All posts by editor

Stroller Days Out: Free London Guided Walks

There are lots of things we *could* do whilst pushing a buggy. Recite times-tables to our newborn prodigy, jog – or some other form of new parent torture – push forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards because the rocking motion sends diddle dumpling off to sleep…

step back in time with on a guided walk…

Or, you could walk around central London (like you used to before kids) and learn something you never knew (like when you paid attention in History class) as you step back in time on a guided historical walk.

BEE Midtown is an organisation which strives to improve the sustainability and philanthropy of London’s Midtown areas (Bloomsbury, Clerkenwell, St Giles, Holborn) and their programme of free guided walks is just one of the jolly good works that they do.

The new buildings at Central Saint Giles in London.

Midtown’s heritage is peppered with ghosts, murders, gallows and unexploded bombs;  you can learn about all of these before baby boo can understand the concepts whilst striding the streets for between 45 mins and two hours. More kid-friendly maybe, stroll the path of the Suffragettes, or Bonnie Prince Charlie. Or just learn about how the streets got their names.

Download the full programme of walks here.

Pastel Picks…

Clockwise from top left: Girls’ Duck Egg Cardigan from Down at the Duckpond collection by JojoMamanBebe, award-winning Moba Moses basket in Blush from their new pastel range, supersoft organic cotton sleepsuit in Stardust from MORI, merino base layers in Mustard from Smalls (this year their Woolly Vest Week campaign will support Heads Together charity), Rainbow Wide Stripe blanket from Lilly and Sid (on sale if you’re quick!)

Carifit and Ergobaby partner to create safe babywearing workouts

CARiFiT, creators of safe, fun, results-­driven postnatal babywearing workouts, and Ergobaby, makers of award-­winning, ergonomic baby carriers are delighted to announce a new official partnership.

Devised by an ante and postnatal fitness expert and approved by leading health, fitness and babywearing authorities, CARiFiT workouts are done whilst wearing the baby, offering new mothers the chance to get back into shape and bond with their baby.

This mission is echoed in Ergobaby’s drive to help new parents achieve anything, big or small, #inmyergo. Their award-­‐winning carriers are comfortable, convenient and safe to use for both baby and parent, in all stages of development including during a workout!


Want to try their safe, fun workouts? Find out more here.

Boutique Focus: The Little Bear Cub Company

We caught up with the super-talented Charlie from The Little Bear Cub Co who told us about the importance of supporting small businesses and letting kids be kids, rather than gender stereotypes. 

SM: How did the Little Bear Cub Co come about? 

Charlie: The Little BearCub Co. was born from restlessness. I had been working in the fashion industry for almost 10 years and had always wanted my own business, but I got to a point where I felt more than ready to dive in the deep end, so I quit my job and a week later The Little BearCub Co. journey began!

SM:  We’re besotted with Bunny, Bearcub and Foxcub – how tricky was it to create truly gender-neutral characters? 

Charlie: I wouldn’t say it was tricky, as such. I’m a very attentive person and notice small things, and this combined with my knowledge in fashion and textiles made the journey much easier. I was picking up passing comments and feedback from customers, friends and family about the lack of gender-neutral options for children on the high street and wanted to see where I could go with it. I think speaking to the people that do or may use your product is so important, they guided me to the choices I made and avoiding age-old clichés also helped, plus use of colour, which I think is so vital to creating gender-neutral designs.

SM: What other considerations go into your designs?

Charlie: Everything I design is considered, right down to the thread. Being a small business, you really have a huge amount of competition to deal with, so I make sure what I put out there has been well thought out, beautifully crafted and considered for my market. The most important things I consider are colour, fabric, end use, design and our slow fashion ethic.

SM:  Where are your products manufactured?

Charlie: All of our products are currently manufactured in the Kent countryside, which goes hand in hand with our slow fashion ethos. I think it’s so important to keep production within the UK, it enables me to keep an eye on everything but also helps revive our dying fashion industry by getting local artisans, within the community, involved with what we do.

SM: We know how important it is to shop small, but what does doing this mean for you and your business?

