Wednesday, 28 November 2012

JOHNSON'S® Baby Mums Know Best Campaign

JOHNSON'S® Baby have asked me to write a "note to self” including what I wish I’d known as a first time mum. 

Dear Sharon

First of all, take it easy. You're a new mum, no one expects you to be super mum, super wife or domestic goddess! It's a tough job and with all jobs you need to take your time to learn the ropes! Take time to bond with your little person, enjoy the early days as much as you can. Work out your own methods and best ways of doing things and try to dodge all the conflicting advice that you will get hit with from the minute baby is born. Feel your way and trust your instincts!

Don't feel bad if breast feeding doesn't work. Always give it a try but if you feel it's making things difficult and causing you unhappiness then that's only going to transmit to the baby. Breast is undoubtedly meant to be best but what's best for some isn't best for all and formula is NOT the devils work! It's been around for mothers’ for decades and it does the job! Don't give yourself a big guilt trip if you bottle feed, if you’re happy, baby will be happy.

Nappy changing a newborn is hard enough but when you’re told by the hospital that for 6 weeks you should only clean your babies bottom with water and cotton wool and you mustn’t use baby bath to bathe baby it just makes things that much more fiddly. Filling up little bowls of water, pulling off big wodges of cotton wool – it’s all done for the best possible reason – to protect your baby’s skin but recent research from The University of Manchester suggests that it’s not necessary to stick to this regime. An independent clinical trial recently found that JOHNSON’S Baby Extra Sensitive Wipes and Top-to-Toe Bath are just as safe as using cotton wool and water. Current advice from midwives and health visitors is to just use water but us mums need something more convenient and effective. If you want to get out and about with your baby, cleaning them up with water and cotton wool in the shopping centre baby change area is not exactly easy! It’s so great that us mums can now clean our babies with no guilt.*

Don't always rely on supposed 'Parenting Experts'! Don't buy every book on Amazon that promises you sleep or guarantees a fully weaned baby by 1 year. Babies are all individuals too, they will have their own rhythm and you can influence it to a certain extent but don’t worry if your baby isn't doing the same as what the latest expert’s book says! Be an ‘expert’ about your own children and don’t worry if your baby doesn’t follow the ‘norm’.

Don’t feel bad about using a dummy! If a dummy works for your baby and helps to settle them then use it (don’t get too cross though when you have to get out of bed a few times a night to replace it!) and ignore other people’s comments and remarks. Why make your baby unhappy for trying to conform to other peoples opinion. If the dummy provides a bit of comfort that your baby needs (especially when teething) then pop it in.

Most of all stress less and enjoy your baby more, have the courage of your convictions, trust your instincts, as after all, mums know best!



* I really do wish clinical proof about the safety of using wipes on babies had been around when I had Isla. When you leave hospital with your newborn, you really do want to do the best you can for them and you feel you need to protect them in every way. So you persevere with the water and cotton wool and it’s just one more thing that can make your day that bit more complicated. It’s really not easy going out and about with a baby as it is and changing them on the move can be fraught with pitfalls – remember those poos that go all up the back, wipes are perfect for those! So I’m glad that mums can now confidently make a choice when it comes to cleansing their newborn baby, right from the very first day.

The independent trial conducted with over 500 mums found JOHNSON’S® Baby Extra Sensitive Wipes and Top-To-Toe® Bath to be just as safe as using cotton wool and water or just water to cleanse delicate newborn skin. Keeping baby’s skin clean and hydrated is important for their general well being and happiness.

Endorsed by family health expert and mum of two young children, Dr Ellie Cannon says: “I know from experience there isn’t a mum out there that doesn’t worry about every action they take when it comes to their babies. There are plenty of occasions when there’s a mental tug of war over whether to follow professional advice or to trust your instincts and make a decision that just feels right for you, regardless of professional opinion. The findings of this clinical trial now give new mums one less decision to worry about, and actually provide them with reassurance and confidence to make an informed choice that’s safe for their baby – fantastic!”

To find out more about the campaign, take a look at the following youtube link:

"I have been asked to work with JOHNSON'S® Baby to write a "note to self" to coincide with their Mums Know Best campaign which aims to empower new mums and women in the last stage of pregnancy to trust their instincts and have confidence in their own convictions, supported by the groundbreaking new independent evidence proving that JOHNSON'S® Baby Extra Sensitive Wipes & Top-To-Toe® Bath are as safe to use as water alone on newborn skin. They have paid me to write this post."

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Cbeebies The Album - Great Stocking Filler!

We've been listening to this in the car the last few weeks and the kids aren't tiring of it yet. It's a collection of all the theme tunes from the Cbeebies shows. It also includes all the Cbeebies presenters songs - which happen to my preferred choice as I do like all the seasonal songs! Noah's favourite is Baby Jake and Isla is partial to Woolly and Tig and Timmy Time! Our only complaint is that it doesn't have 'Get Well Soon', which is Noah's favourite theme song - he's constantly going ' happy, happy, 'et ell ooo' but it was probably pressed before that show came out so I'll forgive them! I think this is perfect for kids as they are familiar with all the tunes and also being theme tunes they are pretty short. I also love that there are some old favourites on there like Postman Pat which I'm often singing along to in the morning!

