If plonking the kids in front of Mister Maker is as close to art appreciation as you’ve gotten this Summer, check out the fab list that Arts Council England has compiled to celebrate their 70th year – all activities listed are affordable and fun, suitable for families and will banish boredom faster than you can shake a paintbrush.
Ideas include making a sculpture from your lunch or making a playlist for your loved one, taking a selfie in the style of the Mona Lisa or ballet dancing to ‘Thriller’…
See the full list of activities here www.artscouncil.org.uk/70 – you’re encouraged to used the hashtag #70things to celebrate your creativity…
OK, we have no shame – we’ve all been there, right? You’ve had to give your child a particularly ‘enthusiastic’ botty wipe and the offending brown (or green) matter ended up all over your hands. You’ve scrubbed with antibacterial soap, rubbed on some gel maybe… You can still smell it…
Fear not, here’s a great little #MummyHack:
SM writer shares:“to get rid of the poo smell just rub a slice of lemon over the offending area – super quick and it works on vomit odour or after chopping garlic and onions too …”
Celia Sawyer, mother of two and founder of the exclusive Knightsbridge interior design company ‘Celia Sawyer Luxury Interiors’, has a client list that reads like the back pages of Tatler.
She shares her tips with us on how to create a chic and impressive outdoor space for Summer entertaining…
“First and foremost, selecting the right furniture is essential. What type of look are you trying to create? Modern, boho, white-washed beach haven, country, trendy, eco, the list goes on…
I personally like using dark or grey rattan juxtaposed against contemporary, crisp, white cushions to create impact. Seating is incredibly important as your outdoor space is to enjoy so you want your friends, family and guests to indulge and be comfortable. I LOVE glamorous day beds (think St Tropez beach party) and if you have the room I recommend you invest. Sky Line are masters of such furniture; beautiful yet natural shapes and gorgeous colours, you can’t go wrong with a day bed.
Outdoor fireplaces are having their moment. You can revamp your garden or terrace into a cool hub by making the fireplace your central feature. I know people who have used old bricks to build the fireplace meaning its recycled and put sand on the floor to create a truly unique space. If building a fireplace is too much invest in a fire pit. Nothing beats sitting round the warmth of a fire after dinner.
Alfresco dining is something we all love to do. Those long summer evenings that glow and seem to go on forever. Purchase a dining table and chairs, again in rattan or metal, over anything plastic and cheap looking – you may as well get this right first time. I have opted for a simple black rattan set with glass table top but dress the area up with an interesting centerpiece and cushions to add some interest and depth. Give it a go.
Inspiring outdoor kitchens are extremely du jour, especially in the Caribbean and United States. Clay or brick kitchens that blend into the surrounding natural environment can be simply stunning. The advantage of creating an outdoor kitchen means the hosting (and mess that goes with it) is kept out of your main residence; something I know my clients find attractive! In this space add a large mirror as it reflects the light and is more inviting. There are some fantastic outdoor mirrors around with thick, rustic frames. Alternatively, over-sized French clocks are extremely popular and add a little character, creating the feeling of being outside with the comfort of being indoors.
As you begin to revamp your outdoor space you will seriously think about colours. Earthy colours and décor is a must; ochres and greens, taupe’s and greys, to keep things natural, then add stainless steel appliances for that raw, industrial touch and inject colour through one item alone. Within your seating area add a great coffee table; something natural looking, maybe a bit of driftwood or an oak table to add some charm; a nod to Mother Nature herself. Invest in some lanterns that are suitable for outdoors as these can act as the perfect accessories. I put flameless candles inside mine which are ideal as they are battery operated so not only are they safe but they don’t go out should there be a breeze. Being outside in the candlelight is really special.
On the subject of lighting, I love using illuminous pots to really dress up outdoor spaces. There’s a great company called 8 seasons-design who are a fine example of these; their Shining Pot Collection includes numerous different shapes and sizes which glow and look fantastic on terraces or by a pool. The pots look smart with greenery and the shining globe, cube and even drinks-cooler are super stylish too.
Lastly, outdoor bars are the ultimate cool. I have one at my home and it gets so much use throughout summer. They’re actually fairly simple to build, source wood to keep costs down and as long as you have a flat surface, fridge and some bar stools you are ready to entertain. One of the best additions to my garden.”
