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How to dress like the paparazzi at Camp Bestival

The theme for the tenth Camp Bestival is rock and roll and pop stars.  The boys have a David Bowie outfit each, made up of seriously fun eye masks from Dazzle and Fizz and matching t-shirts that I picked up from the local factory shop for £2 each.

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We decided that with all these rock stars at the festival there needs to be some paparazzi presence.  We have made some cameras for each child and we are going to screen print some t-shirts with press badges attached.

The cameras should be fun for the boys to play with and were very easy to make.  July is no plastic month and we have been trying to encourage the whole family to think about recycling and reusing rather than buying things all the time, so we did not buy anything for our cameras and used what we had.

Here is how to make a camera for the kids to play with.

1. Raid the recycling bin and arts and crafts drawer

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2. Get a small box and some black card or paint and cover

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3. Stick on a bottle top to make the lens section

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4. Cover a loo roll holder with coloured paper (I used wrapping paper) and cut the edges

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5. Stick on the lens and add a view finder with paper and tin foil (or similar)

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6. Use a straw, coffee cup lid (or cardboard) and something silver (we used a bubble wrap envelope) to make your flash bulb

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7. Add some bottle tops to be the buttons at the top and hey presto you have some paparazzi worthy cameras for the festival.

The middle boy has his awesome hat on here and the perfect camera print outfit from The Bonnie Mob

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See you there – four days and counting.

 

 

 

Deep sea diving at Camp Bestival

The boys have made a countdown calendar to Camp Bestival next week.  Excitement levels are close to Christmas in our house. They have been listening to Madness and Brian Wilson, practising their skate tricks for the extreme ramp and generally brimming with energy about the weekend. The look on his face when the eldest (7) found out that Andy Torbet is hosting two talks in the Discovery tent at the festival was a picture.

Andy is an underwater explorer, deep and cave diver, skydiver, climber and outdoorsman.  He presents programmes on the BBC, Discovery and History Channel, is an author and film-maker and if that wasn’t enough he is also the voice of Action Man.

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My eldest has wanted to learn to dive since he was about 3, each year he visits the local dive shop to check whether PADI have brought the age down for learning (you have to be 8) and on his birthday next year he will have his first lesson.  He is obsessed with nature and has a particular interest in the ocean and the life within it.

J (7) and the middle man (5) wanted to ask a few questions to Andy ahead of the talks next Friday and Saturday.  Here is what they wanted to know.

1 How deep have you dived? (Jack aged 7)

I’ve been to 164 metres deep but my best deep dive was ‘only’ 120 metres deep on the shipwreck of Britannic, the twin sister to the Titanic.

 

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2. What is your favourite type of shark?
Oh a hard one…the Mako is very cool as is the Thresher and I’ve swam with Blue Sharks off Cornwall and Ireland but I’d have to say the Basking Shark – it’s the second biggest fish in the see, a real ocean giant, but is safe to swim with as it only feeds on plankton and visits the UK every summer.

 

3. What is your favourite underwater creature?
I love playing with seals, they’re like big Labrador’s, and swimming with wild dolphins was fantastic but I always think Octopus and Cuttlefish are so interesting when you see them underwater, they way they can rapidly change colour and texture – like an alien.

 

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4. How do you get back up? (Cody,5)
We can put some extra gas into our drysuits or a bag to make us float up. But we have to do it very, very slowly. We have to do something called decompression which means letting all the tiny bubbles that have built up inside out bodies come out slowly. It’s like out bodies are bottles of cola that have been shaken up. If you take the top of slowly it’s fine…but if you take it off quickly it explodes.

 

5. How long can you breathe for underwater? (Cody,5)
It depends on what you carry and how deep you go. Using normal SCUBA tanks you are basically carrying a big tank of breathing gas – the bigger the tank the longer you can breathe. But I normally use a Rebreather which is the same system astronauts use on space walks. It recycles one breath by removing the bad bits of the air you breath out. With this I’ve done up to 9 hours underwater.

 

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6. How far out have you ever dived? (Cody, 5)
When cave diving I’ve covered miles underwater and underground in tunnels. I’ve cave dived all over the world from caves in Japan to abandoned mine in Finland.

 

7. What happens if you need the loo underwater? (both boys wanted to know this)
It’s always good to stay hydrated but that means you’ll need to pee. I wear a thing called a pee valve. Basically a tube that leads from the inside of my drysuit to the outside (sea) so I can go to the toilet. And the tube goes through a one way valve so the pee gets out but the sea water can’t come in.

 

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8. What happens if you get thirsty?
If we’re doing long dives we can take bags of water of juice to collect when we can back to the shallow. You can drink underwater but it takes practice.

 

9. Do you ever catch sea fish and put them back?
Sometimes if we’re collecting them to tag them for research but I try not to disturb the fish unnecessarily.

 

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10. Can you eat underwater?
It’s difficult but yes. We don’t often do it as we can go without food for the hours we’re underwater. Sometimes on long cold dives we surface in un underwater habitat – basically a little box full of air that’s underwater so we can eat and drink and get warm before we reach the surface as we may have many hours of decompression still to do.

The boys were over the moon to learn all about the answers to their questions and have plenty more lined up for the talk (good luck with that Andy)!