It would make a great Christmas Stocking filler this Christmas for your little ones. You can buy it here from Amazon 

We were sent the Cbeebies Album for free in order to write this post. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


Groupon - Review

I'm not a Groupon Newbie, I've used it once to book an overnight stay in Brighton with the OH before Noah came on the scene. It was lovely to get away for the night, even if I was really boring and wanted to go to bed early because I was up the duff. Since then I've not used Groupon so when I was approached to do a Groupon review I said yes immediately. I was given a £40 credit to buy anything or book any experience I liked. I'd seen a cupcake decorating course on Groupon a few times on their daily emails and so for a week or so I looked out for something similar but nothing came up. So then I changed tack and decided to look for something that would benefit the OH and me. Dinner at Marco Pierre White's restaurant at the Mecca that is Stamford Bridge presented itself and I knew that the OH would love me forever (he'd have loved me more if a Chelsea match day ticket had preceded the meal but never mind!). it looked like a great deal - 2 courses (main and dessert) and a cocktail for two for £34 - it should have been £84.

It's very easy to buy on Groupon. Sign up to Groupon and create an account. You select the item or experience you want and you click on the deal. The deals are updated daily and they last for 24 hours, so you have until midnight to decide if you want to buy something. Once you've clicked 'buy' it's just a case of waiting to see if the minimum number of people have bought the deal, if they have then you get it, if they haven't then you don't. Simple. When the day has ended Groupon will check if the minimum number has been reached and if it has then you will get an email, you log in to your Groupon account and then print off the confirmation of the deal and make sure you remember to take it with you to your experience. 

We had a great night but what I will say is that unless you drink tap water and you don't get swayed by all the other delicious things on the menu at a posh restaurant then you will still spend a fair amount, but what it does do is make an expensive restaurant cost the same as your local high street restaurant. On top of the £34 that the deal cost we spent another £88. This was because we added on a starter each (potted duck for him, crispy beef salad for her), 3 side dishes, a bottle of red (the cheapest at £22) and an Irish coffee (£11 each if you please!) and a bottle of water. We both chose the Rib Eye Steak with Bearnaise sauce as our main meal included in the deal and the desserts were divine - Madagascan Vanilla Pannacotta for me and Caramelised Apple Pie for the OH. Oh and our cocktails (Cosmo for me and Apple Martini for him) were delicious! It was lovely, the service was great, attentive but equally not sitting in wait on our shoulders. The ambiance was great, low key and relaxed. I 'shazamed' the music in the restaurant because I liked it so much (Rhythms Del Mundo/Cuba) and me and the other half had a lovely time while the kids spent the night at Nanny and Grandpa's house. 

Would I use Groupon again? Yes most definitely - they have some fab deals, I looked on my local Groupon today and there was the elusive cupcake decorating class (maybe next time!) and there were also some rather cool looking Nike High Tops on offer - reduced from £66.99 to £29.99 - bargain. Check out the deals at Groupon

Two happy, well fed parents! (he is growing a Mo - he doesn't look  like all the time)

Thank you Groupon for helping two very tired parents go for a rare night out - it was great!

Earth Friendly Baby - Review

We've been trying out some Earth Friendly Baby products in the last couple of weeks at bath time. If you've not heard of Earth Friendly Baby then I can tell you that they are an eco-friendly range of baby skincare products. Earth Friendly Baby products aim to enrich parent and baby well being through natural personal care.  The brand philosophy encapsulates sustainability and living in balance with nature.  The products do not contain animal-derived ingredients or use animal testing and we strive to share these values by making natural products affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.

We were sent the Earth Friendly Baby Organic Lavender Shampoo and Body wash (RRP £4.08) and the Earth Friendly Baby Organic Lavender Bubble Bath (RRP £6.12).

I really do like these products, they smell lovely - we were sent the Lavender version (I had hoped for mandarin) which is the scent that's supposed to promote sleep. After use the kids both smell incredible. The bubble bath produces lots of bubbles - very important to my kids for making beards obvsiously.  I like the packaging and branding of the products - it's all very simple which seems in keeping with the nature of the products. My kids don't tend to have sensitive skin but it is nice to know that the products you're putting on their skin contain the best ingredients.

I have a couple of gripes though. The top of the body wash bottle has a sensible cap that pops up so you can squirt out what you need. However the lid for the bubble bath is a screw top and so can be completely removed. I would have preferred it if the bubble bath had the same style lid as the body wash. It feels safer to me in case the children get hold of it and also the bubble bath is actually quite runny  - not thick like most bubble bath so a squirty lid may also stop you from using too much. Which brings me to my next point....

I know that these products are organic, and they aren't tested on animals but they seem over priced for the quantity you get. That said in terms of the bubble bath a little does go a long way. Not quite true of the body wash (particularly if my OH is squirting it!), which I can see disappearing quite quickly. All in all I don't think we will be changing from our current brand of baby skincare products but it was nice to give Earth Friendly Baby a try as I'd often seen it in Boots.

 All of Earth Friendly products are hypoallergenic, plant-derived, biodegradable, and free from artificial colouring, synthetic fragrance, SLS and parabens. Ingredients are organic where possible and not tested on animals. 

Earth Friendly Baby is available from Waitrose, Ocado, John Lewis, Boots, Sainsburys and wholefood stores.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Book Reviews - The Fearsome Beastie & Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball

Isla was sent some new books recently. They came around the same time as she'd just got into having stories from the iPad so I was interested to see what would happen - would she shun the books? I wasn't sure. I hoped not as I personally am a big fan of REAL books! I'm not yet converted to Kindles and ibooks. In the case of children's books, I love a beautifully illustrated REAL physical book, where you can really pore over the pages. That's not to say I won't be converted at some point.....

