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What Motherhood Means for Your Vagina

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If you’re anything like me, as soon as you found out you were expecting, you started planning. Planning how to tell your family, what the nursery is going to look like, picking out baby clothes – and some chic maternity treats for yourself – and making checklists of everything you need to do before your baby makes their appearance!

One of the things that’ll probably start featuring high on your list over the second and third trimester is creating a birth plan. As well as working as a blueprint of the type of birth you’d ideally like to have – whether that be a water, natural, medicated, home, hospital or other – your birth plan should also try to predict the various situations you may find yourself in. And, as much as it may be scary to think about, this also means accounting for anything that may go wrong.

What can go wrong during birth?

Unfortunately, too much of what could go wrong during birth is brushed under the carpet – or, even worse, mothers are told to grin and bear it and deal with whatever trauma is left behind the best they can. Conventional advice is often simply ‘yes, it’s going to hurt, but you’ll forget all about it when the baby’s here’ (in reality, you may not recover as quickly – physically or mentally). But, this doesn’t leave much room for empathy and proper support.

It’s no wonder that a study by specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp found that almost 1 in 5 women (19%) are quite worried about issues relating to reproduction, such as pregnancy and childbirth. What we don’t say enough is that it’s perfectly normal to be worried about what’s to come. It’s also so important to accept that the experience may be more traumatic for some women than others. For me, the hardest thing is facing the unknown and not knowing what to expect. So, here are two tips I can give you to help you prepare for what’s to come:

  • Lack of support can be an issue – here’s how to fight it:

One of the things the study found was that over 1 in 10 women don’t feel heard, believed or supported when they talk to doctors about issues like reproduction, fertility and pregnancy. Whether you’re in the middle of making your birth plan or in the middle of labour, you never want to feel like your preferences and opinions are being disregarded.

If you feel like you’re not on the same level with your doctor or midwife, don’t be afraid to shop around until you find someone you’re comfortable with. You’re completely entitled to do so. It’s so important to form good relationships with the medical professionals helping you – as well as to surround yourself with trusted friends and family who will speak up on your behalf if you’re unable to.

  • Your vagina will go through some changes; know what’s normal and what isn’t.

You’ve probably heard horror stories about what can happen “down there” during labour. For one, you may experience vaginal tears, for which a perineum massage can help. In the weeks after labour, you may find your vagina is sore and painful, and looser because your pelvic floor muscles have become weaker. Regular Kegel floor exercises can help here.

Whatever issues you’re going through, it may be worth checking in with your doctor, even if all you’re doing is getting their confirmation that it’s all normal (the definition of normal being that it’s not harmful or cause for concern – “normal” will be different for everyone). Read as much as you can about the different after-effects of labour to make sure you can identify when something is problematic.

As you experience each stage of pregnancy in your journey to becoming a parent, take the time to prepare as much as possible for what’s to come. Read, ask questions and discover new things about your changing body – and don’t forget to appreciate the quirks that help make pregnancy so unique to each one of us.

The H movement is born…

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My daughter continues to blow me away on a daily basis.  But this literally blew everything out the water and feeling exceptionally proud, this mama is wanting to scream from  the roof tops to share what she is planning.  A movement.  An act of kindness, to help others and pay it forward.  I guess it all started when she attended a kids club session at a hotel in Hampshire a few weeks back.  She made a keychain.

Lets fast forward to now.  She asked me to purchase the same kit so that she could continue to make them for friends and family.  And then today…  She had an idea.  Continually feeling helpless when seeing homeless people, H has always requested I “buy them a house.”  We settle for a sandwich or drink normally.  So when she blurted it out earlier, it was nothing short of genius.  She asked if we could start to “do an act of kindness.”

Her idea, to make free keychains with a word on them for whoever asks – on the condition that they purchase a homeless person a drink or meal.  All keychains will be made by H (with a little bit of help from me unless she loses patience in which case a lot of help from me) and she just asks you to help a homeless person.

Full video here:

Please a little patient to receive due to demand & school starting soon..

Disclaimer…
I’m just a mum trying to show my 5 year old girl that her visions can become a reality.  I value her ideas and will do my best to support them.
*I’m not sure how financially viable this is but we will do our best.  If you are located quite far from us, we may charge postage.  And depending on how much demand there is, depends on how long we can continue with this project.

The National Cafe: Review

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School holidays seem to come round more often than I ever anticipated and as soon as H returns to school, she seems to break up again!

I’m fortunate enough to say that work is flexible so when H is off, I can fill our days with activities.  On the most part, we are creatures of habit so the first half of the week tends to be repetitive and routine.  But yesterday, we did something completely different and packed ourselves onto a bus into to Central London.

Art galleries and museums are something I used to take for granted as a child.  I fondly remember the trips I used to take with my mum – the efforts she took to try and spark my interest were exceptionally impressive; always engaging with me, telling me the history of the artist and paintings.  She really knows her stuff!

So when I was invited to review The National Cafe at the National Gallery, I was a little bit hesitant to bring H as I certainly had some big shoes to fill and assumed that she was too young for the experience.  How wrong I was.

The National Cafe has recently relaunched a new brunch menu by Oliver Peyton (you may be familiar with Peyton and Byrne) and has focused on offering a healthy take on all the brunch classics.  Think of shashouka, eggs, açai bowls, poke, granola, avocado toast etc.