 

What will you be covering at Camp Bestival, Andy?
My Underwater Explorer talk with probably start off with some tales of exploring new underwater cave systems, finding lost shipwrecks, studying submerged cities and search for underwater life. I’ll cover the equipment we use, how we do it and the dangers involved. And I’ll talk about how I got into it. But then I’ll bring it back to basics and talk about exploring in the UK and how all you really need is a snorkel – something families or kids of any age can go out and do tomorrow and the cool things you can see right here in the UK with a snorkel to shipwrecks and underwater buildings to sharks and seals.

 

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These were kids at Camp Bestival last year, I wonder if Andy will give this a go?

The Sky Explorer will cover some of the TV and Science work I’ve done whilst skydiving from High Altitude jumps to Wingsuiting and discuss (in a family/kid friendly way) the physics or trying to race a Peregrine Falcon – the fastest animal in the world.

I’ll also be announcing a brand new flagship CBBC show that I’m doing. (This sounds very exciting).

What should kids do if they want to get a job like you? 

There is no one single path. Getting into the outdoors and gain confidence in their abilities to deal risk and gaining a curiosity about things. Although people see me cave diving or skydiving or climbing and assume I’m some kind of adrenalin junky but it’s not true.

As a bomb disposal officer in the Army I learned how to assess and mitigate risk. I approach cave diving or skydiving in the same way. I have a family and have no intention of killing myself, I’m one of the most paranoid people you’re likely to meet – that’s why I’m still alive.

I love to understand the science behind what I’m doing, I’m basically a massive geek. And I believe that e.g. climbing a mountain because it’s there is no longer good enough. What new information or study or discovery are you bringing back. Adventure should be an intellectual as well as physical pursuit and should be for something greater than you’re own fun (although that’s why we do it).

Although I have a degree in Zoology I’m currently undertaking a Masters in Archaeology (in my ‘spare’ time) so I can publish finding on some of the projects I have planned outside telly. But when I gives talks at schools and I’m asked for one piece of advice it’s this – work hard. Hard work can overcome most obstacles and will beat natural talents if natural talent is sat on the sofa. The world doesn’t owe you a living and wishing for something will not help. Anything worth having is worth working for.

Thank you so much to Andy for giving up his time to answer these questions.  As far as role models go, I couldn’t wish for a better one than someone who has such a positive attitude to life. We are looking forward to seeing Andy in the Literary Tent on Friday and Saturday mornings (around 11/12 noon tbc).  See you there.

 

Festivals with kids – here’s what you need to know

Glastonbury recently kicked off festival season; Camp Bestival is the next big one for families.
Last year, I took the three boys for the first time.
I was really quite unprepared (we did have a tent but not much else camping wise).
When people asked how long we were going for I was pretty vague, thinking that after one night we would pack up.
What really happened was that we stayed for four nights, had the time of our lives and were so fast asleep in our tent on the Monday morning that we were one of the last families to leave.

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Here is what you need to know about festivals with kids:
You may think that you are really prepared, but you will forget something important.
That important something will be forgotten about soon enough (unless, like us last year, it’s a pillow – you don’t forget about a stiff neck all day).
Festivals are an opportunity for parents to ditch their routines and mealtime schedules and let the whole family go with the flow.
We did not eat lunch at noon like we do at home, we simply ate when we were hungry.
Ditto, gin in a tin is perfectly acceptable late morning in the sunshine watching a band.
Ice creams at 10am? Why not?

It takes no encouragement for my kids to get into character or dress up. They are having a ball here @campbestival

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Children get ill wherever they are.
Be prepared.
We saw a few kids last year in the shower queue a tad poorly after over-indulging on sweets the night before (or a bug).
Make sure you take some plastic bags, Calpol and Dettol wipes.
This is not a glamorous side to festivals but it happens – better prepped than not.
At Camp Bestival we made a couple of trips to the first-aid tent (there was one in each field).
This was mainly for plasters and, at one point, nettle stings.
The staff were excellent and so friendly with the kids.

Wall of death @campbestival The boys want to start biking now. 😳 it was incredible to watch.

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Arrange to meet up with other people where possible.
This allows you to have extra pairs of eyes when you need the loo or are in a lengthy bar queue.
It also makes it so much more fun.
We had friends at Camp Bestival and it made all the difference with the three boys (see photo below and book a trolley if you have more than one child).

My boys, lollipops and skaters to watch. Another sunny day @campbestival

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Your kids will want glow sticks, Diablos, inflatable bananas (yes really), glitter on their faces and all the other festival dress-up fun.
Stock up before you get there – save yourself a fortune and keep them busy at the same time by having a Mary Poppins-style bag full of fun for meltdown moments.

Talking of meltdowns, the kids will have one.
In fact, you will all have one at some point.
The kids may have not made it to the stage in time to see Dick and Dom in action.
You may meltdown because the gin in a tin has run out and the bar is out of cider.
Take it all in your stride and remember, this is much better than being at home.
Last year, at Camp Bestival only one of us had a meltdown (and it wasn’t me).

