Tuesday, 31 May 2016
Today the girls and I ventured into town for a sneak peak of the upcoming AW16 collection from Nutmeg, Morrison's clothing range for kids.
I'm a huge fan of Nutmeg. The idea of supermarket clothes is great but in reality not many get it right. In actual fact Morrisons is the only supermarket that I go to, to buy clothes for the girls. This is for two reasons; mostly due to their thoughtful details, like soft, stretchy, durable fabrics that are comfy, easy to put on, grow with your child and last forever (plus no annoying clothes labels that tickle!) but also because their design team have this magical ability to come up with bright, bold styles with a hint of vintage that I just love, season after season.
The AW16 collection is no exception. It features woodland animals, liberty style prints and on trend layering (and a whole heap more) - three things that I love, love, love.
The new season launch today was a really wonderful event. Not only was the collection showcased in a wonderful space (the 6th Floor at Foyles' flagship store on Charing Cross Road, no less) there was also a petting zoo and picnic tables full of delicious food to keep the kiddos entertained while us bloggers were walked through the various pieces by Claire Cave, Head of Buying and Design.
Here are a few of my favourite pieces, which will be available in store from late August:
And because they're so bloody cute, here are some pictures of some baby animals:
And because I love them so, here is a picture of us with the RocknRoller Baby family xoxo
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
Two weeks ago, I was just about to jet off for three nights away in Greece with Mark Warner Holidays.
Yes, that Ruth from RocknRoller Baby and I (along with three lovely journalists) travelled to the Lakitira Beach Resort on the island of Kos to find out about all that Mark Warner have to offer for families - and it goes without saying we had an absolutely incredible time.
Although we were travelling without our littlies on this occasion, it was clear from the word go just how family friendly the entire package was - and boy did I miss those kiddos of mine every time I saw all the happily families holidaying together.
The main thing that struck me was how a Mark Warner holiday would be be brilliant for single parent families. As a single mum, our family holidays are lovely but couldn't really be described as a 'break'. When you have two little people with you, it's hard to successfully share your time between them, even harder to keep an eye on them both at all times, and pretty much impossible to relax! Mark Warner have everything covered to make holidaying with your kids solo a true holiday for everyone! But more on that later....
I might have missed the girls but I have to admit, getting my first full night's sleep (times three!) in over six years was pretty special ;)
Here's my low down on the trip.
TRAVELLING TO LAKITIRA
Lakitira is a great destination for families, travel-wise. Mark Warner charter their own flights so you travel with your fellow holiday-makers from the word go, and the journey time is just four hours, which is completely do-able with little travellers. The transfer from Kos airport to the resort is less than fifteen minutes away too. A short transfer is brilliant at the best of times, but even better when a large proportion of the passengers are kiddos!
When we arrived we were greeted by really friendly and welcoming staff and directed to our rooms in the main part of the hotel. (There are also suites, apartments and villas available to book).
The resort is absolutely beautiful; perfectly designed and immaculately kept. And the rooms are equally gorgeous. I had a twin, with an en suite, double aspect windows (both with a sea view) and a balcony overlooking the main hub of outdoor activities.
Mark Warner is renowned for its fantastic leisure activities, and those on offer at Lakitira were hard to fault. As well as having an award winning 9-court tennis centre and expert tennis coaches, at Lakitira you can also try your hand at numerous different watersports, including sailing, wind surfing, kayaking and paddle boarding. All activities and equipment hire are included in the price of the holiday!
|Taking social tennis VERY seriously!|
|Guided bike rides are available, or you can head into town yourself. We cycled into Kardamena, which was a really easy and enjoyable road ride, although you can also head up into the mountains if you're feeling brave/energetic!|
|Being taught how to sail / sunbathing on giant beanbags|
|Paddle boarding was my absolute favourite. I usually avoid water sports because I can't swim, but I'm so glad I gave this a go. The instructors were brilliant and made me feel really confident in the water.|
But if you just want to relax by the pool, Mark Warner can do that too!
|The main pool area has a 'big' pool and a 'kiddie' pool and they both overlook the Aegean Sea. There is also an adult only pool at the front of the hotel if you want some time out!|
|Obligatory blogger pedicured-foot-in-pool shot|
Of course the most important element of a Mark Warner holiday is the child care and I am happy to confirm that it is, without doubt, the best I have ever seen. I have no doubt whatsoever that both of my girls would LOVE the clubs and activities on offer and, being able to take advantage of them, would mean a real break for me too.