They have also created an kid’s menu which features an array of pastries, eggs, pancakes and of course something more substantial for lunch – think, fish and chips, chicken, burgers.

We arrived just before the lunch buzz and I loved the simplistic but tasteful decor of the cafe – the pastel colours filled the room with warmth and brought on an instant feeling of calm after finding our way through the crowds just outside.

It didn’t take me long to choose my meal:

Avocado on sourdough toast with organic feta, chilli, tomato topped off with a poached egg.  And of course my signature drink on the side, an almond milk mocha.

H went for fish fingers and chips along with a fresh watermelon and mint juice.

Whilst waiting for the food to arrive we discussed the artists that were exhibiting and made an origami bird which was provided to us along with step by step instructions.

Our food did not disappoint.  I’ll talk about the fish and chips first because they reminded us of our favourite hotel in Greece.  The fish fingers were packed full of fresh fish and came in quantity.  More than enough for a hungry little.  H devoured them.

   

My food was equally delicious and I am a little bit of a snob when it comes to avocado toast.  The drinks were equally impressive and I have to say the mocha I was served was one of the best I’ve had in London.

I was somewhat tempted by the desert menu but held off (I won’t make that mistake again) as H didn’t share her ice cream with me!!

We stayed seated for well over an hour because we were so relaxed.  The staff were brilliant and exceptionally accommodating to our needs.

We then headed upstairs to walk around the gallery and a sudden burst of nostalgia kicked in when I saw artwork that I visited with my mum all those years ago.  H asked me to take photos of her favourite masterpieces and she was then invited to create her own.  An abstract workshop was running and H designed a robot.  This kept her somewhat occupied and made the experience even more enjoyable.  I love the efforts that The National Gallery have taken to make sure that visiting is a fun and enjoyable experience for all ages.

Until next time 🙂

The problem of Toxic Masculinity

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Think of the ideal man – who comes to mind? Sean Connery as James Bond? Brad Pitt in Fight Club? Or perhaps Clint Eastwood as the all-American action hero?

What these images have in common are a certain type of maleness – one that is repeated in Hollywood movies, in T.V. dramas ,and in men’s style magazines. It’s a limited version of masculinity, that reduces maleness to a library of boxed-set stereotypes, such as:

The Action Hero:  This one has been on a constant loop since ever since Hollywood began. Think Charlton Heston as Ben Hur, Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo or Will Smith in Men in Black

The Adventurer:  Think Bear Grylls, the former SAS survival instructor. He’s the embodiment of the outdoor “Wildman.”

The GQ New man:  This is Daniel Craig as James Bond. The action hero who’s not afraid to show some emotion (although not too much.) He’s the six-pack body beautiful guy; the Hackett wearing, Martini swigging, Aston Martin spy, who always has ‘hot chick’ as his number two accessory.

The problem with these types is that they are just that; idealised cultural constructions of what men are and what society thinks men should be. They work as a set of narrow cultural reference points, constraining men to conform to one stereotype or another. They are reductive and harmful in equal measure.

The dark side of masculinity
‘Boys will be boys’ is one of the most powerful and psychologically limiting phases in human language. It perpetuates gender types as natural therefore OK. The ‘boys will be boys’ attitude, when unchecked, provides men with a dark-sided rulebook leading to what can only be described as toxic masculinity.

Toxic masculinity plays out in two inter-connecting ways: the first is masculinity as ‘sexual predator’ – men who abuse their power status for self-gratification. Let’s name a few – Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein and Ray Kelvin – the founder and CEO of fashion company Ted Baker, who was recently accused of creating a culture of ‘forced hugs’ and harassment. It’s a type of behaviour that run deep in corporate culture, as witnessed in the case of Oxfam. Just this month an independent commission interim report, Listening to People: Rebuilding Trust, concluded there was a “toxic work environment” at Oxfam, that allowed bullying and sexual harassment to go uncheck.

The other way in which toxic masculinity plays out is personified in what I call ‘the corporate tough guy’. The City banker, the corporate lawyer, the advertising executives that rule their teams through bullying. These guys are 24-hour uber-competitive corporate dudes. Leaving work before midnight is weak maleness; spending time with children is weak maleness. I once met a Corporate Lawyer who hadn’t had a holiday in 22 years – it was his badge of honour.

The harmful effects of toxic masculinity on men
Of course, women, and sometimes gay men, are the obvious victims of unwanted sexual advances and toxic masculinity. The other victims are clearly men themselves. Toxic masculinity harms men in 3 key ways:

Boys don’t cry:  The suppression of emotions, or rather what society portrays as female emotions are a cultural no-no. Men can express anger, but any expression of tender emotions is seen as weak and unmanly.

Express femininity at your peril:  Masculinity is policed by other men – and women – through hate speech – boys and men who project what society views as female traits are punished with words such as ‘fag’ and ‘queer’. These words are loaded with power and work to keep ‘real men’ in check by dehumanising gay men as not real men.

Men as a disposable commodity: From an early age, boys are trained in the art of warfare. The toys we play with, the computer games we play. These games manifest in real-life gang violence on the streets of London and other cities in the U.K and beyond.


