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

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Winter Style The Mellow Mummy Way

It is a little under a week until my work's Christmas party - more or less the only occasion during the year when I really dress up.  This year I've chosen a floaty navy blue dress that is very under-stated and I've been struggling to find an appropriate jacket to wear over the top of it.  I've now found this smart lighweight textured coat from Simple Be which I think will work well and I'm expecting to get plenty more use out of it beyond the Christmas party.

Most of my jackets and coats for winter are heavy. chunky and very casual; I like this one because it is warm over the body and arms and yet it is phenomenally light weight. Perfect as a jacket over a dress when it's cold and chilly.  The pockets are false which is a bit of a shame as I'd love to be able to dig my hands in there to keep warm. There is one big button across the front if you need to hold it closed but to me it feels more like the sort of jacket that you fold over yourself and snuggle up inside.

The reason I chose this as a party jacket from Simply Be is that I knew it would work well on numerous other occasions, not just Christmas party night.  As a wintery wrap up over a pair of jeans it works perfectly and looks far less formal.

I've chosen to pair the jacket with a lace trim tunic which, worn with a pair of black leggings and heels could in itself be suitably smart for an office Christmas party. However, worn with a pair of jeans I think a long-sleeved top and jacket combo is a wonderful winter smart-casual look.

This lace-trimmed tunic top has lace-effect shoulders and arms but a solid block of fabric around the body. I've worn it with black jeggings or blue jeans. Now all I need to go with it is a pair of sparkly heels to complete the wintery look!

Disclosure: Simply Be sent me the jacket and coat so that I could share my own winter style.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Spiralize Every Day - A Book Review

This summer I became the proud owner of a spiraliser. Like many spiraliser owners, I was phenomenally excited to start with and spiralised everything that came into my path but then the novelty wore off and I struggled with ideas more inspiring than carrot and courgette "pasta". That's why I was interested to read Denis Smart's new cookbook, Spiralize Every Day - 80 recipies to help replace your carbs.

Spiralize every day is packed full of recipe ideas that use the different blades you get with your spiraliser. There are lots of recipes based on the "noodle" theme such as butternut squash spaghetti with walnut, or sweet and sour pork with daikon noodles. But as well as this there are lots of ideas you might not have thought of such as using the blades to create think slivers of fruit and vegetables as toppings for cakes, pastries or pizzas.

I found lots of the recipes in this book to feel quite light and summery - salads and light bites. I guess that's the nature of carb-free meals though. There are one or two warming heavier dishes such as a cauliflower-base pizza, vegetable lasagne or a carrot-rice style jambalaya.  All of the photos of the food look amazing. Because of the distinct lack of carbs, you really notice that the food looks brighter and more colourful. In fact, there are very few things in this book that I don't want to try - they all look so inviting.

One section of the book that isn't carb-free is the baking and sweet treats chapter which has some really clever sweet ideas as well as some innovative bread ideas. The girls can't wait to try sweet potato and chocolate chip cookies made with shredded potato. Lara also seems quite tempted by beetroot cupcakes but I'm not so sure how she would feel sprializing beetroot as it can get very messy!

If you're looking for ideas of what to do with your spiraliser then I highly recommend this book for a bit of inspiration. It's only £9.99 and I promise there will be ideas in it that you'd never even have thought of.

Number one on my list for next weekend is...homemade carrot tortillas wraps with chipotle chicken.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

#Win Masha and the Bear - Holiday on Ice! on DVD

Masha and the Bear, Holiday on Ice is a new festive DVD with lots of wintery fun.  It has been a while since Lara and Holly had watched any Masha and Bear and gosh, they were so excited to watch this new DVD. Masha and her friend Bear hold so much fascination because of Masha's cheeky tricks and the intriguing, almost-silent slapstick comedy throughout.

If you've never seen Masha and the Bear before, let me explain...Masha is a little girl who randomly appeared in the wood and made the gentle Bear (a retired circus act) her friend.  Masha is a little bit like Holly...very demanding and with absolutely no fear! Bear does his best to look after her even when she gets up to some naughty tricks and overly-adventurous antics.

In this new seasonal wintery DVD you'll find lots of wintery and festive episodes.

