29 December 2016

What happened in my life in 2016

At the end of the year it is nice to look back and see what my life has really been like... What have I done, where have I been, what does my year look like when condensed into just the essential. And maybe a bit of fun too, places we've been, things we've experienced. So here is my year 2016 - it has been a bit of a whirlwind with some great highs and some great lows. 

little girl with a bike helmet

little girl riding a bike towards daddy

I honestly don't remember much from January and February time. I had a lot of recurrent colds, which after some blood tests were eventually diagnosed as being probably caused by deficiency of Vitamin D. I went to work, and had colds - how boring is that! Other than just being a bit poorly, we spent a lot of time in the freezing cold outdoors. We bought our daughter her very first bicycle and she was obsessed!

little girl on an easter egg hunt

little girl with bunny ears

mother and daughter walking

mother and daughter in a field of yellow flowers

little girl excited telling daddy something

mum and daughter at farnham castle

little girl amongst flowers

little girl as a flower girl

mum and daughter at a wedding

mum and daughter at boots event

great grand father giving a cuddle to great grand daughter

grandfather and grandmother

grandmother and grand daughter

To balance a bit of a rubbish start to the year, March was awesome. March was a fun month with both Mother's Day and Easter Sunday. I wrote about my thoughts about motherhood and what kind of a life I was predicted while I was pregnant... We also finally persuaded our nearly three-year old to give up her dummies! And practically no tears were shed. 

For Easter Sunday we did our own little Easter egg hunt in the nearby woods, which was great fun, although ended up in a raging storm we had to escape in our car. We also went to a rather fab book launch event with Boots, which ended up with me reminiscing about my childhood sight problems... 

As busy as March was, April was perhaps even busier. I went to Finland with my daughter, and I don't think I actually blogged what happened there. I took some Instagram pictures, and that's about it. I really just spent the time relaxing and seeing friends and family. After we came back from Finland we went straight to a friends wedding where my daughter was the flower girl, and she did an amazing job. As it was in Farnham, we also visited Farnham Castle and I tried my hand at vlogging. 

paw patrol birthday family picture

meeting marshall from paw patrol at an event

at emirates airline pod

mum and daughter at london zoo land of the lions

In May I learned that my grand mother had passed away. I had spent a lot of time with her when I was little and held many memories of her dear. I was happy that I had managed to see her one last time just a couple of weeks prior. It isn't always easy when you live abroad, far away from your family. You rarely get to see them, and while everyone says Skype is there, it's never really the same as the physical presence. I flied back to Finland for a few days to attend the funeral. 

June I just spent my time at work, whiling away the hours and looking for new jobs. The big highlight was of course my daughter's third birthday, which we celebrated Paw Patrol style! The referendum dealt a huge shock later in the month - I am still finding it difficult to comprehend - and I wrote about my thoughts about my family and how I feel as a foreigner, in this post-Brexit, post-truth Britain. We had lots of busy weekends in both May and June, visiting London Zoo, Emirates Airways, and meeting Paw Patrol

young girl covered in mud

dad and daughter at arsenal stadium

mum and daughter crafting

young girl next to london aquarium shark tank

mum and daughter at the o2

mum and daughter at dover castle

mum and daughter at a beach cuddling

mum giving daughter a kiss on the beach

July was mostly spent at work and just running around town with a crazy pre-schooler! One quite a random event we went to involved a mud volcano... Suffice to say, I am not sure if it was a success or not as my kid got a bit out of hand! We also went to Arsenal Stadium and did some crafting. 

August was a fab month as I had my summer holidays and we went camping, for the very first time as a family! We were in Folkestone and saw some sight nearby, such as Dover Castle. Despite an awful start, it got better, and we really enjoyed it. Having spent a week camping, living in a small tent with minimal belonging, it felt peculiar coming to our house, which is rather large in London standards. We got back tanned after spending tons of time on the beach, and fairly relaxed, which was exactly what we needed. Other than camping, we also visited The O2 and London Aquarium. 