Where do we go from here? How to challenge toxic masculinity
Gillette’s current ad campaign “We Believe: The Best Man Can Be”, seeks to challenge these forms of toxic masculinity by questioning male norms. Clearly working within a context of the #MeToo movement, one of the aims of the current campaign, according to the brand’s The Best Men Can Be website is “to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette” in “the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more”.

One of my favourite ads is Ariel’s ‘Share The Load’, as it challenges gender stereotypes in Indian society, by exploring changing gender norms and traditions.

Based on my experience of working with male leaders in Corporate cultures over the last 20 years, here are 3 very simple things we can all do to challenge toxic masculinity:

Lean into the idea that masculinity, just like femininity, is nothing more than a cultural and historical construct; it is a learned behaviour and as such it can evolve and change.

Education: Explore in your workplace, through discussion groups and workshops, the impact toxic masculinity may be having on your corporate culture. How does it play out? What impact does it have on team performance and the psychological wellbeing of both male and female colleague?

Call it out: Men are not bad. They (we) are simply conditioned to think and act in certain ways. Celebrate the positive sides of maleness but call out and challenge toxic masculinity when it presents itself in your workplace.

Dan Robertson is the Director of VERCIDA Consulting. He is widely regarded as a subject matter expert on workplace diversity & inclusion, unconscious bias and inclusive leadership, and spends his days supporting executives to turn diversity theory into meaningful actions.

The Rise of the Freelancer

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Freelancing: An Industry Where Women Thrive

It’s common knowledge that the workforce is changing as more people are turning to becoming their own bosses – a popular trend over the few years. over the past decade the amount of people turning to becoming their own bosses, and recent research has revealed that the freelancing is an industry where women are not only thriving but steaming ahead of men.

Who Are Today’s Freelancers?
Looking into the rise of the freelancer, it’s been revealed that

  • The number of female freelancers has grown by 55% since 2008. Comparatively, the number of men freelancing has grown by 36% in the same time frame.
  • 79% of New Mothers are joining the UK’s freelance industry rather than return to full-time office employment post-baby.
  • Working mums account for 1 in 7 of all freelancers in the UK

Top Freelancer Industries
When it comes to being your own boss, it’s much more than being able to work from home. Starting a business from home, marketing yourself and being able to financially support yourself and family can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Today’s freelancers are doing far more than just sitting at home working on any little thing we can.

“Freelancer owned businesses might be expected to generate greater revenues than other own account businesses, owing to the more valuable knowledge and skills exercised, suggesting a slightly higher turnover figure, perhaps £130-135 billion, approximately 3-4% of business turnover.” – Kayte Jenkins, IPSE (Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), Exploring the UK Freelance Workforce in 2016

Where Is The Future of Freelancing?
According to the IPSE: “The continued expansion of the freelance workforce is evident across a range of industries, and growth has continued unabated during both the global financial crisis of 2008-9 and the subsequent economic upturn.” Blogging is just one route people choose when it comes to working for themselves, the rise of mobile technology, video conferencing platforms, global internet access and flexible workspaces, have meant businesses can hire people from any location around the country (or beyond).

As one example, Peter Johnson, Lystable founder and CEO, told Forbes that top companies like Google and ASOS are currently sourcing a full 50% of their UK-based workforce from the freelance population.

Thinking about stepping away from the ‘standard’ 9-5?  The fastest growing freelancer occupations in the past 10 years are:

  • Healthcare (191% growth)
  • Artistic, literary and media roles (103% growth)
  • Sports and fitness (103% growth)

Baby Bao, London: Review

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Who knew I liked Taiwanese? I mean, I certainly didn’t until I stepped foot into Baby Bao with one of my girl friend’s last month. Discovering new eateries is always something I enjoy, especially when the menu offers so much choice to even the most difficult of eaters.

Originally born in Brighton, Baby Bao made it’s debut in the lovely Haymarket, London last year. A brilliant location to attract tourists, office workers and Londoners looking to try out a Bao Bun Concept.

The pricing structure is affordable and the atmosphere is vibrant with modern, fun, decor. It’s a great stop if you’re looking for a small bite or something filling. The menu choice is generous with many options including a substantial choice for veggies and vegans. The drinks menu is equally delightful and the cocktail I had was delicious.

Feeling indulgent, we chose the ramen chicken, lamb shoulder and mushroom bao. The steamed buns were fluffy and light to digest and their fillings equally delicious. To compliment these dishes we went for the Mac and cheese (divine), roast aubergine and sweet corn poppers.
We did feel pretty satisfied after our mains but once we saw deep fried Oreos with white chocolate sauce on the desert menu, we couldn’t resist (even if it did mean I had to unbutton my jeans) and we didn’t regret it.

Baby Bao, I’ll definitely be making a return!

For more information about Baby Bao click here.
*disclaimer – whilst the food was provided in return for a review, all opinions are entirely my own.

Columbia Beach Resort, Cyprus: Review

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Cyprus may be a 5 hour flight away and I was dubious about this distance at first, but it really did prove to be a wonderful destination for a long weekend soaking up the sun and winding down with the family.  I was a little anxious about travelling off peak at first but was left reassured when I discovered that the weather at the end of November was in the early 20’s – a very welcome temperature in comparison to the cold, wet climates that London has been gracing us with.

