31 May 2017

What our family was up to in May 2017?

May has been a rather nice time. Lots of days off from work with the May Bank Holidays, and I've also taken a few additional days off. The weather has got really lovely all of a sudden - the spring has really come and brought the summer with it. We even manage to get our monthly portraits done without too much hassle and in time this month! It was just our local park, in the tree-lined walkway I love walking through and taking photographs at, often featuring it on my Instagram

Family portrait in May 2017 - Wave to Mummy

This month I have been enjoying the extra holidays, very much so. I don't think I have actually done anything particularly ground-breaking during the bank holidays. Just chilled back home, and done the usual stuff. I've had lots of plans how to best use the time, but in reality, we just enjoyed spending some family time, going to the park, meeting friends, going to the aquarium, going to a baby disco... 

The weather has been so so so hot here, and I have lacked on the appropriate summer office wear department in my wardrobe... So I have been shopping lots at Marks and Sparks. I've used their online stylist, and got a fab few ideas from them, and bought lots of clothes to take me through the summer. 

Mid-May I also visited Finland, to see my grandfather. He has been quite ill recently so it was nice to pop by for a few days and spend some time with him. I used to spend many of my school holidays at my grandparents when I was a little girl, and going back felt so homely. We talked, we went out, saw family, relaxed, just the type of things you do with your grandparents. 

Family photographs May 2017 - Wave to Mummy

As a family, we have been especially pre-occupied with the biggest party of the year... My daughter's fourth birthday party, at the beginning of June. A few days ago our dearest daughter told us: "I hope my friends will like my party. I hope my friends won't think it is boring..." so the pressure is on. Oh, the pressure is on. 

The party theme is Elsa, from Frozen, and I have gone slightly overboard with my Pinterest-pinning induced glitter Elsa-frenzy. If I tell you that I have ordered myself an Anna dress, just for the party, you can sort of tell how much I've got into the party planning mode. 

We have invited an awful a lot of girls, from her school, her Montessori class and her ballet. She has an awful lot of friends, and she has wanted to invite all the girls to her princess party. So we have invited an awful lot of girls, of which we of course secretly hoped not all could come. Because in reality, we could probably accommodate 25 girls and their parents but it might be a bit of a squeeze... 

As for my daughter she has enjoyed her princess games, and pretending to be a queen, and princess and Elsa, and Elsa again. We have had many heart-rendering renditions of Let it Go, complete with the whole choreography with Elsa throwing her gloves and crown away. 

She has suddenly decided that she is a big girl, and wants to do her things her way. She has her own style, and likes to choose her own clothes. Anything that is pink, is a firm favourite. She has been particularly funny, with witty one-liners directed mostly at my husband. I smell another post coming just on those one-liners... She has also been a bit trying, with her independence surging. It is lovely to see her getting bigger and bigger but it can also be a real challenge when you just want her to eat her greens!

As for my husband, we celebrated his 34th! It was a normal working day for me, so he went out with his mum to the Pink Floyd exhibition, and to celebrate the birthday, we ordered a Chinese takeaway in the evening. That's living on the edge, parental style! Gone are the days when you used to go out for the night, and have a wild time out on the town. Now it is staying in, and falling asleep before midnight. With belly full of Chinese. 

Other than celebrating his birthday, he has also been a rock for me while I have had to stay at work some late nights to finish some important pieces of work lately. Having a partner that can easily take an additional load with the kids when needed is so valuable when you are trying to build a career!

So that is what we were up to in May 2017. How did your month go?

12 May 2017

How to enjoy Kew Gardens with under 5's

Have you ever wondered if it is worth visiting Kew Gardens with kids - especially little ones? Kew Gardens here in London has been one of those places I have wanted to visit for the whole ten years I have lived in London. I finally decided to visit, and dragged my threenager daughter there too. Here are five of my top tips on how to actually enjoy a visit to Kew Gardens if you have a small child in tow...

Kew Gardens with kids - little girl looking at pink flowers

While Kew Gardens is a gorgeous location, absolutely stunning, it really is much more of an attraction for adults. Now, which self-respecting child actually cares much about flowers they can't pull from the ground? Yep, that's right, no-one. Especially my threenager. There is a reason why the tickets to Kew Gardens are free for under four year olds! There are however some things for very small kids to do, and things that they will really enjoy, and these are the things I found helpful when visiting with my young daughter.
How to enjoy Kew Gardens with under 5's - 5 top tips for the little kids visiting Kew Gardens.