Charlie: Anyone that shops small is fueling a dream, a passion and a talent! As with any small business, there is huge competition from mass manufacturers producing cheap items, designs being taken without permission and the list goes on but when you purchase something from a small business your showing that you care, you become part of a wonderful community and I think that’s the magical thing about shopping small. You get to speak directly with the person or team that created that product and I think in this day and age, it’s incredibly important to create those connections, to get to know your local and social communities because that’s how we survive, as small businesses, and that’s how we can make a real difference.

SM:  Your Instagram feed is a great ‘shop window’. Did you get advice on making it so engaging?

Charlie: To be honest, I haven’t. It’s been a huge learning curve and still is, I think with social media, there is no magic strategy. One thing that works for one person may not work for you, so you just have to go with the flow a bit and constantly challenge yourself to be better. I look to other small businesses and bloggers for inspiration and how I can improve our imagery and creativity in a way that engages the online community and our customers.

SM:  What’s are your 2018 goals for the business? 

Charlie: 2018 is going to be a huge year for us! We’ve got a lot lined up and we’re definitely going bigger and better this year but the first big goal of the year is to launch our Spring/Summer collection which will be a larger collection than our current one and is heading in a slightly different direction but one that I’m really excited about.

SM:  And what’s on your mood board right now? 

Charlie: Lots of Spring/Summer imagery, playful colours, bold prints and over-sized silhouettes.

SM: Where can we shop for Little Bear Cub Co products?

Charlie: You can shop our collection both on the website and our Etsy store!

The Royal Butler’s Guide to Xmas Etiquette…

We’re huge fans of Grant Harrold, The Royal Butler, so thought we’d share his yule rules.

As the ‘Big Day’ approaches, I have compiled my top 24 Etiquette Tips for Christmas. Some of them are old traditional tips, while others have a modern twist, but used as a combination they will hopefully help enhance your Christmas experience.

1. Christmas Social Media:  Dress in something that will not haunt you later on other people’s Facebook pages or social media profiles! Your chum might be sliding down the bannisters in their underpants thinking they are riding Rudolph through a winter wonderland, but please don’t post photographs unless you have their blessing! Avoid Jingle Bells ringtones on your phone, you are not the local shopping centre.

2. The Spirit of Christmas: Show goodwill to others. Take your children to meet Santa Claus. Extend Christmas invitations to all of the family, even if it is like the gathering of the United Nations, stay strong! Allow the children to help decorate the Christmas tree, no matter how unstylish the result may be, it will be a fun experience for one and all.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s also remember do not rearrange your host’s baubles, once they have been placed on the tree they stay there until the decorations come down.

3. Mulled Wine:  Always make your own or if restricted with time then you can now buy some very good quality mulled wine, but let’s not let the children get hold of this otherwise they may resemble elves from your worst nightmares and not Santa’s little helpers. You can buy non- alcoholic mulled wine, or mull some grape or apple juice.

4. Christmas Wrapping:  Gift wrapping should be an enjoyable experience! Put on some carols and take time and care in doing this, you’re not wrapping a joint of beef in the local butchers!

5. Christmas Jumper Etiquette:  Let’s remember when Aunt Peggy comes around wearing ‘that’ jumper, we still tell her how lovely she is.

6. Christmas Presents: If you want to keep it safe, I recommend giving gifts of scented candles, or a potted plant. A nice bottle of wine or something fizzy never goes amiss. Remember to always show appreciation for a gift. If you don’t like it be prepared to put on an acceptance speech fit for the Academy Awards.

7. Shake, Rattle and Roll:  Remember, we don’t shake presents as you may break a family heirloom. Let’s not forget that it’s better to give than to receive. No matter how much you may disagree with that view, a warm smile and a sweet thank you goes a long way. The other dilemmas with presents are when and if you should re-gift! You don’t want to give your mother-in-law that lovely scarf she gave you last Christmas which has been lurking in your cupboard ever since. Also, remember to take the price tag off the gifts, especially the 99p ones!

8. Christmas Crackers:  Let’s not peek inside, or swap the crackers around. Hosts may know which cracker has the toe clippers inside, so let’s not give these to your brother or sister and keep the silver notepad for yourself! At your Christmas dinner don’t pull the crackers too early, wait until after the starter at least.

