Mellow Mummy: 2017 : Taking life as it comes...

Monday 26 June 2017

Feeling Refresh'd with Robinsons

Last week was a proper scorcher but I'm not going to complain - I love summer. I love lazy evenings in the garden, I love eating family meals outside and I love being able to enjoy a nice drink with my girls.

Whenever us grown-ups share a bottle of wine or a cheeky beer in the garden, my girls like to share a special drink too. Their latest craze is the Robinsons new Refresh'd drinks which are a light and fruity treat, perfect for hot evenings or accompanying a barbecue.

Refresh'd comes in three different flavours; Apple & Kiwi, Raspberry & Apple and Organe & Lime.  My girls enjoy all of them but the Apple & Kiwi seems to have been a particular hit that they've asked me to go back and buy plenty more of (there's a good special offer in my local garage where I can get two 500ml bottles for £2).

Refresh'd is a natural spring water drink flavoured with fruit and sweetened with Stevia; the girls love them as a slightly more interesting alternative to water to keep them refreshed on hot summer's days.

Disclosure: Robinsons sent the girls a bottle of Refresh'd each so that we could try them out. We've since been back to buy several more. All thoughts expressed are our own.

Sunday 25 June 2017

My Little Pony Bedding from Character World

There was one morning this week when I went into the girls room and it was a total and utter tip - clothes everywhere, hairbands, books, single pieces of jigsaws, empty water bottles and a pile of discarded sheets from the hot weather. So this morning I asked the girls to tidy up and gave them an incentive - a brand new set of bedding from Character World featuring their favourite My Little Pony Characters; Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle and Pinky Pie.

Character World make full bedroom textile sets for children in a range of favourite character themes including My Little Pony, Marvel, Care Bears, Lego, Minecraft, Trolls, Shopkins and many more. At present, if you buy a set of Character World Kids Bedding from Tesco you could be in with a chance to win a 4 star all-inclusive holiday to Majorca with Ice Lolly holidays. The competition closes on the 31st July.

Lara and Holly's bedroom looks fab now. Both bunks are fitted out with a My Little Pony duvet cover and pillowcase. Each girl has a My Little Pony cushion as well so that they can snuggle up when they are reading or watching TV; on one side is the face of Rainbow Dash and the other, Twilight Sparkle. To complete the set, Lara and Holly each have a fleece blanket which they've chosen to settle under in preference to a duvet in this hot weather as it is lighter and easier to shake off.

While the My Little Pony duvet cover is largely pink, the big bold bright colours of the ponies fit in well with our Rainbow-themed bedroom (Rainbow dash has always been popular in our house) and we love the big chunky colours on the cushions as they make a big statement.

Lara and Holly have already found a few good uses for their blankets - to cover over their unsightly pile of clothes, cover over their shoes, to protect their bedding from cat hair and to roll up and support their head when they're reading. I think Holly also plans to use her blanket for a teddy bear's picnic later today.

You can find curtains, cushions, beanbags and bedding in the Character World range online - look out for them in Tesco and Argos. My girls are super-happy with their new My Little Pony bedding and I bet they ask for these covers to be put back on again straight away after every time we wash them.

Disclosure: Character World sent the girls a duvet cover and cushion each in return for sharing news of the competition. All thoughts expressed in this post are our own.

Friday 16 June 2017

101 Brilliant Things For Kids To Do With Science

Dawn Isaac's 101 Brilliant Things for Kids to Do With Science is the follow up to her fab book 101 Things for Kids to Do Outside.  And Brilliant science is always a hit with Lara and Holly, we we jumped at the chance to review Dawn's latest book.

Inside the book, you'll find 101 different ideas for short activities that are awesomely fun, but each have a scientific lesson to learn. Lara, who is just about 8, has absolutely lapped this book up. Lara isn't just interested in the messy/interactive experiments and activities, I've seen her genuinely want to find out more about the science behind each activity.  Holly, who is now 5, is happy to join in and I know she is soaking it up too.

After school, the girls and their childminder like to choose an activity from the book. They've made boats in the bath, helicopters in the garden, messy tricks, big bubbles (cube-shaped ones in the picture below). At the weekend, Lara has been enjoying some of the kitchen-related science activities...

