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Safari Kid – A must see Nursery: Review

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Finding the right nursery for your child is never an easy task… I remember my biggest concern when taking the plunge initially was the anxiety that came with leaving H alone, in someone else’s care, for the first time. With so much choice available to us, having peace of mind is always a priority.

When Deputy CEO, Phillippe Sachs had trouble finding a school to provide the educational experience he wanted for his kids in Singapore, he was pointed in the direction of Safari Kid – a nursery based in Silicon Valley set out to encourage kids (from all paths) with their imagination and hunger for learning.
Soon after his discovery, Phillippe and his boss, Rudy left their careers in Banking and secured the rights to Safari Kid outside the USA and opened the first school in Hong Kong. Over the next few years they opened numerous schools in the UAE, India and most recently the UK which Phillippe now chairs.

UK sites are located in Clerkenwell, Chiswick, Golders Green, Wandsworth, Windsor and their latest branch in Camden opened its doors a few weeks back.
I recently went to visit it and left feeling so enlightened I am determined to visit the other branches too.

The nursery uses elements from both the Montessori and Reggio Emilia methods combined with Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory and their own research into early brain development.

Celebrating diversity and with the knowledge that each child develops at a different rate, the school ethos encourages learning through play with Art, Drama, Music and Steam activities integrated at the core.

Children are welcome to join from 3 months old up to 5 years on a non-assessment entry with numerous session choices (half day, full day, extended, full time or a choice of 1, 2, 3 and 4 days a week). To make things easier for working parents, the school is open from 7:30am to 6:30pm.

The classrooms are beautifully designed with great attention to detail and age appropriate decor. The older children occupy the top floor and the younger kids are divided into two rooms on the ground floor. Each classroom has large windows letting in plenty of natural light. There is ample space to move around and neutral coloured wooden furnishings stimulating a calming environment for kids. One of the things I loved most was the fact that the majority of the toys were wooden rather than plastic.
Pops of earthy colours are also used around the nursery.

Learning can continue outside, where there is a large walled (and secured) space for children to run around in as well as a smaller section for the babies so that they do not feel overwhelmed.
The garden is surrounded with planter boxes which are used to grow their own flowers and vegetables. The nursery celebrates sustainability and encourages children to do the same from a young age.

Safari Kid has such a warm nurturing atmosphere and just from one visit, I could see how tirelessly the founders and staff work in order to give the children the very best start to their educational life.

I would strongly recommend a viewing.

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.

5 Ways To Be More Environmentally Friendly At Home

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The vast destruction of our planet Earth is probably scaring you as much as it is frightening me. Every day we see pictures of oceans filled with plastic, starving polar bears, and destroyed rainforests, amongst others, and it can honestly feel like whatever we do won’t really help anymore.

But it will! If each of us makes a consistent effort to make a few small changes in our lives we can collectively make a huge difference. And teaching our kids how to be conscious of their waste and how it affects the planet from an early age is very important too.

Here are 5 easy ways to be more environmentally friendly in your home:

Go meatless!

I’m not specifically telling people to immediately adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, but reducing our overall meat consumption will benefit the environment in ways that we can’t even imagine. According to research, worldwide livestock farming produces about 14.5-18 % of global greenhouse gas emissions. And these levels keep rising. If you think about it this way: if every single non-vegetarian cuts their meat consumption in half from today onwards we would start to see a real decline in the pollution caused by livestock farming within the next few years.

You can start by trying Meatless Mondays, or by replacing one or two of your traditional weekly meat dishes with a vegetarian version. Get the kids involved by taking them to the market to choose fruit and vegetables and looking at recipes with them. Once you get in the swing of things you may even want to try going vegan for a day here and there!

