> The Beesley Buzz: October 2013

Reasons to be cheerful - Very special delivery for D!!!

Last month, I did something very bad...very very bad...you can see just what happened here. But the long and short of it is that D's prized Zack Binspin rainbow foil mash-up card ended up looking like this:  
Today, the fantastic organisation that is Moshi Monsters came to the rescue with a very special delivery for D. Here he his receiving his mail:
So we want to say a HUGE BIG MASSIVE THANK YOU to Moshi Monsters! You are so amazing kind and generous and WE LOVE YOU!!!!


Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart


Stylfile Nipper Clipper review

When the opportunity came up to review Tom Pellereau’s Stylfile Nipper Clipper we jumped at the chance. Cutting babies nails was a huge dilemma for me when I had my first baby and despite asking all the nurses, midwives and health visitors for help, none of them were actually able to help me.

Some of them made suggestions like biting my babies nails (just as tricky) or cutting nails when they are asleep which is what we ended up having to do.

But as babies grow older, they sleep less and less and so we did need to tackle the dreaded nail cutting chore during waking time. Three babies on and I’m still no better at cutting nails and so this product seemed the perfect, long-awaited solution with its spy-hole to help you see what you are doing.

The free Timmy Tickle-Baby distraction app is designed to be used in conjunction with the Stylfile Nipper Clipper to help distract babies and toddlers and help keep them still. So we downloaded the app onto our iPad and we were all set to test out the Stylfile Nipper Clipper.

Here’s how we got on:

  • The app is fantastic. T loved the octopus character on there and having seen her big brother playing on the iPad was very excited to have an app of her own to play with.

  • I can’t say it helped her keep still though as she wanted to be touching the iPad the whole time – but it did keep her sat in one place and focused on the app rather than the nail clippers.

  • The Nipper Clipper itself was bigger that I expected and I would say almost too big for babies and toddlers nails. It is similar in size to the adult clippers that we use on ourselves.

  • The slicing action rather than the ‘ping’ you get with traditional clippers worked effectively on longer nails but I found it tricky to get a really close cut - Even with the spy hole it was still tricky to see that last little bit close to their fingertips.

There is no doubt that Tom Pellereau identified a very real need in inventing the Stylfile Nipper Clipper but to make it work for us it would need to have a smaller ‘head’, cut closer and be able to see much closer to the nail. 

On the positive side the Nipper Clipper is comfortable to use with the large orange end to hold onto, it has an effective ‘slice’ action rather than a ‘ping’, and it comes with a baby stylfile nail file to smooth baby’s nails after cutting. The distraction app is a great app in its own right and one that our little girl wants to go back to time and time again.

As we are reviewing a Tom Pellereau product, we can't let the opportunity pass of mentioning that he was our fave on 2011 Apprentice. It is one of the few programmes we watch and enjoy on TV and were thrilled that he won. We since discovered that he is also Bath Uni Alumni just like us!

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

For more information about Mumsnet Bloggers Network, see here.

A Night of Hope

This time of year we find ourselves doing everything we can to avoid Halloween and all that surrounds it. The kids have never liked it and they usually have an alternative like a Bright Lights party to go to instead.

Last year, I ended up drawn in by the lure of doing something creative with pumpkins, so this year, I have deliberately avoided all the facebook Halloween competitions but at the same time I don't want the kids to miss out on doing something fun and creative.

So when World Vision got in touch to see if we would like to carve a heart into a pumpkin as a symbol of hope to many who live in fear around the world, we were more than happy to take part as our alternative to halloween.

Here's how we got on:

 And you can get involved too. Everyone who downloads a 'Night of Hope' pack from World Vision will be entered into a special prize draw to win a fabulous prize with Lesley Walters. You can find out more here.

We didn't let the insides of the pumpkin go to waste either - we made pumpkin soup! There is a Lesley Walters recipe in the Night of Hope pack too. We did an even simpler version by softening a chopped onion in a little oil on the hob, then added the scooped out bits of the pumpkin too (not the seeds - you can save those to make pepitas). Added some stock and simmered a little longer. Then it was blitzed in a food processor (I added some parsley at this point as I had some I needed to use up) and hey presto - pumpkin soup:

This really is a wonderful opportunity to turn what is usually considered a night of fear into a night of hope. And as your friends and neighbours admire your pumpkin carving skills, it opens up the chance to remind them of the children who are living daily in fear and what can be done to help them through organisations like World Vision.