Under the expert care of qualified British nannies, little ones from the age of four months can join in with the children's club programme. They are divided up into six different age groups, each with their own structured activity timetable, and they get to enjoy the same things as the growns ups, only in dedicated children's areas. They have their own pool, their own playground and even their own watersports beach with shallow waters and junior equipment - and staff balance out the indoor and outdoor activities, ensuring that they are out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day.
Children under five can join in half day sessions, while the older ones can go for the full day if they want - meeting parents for lunch inbetween. But what I think is the best bit (and the girls would LOVE this too) is the evening child care. Kiddos can have an early tea time with their parents, before heading back to their room to get their pyjamas on and setting off for the evening's cinema club! Then parents can have a few hours (or more - it ends at 11.30pm) to enjoy a slightly more civilised and relaxing dinner, or a couple of drinks.
Again all of this is included in the Mark Warner price, although you can also pay extra for private babysitting services if you need them. Which brings us nicely onto the topic of....
FOOD & DRINK
Oh my god, we ate so much while we were away! The food at Lakitira is out of this world! There are four restaurants to choose from, with traditional Mediterranean cuisine forming the main part of all of their menus. I may or may not* have had saganaki as a starter for lunch AND dinner every single day.
The largest restaurant on the resort is the Terrace, which serves breakfast and dinner in buffet form. It's large and bright and airy, with both indoor and outdoor tables and views overlooking the family pool and sea beyond. The variety available at both mealtimes is brilliant and there is guaranteed to be something for everyone - fresh fruit, cereals, pastries and cooked breakfasts in the morning and a huge choice come the evening; the menu also changes every day which I think is great.
The Trattoria is an Italian buffet restaurant next to the family pool offering lunches of pasta, pizza and salads (amongst other things).
Then there is the Snack Bar, right on the beach and close to the sporting activities. It's a self service restaurant selling sandwiches, paninis, grills and salads.
Finally, there is the Greek Taverna which serves an a la carte Greek menu and some seriously fine wine. We were given the opportunity to experience all of the restaurants during the course of our stay and our meal at the Greek Taverna was definitely my favourite.
|A traditional Greek salad from the Snack Bar.... with added chicken for the Brit abroad!|
|Souvlaki, oh my|
|Pretty ham at the Terrace evening buffet|
|Baclava and chocolate and baclava and chocolate|
|And more chocolate... and lemon meringue|
|And cocktails! Let's not forget the cocktails.|
|And if you have too many cocktails, Mark Warner cater for hangovers perfectly.... you just need yourself a RocknRoller Ruth to deliver bacon and orange juice from the breakfast buffet to your room (THANK YOU RUTH!)|
Half board is standard on a Mark Warner holiday, but you can upgrade to full board (which I would totally recommend doing) for £77 per adult, or £67 per child, per week. That means you only have to worry about drinks - everything else is covered.
KARDAMENA + KOS
The great thing about the Lakitira resort is that it's close to a lovely town - Kardamena - so if you want to head out of an evening (this is where the babysitting services are required as you must stay on site if your children are using the kids clubs) you can take a five minute taxi journey and enjoy the local restaurants and bars. We ate at one called Alvi which was divine!
Kos Old Town is about half an hour away and if you're headed out that way I would wholeheartedly recommend getting in touch with Kos Private Tours. Whether you're interested in the history, the shopping or the bars, an entirely personalised tour can be arranged. As an ex-archaeologist this was one of the highlights of my trip and ours incorporated all of the above!
I had an absolutely fabulous three days and fully intend to return to Lakitira with the girls as paying guests; I was so impressed with the resort and the customer service - and on that note I'd love to thank this lovely bunch for an incredible trip:
And especially these three - Emilia and Torie from Mark Warner, and that gorgeous thing, Ruth from RocknRoller Baby.xx
I was invited on this press trip in order to write this review. As always, all words are honest and my own.
