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

Monday, 26 September 2016

Stretch Scooby-Doo Review

Stretch Scooby-Doo - one of the more unusual toys the girls have tried and tested on our Mellow Mummy journey!  Lara and Holly both really got into Scooby Doo while were were on holiday and so, when we first found out about the new, Stretch Scooby, they both couldn't wait to give him a try.

Stretch Scooby is a pretty big and chunky toy - he's a good 35cm tall even when he is in his un-stretched state but when you squeeze and pull his body, his arms and his legs he can extend to nearly 3 times his original size! He's massive!  You can pull him with all your effort and yet, when you let go, he springs back to his original state. The girls think it is hilarious because when one of them lets go, the other one falls over!

We loved the fact that when he isn't being stretched about, Scooby is simply Scooby-Doo and he looks pretty cool sitting on the shelf in the play room - a classic TV icon.  Lara not only likes to stretch Scooby with us but she has also discovered the hilarity of trying to tie his legs and arms in knots and then rotating Scooby's head and neck!  It's all rather surreal but has definitely been the source of much laughter and smiles over the past few days. 

Scooby's funny squishy texture (especially on his belly that feels like modelling clay) is of great fascination to Holly but at 4 years old she is not quite strong enough to really stretch Scooby without help from us, or her older sister.

We think that Stretch Scooby-Doo is fun, and silly and a little bit doubt perfect for a spooky halloween party or a Scooby themed party with friends!

Stretch Scooby-Doo from Character Options can be found online for around £19.99.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Children's Book Review :: The Night the Stars Went Out

There once was a tiny alien, with a very big job...Alien was a star shiner.

Holly and Lara were both transported into magical sparkly space when I first read them this book; their eyes were wide open. Can you imagine having to shine all of the stars in the universe? Can you imagine if all of those stars suddenly stopped shining? Wow. The Night the Stars Went Out by Suz Hughes is the tale about the biggest problem that this tiny alien has ever had to solve. The girls couldn't believe it!

This delightful picture book follows poor little alien down to planet earth in search of special star shining varnish. Down on planet earth, the alien makes a new friend (star shining is a very lonely business normally) and discovers that there is more to life than shining stars. It really put a smile on my own face as we reached the end of the story and discovered that fun and friends, not special star shining varnish, were all that was needed to save the day!

This fun and friendly picture story book by Suz Hughes is published by Curious Fox and features bright, bold illustrations with lots of alien fun. We particularly loved the illustrations of the dark night sky with a rollercoaster path down to planet earth. Alien has very cool eyebrows and a very groovy moustache - it would be quite hard not to want to be friends with him!

I'd recommend The Night The Stars Went Out for children of about 2-7 years old - it makes a fabulous warming story just before bedtime.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes

This weekend has been all about the Gruffalo! Holly and I have really enjoyed spending our weekend cooking delightful creations from Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes, a new kids cookery book based on the characters and illustrations of the classic children's book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

This fabulous hardback book features lots of recipe ideas that are easy to cook with children; from snacks to main courses and of course desserts.  I let Holly choose a menu for Saturday night of:-

Frog Muffins
Snake's Log Pile House
Turned Out Toes
Roasted Fox

We enjoyed buying the ingredients for our menu and we spent the afternoon together in the kitchen.

Holly particularly enjoyed mixing up a big bowl of sweet potato fries with spices to make our roasted fox.  Holly can't yet read the recipes herself but was keen to use the pictures in the book as a guide for our creations.

The girls tried lots of different foods that they wouldn't normally touch (cream cheese, sweet potato, olives, spinach) and the meal was a hit.  Of course, Holly had to dress the part for dinner.

On Sunday we went for a long walk looking for blackberries so that we could make our own Gruffalo crumble for pudding. It was a very popular pudding - no wonder mouse likes it.

Next weekend Holly is eager for us to make Fox sandwiches and Owl Ice Cream.

This is a fabulous cookbook that is easy to follow and includes tips for how to make the recipes more accessible for small people e.g. use of scissors instead of a knife for chopping parsley.  Its a book of foodie inspiration for small people and is packed full of ideas for a Gruffalo themed meal or even a party.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Children's Book Review :: HippoPandaMouse

HippoPandaMouse is a cute picture book by Jools Bentley available now in paperback from Pan Macmillan.

This is Jools' debut book as an author although Jools was already acclaimed for her illustrations.  This picture story book is packed full of fun animated creatures of all shapes - the cute and cuddly creations of Fluffley's Fine Toys store, the toy shop of choice for royalty!

The story tells the tale of a visit from Princess Flo and all of the hard work and preparation that the staff at the toy store go through for her visit.  Princess Flo is looking for something a little out of the ordinary and, thanks to a bit of a hiccup in preparations, she finds exactly what she is looking for.  A HippoPandaMouse.  Perfect.

Holly and Lara (4 and 6) both enjoy this story - Lara really appreciates that something doesn't have to confirm to be desirable. I just wish she'd learn this lesson in her school life too. Holly likes looking through the different animals and cuddly toys on each page.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Starting School

It feels like just yesterday that I was sharing the news of my pregnancy here on the blog and yet all of a sudden we are here already - Holly's first day at school.

This morning Holly started foundation at the same school as her big sister.  For us this is a big moment. Not just because our youngest is now at school. Not just because it means the end of nursery fees. Not just because it means only one set of journeys in the morning and evening. But because there are lots of changes this September. Not least, uniform.