The joy of bubble wrap!

I don't think this video needs much of an introduction but we did think it was adorable at the end where T copies her big bro's falling over.

Linking up with Actually Mummy's Wot so funee:
Wot So Funee?


Our very own Seawig

Oliver and the Seawigs is a new children's book by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre and there is a really fab creative competition over at Tots100 so we couldn't resist making our own Seawig!

Whilst the book looks amazing and just the sort of read that my two sons would adore - they were both so exhausted today that neither had enough energy to get creative, so it was down to us girls - me and T got busy and made a Seawig to share:

Our seawig had an anchor, fishing nets, a boat, fishes, octopus, a mermaid, bits of seaweed and even a real seashell on it! And we made it as BIG as we could too.

You can find out more about Oliver and the seawigs here and even download a template to make your very own Seawig.

This post is an entry into the #Tots100Seawigs competition in association with jabberworks.co.uk. For more information see here.

Gardens are for Growing (and I don't just mean the plants!)

Our plan for our dream family garden with Activity Toys Direct.
There's no doubt about it, gardens are places where things grow...whether you have grass that grows, a few pots with flowers in, a vegetable bed or a tree. Gardens are for growing.

But to our family, our garden is for SO much than that. It is where our kids grow. Ask a child who is in charge at home and they'll likely say mum or dad; ask a child who is in charge at school and they'll say the teachers are; but ask a child who is in charge in the garden and you'll see that glint in their eye, a smile creep over their face, their mind fill with happy memories and you'll realise that they are...

In the garden, no-one else directs them what they can and can't do - they are free to play. They are free to imagine, they can be whoever they want to be, nothing can limit them or stop them.

Whilst home-schooling we have noticed that you just can't force creativity to come. On so many occasions when the kids were working on a story or a piece of creative writing and just had a block whilst sat at their desks, we would take a clipboard and paper and head outside...

In the garden, the ideas flow, their imaginations show, the creativity grows and then the 'chore' of doing their piece of writing becomes something they want to do and their excitement builds when they realise that their minds are free. They have space. Space to run around. Space to think. Space to explore. Space to allow ideas to come.

So our garden truly is a huge part of our family's life. It's where bonds are built and strengthened when mum or dad join in a ball game. It's where siblings collaborate rather than squabble. It's where memories are made and time is shared.

A couple of years ago we had some building work done on the house, and whilst the house improved, the garden was basically ruined. It became so full of builder's rubble, broken glass and all the grass turned to mud and so effectively because unusable. We couldn't bear to be without use of the garden, so we did get it returfed and the patio re-built but we were left with a blank canvas. The magic had gone. Our special garden with borders, and trees, with flowers for the bees - all of it was gone.

We have gradually tried to put in a few special things like a little playhouse, a teeny-tiny apple tree, and even teenier fig tree and a little vegetable bed, but essentially it remains so plain compared to all the things that were there to discover before.

So I took a look on Activity Toys Direct for inspiration. And here are our ideas for our dream garden...I say 'our' dream garden rather than 'my' dream garden because I think all too often adults make the buying choices about toys without asking for input from the children who will be using the toys the most. So we got the children to look on the Activity Toys Direct website to see what they thought.

Interestingly, there was one item that appealed to every member of the family. We each kept our ideas quiet from each other so that we didn't influence each others decision and this item came out as a firm favourite on everyone's wish list.

It would make a real centrepiece in the garden and would be usable for most of the year. It lends itself to hours of fun and imaginative play. And it is at the perfect price point for the 'toys' part of this challenge. It is also made with FSC certified wood, which is important to us all as it is something the kids have been learning about.

It is the TP Toys Forest Pirate Galleon 2 priced at £437.99.