To book your own Mark Warner holiday at Lakitira, head on over to their website here. Flights are currently on Wednesdays but in high season Saturdays will also be introduced. Prices start at £525pp and if you book prior to 3 June, full board will be added to your booking at no extra cost.
(Oh and by the way THIS! THIS should be your sun cream of choice this summer. SPF15, 82% organic, non-greasy, suitable for sensitive skin, smells AMAZING (that'll be the avocado and marshmallow - yes avocado and marshmallow!) HELPS TO SPEED UP THE TANNING PROCESS and REDUCES YOUR TAN FADING. Available from Green People here for £20. You're welcome).
Around about this time every year, I seem to get an overwhelming urge to do BIG THINGS to my house. Last year it was the bathroom, the year before I had some new brick walls built and the patio laid and the year before that we had all our windows replaced.
This year I really want to make the most out of our outdoor space. The girls absolutely love playing outside and, as we're in the middle - and we have interlinking gates, all the kids from the terrace spend the summer mostly in our garden which is lovely.
The work I have lined up for this summer isn't a massive job or a particularly expensive one; I just need a nice lengthy visit to the garden centre for some new plants and then I need to rope in some muscles to help me clear the back of the garden. It's later in the year/early next year that I need to start saving for, as I plan to build a shed/play house/studio/chicken coop combo at the back of the garden and would also really, really love to extend the house downstairs with a sun room.
I know you either love them or hate them but I've got a real thing about conservatories. I love that they bring the outside, in (or the inside, out - whichever way you look at it). I love that they're warm all year round, and how they're so bright and open. One of my biggest regrets at our old house back in London was ripping down the conservatory, when all it really needed was a replacement conservatory roof. I'd love to have a new one added to the cottage (in an old-fashioned style) and have even been introduced to a company called Team Frames Trade & Retail (I especially love their Adorn Range), who are local to me in Surrey which is handy. When I've got the funds to do it, I'm planning on a super spacious extension to use predominantly as a dining room, and to free up space in the kitchen. I'd fill it with dozens of plants and a mixture of industrial metal and weathered wooden furniture and already think it will be everyone's favourite room in the house!
Have you got a conservatory? Did you inherit it, or have it built yourself? Do you use it every day?
If you're looking for inspiration, take a look at my 'My Dream Home' Pinterest board. It's full of slightly kooky, retro interiors ideas (including beautiful conservatory rooms!)
Wednesday, 18 May 2016
Summer is nearly upon us (I hope) and with it the comes the promise of beautiful, shiny new shoes! A new, warmer, season means you’re going to need some new flat sandals, heels for those endless balmy nights on your holidays and of course some kicks for those walks in the park. Here are my five favourite statement shoes that you need to pick up for your summer wardrobe this year:
Heels or flats, it doesn’t really matter, pointed shoes are hot stuff right now and great for elongating feet and giving outfits a chic finish. Available in all manner of colour palettes and shades, these are great for pairing with the LBD for a night out, your favourite pair of loose fitting jeans for a hungover brunch or for the office with culottes and a sharp shirt.
This style reemerged last year but should still be around in the summer months – after all, they’re open shoes so great for warmer weather. This year try heeled mules with open toes and wear these for nights out drinking cocktails with friends or for that important meeting in the office.
Flat versions – loafer style shoes with an open back – are great for everyday wear, they’re comfy and practical. This style of shoe is great for those who want to embrace the Prairie trend that’s buzzing around at the moment - with a floaty, high neck dress these shoes will look gorgeous.
All things fringed is definitely a summer essential! Think festival style and you’ve hit the nail on the head. Fringed heels are perfect for evenings spent drinking Sangria in the local bar on holiday while fringed ankle boots - teamed with a pair of short shorts, a cropped top and a suede jacket - is going to be my go-to look at Camp Bestival this year ;) There are so many places to buy this shoe type, so you could perhaps have more than one pair to choose from… I won’t tell.
Popular in 2014, flatforms are back and ready to rock your world this summer. Introduced in spring, they’ll carry on through to the warmer months and are great for those of us who want to add some height but can’t manage in thin heels. Espadrille styles are great for the summer months, there’s something about that material that instantly reminds you of days spent at the beach in the sunshine. Chunky heels are also going to be popular, with straps and buckles for good measure to create edgier looks.
