Category Archives: Mummy Reviews

SM reviews… Pizza Express Leadenhall Market

Editor writes: “As I’ve reviewed Pizza Express a couple of times now, these days the powers that be are making me sing for my supper. And by ‘sing’ I mean actually make my own pizza. 

This time I was invited to the newly renovated Leadenhall Market restaurant; in the grand London space which dates back to the 14th century and was formerly a butchery and cheese market. The Pizza Express was formerly a poultry trader’s site and still boasts the original meat hooks within the external facade. 

From street level, it looks like a tiny, intimate cafe. The kind of place you’d go on a second date. You can chat, but the huge glass windows mean that you could gesticulate to the outside world if said date suddenly started talking about his rodent collection. 

Downstairs, however, is a different proposition. A capacious lair, with exposed brickwork and leather banquettes. The sort of place where what goes on remains unspoken (indeed, the chap sporting antlers at his office Xmas do on the adjacent table probably hopes as much!)

I’ll begin by mentioning Pizza Express’ Xmas menu. If you’ve waited for their annual Nutella doughball treat in the same manner as pressing your nose against the window of Starbucks until the Red Cups return – well – there ain’t no Nutella this year. Instead, there are Snowball Doughballs (see what they’ve done there?). Icing sugar, vanilla goo… Let’s not think about the calories (we’ll be wearing an oversized festive knit til January, right?)

There are also some notable festive pizzas; Maple Glazed Gammon, Beef and Horseradish, the ‘so wrong it’s right’ Potato and Fontal cheese one with bechamel sauce and roasted spuds. 

But as I mentioned before, I had to make my own.  And because I had experienced a Pizza Express Make-Your-Own-Pizza party before, I really thought I had this one locked down. So – when they mentioned there would be awards at the end (as well as the reward of scoffing down your creation) I decided to step up my game. 

Ball of dough: I will be your master. I will knead you and stretch you and then spin you around like the smart-ass chef demonstrating the technique. Oh yes, I will. 

So when the chef came ’round with the baking trays to place the dough into, he completely burst my bubble of smug by handing me another ball of dough and suggested I start again. 

Quite literally, DOH!

Attempt #2 was apparently a bit more presentable. It was at least spherical. Seemingly I’d left the edges too sticky to bake – the chef just gave me a wry look, whisked the pan off to the kitchen and returned with a vastly improved version which I obviously passed off as my own work. 

Next up comes the passata and the toppings. The same supplier has made the tomato paste for Pizza Express since its Wardour St beginnings; maybe they are very loyal, maybe it is the most epic passata in the world. 

You are allowed to freestyle your toppings at a Pizza Making party – with the exception of an egg, which needs to added last, under supervision and with a fair bit of hand washing. They will tell you that ‘less is more’ because you want the crust to bake evenly. Pah, what do they know? All those years of pizza excellence are nothing compared to me: who has done it TWICE!

Peppers and pickles, chilli oil, jalapenos… Cheese, more cheese. Some olives for luck. 

Kindly, at these events, they lay on some starters to share. So even if you fail with your main course, you’ll have had some doughballs, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic bread. Oh, and prosecco. 

I won’t lie; my pizza was very hot. I never learn. I see chillis, I think they are a good idea. The crust was impeccable though 😉

After dinner, a glass of wine and complimentary Limoncello; the prizes. I didn’t come last, I didn’t come first. They gave me the sympathy prize merit certificate for the best try with the dough. 

And you betcha I’ve spent all morning online shopping for a frame.”

Book a Pizza Making party for grown-ups or kids at any Pizza Express restaurant here. (BTW, if you’ve forgotten to send a gift to someone, you can ping a Pizza Express voucher direct to their phone – click here to find out more)

SM would like to thank the staff at Pizza Express Leadenhall Market for their hospitality. 

 

SM reviews: Food Saver vertical vacuum sealer

SM tester writes: “If you thought you owned every kitchen gadget, here’s a new one on your radar. But before you read about it, just go and look in your fridge. If it’s anything like mine, the veg section probably has a half punnet of rotting raspberries, and some leeks you can’t remember when you purchased as you had the best intentions to make soup. Add to that a half-eaten ‘power bowl’ (when did ‘leftovers’ become ‘power bowls’?!) that you made yourself the other day before finishing off your toddler’s Organix snack instead. Maybe a chocolate bar you’d been rationing?

So the Foodsaver machine vacuum seals either bags or special containers, allowing you to preserve food in the fridge for much longer. Which, if you’re a mum is a no-brainer. 

Other things it does: seals a portion of cornflakes so that you can pop it in your work bag without it exploding, seals travel documents that you are packing for emergency reference, so that they won’t get wet or sandy, protects silverware (the vacuum sucks out the oxygen which stops tarnishing) for storage – and lots more. 