Reduce your need for plastic

Here in California it is now actually illegal to hand out single use plastic carrier bags at grocery stores. You can buy reusable ones or paper ones at the check-out if you forget to bring your own bags. I personally think this is a good first step towards making consumers responsible for the amount of plastic they discard every day, but we can do a lot more. Here are some simple ways to start reducing the plastic waste in your homes:

  • Nix plastic bottles and use reusable water bottles. Go for soda in glass bottles if you have the choice.
  • Bring your own reusable cup to the coffee shop (and pay less for your coffee too!)
  • Use your own stainless steel straws rather than plastic ones usually offered in shops and restaurants. (Most of these reusable straws come with special cleaning brushes too).
  • Stock up on tote bags and cloth shopping bags, and always keep some handy in the bottom of your purse, bag, car, and stroller.
  • Use durable Tupperware instead of Ziploc bags: while you are still using plastic, your Tupperware can last for years, whereas a Ziploc is single use.
  • Keep glass bottles and jars: they can be used to store other food items later on!

Don’t be afraid of thrift stores!

I have personally not bought anything new apart from underwear for the past two years: every item of clothing I have purchased has come from a thrift store. I’ve always loved to find a thrift shop bargain, but it wasn’t until we had children that I really started to rely on thrift stores for more than just the odd dress here and there.  It is estimated that the average person in the US tosses 70 lbs of clothing away a year. And a lot of those clothes are man-made textiles that take years to decompose. But cotton also uses up huge amounts of the world’s resources: it takes 2,700 liters of water to make ONE cotton shirt. So, between the amount of clothing that is trashed, and the amount of resources it takes to make all of the clothing that we buy, the textile industry has a huge impact on our environment.

So why not recycle our clothes too? About 95% of the kids’ clothes that we have are thrifted or donated, and once we move through them they are donated back to the thrift store, or given to other friends with kids. We “upcycle” a lot of things, and even buy household items like plates, dishes, furniture, bikes etc. from thrift stores. Our house is a bit of a mismatched haven of treasures, but it’s unique, and our children have a good understanding of why it’s important to recycle. And clothes that are just too old to donate? They become rags!

Borrow don’t Buy

I used to be so guilty of buying things I didn’t really need, especially books and clothing. Now that we have children and less disposable income I am a lot more mindful of what I purchase. Books are borrowed from the library (either print or ebook), and movies are streamed rather than bought as DVDs. And if we really want a DVD we look for it at the thrift store (I’m looking at you classic Disney movies).

There are so many other things we can borrow instead of buy too! Everyday items such as cars, tools and household appliances, as well as other items such as formal wear, sports equipment and baby gear.

Reduce energy and water in your home

I live in an area of California where rain is sparse and where ongoing droughts are common, so we are very careful with water. I also try to keep our energy consumption down too, but I am definitely not doing enough right now. Here are a few good ways to both reduce our bills and be more ecological:

  • “Switch off when done”: this includes TVs, computers, coffee machines etc. Avoid leaving anything on standby, and switch lights off in the rooms no one is using in the house.
  • Replace light bulbs with LED lightbulbs that use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • Use power strips to group plugs together and switch them off in one go. Even when appliances are of, if they are still plugged into the wall they leak energy.
  • Use a smart thermostat, or adjust your existing thermostat to summer and winter temperatures. Use dark curtains to keep out the hot sun in the summer, and keep the warmth in in the winter, and make sure all doors and windows are sealed correctly against draughts.
  • Choose energy efficient appliances and use them only when you need to (there really is no need to dry that one shirt by itself or put the dishwasher on when it’s only half full).

There are many other ways that we can all work together to reduce our own carbon footprint on this earth. Can you think of any that you use?

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.

Tortilla chain launches pulled Jackfruit (no porkies)

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Rich, juicy and 100% vegan-friendly, Tortilla’s new Jackfruit packs a punch – and arrives at the perfect time.  They’ve combinded their classic blend of Tortilla flavours with an exotic ingredient that is fresh, different and tasty.

After being asked for a premium veggie option for a while, Tortilla took time to develop the product for their customers wanted to diversify their menu with a tasty meat-free option for everyone, no matter the dietary preference.

The new jackfruit is available to order atop all dishes: burritos, naked burrito bowls, tacos, nachos and quesadillas, nationwide.  And trust us when we say it’s delicious.  We were lucky enough to road test it at the Emma Hollingsworth’s X Tortilla Event last night.

 

New podcast for families launches…

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Fans of The Week Junior can say goodbye to boring car journeys!  Award-winning children’s magazine The Week Junior has launched a brand new podcast, The Week Junior Show in partnership with Fun Kids, the children’s national radio station.