When I told her she had new books she was hyped. Both her and Noah love stories at bedtime. The first night she wanted to read Tamara Small and The Monsters' Ball by Giles Paley Phillips. I didn't know what to expect and as I started to read it dawned on me, was this a good idea to read about monsters at bedtime? Well I needn't have worried as we soon find out that these are fun loving monsters! The build up before we find out they're friendly monsters is good though and Isla was all snuggled up into me until I felt her physically relax when the pictures showed Tamara having fun with the ghosts, vampires and witches!

The book is written in a rhyming style which makes the story flow really well and I find it also helps children to remember large chunks of the story, particularly good for pre-schoolers who can't read just yet. The illustrations are good, the ghosts and ghouls particularly well done. Isla really likes the skeleton and asks what it is, as she doesn't quite understand our bodies are made up of bones! 

Next up was The Fearsome Beastie also by Giles Paley Phillips. I really liked this book, but my mum had concerns that it was a bit scary for bedtime. Thinking about it now, it is different to Tamara Small, the suspense and the fear are held for longer in this book. That said Isla didn't seem overly scared by it - she thought it was like Little Red Riding Hood. And it is really, a fearsome beastie comes to town in search of children to eat! He soon meets his match when the Grannie finds him, chops him up and makes beastie stew for all the children to eat!

I liked this book particularly as it gets back to old style fairy tales. It is reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood as we have the people getting eaten and then someone comes to save them. In this case the story becomes funny, it's no boring woodcutter that saves them it's a little grey haired old lady! 
Giles Paley-Phillips cites Roald Dahl among his influences and I totally get that. The humour coupled with a gruesome tale is exactly what Dahl did best and I see it in these books too. 

With both these books I liked getting away from the 'princess' stories that we've had to read of late (all that pink and slushy love stuff!). Also I am happy to report that REAL books still have a place in our house, Isla hasn't ditched them in favour of the iPad.

Both books can be purchased from Amazon and they would make incredibly good Christmas Stocking fillers!
Tamara Small and the Monsters' Ball - Giles Paley-Phillips
The Fearsome Beastie - Giles Paley-Phillips

We were sent these books free of charge to review, all opinions are my own.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Do You Have Baby Lag?

Well it's official. I do. I am 87% Baby Lagged according to the JOHNSON'S Baby site. I'm sleep deprived but striving. I would say that's pretty accurate actually. Noah is 16 months old and we've only just started to get a few unbroken nights sleep. It's never guaranteed but the ratio is approximately 5 nights bad sleep to 2 nights good sleep! Now I've typed that out it doesn't feel much to celebrate actually. Baby Lag is mainly associated with new parents, who have a baby not sleeping, but I can say that as parents of two children (I have to mention Isla is a great sleeper!) we definitely have that 'zombie feeling' during the day and we also crave uninterrupted deep sleep. It's been a hard thing to accept having a bad sleeper when we were so spoilt first time around with a child who sleeps like a dream and who will sleep through 12 hours a night.

Dr Dev Banjaree, a sleep expert, has been working together with JOHNSON'S Baby on the Baby Lag sleep campaign. He has identified that there are a few things that parents can do to help their babies sleep well:

  • Routine is key!
  • Try to get your baby to settle on their own at night
  • Be Consistent with your approach, keep the lights low, soft voice, minimal stimulation
  • Keep a sleep diary so you can track progress - when you're tired you'll lose track of 'good' nights and 'bad' nights - note it down and then you can truly see if your baby is getting better at sleeping!
  • And finally if you can catch up on some sleep in the daytime. Easier said than done I know - that washing basket will be calling out to you, or the hoover will be glaring at you to run it round but actually as a parent you'll do yourself more favours if you catch up on the zzzz's. Baby Lag can threaten to spoil your enjoyment of your little one. 

You can test whether you are Baby Lagged by clicking on the badge below. It'll take through to the JOHNSON'S Baby site where you can play 3 fun games to help determine how 'Baby-Lagged' you are, based on reaction times, coordination and memory, once you've received your score you will be introduced to a 3 step bedtime routine - I do hope you're less than 87%!


This is a sponsored post, but the advice from JOHNSON'S Baby could stop you looking like the cast of Shaun of the Dead!

Making Our Own Christmas Decorations

I love 'trying' to do crafts with Isla. I say trying because after about 15 minutes it does feel that way as more and more mess gets made and we're covered head to toe in glue, glitter and paint! It does feel like a major test of my patience but somehow I manage to pull it off and go with the flow!

A few weeks before I had a little look on eBay for some bits we could use for crafting and I was actually amazed by the stuff you can buy and also how cheap it is. I bought a mixed bag of buttons (£2.95 for approx 200 buttons) and lollisticks (£1.80 for 100 sticks) - we don't eat a lot of ice lollies in our house! I didn't really know what I was going to do with them at that point. Then I bought some silver and gold paint and it came to me to make a few Christmas decorations.

A rainy Sunday presented itself and so we cracked open the glue, paint and glitter. Isla loved the buttons. There were so many different ones and it really appealed to her 'magpie' nature as they were like little treasures - loads of sparkly ones, brightly coloured ones. She kept trying to secrete them in various pockets but I had to ask her to give them back as Noah is still of the age where he'll put stuff in his mouth and choke.

Yes, that is a Wigwam in the background in our living room and
Isla does have 'warpaint' on!