These shoes never go out of style, they’re bold, make a statement and look amazing. Team some with a denim mini skirt – yep, they’re back – and a crisp white shirt for an instant fashion forward look.
Tuesday, 17 May 2016
There's no hiding my love for Jools Oliver's Little Bird range for Mothercare; every season I buy nearly all of the pieces from her collection. But recently, Mothercare's own brand have come along leaps and bounds and I've found myself buying lots of it too. I'm a sucker for anything in bright colours and with a vintage vibe, which seems to be the route they are taking at the moment.
Evie might look a little grumpy in these photos but she picked out this outfit all by herself and this morning declared it's her absolute favourite. I rather like it too! I adore dungarees and pinafore dresses; she loves this particular one because it has no less than five pockets in it (one of which has become home to her pet woodlouse, Milly *shudder*). The cardigan also has some lovely features - a kind of mesh / looser knit back, making it perfect for warmer weather, and really pretty tiny little gold buttons. You can never go wrong with stripes and, as I always do, I chose a slightly larger sized t-shirt - firstly so it's loose fitting for the summer - and secondly so that there is growing room and it can be worn (and layered up) moving into Autumn/Winter. I don't think I need to say anything about the sunnies - if they fit me, I'd wear them myself ;)
Together, these four pieces form the basis of a great mini kiddo capsule wardrobe - they could be mixed and matched with so many other pieces to make some totally adorable summer outfits!
What do you think?
Dress: £12 // T-Shirt, £6-£8 // Cardigan: £8 // Sunglasses: £5
All c/o Mothercare
Socks: M&S // Shoes: £34, Clarks
Socks: M&S // Shoes: £34, Clarks
Did you know that a cruising baby can take as many steps in one day as a marathon runner in a race? With visions of little athletes in mind, Pampers have joined forces with the one and only Jessica Ennis-Hill to launch the 'Little Champions Campaign' - helping to shine a light on the next generation of athletes and to encourage parents to celebrate their own little champions too!
Although Daisy and Evie are both out of nappies these days, I have always been a very loyal Pampers Mum and now they are even more innovative than they were when we used them a year ago! They are the only nappies to contain new, revolutionary Magical Pods - absorbing channels that help distribute wetness evenly and provides a sag free fit. Babies need a nappy that allows them to move about freely, without being restrictive, and that offers comfort and protection at the same time so that they can show off their champion moves!
And THAT is why Pampers chose to team up with Jess who, as well as being a champion herself, is also mum to gorgeous little Reggie. She knows better than anyone, how important it is to have the right kit to help her perform - and for her baby to be comfortable and to have the freedom to move around comfortably too!
Jess says: "As a mum I love being active with Reggie - we have so much fun together and I know that it's great for his development - that's why I've teamed up with Pampers to encourage mums to celebrate their little one's champion moves! Our babies are the future generation of medal winning athletes after all..."
Pampers really do understand that bring able to move freely and comfortably is beneficial towards babies' development. A couple of years ago I visited the Pampers Factory in Manchester to see how the nappies were made, and also had the chance to listen to Dr. Ellie Cannon speak about their Love, Sleep & Play campaign.
She explains: "Feeling physically free and uninhibited whilst being supported and safe is an important part of a baby's exploration of the world and physical development. Babies don't need instructions to learn - they learn through self-discovery and encouragement from those around them. That encouragement comes in all forms: not just a clap from mum and dad, but also being unrestricted in their clothes and nappy. Freedom to move without restriction is a key aspect of your baby's development environment."
With this in mind, it's not surprising that freedom of movement is freedom for your little one to reach their potential.... and who knows, they could be future Olympians!
Here's the official campaign video if you fancy a little look :)
Interviews are tricky and it is very easy to let your nerves get the better of you. Many people find themselves rambling on too much to avoid awkward pauses and going off on wild tangents when asked tricky questions such as: ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’.
However, with the right preparation and approach, you will be able to show off your best qualities and improve your chances of landing the job you have always wanted.