The show is created for curious 8–14 year-olds and their families. Each week, Fun Kids presenter, Bex Lindsay, will be joined by members of The Week Junior’s editorial team to discuss some of the week’s most interesting stories, debate a hot topic and discover whether one incredible story is real or rubbish.

Anna Bassi, editor-in-chief of The Week Junior said: “Although podcasts are growing in popularity there still aren’t many that are created especially for families, so we decided to make The Week Junior Show to help fill that gap. I hope listeners will enjoy hearing the team talk about the week’s news and that they’ll find its unique and engaging blend of content just as interesting, entertaining and accessible as the magazine. ”

Felicity Capon, editor of The Week Junior said: “I’m delighted that The Week Junior is launching its very own podcast. It’s been great fun putting it together, and I hope it will give existing readers a closer relationship with the people who make the magazine each week, as well as reaching a brand new audience.”

The podcast is part of Fun Kids new children’s podcast network which brings together all Fun Kids podcasts alongside shows from other providers. A new episode of the show will be launched each Friday.

For more information or to listen, click here.

Top Tips for Stress Management

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Life seems to be going faster than ever before and it’s so hard to disconnect sometimes.  We recently spoke to some of you and asked for your top tips for managing stress and switching off.

Here are your Top Ten.

  1. Exercise – Physical activities can help take your mind off worries, lower stress levels and relieve your mood.  Zumba, Boxing, Running were the top mentioned.
  2. Declutter – Tidying your space, your social media accounts, your email inbox, your wardrobe.  By doing these things you’re breaking a cycle and can be quite a cathartic way to help you reduce stress.
  3. Tea – Have a cup of tea and some chocolate.   But make sure you’re sitting whilst doing it (without looking at your phone is preferable).
  4. You Time – When was the last time you spoilt yourself?  Go offline.  Book a massage, go for a long walk, purchase a small bunch of flowers, pick up a book and read.  It doesn’t need to be costly but making time for yourself is so important.
  5. Mediation Apps  Use Calm or Headspace to help you instils mindfulness and practice your breathing.
  6. Sing / Dance – Crank up the radio and sing as loud as you can whilst dancing.   Let it all out.  It is so liberating, trust me!
  7. Therapy – It’s good to talk and of course understand yourself better.  Internal battles are often swept under a rug but working through your emotions really does wonders.
  8. Yoga – It had been proven that not only does Yoga relax the mind, it teaches us to breathe better which in turn can change the way we live 😉
  9. Nature – Get out into nature, go for a walk, listen to a podcast or just start up gardening.  Apparently pulling weeds, pruning shrubs and planting seeds gives us a new sense of focus and puts one in control.
  10. Cook – Whilst whipping up a dish, you’re not only encouraging your creative side you’re promised a good meal afterward!  Invite friends round to share it and you’re in for a night of de-stress and laughter.

If all else fails, you can always put the kids on eBay 😉

Top Rules to Teach Your Children About Texting

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Most of us have invested in a smartphone for our kids, but have you ever thought of teaching your child text-iquette – or is your little darling the one going around with texting habits that make others break out in hives?

A recent study showed the top toe-curling traits the texters we all want to avoid share, with highlights including:

  • Ignoring people isn’t cool – 42% of people say that being left on ‘read; is the most annoying thing when it comes to texting.
  • Avoid Slang – Although 65% of people admit to using textspeak, 33% of people say that it annoys them
  • ‘K’ or ‘lol’ is annoying – One word replies are not very receptive as 30% of respondents agreed that it was one of their top texting annoyances.

If your child (or indeed you) are guilty of these behaviours, it’s not too late to mend your ways!

The do’s and don’ts of texting

Texting is one of the most popular ways of communication. It allows us to stay connected with all our friends, family and acquaintances no matter the time or distance in between. However, it’s still a new way of communicating, meaning that the line of what is acceptable and unacceptable might still be a bit obtuse for some of us.

Carphone Warehouse has conducted a survey with 1,000 respondents revealing what texting habits people consider annoying the most.