The only thing it won’t preserve in your fridge is anything liquid. So that bottle of prosecco you opened at the weekend… well, you’re just gonna have to finish it.”

The upright vacuum Foodsaver RRP is £89.99 and it is available from Lakeland, Amazon, and more – or save 10% when you buy it from Foodsaver website.

SM reviews: Keen Hikeport kids’ waterproof shoes

Editor writes: “My eldest son is a BOY.  Not a jumping in the odd puddle, let-it-rain-who-cares-I’ve-a-train-upstairs kind of boy, an all-out ‘let the Wild Rumpus begin’ campfire loving, stick waving, den building BOY.

So shoes are a problem. He wants to look cool but trainers just fall off his feet in tatters. Wellies just don’t cut it when he needs to run up a tree trunk like a pirate climbing the main-sail. And he can’t wear big boots and still do tricks on his bike. 

Sometimes I’ve thought about just letting him run around naked like Mowgli. But thankfully, help is at hand. 

If you haven’t come across Keen footwear before, it’s what I would call ‘intelligent outdoorsy’.

We tested a pair of Hikeport boots in junior size 12 – they come in a few colourways but the blue and red combo we tried was a) a hit with my son b) smart enough to wear the odd time at school and c) easy to spot in the pile at soft play. Made from waterproof leather, with a rubber sole and kid-friendly bungee laces/velcro fastenings – as shoes come, they are pretty robust. 

The first time my son wore them he went out with his Dad to walk the dogs and returned literally head-to-toe covered in muck. Apparently, he and the dog had been playing Hide and Seek in a patch of gorse. The shoes just needed a rinse and then dried out, whereas my son needed a shower, hair wash and fresh clothes.”

RRP £59.99 – order online or see website for stockists.

 

 

SM Guide to Winter Running

Editor writes: “Just as a bad craftsman proverbially blames his tools, I have convinced myself that better running kit will help me get from 10K to 16.09K (ie ten miles).

It’s tricky enough to get enough iron on the best of days, let alone finding a supplement that doesn’t give you tummy ache. But Hubner’s chewable iron supplements are gentle, contain vitamin C and promise to reduce fatigue – so that’s a start!

James White’s Zinger Shots are a pick me up alternative if you don’t want to drink coffee before a run. These little bottles are packed with organic ginger – plus variations including cold-preventing turmeric – which definitely give you a kick up the bum to get out the door on a cold morning!

 

Like most of the running community, I’m addicted to those Pip and Nut squeeze pack sachets, especially the new Almond and Coconut one. A little squishy pouch of natural energy you could even take out with you for a mid-run boost. Don’t leave them next to your keys in your handbag though!

Runderwear merino wool underwear is the running essential you never knew you needed. Merino (in any format) is a magic fibre that keeps skin warm in winter and cool in summer – in the case of merino knickers, it wicks away moisture to keep your lady parts chafe-free. Well worth the investment and (sssh!) pass on the secret!

There’s so much cleverness in a pair of Proskins Slim running leggings, it’s hard to believe they are lighter-than-air to wear. Compression fit, moisture management, antibacterial silver and microcapsules in the fibres that last 100 washes are but a few intelligent features… You see, these leggings are designed to actively slim your legs and reduce cellulite while you run! Amazing, huh? Even more brilliant, because of the fit, Proskins suggest you order a size down from your normal – so starting off as a 10, before I’d even done any exercise I was a size 8!

Zakti’s Lunar Glow running gloves are made from Isocool fabric and have a rainbow flash in the design which makes you more visible to cars – so safer at night or on those foggy mornings. I love the secret key pocket, and the touchscreen fingertips mean that you can hit your power song without needing to take them off.

Finally – after pounding the streets – I’ve been drinking Tenzing Natural Energy drink, which is made from Himalayan rock salt and green tea. At only 57 calories per can, I won’t be undoing my hard work – and unlike taurine based drinks it doesn’t leave me feeling like I want to bite my nails all day…”

SM reviews… The Sevylor Puddle Jumper

The Sevylor Puddle Jumper is a revolutionary swimming aid, designed to increase confidence in the water. Our tester tried the Pirate design. 

SM Tester writes: “The Sevylor Puddle Jumper is absolutely fantastic. I have been using it with my 2 1/2 YO for a few weeks now –  including a two-week holiday – and his confidence in the water has improved, and he’s also having more fun than ever before.

It keeps him afloat and totally independent in the water and doesn’t restrict his movements.  He can switch direction easily and lay on his back too, which he loves to do. We’ve used it in the sea too and it worked well in little waves, keeping him safe and stable.

Unlike vests with weights we have tried, it doesn’t weigh him down or over to one side, but keeps him evenly buoyed.