As a family we got on much better than we do at home, mainly because we were so relaxed and had no agenda (although if we had missed Mr Tumble/Fatboy Slim there could have been tears).
We bounced together on the world’s biggest bouncy castle; did a Mr Motivator class with the man himself at 10am; I had an hour wine tasting with the scummy mummies, knackered mum and DJ Sara Cox; (one of the best hours of the weekend) and we all enjoyed Fatboy Slim headlining on the Saturday night.

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So many memories made over a weekend.
Are you still wondering whether a festival is for you as a family?
Go for it.
One thing is for sure, you will never forget it.
You can read all about our first experience as a family at a festival here.

Farmer Butcher Chef – organic, sustainable food at its very best

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Farmer Butcher Chef is a new restaurant, located next to the Goodwood Hotel, just outside Chichester.  Mr P and I were lucky enough to have a rare night away childfree last weekend, we ate, drank and were blown away by the taste sensations presented to us throughout the evening.

I have never been to Goodwood before.  Friends have been to revival, others to the races, all of which look like good fun but have seemed out of reach to me with three kids in tow. It turns out that I was wrong.  Goodwood have a playground next to the race track, kids are welcome at revival and love dressing up in their outfits and the festival of speed motor racing is a day out for all ages. There are junior golf camps in the Summer, a family race day and many more activities on offer. This is the first trip of many to Goodwood, next time we will go as a family.

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I can imagine coming to ladies day with some friends and sipping prosecco in the enclosure here

The farmer Tim Hassell, butcher John Hearn and chef Darron Bunn all work very closely together to create the diverse, frequently changing menu that uses the award-winning produce from Goodwood’s farm (one mile down the road).  They pride themselves in the fact that you will have travelled further than your food, not many places can say that.

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The cow in the entrance to Farmer Butcher Chef

The restaurant has a unique approach where the availability of the produce dictates the menu and dish design. The design which is smart, yet cosy and relaxed (not as easy as it sounds to achieve) is designed by Cindy Leveson of Leveson design.  I loved sitting with a gin and tonic by the bar with a book before the meal in peace, while Mr P was having a snooze in the room.

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The design is eclectic and really interesting to look at. I fell in love with the lights above our table, bulbs hanging down from different heights, the effect was stunning when we looked up.

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We started our food extravaganza with some complimentary bar snacks that were out of this world. Think crispy ox tongue with rosemary ketchup, pork crunch and tarragon (divine) and smoked pheasant samosa. You will never look at bar snacks in the same way again.

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We started the main event with warm sourdough bread (made at the on site bakery of course) with butter (made at Goodwood… you can see the theme here). Mr P ordered crispy oysters with cured ox heart, beetroot and tarragon and I ordered beer braised lamb belly with prunes, turnips and barley sauce. I couldn’t get a photo before he began eating and then there was no stopping him. He said that it was the best starter he has ever eaten. I tried a little (he wasn’t exactly offering it away) and it was insanely good. My lamb belly was also delicious and the perfect size for a starter.

 

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Our mains were both beef, I chose beef short rib with onions and hedgehog mushrooms, and Mr P, red sussex rump of beef, ox tongue, salsify and shallots. We added sides of cabbage with bacon and onions, beef dripping triple cooked chips, and winter green with hazelnut butter.

We enjoyed the sides as much as we enjoyed the showpiece itself.  I felt like I had entered a live episode of Masterchef, but with Michel Roux cooking the food himself.  The sounds coming out of my mouth were much like Gregg Wallace’s, every single thing was delicious and I meant it.

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The chef, Darron Bunn has had an incredible career to date, training under Marco Pierre White in London, working in a variety of kitchens, including a pub of his own in Hampshire, which was awarded a Michelin star within 18 months of opening. He then moved to Torbay where he achieved another Michelin star, the first and only hotel in Torbay to ever be awarded this. This restaurant and chef are without doubt going to be winning awards very soon with food at this standard.

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Bramley apple crumble souffle was out of this world

The size of the stunnning Goodwood estate means that the animals have acres to roam freely whilst being bred.  Goodwood has been farmed by the family for over three hundred years and is one of the largest lowland organic farms in the UK. The farm itself is 3400 acres and prides itself on raising its livestock with care and compassion, the crops grown on the estate are used to feed the livestock. Not many can claim to control every aspect of their produce and nothing is wasted, showing utmost respect for the livestock. This shines through in the restaurant menu and quality of food.

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Sheep were grazing in the distance on some of the Goodwood estate.

The present Duchess of Richmond was one of the Soil Association’s earliest members and ran her kitchen garden on organic principles. No pesticides or fertilisers are used at Goodwood, ensuring the wildlife and natural ecosystems are protected.  The farm produces 21,000 litres of milk each week, used to make three cheeses and the beef is award-winning and is served in top London restaurants including The Ritz and Sky Garden.

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Families can enjoy food together at Goodwood with a menu coming in two portion sizes, little farmer and young farmers depending on their appetites (I personally love this concept as my two-year old and 6-year-old would eat totally different amounts). Nostalgic classics, such as ham, egg and chips and lamb shepherd’s pie will surely make a fussy eater try new foods, better than anything they have eaten before.

My advice to you is to go, book now, before the secret is out, because once it is there may be a bit of a wait to get a table.