With the lollisticks I got her to paint them silver and then when they'd dried I dabbed glue on and she sprinkled on the glitter. We also added a few buttons and then I stuck them together like a snowflake. I also cut out some cardboard disks and she painted those with silver paint mixed with some glue and stuck the buttons on and sprinkled with glitter. All I need to do now is get some silvery string to attach to the 'snowflakes' and button baubles so that we can hang them on the tree.

I'm pretty pleased with our efforts and I look forward to putting them up. Isla really enjoyed making these and I can't wait to get the buttons out again to make some other cute crafty things!  

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Shrek The Musical - Review

I was really looking forward to seeing Shrek last week as I'd been invited to a media night performance, so when Noah was poorly that morning I just knew that I wasn't going. Obviously priorities lay with the babies so I hand over my blog to my two best friends now to give you the low down, over to you girls:

"When Sharon asked me if I wanted to go to see Shrek with her as she had been invited to review it for her blog, I was thrilled. Even though it is primarily aimed at children (and we were not taking ours), I love seeing musicals and having seen the film years ago, I was interested to see how it had been adapted for the stage.  However, on the day, Sharon’s youngest was ill and she was unable to go. She asked if I could take someone else and review it for her. It was such a shame that Sharon couldn’t come but as they say; ‘the show must go on’ (or in this case the ‘review must go on’), and I found a friend happy to accompany me.

We arrived at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and were kindly given our tickets and a programme. Now I never buy programmes but I really liked this one. It was beautifully designed and gave good background information on all the cast and my 3 year old son loved looking at the pictures the next day (and now wants to go and see it). We went to the evening show which is actually a really good time to see it. I imagine the matinees are much busier and it was great to not have to queue for drinks or the toilets at the interval!  We had great seats which enabled us to get a close up view of the cast and their fantastic costumes.

I won’t go into the story of Shrek as I can’t imagine many people don’t know it. If there is anyone out there who hasn’t seen it, it is essentially a love story about an Ogre and a Princess, with a vertically challenged self obsessed Lord who wants to be a King, a host of fairy tale characters and a talking donkey.

From the opening scene, involving many disgruntled fairy tale folk, we were taken on a colourful musical journey, meeting some brilliant characters along the way.  Lord Farquaad in particular is excellent and raises the most laughs by far. I liked that they made Fiona slightly more narcissistic and sarcastic than in the film – referring to herself as bi-polar in the scene in the tower where she is impatiently waiting for her prince, ranging from hopeful romantic to a crazy female obsessed with being rescued. The donkey was great, as you would expect for one of the main characters. Shrek himself did the job really well, although I did find at times I couldn’t understand his singing over the voice of Fiona and the loud music. The costumes were great; the fairy god-mothers being a particular favourite of mine with all its glorious purple sparkle!
The most impressive scenes by far were those involving the dragon. Seeing the 4 actors bringing this huge dragon to life across the stage, with its shining eyes and soulful singing voice was amazing; only beaten when the same dragon flew over the audiences head to land on the stage! I thought the young boy behind us would be terrified but he loved it. I think that is why it is recommended for children aged 5 and over. I know my 3 year old would have been terrified and begging to leave!

The show moved along at a good pace, I didn't find my mind wandering as it has at some other theatre productions where some scenes fail to impress that much.  The storyline was enough away from the original film that you didn't feel they were adding or missing parts, whilst still keeping the characters (mostly) in character. The scene changes were flawless and I was very impressed with how quickly they changed Fiona to an ogre at the end, it was fascinating watching that happen.

The finale was a real feel good sing a long which saw the entire audience clapping away, made even more special by the Confetti that exploded all around us. I watched the young boy behind us collecting up the pieces to take away as a small memento of a show he clearly enjoyed.

So all in all I would definitely recommend Shrek the musical as a great show for the whole family (not including those under 4 or 5). It was a real feel-good show and my friend and I left having had a thoroughly entertaining couple of hours.  So a big thank you to Sharon for giving us the opportunity to go; and I am sorry you missed out!"

Thanks for the review guys - sounds like you had an amazing time! Instead of going to the show I took at the look at this video that the cast of Shrek The Musical and Centrepoint have made to celebrate Christmas. Centrepoint believe in giving homeless young people a future. To donate £2 to Centrepoint's Christmas appeal, simply text OGRE12 £2 to 70070.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Wigwam Review

I was asked a few weeks ago whether the kids would like to review something from Big Game Hunters - an online company who specialise in outdoor games and play equipment, so I thought why the heck not and decided upon a lovely looking Wigwam. It didn't take long to arrive but when it did we were a bit stuck as the weather is not too clever at this time of year and outdoor play is limited to when it's not raining. Eventually we got fed up of waiting for a dry weekend in between the ones where we weren't busy and we decided that the house is as good a place as any to put up a Wigwam. The kids agreed - they loved it. I even did some warpaint on Isla's face so she could get into full Red Indian character. We don't have a huge living room so it was in the way a bit but in the summer I can see it will be great to have it outside and we can invite their friends round to play Cowboys and Indians!