Starting to think about Summer holidays? Booking for a family is obviously fraught with its own issues (will there be a travel cot, will we struggle with the buggy up a billion stairs? etc) but being stung for un-necessary costs need not be one of them.
The nice people at momondo have put together a few tips based on their extensive research of travel stats. According to them, “The price of a hotel room always goes up and down. Seasons, popular events in a destination and the time of booking are all essential factors to bear in mind, which influence price. Costs of hotels can vary dramatically and there is potentially a lot of cash to save by paying attention to a few aspects that are essential to hoteliers, when they set their rates.”
And they’ve also put together a handy chart showing peak times in key cities.
And momondo have a few tips on getting the best flight deals too:
Book your trip 53 days in advance to get the cheapest tickets – and you can achieve average savings of 26%
Tickets are generally most expensive on the day of departure
Evening departures between the hours of 6pm and 12am typically offer the cheapest fares
It is usually more expensive to fly in the morning and midday, before 3pm
A Tuesday is generally the cheapest day to fly
Saturday is routinely the most expensive day of the week to fly
If the classic mugshot (or white fluffy rug shot) achieved by your child’s school photographer doesn’t make enough of a statement for the bedroom wall (or the annual family Christmas card) it might be time to call in the uber-professionals.
Not content with simply waving a teddy and snapping your offspring, London based photographic studio Mud & Glitter offer a consultation with their Creative Director, plus hair and make up – not to mention they have Erin Petson as artist-in-residence to create beautiful backdrops (Erin’s past clients include Victoria Beckham and Stella McCartney to name but two).
Stylish Northerners might like to check out Clare Bowes Photo, who produced over 150 celebrity photoshoots in her role at Heat Magazine before relocating to Gosforth. Preferring ‘child-led’ shoots, she creates enchanting portraits that let one’s child’s character shine.
Or if you simply want a few tips on taking more engaging snaps yourself, iPhonePhotographyschool suggests using ‘burst mode’ to capture action shots…
If – like many of us – your heart sinks when your little one says ‘,I want a Princess and Pony party’ or ‘Mine HAS to be better than Suzie’s was’ then rest assured, help is at hand, courtesy of a few of our tips and some lovely brands…
Think about the mix of kids: ultimately, what your child wants for their party comes first, but if you perhaps have lots of older children coming also maybe give them an alternative options.
SM tip: My youngest wanted to have a Foxy party, like the fox on ‘Charlie and Lola’ but we ended up making it a Gruffalo Party (and she was the fox) so that there was more scope for games and dressing up. Debenham’s have a range of Gruffalo costumes.
Get creative with food: Julia Dowling of Snapdragon recommends ‘ ,Get imaginative with the party food you choose. For example, treat your budding astronauts and space rangers to ‘edible moon rocks’ (rice crispy cakes), ‘comet tails’ (candy floss), ‘flying saucers’ (imaginatively-filled mini-bagels) and, of course, that old favourite – NASA freeze-dried ice-cream (£5.99, Firebox)’
SM tip:‘there will always be one kid who isn’t allowed any kind of fun party food. I love this recipe for Paleo Chocolate Mousse, from The Healthy Foodie and my tip would be to serve it in individual muffin cases or ramekins with organic wriggly worms poking out…‘
Got more than one child? Think about party decor that keeps on giving. A set of Pirate partyware (like this one from Party Pickles) can be recycled into a spooky Halloween theme, or use the spotty bunting to make Circus decor. And well made party items are great to jazz up your child’s bedroom afterwards as a reminder of their wonderful day…
Need to make banners? Take the stress out of letter cutting with these ready made kits from A Lovely Little Company… Available in black also.
Attempting face-painting?Snazaroo have some great beginner guides on their website and their range of face paints includes glitter and super simple to use crayon sticks.
And finally, don’t forget about the grown ups. A few rounds of adult canapes or a simple cheese board will be wholly appreciated amongst the sweets and veggie sticks …
SM tip:‘We always offer our adult guests a glass or two of bubbly at kids’ parties if they’re not driving. If you want to match the bubbles with the theme, check out these super cool metallic prosecco bottles, available to order from Liquid Gold drinks.’