  • Holiday on Ice, 
  • One, Two, Three! Light the Christmas Tree, 
  • Picture Perfect, 
  • Tracks of Unknown Animals, Watch Out!,
  • First Day of School, 
  • No Tresspassing, 
  • The Snow Maiden 
  • and The Wolf and the Fox. 

We enjoyed the title episode most - in Holiday on Ice Masha is determined to master ice skating.  Having literally just got in through the door from trying to teach Holly how to roller-skate, I can tell you that Holly and Masha really are like two peas in a pod! Bear and his lady friend do their very best to try and keep Masha out of trouble down on the frozen lake and she picks it up in the end.

The new DVD features lots of snow (the girls enjoyed the episode which features creepy snow tracks from forest animals). Holly is starting to get into a Christmassy mood now so she also enjoyed the Christmas Tree episode in which bear gets really excited about Christmas but Masha seems to wreak havoc and the tree burns down! The end of the episode is lovely though; Masha and Bear put everything right and there is even a visit from Father Christmas. This episode is packed full of laugh-out-loud slapstick moments that the girls loved.

If you have a Masha and Bear fan then I'd highly recommend this as a festive DVD.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Masha and the Bear - Holiday on Ice, all you have to do is to leave me a comment below to tell me your favourite winter activity. The competition closes on the 10th December.

1. The promoter is: Mellow Mummy
2. Entry is via a blog comment and a valid email address must be supplied when logging into the commenting mechanism. Entries with only facebook or twitter account details will not be deemed valid.
3. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
4. Route to entry for the competition and details of how to enter are via
5. Closing date for entry is 10th December 2016. After this date the no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
6. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
7. The rules of the competition and the prize for each winner are as follows: one DVD copy of Masha and the Bear
8. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
9. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
10. No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
11. Winners will be drawn at random by Mellow Mummy.
12. The winner will be notified by email within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
13. The winner will be asked by the promoter to provide their name, postal address and mobile contact number which will be passed on to the prize supplier.
14. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
15. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
16. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.
17. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Dear Zoo Drawing and Colouring Book Review

If you are looking for a Christmas gift or stocking filler for a Dear Zoo fan this Christmas then I highly recommend the Dear Zoo Drawing and Colouring Book. Both of my girls are big fans of the Dear Zoo picture book by Rod Campbell, especially since the day that they met Rod who inspired them with ideas of what to draw. This drawing and colouring book captures some of the Rod Campbell magic and inspires small people to get creative.

The book features over thirty peel-off colouring pages each of which contains a prompt to get your started drawing or colouring using ideas from the Dear Zoo book. The paper rests on a hard cardboard backing so that you have a good place to rest while you draw. Ideas include drawing in the elephants trunks where they are missing, colouring in different coloured crates of animals, drawing a happy camel instead of a grumpy one, drawing lots of jumping frogs, drawing your ideal gift from the zoo. It is a good way of getting the imaginative juices flowing and because some of the pages are prompts which invite you to draw, and others are templates for you to colour, this book is suitable for a wide age range. Both Lara and Holly have enjoyed filling in the pictures which goes to show the breadth of the appeal.

At the start of the book Rod Campbell has a note which recommends drawing in black ink and then colouring in with bright colours - this is exactly what he does and it means your pictures can look just like his.

We think this is a fab colouring book with a bit of a difference. It currently costs around £5.99 at Amazon.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Play Doh Ice Cream Castle Review

Very rarely do Lara and Holly genuinely play together in harmony but the new Plah Doh Ice Cream Castle seems to bring out a rare quality in them - teamwork.

Lara and Holly have wanted to make Play Doh ice creams for a long time but we'd never owned anything that could make it happen. The Ice Cream Castle is a whole playset designed around making pretend ice creams but within the setting of a grand ice-cream castle. You can squeeze Play Doh out using the different shaped discs to give different patterns. You can wind the handle on the other side to create swirls or even to make teeny tiny sprinkles to top your ice cream - the girls LOVE this! They like choosing a contrasting colour of Play Doh to make the sprinkles for on top of their ice cream creations.