Oh yes, and my blog turned two! What an amazing ride it has been!

nursery child in front of black board art wall

laughing young girl

girl waiting for thames cruise line

mum and daughter carving pumpkins

young girl in a halloween costume in front of blackboard art wall

September was mostly spent at work, to balance out that tan with a pasty indoor complexion... Well, the biggest thing was of course that my daughter started her nursery... She has become such a big girl and I was feeling quite emotional on her first days at the nursery

October activities were fun too - we tried to go pumpkin picking, we went for a Thames cruise and we hosted a fun toddler Halloween party for friends. My daughter loved her Halloween princess outfit, complete with a sugar skull makeup!

mum and daughter crafting cards

young girl reading a christmas book

family picture with santa at harrods christmas grotto 2016

If you remember, I mentioned earlier that I had been applying for new jobs. Well, in August I interviewed and was offered a new place, and in November I finally moved to the new place, with a decent salary increase and a senior added to my title. Yay! I was really feeling it though in November with everything changing. I find when starting a new job you always feel a bit tired and knackered, and I was definitely feeling like I was drowning

December on the other hand was spent at work (boo) and then on a holiday to Finland (yay!). We got to enjoy a proper Finnish Christmas, as we do every second year or so. We also went to Harrods Christmas Grotto which seems to have become a bit of a tradition for us, third year running, and we did some Christmas card crafts and came up with three super easy designs. 

So all in all, a bit of a whirlwind year, with great sadness and great joy too, and some exciting developments. 

How was your year 2016?

You might also like: My 2015 Part 1, My 2015 Part 2, My 2014 Part 1 and My 2014 Part 2

26 December 2016

Katie Piper on motherhood and designing a buggy

I interviewed Katie Piper on motherhood, being a working mum and her new venture with My Babiie buggies, with whom she designed her own buggy range. We talked a little bit about her new book Confidence: The Secret as well. 

Blogging is a funny old business and sometimes it takes me to some weird and wonderful places - such as interviewing inspirational personalities such as Katie Piper. Katie Piper is a philantropist, television presenter and former model. She has journeyed from a deeply traumatic life event to be an inspirational and active figure in media, spreading a positive and uplifting message to all. Having survived an acid attack organised by her ex boyfriend and faced a tough recovery she has also focused on shining a light on issues people with burns and scars deal with.

I am a big fan of Katie and loved interviewing her. It was a bit of a whirlwind interview as that morning everything seemed to go wrong for me, from late trains to trouble with my phone so I must have been quite ditzy over the phone. We got there in the end and she was delightful all the way as I was stumbling through the interview... 

Here is what she had to say.

katie piper standing in a park

Katie on motherhood

How has motherhood changed you as a person?

I'm definitely more tired than before and because of constantly being with my daughter and also working full-time it has made me prioritise and manage my time better. I have had to get more organised. But unlike work making you tired and it's stressful, having a child making you tired is very rewarding and there are so many amazing bits to it. It has changed my life for the better, but my life is so hectic now.

What have been the most challenging things about being a mum?
The balancing act between working and being a mother is hard, and fighting off that mummy guilt. If I gotta to do something, I gotta to do do it and I don't want to spend my time feeling guilty about it. It is about trying to make quality time over of quantity time. Striving to get that balance on any aspect in our lives is hard and trying to consistently to have that balance is even harder.

What have been the most joyful things about motherhood?
I think probably the stage she is at now. She is two and a half years old. She is giving back, she is smiling and laughing. If you walk through the door after a long day she is going "Mummy mummy!" and runs up giving you a hug. Seeing all those emotions from her is really rewarding.

What Katie is up to currently

What is your average day like? 
No day is ever the same because I do such a mixture of freelance work. Some days I could be abroad or travelling around the country. Other days I could be writing and working from home on the computer. Other days I could be at home with my daughter all day. No day is the same apart from that every day starts at about 6 AM, as my daughter is waking up. She is very much a morning person but she is really happy in the morning so it is actually quite a nice way to wake up.