1. Book tickets online. 

You can even book the tickets the same morning. On a beautiful sunny day, especially in the morning time, the queue to the tickets offices is horrendous and you do not want to wait there with your kids. I know mine would be a nightmare. So book those tickets before you get there, and bask in the smugness when you walk past the crowds inside. I bought my tickets from AttractionTix, and while they say you need to print the tickets, they accepted my e-tickets at the gate. You can get tickets online with Kew Gardens as well but they are about a quid more expensive.

2. Get on the Kew Explorer Land Train

This is one of those jeeps with carriages at the back - you know the ones that every single kid wants to go on everytime they see one... Anyway. I found this was a great way to get a small uncooperative child to cooperate enough for mummy me to actually see something and to enjoy the gardens. We sat on the train, it took us around the Kew Gardens, I saw all the main sights, and my daughter mostly sat still waving at people. Result! The tickets were a fiver for an adult and a couple of quid for kids - money well spent. 

On a busy day, do get to the train about 15 minutes before it leaves from Stop 1. No-one left or got on between Stops 2 and 3, and even from Stops 4 onwards it wasn't 100% if you would get on it. The train can be pretty packed on a busy day.

Kew Gardens pink flower cherry tree with child

Pink flower cherry tree and a kid at Kew Gardens

child picking flowers form pink cherry flower tree at kew gardens

3. For outdoor play head to the Natural Area (near stop 4 on the Land Train trail)

There are indoor and outdoor play areas elsewhere, but I found these were really ram-packed with older kids, and I would not have taken a toddler or even my three year old there. Possibly on a quiet day when there aren't too many kids running amok, but on the busy day we were there I just didn't feel comfortable. So I took my three year old daughter to the Natural Area, where there is a little badger cave you can walk into (and some areas you even need to crawl!) and a log-trail to jump around on.

4. Pack a picnic - or get food from the restaurants

If you want to visit with on a budget do pack a picnic with you as it can be quite expensive otherwise, especially for adults. You can grab something to eat on your way if you arrive by train - there is a small Tesco right outside Kew Gardens Station, and some other shops nearby too.

Otherwise, you can get a sandwich and a milk or juice for kids for about £3 from the restaurants, which isn't too bad and was enough for my little one. The quietest restaurant tends to be the  Pavillon Restaurant near Stop 2 if you want to eat in, and White Peaks Cafe near Stop 7 apparently has child friendly menu.

Bring a water bottle too - you can fill them at all the restaurants saving you few bobs!

Mum and daughter on Kew Explorer Land Train

The Hive bee nest structure at Kew Gardens from below

The entrance at Kew Gardens

5. See the geese at the pond outside Palm House (right next to the main entrance)

This was probably one of the highlights for my daughter. You see these massive koi carps circling below the murky surface, and these ducks and geese swimming in the pond, and lots and lots of other kids marvelling at the same sights. It was quite difficult to get her to leave! We got to see a very exciting fight with the geese too, where they had a proper pecking match right in front of us. While obviously not an everyday occurrence, we did feel a bit like having been plonked right in the middle of a nature documentary!

We did enjoy our visit, although I think Kew Gardens really is much more of an adult place to go to. There are still lots of pretty cool things for kids to see. Older, school-age children will of course get much more out of it in an educational way. There are a few more tips on what to do with kids (especially older ones) on AttractionTix blog as well as on Kew Gardens site. We spent the whole day at Kew so there certainly is lots to do over there!

We also filmed a little video of our day - I hope you enjoy.

Have you visited Kew Gardens with little children? What did you do?

Visiting Kew Gardens, London, UK with young children. What to do and how to make the most of your trip to Kew Gardens, London, if you have small children with you. Top tips and ideas for parents with under 5 year olds!

8 May 2017

Sleeping better: 5 top tips from a sleep coach to the Olympians

I recently got a bunch of great tips on how to get a better night of sleep and wanted to share them with you too. Sleep isn't always easy for me. I've heard lots of tips and I still have trouble falling asleep and having a proper restful night, but it is getting better.