Last weekend Lara asked if she could buy some lemons, some bicarbonate of soda, some cream and some gelatine. She's been browsing 101 Brilliant Things for Kids to Do With Science and checking the cupboards to see which ingredients/accessories we already have, and which we needed to buy.  The book is perfectly targeted to Lara's age range and the style of writing is fun and engaging to her with hints of childish humour that encourage her to have a go and try something new.

The results of Lara's shopping list were soon revealed. Lara made her own fizzy lemonade by mixing bicarb soda with acidic lemon juice and water. She rather overdid the bicarb though so the chemical reaction was pretty wild... then the next day she and Holly did the same in the garden and thought it was hilarious to see the bubbles overflowing.

Later on, Lara asked me to help her make a mousse. A lemon mousse made from whipped egg white and whipped cream - a tasty experiment that teaches about trapping air in between strands of protein to help thicken a mousse. A fresh homemade lemon mousse was outstanding and Lara had great fun making it.

This weekend Lara has more plans - homemade air fresheners using gels and essential oils as well as a mandala made from natural objects in our garden. There's enough different ideas in this book to keep the girls going all summer and they are all so quick and easy to do. Each activity explains the sciency-bit in kid-friendly terms and gives you ideas of how you can take the experiment even further with your own explorations.

If you're looking for ideas of screen-free time for your kids then I really highly recommend 101 Brilliant Things for Kids To Do With Science.


Tuesday 6 June 2017

Scholastic's Lollies Awards - Voting Now Open

Bedtime. The girls are supposed to settle. And yet, I'm reading them a poem about Zombies eating brains. And they're crying with laughter.

And then, the one word poem. About poo.  Lara nearly wet herself with laughter.

Aren't children weird?

I've been reading the girls poem's from Joshua Seigal's poetry book, I Don't Like Poetry. It's a wonderful poetry book that has been shortlisted for the Scholastic Lollies awards in the category for laugh-out-loud books for 9-13 year olds.

Michael Rosen and a panel of expert judges have put together a shortlist for the Lollies.  The Lollies are awarded in three categories: Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book, Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 6-8s and Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 9-13s. The shortlisted books in each category are as follows:

Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book
Oi Dog by Kes Gray and Jim Field (Hodder Children’s Books)
Eat Your People by Lou Kuenzler and David Wojtowycz (Orchard Books)
Prince of Pants by Alan Macdonald and Sarah McIntyre (Scholastic)
Danny McGee Drinks the Sea by Andy Stanton and Neal Layton (Hodder Children’s Books)

Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 6-8 year olds
Thimble Monkey Superstar by Jon Blake and Martin Chatterton (Firefly Press)
Hamish and the Neverpeople by Danny Wallace and Jamie Littler (Simon and Schuster)
Eddy Stone and the Epic Holiday Mash-Up by Simon Cherry (Usborne)
Future Ratboy and the Invasion of the Nom Noms by Jim Smith (Egmont)

Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 9-13 year olds.
I Don't Like Poetry by Joshua Seigal (Bloomsbury)
The Best Medicine by Christine Hamil (Little Island Books)
My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord by David Solomons and Laura Ellen Anderson (Nosy Crow)
AniMalcolm by David Baddiel and Jim Field (Harper Collins)

The winning book in each Lollies category will be decided solely by children’s votes, with schools and parents encouraged to help kids get involved and vote via the Lollies website,, or via the Scholastic channel on the PopJam app.

Lara and I have been reading I Don't Like Poetry - it's blimming awesome. There is something very magical about reading a good poem and I'm so glad Lara feels the same way too. When Lara first heard the poem that shares its title with the book (I Don't Like Poetry), a big grin came across her face as she realised that the poem uses all of the poetry mechanics it complains about such as similes, metaphors and onomatopoeia. Lara has enjoyed this book so much that she took it to school to show her friends. There are lots of laughs but also some more serious poems on topics that older children know and understand - really strong, powerful poems. Some rhyme, some haiku, some very deep creative writing and we all loved it. I Don't Like Poetry definitely gets our vote in the Lollies.