9. Christmas Day Etiquette:  Never complain about a family member to others, be it the overbearing mother-in-law or the deaf grandfather who keeps chatting up the new nanny. Ensure the fireside armchairs are left free for the older generation’s post-lunch naps! It is the season for generosity, so make sure you don’t run out of wine or turkey – or party games! If your hosts watch the Queen’s speech then we all enjoy it. Or perhaps you could suggest a Christmas walk?

10. Christmas Drinks Party:  Don’t become intoxicated, remember to behave with grace and decorum. No licking fingers after eating a canapé (and don’t double-dip), we always use a napkin! Keep your glass in your left hand so that you can freely shake hands for introductions. No grabbing at strangers and kissing them under the mistletoe, no matter how gorgeous they are!

11. Be Complimentary:  Remember to compliment your host on their Christmas decorations, even if it is like a scene from A Nightmare Before Christmas, and thank them for inviting you.

12. Carol Singing:  Don’t be rude and remember to embrace this tradition, even if your carol singers sound like the local neighbourhood cats, do cherish the moment. Have a supply of mulled wine and mince pies on offer. If you are doing the singing and knocking on people’s doors, remember that they may have small sleeping children, and some may have dogs or cats that will bark along!

13. Gifts & Thank You’s:  Don’t leave your Christmas thank you letters for longer than two weeks. Write the letter with care and put feeling into it, you’re not writing your weekly shopping list.

14. The Big Day:  Know when you will open presents have a timings plan for the preparation and serving of the main meal, schedule nap times, and if a family fall-out is likely, you may wish to implement an escape plan!

15. Visiting Santa:  Remind your children to say please and thank you, and never ‘I want’. Remind them that if they are rude to Santa, then he may not want to visit them on the 25th!

16. Decorating The House:  Consider spending a day in the great outdoors with the family gathering some holly and ivy, which can be used around picture frames and down the staircase bannister, this looks very effective for a low budget. But remember, we’re not creating The Lost Gardens of Heligan!

17. Christmas House Parties:  Consider your guest list, catering options. and dress codes. If you are hosting a children’s party make sure there are a few adults to supervise. Guests, make sure you have on clean socks with no holes, just in case your host wants all shoes removed.

18. Christmas Rituals:  Always remember Christmas traditions are vital for the perfect Christmas. For example, when the man in the red coat comes to visit, leave a few mince pies and glass of milk for him, or in case he’s having a bad night perhaps a glass of sherry or a dram if you live in Scotland, and let’s not forget a carrot for the reindeers. If we don’t have a fireplace then stockings should be placed on the ends of the bed.

19. Post-Christmas:  During the period between Christmas and New Year, I suggest we regroup, clear up and get ready to start all over again for Hogmanay, or if you are partied out you may prefer to leave the country.

20. Be Prepared:  Always have a good selection of drinks in the cupboard, especially mulled wine ingredients, something fizzy and a selection of non-alcoholic drinks ready for unexpected guests. I would also suggest you keep a supply of canapés and some mince pies in the fridge (or freezer) so you will be a fully prepared host even at short notice.

21. Present Cupboard:  I recommend you accumulating a selection of gifts over the year which you can give anyone should an occasion arise that you unexpectedly require a present. Also, make sure that you always have sellotape, scissors and a selection of wrapping paper.

22. Christmas Cards:  Make preparations for when to send them and to whom. Don’t send cards before the 1st December and post no later than the 21st December. Always put the correct postage stamp on!

23. Smells:  Cooking smells and damp coats aren’t always the most pleasant, so keep some citrus oil and cotton wool balls handy. Just apply a few drops onto the cotton wool and place behind the radiator. This is an excellent aroma for the home at Christmas, and there are plenty of other lovely essential oils available.

24. Merry Christmas!  Enjoy your day, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

After many requests, Grant Harrold, The Royal Butler has just finished writing a new book, due out in 2018 – For pre-orders, please emailtherulebook@theroyalbutler.co.uk

Stuart Cauldwell, Head Chef at Roast, shares his tips for perfect spuds and gravy…

Need to pull something spectacular together for relatives tomorrow? Forget the table centrepiece and mood lighting, the trick to making Xmas Dinner perfection is those roast potatoes.