Don’t do this, unless you want to get blocked:

If you want to keep your friends, restrain yourself from doing any of the below when texting (although, just like our survey respondents, you’ve probably done at least one of them already):

  1. Being left on read – 2 in 5 people (42%) say that being left on read is the most unacceptable thing someone can do when texting, but 85% confess to doing it! Those blue ticks have broken more relationships than you can imagine!
  2. Replying within 24 hours – This is the second biggest annoyance with 35% of people confessing they don’t feel good when this happens. But, 88% of people have done it themselves.
  3. Using text speak or abbreviations – 33% of respondents say this annoys them – are we reading texts or hieroglyphs? Funnily enough, 65% of the respondents confessed doing this themselves.
  4. Replying with ‘K’ or ‘lol’ – Almost 1 in 3 people consider it annoying but 78% of people say they have done it themselves.
  5. Being added to a group text without warning– 14% of respondents claim this as an annoyance, but 50% confess to being the guilty Admin that leaves you with 500 messages on your ‘Summer Holidays’ chat.

Dating and texting: what is unacceptable and where the boundaries are

There is a fine line between what is ok to communicate via text message and what is completely unacceptable. Here is the list of what you shouldn’t do via text message when dating:

  • Breaking up – Although this is unacceptable for 62% of respondents, 28% confessed they have done it in the past.
  • Say ‘I love you’ for the first time – Clearly a notable moment in relationships, 44% of people felt it would be unacceptable to receive those magic words for the first time in a text. But, almost the same amount (43%) responded that they said ‘I love you’ for the first time via text message – is the romance gone?
  • Ghosting – Over 1 in 3 people don’t like to be ghosted but 47% have done it in the past (sounds like there’s some double standards going on here!). 

Mind your business and avoid texting your boss or colleague when…

Texting your work colleagues and even your boss depends on the type of relationship you have, but there are some things that can’t be communicated by text message:

  • Disciplining someone – Being told off is not a pleasant situation and 58% of people do think is unacceptable to receive a text message of this kind. However, 20% have told off their employees by text message.
  • Formally complain about a colleague – Although 18% of people have formally complained about their colleague via text, 55% of people feel this is not okay.
  • Call in sick – This is a more common practice, with almost half of people (53%) saying they do it but there is still 33% that consider this unacceptable texting behaviour. Perhaps a call is better next time?

To view the full list of things that people consider unacceptable by text, as well as some insight into the future of communicating by text, click here.

Going Bald with St Baldrick’s!

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I love my hair. It’s thick, long, gorgeous, and never lets me down. Even when I was surviving on coffee and cigarettes and stress my hair was thick, long, and gorgeous. Even after three kids and losing half of it, it’s still thick, long and gorgeous. That said, it’s just hair: I have the choice to cut it or never cut it again, whenever I want. My hair is just part of me, and this year I will use it as a statement and a tool to raise funds for childhood cancer research.

On March 11th I will be getting my head shaved with the St Baldrick’s Foundation. We have all been touched by the ripple effect of cancer in our lives, whether you are or have been personally affected by the disease, or have a loved one who is or was. We all know how important cancer research is. I have three close friends who survived different childhood cancers, and know countless other friends and family members who have had cancer themselves or have been affected by it.

If you are like me you probably just assumed that all cancer research funding was equally divided based on need. Unfortunately this is not true at all. Approximately 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer in the US before the age of 20, with the average age being 6 years old. However, only 4% of federal cancer funding is dedicated to pediatric cancer research. And while it is true that more adults are diagnosed with cancer every year (the average age of diagnosis being 67), this doesn’t mean that funding for children should be neglected. On the contrary, our children are the next generation, and we should all be working towards creating a better, and safer world for them.

St Baldrick’s Foundation works towards closing this funding gap, and I hope to add my drop into the ocean by raising funds to help.

It would make me so happy if everyone I know could chip in with a few dollars! Every little counts, and every little bit will go towards the funding of childhood cancer research. And I promise to share photos of my shaved head on March 11th, as well as an overview of the process and all the emotions I feel while doing it.

My fundraising page (this is just a starting goal, I hope to raise much more!) is here, and you can also read much more information about the foundation and where your money will go on the website.

And please feel free to share my fundraising link to anyone you think would be interested!

THANK YOU!!!

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