A Kid Free Greek Island Escape

Travelling with kids is probably my favourite thing to do in the world. Favourite, yes. Relaxing? Nuh uh. Battling with car seats, avoiding rabies-ridden dogs and in fact, just getting everyone fed, dressed, sun creamed up and out of a room can be tricky as any parents reading this will know. Which is why when an opportunity to travel *alone* to the Greek island of Paxos arose, Sam and I turned to each other all those 18 months ago when we started planning this trip and committed to each other that we should make this happen. We are fortunate in that we have fantastic grandparents who live locally and who were able to divide up looking after the children – although it was a vague military operation to organise it all (and read on to the end of this post to find out how I’m feeling about it all now…). We are also so grateful to the lovely folk at Paxos Beach Hotel for putting us up and allowing us to really relax for the first time on holiday in a long time. And so it was, four nights, in the sun, kid free that we embarked upon a real, actual, proper h-o-l-i-d-a-y…

Getting the boat across from Corfu to Paxos

The sea is actually this colour

We took a mini boat trip to Antipaxos with Sam driving the boat and me working hard on admiring the view

Greek salad heaven

Gorgeous flowers everywhere you turn in Paxos

The swimming pool looks right onto the beach

Room with a view

YUM!

Paxos Beach Hotel is somewhere I would return to in a heartbeat with the kids as the set up is perfect for families who want some ‘facilities’ but don’t want to be in an all-singing all-dancing (quite literally) resort: there is a kids room full of toys, swimming pool, direct access to the sea, and a restaurant serving 3 meals a day and yet it is small enough to still feel sort of ’boutiquey’ (totally a word).

So we truly had an amazing time; it just felt such a novelty to do simple things such as wake up when we wanted to, get in and out of a car in a flash, eat a full meal with no one else to worry about and most of all, just spend time with each other. That said, the mum guilt has been bubbling away under the surface since we returned probably because I know that leaving your children for 4 nights is a big ask and I know that it was hard work for the grandparents! So my question is: have you ever left your kids to go on holiday? If so, how long for and who looked after them? What are your thoughts on it?

Thank you for taking the time to read this post as ever and do pop me a comment in the box below – I love hearing from you. 🙂

Emma xx

How To Encourage Independent Play

I’m writing this in a silent kitchen with a hot drink next to me whilst Sonny sleeps upstairs and Jack is…I’m not entirely sure. He’s somewhere in our home, and I trust that he’s fine. And by somewhere, I mean he’s probably playing or reading or getting bored somewhere. (Or he’s not and there’s about to be an almighty crash, but I don’t think that’s the case.) View Post

A Perfect Unusual City Break

When we heard Eurostar were having a sale we couldn’t resist snapping up return tickets to Antwerp – not a place we’d ever thought of traveling to and hence all the more reason for going – for just £30 return. And what a wonderful city it is – quirky in all the right ways, with a plethora of cute cafes and cobbled streets and being so accessible makes it the perfect family city break destination.

Traveling by train has many advantages but one of them is that you get to arrive into the magnificent Central Station. With its huge marble hall and series of escalators, it’s an experience just navigating your way through. As usual, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment (here’s why and how to pick a good one) and we spent most of our time walking around the beautiful city centre streets taking in the stunning architecture, nipping in and out of coffee and interior shops to stay warm (the weather wasn’t great), and of course sampling the Belgian food (namely, huge plates of chips and waffles). The city seemed super easy to walk around and get to know and there is also a tram system which we had fun riding on one afternoon.

 

If you’re a foodie or travelling with children, you must check out the Mercado food hall at the Groenmarkt. Once the old post office, it is full of food stands serving up food from around the world and is the perfect place to grab a quick bite. Just as exciting for parents is the excellent softplay located right above it where entry includes a free alcoholic drink. Say whhaaaa?! And if you don’t have kids, the market hosts djs in the evenings too which look great fun too. Some of our other favourites places to fill our bellies included Jam which has the coolest retro interior trinkets everywhere and serves up comfort food, The Mad Hatter for funky palm leaf interiors and great lattes, Zirkey which has an amazing kids play room which meant that Sam and I were able to enjoy a bite or three of food in relative peace and of course the numerous chip shops and waffle houses around the city on most corners. We had our fill at Frittur no. 1 which were pretty epic – my advice is to go ‘all in’ and get all the sauces you can get your hands on.