The set comes with little bowls and spoons so you can pretend to create edible creations; Holly and Lara like to come and ask us what flavour ice cream we would like and then they disappear and come back five minutes later with a new creation. The shaped discs are interchangeable (and easily stored in slots on the playset) and with the squeezer, squasher and winder there are loads and loads of different combinations you can create.

I'll warn you; if you've any level of parental OCD over the mixing of Play Doh colours, this is not the playset for your household! All the different colours were mixed up within minutes.  Partly due to enthusiasm to do EVERYTHING all at once but also due to the fact that the girls find it quite hard to squeeze all of the Play Doh out through the various parts of the castle and so there is always Play Doh left over inside when they come to use the next colour.

The Play Doh Ice Cream Castle comes with cones and bowls and also a little roller to make your own cones. It comes with a selection of colours of Play Doh. For us, it has renewed the girls interest in Play Doh, they're enjoying it enough that I've been out and bought lots of more colours so that they can make even more ice cream creations.

You can find the Play Doh Castle for around £15 including Tesco where it is currently only £12.65.

Friday, 18 November 2016

DIY Personalised Hot Chocolate Mugs and Coffee Cups

Every year I like to choose a few personal gifts to put into our family stockings as personalised stocking fillers. This year I've made every one of us a personalised mug, either a Hot Chocolate mug or a Coffee cup. I created the mugs using our favourite photos from the year on and then filled them with hot chocolate or coffee cones to make them into fun stocking fillers with a personalised touch. Here's how you can make your own...

You will need:-

A mug of your choice!
Cellophane sweetie cones (I bought 50 for less than £2.50 on amazon)
Bag ties (my brightly coloured ones came free with the sweetie cones but regular bag ties will do just fine!)
Curling Ribbon
Sharp scissors (blunt ones just won't curl)

Hot Chocolate Mugs
A packet of drinking chocolate
A teaspoon
A bag of mini marshmallows

Coffee Mugs
A bag of whole coffee beans (or ground coffee if you prefer)
A tablespoon
Mini coffee biscuits - Amaretti biscuits or Caramelised Lotus Biscuits work best

I used the Photobox website to create individual photo mugs for each member of the family.  For Holly and Lara I chose pictures from our summer holiday in Portugal because they regularly talk about wanting to go back. Lara's mug is a Colour Bright Photo mug with a brightly coloured interior. Holly's has a sparkly silver interior which I just know she is going to love (mind you, it does mean I won't be able to heat milk in it for hot chocolate in the microwave!).  For Dave I chose a mug from the Mug Collection with his favourite colour and chose a design featuring just one large photo of the view from our most favourite place on the planet!  For me I chose a striking black and white design from the Letters range with my initial; it goes well with the photo I chose of Bella, our little black cat who was incredibly interested in the curling ribbon I used when creating these DIY stocking fillers.

Once you've chosen your mug, you need to choose a filling - Hot Chocolate for my girls, Coffee for the grown-ups! You know your friends and family best.

To make the Hot Chocolate cones, use a teaspoon to pack drinking chocolate powder down into the end of a sweetie cone wrapper. Fill it about half-full and then top it up to about two-thirds full using pink and white marshmallows. Tie it up tightly using a bag tie to ensure that the marshmallows don't dry out. Tie three pieces of curling ribbon around the bag tie to disguise it and then use a pair of open scissors with a sharp blade and pull the blade down over each piece of ribbon carefully to curl them.

To make the Coffee cones, follow a similar pattern. I used a big spoon to pack coffee beans into the very tip of the sweetie cone wrapper and then filled up to just under half way. I placed two little packets of coffee biscuits into the cone and tied up tightly to ensure the coffee doesn't lose its flavour (and to try and stop the entire house from smelling of coffee and giving away the surprise!). Curl ribbon around the top of the cone using the sharp scissor blades.

To complete the effect, place a cone inside the mug to make the perfect personalised stocking filler.  For other ideas, how about making a cone with the contents for a gingerbread latte? or loose tea leaves for someone who enjoys a brew?