Their second most wanted item was a water slide and this TP Toys The Original Aqua Slide, priced at only £26.95 could also go onto their wishlist and still fall within the £500 imaginary makeover budget and is perfect for water play in the summer.

We really wanted the item/s we chose to be suitable for all three of our children and so the Pirate Galleon is absolutely perfect for a wide age range. We also didn't want to pick an item that only had a single use - we wanted it to be open to lots and lots of imaginary play. Again, the Pirate Galleon looks ready for a whole host of adventures.

Having said that, because of J's ASD, he can find too-much open-ended choice overwhelming, so having a theme that can be used as a focal point - i.e. pirates - can actually help him rather than having a general play centre without any particular focus.

And in case you needed any more convincing as to why this would be the absolute PERFECT choice for our family, here is a small selection of photos which show just how much all three of our children have enjoyed dressing up as pirates over the years! T even wore a 'Pirate Pong' hat on her very first day in the world. Even though they are all older now, they still love to dress up as pirates and D was making his own pirate hat from cardboard just a few days ago.

But what about the rest of the garden, what plants and features would I chose to complement our wonderful Pirate Galleon centrepiece? Well what do all pirates go in search of? Treasure of course!

This is where I would chose plants that are real treasures to me. I always love finding fruit and vegetables growing in the garden and we already have our little apple tree and fig tree that bear treasure in Autumn. We have some red strawberry treasures in our existing veggie bed. So what else?

Well I have always dreamed of having a Medlar tree in my garden. The origins of the Medlar tree are rooted in Persia (just like mine as my mum was from Persia), and the tree bears unusual looking fruit that makes the most wonderful tasting Medlar jelly. Not many people seem to know about the Medlar tree making it a real hidden gem.

Honesty is my favourite plant from my childhood - I remember finding the magical oval discs that shimmer and glimmer. What better treasure to find than that!

Echinops, or the globe thistle, produces these perfectly spherical heads that have a purple hint to them. See these at their best when their spikes look perfect before the tiny purple flowers open and they really do look like magical treasures from a strange land.

Then I would plant oodles of lavender and herbs. Lavender has so many uses - we make scented bags for the wardrobes with it, use it for soap-making and it can even be used in cookery! With all that lavender the bees and butterflies would be keen to visit and they are another treasure in themselves to look at. And herbs are just amazing for their scent and how they can be used in all sorts of dishes. Having our very own little brilliant chef in the family means that we can never have too many herbs.

And finally a living willow 'cave'. So when our Pirate Galleon gets shipwrecked on some far off shores, we can find a cave to shelter in.

I checked the prices for this selection of plants and it would fall within the £250 budget for the plant element of the challenge - A living willow tepee or tunnel can be purchased for around £50, a medlar tree for £30, and the other items are a lower cost than these and all fall within budget in total.

I have a feeling that the kids are very excited about the idea of having the garden as a space for playing pirates and finding treasure! We found they had each been drawing pirate ships inspired by the pirate galleon they had seen on the Activity Toys Direct website.
This blog post is an entry into the Tots100/Activity Toys Direct garden makeover competition. Find more information here.

Vulgar The Viking and The Battle of Burp

Author: Odin Redbeard.
Publisher: Nosy Crow.
Review by J, aged 9

Vulgar the Viking likes battles and his class goes to Burp where there was once a battle which the Vikings lost. But this time Vulgar is going to win. He goes to stay with Bert, Bertha, Albert and Gilbert.

There is a story that the people of Burp have gold.

Will Vulgar win the battle?
Will Vulgar find the gold?
Is there any gold or is it just made up?
Read the book to find out!

I give this book 8.5 out of 10.

J x

Moshling castle

J's been collecting boxes, tubes and other 'junk' for weeks now, and building a steadily growing pile of stuff to build with.

By now you will have realised that J is a huge Moshi Monsters fan. In fact, he is the self-proclaimed world's biggest Moshi fan.

So when his chance came to spend time with daddy to build a new junk model, he jumped at it. He decided it was the day to build... a Moshling Castle! We spent ages designing the castle, working out how big it should be and how to fit it all together. Everything was ready. The design was simple. Then came the idea to have a slide so the Moshlings could get from the battlements down to the top floor. Then the slide to get to the downstairs. Then the dungeon!