It’s really easy to put on, arms just go onto the arm rings and the chest band clips at the back and are fully adjustable.

He loves wearing it, it’s comfortable, the fabric is soft and good quality and he has never complained of it pinching or chaffing. He gets really excited at the prospect of wearing it and doesn’t want to remove it either which is a plus on holiday when running around the edge of the pool. He has even worn it for jumping in the pool and he just bobs right to the surface.

At this stage, I’m not actively trying to teach him to swim, so I’m not sure if it helps, however, I can say that he has – without much prompting – naturally assumed swimming position and is confidently kicking his legs to move.

Maybe the only downside is that it is a little bulky to transport, as it’s in one piece and you can’t remove or take the floats out or separate it.  

All in all, it’s a brilliant swimming aid for little ones. I highly recommend.”

Reviewed by Donna, mum to Gabriel (2)

Order online or from Amazon, Boots or Argos.

SM tests… Angela Langford Thirsty Work Moisturiser

2014 Masterchef finalist Angela Langford’s ‘Thirsty Work’ ultra-hydrating moisturiser contains raspberry, rosehip and Q10.

Editor writes: “The first thing you’ll notice about this cream is the smell. It’s delicious, addictive – yet hard to describe; a bit like orange blossom meets pixie stix. No surprise then that Angela is actually a talented cook, and does some sort of kitchen alchemy with a bespoke blend of wonderful ingredients to create all her products, 

This product calls itself an ultra-hydrating moisturiser, but really this is a misconception. The label should actually read: “Resuscitation for skin that has been stressed to the limits by the school holidays, mostly hydrated over the Summer with prosecco and left out to bake a bit too long in the sun. Oh, and it also works great as a primer for makeup – if, perchance, you have time for a night out.” But that lengthy description might take something away from the beautiful label (inspired by a card Angela’s mother gave her.)

There is an impressively long list of ingredients crammed into one bottle; all organic at source but including a few things I don’t believe I have ever (in all the years of beauty testing) put on my face such as arctic blackcurrant, rosewood oil and myrrh. You only need a couple of pumps per use so 50ml should see you through til Half Term…”

Order online, RRP £37.50 for 50ml

SM reviews… The Dock & Bay beach towel

You might have seen Dock & Bay’s innovative towel design on Dragon’s Den, where they got investment from Deborah Meaden.

SM tester writes:In our house towels are two things: wet, and on the floor. We have a plethora of them, ranging from hoodie-style ones that resemble animals to those from bales we bought before we had kids (taupe) and those chosen by the kids (orange). On days when the kids all go swimming, in addition to having morning showers, as a family, we will have used at least ten towels in one day! 

Dock & Bay’s towels were designed for backpackers, heading off to remote Thai beaches or Ibiza yoga retreats. The USPs include it folding down very small and flat (for ease of packing), doubling up as a yoga mat that doesn’t curl at the edges and being made from microfibre which dries skin (and itself) quickly. Oh, and sand doesn’t stick to it. The Cabana design was inspired by vintage deckchairs.

Obviously (sadly) we’re not jetting off to do downward dogs at sunset in San Lorenzo – but packing a Dock & Bay towel into a swimming bag takes much less space and the generous size means that unless your child is super precocious, you can share one towel between you.

The towel also works well as a play mat; either to keep bits of LEGO contained on the living room floor or outside for a grass-picnic. Kids will love the stripes and bright colours (the stripes make handy race track lanes for matchbox cars too.)

As Dock & Bay currently have their whole Cabana towel set on offer for £74.99 I am quite tempted to ditch all our other towel fails and invest in these (not least because whilst they would look delightful on the washing line, they would also look just fine on the floor).”

SM reviews… The Ergobaby OMNI 360 carrier

Editor writes: “Ergobaby put a LOT of thought and effort into the design of their latest carrier. It has been designed to be ‘the only carrier you’ll need’ from newborn to preschool, with four carry positions (parent facing, world facing, hip and back) and no insert needed, even right from week one. 

I’ve been using Ergo’s a lot with my 3rd child, who is almost one. Sure, they might be a bit ‘more’ to carry with you (if it’s one of those ‘I’m not sure if we’ll need a buggy or a carrier’ situations) but lately, I have been challenging myself to just put the baby in the carrier and keep my hands free (for carrying bikes, scooters, shopping – or just gesticulating wildly!)

As my son has grown (well, he was never exactly a delicate flower…) I have been keen to encourage back-carrying, not least because I feel that he’ll be carried for longer like that (but also because it makes carrying scooters and waving one’s arms about whilst berating a sibling much more efficient.)

But due to a number of factors, I had mostly (to date) just been carrying him in the parent facing, front carrying mode. Which is fine, but makes tying shoelaces (your own or your kids’) tricky. Ditto when you drop your car keys on the floor you sort of have to limbo down to the floor. 