Look out for more personalised gift ideas from Photobox this Christmas.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Stir Up Sunday with Jane Asher and Poundland

This coming Sunday is Stir Up Sunday, the day when, traditionally, the nation mixes up the ingredients for their Christmas pudding. We have been a bit eager so we made our Christmas Puddings this Sunday instead.  For the first time, the girls are genuinely looking forward to eating them!  Last year's puddings lasted us several months and so the girls have come quite accustomed to eating a steamed fruit pudding after a roast dinner, even when it isn't Christmas time!

This year the girls very much joined in with Stir-Up Sunday with some new kitchen equipment from Poundland - a showcase of their Jane Asher's Kitchen cookery range.

Our Christmas Pudding Recipe is fairly traditional - packed full of dried fruits, Christmassy spices and a little bit of citrus running through it.  We used cold grated butter instead of suet to help add fat and bind it all together. Holly thought it was hilarious that we used grated carrot in our Christmas pudding!

The girls mixed up all of the festive ingredients in a medium mixing bowl from the Jane Asher range - I can't believe that bowl is just £1 (as are all the other pieces from the full Poundland Jane Asher kitchen range). We sieved, we chopped, we measured, we stirred and we squished and then cut circles of Jane Asher greaseproof paper to place on top.  We popped the puddings into a pan of water to steam for nearly six hours.  We even ate one of the puddings with homemade custard for dinner after a traditional Sunday roast - it was light and yummy and really made me feel ready for the festive preparations.

Of course, if you don't want to chop and steam and mature your own Christmas pud, you can always cheat a little bit and buy a ready made Jane Asher Christmas pudding for just £1 from Poundland!

After we had created our Christmas Puddings we set to work on our Christmas Cake which is going to be a light fruit cake. Armed with a Jane Asher cake board and carry case (both just £1 each!) we will complete the cake next weekend and leave to mature for a few weeks before I ice it...that gives me a few weeks to work out how we should decorate this year's cake.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Pogu Reflectors - Be Seen!

Last weekend we attended a fireworks display in a field, in the darkness. Among the crowds I found it really hard to spot Holly as she darted off with her friends and I'd wished I'd had a means of spotting her - then the very next day I discovered Pogu reflectors for children and babies.

I was really impressed by Pogu's range of reflective products for pushchairs and buggies - a black buggy on a dark night is often hard to spot but with a set of fabric stickers, or wheel stickers your buggy can be so much more noticeable.

I've finally disappeared the last of our buggies so we've been exploring the Pogu range of reflective products for small people. We love these little reflective zip pulls because they just pick out the edge of a jacket from the darkness. They are easy to fit and are so bright when the light shines on them; both the pull and the strap are reflective. The girls think they are a fun addition to their coats but probably don't realise how important something small like this could be for alerting a driver to their presence as we're walking on the pavement at night. The Pogu children's reflective zip pulls cost around £5.50 for a pair.

For something a little more noticeable, we've been using this reflective children's armband which simply straps on as tightly or as loosely as you need it to. The armband provides one big chunk of incredibly bright reflection which can be seen upto 200 metres away. It has a fun space design or ocean design printed onto it to try and make it a little more appealling (I remember as a child being very resistant to wearing anything similar). On the inside there is a label where you can write your child's name which is good because I can well imagine these falling off in the school cloakroom when its not being held onto the coat by your child's arm!

When we are out and about on winter evenings, or even when I'm picking the girls up from after school club in the evenings, its nice to know that we can be spotted early by motorists.  All of the products in the Pogu range have night time safety in mind; we like the look of reflective shoe laces which would come in incredibly handy for Lara on her way out of Beavers late on a Monday night and I think they add a bit of fun as well!

Pogu sell reflective stickers for both hard surfaces and fabric - I'm tempted to get a few fabric reflectors to place on my running jacket for when I'm marathon training after work this winter!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Children's Book Review - The Great Ape Escape

During half term we took a trip to Longleat Safari Park and drove through the monkey enclosure. Thankfully our car survived intact but I had been slightly worried given that we had read The Great Ape Escape by Fiona Manlove the night before.  

In The Great Ape Escape, a family of apes who live in a safari park start to plot their own escape from the park by stealing items from the visitors to the park. It starts with small car parts - a wiper, a wing mirror. Lead by the gang leader, Banana Bill, the things that mysteriously disappear from people's cars seem to get bigger and bolder. Eventually the family have enough parts to create an escape vehicle of their own!