Farmer Butcher Chef – 

Thank you very much to Goodwood for our complimentary stay, all opinions and thoughts are very much our own.

 

The best construction kit for kids

The boys have been picking up tools from an early age. Mr P is a carpenter, we often visit him on jobs and they have been picking up tools from the minute they could walk.

We were offered the opportunity to test the Real Construction deluxe workshop and starter set from Jakks and I knew that the boys would like them. What I didn’t realise was exactly what a huge hit it would be and for all their ages (2,5,6).

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The master gave C a few tips to get started

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Before long he was experimenting with the saw

The wood-like material cuts just like real wood but feels like firm foam. When you screw the nails in, you can remove them (with the back of the hammer) and it barely leaves a mark, meaning that you can use it again and again.

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Not one to follow instructions, he decided to make a chair

Both sets have everything you need to get building, including a small hammer, saw, lots of nails and the wood-like material. There are instructions with ideas for builds, from a boat to a bird house and in the deluxe workshop (for a slightly older age range) more difficult builds, such as a helicopter and digger.

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First design and very proud of his chair

Whatever his brothers do, he wants to do too. I was really impressed that S was able to use the saw and also by his hand to eye coordination when using the hammer and nails.

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S started off very cautiously

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He loved playing with the hammer

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Before long he was a master builder and dressed up for the occasion

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C built an aeroplane

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The eldest made a table to go with one of our mini chairs

What I really love about the sets is that it has sparked off the boys imaginations.  The first day that we used it (and we’ve had it out many times) it was raining outside.  They played with the sets for two whole hours, (a long time for the boys) and then they asked me to get the giant boxes out of the garage and began building slides off the cabin bed and tunnels to slide into, using their tools from the kit.

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Play moved on to creating slides coming off the cabin bed and houses out of cardboard

The slide was so much fun, I would have got into it myself had it been bigger.

The JAKKS construction sets would be suitable for girls and boys from 2 to 92. Everyone can get involved with this and it has been one of our best new finds this year.

JAKKS Real construction deluxe workshop set – RRP £24.99

JAKKS Real construction starter set – RRP £9.99

 

Christmas gift guide 2016

Our Christmas gift guide has been put together mainly with toys that the boys have tested and played with over the last six months, clothes that I have bought and books that we read.  Doing it this way, meant putting together a guide that demonstrates what the kids really loved aged 2, 4 and 6.

There is hopefully something here for everyone but the toys I picked here were played with  and enjoyed by all three boys in different ways.

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Amazon came up trumps with these tegu magnetic wooden blocks (my sister has bought some of these for one of their birthdays in December) and the STEM programmable robot mouse (my two year old mainly pressed the buttons and followed it round the house, but that is the beginning of STEM for him).

The Amazon fire tablet has been a hit. I try to keep the boys off screens when I can but there is a place and use for them and we have used this on car journeys to watch films, for homework (reading eggs and maths seed).

The wooden dog from Hape has been played with lots (including on beach walks) and we have all had fun with the walkie talkies from the Discovery channel, (these will be coming to Camp Bestival with us next year as they have an outdoor range of 3km).

I bought all three boys, a plate, bowl and cup set from H&M (we love everything in their home range). They are china and can be used year after year.

Travel cards from Lonely Planet are perfect for a long car journey to the in-laws this Christmas and the wooden castle in a tin will keep the kids busy for at least a one hour chunk, building it, followed by hours of play afterwards. A chance for you to put your feet up on Christmas day.

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The boys love books and I enjoy reading them. I enjoy reading them even more when I like the illustrations and stories. Smallprint books sell beauties, such as illuminature, Alpha block and Smart about sharks.

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inside illuminator from Smallprint books

b small publishing have loads of brilliant, fun, educational books. The six year old, loves the STEM workbooks (particularly engineering) and seeing as he is getting a BMX for Christmas, we are going to give him the Book of Bike Activities (it’s so much fun inside).

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S is two and loved Infographics for kids by B small publishing

The boys love my old Fisher Price record player. I wrote an article in Metro with my favourite retro toys and will be buying a few from that list.

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Imagine having to leave your kids for a lengthy stay in hospital following a brain haemorrhage and full on operation. This happened to Jo Tutchener-Sharp. Jo turned a bad experience into a positive one and has developed a range of unisex clothes, called Scamp and Dude, that helps children feel more secure with the idea that “a superhero has got my back”. I love her whole range and will get the smallest boy this one, he loves cats.

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Scamp and Dude kids sweatshirt

Two of my favourite independent brands, The Bright Company and Love My Smalls have come together to add their skills. Merino wool, the softest you can imagine next to your skin and beautiful design.  The boys have been wearing merino base layers from Smalls for the last two years and love them.

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For the grown ups

Here are a few of my top picks from my favourite finds.

Wolkyshop is a shoe shop in the gorgeous Brighton Lanes.  I have only recently  discovered it. They not only have gorgeous boots but their speciality is comfort (for me that is almost more important that the shoe itself).  I have a pair of black boots and love them, but I also have my eye on some grey ones as below.

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Wolkyshopboots

I would love an airbox in my house. The beautiful airplants look like they are floating on the wall. The only question is which of the colours to go for? I love them all. Designed by award winning landscape architect, Jade Goto, these are design perfection.

