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DSC_1319What comes to your mind when you think of Notting Hill? A hang out for the rich and famous. Home for excessively rich bankers. Setting of a very popular 90’s film. Portobello Road Market and The Notting Hill Carnival. Perhaps these are all phrases that would spring to your mind about this uber trendy area? But to me I think of my place of work and my lunch break hang out. That is because I work in this lovely area of London. I have spent many a happy hour exploring The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Here I will take you on a whistle-stop tour of the best shops and boutiques to fulfil any parents shopping appetite. The nearest tube station is Notting Hill Gate and Portobello Road is just a short 10 minute walk away.

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My first stop has to be London Tree House, at 146 Portobello Road, W11 2DZ. A Children’s gift shop which specialises in traditional British characters, such as Paddington Bear amd Peter Rabbit to name but a few.

One of my great finds when I was in there recently was a hair accessories range by BowtiqueLondon. They make really cute handmade hair clips in a range of designs. My Daughter Amelia Loves wearing them in her ponytail!

 

 

You won’t want to miss my next find, just down Blenheim Crescent is Honeyjam Toy Shop, it is simply one of the most beautiful and original Toy Shops I have been to. The owners Jasmine Guinness and Honey Bowdery have made their shop into a real Aladdin’s cave of toys, games, art, activities and kids fashion. I especially love the pocket money table, where your child could choose something that doesn’t cost a small fortune.

I brought my Daughter a lovely cat necklace by Pop Cutie. This is a brand made in Denmark and it went down a treat with Amelia who is a big fan of cats and any sort of jewellery that she can squirrel away in one of her treasure boxes!

Next on my list is Pylones at 172 Portabella Road. It is  a French based company, which sells every day items in quirky brightly coloured designs. It appears to have a Japanese influence. Perfect for a quirky adult gift too.

A lovely boutique shop at 88 Portobello Road. The owner also a gift shop in Hampstead at 31 South End Road, NW3 2PY. The vintage inspired kids children’s night wear really got my attention it is by Powell Craft.

Next head down to the well healed area of Westbourne Grove and you will find Fara Kids Charity Shop . I have been going here for a number of years now, because I know this is the place to find excellent quality second hand bargins. If you are lucky you might find some designer labels and most likely brands such as Mini Boden, Joules and Little White Company to name but a few!

Some other shops you might like to go to in the Westbourne Grove area:

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JoJo Maman Bebe

Marie Chantal

Petit Bateau

Caramel

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Finally why not relax and take the weight off your feet after all that shopping, at one of my favorite Artisan Bakeries Gail’s, they are at 138 Portobello Road, W11 2DZ (they also have other branches throughout London). I would highly recommend their chicken and parmesan brioche roll and they make great coffee too.

For more photos take a look at my Instagram account and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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As a working parent the biggest headache in my opinion has to be school holidays. There are so many days to cover if you work full time hours like me. I am lucky in some respects to be self employed, so I can be some what flexible with the time I want to take off to look after my Daughter. However being self employed means that I don’t get holiday pay, so if I don’t work then I don’t get paid!

You can feel pulled between work commitments and making sure your child enjoys the Summer and that you are still doing special things together. So some how you need to find a balance of work and holidays with your children.

So here are my top tips for organising childcare this Summer:

Tip 1 – Consider asking a Grandparent or another close relative if they can help out? However this can be tricky as many people’s family are not living near by. So in my case if my Mum helps out she has to come and stay at our house for a number of weeks.

Tip 2 -What about asking one of your child’s friends parents to organise a fun day out and take your child along too? Then in return you can give them a day off? I do this occasionally with one of Amelia’s friends and it works really well. I can actually get more done round the house if she has a friend over to play.

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Tip 3 – Childminders can be a good holiday option. This can work well as some Childminders may have dry periods over the Summer when their usual children are away on holiday. Plus your child gets to be cared for in a more relaxed homely environment.

Tip 4 – Holiday Clubs and Camps are becoming more popular. Some independents Schools offer holiday clubs so check out your local area. What to look out for: staff to child ratio, are meals included or do you need to include a packed lunch, do the pick up and collection times fit into your schedule, what are the late collection charges (they can be very costly if you don’t pick up on time), will your child know anyone? As some children who are not very confident can find it really hard to fit in.

Tip 5 – Check local Gyms and Health Clubs, for example Club V at Virgin Active Gyms run holiday camps.

Tip 6 – Consider working from home, however you may not be very productive!

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Tip 7 – Registered at a Nursery for the Summer, but the child must be under 5 years. This can be very expensive, as you may be charged an admin fee.

Tip 8 – Stay and play schemes, for example the Y Active, YMCA West London run holiday fun clubs, the only down side is you can only leave your child there for a couple hours.