When I was invited by Clipper Teas to a pyjama party of bedtime stories and sleep talk at the 40 Winks Hotel, I was understandably quite keen. Alongside sipping herbal tea we also got to hear tips from a sleep coach to Olympians on how to improve our sleep cycles and I learned loads of new tips I want to share with you. As always, I also took lots of pictures from the event so you can see what the infamous Bedtime Story Nights at 40 Winks looks like...

girls standing in 40 winks hallway

pillows on the floor for bedtime stories

rolltop bathtub at 40 winks hotel

canapes at 40 winks hotel

canapes on a table

So, sleep. Sometimes I just can't sleep. I get anxious, and I toss and turn for what seems like an eternity. Hearing my other half breathing deeply and calmly next to me serves to make me annoyed on top of feeling anxious, and I'm stewing there thinking "Why is he sleeping! How is it possible for someone to fall asleep so quick?". 

Well, apparently it is quite common for women not to be able to sleep well. 

At the event the sleep coach told us that it is quite common for women to get stuck in this anxious cycle, worrying and planning for the next day. I have also had chats over sleep with the ladies from my office and SO MANY confessed how they just can't sleep properly, and just worry constantly over work and life in general. And speaking from experience, when you have babies, this just gets worse and worse... The tiniest little squeak in the night and you are right up, ready to save your baby. 

We got chatting about how people are really just animals and there are so many physiological things that determine how well we sleep. We, and men especially, sleep better on their non-dominant sides. If you are right-handed, you sleep better on your left side because that leaves your stronger arm open to fend against any attacks. And as humans really are just big hairless apes, we aren't really meant to cuddle or even sleep in same beds, and we usually sleep better with as much possible distance from others. Many of the tips we got followed from similar physiological issues.

steiff teddy bears on a window sill

a single bedroom at 40 winks hotel

dressing up table at 40 winks hotel

beige coloured bed at 40 winks hotel

woman taking a selfie through a mirror

So how can you get a better night of sleep?

1. You should start preparing for bed 90 minutes before you actually go to sleep. We sleep in 90 minute cycles, so it makes sense to prepare in a similar cycle. In this pre-sleep cycle do anything that helps you move from the hyper wake to a sleep mind-set. Take the time out, relax, move away from work and worries and wind down. De-cluttered settings can also raise your chance of getting deep sleep by 50-60%. This is something I have found particularly important and I decorated our bedroom with sleep in mind

2. Move from warm to cool - this recreates the natural cooling down of the day when the sun sets. A bedroom ideal temperature is around 18 Celsius. You can also mimic this cooling down by warming your body temperature by having a warm shower or a bath, or drinking a hot cup of herbal or de-caffeinated tea. 

3. Mimicking the setting sun, you should not be checking your mobile phone (which emit blue daytime type of light) during this 90 minute period. Moving from light to dark can help too, so get those candles out. 

4. Sleep on your non-dominant side, in a foetal position. This is a "sleep secure" mindset, which helps you enter the deeper sleep stages, which help you recover from the day. The idea is, as I explained earlier, to let your animal self feel secure. Your vital organs are protected in this sleeping position and you have your dominant arm ready to fend off attacks. 

5. Avoid rich, fatty and sugary meals in the evening. These take longer to digest, keep your body active and raise your body temperature.

After the event I have tried to create myself a pre-sleep routine. I don't follow this religiously, which perhaps explains why I still have trouble sleeping sometimes... But when I do it does help. I often have a shower in the evening, and I then prepare myself a hot cup of herbal tea. I read a magazine or a book until I start to feel so tired I can't concentrate and then make my way to bed. Usually I try to be in bed by 11PM so I am ready for my 6AM wake-up... Oh, the joys of living with kids.

clipper teas and canapes on a table

From the event I got a bunch of Clipper Teas to take home, and I have incorporated these into my evening routine. I've drank their teas before as well, as I have liked their fair-trade and natural ethos. The teas I got are all from Clipper Teas sleep range - Sleep Easy, Snore & Peace and their new Super Green Sleepy Decaf. Of the three different teas, my favourite has been the Super Green - I learned to love green tea when I lived in Japan and this had a lovely mild aroma to it. Unlike normal green tea it also has a bit of chamomile, lavender and lemon balm, meant to help you in drifting off later. 