Here's a little snap shot of our afternoon putting up the wigwam and playing with it:
Isla helps to put it together
Really simple, easy instructions!
Oh dear, sitting on top of the Wigwam isn't going to get it made!
Daddy gets down to the building!
Squaw Isla outside her new Wigwam home!
Obviously the following day when I worked from home and the kids were at nursery it was the most beautiful day (sods law!) so I took the wigwam outside so I could see how fabulous it will look in the summer next year:

We'd like to thank the people at Garden Games for this fabulous Wigwam - I would definitely recommend - it's easy to build, it's roomy and the canvas is beautiful! There is so much more to - they also sell some brilliant giant games including some fabulous croquet sets! 

We were sent this wigwam free of charge in order to complete this post. We really do LOVE it and can't wait to play with it in the good weather next year.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Win Family Fun at Peppa Pig’s Treasure Hunt this Christmas

A Christmas treat for Peppa Pig fans! I have 1 family ticket up for grabs to see Peppa’s theatre show, Peppa Pig’s Treasure Hunt, at the Criterion Theatre, London, this Christmas. The lucky family will see the stage production on Tuesday 18th December at 11 am. A family ticket is for 4 people, minimum 1 adult.

In this new theatre production Peppa Pig and her friends set off on a treasure hunt. Peppa, her brother George and friend Danny Dog get up to fun and games on a day out on Granddad Dog's boat. There are clues aplenty as Pedro Pony, Polly Parrot and Zoe Zebra help them find their treasure as they all enjoy a day of adventure. Peppa Pig’s Treasure Hunt features true-to-life puppets, perfect sing-along songs and a new story that will charm and delight all her fans.

For your chance to win this Family Ticket to see Peppa Pig's Treasure Hunt on Tuesday 18th December (11am showing), please leave your answer to the following question in the comment box below. Please leave a way of contacting you in the comment box

Q:        What’s the name of Peppa Pig’s mother?

A - Mummy Pig
B - Mummy Sheep
C - Mummy Rabbit

** For an added entry into the competition please tweet: "I have entered to win tickets to Peppa Pig's Treasure Hunt with @iheartmuthahood" - and then leave an additional comment below to say you have done so - for two entries you MUST leave two comments. **

Competition will close at midnight on Saturday 1st December. Winner will be contacted shortly after and details passed on to the PR company.

Peppa Pig’s Treasure Hunt runs at the Criterion Theatre in London’s West End 6 December – 6 January. For further information on the show please go to No cash alternatives, accommodation or travel are provided in this competition. The tickets are non-transferable and only for the date mentioned above.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


As a mother I'm very proud that Noah has started talking in sentences - well sort of....I'm definitely using the word sentences loosely - "I am robot" is a sentence, right?  

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Jam Tarts Recipe - Quick and Fun to Make With Kids!

Last weekend I decided to make something with Isla and I didn't want to make cakes and I remembered how I loved it when I'd get to make jam tarts with my Nan when I was little. We would make jam ones and also lemon curd ones (I liked these the best!) and I remember not being able to wait that long to eat them after they came out of the oven, but you kind of have to with jam tarts or they take the skin off the roof of your mouth! It's also important to not let little fingers near the jam when the tarts come out of the oven as again it is terrifically hot!

So here's the recipe:

250g plain flour
125g softened butter
1 egg beaten - you might only need half of this, depends on how your pastry is coming together

Optional: you can add 20g of icing sugar to the ingredients to make the pastry sweet - although I found that the jam made things sweet enough and I stuck to savoury pastry 

Set oven to 200 degrees/ Gas mark 6

  • Put the flour and butter (and icing sugar if you're using it) in the food processor and whizz for 10 seconds. Then add half the beaten egg. Whizz again and watch how the mix is coming together. At this point you may need to add a bit more egg. Then use your hands to bring the pastry together. (You can do all of this with your hands - food processor isn't crucial - you would rub the butter into the flour and then once a breadcrumb texture, gradually add egg in the same way and bring together)
  • Flatten the pastry out on the surface to about 3mm and then use a cutter to cut out 12 rounds - my cutter was 6cm.
  • Put the rounds into a shallow baking tin and put a teaspoon of jam into each one. We had some scraps of pastry left and we cut out some hearts and put these on the top of the jam to make the tarts a bit prettier!
  • Bake for 8 - 12 minutes until the pastry is golden and the jam is all oozy and bubbling, remove to wire rack to cool
The tarts were delicious and there were enough to take over to Nanny's! Isla loved making these, she particularly likes the cutting out bit - and while she was doing the serious baking Noah had a small ball of pastry to play with too! Enjoy!

Sponsored Video - Master Moves Mickey

Disney and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Fisher Price have come together to bring us Master Moves Mickey this Christmas. This Mickey (M3 as he's known to his crew) really does bust some moves in a Hip Hop Style! Mickey has a changed a lot since I was 7 years old and I had a Mickey Mouse watch where his arms went round! This Mickey has 8 original songs and knows 15 original dance moves, including the Windmill (I'm sure I was known for doing that one in my day!) and The Insane Headstand! He's suitable for children aged 2 and over and I'm sure once Isla catches sight of him during the Ad breaks on children's TV he will be in her sights as a Christmas present. He's sure to get the kids up and dancing and if Noah has anything to do with it that means we have to get up too, he's forever saying 'Up, up' when I'm sitting down and he wants me to join in! If anything I think this could be a great way to encourage exercise for all the family and it's cheaper than a Wii Fit!

To inspire you to get on your own Mickey Dance journey the Master Moves Mickey Website is offering your child the chance to win £1000 and a bundle of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse toys. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this fantastic prize is film your children throwing some great dance shapes, make it as hip hop or as unique as you like! Upload the video to Youtube and then post your Youtube link here. Take a look at some of the entries to get some inspiration - there's some energetic Mickey impersonators out there! Good luck!