One of the most important things employers look for is confidence. This is easier said than done, especially when you are a graduate or school leaver and are heading into interviews for the first time.
It is important not to get discouraged and to accept that you might not get a job offer from every interview. If you’re unsuccessful, make sure you at least learn something for the next interview.
Try also to answer every question positively. Employers look for people who have the right attitude. So, even if you hated every part of your last job, when asked ‘why you are looking to change role?’ try to focus on the positives. Highlight the reasons why you want to move to their job, rather than dwelling on the push factors that saw you look for the exit door.
You also need to plan ahead. The worst thing you can do is turn up late, flustered and bedraggled for your interview. On the night before, make sure you’ve double checked how to get there, laid out your smartest (and ironed!) clothes and allowed enough time for a good night’s sleep. Set your alarm nice and early and have a good breakfast that will keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
But that’s not all, it is always a good idea to do some research beforehand. If, for example, you are looking for job in education – such as the teaching and teaching assistant jobs here – then take time to research your chosen school thoroughly. Read about their ethos, check out their latest news and, importantly, look at their Ofsted report for information.
The logic applies to other industries too. Useful information is freely available that will help to make you an informed candidate, search this out and use it in your interview to good effect. It also helps you to show the interviewer that you care about the job and have a genuine interest in the position.
What about the time at which you have your interview? GlassDoor offers some tips on the best times to go for, if given a choice over the matter. If not, don’t feel obliged to accept the first time you are offered. If it’s not convenient for you to get to an interview first thing in the morning because you are travelling on public transport, then say so. Interviewees will often have a little flexibility, within reason, so there’s no need to back yourself into a corner and give yourself something else to worry about.
Monday, 16 May 2016
Having just got back from a working holiday to Greece, it seems like now is a good time to talk about home security. We all have locks on our doors and windows, but are they enough to stop an intruder entering our homes? They should be, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Perhaps you have never been burgled and therefore upping your security hasn’t crossed your mind. So, why is now the perfect time to do it then? Basically now is better than after – if you wait until after you have been burgled to add security to your house, it is too late. It is better to be safe than sorry, and for the sake of a few hundred pounds, you will have piece of mind that you have done everything you can to protect your family and irreplaceable belongings.
Your home is the place you should feel safest, and therefore a burglary won’t only rob you of your belongings, it will rob you of the sense of security that your home once provided. You won’t only lose your expensive TV, the laptop that contains all your memories and that item of jewellery that has been handed down through several generations of your family – but you will feel vulnerable and frightened in your own house.
We may think it will never happen to us but, the Office for National Statistics figures on recorded crime show there were 392,341 burglaries in 2014-15, while Home Office data shows 54,466 arrests were made for burglaries. Whilst the number of burglaries had fallen from the previous year, the lack of arrests is due to the fact there is not enough evidence.
A security system could be a deterrent in itself, if a potential burglar were to come across your house, but if it weren’t, the trigger of a loud alarm should be enough. So, before you do anything else, here are a few ways you can secure your home:
Don’t hide keys outside the house
New research has found that thousands of families are burgled each year by thieves using poorly hidden house keys. Official police figures show more than 6,000 burglaries in 2014 involved intruders using keys to gain access to the property, as opposed to breaking and entering. These were found under plant pots or doormats.
Strengthen windows and doors
Intruders are likely to try entering your home through the doors or windows before they take a more complicated route, so this is the first place you need to strengthen. Firstly, make sure you always lock all your doors and windows and then ensure you secure the doors with deadbolts. Check out Security Direct – where you can find roller shutters that will add an extra level of security to your doors and windows for ultimate peace of mind.
Install an alarm system
An alarm system may not prevent the actual break in from happening, but it is highly likely to halt the intruder in their tracks and stop them before they do any damage. Use signs near entrances to warn potential burglars that you do have an alarm system – as many will avoid these, choosing instead to target unprotected homes.
Tuesday, 10 May 2016
So things are going to be a little quiet over here for a few days, as I'm heading off on a press trip to Greece tomorrow. I know, it's a hard life!
I'll most likely be updating my Instagram every half an hour so if you want to see where I am, who I'm with and what I'm getting up to, head over there (I'm @ModernMummyUK!)