The event was organised to promote this new green tea, the Super Green Sleepy Decaf, so we of course got to hear more about it there. Decaffeinated green tea was a new thing for me. Before the event I always thought that green tea is naturally caffeine free, thus I have enjoyed it in the evenings even if I have long deliberately avoided caffeinated drinks after 6PM due to the potential sleep issues. So if you too try and avoid caffeine due to sleep issues, make a note of that - normal green tea could affect your sleep!

a woman drinking tea on a sofa

It is tricky to try and unwind after a long day at work, and the hectic schedule that comes with living as a family in London. It feels like you are always on the go. Ready for action. Always doing something. Life really whizzes past you and I quite often feel just overwhelmed. But hopefully once my new sleep routines will bed in, and I start to be more strict with myself, my life balance will improve. When I sleep well, I feel like I do much better at everything... 
Sleeping better: 5 top tips from a sleep coach to the Olympians. If you have trouble falling asleep this post gives several tips how to get a better sleep routine.

How do you sleep? What kid of tips do you have for sleep?

How to sleep well - 5 tips from a sleep coach! Do you have trouble falling asleep? This post gives several tips for a better sleep and how to install a good pre-sleep routine to help you sleep better.

1 May 2017

Our family in April 2017

I totally forgot my new family portrait photography this month. To be honest, it has been quite a challenging month. Lots of broken nights, early mornings, hard deadlines at work, and just lots and lots of work in every sense and in every aspect of our lives. So I forgot until I saw other bloggers sharing their own family portraits on social media. 

Oh well. As I always say to myself, better done than perfect, so I decided to dig out the ONLY pictures all three of us are in. It is a family selfie taken in our messy house. After a kids birthday party, with my daughter still wearing the face paint. They were taken because I wanted to share something funny on Facebook and needed a picture to go alongside it. "Done is better than perfect" so here it is. Our April family portrait. Done. 

Our family in April 2017 - family portrait project

In April 2017 I have delivered a really important project at work, had good feedback and aced my end of year review. Work-wise, I was feeling pretty good. It is all going rather well, although I still of course have a lot to learn after only five months in. 

Blog-wise, not that great. I have just been exhausted and tired, and really wanting to come and write but not being able to find the time or the energy to come here to share my thoughts. It hasn't been a great month personal life wise. A two-week spell of poor sleep due to a poorly sleeping little girl has made everything other than absolutely necessary a total drag. What I have lacked in writing, I have taken back in watching though and I have become a bit obsessed with Line of Duty. Now on season three! If you haven't seen it, you should. A brilliant UK crime drama series. I've also started going to the gym again. 

mum dad and daughter in a family selfie

My daughter has, I think, been going through a bit of a growth spurt, as she has been waking up at night demanding food. And waking up at 5.30AM demanding food. she is getting bigger and chunkier and it is just lovely to see. 

She has loved the idea of pets and has been asking us why she doesn't have pets. At the nursery they had little chicks, that they hatched and got to hold and play with. They were absolutely gorgeous and we considered for a brief moment whether we would like to rescue them to our backyard once they "will go back to the farm"... Unfortunately, our back garden is paved, not really suitable for chicken, and suburban chicken are probably not the greatest idea anyway. 

In June she will turn four, and I have been asking what kind of a party she wants. First it was Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) but now she told me "I have changed my mind" and it should be Anna from Frozen. I'm going to be honest, I would prefer to do Belle because everyone has already done Anna, but it looks like Frozen it is... I'll give her one more week to change her mind back ha ha just in case. 

Our family in April 2017 - family selfie in our home

Husband on the other hand has been sharing my excitement about Line of Duty - we are both very much into it. The gym and the personal trainer have made it back to our lives again too... 

He has also been busying himself with fixing our kitchen and various other little titbits in our house, left over from our huge renovation job couple of years back. The final little things in the kitchen have finally been finished after a long wait for the kitchen company to deliver us the last bits and bobs... Door furniture attached to our front door. Door frames painted. Sideboards fixed. And so on and so on. Those last little niggling jobs that you never get around to but just bug you. We still have lots to go, but it is a start! 

So there. A busy busy April, and I am sure another busy month ahead! 

How was your April?  

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