Columbia Beach Resort was our chosen destination.  I knew from the minute I browsed the website that it would be a place of tranquility.  But I didn’t quite realise how much so.  Situated on Pissouri Bay, I can see why the resort has been recognised as luxurious, won numerous awards and earned 5 star status.

The property boasts 169 large and beautifully decorated suites with ample space for families.  The backdrop was absolutely breathtaking.

Upon arrival, we were greeted at the airport, driven to the hotel (only a 20 minute drive from Paphos airport) and arrived at the hotel shortly after sunset.  Complimentary drinks were offered upon our arrival whilst the porters took our luggage to our room.

Our suite was spacious with a king sized bed, a large seating area (which converted into a double bed for H), and study area.  We were also kitted out with an array of amenities including a Nespresso machine, hairdryer, Molton Brown toiletries, and kitchenette. The bathroom was well proportioned with a big bath and two sinks.  A large balcony offered a delightful view over the pool and bay.

Complimentary touches included a bottle of wine, fruit platter and raw honey.  This made us feel that little bit more special.  H was left with a backpack surprise on her bed which was provided by The Den (kids club) to welcome her to the resort.  Inside was a treasure map, a little explorer notepad, pencil and cap.  Such a thoughtful gesture and something that made her squeal in delight.

After unpacking and freshening up, we made our way down to Apollo Tavern for dinner.
A traditional Cypriot dining experience with an abundance of choices for even the fussiest of eaters.  We shared several dishes but my favourites were the Spinach Pie Rolls and Lamb Chops – cooked to perfection.  Desert consisted of Ice cream – lemon sorbet, raspberry sorbet, mango sorbet with chunks of meringue and thyme honey sauce.  So Yum!  The atmosphere was lovely with live traditional Greek music being played in the background.  Bursting at the seams from over indulging, fatigue hit us and we knew it was time for bed.

Day 2.  A super relaxing start – we slept well and woke late.  We sat on our balcony admiring our view before heading to breakfast in Bacchus, situated on the lower ground floor.  Whilst the resort seemed quiet, breakfast was buzzing with holidaymakers.  Diners have the option to sit inside or on the terrace overlooking the pool.  We chose the latter.

The breakfast buffet consisted of an array of sweet and savoury delights; pancakes, pastries, toasts, eggs, cereal, waffles fresh fruit, porridge etc.  H loved popping her toast in the toaster, maneuvering around the tables to fill her plate and then return in time for her toast to pop out.  If any of the food displayed didn’t take our fancy, we were told we could also make an order.  Nothing was too much trouble.

After breakfast, we headed to the pool and got comfortable on some sun loungers.  We were parked up here for the majority of the day enjoying the scenery.  Absolute bliss.  The infinity pool is a real show stopper – 80 metres long, lagoon style set amongst its natural surroundings.  Columbia Beach also has another swimming pool located at The East Wing.

In the afternoon, H was keen to check out The Den Kids Club – a collaboration with the well-known Worldwide Kids Company who provide childcare services for luxury resorts and hotels.  (We have been fortunate enough to use their services in other hotels so we felt reassured before we signed her up).  Upon arrival, we were given a timetable of the activities on offer for the week.  The service is complimentary and offers the following sessions:  10:00am-1:00pm, 1:00pm-3:00pm and 3:00pm-6:00pm.

Children have to be signed in and out for security reasons.  The Den was filled with fun, engaging activities and had a reading corner, mini bowling alley, play kitchen, arts and crafts and fancy dress section. The Den takes two different age groups: 4 to 8 years and 9 to 12 years.  H went straight to the arts and crafts table and asked to decorate some rocks – she made the cutest little Santa and also a monkey door stopper, fond keepsakes that will always remind her of her stay.

The resort also offers a crèche for children aged 4 months to 4 years (35 EUR per session).

Whilst H was having a brilliant time at kid’s club, I checked into the Hebe Spa and had the best massage I’ve ever had in my life (so much so, I booked myself in for another two days later)!  The spa offers a variety of treatments using world-renowned skincare brand, Elemis.  It is also home to a Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, squash courts, equipped gym, exercise room (with back to back classes), hair salon, nail salon and indoor pool that can be adjoined with the large infinity pool during warmer climates.Dinner that night was at Bacchus – the Italian gourmet restaurant with menu created by Michelin Star-trained Executive Chef, Ioannis Giakoumidis.  This was my favourite restaurant on the resort and the truffle tagliatelle was sensational.  The meal was accompanied with live music from a very talented duo.

On day 3, we set out to re-live our experiences from the past 24 hours but decided to add in some exploring.  H wanted to put her treasure map to the test and go on a little adventure.

Surrounded by large gardens and protected by white cliffs, we discovered some swings close to the beach.  We took some time to sit on these whilst admire the scenery around us.  Soon after, we walked along the 2km-long beach, collecting stones and be-friending several cats to H’s delight.  (The hotel have a dedicated ‘Cat Care’ project – to help protect those in the area).    During Peak season there are a number of activities including watersports, sailing and scuba diving available to guests.  The beach also offers sunbeds with shade.