Sunday 28 May 2017

Paint Sticks Review - Mess Free Painting

Holly loves to paint! At school (usually without an apron). At home with our childminder after school. In the garden. At the table. She loves it!  The trouble is that I really don't trust Holly with paint. Holly is wild and enthusiastic but her clothes always get covered and so does our laminate flooring and the walls... oh my, the walls.  I may have found a solution to the messy chaos though - Paint Sticks.

Paint Sticks are wind up sticks of paint, a little like glue sticks that I'm sure your little people are used to using. The sticks are made from semi-solid paint which means there is more or less no mess and definitely no need for paintbrushes which is great news to me as Holly usually ends up utilising about 100 different brushes and then leaves them for me to clean up afterwards!

Holly and Lara were sent a pack of classic Paint Sticks from Little Brian - the pack contains 12 different paint sticks in bright bold colours. The girls very quickly set to work making their own master pieces.  Using the paint sticks is a little like using a thick crayon... the paint goes on nice and thick and dries quickly.

Holly painted me a brightly coloured rainbow using almost every colour of Paint Stick available! Lara experimented with colour blending.  The thing I think they most enjoyed was using the paints to coat rubber stamps; I thought this was a really creative idea from Lara because stamping ink is a nightmare with children (gets everywhere, stains everything) and in fact Lara has a greater level of control over colours when using the Paint Sticks with rubber stamps than she would do with any other medium.  At the end of our first Paint Stick experiment, neither girl had paint on their hands, arms or clothes... RESULT!

I haven't told the girls yet but Paint Sticks have a little secret... you can use them on windows and glass too. The paint glides onto glass easily and you can rub it off easily with a cloth. This makes them perfect for decorating windows, perhaps for a party or big event such as Halloween or Christmas.

I've now packed up our Paint Sticks as I'm planning on taking them with us on holiday. They're so compact and mess-free that I thought they might make good entertainment for us when we're away so that the girls can continue being creative even when we aren't at home.

A pack of 12 Little Brian classic Paint Sticks costs around £5-6 which is more affordable than buying 12 large bottles of different coloured poster paints and definitely less messy.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Children's Book Review :: The Impressionists

Lara is nearly 8. Just like me, she is a natural academic and yet her favourite subjects at school are all creative - Lara loves art and recently she has been learning about different artistic styles. Boolino sent her a copy of The Impressionists, a hardback spiral bound book that is part of the My First Discoveries range by Moonlight Publishing.

The Impressionists is a short introduction to the styles of the most famous impressionist painters. Lara found it interesting to think that before the 19th century, people painted for fact, not for feeling. The book explains how the impressionist movement focussed on capturing the artists own impressions of the world around them including use of light, movements and feelings.

The pages of the book are board but this little guide to impressionism cleverly uses transparent pages and cut-out pages to help highlight specific parts of some of the paintings. The last few pages of the book include images of some classic paintings from Monet, Pissarro, Seurat, Cezanne, Van Gogh and more.

I think Lara found this a handy little introduction to the impressionist movement. She and Holly both seemed to "get" it when they saw three different paintings of the same cathedral in different light conditions.  Lara has read through it a few times and I can see her taking it all in.

There isn't a lot of content in The Impressionists and I can't see either girl going back to it as reference, even if they are working on a school project, but I am pleased that it gave them some insight into some of the worlds most famous artists and perhaps a spark of artistic inspiration.

Monday 22 May 2017

The Elephant of Frimley

Today marks the start of a blog tour by a very special elephant - The Elephant of Frimley.

The Elephant of Frimley is a rhyming illustrated book for children. The story is about two sisters and an elephant who is, to all intents and purposes, lost.  I was drawn to the book because Lara and Holly were both born in Frimley so we were all a bit curious to find out about whether or not there really was an elephant to be found there.

The book was originally written by Nicholas Rawls as a bedtime story for his own daughters and we've found it to work very well as a quiet, calming rhyming story before bed. Each page is illustrated and includes a verse of rhyming story.

The story features a sad elephant who the girls, Hannah and Emily, find has wandered into their own back garden. I think my two girls would squeal with delight if they found an elephant in our garden! I'm not sure my two would be so conscientious as the sisters in the story book though; they set themselves a challenge to find out why and where the elephant has come from.