What kind of things are you involved with currently? 
I have just signed a two year deal to carry on presenting television with Channel4. I present a different range of documentaries and specialist factual features programmes. I have also just finished writing a new book called Confidence: The Secret, that goes out on sale on the 29th December. That's a book all about confidence, confidence for everybody. It is written for men, women, mothers, single people, everyone. That keeps me quite busy, this TV and book stuff.

Alongside that I run my own charity called The Katie Piper Foundation. It helps people living with scars.  We fund their treatment, we help them meet with other survivors and we help them get back in the society after life-changing trauma or accident.

katie piper laughing next to a light pink buggy

Katie on designing her own Believe buggy range with My Babiie

How did you get to work with My Babiie?
Collaborating with My Babiie is actually quite exciting for me because of how I met the guys behind it. I was originally just a customer and I bought one of the buggies for Belle. I started using it and I really loved it. I tweeted about it and they got in touch with me and said how brilliant it was that I liked the buggy and asked if I would like to come in, have a meeting and talk about the things I would do differently and change. 

It is funny because when I was pregnant and a first time mum I didn't know much about what equipment or what to buy. For me the priority was safety and I was probably slightly anxious about it. Top priorities were that it mustn't be dangerous and it must have a certificate. 

I did find when looking at the buggies that many didn't reflect my personality. Many of the top of the range buggies were navy blue, back and grey, and if you wanted to have something funkier you had to get a limited edition buggy which were really expensive. Also, I couldn't believe how expensive some of the buggies were, some whole travel systems were more than one thousand pounds.  

So when I got in touch with My Babiie I told them that from a parent point of view I want the safety of the buggy to be top priority, but I also really want something that reflects me, in the patterns, shades and colours. I also told them that I don't want it to out-price everybody. It was really good that I was able to be totally involved in all the design stages and not compromise on price and not compromise on safety.  

I created the Believe buggies and the whole idea about Believe to reflect my ethos, what my book is all about and the charity I run. It is about self-believe. When you believe in yourself, you have higher self esteem. When you have higher self esteem it becomes confidence, and that helps us achieve great things. 

What kind of practical steps did you take in designing the buggies?
Being a mother really helped as I could draw on my experiences. I have had all these moments when in a Tesco car park and in tears because I can't fold the buggy up because it is too complicated and I cant get it in the boot because it doesn't fit. Because of that it was important for me that the strollers were lightweight so you can literally flick the pedal with your foot and fold it up and lift it in the car while holding your shopping and you baby. Those functional things were really important for me, and also the neat little things like having pockets for your phone, a cupholder, having a hood when it is sunny or raining. The buggy needed to be practical. It couldn't just be funky or a cool design. 

So how about the fabric choices?
So rather selfishly ha ha I picked colours I like to wear. I felt a lot of the buggies might have things like dinosaurs and children's animals and I wanted something for the mother, where the mother can feel stylish and sophisticated and hold on to the part of being her. 

I had two classic ones I went for, pink and blue, as some people love those kind of classics. I also had khaki, olive and desert in the range so a little bit more sophisticated and reflecting my own style. 

Why did you choose a butterfly for the Believe range logo?
For me the butterfly goes along with the message of believing in yourself. The butterfly represents a journey. They start as a chrysalis and they grow into a beautiful butterfly and have that freedom to fly away. I very much think that becoming a mother is a journey you go on, learning to fly and trust your wings, and doing it by yourself is part of that journey. That butterfly represents that strength and freedom.  

katie piper standing with a light blue buggy

Katie on being a working mum

How do you manage your time as a busy working mum?
It is very difficult. It is a bit of a military operation so I use a lot of electric diaries so I know where I am supposed to be at different times. I block out time to be with my daughter and my husband. Everything is run by the clock. I wake up early every morning and wake up to exercise, and try to do that before my daughter wakes up. I try not to waste any time and fit it all in. It is tiring and it is nice when you can go on a holiday and just put all the calendars away and just be in the moment

Would you have any tips for other working mums?
Going back to that mummy guilt, lots of mums wrongly feel guilty. There's no right or wrong way to do things. Spending less time with your child is not wrong,  it is about quality time. You could be a mum that is with your child every day but on your phone, watching telly and not concentrating. so never really with them in that moment.  

