Louisa Grace Interiors Founder Claire McFadyen’s top tips on investing in childproof antiques

We all long for that perfect home balance of modern technology and easy to maintain products but do you find your love for antiques and vintage style can seem too hazardous to indulge in when you have sticky fingered, ball kicking, nail varnish wearing little darlings?!

The big question is – how can you invest in antiques that are childproof in order for you to make the style of family home you crave?  Well, I have been buying, selling and adding antiques and vintage pieces of furniture and accessories to my home for years and I haven’t stopped since having my two daughters, in fact, I think I have embraced it all the more.

Here are my top tips on buying antiques that will survive family life and still give your home the character and beauty you desire.

1 – Remember, antiques may be old but they are not always delicate.  There is a reason they have lasted for possibly hundreds of years and that is because they are well built, crafted from strong materials and made to last.  Make sure the item you are interested in still seems strong and sturdy and you can be sure it will survive family life

2 – Antiques make great storage solutions.  Consider investing in antique and vintage trunks as storage solutions for toys and games.  Once everything is packed away you are left with a beautiful piece of furniture to enjoy.  These are also great heirloom pieces for your children to treasure as they get older.

3 – Treat the item with the correct protection like beeswax or varnish (or both for the best solution of all!)

4 – Don’t be scared to invest in those more delicate items such as mirrors, just make sure they are safely and securely attached to a wall or shelf and out of the reach of little hands.

5 – Finally, buying antiques is also eco-friendly.  You are helping to teach your children that not everything has to be shiny and new.

Visit Louisa Grace Interiors website to find out more.

(Guest post)

SM reviews… The Ergobaby OMNI 360 carrier

Editor writes: “Ergobaby put a LOT of thought and effort into the design of their latest carrier. It has been designed to be ‘the only carrier you’ll need’ from newborn to preschool, with four carry positions (parent facing, world facing, hip and back) and no insert needed, even right from week one. 

I’ve been using Ergo’s a lot with my 3rd child, who is almost one. Sure, they might be a bit ‘more’ to carry with you (if it’s one of those ‘I’m not sure if we’ll need a buggy or a carrier’ situations) but lately, I have been challenging myself to just put the baby in the carrier and keep my hands free (for carrying bikes, scooters, shopping – or just gesticulating wildly!)

As my son has grown (well, he was never exactly a delicate flower…) I have been keen to encourage back-carrying, not least because I feel that he’ll be carried for longer like that (but also because it makes carrying scooters and waving one’s arms about whilst berating a sibling much more efficient.)

But due to a number of factors, I had mostly (to date) just been carrying him in the parent facing, front carrying mode. Which is fine, but makes tying shoelaces (your own or your kids’) tricky. Ditto when you drop your car keys on the floor you sort of have to limbo down to the floor. 

Enter the OMNI 360, in gorgeous, ‘go with anything’ Midnight Blue. First, we gave it a go in ‘world facing’, front carrying mode. Which was lovely for my son, but rubbish for me, as the newfound freedom of his arms meant that he was grabbing my phone, pulling things off shelves and reaching for Mummy’s wine o’clock tipple…

So then I went for it with the back carrying. You can either start with the baby on your hip and sort of shimmy them ’round to your back, or go for what some babywearing types call ‘the Santa sack toss’ where you just try and get them up there and the straps on in one seamless move. (Or – get your other half to position your child…)

Here’s a pro doing it…

With a wriggly baby, I found the easiest was to do the maneuver over the sofa or a bed – with the OMNI you are just doing the same Ergo thing in reverse (ie set the straps beforehand, pull on and clip). 

Back carrying with the OMNI is really effortless; on par with carrying a well fitting backpack. As the model on the Ergobaby website demonstrates, it is also possible to do it whilst wearing white jeans and without getting biscuit crumbs in your hair #winning. 

I shall try the hip position next and report back…

One of the other ‘new touches’ to the OMNI design is the ‘fanny pack’ bag which, when in its original clip position and on someone who is 5ft 4, sits literally on your foo-foo. As my other half said, you’d know about it if you were pickpocketed! Thankfully, you can detach it and – as it’s the perfect size for carrying keys, phones, bribery packets of chocolate buttons and the like – clip it to another part of the carrier.

Obviously, all the positions are hip-safe (because it’s an Ergo) and you can wash it on a warm cycle in the case of ‘little accidents’ (although here’s hoping you don’t have to do this too often…)”

Shop online for the new OMNI 360 – RRP £154.90

We checked out the new Vauxhall Crossland X

You’ll see more on this in the next issue of the magazine, but we thought we’d give you a little preview.

Crossland X is Vauxhall’s latest SUV and you may have seen their recent #PyjamaMamas campaign. We thought that instead, we’d let one of our Dad writers and his sons put one to the test drive.