At the end of the story the girls are thanked by a local zookeeper for returning the elephant. While I'm sitting here wondering quite where in Frimley you might find a zoo, the girls think that the very last line of the story is hilarious because of the attempts to rhyme and scan Frimley (that's what a love of phonics in school does for you).

We thought the rhyming was very clever and the illustrations were sensitive in this little children's tale.

You can find out what other children's book reviewers thought of The Elephant of Frimley by joining in the blog tour over the coming days.  You can find our friend the elephant in the following places from now until the 4th of June:

Saturday 13 May 2017

New Kids Menu at Giggling Squid - Thai Tapas

Last weekend we took the girls for a really fun Sunday lunch - something a bit different that they definitely both enjoyed. Thai Tapas at Giggling Squid in Wokingham. There are around 20 Giggling Squid restaurants and we are lucky enough to have one in our local town but until recently we hadn't really considered taking the girls there but then last month Giggling Squid launched a new kids menu, Little Tapas for Little People so we went to give it a whirl.

The ‘Little Tapas for Little People’ menu, just like the adults tapas menu, offers a choice of flavoursome thai favourites for you to try just a little of each.  For just £5.95, kids get to choose two dishes from a selection of Giggling Squid favourites, from milder curries and noodles to rice dishes and nibbles such as dumplings and spring rolls.

Lara and Holly both chose pork dumplings with a dipping sauce and spring rolls with chilli sauce but they also joined us in trying chicken satay with peanut sauce, Thai curries and a Massaman curry. The girls got to choose a bowl of rice each to accompany their meal.  I'd have liked to have seen a few more vegetables on offer for the kids menu - our own meals were packed with beans, carrots, courgettes and oriental veg but the children's menu didn't seem to feature much (admittedly, our girls chose options that didn't even include a veggie garnish!).

For an extra £2 you can choose a pudding - our girls both chose ice cream which came beautifully presented but you can also choose a roti flatbread with sugar and condensed milk.  The grown-ups dessert menu features some amazing Thai inspired dessert ideas such as Thai basil and lemongrass sorbet.

The girls enjoyed the meal from start to finish. They devoured an entire bowl of Thai prawn crackers while colouring in their menus (there's a chance to win a family meal if you do) and playing the "match the picture" game on their menu.

Lara and Holly are both very adventurous when it comes to food, particularly oriental flavours and I think their first experience of a Thai restaurant went down really well. I can definitely see us coming back to Giggling Squid during the day time with them to enjoy lunch more frequently. The atmosphere was really relaxed and we felt we could have ordered any combination of dishes from the menu and enjoyed them all.

Disclosure: Our meal was provided for the purposes of this review but we absolutely LOVED it and the girls have already asked for us to go back and we definitely will.

Sunday 7 May 2017

Beauty and the Beast Belle dolls review

Holly is totally enchanted by Disney princesses at present. She spends a lot of time in imaginary play upstairs in our playroom re-enacting scenes from movies. These two Belle dolls by Hasbro inspired by the new Disney Beauty and the Beast movie have been a total hit and they allow her to play two different roles in her make-believe world - that of Belle the villager and Belle the princess.

The Beauty and the Beast Village Dress Belle is dressed in a traditional blue checked and silk-style dress to match Belle as she leads her life in the village before she meets the Beast. She has a simple hairstyle that Holly likes to try and keep tidy and she comes with a pair of brown boots. I have caught Holly singing while playing, just like daydreamer Belle!

Enchanting Ball Gown Belle is dressed in her finest golden dress and is ready to be swept off her feet. She comes with a tiara, a golden necklace and a pair of golden slippers fit for a princess. This dolls arms and elbows move so that you can pose her into dance positions.  Holly likes to play with both dolls at once and swaps their shoes and dresses over until her heart's content!

I think Enchanting Ball Gown Belle looks very grown up and her simple face features remind me of the live action movie much more than a cartoon style doll would. Somehow the dolls give off a mature feeling which means that Holly's games don't seem quite so childish. Belle's hair, of course, has not stayed anywhere near as neat as it was when the doll first arrived, and I've had to pick that necklace up off the floor at least a million times in the last month!

