in the morning, it wasn't really time to set about creating feasts so instead we made ourselves a little morning boost - a smoothie.

Cuisinart sent me a Soup Maker Plus to use to create some new cookery inspiration in the Mellow kitchen and, while I know we will be whipping up some amazing soups, risottos and hot savoury dishes, I really wanted its first outing to be something very different so I got Holly to choose some ingredients from the fridge. Holly chose a mango and a banana - a perfect combination for a smoothie.

This Mango, Yoghurt and Cardamom smoothie is inspired by Indian desserts and would make a perfect, light accompaniment to a strongly-flavoured curry.  We felt it was a light, summery and refreshing pick-me up in the morning.  Cardamom is a very strong flavour for a little person like Holly who wasn't totally sure about it, but she is used to the taste in our home-made curries so she kept coming back for more sips of the smoothie.

INGREDIENTS - serves 2
1 mango peeled and stoned (the riper the better...ours was a bit useless)
1 banana peeled
200ml plain low-fat yoghurt
3 green cardamom pods
2 scoops of vanilla ice cream (optional)
Mint springs to serve.


Roughly chop the banana and mango and place into the Soup Maker Plus, blender or food processor with the yoghurt.

Firmly bruise the cardamom pods with the base of your hand, or the side of a knife and take out all the seeds - add the seeds to the fruit and yoghurt.

If you like a bit of sweetness in your smoothie, add some good quality vanilla ice cream to make the smoothie extra rich and luxurious.

Blend for about 2 minutes until the mango is totally smooth.  Holly very much enjoyed watching this magic happen!

Enjoy with a sprig of fresh mint.

I will be blogging lots more soup maker plus recipes as we create them over the coming weeks - if you have a soup recipe or risotto recipe you'd like to share with me or recommend, please leave me a link in the comments below.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Under the Sea with Plasticine Softeez

I remember Plasticine as a kid - fun times! As an adult I'd previously steered away because we found it so firm and hard for little hands to get soft enough to model with but the great news is that Plasticine Softeez has been launched - a much softer modelling material which never dries out and this makes it much more appealing to me. We were sent some packs of Plasticine and a modelling set to create out own Under the Sea scene.

Our Under the Sea kit included a play mat (important if you don't have a wipe clean tablecloth because Plasticine has a slightly greasy residue which is great for keeping it soft, but which needs a good clean off the table and hands after playing). The mat features an under water scene and it is a great start for inspiration for modelling fish and underwater creatures. The kit includes a selection of different colours of Plasticine and a few shaped cutters including an octopus, a whale and a seahorse. My girls also enjoyed creating their own fish using multi-coloured blends of coloured Plasticine for the scales.

I'm really pleased with the levels of creativity that both girls have come up with, presented with the Plasticine - they seem to both have approached it in a much more grown-up way than just merging colours together. Lara was particularly taken with the simple packs of single-coloured plasticine that she thought carefully about in order to create her own turtle for the scene! My girls have enjoyed cutting, rolling, squishing, shaping and imagining.

Plasticine Softeez isn't exactly soft... it still needs a little bit of work to warm it up and get it really squishy but I think that's a good thing for slightly older children as it means their models stand a chance of staying in one piece.

Perhaps the thing I'm liking most about Plasticine is that it doesn't dry out. Holly is a particular minx for not putting toys away when she is finished and I've lost count of the number of pots of dough I've had to throw away in the past having discovered them completely dried out. Plasticine Softeez stays the same texture even if we leave it out overnight so it is a lot less wasteful!

We like the fact that you can get kits for inspiration such as the Under the Sea kit, or a mini starter tub but that once the Plasticine bug has gripped, you can top up with individual colours when needed. Plasticine Softeez is suitable from age 3 upwards.  Both my girls have very much enjoyed playing with it and I am sure they will continue creating masterpieces.  Lara was recently very inspired by some Plasticine dinosaurs some of the parents at school had made...she wants to create some as good as a grown-up could!

If you are looking for more Plasticine inspiration, join them on twitter or instagram as @PlasticineUK or follow them on Facebook.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Disney Princess Art Therapy Colouring Books

There are very few things in life quite as fine as finding the time to sit and doodle or colour in pictures.  Grown-up colouring has become very popular as a way of zoning out from the world and helping the mind settle.  Trust me, with the past few weeks I've had at work, I've needed a way of zoning out from the world!  Parragon books have just released two Disney Art Therapy books which I love and Lara loves (and even Holly will give them a try too).

Lara is a colouring machine.  When she goes to after school club, or holiday club, she comes home with mountains of colouring designs that she has filled in.  This week I'm sending her to holiday club with her Disney Princess Art Therapy book which features pages of beautiful Disney Princess inspired patterns to colour in.  You'd be mistaken to think that a Disney Princess colouring book would be filled with pictures of princesses and castles; these designs are far more grown up and really are "inspired by" rather than images from movies.  Each picture features a recognisable motif or small image from your favourite Disney movies including Tangled, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Cinderella and Snow White.

The Art Therapy books are designed for older children as well as adults.  The designs are striking and do require a lot of time and attention to colour in - Lara adores the books for this very reason.  On several pages you have to search hard for the Disney reference but all the designs are beautiful and Lara will very much enjoy filling in this colouring book.


Parragon also have an entire colouring book dedicated to designs inspired by the movie Frozen.  These pages feature symbols of love, ice and snowflakes as well as patterns that appear on dresses and clothing in the movie.  I think Holly was a little disappointed when she realised that the colouring book wasn't a series of pictures of Anna and Else and Olaf but for me the book is perfect.  Now all I need is a set of grown-up colouring pens and pencils to get my creative juices flowing.

You can follow Parragon Books on twitter and as @parragonbooks on instagram and pinterest to find out more about their new releases.

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