If you want to know more about Master Moves Mickey, Like Mattel on Facebook and Follow on Twitter

This is a Sponsored Post, but all thoughts are my own.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Frankie and Benny's Review - Includes Cocktails!

A couple of weeks ago 3 lovely ladies (i.e. me and my 2 best friends) went for a rare evening out together where we could talk, eat and drink without being interrupted 500 times by children who need a drink, need a biscuit, need the toilet, need their nose wiped. It was fab and it was thanks to Frankie and Benny's. We were charged with the difficult task of trying out their new cocktail menu (designed by Andy Pearson, award winning mixologist and formerly of Something for the Weekend) and have a 2 course meal thrown in. As you know we reviewed Frankie and Benny's as a family previously here and that was obviously a very different experience to going out in the evening with girlfriends. So here's my round up:

I had a Mojito and a Bramble - apparently a Mojito drinker is someone who can't resist a bit of spice and are usually first to the dance floor. I would say this aptly describes the pre-family me to a tee, however these days I'm usually asleep before the dancing starts! I really enjoyed my cocktails. Mojito is my cocktail of choice and although the Bramble was a nice change I could drink a large Mo' all night long! My only negative comment about the Mojito was - the mint garnish was a bit wilted - it needs to be FRESH! B1 (Best friend 1 - imagine Bananas in Pyjamas) said that she didn't think her cocktails were brilliant, she had a Cosmopolitan and a Bramble. But she did think that maybe she had her 'wine head' on that night and really enjoyed the glass of house Sauvignon. B2 was designated driver so she had just had a glass of wine that she also reported was delicious.

The food:

Full Rack of BBQ Ribs!
My meal was totally delicious. I enjoyed this meal so much more than I did on my last visit to Frankie and Benny's - it's an Italian American diner, so it's not fine dining or anything but it was tasty and I enjoyed every single mouthful of those ribs! The corn was melt in the mouth. Chips are chips I guess, but those ribs were fab. I had Frankie's Calamari to start and it was also scrumptious - the batter was crispy and fresh and the squid was good. 

BBQ Chicken and Ribs
B1 said:

My loaded skins were OK, but not great. I thought my ribs, chips and corn were lovely, but the chicken was over cooked and very dry. The coleslaw was cheap and not home made (I have to agree on the coleslaw point - it would really make a difference to have a lovely creamy coleslaw on the side).  What I tasted of the Eton Mess was DELICIOUS! I like the restaurant generally. I think the food choice is good. When I have been there with my children the staff have been great to them including giving them balloons which is a lovely touch. The waiter was really attentive. 

8oz Larder Trim Sirloin
B2 said:

I really enjoyed my meal. The skins I thought were fab as they were done how I like them (crispier as opposed to half being like half a jacket potato which is what a lot of places loaded skins end up like) and I thought the portion size was just right for a starter. My main course was lovely, nice taste and steak cooked just as I asked it to be.  Again , it was a good portion size as it was on the lighter bite menu and came out as such. Pudding superb (Eton Mess). No complaints at all on size or quality. Service was second to none, we should have got waiters name as I was watching him at other tables and he was equally as attentive with them. Only grumble was that the main came out within minutes of us finishing our starters and I would have liked a little longer in between. 

I'd like to add that the waiter was good that night, really attentive and friendly. He couldn't have done enough for us really. The restaurant was reasonably busy that night but not once did we feel we waited too long for anything and if we needed anything I know it would have been dealt with. Thank you Frankie and Benny's for inviting us along!

I was sent a voucher for a meal for 2 and 2 free cocktails each. We paid for the 3rd meal. All opinions are our own and have been written honestly.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Britax B-Agile 3 - Mumbassador Review

This Dream Machine, the Britax B-Agile 3, arrived in our house recently and I was so excited about it that I asked the OH to put it together before I got back from work. I say put it together, all that involved was putting the wheels on and the hood on, I think I could have done it myself. I'm told that as soon as it was up Isla and Noah were pushing and shoving to get in it first - they were pushing each other round the living room it was *THAT* exciting! This was all before I got home. So I was pleased to see that the new wheels had been gladly received. I do love a buggy, I think if you have a good one it can be the best bit about buying and using baby equipment. It's such a huge purchase and you have to research it well.

We've been sent this buggy as part of the Britax 'Mumbassador' (this makes me think of Ferrero Rocher every time I say it) programme and I was really quite flattered to be asked to join the Britax team. As a family we have never tried any Britax products so I was interested to see how I would take to a new brand. Before we owned the B-Agile I think I felt the name Britax was synonymous with safety and quality and with this buggy they have come up trumps. It's lightweight, easy to manoeuvre and sleek. The harness is safe and easy to fix and the frame feels really sturdy. It's already had the thumbs up from my mum, she says she thinks it's so lightweight that Britax must have been thinking of the Grandmas' when they designed it. She said 'it's brilliant, so easy to push, it just glides'. So there you are, one happy Grandmother. 

We've used it a fair bit for Isla and Noah and I would say that so far my favourite bits (apart from how easy it is to get around with) are the massive hood that extends further still when you unzip it and it has a mesh section so you can look directly through the hood to see baby. Great for checking if baby is asleep. Also I love the basket underneath which is great for when you do a little top up shop and you don't want to carry shopping bags. There is also a very nifty storage pocket in the the canopy for keeping important things to hand like keys and purse.