And nobody does them better than Stuart Cauldwell, head chef at Roast Restaurant. But he helpfully shared his secret…

Tips for tasty roast potatoes:

  • After you par boil your potatoes, make sure to fluff them up, as this will release steam, which dries up the potatoes. This is what makes them nice and crunchy on the outside once they are roasted.
  • You can use olive oil to cook the potatoes as a healthier alternative but for the ultimate roastie, goose fat is the best to use, you can get this from your local butcher.
  • For best flavours, always season with rock salt and fresh herbs. Rosemary and thyme complement roasties beautifully.

Tips for a savoury gravy:

• Always use the juices from the meat – this adds a depth of flavour to your gravy. Cook your meat and vegetables together so that the juices from the meat are released into the vegetables as they cook.
• Always caramelise your vegetables before adding wine and stock.
• To thicken, add flour to the vegetables so it forms a paste-like consistency, add the wine before gradually adding the stock to form your required thickness of gravy.

Back To School Doesn’t Mean Boring: Crafts for the Classroom

Arts and crafts are not only relaxing and enjoyable activities, but they also promote personal expression, reflection and development. But the curriculum art lessons that take place in schools often don’t do enough to explore these benefits and tend to set work for children to copy, therefore bypassing the opportunity for students to explore, interpret and create their own ideas. You may be pleasantly surprised by how many curriculum subjects can use crafting.

Biology

The frequency of diagrams in teaching biology makes it a great subject to use crafts in. Making and examining models of the various parts of the body, cells and other organisms: 3D sculptures of the brain are fun to construct before using them to revise the functions of the different lobes; a marble-run-style model of the digestive system with ‘food’ to travel through it will help students to learn the internal organs and their jobs. A class activity can be made of it, with each group constructing one organ before joining them all together as a complete working digestive system.

Classical Art

Picasso once said, ‘every child is an artist – the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up,’ and teaching students how to take inspiration from others’ work and interpret through their own personal filters is an important step in retaining artistic skills. When learning about the work of classic artists such as Monet and Klimt, discuss the ways in which colours and shapes are used to express emotions and ideas, and encourage children to take this emotive approach to their own work.

Astronomy

The characteristics of the planets are fun to demonstrate practically: try making Russian doll-style models that depict the various layers of each planet, with labels explaining their names and functions. A group task can be made of examining the constellations: dissect a map of the night sky and give each pupil or group a section to replicate with small holes in dark paper. These can then be joined together and stuck over classroom windows to give the illusion of stargazing, all while learning about the patterns of the stars.

Culture

The cultures of the world offer a bounty of creative influences which not only educate children on the diversity of the world but also provide plenty of opportunity for artistic interpretation. Most cultures can be distinguished by particular styles and features, which make them well-suited to interpretive reworking. Investigate and discuss the styles and distinguishing features of a particular culture, and set children the task of using these styles to produce their own design. Ask them how they would design a costume that represents that culture, or how they would decorate a room in a similar style.

There are many other ways of combining the benefits of crafting with the existing curriculum, but the essence of what art can bring to the learning process is the most important thing. It is about allowing exploration and interpretation in subjects that otherwise are quite rigid in their structure.

For more inspiration visit The Crafty Classroom or explore Educational Crafts on Pinterest.

Guest Article By Charlotte Baldwin, Operations Manager at IQ Cards.

IQ Cards are a fundraising company that provide schools and establishments with the necessary tools to fundraise via selling high-quality and unique gifts designed by pupils. As part of the established on-demand print and digital solutions provider, The IQ Digital House ensures that all requirements and products are produced to the highest standards, delivered on time and at great value prices. Several of the IQ cards team are mothers and PTA members themselves appreciating and understanding school protocols extremely well. They are an approved supplier for PTA UK. For more information please visit: http://www.iqcards.co.uk/

Soul Jump! play live at Elstree Studios 25th Jan 2018

You haven’t heard of Soul Jump!? Of course not, because you’re not young, cool and one-step ahead of the trend…

But put down that knitting – Soul Jump! aka the world’s first animated virtual kids’ band will be performing a live show at none other than Elstree Studios on 25th January. Book tickets and blow the socks off your young, cool, one step ahead of the trend children…

Find out more about Soul Jump! here.