SM Dad writer reviews: “Being a Dad, I tend to tackle most things with lists. So I made a list of the best things about the Crossland X. And so did my eldest son Wild.

Here was Wild’s list:

  1. It is orange like a bumble bee. 
  2. When Daddy does parking you can watch behind like it’s on TV.
  3. You can make it do your phone and the internet.

My list included the fact that the boot space is easily big enough for a buggy and a couple of kids’ bikes, that the head-up display means you can keep your eyes on the road and that the panoramic parking sensor means that you can avoid that situation when trying to park when you turn your gaze to the rear to see how much space there is behind and are suddenly drawn into mediating a backseat squabble. 

For a family car, it is really nippy and also very spacious. I normally drive a Jeep Cherokee (which I have convinced myself is the only option for three kids) but actually, their car seats and all their junk fitted in just fine (more’s the pity, as I’d been rehearsing a speech about de-cluttering on long journeys.

The car comes in numerous colourways; we tested on in amber orange, which the boys adored and I’ll concede to say was ‘striking’. Put it like this, you won’t lose one in a car park anytime. 

I got quite into the parking sensor; which gives you a clear 180 degrees rear view plus also a diagram showing how you should best park. I must confess I swore at it the first time, but it is definitely a useful addition to city driving. 

The sunroof is also great; it’s massive so when open it feels like driving a sports car. It really goes when you put your foot down (I took it out on some sleepy seaside roads as well as through London.)

And as for doing the school run in my jim jams in one..? With a car like that, I’d consider that a waste of a good driving opportunity. Well,  actually… maybe if I got myself some orange ones to match…”

With thanks to Vauxhall and Kaper UK – the Crossland X is available from £15,640 – see your local Vauxhall dealer for more details. 

Self-employed new mums suffering in silence

A group of GPs have launched a campaign for fairer maternity pay for self-employed mothers, after witnessing first-hand the ‘silent suffering’ that exists in terms of mental health, behind closed doors during the first six weeks of becoming a mum who runs a business.

We’d really like you to raise awareness of the campaign, and petition, by asking your readers and network to complete this 4-minute survey http://bit.ly/surveymums to enable us to reveal the size of the problem for the first time. The petition for everyone to sign is also here:  http://www.gpdq.co.uk/empowering-self-employed-mums/

A bit of background

In the UK, self-employed women receive less maternity pay than their employed equivalents. They receive the same government (state) maternity allowance as people who are employed by a company, however, they do not receive the first 6 weeks of 90% of their annual weekly salary, as employed people do.

The impact of this lack of income during such a crucial time sets self-employed new mums up to fail, with many admitting to considering closing their business or being too embarrassed to ask for help for fear of admitting defeat. Too many are suffering in silence as they try to work through the issues.

This situation is also a deterrent to starting a business, for females of child-bearing age – In 2015, 126,000 businesses were created by women – down from the 139,000 in 2013.

Campaign for equality in maternity pay

The ‘Six Week Support’ campaign will lobby government for the equivalent financial support that an employed new mum receives, for self-employed mums during the first six weeks after having a baby. This financial support will make it more possible for mums to take time out of the business, to enjoy their new child, if only for a short time, before returning to full-time work.

This campaign aims to apply pressure on the government to review their maternity pay policy, as already requested by the Federation of Small Businesses who asked, as a result of their self-employed report: http://bit.ly/FSBREPORT for government ‘to address the discrepancies between the self-employed and employees in the social security system’.

Dad Diaries: Our trip to All Star Lanes Stratford

SM Dad reviewer writes: “OK, sometimes doing this gig I get asked to cover stuff where – in all honesty – I am the only bloke there. So when the chance to review bowling, burgers, and beer at All Star Lanes in Stratford’s Westfield came along I did a little dance ’round the office. 

All Star Lanes has become the hipster way to bowl (as opposed to a retail park destination for Middle Englanders) and being neither hip nor good at bowling I have been there exactly twice before. Once was with my five-year-old for a kids’ birthday party and most of them whipped my butt.

My five and three-year old sons got SO excited about the trip that they had made up a song about bowling in the car on the way (‘Bowling bowling, we love bowling!’) By the time we had parked in Westfield and gone up and down a few escalators they were so hyper I secretly hoped the natty bowling shoes you swap your own for might have lead soles. 

My sons ran onto their lane – they had furnished themselves with bowling balls and the kiddy ramp thing (prob a technical term for this) by the time I had carried the baby in the buggy up a few stairs (I’ll add here that there is also a ramp and at least three members of staff offered to help me… but it was only a few stairs and I am a seasoned Dad!)