Whilst our trip was short, it was wonderful.  Filled with plenty of rest, relaxtion, brilliant food of the highest quality and beautiful jaw dropping sunsets.  The memories that will last a lifetime.  My only regret was not staying longer but it does give us a good reason to return!!  For more photos, head over to our IG page and click on our travel highlight reel.

What you need to know before going:
Columbia Beach Resort offers airport transfers (from Limassol and Paphos) with several tour operator packages as well as booking direct.  Car seats can also be provided.

The resort is exceptionally family friendly and works tirelessly to offer parents with young children a stress-free holiday by allowing guests to pre-order baby items prior to arrival.  Everything from toiletries, changing items and other accessories – spanning potties, sterilisers, bottle warmers, baby walkers, buggies and much more – can be provided in suite for arrival.    A local supermarket and other amenities are close by.

Babysitters can be pre-booked prior to arrival or whilst staying at the resort via Worldwide Kids.  The charges are 15EUR per hour for up to 3 children and each babysitter holds a DBS check. 

The resort offers B&B, half board and full board allowances.  They cater for all dietary requirements and menus clearly mark allergen information.  They do advise that any severe allergies are noted during the reservation process so that staff and chef are aware prior to arrival.  Children’s menus are provided in each restaurant and their allowances are charged at a 50% discount on adult rates. 

A large number of sports activities are available for people of all ages and abilities.  These include, archery, table tennis, giant jenga, boules, greek and backgammon lessons, swimming, tennis, cookery, darts, baseball and sailing.  The watersports centre also offers paragliding, waterskiings, windsurfing, kayaking, banana boat rides, ring rides and pedal boat hire.

Columbia Beach Resort is dedicated to being environmentally friendly – more information on this can be found here.

If you are interested in booking a holiday with Columbia Beach Resort, they currently have a number of offers on.

*Disclaimer.  Whilst we were invited to stay at Columbia Beach Resort, all views are our own.

Hope Works – A Whale’s Tale by Cartoon Network

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Cartoon Network UK’s animated short for the Hope Works Project – “A Whale’s Tale” was released on 20th November and can now be viewed on Cartoon Network UK’s YouTube channel or on Hope Works’ YouTube channel (we have embedded the link below for ease).  This animated short was created to help educate children about the effects of plastic waste and other pollution in the Ocean.  This short is beautifully created and left a large imprint on us, especially H.  We will be doing our best to reduce plastic waste at home and spreading the word on things that you can be doing too.   Please do watch and share this video to pass the message on.

A Whale’s Tale Credits:
Written and directed by Robin Celebi & Giovanna Utichi
Original story by Giovanna Utichi
Executive Producer: Richard Kinning
Producer: Emma Healing

Children’s Afternoon Tea with Daunt Books & The Langham London

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The Langham Hotel, London has always been a special place to me – for those of you who read my previous article on our Langham staycation, you’ll know why.  In short, it was a place of fond childhood memories and I always vowed that when I was older, I’d be able to share those memories with my own children and one day, grandchildren.

When we heard that The Langham had recently launched a new interactive and immersive afternoon tea with Daunt books for little ones, we had to go.  H has always been an avid book fan that has been raised without relying on technology so we knew this experience was right up her street.

It did not disappoint.  In fact, it has been by far the best tea experience we have ever had (as a foodie, I’ve had my fair share).

So, what’s so great about it you ask?!  Well, it’s a simple answer.  Everything.

Upon arrival, H was presented with a menu detailing what she would be served; Jigsaw sandwiches, Pastries (build your own dog with salted caramel “glue”), scones and a choice of tea or hot chocolate.  Naturally being her mother’s daughter, she went for the hot chocolate!

As soon as H noticed the curated mini-library she jumped off her chair and headed towards it.  Shelves of books catering children from age 3-12, we were impressed.  And much to H’s delight, she was thrilled to learn that she was able to take home her chosen book.  I love you, Blue Kangaroo.  We read it twice at the table, whilst she questioned if her soft toys felt the same way at night time.

The highlight of her tea was assembling the pastries into a dog.  She had such fun gluing it together and then devouring it – without sharing, may I add!  Whilst H had a brilliant time enjoying her tea time experience, the husband and I thoroughly enjoyed ours too.

All in all, a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The Langham’s Children’s Afternoon Tea with Daunt Books is priced at £29.50 per child (12 years and under) and can be booked by clicking here.

*disclaimer, whilst this experience was #gifted, I was not asked to write or share our experience.

Being is better than having

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“start a child on the right road and even in old age he will not leave it…”

At a time when mental health is the buzzword, where schools employ Counsellors, in this absurdly competitive environment, I have come to one conclusion. Whatever else is going on let us all be aware of the well-being of our children.

Over the last 25 years of tremendous social and cultural change, we seem to have concentrated on the needs of the economy at the expense of the families it is supposed to be serving. As a nation we appear to have lost our way as far as child rearing goes.

In our competitive frenzy, we have turned childhood and education into a race. Unless we stop competing so wildly, we will find the next generation isn’t balanced enough to keep the UK economic show on the road.

Childhood memories differ, but when some of us played, there probably weren’t shiny plastic toys or adults, or mobile phones and screens – you created your own private world from whatever materials came to hand.