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The airbox is designed and made in Sussex 

A brilliant Christmas present for the family would be tickets to Camp Bestival. We are planning on heading back to Camp Bestival in 2017. They just announced that the theme for next years fancy dress is popstars and rockstars. We CANNOT wait to plan our outfits. Early bird tickets are still available (but won’t be there forever). I promise you that if we can handle a festival with our three, anyone can. We loved it. Our goal next year is to stay at Hotel Bell Tent, this place looked so relaxing.

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Let the kids be totally free at Camp Bestival

I would love one of these Scamp and Dude  superhero jumpers in my life.

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Scamp and Dude sweatshirt

I have wanted some of these baskets from Southwood Stores for a while now.  Pretty much everything in Hayleys shop would be perfect for my Christmas.

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My top three books from 2016, that I will be gifting this Christmas are these. Hurrah For Gin, written by Sussex blogger Katie Kirby is hilarious and makes me feel normal with my parenting thoughts. The Mother Book, curated by Molly Gunn from Selfish Mother has a collection of articles covering everything to do with motherhood. I was incredibly proud to be included in this book with my account of having three boys and the pity I get each day. Helen McGinn, wine lover and writer of Knackered Mother blog was at Camp Bestival this year.  I have since, bought her book to educate myself further in how to spot and buy good wine. I also bought a wine box put together by Helen, which we enjoyed this Summer.

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Last but not least, I now have on my wish list this cashmere jumper from Sussex brand Bonnie Mob, in collaboration with Selfish Mother. You cannot beat cashmere for softness and comfort. Money from each jumper is going to Refugee Support Europe, helping to make the daily lives of new mums and babies in the camps a little bit better.

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Just keep breathing

I found a short film clip of my father on my computer recently.  In the film, I asked him, “what’s the best advice you could give me for my life?”  He replied, with a smile on his face,”just keep breathing.” Nothing more and nothing less. Now, I know that his number one family value was health, without that we can’t do much else, so it made sense watching him back that in all its simplicity, breathing is the most important thing.

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Last month, I spent an amazing weekend away at 42 Acres Retreat in Somerset.  The weekend was hosted by Jess, Aimee and Rebecca from Inspiration Space and combined yoga, relaxation and transformational breathing.

For those not familiar with transformational breathing, here is a short description for you taken from the Inspiration Space website.

Transformational Breath®, is a self-healing technique that helps people to access the full potential of their breathing system for better physical, emotional and mental well-being. The connected pattern of conscious breathing is a natural, safe and easy –to-learn technique, which has proven to have many benefits almost universally, including increased energy, better immune response and increased ability to deal with stress in a positive way.

Breathing controls the functioning of every cell and the physiology of the entire body. With the majority of the population using only approximately 25% of their full respiratory capacity, it is no surprise that improper breathing is a contributory factor to ill health. Transformational Breath® helps correct old unhealthy patterns of breathing and helps access full breathing potential, encouraging a fuller more conscious breath.  

My advice is simply to try it, it will blow your mind, but I will try to explain how it helped me whilst I was on the retreat.

When I arrived, I had just received some bad news about a family member, I put on a brave face, greeted everyone and surprise surprise, suppressed my emotions about the news.  The other people were really friendly and we all sat down to enjoy an incredible meal (all the food at 42 Acres was unbelievable) before our first yoga class with Jess (deep relaxation, which was lucky because I was shattered from the week).

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The view out of most of the windows in 42 Acres

Day two and it was morning yoga, I lay down and within five minutes I was in tears.  Grief often comes out for me in either tears or anger; day to day life leaves little space for it and each time I see one of my peers with their parents it hits me, ditto grandparents. When these little hurts occur, I can feel the tears brewing under the surface and push them down, in essence I change my breathing pattern and often become more tense. I left the yoga class (after a lovely hug from Jess, the teacher) and took myself off for a walk in the fields.

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Walking in the grounds of 42 Acres was so calming and one of my favourite parts of the weekend. I saw deer jumping over fence posts, misty sunrises and starry nights. There is nothing quite like nature to ground you when you need it.

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We did not go hungry and after each session would be offered something delicious, including these Moju turmeric boosters (I need a fridge full at home)

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Thoughtful little touches had been added around 42 Acres by the Inspiration Space girls, including these cards from School for the Mind

Our first transformational breathing session was an introduction to the process from Aimee and Rebecca. Some people on the retreat have regular sessions with Aimee and Rebecca and others had never tried it before.  We all lay down, were propped up into various positions and began to follow instructions from the teachers. Soon, the room sounded like a noisy labour ward as we concentrated hard on our breath.

Aimee and Rebecca were going round to each person and were using our acupressure points to release stuck energy in our bodies.  I could hear a few people crying, and knew from a previous breathing session that I more than likely would cry too. The teachers kept reminding us to “return to the breath” and to “breathe through it”, when one them reached me to work on my acupressure points, it took one press and I the floodgates opened.  I just let it all out but kept up with the breathing exercise even when crying. Most of the others were the same and it felt like a safe place just to let go.