By the time the morning was over, and the tape was almost run out again, a new Moshling Castle had arisen from the scrap. Now in pride of place in J's room, the castle has been used every day for Moshi adventures.
Moshling castle.
As there are still dozens of boxes left, I'm sure we'll back for more junk modelling soon!

Daddy x

From Porridge to Pudsey!

A couple of years ago, I remember reading on the Daily Growl over at Moshi Monsters (in the days when I actually had time to look after my online monster before T was born), about a project that Moshi had supported which was feeding porridge to 457 students in Malawi.
We've loved Moshi Monsters for such a long time - and I will always be grateful to them for the difference that Moshi has made to my son's life (when he was at school he was told he had no creativity because of his ASD, yet since discovering Moshi Monsters he now spends hours on end designing and inventing his own moshling ideas as he has been so inspired by Moshi Monsters). But before reading the porridge story, I had no idea just how amazing, generous and caring Moshi Monsters is.
Since then, I have become aware of things they do behind the scenes that speak volumes about just how this mega huge thing that is Moshi actually really genuinely does care. 
And so it was no surprise to find out that Moshi Monsters will be supporting BBC Children in Need this year. Poppet and Katsuma visited Pudsey sporting the iconic multi-coloured spotty bandana to celebrate the partnership.

Whilst Moshi Monsters is J's number one love - he's a pretty big Pudsey fan too - so this news is music to his ears!
Here's some more information from the press release:

The activity was kicked off earlier this month when Pudsey stopped by Moshi HQ for a special broadcast, which aired on CBBC’s Newsround. The BBC Children in Need Mascot was seen exploring Moshi HQ and was made available to be bought in game on MoshiMonsters.com, where players can purchase the famous bear with their in-game currency (Rox). Alongside this as part of the partnership, Mind Candy and Vivid Toy Group have created 30,000 limited edition Spotty Moshlings Collectors Tins, with £3 of each sale going direct to the charity fundraiser.

 “BBC Children in Need does a fantastic job. Everyone here at Moshi Monsters is delighted to help them and hopefully we will continue to raise lots of money to support disadvantaged children and young people.” said Michael Acton Smith, Founder and CEO of Mind Candy.

 Moshi Foundation is an independent charity set up in 2011 by Mind Candy Ltd. The Foundation is a grant giving organisation supporting the advancement of education, relief of financial hardship, sickness and poor health in children and young people anywhere in the world. It is run by a team of Trustees who review and assess all grant requests. It has previously supported a wide range of charities, including, Kids in Need Foundation, African Promise, Medical Detection Dogs, Mary's Meals and Charity: Water.

The special BBC Children in Need Pudseys are now available on MoshiMonsters.com with the limited edition Spotty Moshlings Collector Tins available now. 

Photos courtesy of Moshi Monsters / 77 PR. No payment has been received for this post. We are happy to post this information as Official Moshi Bloggers and because we love Moshi Monsters and Pudsey!

Wot So Funee - Recycling paper

'Star Wars by D aged 7'
Since D recently started school after several years of homeschooling, he seems to really be into making things from paper - paper planes, paper hats, paper purses, you name it, he seems to be making it from paper, sticky tape and scissors.

His room had become borderline fire-hazard with the number of items he had made so I had a tidy-up and put the paper-items into the recycling bin. To put this in context I usually find it really hard to throw out the things they make but this had just become ridiculous because there was so much of it with no sign of it being tidied up or for having been made for any particular purpose.

The very next morning...."mum...have you seen my paper planes/purses/hats I made for show and tell at school today?"

Huge panic on my part - gathered together a pile of fresh paper, scissors and sellotape and explained it was probably easier to make some new ones than to try to find the other ones!!!

One thing I couldn't bear to throw out though was a little picture I found of two stars with light sabres entitled 'Star Wars' - I just thought that was too cute! 

Linking up with Actually Mummy's Wot so Funee.

Wot So Funee?


Happy Birthday Mummy!