Active play, risk taking play, imaginative play, social play, solo play, perseverance and resilience, are in danger of becoming something of a distant past.

Facing the future is what a good prep school should be about, and our most important task is to prepare our children to face the future by helping them have a secure childhood; a secure childhood makes for a secure adult…in other words, “start a child on the right road”.

We must teach our children to be children in distinct contrast to a world which is trying to hurry them towards adulthood, and we won’t do this by obsessing how early they can read or write, or league tables and pass rates – if we are not careful the market place and the demands of the paper proof of success are crippling humanity.

We need to be brave to stand up for what we believe to be right for children in the face of a marketplace which tries to judge us by just successful examination results.

By relentlessly keeping our gaze on the measurable all we do is actually encourage children and their parents to see schools as places for passing tests rather than for meaningful learning.

Is our school a farm where living things grow freely, or is it a factory and an assembly line making products to be fashioned and measured quantitively?

Perhaps less pressure and more play is worthy of thought, but we occasionally lose sight of what we are here for.

It is vital that we all appreciate that childhood is a stage in life, not a waiting room for adulthood.

Hurrying children into adulthood violates them. Childhood is an important period of life to which all children are entitled. Children are our greatest resource so let us cherish them and let them be.

If we are not careful we are, as a nation, producing an increasingly disillusioned generation regarding the value of education.

Limited university places, lack of meaningful employment, and many years of debt! If this is true, then what is going to make life meaningful for these young men and women is not academic qualifications but other things – what kind of human beings they become.

There are no league tables for emotional and spiritual intelligence and no way of calculating their impact on the balance sheet.

Modern Governments cannot solve society’s problems; they compound them or use tax as a means of social engineering.

We must help to produce a generation radical and selfless enough to challenge the ‘me’ culture that is now prevalent in Britain.

As years roll past, our children will not remember what we said or what we did but they will most certainly remember how we made them feel, and if we don’t get this right in our school we will have failed to show them the possibility that being is better than having.

We must continually challenge the assumptions of the marketplace and speak up for a counter culture of extended childhood, of play as a key to learning, of the importance of self-denial, of what is lasting and authentic as opposed to short term and trivial.

Let’s strive for a real balance, care about the quality of their souls and lift the veil on infinity and all its possibilities!

What is “The Perfect Parent?!” – The Trailer

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What is the Perfect Parent?

We asked some of our Mamazou community members how they approach parenting and what the words ‘Perfectly Imperfect Parenting’ means to them…

Here’s the trailer.  We’re looking forward to sharing the full version of this video along with a further blog post very soon.  Watch this space!

Video created by our lovely friends over at MovieBytes.

Crayon hairdryer art for all ages

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When homeschooling started for us last week, I was looking at various ways for H and I to keep things fresh.  What she doesn’t realise is that I probably enjoyed this as much as she did.  So much so, that I’ve already got another pack of crayons and canvas on order.

An activity for all ages… mixing science and art, it really is a win win.  Best part, it keeps kiddos busy for quite a while!

All you need is:
– 1 packet of crayons
– PVA glue
– A canvas (ours was A5)|
– A printer
– Scissors
– A hairdryer

Step 1.
Empty all crayons and stick them with PVA glue on the canvas in whichever order you like.  H went for rainbow…

 

Step 2.
Leave Crayons to dry for a couple of hours.  We filled the time by going out for a walk cos #socialdistancing

Step 3.
Line the floor and sides of walls with old cardboard or dustcloths.  (We lined the floor but not the wall and learnt our lesson).  Once done, use a hairdryer to melt the crayons.

 

Step 4.
Once you’re happy with the amount of “drip” – turn hairdryer off and leave to set for a couple of minutes.  Whilst doing this, we searched for an image of a silhouette.  H wanted a little girl to represent herself and selected the one below.

Step 5.
Print and cut around the image very carefully.  Then stick on with a very thin layer of PVA (or glue stick).

And voila!

 

 

 

Experiment: Getting rid of Germs

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 At a time when the world needs us most, love is our super power. It’s important to put all that we have learnt and practiced to good use. Pass it on. Teach our kids. Breathe. Show Gratitude. Be Still. Don’t let the fear take over, it’ll weaken your immune system. Listen to others. Support them. Stay Strong. Keep Positive. And Wash YOUR hands.

In case you need to teach your little one why it’s so important to wash their hands…

We absolutely love this video that was sent to us.

Healthy(ish) Oreo Shake

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It’s official, I’ve come up with the best healthy-ish Oreo shake ever.  I mean not only is it a massive WIN for H but I’m loving it too &&& the best part… it’s semi guilt free.

Ingredients:
– 1 frozen large banana
– Handful of ice
– 1 teaspoon vanilla powder
– 1.5 cups almond milk
– 2 to 3 Oreos

Blend all the ingredients together (apart from the Oreos) together until smoothe.  Add in the Oreos and whizz (not for too long).

Pour into glass and enjoy!

Woman.

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2000 women in 50 countries have been interviewed and included in this new film masterpiece, WOMAN, by #AnastasiaMikova and #YannArtusBertrand.

Coming to the cinema in honour of International Women’s Day. We can’t wait to see this very important film and hear the voices of so many diverse women from around the world.