Nope. We’re being strict and streamlined. Here’s our pick of what’s genuinely useful, great value and – unlike the bath noodle – won’t be gathering dust at the back of the cupboard.
The Koochi Pushmatic stroller: we’ve recently discovered this brand (created by the same design team as Cosatto) and we think the Pushmatic is one of the smartest new baby investments you can make. Sleek, sporty (it’s a three wheeler) and suitable from birth (in the recline position) til three, this one will serve you well for country walks, shopping trips, ‘one-handed folding in the supermarket car park’ situations and battling public transport (did we mention this little gem only weighs 6.7kg?) Our Dad-writers oohed and aahed as much as we did over the colourways – especially the Green Hyperwave (pictured) – and this stroller (including footmuff and lots of accessories) is currently on offer from Koochi’s website at just £144. (Check out Koochi’s equally sporty range of car seats too!)
The TinyLove 3-in-1 Rocker and Napper: this clever sleep/play solution means you can dispense with the Moses basket, baby nest, sleep pod, bouncer chair, baby gym, rocker – and also all those ‘musical stimulation’ gizmos . In the recline position it is a comfy cradle which can be stable or rocking, or sit it upright to create a bouncer chair/activity centre complete with toys, vibrations and music. Essentially, what this means is you can safely strap your newborn in the chair whilst they are awake (and you want to have a shower) and then when the lullaby tunes, rocking, mirror and rattle toys knock them into slumber you can simply recline into napping mode without needing to transfer the little angel into a crib and risk waking them up.
Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep: At SM we don’t judge how you feed your child, but if you’re going to bottle feed them this invention is simply genius. Gone are the 2am fumbles for the kettle. No more are the 2am scalded wrists as you squirt boiling milk on parts of your own anatomy. With the same sort of logic as a Nespresso machine (and now available in stylish black as well as standard white) in two minutes flat your bottle will be filled with perfect temperature, bacteria free formula, made up to the correct proportions. There’s even a beeper so you don’t need to time the two minutes. Ocado have this one on offer, but be quick!
aden + anais muslin swaddles: we love this brand and a set of their swaddles is the first thing we’d be popping in our hospital bags. Doubling as a sheet/lightweight blankie, comforter, burp cloth, spill wiper, buggy shade, picnic rug, towel – even an emergency nappy – the more you wash these muslins the softer they get. Generously sized, they make swaddle wrapping easy (even for wrigglers). Kids love the adorable designs for years to come (many of us have tots who still take them to pre-school as a snuggler) and if you’re using them as a breastfeeding cover the vintage-chic stripes will double as a cute scarf too.
Pacapod Changing Bag: another MMHA15 winner, we’ve lost count of the times we’ve said to an expecting mother ‘if you buy just one thing get a Pacapod’. Designed to make changing on the go almost a pleasurable experience and super stylish to boot, check out the new range – including our new lust item, the Jasper bag.
The BabyBjörn We Carrier: use this one from birth til three years, carrying either frontways, or on your back. Get mobile with your newborn; whether its out and about or just having two hands free for a few menial tasks at home, the Baby Bjorn is a design classic and has won countless awards – they have thought about your poor aching, post preggo muscles here too – and the fastening mechanism is simple enough to maneuver with even the least passive child, as well as being super safe. Check out the seasonal colour ranges too – no need to settle for boring black!