Tip 9 – Have you thought about getting an Au Pair to help for the Summer? You can either ask an Agency to assist in finding a suitable candidate (but the placement fee can be high) or you could try using a website such as Au Pair World and finding one yourself. This can be time consuming so be ready to spend a lot of time searching profiles and interviewing potential candidates via Skype. The average pocket money per week for an Au Pair is £80-£100.

Tip 10 – Be organised! Many holiday clubs get booked far in advance. Do your research and sign up with various companies so  you are on their email list and they will contact you once they have dates for Summer and half term.

unspecified-17Ideas for Holiday Camps/Clubs:

The Little Gym

Stagecoach

Barracudas Activity Day Camp

 

 

 

This blog post was originally written as a guest post for Networking Mummies

 

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I would like to share with you what a great day out I have had today with my Four year old. The reason I am so over the moon is that this is the first theatre production that she has sat all the way through. My mind casts back to nine months ago when I decided to take her to a performance of Frozen (the film with a live orchestra playing alongside) at The Royal Albert Hall. The day ended with me head in hands and a very large glass of wine, vowing to myself that I would never do anything like that again with her.

Looking back now perhaps I was expecting way too much from my three-year old at the time. Yes of course she would sit at home and happily watch the whole of Frozen, but add in travelling to central London, sitting in such a large venue such as the Royal Albert Hall, plus the distraction of other children. Especially the little girl in front of us, who Amelia decided to get into a full-scale argument about who was wearing the best Elsa costume!

I decided on The Gruffalo Live at the Lyric Theatre because the show lasts only 55 minutes and there is no interval. Amelia has always loved many of the Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler books, so being familiar with the story should also hold her attention.

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The costumes and the scenery/effects were basic, but in a way I think this leads to the charm of this performance. I have been to other children’s theatre and sometimes I think there is way too much going on, which can distract children from the essence of the story. There were only four actors playing the various different roles and all of them put in lots of energy and enthusiasm throughout the performance.

I really liked the fact that audience participation was encouraged. The children really felt that they were involved in this piece of theatre, shouting out, repeating phrases and the Gruffalo even came down into to the audience which many of the children loved. There was also a very relaxed feel, so it didn’t mater that if your child was talking or being a bit loud!

Over all I would give this show 10/10, it really was great fun and every time I turned round to look at Amelia she was either laughing or had a big smile on her face. The company that performs The Gruffalo Live are Tall Stories , so have a look at their website for clips of the show and to see other shows they are performing.

After we left the theatre I decided this would be an excellent opportuntiy to introduce Amelia to Europe’s largest bookshop Waterstones Piccadilly . It really is the most amazing place, I could literally spend the whole day there. Housed in the most wonderful Art Deco building that was once Simpson’s Department store it has six floors of books, including a bar and cafe.

The children’s book department which covers almost the whole of the second floor is my childhood dream. Any children’s book you can imagine is here, plus a great range of toys and activities. What I really like about it is that there are plenty of place for children to just sit and read a book (as you can see Amelia made herself comfortable on a bean bag). Also there are tables that children can sit and colour and there was even a dressing up box where Amelia managed to find a lovely princess outfit.

So this was my day and it has re-kindled my spirit to make sure that Amelia and I enjoy all that is available in London just on our doorstep. Also I made the wise decision to come home around 1pm. I was tempted to stay out longer with Amelia, but from experience I know how tiring it is for her. So it was the perfect day!

 

My four year old like so many little girls, loves to have her nails painted. However she also still sucks her fingers (which is another issue all together), so I have always been concerned about painting her nails with nail varnish because of the toxic chemicals that she will be getting in her system. I have been looking around for a while to find an alternative that is more suited to children.

I work in the area of Notting Hill, so I am lucky enough on my lunch breaks to frequent this up market area of West London. I have been doing a bit of research as one of my next blog posts will be a spotlight on the best things about Notting Hill, but in the meantime I wanted to share Nailmatic with you. It is a French brand but it is stocked in many specialist children’s shops and boutiques in the UK.

“Especially formulated for children, this water-based varnish has defeated the nasty products. It magically disappears with warm soapy water. Made without organic solvents, Phthalatete-Free, Formaldehydede-Free, Toluene-Free, BPA-Fee and Fragrance-Free”

I found this great product at Tippy Toes Kids, 243 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill,they also sell a great range of children’s designer clothes and accessories, plus they have a Kids Hairdressing Salon in the basement.

Amelia had her nails painted with a pink shade called Bella and a top coat sparkle coat, Super. Both Amelia and I were impressed with the results and the nail polish stayed on all day and just washed off when it was time for bed!

 

I hadn’t even heard of Methylisothiazonlinone (MI) until yesterday and now after a bit of internet research and looking at all of my beauty and household cleaning products I’ve realised it is everywhere! This is going to be a very costly experience for me as I am going to be getting rid of a lot of products and replacing them all with things that don’t contain this nasty chemical.