Lara and Holly both enjoyed the story and thought it was funny when the other animals in the zoo started to notice weird goings on.  Sadly though, I found the story really hard to read to them - it didn't flow nicely and seemed to immediately launch in with the names of monkey characters who hadn't been fully introduced.  The book works a lot better when it is you reading it to yourself and referring to the illustrations - Lara and Holly kept asking me questions about who was who. As I read it to them and showed them the pages, they missed some of the detail about what was being stolen from the cars as sometimes it wasn't explicitly mentioned in the text but referred to in context by one of the other characters.

The Great Ape Escape has been a memorable read.  It was quite a topical story for us but I can't picture the girls regularly going back to this book.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Autumn Sand Art #BRCraftClub #BRbloggers

Lara and Holly love creating sand art pictures. Set them loose with a jar of coloured sand and some sticky paper and they can create masterpieces.

These autum leaf sand art decorations were a fun craft activity for an autumn afternoon. The kits come with a set of pre-cut leaf shapes with sticky peel-off covering. Inside the kit you'll find some little sachets of brightly coloured sand in all sorts of autumnal colours. Gently pour the sand over the sticky leaves in fabulous colourful combinations.

Lara was surprised at how bright the colours were and told me they weren't realistic (!) until we then went for a walk down the lane outside school and saw bright reds, oranges and vibrant yellows among the fallen leaves on our way. Only then did she realise how stunning nature can be.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Shimmer and Shine Pony Tail and Wish Come True Purse Review

Shimmer and Shine is a TV show that Holly and Lara have both enjoyed - it features two young genies-in-training and there is a brand new collection of Shimmer and Shine toys out now which allows every little Shimmer and Shine fan to dress up like their favourite genie and role play until their heart's content.

Look at this sparkly blue genie's pony tail - Holly is so immensely proud of her "new" hairstyle. The Shimmer and Shine pony tail is available to buy in both pink (to be like Shimmer) and blue (to be like Shine).  It is a long pony tail that you attach to your own hair using a comb and an elastic.  It took a bit of getting used to before I could put it into Holly's hair without it falling straight back out, but that may be because I'm not much good at putting Holly's hair into a bun, and not much good at putting in hair combs!  Anyway, once you've managed to get the hair comb to stay put, you flip your head back down and voila, one beautiful genie hair style!

The pony tail comes with a sparkly band where it sits on your head and it has a big sparkly "gem" in the centre. This matches wonderfully with the gemmed arm bands that you'll find in the Shimmer and Shine Wish Come True Purse Set.

The purse set includes a hard plastic purse in the shape of Shimmer or Shine's favourite pet, either Tala or Nahal. It also includes two gemmed arm bands, a necklace with a magical amulet, a hair brush (handy for brushing your pony tail!) and two small sheets of stickers.

The set is aimed at Shimmer and Shine fans from age 3-6 but we found the arm bands to be a little bit tight for Holly who is 4. Holly loves the purse and has tried to sneak it to school already filled with all sorts of stuff such as hair clips and pencils!  The necklace is also fun; it looks like a little magical pot and when you twist the lid, one of three different pictures is shown on the front.  Holly likes the necklace because it feels like it completes her outfit.  There is definitely a big dressing up theme with these new Shimmer and Shine products and Holly LOVES LOVES LOVES dressing up.

The two sticker sheets were a little disappointing - they're very small and Holly found them hard to peel off so I had to do it for her. The stickers lasted a couple of minutes as Holly stuck them mainly onto my T-shirt.  The purse however is much more of a hit. It's a very sturdy hard plastic purse that opens up like a butterfly. There is a sparkly gem and reflective eyes to give it a bit of bling and Holly seems very taken with it.

The combination of the pony tail, the arm bands, necklace and purse makes Holly feel very glamorous and she is enjoying the feeling of looking very different to normal when she wears these.

The Shimmer and Shine Wish Come True purse set costs around £14.99 and you can find it in both Tala and Nahal designs. The Shimmer and Shine pony tails cost £9.99 each and you can find them at Toys R Us.
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