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

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.

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