My story starts with a strange rash that I keep getting under my eyes. It comes and goes, sometimes I have it for a couple of days and other times I have had it for up to a week. My under eye skin is not just red and inflamed, but also sore, dry and my skin feels tight. I look like I have just done a round in a boxing ring! I’ve spent months wondering why it comes, eventually putting down to something to do with my hormones. But there must be something more to it surely?

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So I have been trying to see if it links with anything I use on my face? We recently went on holiday to Majorca and I was applying sun screen on a daily basis and it was definitely worse then. Plus I have had a few episodes recently when I have used make up remover wipes and sure enough my skin feels like it is burning.

Last week I decided to go and see my GP about my rash. He looked at it and said it was probably a contact dermatitis or allergy caused by make up? He prescribed Hydrocortisone 1% cream, which I have used and it did improve things a bit. However I am not keen to use a steroid cream in this area for too long as it can cause the skin to thin.

So what is methylisothiazolinone?

‘It is a powerful synthetic biocide and preservative within the group of isothiazolinones, which is used in numerous personal care products and a wide range of industrial applications.It is a cytotoxin that may affect different types of cells. Its use for a wide range of personal products for humans, such as cosmetics, lotions, moisturiser, sanitary wipes, shampoos, and sunscreens’.

It can also be known under these other names:

2-Methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one.
5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one.
Acticide
Algucid
Amerstat 250
Euxyl K 100
Fennosan IT 21
Grotan TK2
Kathon
Kathon CG
Mergal K7
Metatin GT
Methylchloroisothiazolinone
Methylisothiazolinone (MI)
Mitco CC 32 Lafterwards

My plan now is to no longer use any product that contains Methylisothiazonlinone if I can help it and actually in turn try to use more natural based products. That includes for me and my four year old Daughter. I work as a Practice Nurse and I am constantly washing my hands, so now am seriously thinking about taking my own soap to work. The liquid soap that is provided at work in dispensers could also contain MI I don’t know. If I was to get this reaction on my hands it could stop me working as a Nurse.

So on my list of things to do today is to search out some MI free products luckily I live near by a really good Health Store called As Natural Intended. So I will be heading down there later to have a good look around. In the meantime I have been using Weleda products as they are MI free. I was getting in to a vicious circle of applying make up and then taking it off with a make up remover which was making my skin flare up and then putting make up on to cover the redness which was in turn making it worse. I found Almond Soothing Cleaning Lotion by Weleda which doesn’t seem to irritate my skin, so I will be using more Weleda products in the future.

So next time you are in the supermarket or Chemist take a closer look at the ingredients label. For example the following products all contain MI: Baylis & Harding, Funky Farm, Bath & Shower Gel for Children, Fairy Washing Up Liquid Original, Aussie Shower Smoothie Body Wash and John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Shampoo. Beware!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been trying to find ways to get into representing brands or reviewing products and I have made my first break through with Childs Farm. I am now an official brand ambassador! I love their products and have been using them for a while for Amelia as she has sensitive skin.

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So some of my hard work and research has finally paid off. I have spent a lot of time reading other people’s blogs and looking at how they make social media work for them. I came across another blogger on Twitter who had just become a Childs Farm Ambassador, so I though I would contact the company and offer my services. Then to my surprise I got an email back from them with a questionnaire to complete and I have been accepted!

So what does this mean? Well first of all they are going to be sending me lots of lovely samples for me to hand out to friends and other people I might meet. So please let me know if you would like me to save some for you? It also means that if you would like to buy any products from the online shop at  www.childsfarm.com and enter the code CFAMB298 at the checkout you receive 30% any of the products. I’m also going to be one of the first people to get sent new products and will have the opportunity to test and review them.

Well that’s it for now, I’m off to do some more research. I think I am on a roll!

 

 

 

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When I was four years old back in the late Seventies I’m pretty sure Birthday Parties were a completely different matter! I seem to remember being perfectly happy with cheese and tinned pineapple on sticks, a game of pass the parcel and a cake that my Mum had spent a good few hours slaving over in the kitchen. I also remember the embarrassment of my Mum playing Christmas Carols in the background and complaining because it was only November.

Roll on 35 years to the present day, our children now expect a whole lot more from their parties. First of all there should be a theme and this ideally should run from the invitations, to the table design, balloons and cake. Not forgetting the entertainment. So all in all it can prove to be a very costly and time consuming business as I found out recently….

Last year when Amelia turned three years old we decided to hold the party at a soft play venue. I must say it was a pretty stress free event. The venue organised the food (which was a bit on the disappointing side) and for the majority of the time most of the children were off playing on the climbing frames and slides. I was therefore free to catch up with all the Mums and Dads that attended, but at the same time I didn’t really see much of the interaction between the children. So this year I decided I wanted to organise the whole thing myself.