At first we wondered why a PR would be hitting us up with something so clearly ‘trendy’ that it ends with a ‘z’… But stick with this one, we did…
Payfriendz (I know, I just want to go at it with correctional ink!) is an app whereby you and your invited friends can seamlessly pass money around without needing to go to a cashpoint or (if you are of my mother-in-law’s generation) not have to get your purse out and vulgarly dispense cash…
Obviously this is aimed at scatty young house sharers, too busy hitting the PlayStation to remember to contribute to the ‘lager and pot noodle fund’, but we’ve discovered it’s actually quite a useful tool for mums too…
Paying the babysitter: how many times do you have the exact money to pay the babysitter in your purse at the start of the night and then either end up running over by half an hour, get to the last cash machine on the way home only to find it’s out of order, or come home to the babysitter saying she was bullied by the kids into buying them ice creams and can she be reimbursed or (ahem) ordering an extra glass of wine after you’ve paid the restaurant bill and breaking into your cash? Sound familiar? Well, simply add your babysitter (s) onto a Payfriendz group and you can just transfer them the cash instantly – as simply as sending a text. Plus there is an integrated ‘chat’ function which might sound godawful but means you can communicate about money in a ‘whatsapp’ format… Maybe not your cup of tea but it resonates with teenage sitters…
Baby Ballet: or for that matter baby-anything whereby the teacher is a) away with the fairies when it comes to financial matters and b) doesn’t carry enough change if you pay for the class with a tenner. Get the whole class signed up to Mme Loubilou’s Payfriendz group and you no longer need to scrabble down the back of the car seat when she demands an extra 20p for squash and a biscuit or few quid for new ballet tights…
Car pooling: do you do the honorable thing and share the school run driving? With Payfriendz you can share the petrol costs too…
Birthday parties: Mmm, well, in our office we all read and applauded Myleene Klass and her unicorn outburst, but let’s face it, chipping in for a birthday present is commonplace in modern life. Make it super easy – plus you don’t have to remember which sticky banknote came from which child – with Payfriendz.
We’re suckers for smarty-pants little gizmos and a few fantastic ones have popped up on our radar recently…
The Chillipeeps 3-in-1 teat is a lifesaver when you are out and about with a hungry child and no clean bottle. Sure, you can grab some ready mix formula or a bottle of water from the store but how to serve? Keep one of these teats in your bag (it comes in a pod to keep it sterile/dishwasher fresh) and it either screws into a ready mix bottle or water bottle or slots into a carton. Simple.
Need to change a bottom on the fly? The Snappy Bin is a fab way to keep your hands clean and hygienically store the soiled nappy until you can find somewhere to dispose of it properly. Plus it folds down into a purse size. Don’t just use it for nappies – it’s great as a travel bin too.
And finally, we’re not medical experts and we don’t advocate drinking and breastfeeding, but we do lend our empathy to all the mums (us included) who have had a glass of wine at the end of the day once the little one was settled – then wouldn’t you know, they wake up again wanting another feed. The Milkscreen testing kit is available to order online from Amazon and we think everyone should have one (just in case). A few drops expressed onto the tester and the gadget simply gives you a + or – to let you know whether you are good to go or not. One word of wisdom we will share though is that many of us (again, we are raising our own hands here too) would assume that the quickest way to get alcohol out of our milk would be to pump out the contaminated milk – but actually the reverse is true, this just makes it more concentrated. Best advice is to wait, to eat – and not to beat yourself up about it.
If ‘Muuuuum, he changed the channel on the remote’ or ‘she scribbled on my book’ and ‘the baby isn’t my friend anymore…’ is leading to tantrums, tears and even fisticuffs you might be feeling like slamming the door behind you, driving at full speed to the gym, donning the boxing gloves and taking it out on something made from leather…
Siblings scrapping is totally normal (think back, you did it too) but that fact doesn’t make it any less stressful or the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel any more illuminating.
Supernanny Judy Arnall says we should analyse the root: boredom, attention seeking, resentment or deeper issues… General advice is that taking something away from the child in the wrong (ie banishing them to their room) won’t work but one on one time and a new hobby might (yep, let’s find a few extra hours somewhere shall we?)
Parenting.com have a more ‘non nonsense’ approach: listen to their feelings (yes) but if you need to end the conversation with something matter of fact (‘life is just like that sometimes’)
Partial separation is a helpful tool – although not always possible. If Daddy is around and can take one child (ideally the wronged one) to the park then the other might feel their victory is somewhat hollow.
And remember it’s a phase. Even if it takes 25 years, they will get past it.
SM tip:look after yourself as well when kids are bickering, or it can just become totally draining. We have a Nespresso machine and the 2 mins it takes to make a coffee is sometimes the little break I give myself between breaking up a fight and then returning to the scene of the crime (as it were). I often find they’ve resolved it by then without my intervention.
Editor’s Tip: right back from when they were little, after a tantrum, if I put them to bed to calm down I would dab a little lavender oil (or my own perfume) on their pillow. Now the boys still ask me to do this – sometimes just at bedtime. Jo Malone’s Wood Sage and Sea Salt is lovely and calming…
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