There have been a lot of changes at Lara's school over the summer. Holly will probably never appreciate the change but for us there are some big differences.  The introduction of a uniform was a little controversial but Lara seems to have accepted it gracefully and Holly thinks it is fantastic.  The other change is that children now have to call their teachers Mr/Mrs and use their surname when previously they always used the first name. This is proving very hard to people (not least the teachers) to get used to!

Anyway, the first morning at school went well and Holly is looking forward to tomorrow. It is fantastic to see her settle and I'm sure she will be making new friends and whirling through the classroom before we know it.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Cadburys Chocolate Buttons Owl Cake

After the rush of back-to-school this week, it has been nice to have a weekend with very little to do. This Sunday it was just me and the girls and we chose to do some baking together. Using a mountain of Cadbury Chocolate Buttons, we created this awesome Owl Cake using a recipe from the Cadbury website.

First we made a fairly simple square chocolate sponge (one of the finest sponges we've ever made!) and once it was cooled, I drew a fairly rough owl template and cut around it. I used the offcuts to make wings.

Next we made a ganache with sumptuous dark Bournville chocolate, cream and a bit of butter. We slathered it over and Lara spread it all over the owl to hold the cake together.  Then I let the girls loose with Cadbury chocolate buttons (both milk chocolate and white chocolate) and giant buttons. Holly enjoyed bashing some Cadbury Flakes to make the sprinkles for the feathers.  For the finishing touch, we used a pink raspbery from a bag of Marvellour Mis Ups to make a nose. Perfect.

Of course, after we had finished decorating, the girls snaffled a few of the spare chocolate buttons and then licked the spoon of the ganache (getting it all over their faces in the process).

The cake was a resounding success - not only was it fun to make, but it was incredibly tasty and there were lots of bonus leftovers to snack on!!!  And as an awesome added bonus, you can find 2 for 1 days out vouchers on grab bags of Cadbury buttons at present which is perfectly timed as we are planning a trip to Legoland this week. Hurrah for cake. Hurrah for chocolate buttons.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Children's Book Review : Prince Ribbit

Prince Ribbit is a fun picture story book by Jonathan Emmett that both Holly (4) and Lara (7) have enjoyed me reading to them at bedtime. It is a very familiar story about princesses and frogs...

Princess Martha thinks her two big sisters are being very silly when they believe a cheeky frog who is pretending to be a Frog Prince. They treat him like royalty and spoil him in the hope that he'll turn into a handsome prince.

Princess Martha prefers books about facts, than books about fairy tales but when Prince Ribbit shows no sign of turning into a handsome prince, she decides to read a few fairy stories to find out what all the fuss is about.

The story quite closely follows that of the classic Frog Prince but with an interesting twist that got Lara and Holly interested.  None of us were quite sure whether to expect a fairy tale ending or not?!?

With humourous illustrations from Poly Bernatene, and lots of silliness to spot on each page, we all loved this book and the girls have gone back to it several times since.  Holly even cheered when she saw me writing up the review today and asked me to read it again.


Saturday, 10 September 2016

Children's Book Review :: The Castle of Inside Out

Over the summer holidays, Lara has devoured the contents of her bookcase; sometimes whizzing through an entire book in one day. She is unstoppable.  One of the books she couldn't put down was The Castle of Inside Out by David Henry Wilson (and illustrated by Chris Riddell).  Today I has time to kill waiting outside a kids birthday party so I thought I'd try reading the book myself to see what was so un-put-downable about it.

So I sat down and read The Castle of Inside Out cover to cover in under an hour...and I loved it.  It reminded me of a cross between Alice in Wonderland with Animal Farm; but far more fluid and readable than either of the above!  The Castle of Inside Out is clearly inspired by Alice in Wonderland; it starts with Lorina, a young girl with an active imagination, getting lost and following a black rabbit into the woods. There she learns about the "green people" and the Insiders (those who live inside the castle that dominates the landscape) and the Outsiders (those that live outside the castle).

Lorina finds herself in a land where the animals have taken over. They've imprisoned the king, set the green people to work and they're polluting the landscape. Its a powerful story telling the tale of greed, gluttony and laziness.  Lorina shows selflessness in her quest to try and find food for the starving Outsiders and to prevent the thick smoke (from the furnaces in the castle fuelled by waste food) from poisoning those who live outside the castle.  On her travels she meets many of the pigs and animals who rule the country and is disgusted by the effect that wealth and power has had on them.

There are such strong similarities between this story and those of both Alice in Wonderland and Animal Farm that can't be a co-incidence. From the funny little ditties that each of the pigs sings, to the fabulous chapter of rhyming wonderfullness that brings a light-hearted humour to the execution scene, I was reminded of Alice at many times when reading this book. Lara is still a bit young to be able to appreciate the complex turns of phrase of Lewis Carroll but the humour and language used by David Henry Wilson is far more appropriate for young readers.

Lara enjoyed the silly languages that the different animals use (the cuckoo often uses the word cuck half way through his normal words) and she appreciated the references to different animals such as the Piggident (president), The Ox-Man (executioner) and of course the the Asses from Assenal and the Donkeys from Donkaster Rovers who play in a Hoofball match.

In among the humour, Lara really understood the messaging of the story and took away the morals that greed and gluttony can cause hurt and suffering. She understood that the pigs were representing an extreme reflection of humanity. And she really felt the frustration and irritation of the lead character Lorina as she was passed from one contact to another in order to try and find anyone who cared about the Outsider's fate...this frustration too reminded me a lot of Alice in Wonderland who gets increasingly frustrated with the silliness of the world she has imagined.

I really, really enjoyed this book and I'm so glad Lara did too.

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