 

The first decision I made was which entertainer I was going to pick. Over the past couple of years since Amelia started Nursery I have attended numerous parties, so I had a pretty good idea on what I consider makes a good children’s entertainer. I believe it is all about holding their attention, having boundless energy and having a genuine love of children. I had seen The Giggle Company host a party for a friend of Amelia’s and I was convinced they were the ones for us and they didn’t let me down. Although at the higher end of my budget they really did pull out all the stops. Amelia wanted a Frozen themed party, so when Anna and Elisa turned up, Amelia was in her element! The highlight for me was when they brought their snow machine out (foam maker). ‘Let it go’ blaring out and 40 under 5’s singing along, priceless!

 

The venue was another decision I made early on. Here in Ealing we have numerous church halls to choose from. My main needs were: a fairly large hall because I planned on inviting all the children from Amelia’s Nursery and other friends too (I must have been mad). It is important to consider the height of the hall if you want to hire a bouncy castle. I also wanted a fully equipped kitchen so I could make hot drinks and heat up food. Don’t forget to factor in setting up times and clearing up after the event. We wanted to leave the hall as we found it otherwise we would not get our deposit returned.

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Amelia’s party venue for 2016

Here are my top tips on food and drink:

  • Keep it simple, don’t do too many different varieties of sandwiches/savoury things you can over cater
  • Cartons or pouches of  drinks are easier to hand out and you will have less spillages
  • Don’t forget vegetarians and children with allergies
  • Consider having an adults table for snacks/sandwiches and drinks that are more suited to their palate
  • Make sure you have some extra supplies just in case some extra guests turn up that you weren’t expecting
  • Fruit Kebabs went down a treat at Amelia’s party
  • Make sure you have help if you attempt to do your own catering (I was lucky enough to have my Mum helping out in the Kitchen, otherwise I won’t have seen much of the party)
  • Consider a shop made cake, unless you have excellent baking skills. I brought mine from Waitrose online and had it delivered to my door on the morning of the party
  • We ended up cutting the cake and wrapping up for the party bags. This was a suggestion made by the entertainers, it meant there was more play time.
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Amelia’s retro cake from Waitrose and she even got to keep the Barbie!
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My Mum taking charge in the kitchen!

Well that’s it for my 2nd blog post. I plan to write a second post on parties with some more ideas on organising and what I did for party bags.

Please do comment if you have any party tips or hints, I would love to hear from you…..

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Can’t believe my little girl is four years old!

 

 

It’s taken me a while to pull myself together and write my first blog post. It’s taken a bit of courage because although I know I am going to enjoy blogging, I do feel that it is is opening my life up to the world. That is the whole point isn’t it!

I decided to call my Blog ‘Mummy of the suburbs’ because of where I live in Ealing, West London. Ealing is know as ‘Queen of the suburbs’.

  It’s something I have been wanting to do for a long while. Every since I had my Daughter Amelia who is now four years old, many of my friends have commented on how I always seem to know about the best child friendly places to go.  I enjoying spending time reading reviews in any of the free parent & child magazines that seem to be of abundance around London. So I’m hoping to use my Blog to do some reviews on some of the places I frequent with Amelia and David my Husband when I manage to drag him along!

One of my other loves is children’s fashion. Any of my friends reading will already know how much I love to dress Amelia in the latest cute outfits. One of my favourite pastimes is to search for hidden treasures in the numerous charity shops of London. I especially like to visit the more well healed areas of the capitol. I might not find anything, but I love the buzz of never knowing what I might find! I also founded a small business called Mummy Traders, which is a children’s dress agency specialising in pre-loved designer clothes. I put my business on hold in January this year, but I’m hoping to relaunch it soon.

I work as a self employed Practice Nurse, so my job takes me all over London. I look on it as one of the perks of the job! I think I deserve some benefits as I spend most of my day in a GP surgery listening to people moan and groan about the NHS!  I often end up working in parts of London that I have never been to before, so I think that makes me best placed to perhaps advice the Mummy’s of West London to get out there and discovery some new places a bit off the beaten track.

Finally I want to thank my good friend and sort of relative (don’t ask it is complicated) Emma Bradley. She is a successful blogger and editor at Tots 100. Emma popped over to see me recently in Ealing, while she was on her way to the Capital Summertime Ball. Emma has inspired me to start blogging as she has successfully made a career out of it and in turn has given up her day job as a teacher. She has also raised the profile of the medical condition  Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) which her Daughter Erin suffered from.

So that it’s for now. I’m really excited to be on my blogging journey finally!

Check Out Emma blogs at the links below:

Emmaand3

mumssavvysavings

Tots100

TOTS100 - UK Parent Blogs
TOTS100

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