Here’s the trailer:

WOMAN, au cinéma le 4 mars.

WOMAN, le nouveau film d'Anastasia Mikova & Yann Arthus-Bertrand, donne la parole à 2 000 femmes à travers 50 pays différents, au cinéma le 4 mars.

Posted by woman on Friday, 21 February 2020

Taking a change of Direction

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“Look at it is as if we’re a small ship sailing through a storm, we’re not a big one, we won’t sink, we’ll let the waves take us and push us through with the wind.” – That’s what one of my old colleagues once said when I was working in the Banking Industry and the recession hit. I use that analogy a lot thanks to him and it works wonders.

When I first created Mamazou, I set out to create a universally recognised parenting network – a forum where all parents from all different walks of life could come together, share knowledge and tips, collaborate, build each other up and have a constant support no matter what. I took it to the next level and made sure that those who wanted to protect their identity could.

Mamazou originally took off in the US but as it developed and grew, I started to impact a corner of users in the UK and Europe too. My excitement levels soared.. I was gaining recognition for the website I had created and signed a contract to develop Mamazou into an app but at the blink of an eye it was gone.
The company that I had quite literally placed all my eggs into went into liquidation. And not only had my money been taken… my website had too.

There were a lot of tears but something inside of me told me not to give up. That I could try and develop it again from scratch.. and so I did, on the cheap after a year. With the forum gone, it became more of a blog / magazine collective.

During the second birth of Mamazou, I was presented with some struggles within my family life and as a result, I began to neglect the little empire that I had put so much time and effort into because I couldn’t quite manage both.

My toes have spent the last couple of years dipping in and out of Mamazou. Whilst it still does okay, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the most incredible brands out there.

But like a small ship in a storm, I know I need to take the jump and go full force with the winds helping me take a change of direction.
It’s time. The fear still cripples me but it’s time. I know it is. So please be patient and bare with me.
My story is coming… Soon.

Please note…
Mamazou will still run as normal but you may start seeing more frequent (personal) posts 😉

Tiny Tea at Bluebird: Review

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Going for afternoon tea was routine in my childhood – for the most part, my dad’s side of the family would gather at my grandma’s each Saturday and we would feast on all things sweet and savory.  These were some of my fondest memories.

We were also lucky enough to experience having afternoon tea in hotels as well as restaurants so when we were invited to Bluebird, Chelsea to try out their Tiny Tea I was thrilled.  Bluebird is situated on the King’s Road and famous for being one of the best hangouts in the area.  It consists of a comfy all-day restaurant, a relaxing cafe and an upscale dining room.

Available for kids up to 10 years old and just £12 per child, you definitely get your money’s worth when it comes to the Tiny Tea.  The price includes a selection of finger sandwiches, a drink, two mini scones with trimmings and plenty of sweet treats, including a mini strawberry milkshake and nutella filled donut.  YUM.  H’s highlights were that she could decorate her own cupcake and had so many activities to occupy her… colouring, spot the difference, a wordsearch and much more.

Whilst H was feasting on those delicacies, I was spoilt with the adult version.  An array of sandwiches, (Just an FYI, the coronation chicken sandwich was amazing) two large scones which I devoured and a selection of beautifully presented pastries.

The service was wonderful and the outing was incredibly relaxing for us both.   I highly recommend to anyone looking for something fun to do with their kids and give them the opportunity to make them feel like a grown up for the day.

The Tiny Tea will be available for future half terms and Easter school holidays and we’ll definitely be making a return 🙂 
For more information about Bluebird and their menus, click here.

When Loves at Steak…

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Hands down, one of my favourite companies to collaborate with is Asda.  They’re wonderful to work with – the campaigns are pretty genius and the events they host are EPIC.  (And just an FYI, I’m not being paid to say this).

Last week, I attended their “When Loves at Steak” cookery event and couldn’t wait to share  some great tips on how to cook Steak thanks to the brilliant DJ BBQ.  If you’re anything like me and a carnivore at heart, then you need to read this (apologies to all veggies and vegans in advance):

*  Impress your friends with a Smacked Rib-eye, quite literally smack the steak hard with a frying pan on both sides – not only does this increases the surface area, it’s also a great stress reliever!!

*  Steaks don’t cook to time – they cook to temperature.  Have a thermometer handy and probe at the thickest part.  If you’re like me and like it medium rare, then you need to wait until the steak has reached a temperature of 48-49°C.  Take it off the heat and leave to rest… the temperature will still go up whilst resting.

*  If you’re cooking in a pan, massage some oil into the steak, rather than heating it in the pan prior to cooking.  Sear the steak on both sides as well as around the edges.  This helps the fat break down and bring more flavour into the meat.

*  Always season your steak after you remove it from the heat – this prevents the pepper from burning whilst it’s being cooked.

*  Want to create a really delicious seasoning with very little time to spare?  Take some salt, crush some garlic, mix together and sprinkle over a cooked steak.  YUM.

*  Serve with fries, salad or DJ BBQ’s famous tomato pie which literally consists of day old bread, mayo, grated cheese, tomatoes and a gulp of Worcestershire sauce!
Full video tutorial and recipe can be found here.