Enter the OMNI 360, in gorgeous, ‘go with anything’ Midnight Blue. First, we gave it a go in ‘world facing’, front carrying mode. Which was lovely for my son, but rubbish for me, as the newfound freedom of his arms meant that he was grabbing my phone, pulling things off shelves and reaching for Mummy’s wine o’clock tipple…

So then I went for it with the back carrying. You can either start with the baby on your hip and sort of shimmy them ’round to your back, or go for what some babywearing types call ‘the Santa sack toss’ where you just try and get them up there and the straps on in one seamless move. (Or – get your other half to position your child…)

Here’s a pro doing it…

With a wriggly baby, I found the easiest was to do the maneuver over the sofa or a bed – with the OMNI you are just doing the same Ergo thing in reverse (ie set the straps beforehand, pull on and clip). 

Back carrying with the OMNI is really effortless; on par with carrying a well fitting backpack. As the model on the Ergobaby website demonstrates, it is also possible to do it whilst wearing white jeans and without getting biscuit crumbs in your hair #winning. 

I shall try the hip position next and report back…

One of the other ‘new touches’ to the OMNI design is the ‘fanny pack’ bag which, when in its original clip position and on someone who is 5ft 4, sits literally on your foo-foo. As my other half said, you’d know about it if you were pickpocketed! Thankfully, you can detach it and – as it’s the perfect size for carrying keys, phones, bribery packets of chocolate buttons and the like – clip it to another part of the carrier.

Obviously, all the positions are hip-safe (because it’s an Ergo) and you can wash it on a warm cycle in the case of ‘little accidents’ (although here’s hoping you don’t have to do this too often…)”

Shop online for the new OMNI 360 – RRP £154.90

SM reviews… Splash About Splash shoes

Editor writes: “Look, kids, here are some lovely new shoes!” I say to my eldest two offspring. “What kind of shoes are they?” enquires my three-year old middle child. “Seaside shoes!” I exclaim. “Oh…” comes the response “, are we going to the seaside then?”

I backtrack, realising that once more my middle child has once again foxed me into a corner. 

“Well, let’s go to the seaside!” hollers their father, in the parenting style of Daddy Pig (ie with no co-parenting-consultation and little regard for the reward chart taped to the fridge with pitifully few good behaviour stars.)

So then comes packing wetsuits and picnics, ensuring that buckets and spades are far enough out of reach so as not to become backseat weapons and finally to strap three kids into car-seats. 

Splash About’s splash shoes are made from soft neoprene and they pull on easily (ie unaided!) but the toggle fastening at the back of the shoe means that they stay put even if worn whilst swimming in the sea (or during a bout of backseat fidgeting on the motorway). They come in a variety of colours; I was grateful that we reviewed two different colourways as it made finding the matching pairs a lot easier. 

Once your kids have got them on their feet, pesky inconveniences like pebbles, shells and slippery seaweed become irrelevant and they are good to go rock pool hopping or paddle out over stony shores. And afterwards, you just take them off, give them a rinse and leave them to dry. It’s pretty much win/win.

Of course, I didn’t have to call these shoes ‘seaside shoes’. I could have easily called them ‘now you won’t slip over at the swimming pool when I asked you repeatedly not to run on the wet floor’ shoes. Or ‘now you won’t go flying across the wet decking when you’ve pushed your brother into the paddling pool’ shoes. Or ‘now you can still jump in puddles when it’s too hot to wear your wellies’ shoes. Or any other name that might represent their myriad of uses.

But in our house, they are – and will always be – known as ‘seaside shoes’. Because let’s face it; when you are three and five-and-a-quarter, life’s a beach…”

For more info or to buy go to SplashAbout’s website.

SM reviews… Infantino Cuddle Up Ergonomic Baby Carrier

Infantino’s baby carriers have been best sellers in the US for aeons and are now available in the UK. We tested the Cuddle Up Ergonomic Carrier.

SM tester writes: “I’m a big baby wearing fan, but once they get past 6 months you do need a robust carrier if you are to have a life past wafting from ‘mother and bubs yoga sessions’. I adored testing this carrier because a) it was light (in 30 degrees sunshine that helps!) b) it was super intuitive to fasten and insert baby in the ergonomic position and c) the carrying position is relatively high so it feels really comfortable and doesn’t ‘drag’ you into a hunched stance.

I also loved the fact that the outer pocket is perfect for popping your keys into – but also to put your hands in and cradle your baby, it’s bliss. The carrier itself has an inner – so unlike an Ergobaby there is fabric between you and your child – but in this weather, this is a blessing and also it saves your tops from little accidents!

But the best thing… the Infantino Cuddle Up costs just £37.55 (on Amazon)!”

Find out more here.