Village Dress Belle costs around £17.99 at Argos and Enchanting Ball Gown Belle costs around £38.99. The difference in process is mainly due to the magical-looking dress but I guess also to do with the arms and movement. Holly definitely plays with this doll more than any other in her collection.  Both Belle dolls are inspired by the live action version of Beauty and the Beast.

Thursday 4 May 2017

Children's Activity Book :: Doodle Dogs by Tim Hopgood

I don't think of Lara as particularly creative - like me, her artistic and creative side is very much driven by mimicking others, rather than developing her own innovative style; that's why she doesn't normally get along with drawing and doodling books normally because she likes to have instructions to follow and designs to copy!  Doodle Dogs has been a big hit with her because it encourages creativity... but within boundaries and with instructions. Perfect for helping Lara to explore her creative side on her own terms.

Doodle Dogs by Tim Hopgood is an activity book with a doggy theme; on the pages you'll find drawing, colouring and doodling activity prompts which introduce you to different artists and their styles. There's a page in the style of Matisse, Jackson Pollock and even Kandinsky!

Each page has a different activity which can take from seconds to hours to complete. Some simply require a pen or a pencil, others probably need a bit more colour, though Lara hasn't yet lifted out her paint set and tends to stick to pencils and crayons. The book is broadly themed around dogs preparing for a dog show and at the end of the book you get to award a prize for the dog you like the look of most.

I think this activity book is a great introduction to different styles of art - Lara doesn't even realise that she's learning about such significant art movements as pop art and modernism, she just knows that each page is different. I think Lara has most enjoyed the pages where she gets to follow patterns - maybe there's a little bit of Escher in her?


Lara has really enjoyed responding to many of the prompts in the Doodle Dogs book. You can find Doodle Dogs for around £8.99. I'd recommend it for children from about 6 -10.

Monday 1 May 2017

Holly is FIVE

Holly is five today.


Fierce and fiery
Intelligent - more than she lets on
Excellent and unstoppable.

We celebrated Holly's birthday this weekend with a bowling party, a family roast and a walk in the country.

Holly's birthday cake followed the bowling theme with fondant ball and pins and lots of brightly coloured stars.  Inside it was pink and green sponge.

Sunday 23 April 2017

Early Readers and Spring Fun with Pat-A-Cake

Children are never too young to start enjoying books - I've brought up two little bookworms with a love of story books and picture books that has set them off perfectly in life.  A Pat-A-Cake board book makes a perfect introduction to books for even the tiniest babies; with red, black and white contrast for helping to perfect early vision and robust interactive board pages that your baby and toddler can watch you use, and then learn to use themselves, Pat-A-Cake have mastered the art of baby's first books.

As with reading, there are several other life skills that you needn't be afraid to introduce your baby to from a very young age and build into your daily routine.  This spring my girls couldn't wait to get out into the garden with us to start planting fruit and vegetables - watching a seed grow into a plant is a great way of getting little people involved in gardening and it's a fun family activity in the spring sunshine.

Over the last few weekends we've also done a lot of baking; Lara and Holly both started helping me to cook as soon as they were able to sit up unaided in their highchair. We've baked Easter cupcakes, hot cross buns and marble cakes together over the last few weekends and last night Lara even helped me make satay chicken.

Pat a Cake's First Baby Days On the Move Book inspired this blog post looking back on the habits we started early with Lara and Holly and which I'm so glad we did.  You can find out more about Pat A Cake Books' range of books for  new babies, pre-school and early years on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.


Tuesday 11 April 2017

Mystery Buns - Easter Hot Cross Buns from NOW TV #TotCrossBuns

Yesterday was a very lazy day for me, recovering from an epic, hot marathon, the girls promised me that it would be an honorary Mother's day. The day started well with toast and coffee made by the girls, then they did the washing and sorted out the ironing.  In the afternoon we did some Easter baking together inspired by some of the range of kids TV programmes available on Now TV with a NOW TV Kids Pass.

We discovered NOW TV at Christmas thanks to an offer on a pizza (!) and we've watched a movie or show on it almost every night since! The girls have just started to explore what's available in the kids content too; there are some big names to look out for because you can watch channels which aren't available on Freeview including Cartoonito, Nick Jr. Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

NOW TV sent us some Easter recipe cards with instructions on how to get the girls cooking their own Tot Cross Buns, each one inspired by a different NOW TV show. The girls chose to make the Mystery Bun.  A fairly normal looking Hot Cross Bun but with a mystery on the inside, inspired by Be Cool Scooby Doo.