Enjoy! x

A new way to get into the Arctic night sky…

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A new way to experience the Northern Light in Swedish Lapland has been launched allowing guests to float into the Arctic skies and hover amongst the stars, in search of the Aurora. 

The new travel concept launched by Off the Map Travel was created by the founders of the Aurora Safari Camp, Jonas Gejke and Fredrik Broman, who are starting hot air balloon operations along with ballooning expert Andrew Peart who has been flying hot air balloons more than 25 years over the African savannahs.

“This is a first,” says Jonathan Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel and Arctic Travel expert. “We’ve never heard of anything like this before and everything is pointing to this being the regions next big highlight Aurora experience.”

The first aurora flight will take off in December 2020 and will be available through to April – with bookings officially due to open for gests in May 2020. The experience will see the expert guide take off and ascend up to 40 meters into the air where it will hover to hunt for the Northern Lights, anchored to the arctic ice below. Those keen to experience the new Aurora ballooning are advised to contact the team at Off the Map Travel to include in itineraries for next winter.

If visitors are more interested in the Arctic landscapes, then the new Lapland Ballooning team will also be running daytime expedition flights from its home base in Gunnarsbyn, Råneå River Valley, over the spectacular Arctic wilderness.

The new Lapland Ballooning experiences are available for groups of up to 6 people and is recommended for guests over 6 years old. As flights will be weather dependent it is also recommended that the experience be included as part of a multi-day stay to allow guests flexibility for their flight.

“To experience the Northern Lights from the tranquility of the balloon in a remote wilderness region of Northern Sweden is a very special experience and one that will serve as a highlight for any luxury Arctic adventure,” adds Off the Map Travel’s Jonathan Cooper. “Although the Aurora is never guaranteed, what better place to hunt for it than by ascending into the stars yourself.”

As with any itinerary from Off the Map Travel, every adventure can be tailor-made to fit the wishes and requirements of any guest. As an example, the full board 4-day 3-night Aurora in the Sky itinerary costs from £2275 per person, not including flights. This includes meals, private transfers, accommodation at the Outpost and Aurora Safari Camp, snowmobile adventure with lunch on the Arctic circle, Aurora Hot Air Balloon experience, and a Snowmobile adventure to “meet the locals” experience.

For more information on tailor-made travel itineraries visit www.offthemap.travel

Self Sabotage with a hint of XOXO

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“Gossip Girl here! Your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite”

That’s Instagram in a nutshell, isn’t it?  At least that how it has felt over the last few days…

Have you ever been in a situation when you want to say something but you’re stuck for words?  Where you want to share a piece of wisdom but you just can’t get them out?  Where you want to stand up for something you believe in but don’t want to get into a heated debate?  Where you want to share more but live in fear of what people are going to think / say?  Where you want to talk about taboo topics but don’t want to hit a nerve?

You’re not alone.  I feel like this most days and keep learning that this is what’s holding me back.  We all have our opinions, we all have our beliefs, we all know right from wrong, we all know how to lift each other up…

I don’t really know how to start but there is SO much I want to say on this topic.  Some of you know what’s going on… some of you don’t.  But the crux of it all, is, that a lot of people are hurting (several that are close to me) and severely affected by the actions of online bullying / trolling and the ripple effect that is happening.

The situation has knocked me.  Not down… but it has brought on an influx of anxiety and made me question what my purpose is on here and if I’m really making a difference…

When I first started out on Instagram it was a minefield, and truthfully nothing has changed but at the same time… everything has.  At the beginning, I didn’t understand how it all worked and looking back, I wish I was as naive now as I was back then.   I was just (another) mum on a mission, trying to make some noise about a brand that I had created.  But, it didn’t take long for me to realise that Social Media came with as many implications as it did positives.

The more time online, the less time in reality.  The only way to grow was to be present – to engage with others, to like photos, attend events, follow one another etc.  I developed a sense of FOMO and JOMO.  Why was X invited to an event and I wasn’t?  What did they have that I didn’t?!  Am I not doing enough?! Saying enough!?  I held back but spent many wasted hours questioning my own self worth and abilities (which if you know me isn’t so high at the best of times).

It became quite apparent that just like school, social media came with its very own playground politics and I learnt some very hard truths. (Being ripped off numerous times, hacking and trolling)… However, one thing I’ve always maintained on here is to be authentic and the relationship I have with my audience is exceptionally real as a result and for that I’m proud.

I’m no big fish nor do I want to be.  To me, it was never about the numbers.  It was about building long-lasting relationships… a strong community and lifting others.  But there have been times where I’ve lost sense of what is real and what isn’t.

It can be toxic.  Severely toxic if you allow yourself to get too sucked in.  People thrive on gossip.  They thrive on judgement, they thrive on fear.  I mean, that’s why the news does so well, right?  But as I said before – what happened to raising each other up instead of bringing each other down?

It’s so easy to pass the blame onto someone else by finger pointing.  A bully is a bully and they won’t change but don’t let that manifest into bullying yourself.  Take the time to look within.  If someone is mean to you, turn off the noise.  You can choose to feel the way that you do but it’s important to recognise that these people don’t deserve the attention they’re getting.  You are better than that.  We are better than that.

The majority of us are parents – trying to set examples to our kids.  We preach kindness… so why be two faced about it?

Sending love and light.  Always. 

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