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My bed in the nicest dorm room I have ever seen. Photo credit : 42 Acres

Over the weekend we had several breathing sessions, by the end everyone said how much lighter, calmer and more relaxed they felt.  This was down to a combination of the yoga and breathing, the peace within 42 Acres and the laughter we had too.  I came away feeling like I had released lots of tension, reminded myself what quiet is like (never easy with three young boys at home) and renewed energy to take into my every day life.

My top eight favourite things about the weekend.

  1. The venue.

42 Acres is not only set in stunning grounds but has been renovated to the highest         possible spec in the most beautiful taste by interiors designer, Jo Berryman (I would love a house like this).

2. The food.

Mark and his team created combinations of food that I would never put together. Every single thing was healthy and delicious. They are running a cooking course next year and I am very tempted to go.

3. The girls from Inspiration Space

Aimee, Jess and Rebecca tended to our every need, from washing up, to providing us with a packed tea to head home with (to avoid motorway rubbish), I felt throughly nurtured and cared for. All three are lovely and I came away wanting to be best friends with them all.

4. Yoga with Jess

Jess Horn is one of the best yoga teachers I have even been taught by.  Her voice is so relaxing, it feels like being in a meditation session at the same time. She also runs yoga retreats, again its on my to do list.

5. Laughing lots

I can’t remember a weekend away with girls where I have laughed so much, without booze being involved.  A revelation for me! Amongst the tears from letting stuff out, lots of laughs were had.

6. Having space to be quiet

Most of us said at the end of the weekend how rare it is that we stop and just be. With patchy phone signal (unless you searched it out) we all switched our phones off, read and walked. A luxury that we often don’t have with our busy lives.

7. Rumour of a retreat in Ibiza 2017

Hanging out with these lovely girls and doing all of this in sunshine would be dreamy. Whether this is realistic work wise who knows but it’s on my list for my 40th year, 2017.

8. Bringing home new techniques with me

Aimee has set up some breathing videos online, as well as some audio exercises. I have been doing these at home and it’s really been helping bring some of that calm from 42 Acres into my life. You can try these for yourself here and I really recommend that you give it a go.

Jess Horn teachers yoga in Hertfordshire and North-West London.

Rebecca has written a book about transformational breathing, called And Breathe that you can buy here.

How to be a more mindful Mama

I bought my first iPhone the day before my eldest was born, six years ago.  I loved the fact that I could take photos of my newborn the following day and thousands more over the next few years. The phone became my companion, during those dark long evenings breastfeeding and being up at night with the baby (and then babies).  I would text and email my fellow baby friends to compare notes on sleep deprivation. Slowly, slowly, the phone became more prominent in my life.

I used Facebook, I’d search on Google for things wherever I was, rather than waiting until later to find out the answer.  The phone has become my navigation system, my camera, my personal shopping portal and my daily news provider. In my career as a social media manager, I couldn’t do my job without it, BUT… how much have I missed over the last six years?

Those moments, I’ve been reading a text, laughing about a funny photo. Were the boys smiling up at me? “Mummy, watch this.” “In a minute, kids, let me just finish this.” The view out of the train, rather than on my screen, the people around me, what have they been doing? Mainly, looking on their phones (certainly on the train where I am writing this, 9/10 people are looking down, me included).

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My phone has been one of the main boundaries, preventing me from being a more mindful mum around the boys.  To be fair, there have been times when life has got so in the way, that being mindful was pretty much impossible.  When my father was ill and later when things got more acute, everything and everyone had to come second to his needs.  I gave 100% of myself to care for my Dad and I’ll always know that I did everything I possibly could for him, however, I spent no time looking after myself at that point. Perhaps then was the time I needed to be more mindful than ever.

Three boys wake up, they press their ignition buttons and the noise and speed at which they travel continues until they eventually fall asleep at the end of the day, with nothing left in the tank.  I tend to rush around, dealing with one task after another, mainly telling them to lower their voices and breaking up arguments. I tidy, they mess it up five minutes later; I cook, they either love it or loathe it.

Our best times are being outdoors together. When we went to the Isle of Wight recently for a few days, our hotel had no phone reception or wifi. I realised that I have missed a fair few moment over the years. I read books and magazines in the evenings, rather than looking on social media at the same time, or replying to work emails, they could wait.  I sat in the sunshine at the park and watched the kids playing, seeing the joy in their faces, their pride at reaching the top of the climbing wall, being there to share their achievements.

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Time with the kids in the Isle of Wight

I recently went to a Mothers Meeting event at Shoreditch House to listen to a talk all about mama.  The panel was made up of the hilarious, Mother Pukka (vlogger), Clemmie, aka Mother of Daughters (the most well known midwife on Instagram), lovely radio DJ (and fellow Mum to boys), Edith Bowman and Jenny Scott, founder of Mothers Meetings. I bumped into the lovely Emily Gray Photography  who was official event photographer.  She recently took some headshot photos of me for work and lots of people have been asking who took them.

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Mother Pukka, Mother of Daughters, Edith Bowman, Tessa Watt –

© Emily Gray Photography 2016

We were taken through a guided mindfulness session by Tess Watt, a mindfulness teacher and consultant who has been practising meditation for over 20 years, and is an experienced instructor at the London Shambhala Meditation Centre. I was seriously impressed that her calming voice and words quietened an entire room of women, most of whom had enjoyed an Aperol spritz or two before the talk started. You could have heard a penny drop.