When you are with them make it count. When you're not with them, don't feel guilty because otherwise there is no point in doing it. When you are not with them immerse yourself in your work and be proud of your job and pass on to your child that your mummy was at work just like some daddies go to work and that is ok. 

Equally, if you are not working, being a mother full-time is a very demanding job - more demanding than some peoples' day jobs. Whatever you do, do it with pride as those are the choices you have made so make the most of them. 


It was really interesting hearing Katie Piper's thoughts about motherhood, being a working mum and how she actually got to design a buggy range with My Babiie. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this interview with Katie Piper as much as I enjoyed conducting it. 

What would you have wanted to ask Katie Piper?

22 December 2016

How to celebrate Christmas if you have bicultural family?

We've made a decision about Christmas. As we are a bicultural family (I'm from Finland, hubby from England) we will celebrate Christmas traditions from both sides of the family, not just the traditions of the country we live in. So we celebrate both the British Christmas traditions as well as Finnish. They are quite different from each other so I'll explain a bit how we celebrate Christmas in our bicultural family, and hopefully that will give you a good insight into how things can work out successfully. 

toddler wearing finnish marimekko elf hat in front of a christmas tree

Why do we celebrate both Christmas traditions? 

I think that if you want to be a truly bilingual family, you can't stop at just the language. You need more. You need to appreciate and celebrate the cultural traditions too, because otherwise you will never be quite fully versed in the language either. I reckon many experts would agree with this. 

I also prefer Finnish Christmas traditions. Just being honest here! It's what I've grown up with and no matter how many years I spend in UK the traditions from my childhood are the ones that make Christmas  feel properly Christmas.  

What are the differences between Finnish and British Christmas? 

The day - in Finland you have Christmas dinner and dish out the gifts on the 24th. In UK this happens on 25th. 

The food - obviously very different in both countries. In Finland instead of a turkey you would have gammon, instead of roast potatoes a sweet potato casserole,  and instead of brussels sprouts you have this strange but tasty combination  of beetroot, apples and whipped cream sauce called rosolli. No mince pies either but plenty of gingerbread biscuits.

Santa - every Finn knows that Santa lives in (the Finnish) Lapland. Nowhere else. Also, in Finland Santa doesn't just leave the presents stealthily under your tree at night. Oh no. He makes a personal visit on the Christmas Eve. Dad always seems to miss him though, year after year...

mum and baby wearing traditional british paper crown at christmas dinner

How do we celebrate Christmas? 

The biggest thing we do is to alternate Christmas. 

One year we have a British Christmas, complete with all the trimmings. We usually visit my mother-in-law, who hosts a big family get-together. Last year we hosted Christmas in our home. We have the most traditional Christmas dinner you could imagine and go full out with the stocking. 

The following year however we fly to Finland to spend Christmas there.  There we enjoy (nearly always) a white Christmas, go and get our own Christmas tree from the forest, eat lots and lots of traditional foods until we nearly burst, and get visited by Santa. All on the 24th. On the 25th we just relax, watch Christmas films on the telly and maybe go for a little walk. 

We also select some Christmas traditions to import.

If we spend Christmas in London, we often also have a little bit of Finnish foods on Christmas Eve and open one gift, although we rarely make it into much of a fuss as the next day is already manic enough. If Christmas Eve happens to be an a normal working day I try to take the day off. Our home also looks like Finland during Christmas time. Nearly all of our Christmas decorations are from Finland, and we anyway tend to decorate our house in a Scandinavian fashion. We also visit Finnish events held here in London, and try either make or buy some Finnish Christmas foods to get on the mood.  