There's one other use for the B-Agile that you might not realise, it's a very good seat to watch Thomas the Tank Engine on TV in the morning......

We were sent the Britax B-Agile 3 to review - all words and opinions expressed are my own. Over the coming months we will review Britax products and let you know of latest news, offers and updates - keep your eyes peeled!

Persil Mosh and Wash - Get Messy With Music

Last Sunday was one of those drab days outside and all we wanted to do as a family was chill out. Sometimes the thought of staying in all day drives me mad but we all had a really good time, watching films (Star Wars - Isla and OH), playing with the Lego (Noah and I), taking naps (Noah), cooking a yummy beef casserole (Me) and in the afternoon I got the kids to take a look in a box of supplies that Persil supplied to get us into their Mosh and Wash campaign.

The first thing that caught Isla's eye was the big square piece of material and once I tied it round her head like a bandana, she got all into role play and pretended she was a pirate, ok so not exactly pretending to be a rock star but she had fun! Then I handed out the drumsticks. That prompted drumming on everything in sight.....they were withdrawn after a while as the drumming was getting ever more enthusiatic and dangerous....LOL!

Then the best bit as far as Isla was concerned was the face painting! Now as you'll see here I'm not expert when it comes to face painting - I blame the fact that they were sticks rather then paint ones. Once I'd finished Isla's face I have to say that my OH and I were in hysterics. It was an atrocious effort but I soon got him to stop laughing once I made a start on his......

By the time we'd done the faces we had a full on festival atmosphere going on in the house, it prompted a game of musical chairs (this is Isla's current favourite game, but lord forbid if she doesn't win!) and even Noah joined in and donned a pair of cool shades!

Check out the Persil site for some more ideas for activities to do with the kids - great for a grey Autumn day!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom Live - Review

This week we went to see Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom Live at The New Wimbledon Theatre. I'll start by saying that I think Isla really liked it and if you ask her what did you like best, she will say "The Frog Burp". This is the kind of humour I have to contend with in our house, burps and farts are hilarious to Isla and even Noah. I also know that she really liked the show because she participated when it was prompted and she got anxious when the interval started, asking me "is it coming back on?" several times!  She loved that Lucy was in it, the girl from the big world and she's a big fan of Gaston (She managed to wangle an £11 ladybird out of me before we went in to the show.....).

The story is a mixture of a few of the TV episodes of Ben and Holly, including the one where they clean up Gaston's cave, The Tooth Fairy episode with Lucy and there's also a Jelly Flood thrown in for good measure. There was also an appearance by the Elf band, lead of course by the Wise Old Elf who are preparing to sing to the King, at which point Lucy suggests perhaps the King would like some different music for his birthday and a rousing rendition of 'Music Man' followed where the whole audience joined in.

My particular highlight of the show was actually when Princess Holly, Nanny Plum, Lucy and Ben Elf flew through the night back to the Little Kingdom. At this point puppets were used and I think this highlighted to me that I think I would have personally preferred the show had it been puppets the whole way through rather like the Peppa Pig show and not adults playing the parts. This small part of the show with puppets actually felt more magical, as if they really were flying. This is only my view though and Isla wouldn't even have considered how else it could have been performed.

Singing Happy Birthday to King Thistle was the final highlight of the show, Isla loves singing happy birthday! And so the show ended and I ushered a very happy little girl out of the theatre and off for some dinner at Pizza Express. Finally another indicator that Isla enjoyed herself, she tiptoed all the way from the restaurant back to the car, clearly copying what the fairies did throughout the show, she even made me do it much to the bemusement of drivers stuck in a traffic jam along the way.

We were given free tickets in exchange for a review but all views expressed are my own.

What mustn't you do with.......?

In the last week we've had to say the phrase "what mustn't you do with (insert object)?" quite a few times and it all started when last Friday I found out that Isla had cut another little girls hair at nursery. I'm friendly with the girl's parents and I received a text from her mum saying that her daughter had a lot less hair this afternoon than this morning. If anyone else was telling me this story I would have probably burst out laughing but I just felt really fed up about it. What were the nursery doing letting them play in such a way with scissors? I was aware that they used little craft scissors but I had thought that they were supervised. Scissors had already caused a bit of a furore last year when Isla was accused by another parent of cutting the hair of his daughter when she was only 2. That time was slightly more awkward as I was told this by the father while at soft play (I'd never met him before but his daughter started trumpeting out loud that "Isla cut my hair!"). The nursery hadn't even told me anything about it. At the time I found it hard to believe because at home Isla couldn't even hold scissors properly let alone be able to cut a small plait off a girls head (she had Afro hair - there were lots of small plaits). So on approaching the nursery on that occasion they said that they weren't sure who'd done it therefore they couldn't tell any single one parent. It then came about that it wasn't Isla it was her little friend who'd done it, but the other parent was determined to believe the word of his 2 year old daughter.

So since then I thought that scissors might be monitored better although I think I have become complacent of late believing Isla to be a lot more responsible than she actually is. What actually happens when it is described does sound absolutely hilarious. The CCTV shows 4 girls playing hairdressers with each other, they all take it in turns to sit and have their hair brushed and 'styled' and in one little girls experience have an actual cut!!! The long and short of this is that I have spoken to the nursery and so have Isla's friend's parents and they have convinced us that scissors will be more closely monitored and will not be out to use over lunchtime where there is a period of children being picked up from a morning session and dropped off for the afternoon and nursery staff are not so focused on an activity such as craft. Staff who should have been watching the children more closely have also been disciplined. I feel that the situation has been dealt with and hope that it doesn't happen again. This incident triggered a whole weekend of me and the OH saying 'What mustn't we do with scissors' over and over again. "Cut hair" comes the solemn answer!