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© Emily Gray Photography 2016

Everyone on the panel agreed that we are all guilty of not taking time to look after ourselves and take time out to simply stop and breathe. A few simple changes in your life can make all the difference, as a parent and as an individual.  I am calmer and less shouty (sometimes) at bedtime, because I am working more efficiently in the day. I put my work person away when it’s the kids time and start being a mum, and likewise when I am working or have time to myself, I switch off my mum role to enable me to be more efficient with my time.

There are times when I work at night and rush the kids off to bed, but I pick them up from school almost everyday and spend time engaging with them (now mainly with my phone in the other room). I have been listening to the Quility App at night a few times a week and I’m going on a yoga retreat next week to have forty eight hour reminding myself how to be calmer and slow down a little more.

The main change that I have made to be a more mindful Mum is to leave my phone in the other room when I am with the kids.  I want to set an example to them, not to be bound to their screens (at their age they don’t really have any but it’s only a matter of time). I am also planning on saving up for a good camera so that I can go for days out with the kids, and take photos, whilst leaving my phone at home.  Small changes are good and with three boys, ages six and under having a little time for me is more important than ever.

 

 

 

How to find work that works.

The last time, I entered the stunning reception area of M&C Saatchi was nearly twenty years ago. I was being interviewed for my first position in advertising and was shaking like a leaf. The interview went well but I didn’t get the job and soon after landed my dream role at DDB London as an account manager.

Advertising has to be one of the most fun industries for a twenty something in London. We had large expense accounts, weekly client entertainment was the norm, which involved meetings (long lunches) in some of the best restaurants across London and team building trips to Rome and Paris (dreamy). We also worked very hard, often when pitching for new business working through the night and then delivering the pitch the following morning. I thrived off the pace at which we worked. Occasionally, I would look around the agency and wonder where all the women went as they got older; there were very few over the age of forty, whereas the mix of men and women in their twenties when I started was equal, perhaps even female heavy.

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I’ve started off by teaching my boys that a hashtag isn’t a noughts and crosses board.

My account director had three children, I remember her being pregnant, working up until the day she gave birth and then being back at her desk within a couple of months. She was stressed, always racing in and racing out, and managing phone calls from childcare, the balance was not right and she was constantly feeling guilty about letting her children down. I had a feeling, that when my time came to have children, this industry was not going to work for me.

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Digital Mums founders, Kathryn Tyler and Nikki Cochrane. Thanks to them I have found #workthatworks for me.

Fast forward ten years from my last job in an ad agency, I live outside of London, have three young children and retrained last year with Digital Mums. You can read all about how I got into Digital Mums in the article I wrote here on the blog. Digital Mums has changed my life.

This morning, I dropped the kids at school, went for a swim in the sea and was at my desk (in my bedroom) by 10am. At lunchtime, I’m going to pop out for a bike ride and get a nice coffee from my local coffee shop (interact with some humans; an important thing to do when you work remotely), then I’ll do some more work before school pick up.

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According to a new report from Digital Mums, and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), almost 7 in 10 (68%) UK stay-at-home mums (SAHMs) living with children aged 18 and under would go back to work in some capacity if flexible working around childcare was an option, while over a third (37%) of working mums living with children would work additional hours.

Currently, 2.6 million mothers are out of the UK labour force, with Northern Ireland showing the highest share of non-working mums at 32%. By tapping into this current lost talent, businesses embracing flexible work could benefit from a total of 66 million hours more work a week – the equivalent of 1.76 million additional full-time workers – providing the UK economy with a £62.5 billion boost to output each year.

Can you even get your head around how crazy those figures are?

On Wednesday night, I walked back into M&C Saatchi for the second time in my life, this time as a Digital Mum. My confidence has come back, As a freelance social media manager, I have worked for clients from First News children’s newspaper (live tweeting from parliament during Brexit), The Institute of IT, running an e-safety campaign to teachers on Twitter, a local forest school, a children’s’ bedding company; and they were all during my first six months of graduating from the course.

In total over the last eight months, I have had to leave my home office four times for work, twice to tweet live from events and launches, once to meet up for yearly planning meeting and another time to have a thank you lunch from a client after a great launch. Not bad for a career that I love.

Speakers on the panel on Wednesday discussed their thoughts on flexible working for women.

Kathryn Tyler, co-founder and co-CEO, Digital Mums, said: “In 2016, women shouldn’t have to choose between a rewarding career and motherhood. While for some mums staying at home is a choice, our report shows that for a larger number their hands are tied because of a lack of flexible work options. Shockingly, for those who do find flexible work, it comes at a cost – compromised skills and experience.

“In today’s highly connected world, there’s simply no need for businesses to stick to an archaic 9-5 desk policy. We need a societal shift to embrace flexible working as the ‘norm’ and not the exception. This will not only help mums find rewarding careers that fit their skills and family life; it will help businesses tap into an amazing talent pool and, ultimately, increase output for the economy.”