It is nice to do it this way as it feels like we are being culturally equal. Our daughter gets to experience both of our cultures and I know that will enrich her life. It works really well, although I do wish flying would not be so ridiculously expensive at Christmas time!

scandinavian style christmas decorations with a star and elves

Ideas for a family Christmas in multicultural families! Explaining how we have successfully combined Christmas traditions from both of our cultures in our multi-cultural family.

How do you celebrate Christmas?

19 December 2016

Why do we visit Harrods Christmas Grotto year after year?

Harrods Christmas Grotto has become a bit of a tradition for our family. This year was the third time running we visited Harrods to meet Santa. The first time we went it was absolutely magical. The second time we went, well, let's just say it ended in tears. And this, the third time, was fun but a bit manic. As it would be with a three year old. 

I think the reason why we keep coming back is the small injection of luxury in our Christmas celebrations. We don't normally shop at Harrods... It is a bit exclusive and tickets are notoriously difficult to get. I had to book our tickets in September. This was before I had even booked our Christmas holiday tickets! 

It is a popular grotto everyone seems to want to visit. I am not surprised why. The grotto has a changing theme every year, the decor is brilliant and kids have fun activities to complete. Santa's little helpers have always been superb, ready to swoop in with smiles and distractions when parents are looking frazzled and stressed. And meeting Santa is always a treat, him taking time to have a proper chat with you in your own room, away from all other distractions. It's these little things that make it a special experience. 

This year the theme was quite Winter Wonderland with a bit of a Narnia-twist and oh wasn't it just fabulous. Kids crawled through a small door to the wintry grotto, snowflakes falling all around them. The look on my daughters face was just pure amazement and joy.

harrods christmas grotto 2016 entrance

girl entering harrods christmas grotto 2016 and being amazed

girl standing at harrods christmas grotto 2016 entrance and smiling

snow flakes falling at harrods christmas grotto 2016

girl looking at snowflake display at harrods christmas grotto 2016

girl playing in front of distorting mirrors at harrods christmas grotto 2016

After that there were funny mirrors, animation film, singalong with an elf, funny family pictures, igloo, penguins, polar bears, and a magical light forest. We got to enjoy a beautiful rendition of my daughters favourite song, Let it Go from Frozen, by one of the talented elf singers called Snowflake... My daughter was awestruck. 

Then it was time to go and meet the big man himself. On the train to Harrods my daughter said she wanted to know if Santa plays the piano. Well, at the meeting she was so star struck she couldn't utter a word. She managed to peep a little that for Christmas she wanted to have an "Elsa dress and a cuddly Elsa doll". And I think those words were the only ones Santa got out of her. We got our pictures taken and off it was to deposit a Christmas wish in a tree and to the Disney Store to buy her a little something to go underneath a tree. (Hint: it just may have been that soft Elsa toy...)

girl watching harrods animation film at harrods christmas grotto 2016

girl singing with an elf at harrods christmas grotto 2016

girl inside an igloo at harrods christmas grotto 2016

family picture with funny faces at harrods christmas grotto 2016

girl lying inside igloo at harrods christmas grotto 2016

girl playing with soft toy polar bear in harrods christmas grotto 2016

girl wearing red christmas jumper posing with penguins at harrods christmas grotto 2016

girl chatting with elf at harrods christmas grotto 2016

young girl and elf at christmas light forest at harrods christmas grotto 2016

mum and daghter at christmas light forest at harrods christmas grotto 2016

family picture with santa at harrods christmas grotto 2016

meeting an elf after meeting santa at harrods christmas grotto 2016

hanging a wish to a christmas wish tree at harrods christmas grotto 2016

girl choosing a toy with dad at disney store

mum and daughter standing outside harrods looking at christmas lights

So I suppose that is why we visit. It is always something special. Always something new. A little bit luxurious. And the brilliant and cheerful staff always save the day. That's not to say it always goes smoothly. It's not perfect, but hey, when is it ever in life?

Here is little video of our day too!

Have you visited Harrods Christmas Grotto? What did you think of our visit?

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