Shirley Valentine signing off...... ;) xoxo
Thursday, 5 May 2016
When it comes to fashion, spring is my favourite time of year. My perfect outfit consists of a pretty dress, cardigan and clompy boots - preferably with bare legs - then I ditch the chunky knit and swap the boots for clogs in the summer. Comfort is really important to me, especially when it comes to footwear as, like most mums, I spend the majority of my day on my feet.
'Wolky' actually means 'cloud' in Dutch which is very fitting, seeing as you feel as if you're walking on air when you wear a pair of their shoes. They all have anatomically shaped footbeds made from memory foam which moulds to the shape of your feet for extra comfort and support. It's not often you come across shoes that are comfortable AND stylish, but this brand have totally nailed it.
The collection is vast; it's made up of a huge range of shoes, boots, sandals, pumps and clogs so there really is something to suit everyone. I was asked to choose a pair to review and after pouring over the website for hours, eventually settled on the Murray lace up boots in salmon suede. There are 17 colours to choose from in this style alone, which shows you just how much choice there really is at Wolkyshop! Boots like these are ideal for this time of year, when it can still be a little bit chilly first thing or later in the day. I personally think the salmon colour is perfect for spring; its a gorgeous, pale and neutral beige with just a tiny hint of pink, so they can be worn with pretty much any other colours. Although I'm officially putting my long trousers and tights away until October, these boots will look as awesome with a pair of turned up jeans or woolly tights in winter, as they do with frocks and skirts and bare legs in the warmer weather.
The Murrays retail at £146.99 and are available in their online store here, or at their store in Brighton. I was sent a pair for the purpose of this review. Thanks, Wolkyshop!
Wednesday, 4 May 2016
Aaaargh, we're half way through the short week already - where did our bank holiday weekend go?!
The girls and I had a lovely few days; kick starting the long weekend with our traditional Friday night movie night (this week we watched The Secret of the Kells which was AMAZING if you're looking for a recommendation). Then Saturday was our chilled out day before two days of gallivanting across the South East of England.
On Sunday we went to one of our favourite museums, the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, which is in Singleton, near Chichester. It's only a few miles away from here and we love it so much we are fully paid up annual members, which means we can go back as often as we like without having to pay extra entrance fees.
As it's name would suggest, the museum is predominantly outdoors - it's a 40 acre site where the exhibits are traditional rural buildings which have been rescued from ruin, rebuilt and furnished. There are over fifty buildings there - some houses, some working buildings like farmhouses and mills, and the oldest is 600 years old!
The girls' favourite buildings are Whittaker's Cottages, and whenever we visit that's the first place we head to. They are a pair of cottages built in the 1860s for agricultural labourers, and they are pretty much identical to our own cottage. The girls are fascinated that in Victorian times, a family of 10 would have lived in a house our size!
|Selfie in the mirror of the grown up's bedroom at Whittakers Cottages|
|Daisy and Evie in the children's bedroom - 8 children would have slept in here in the 1860s!|
|Sat on the old school wall|
|Daisy wearing her willow flower crown|
After a fairly decent night's sleep as far as they go (six uninterrupted hours!) we spent Bank Holiday Monday in Brighton, which seems to be turning into a bit of a tradition these days. This time we were on a specific mission - to visit the Brighton Art Market (which is happening at the Brighthelm Centre every weekend in May if you fancy heading down) and buy a Pearl Bates print. The weather wasn't on our side this time and we ended up getting pretty drenched in the morning but we took shelter in the shops (and by shelter I mean I dragged the kiddos into Snoopers Paradise and got them rummaging through all the vintage photos for ones with cats in them!) and had Wagamamas for lunch to warm up a bit.
|One of Pearl Bates' murals on the walls of the Laines|
|Looking for vintage cat photos... we found one!|
|Evie with some of Minty's street art|
|My beautiful Daisy ;)|
|Bribery was involved in the set up of this shot|
As is the way with holidays, I always feel as if I need another one by the end of them - but when we are given an extra day off work and school, we like to make the most of it! I'm already looking forward to the next bank holiday coming up at the end of May!
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