My missus is equally as competitive as the boys and to be fair, she started out with a pretty strong score. A few goes in and I was pointing out that I did actually put my shoulder out last week doing DIY. No need to worry though as after one sip of wine she was rubbish – and although the boys did actually notch up quite impressive scores (albeit with the aid of the ramp thingy and the lane gutters being gated) I did maintain my victory and therefore Dad-pride. 

We were then escorted to our table by the incredibly cheery manager (who looked a bit like the DJ out of ’13 Reasons Why’ – hey, I know I’m sad, but really, what else is there on Netflix??) and the kids furnished with crayons and something non-valuable to draw on. 

The playground at Westfield

By this point, 5-year-old was on a bit of a sugar come down (one ginormous strawberry milkshake to blame for that) and refusing to sit down or eat pasta. In fact, he pulled a full-on teenage strop and demanded a medal for his bowling effort – to my surprise (and huge gratitude) said manager produced a medal for each boy. 

Normally, I have a stealth tactic when we go out for dinner. Ordering a starter and suggesting to the missus that we split it, then letting her eat it mostly means she doesn’t finish her main and it’s all the more for me. But this backfired a bit because she ordered truffle fries – and she LOVES truffles. 

For ‘diner style’ food, the new Summer menu is pretty impressive (and imaginative) – with wagyu and lobster tail making appearances. The range of gins is also awesome (some fab boutique ones on there) but as it was 3 pm I stuck to their beers.

For once, not only me but the kids also were too stuffed for pudding. And with my lot, that really is saying something. My three-year-old had chomped through a whole plate of fish goujons, five-year-old had chicken pasta and the baby sucked on some bread and a bit of popcorn fried shrimp.

For anyone who worries about taking little ones bowling; fret not. It is very family friendly and loads of fun (although you may have to explain the concept of ‘being a good loser’). At 3 pm on a week day, All Star Lanes Stratford wasn’t crowded (presume it would be full of hipsters later at night) and a far cry from being a stomping ground for misguided youths using the cover of darkness to get to second base. 

It was a brilliant day out and I’m still singing the bowling song under my breath…”

With thanks to All Star Lanes, Westfield Stratford City.

Top Tips for Starter Golfers

Golf is a fantastic game to get into from a young age. While it’s generally viewed as a sport for the retired – it is a great way to keep active in your old age after all – there are plenty of benefits for taking up golfing at every age! Only problem is, though, that taking up golfing for the first time can be a bit daunting. After all, there’s so much equipment you’ll need to start up that you probably don’t know where to begin and nobody wants to look like they don’t know what they’re doing!

Well, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are some great tips for getting yourself acquainted with the golf course and how not to stick out like a sore thumb on the green.

Dress the Part
Golfing used to be a sport for the elites and while it has certainly toned itself down a lot more you will find that if you turn up to the golf club in the wrong clothes you and your Bermuda shorts will be given your marching orders. Most golf clubs will enforce a strict dress code so it’s good sense to dress in golf-suitable clothing in general to get the most out of your game.

A polo shirt, a pair of golf slacks and a quality pair of golf shoes – Ecco’s should do the trick – will be enough for you to pass the rigorous fashion tests of the golf clubs. Giving you much more time to dedicate to actually becoming good at the sport.

Get Professional Help
It may sound dramatic, but honestly, if you’re anxious about making a fool of yourself when you hit the ball in completely the wrong direction then why not have a look at what local golfing instructors charge near you? Plenty of these will provide courses for beginners so you can get a helping start into the sport and not have to break any bad habits you may pick up by trying to train yourself to play.

If you’re a bit short on cash, then you could always ask a seasoned friend to help you out? Every time you play yourself a game you will get a little better so don’t be disheartened if you’re absolutely rubbish the first time you pick up your club – just keep working at it!

Shop Around for the Right Green
You may want to play in the golf course that’s closest to your home, and that’s fine, but we’d recommend getting a lay of the land before you commit to a membership at a specific course. Plenty of clubs offer a one-day access pass that lets you play on the green for the whole day while taking in some facilities like a driving range – use this as your opportunity to do a bit of scouting and ask yourself ‘can I see myself playing here?’

There are plenty of factors to take in, such as course difficulty, the facilities, the scenery and the general atmosphere at the club. Treat it as if you’re looking for your home away from home and you can’t go wrong!

(guest post)

A Guide to Starting Your Own Nursery

Are you good with kids? Do you think you’re so good with kids that you could look after them full-time? Or have you spent your whole life working in a nursery and are looking for a new challenge? Well, have you ever considered starting up your own nursery?

It may sound like a big step up, but if you’ve got a bit of business sense you can turn a dream of owning your own nursery and working with kids all day into a profitable business that sets children up for a good start in life.