Yesterday was my birthday. I'm not big on having a fuss made and I actually don't like receiving presents generally. But yesterday was an exception because J made me this:

J made 'mummy' out of Plus Plus
And he had written this wonderful acrostic that made me cry with happiness:

D had made me a fab card too and I loved it! But to receive this from J was just so special after the difficult week we had last week.

T hasn't been feeling well so I had to cancel coffee with my friend but she brought me a chocolate cake so that I'd at least get to have cake for my birthday. That was really special and was a huge help because the kids would have been expecting cake at some point during the day and it saved me having to drag T out to buy one or have to scrabble around the kitchen to bake one myself. So thank you to my friend - hopefully we will make it for coffee another day instead.

So pleased to be linking up to Mummy from the heart's R2BC which is long overdue as I haven't done so in ages. Look forward to seeing what everyone else has been up to too as I just haven't had much time or energy for spending time online over the past few weeks.
Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart


From Dentist to Florist!

Britmums and Oral-B have challenged bloggers to blog about gum health experiences or tips or any personal dental anecdotes to celebrate the launch of new Oral-B Pro-Expert Premium Gum Protection toothpaste.

Now I wasn't speedy enough to sign up for a free sample but I do care sufficiently about my teeth and gums to get excited enough about the launch of a toothpaste that is specifically formulated to help protect gums that I went out immediately and bought a tube of my own to try out.

A lot of people are aware that gum problems can arise during pregnancy and sure enough with all 3 of my pregnancies I did have gums that bled and were sore but thankfully it did resolve following each pregnancy. I made sure I visited my dentist regularly to keep an eye on things!

It wasn't only during pregnancy that I suffered from gum problems though. Having experienced fillings being done as a child (from a horrible dentist - more about that later), I began to brush my teeth for extended periods of time (over 30 minutes each day) and brushed really aggressively under the totally wrong assumption that it would make my teeth super clean so that I wouldn't need more fillings. Oh how wrong I was. I ended up with receeding and sore gums and never learnt to look after my teeth correctly until I was much older.

Now I use an electric Oral-B toothbrush which has a pressure sensor light. That way I can be sure that I am brushing without applying too much pressure to my gums. I also floss daily and floss correctly now.

That childhood dentist used to tell me not to be silly when I said I didn't like the drill and that is was 'just the same as having your nails cut' (which it is not!!! and which incidentally I also hated having done).

When I was old enough to choose my own dentist, I found a truly wonderful dentist. I think I can hand on heart say that I never feared going to the dentist during that time. When he said 'this won't hurt a bit' he really told the truth and it wouldn't hurt.

For years, I was happy. My teeth were happy. My gums were happy. Until one day, I turned up for a check-up to find the practice had been taken over by a new dentist and my dentist had given up dentistry to become a florist!

Oh how lucky those flowers are to have a dentist as wonderful as that.

This post is an entry for BritMums’ #ORALBLoveYourGums Challenge  sponsored by Oral-B, promoting healthy gums – something especially important for pregnant women. Get tips and advice on www.oralb-loveyourgums.com.

Some Parents...

Some parents are expected to deal with a child who has defeated...

...half a dozen teachers, a couple of headteachers, a handful of doctors, consultants, psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists.

It's been a difficult week, hoping next week is better!


Knock! Knock! Gnocchi

Gnocchi is 'pasta' made from potatoes. I had only ever eaten Gnocchi when out and had never dreamt of attempting to cook it from scratch myself. Turns out it is actually really simple - just 3 ingredients involved: potatoes, plain flour and an egg. You can't get simpler than that really - 3 easy to get hold of ingredients. So I decided to have a go.

Maris Piper potatoes are extremely versatile and can be used for pretty much anything: baking, boiling, mashing, roasting. We tend to pick up a pack of Maris Pipers each time we go shopping. That way we always have a ready supply to use for meals whatever we are cooking. 

Whilst Maris Pipers are a potato that can be used for everything, Gnocchi is a recipe that needs a specific type of potato; light, fluffy, floury potatoes and Maris Pipers fit the bill perfectly! 