Hot Cross Buns are notoriously hard to bake well but Lara is always up for a challenge. We were following a recipe by Candice of Bake-Off fame so Lara took it very seriously (she is a BIG fan). Our basic dough recipe was supplemented with chocolate chips and fudge chips and then topped off with an almond chocolate biscuit in the shape of a Scooby Snack, all dipped in a butterscotch caramel.

Lara had great fun making the bone biscuits - anything with chocolate in gets her interested. We didn't have a bone-shaped biscuit cutter so she did these ones by hand. I thought the biscuits added an interesting touch to an Easter classic and especially yummy when drizzled in butterscotch sauce.

Also in the range of Tot Cross Buns kids Easter recipes was:
  • The Hot X Bun inspired by the Powerpuff Girls
  • Iced pink cinnamon buns topped with marshmallows, popping candy and strawberry laces for a cross
  • Bun-der the Sea inspired by Spongebob Squarepants
  • Pineapple and blueberry buns topped with starfish
  • Ninja Buns inspired by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Savoury, pizza-like buns with pepperoni, cheese and tomato

Monday 10 April 2017

Pirate Pete and his Smelly Feet - Childrens Book Review

Holly loves rhyming stories at present - I think all her foundation work with phonics really helps her to recognise the art of rhyming words. Pirate Pete and his smelly feet is a fun and fast-paced rhyming picture book about a gang of pirates who've had enough of one of their shipmate's odorous feet and Holly thinks it is great fun.

First Pete has to walk the plank. Then he wanders all alone through the wilderness but finally, his old crew need him back to help out - Pete's cheesy feet are quite good at warding off shoals of sharks.  The story is written by Lucy Rowland and the illustrations are by Mark Chambers.

The paperback book comes with a sheet of stinky stickers for you to use throughout the book; scratch the stickers to release a very cheesy whiff indeed.  Holly and Lara both rushed to have a go before they'd even read the book!

I really loved the rhymes in this book - it always makes it so much easier to read out loud to the girls when the rhyme just works naturally. I found the story fun and fast and I particularly liked the way that the illustrations worked with the text to suggest passing of time as Pete sinks into the ocean and when he is wandering over the island.

The illustrations are bight and fun with lots of bright yellow whiffy, cheesiness and lots of piratey goodness to be found on ships, islands and oceans. Holly and I think it's a fabulous book that is lots and lots of fun.

Pirate Pete and his Smelly Feet is published by Pan Macmillan children's books and costs around £6.99.

Thursday 6 April 2017

Ravensburger My First Pet XXL 200 Piece Jigsaw Review

Lara and Holly tend to do a lot of jigsaws or play a lot of board games after school these days but I had been starting to feel that they are both out-growing our collection of jigsaw puzzles; thankfully, Ravensburger have reminded me that jigsaws don't just have to be for tiny people to learn problem-solving skills, but are also a great source of fun challenge for older children and this 200 piece My First Pet jigsaw has really got Lara back into puzzles.
Over the past week Lara has been working on this puzzle a little bit at a time. It is a large puzzle about 40cm by 36cm when fully made. With 200 pieces and a fairly complex design, it took Lara about three evenings to complete.

The design was very much admired by both my girls so I often found Holly helping out her sister. They both quickly grasped that the blue and white gingham design wasn't just around the edges, but also throughout the jigsaw between each animal. The design features lots of different cute pets from a chincilla to a terrapin and a hedgehog to a pony. We particularly like the sleepy kitten.

Given the size and the length of time to construct, we got the girls to move the puzzle onto a board so that we could move it out of the way when needed - this is the first time they'd used a puzzle board and it worked really well. The finished design looks really grand on the board.

This My First Pet XXL Jigsaw jigsaw costs less than £10 on amazon and is of the same great quality that I'd expect from any Ravensburger puzzle. I'm expecting the girls to be constructing this one many many times over the coming years. It is recommended for children from 8 years old but I think an adventurous 5 year old like Holly would also enjoy it if they have the staying power!

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