These days, nursery does not just provide childcare, they are so much more than that. Your nursery should be giving children a helpful start in their development by encouraging education and social skills at a young age, but don’t push it too hard – lots of children learn through play and that’s what you should strive to push forward.

Here is some of the best advice we can give you if you’re giving some serious thought to opening your own nursery.

Find the Right Location
Just like looking for a home to buy, you know what they say the most important factor is: location, location, location. Your location needs to be easy to get to, while still cheap enough so you’re not blowing most of your money on your overhead costs. Another huge factor is the size of your building will dictate the number of children you can take in your care – a health and safety risk assessment will need to be made as well as insurance for the property.

Properly Train Yourself (and your staff)
Make sure that you and your staff have all the correct qualifications to ensure they are certified to do their jobs – NVQ’s in childcare, properly CRB checked and a knowledge of paediatric first aid in order to be prepared for every eventuality. Another point to be made here is that there is no better way to ensure a successful business than surrounding yourself with staff who are both passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. Enlist the best for the job and it will pay dividends to your nursery as parents will be more than happy to take their children there.

How To Legitimise Your Nursery
You will need to register yourself with Ofsted so you are legitimised, but don’t worry, they aren’t as strict with nursery’s as they are with schools – just make sure you do your job correctly and effectively so you won’t have any problems. Government guidelines are detailed for the early foundation stage education providers here if you need help into what you need to do.

What Goes on Your ‘Syllabus’
Okay, so you probably won’t have to deal with Ofsted breathing over your shoulder as they ruthlessly scan your syllabus for weak links – but you should still be putting ample attention into what you’re teaching them. As per the guidelines we linked to previously, you should be putting time into teaching your children: personal development (which includes language, creativity and education) and physical development. These are loosely detailed so there is a lot of wiggle room here.

 (guest post)

3 Things you can do to boost the value of your property

For those looking to sell their home, we imagine you’ll probably want to get the most money you can out of it. Obviously, this is not without a fair bit of work but if you’re willing to put the hours in while putting a little bit more money into your home – you could see a huge return on investment if you touch up the right areas.

If you’re a bit lost about where to start making improvements to your home then don’t worry, we’ve got a useful list here of some of the best enhancements you can make to your house to squeeze every penny out of its potential value!

A fresh lick of quality paint
You may be thinking we mean painting on the inside, but you’d be wrong. While painting the inside of your home would increase the value of it a little, retouching the outside would give a massive return on your investment. First impressions are key when trying to sell your home, so if a person pulls up at your driveway to notice a drab house with paint flecks crumbling off the sides then you’ve lost the battle before you’ve even begun.

While improving the appearance is one reason to apply a coat to the outside of your home, the more pressing reason to commit to this improvement is to protect your home from the elements. By using a specialised paint, you can prevent damp from penetrating into the walls of a building and causing damage that could be very expensive to repair, therefore saving you (and your potential buyer) money in the long-run. Exterior wall coatings prevent this by protecting your home from everything mother nature can throw at it – and then some!

Cook up a storm with your kitchen design
You would be surprised at just how much a stunning kitchen can increase the value of a home – everyone deep down fancies themselves a semi-professional chef so they want a place to work their culinary magic. Having all your appliances uniform in a nice stainless steel finish will give the kitchen a real modern (almost space-age) feel.

There are also plenty of little touches you can make to a kitchen without having to rip it up and spend a wad of cash turning it into a professional kitchen. For a start, developing a stylish space where you can hang your utensils (pots, pans, knives, etc) is a sure-fire way to catch your potential buyers eye – it’s a unique aesthetic that can really add something to the room if done correctly.

Small efforts in a consistent routine
Many of us cannot afford to reinvigorate our homes over the space of a month undertaking jobs in multiple rooms at the same time – it’s just not achievable! If you have time to spare when it comes to selling your home, the idea here is to take each month as decide what the priority jobs are – like a leaky pipe or a cracked tile – and dedicating yourself to one project a month.

It doesn’t all have to be DIY projects as well, simple things like buying a new piece of artwork or something else to help with the aesthetic of your home can have a surprising influence on buyer perception – after all, image is everything.

(guest post)

Bravado’s Seamless Nursing Bra now available in Twilight Blue

Deep blue is actually a really flattering colour. I learned this through attending a number of boarding schools and playing on numerous sports teams; it’s understated but sophisticated. If you’re really bored (breastfeeding at 2 am) count how many times Kate Middleton chooses this shade to offset her brunette and brooding vibe.

So it is quite exciting news to us that Bravado have just added Twilight blue to the colourway options of their mega soft, comfy (reasonably priced!) seamless nursing bra range – which also includes girlie Pink Ice and racy Garnet.

Editor writes: want to style this up? Cover up with Marloe London’s monogrammed muslin in Indigo…

Parenting Style Coveted

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