I mentioned that I've been complacent lately too and so following the scissor incident came the drawing on the walls incident! I really didn't think that this would happen to us. I felt like we'd got past the stage where she might do this, that she would understand that the walls aren't for BLACK FELT TIP PEN! No, not quite and so our next phrase was "What mustn't you do with pens?" .......ah, it's so easy this parenting lark.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Silent Sunday

Love All Blogs

Ella's Kitchen Big Taste Menu

A couple of weeks ago I went to an event hosted by Ella's Kitchen at Food at 52 and I was rather intrigued that we were going to dine on a menu whereby we would taste food the way that our babies taste it - I was promised that the flavours would be BIG!

On arriving I met the Ella's Kitchen Team including the Ella's Kitchen founder Paul Lindley and  Taste Psychologist, Chris Lukehurst. It was a fun evening where we tasted food that had it's flavours amplified in order to replicate how food can taste to babies. I learnt that babies have three times as many taste buds in their mouths as adults, thereby making them experience flavour in a much heightened way. It explains why they react so strongly to some flavours, and pull such funny faces when they taste things that are extremely bitter or sour! The Taste Psychologist pointed out that evolution is responsible for babies avoiding bitter flavours as this would have helped them to reject anything poisonous.

As part of the Big Taste Menu we tried the following:

The Red One Lolly
Brussels Sprout Ice Cream
Cheery Chicken Roast Dinner with Stuffing
Full of Sunshine Thai Curry With Lots of Veg
Cheese and Apples Munchy Biccies
Apples & Bananas Dessert

Well it was no surprise that the Brussels Sprout one was absolutely disgusting and if you wanted to see a whole room of adults pull faces then this was the place. The flavour filled my entire mouth, it was like an invasion and it just spread. I had to quickly wash it away with water - almost a whole glass. Quite understand now a babies reluctance to tuck into the green veg!

Brussels Sprouts and Strawberries!

On the flip side the Apples and Banana dessert was absolutely delicious - the bananas were like banoffi pie, so sweet and delicious, I wished my knackered adult taste buds would give me the same banana extravaganza as babies get.

Thai Curry - HOT HOT!

In between those two totally different taste experiences the Chicken Roast dinner had lots of flavours and the Thai Curry was HOT! So sometimes when us adults try some of these pre made meals we might think that they are a bit bland but it seems that this is not the case for babies, especially with their extra taste buds that fill their entire mouths.

At the end of the evening I couldn't wait to get my photo taken in this giant highchair - I was the only one!

I came away from the evening feeling a bit like I shouldn't put too much pressure on my kids if they don't eat certain things. Celebrate the victory if they at least try something was a great piece of advice that I took away from the Taste Psychologist. Also getting an insight into how children taste things so much more than we do will help me to reset my expectations of what they will eat.

The Big Taste Menu has been unveiled to the public this weekend at The Hackney Homemade Food Market this weekend and tasters will be offered free for a trial period. Ella's Kitchen are also running a great competition on their website at the moment where you can win a year's supply of Ella's food. All you have to do is upload a photo of your little one's big taste face!

Thanks to Ella's Kitchen for inviting me to such an enlightening evening.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Endless Round of School Visits

I'm nearly at the end of the seemingly endless round of school visits to potential primary schools for Isla for next year. In our borough we have to put down 6 school choices and so over the past few weeks I've been visiting the 6 nearest schools to us to get some sort of sense of order I might put them down on the form. The visits have  all been very different. Each Headteacher seems to take a different stance on how best to show parents their school. Some have favoured the method of getting the kids to show us round, which I quite liked, others the Head or Deputy Head took us round personally. Some have done a formal presentation to parents and others have been more informal and chatted to parents on their way out (I liked the formal presentation personally). 

This whole process gives the illusion that you somehow have a real choice in where your child will go to school. The likelihood of getting your first choice though when you live in a borough where the schools are heavily oversubscribed is low. I have liked aspects of all the schools I have seen over the past few weeks but there is one school that in my eyes really shone out for me and I would love for Isla to go there. The facilities were amazing, I had a good opinion of the headteacher and the children seemed happy. However it's third nearest to our house (as the crow flies), so locality is against us - which seems ridiculous as we're only 0.74 miles away from it but looking at last year the furthest they took children was 0.6 miles. Before distance is even considered priority is given to looked after children and children with medical conditions. Then you also have to factor in siblings - last year this school had 31 out of 60 places taken by little brothers and sisters. 

One thing I noticed about all the schools that I have seen is that the children are mostly very proud of their school and they are amazingly confident and articulate. I loved it when a school let the children show us around - after all they know the school best don't they and will be more candid? It really helped me to imagine Isla in a years time in her school uniform and to visualise her in the future being part of a class.

I will put my preferred school as first choice but I feel sure that we will get the one which is 2 minutes walk from our house and it's not a major problem as I did like it too. It's just that when you find somewhere that you totally fall in love with and you start to imagine your little one going there, it's hard to convince yourself that other places will be just as good. Anyway, one more school to visit and then time for the form filling and the dreadful wait until April!