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Mother Pukka, Holly Tucker and Sophie Walker (leader of Womens Equality Party)

Kate Thornton, runs the fantastic company TB Seen. She gets her team together on a Monday and Thursday morning, the rest of the time staff can be flexible with their work.  She trusts them to work and as a result, it gets done.  Kate recalled telling some schoolgate mums about the Digital Mums course. “They pop their heads up like meercats, they can’t believe that there could be a career for them that is so flexible.”

Mother Pukka made a very good point about flexible working, “this is not some crazy revolution, its evolution.” And Holly Tucker, one of the co-founders of Not On The High Street said that “when you run a business you need to lead by example. People won’t leave to pick up their kids, until you do.” Holly has set up a new company, supporting small businesses and I am hoping to write more about this soon.

Do you work in a job that is flexible around your family?  Or do you have a mad dash in the morning just to get to your desk, only to clock watch and pray that school don’t call about an ill child because your employer will look down on you?

My three boys, will grow up seeing both their parents working flexibly. Mr P came home early from work, to enable me to attend the event in London.  Tomorrow, I am working in London, and he will pick up the childcare that I am unable to do.  We support each other and are lucky to both have jobs that allow us to be flexible. By supporting #workthatworks we are helping our children in the future to have lives that are more balanced.

Head over to the Digital Mums website to find out more about their #workthatworks manifesto. There are companies out there starting to listen, and with more people backing this campaign, finding work that works will get easier. The more people who know about this the better, so please do share this article.

Thanks for reading.

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The secret Isle of Wight

I began the Summer researching last-minute trips to a Greek Island.  The weather was rubbish and I was desperate for some sunshine.  Luckily, that changed, so we turned our thoughts to a few days away somewhere closer to home. We decided to head to The Isle of Wight.  The forecast for the week ahead was amazing (mid twenties) and we live just one hour from the ferry port, so it seemed like an easy trip. Despite the fact that I knew nothing about the Isle of Wight apart from the fact Bestival and Cowes week is held there each year, in my mind it was practically heading abroad, we were crossing water after all. Cornwall seems to get all the holiday fanfares, this Islands appears to be a secret but one that I want to share.

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I am normally a big researcher when it comes to holidays but we booked a hotel that had some stuff for the kids to do and just rocked up to the ferry. The boys were so excited to get on a boat with the car, I must admit so was I.  There was something that little bit more exciting to be leaving our shores to cross to an island than our previous long car journeys to Cornwall each Summer.  With just enough time for a coffee and biscuit we were approaching the island. The scenery was breathtaking, white sandy beaches and trees overhanging the water, it looks just like some of my favourite places in Cornwall along the Helford River.

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We drove across the middle of the island to a small village outside Ventnor, our hotel was nestled in woodland by the sea.  The building was beautiful in the sunshine, no mobile reception meant that I was fully present with the kids (something my job often doesn’t allow) and an outdoor playground meant that Mr P and I could sit in the gardens and have  a sit down.

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Each night badgers would come to the hotel to feed. The manager discovered them entering the bins at night, so decided to leave all the kitchen scraps in a tub for them each day.  It is very rare for badgers to behave this way and specialists have been to the hotel to visit and study them so closely.  We were all blown away by these beautiful creatures and most adults had never seen one alive, so it was pretty special.

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Our days were spent frequenting one beautiful beach and then another, just driving and seeing where we fancied stopping as we drove.

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The water was so clear that we bought the eldest a snorkel and mask. He has wanted to learn to dive for the last few years, but must wait until he is eight before Padi will teach him, this was his first proper taste of it and he was in the water for hours.

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To reach the beach near the hotel we walked through some beautiful woods, and due to some broken steps, had to use rope to reach the beach, no-one was there, it was heaven.

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We explored as far as Bembridge with its forests and beautiful beach huts, and down to Compton Bay and beyond. We went to  Dinosaur Isle at Sandown, where the boys learnt about the fossils on the island and when they are a tiny bit bigger we will go back on a dinosaur fossil walk, people have found all sorts (including a baby dinosaur…).

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There were lots of things to do on the Island, other families were doing day trips to Blackgang Chine theme park, The Needles landmark, country parks, windmills an all sorts of other places but for us Mr P was a little under the weather, so we stuck to beaches where he could lie down and help me when they were wandering in different directions. The boys don’t really like Daddy being still and he didn’t rest perhaps as much as he would have liked!

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At night, there was a mixture of entertainment (they are watching a magician here) and supervised crafts and soft play.

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While the boys were kept busy and Mr P was in bed ill, I enjoyed my book and the views with the odd G&T.

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We were there for four nights but it felt like much longer. Two reasons for this, the two year old was waking at 4.30am and after the first morning of faking being asleep and heavy breathing I was getting him up and taking him on walks.  The other reason was that the days were so full and long when we were there we packed lots of memories in.  At the end of the day, that’s what holidays are all about.

On the drive to the ferry, Mr P and the eldest threw their rods off the pier. Within two minutes they caught three mackerel. The perfect end to the holiday.

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I can’t say that I came back rested, but then holidays with three young kids are not really a rest. But I really enjoyed a break from the washing, the cooking, the everyday chores.  We explored new places and made note of where to go when we go back next time. There will be a next time very soon hopefully; with it taking just two hours door to door we have every reason to go back to this secret little island just down the road.