air b n b

We had the loveliest Air b n b host

The vintage market by the St Anna tunnel is worth checking out to find some trinkets and to meet some local characters. For an amazing view of Antwerp’s skyline, head underneath the tunnel itself and cross over to the other side of the river Scheldt to the West bank where you’ll find a lovely quiet park. It’s a one-third of a mile a walk so good exercise for working off all the chips and also a perfect activity for a rainy day / children that love tunnels! Another afternoon we took the tram to one of the suburbs slightly out of town which I always love doing to get a feel for the city outside of the central, more touristy parts.

Antwerp is a truly special city with stunning architecture and a cafe culture better than any I’ve seen in any other city (Paris, I’m looking at you). For some reason, it is overlooked as a European destination in favour of some of its’ more glamorous neighbours which seems a shame. So for anyone reading this looking to book a mini break with the family, I’d urge you to book a trip by train that, only 3 hours later from London via Brussels, gets you to the most beautiful city full of galleries, shops, cafes not to mention out of this world delicious chips. AND we didn’t even explore the art galleries (though the central cathedral has two amazing Rubens paintings) OR the beer houses OR the chocolate scene. Antwerp, we’ll be back.

P.S I made this little video of our time there so take a peek by clicking on the ‘play’ button below (and please do subscribe to my channel if you like what you see!) Thanks for reading as ever folks, Emma xxx

Five Zero Waste Parenting Switches

Over the past six months I’ve been massively trying to reduce waste and live with less in all areas of my life and what better place to start than the messy world of motherhood. I’ve done a lot of research into this area and what works and what doesn’t – the last thing you or I want are products that might be more eco-friendly, but take more effort or just don’t do a good job. So I thought I would share my progress and the areas where I’ve made some small changes by swapping a few things out and replacing them with different, more eco friendly, equally effective options. So here goes:

1. Nappies
In an ideal world, we would use reusable nappies from day 1, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year and I would have had Jack potty trained far earlier – but that’s just not the world we personally live in right now. At nursery I felt awkward asking them to use cloth nappies which I know this is silly and it may well be something I look in to changing once Sonny starts. Jack also usually spends 1 day a week with my mother in law and expecting her to use reusable nappies just feels slightly too much at this stage.We also do a fair bit of travelling and having to worry about washing nappies as well as all the extra challenges that come with traveling with kids is just one thing too much. And then there’s the nights… SO – where does that leave us? For all the above instances, we use Kit and Kin nappies which are super impressive as almost every element biodegrades within 3-6 years, including the front panel, tapes, anti-leak barriers and packaging. As far as I’m aware there is no nappy yet on the market which is 100% biodegradable though please let me know if you know of one! The rest of the time (so when the kids are with us, during the day, not at nursery, and we’re not travelling – so most of the time), we use reusable nappies. I’ve done a fair bit of experimenting and whilst with Jack we used gNappies which are fab in many ways but I found that once poop got bigger they just didn’t contain it. We switched to the Real Easy Nappy which I could not be happier with. Watch this video for some tips to get started with reusable nappies.

2. Wipes
I hate wet wipes! There, I said it. More natural ones such as water wipes don’t do a particularly good job at actually cleaning a bottom and mainstream brands, aside from smelling horrible, are harsh on the skin (you can actually remove tar with those things!), aren’t cheap, and are not generally biodegradable so they do all sorts of nasty things from clogging up toilets to harming wildlife who mistakenly eat them. They are all round bad news for the environment: take a quick read of this article to find out why in more detail. So instead we use the awesomely named Cheeky Wipes which are cotton terry cloths and perfectly reusable once put through the washing machine. They work for dirty bottoms as well as mucky faces and hands so I keep a stash in the kitchen for after mealtimes too. NB: Old cut up t-shirts do the same job and I also still keep a pack of wet wipes in my changing bag for when I’m out in case of any real disaster but cheeky wipes are fully transportable too and their starter pack comes with travel bags to take them out and about.