So here's the ingredients list to make Gnocchi:
4-5 medium sized Maris Piper potatoes (around 600g)
150g plain flour
1 egg

Now before I give you the ingredients list for the sauce, I need to explain... Think of the sauce part of the recipe like a map. It shows you the general terrain and layout but there are often various alternatives from getting from A to B. I put this recipe together today based on the ingredients I could find at home. You can vary it as you need to. 

Here are the ingredients I used for the sauce:
Rapeseed oil
1 onion (diced)
5-6 green tomatoes*
3-4 carrots (diced)
A handful of green beans (roughly chopped)
1 tin of tomatoes
A squeeze of tomato purée
A little water

*I had some tomatoes growing in the garden that haven't turned red and given that we are now halfway through October, they are highly unlikely to turn red so I decided to use them to stop them going to waste. Green tomatoes are perfectly fine when cooked and we think they actually taste great! Don't have green tomatoes growing in the garden? Then try courgette or peppers. Remember think 'map' rather than 'rule book'.
You can use any veggies you can get hold of

I once heard that instead of boiling potatoes to make Gnocchi, you can achieve a better result by baking the potatoes in the oven and then scooping out the fluffy white potato once cooked.

I decided to try this less conventional method to make my gnocchi. 

Firstly wash the Maris Piper potatoes and place in a preheated oven (around 200C) for about 45 minutes until cooked through.

Whilst the potatoes are cooking, it's time to get your sauce ready. Dice an onion and fry in a little rapeseed oil until browned. Garlic fried along with the onion at this point would make a great addition to the recipe but having a family member who is intolerant to garlic, we gave the garlic a miss today.
Slice the green tomatoes into segments and add into the frying pan.

Then chop the carrots and green beans and add to the pan. 

Then add the tin of chopped tomatoes and a squeeze of tomato purée. Leave to simmer on the hob for a further 20 minutes or so. Add a little water if it looks like it is drying out at all.

When the potatoes are baked in the oven, remove from oven and leave to cool until cool enough to handle. Then cut in half and scoop out into large bowl. (I know the temptation will be there to add some butter and grated cheese and eat a jacket potato there and then because Maris Pipers make the most perfect fluffy jacket potatoes but if you want to get to make the gnocchi you will just have to resist). Mash with a fork until smooth. 

Remember you want a dry floury mixture so it won't look like the sort of creamy mash you might have at other times. Then mix in the flour, make a well in the centre and an the egg. Now combine into a dough-like mixture. 

Now roll the dough into long sausage shapes and then cut into 2cm pieces.


Make an indent on each piece of gnocchi using the back of a fork (this will help the sauce 'cling' to the gnocchi).


Finally pop them on the hob in a large pan of boiling water. They will be cooked in 1-2 minutes. They will rise to the surface of the water once cooked.

Then serve with the sauce you have made.

Now here's a top tip we discovered today. As well as getting a fluffier mash to make the gnocchi with, baking the potatoes for the first stage of this recipe rather than boiling them means you are left with baked potato skins which won't go to waste. Simply drizzle a little rapeseed oil over them, sprinkle on some grated cheese, pop back in your already warm oven for a few minutes until they are crispy and the cheese has melted and, hey presto, you have got yourself a quick and tasty starter. This means that every bit of the Maris Pipers is used and none goes to waste! 

No waste starter: Potato skins with melted cheese served with brown sauce. 
I felt particularly clever at that point as I had grated and frozen some cheese before we went on holiday last week so that it wouldn't go to waste and this was the perfect chance to use it! 

You could vary the potato skin toppings - remember to think 'map' and different ways to get from A to B. Perhaps some tikka paste, then topped with halloumi? Or salsa, guacamole and creme fraiche Mexican style?

My experiment to make home-made gnocchi for the first time went well and all the family enjoyed it - so I'll definitely be making it again!


This post is an entry for #MarisPiperBritMums Linky Challenge sponsored by Potato Council for Potato Week 7 – 13 October, celebrating the varieties of potatoes and how we like to eat them. Learn more and find recipes at www.lovepotatoes.co.uk