3. Toilet training
We only used one product to toilet train Jack – the lovely BecoPotty which is made from bamboo waste and rice husks (leftover materials from farming) ground into a fine powder, mixed with a biodegradable resin and pressed into a hot mould. This makes it completely biodegradable and super durable – we’ve had it for years and it’s been well used and it still looks like new. We picked one up from the Real Nappies for London Potty Training session – I really recommend heading to one of these sessions if you’re a Londoner. After we’ve finished with our potty I plan to bury it in the garden with Jack one afternoon which I reckon will make a fun afternoon’s activity 🙂

4. Feeding
We aspire to cut down our use of plastic in all areas of our life (you can read more about how I did that for Jack’s third birthday here, for example) though of course we still have a load of it in the house. My material of choice, however, is anything made from bamboo, a super fast-growing resource (the fastest growing grass on the planet) and ridiculously beautiful to look at. I love this bowl for the kids: not only is it amazing for baby-led weaning as it stays put on the table thanks to a suction base, it is all natural with a food-grade silicone that protects against BPA and other toxins. I also love the funky bright colours they come in (my favourite is obviously green).

5. Toys
We definitely have plastic, flashing toys in the home but not many. I always opt for wooden toys which are timeless, don’t contain chemicals (BPA or PVC), are eco friendly when produced from FSC-certified forests, bamboo or rubberwood, durable. Asda does an amazing collection which are our absolute favourite and the kids have spent countless hours riding their bikes and playing with the garages and trikes – I know they will far outlast the plastic ones. I think in fact what I love most about wooden toys is that they leave room for the child’s imagination without all the flashing lights and noises to do all the work for them. They also of course look better and are far easier to clean weetabix off (for this reason alone I steer clear from anything battery operated).

On top of this, we love charity shops and hand me downs – the former particularly for books and the latter for the coolest retro fire engines in the world. Then there’s the tupperware, oxo cubes, sticks and bath tubs for paddling pools that we have had endless amounts of fun with too.

I hope you enjoyed reading the post – these tips are nothing ground – breaking but they are small steps to helping the environment and crucially for us busy mums, the products mentioned are all easy to use, work really well and I think are pretty darn stylish.

If you’ve got any zero waste parenting tips, I’d love you to share them in the comments below!

Emma x

P.S How To Reduce Waste as a Family and 10 Ways to Reduce Waste and Live with Less

 

 

How to Make a Floral Crown

When the lovely folk at the Flower Appreciation Society invited me along to their flower garland making session, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I love anything flower-related, always enjoy rolling my sleeves up to do some DIY and live for accessories, so this sounded like a perfect way to spend a Tuesday evening. And when I arrived to find a bottle of wine waiting for the group, I knew this florist company was a little bit different (and a little bit awesome).

Roughly fifteen of us congregated around a huge wooden table which was laden with vases of beautiful fresh flowers. Once we had carefully chosen our stems, with our glass of wine in one hand we listened carefully as Ellie talked us through step by step how to build the garland and we followed along. The materials are fairly simple – all you need is wire, tape, scissors and the flowers – but the method can be a little tricky. We were taught how to wrap the tape down the wire and then how to attach each flower to make up the garland. It was slow, methodical and beautifully relaxing work.

Everyone was there for different reasons; many had upcoming weddings and wanted to make their own garland for the big day (tip: do it the morning of for best results and once done, pop it in the fridge), some were just flower fanatics, others were on a evening out with friends. The atmosphere in the studio was one of fuzzy, girly camaraderie. We were like a gaggle of girls, except we weren’t gaggling; we were carefully creating and learning in the process. I left the workshop buzzing, with a spring in my step and inspired to make more of these beauties in my own time. Nearly two weeks later, and I still have my garland – it’s too pretty to throw away so I’m going to dry it and hang it on the wall to preserve it for as long as possible. In the meantime, I have a feeling I have a new favourite hobby…

Here’s my 3 minute video from the day, take a look!

 

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Flower Appreciation Society is run by Ellie and Anna from a studio in Hackney. As well as running  workshops including many at UK Summer festivals, the bulk of their work is providing flowers for events. Oh, and they also have a book out. Pop over to their website for more info.

How To Have An Awesome Roadtrip

Road trips are without a doubt my favourite type of holiday; yes, the inside of the car might look like we’ve been hit by a meterorite (I imagine we’ve lost a fair bit of our lives down the backs of various foreign car seats) but we’ve journeyed through some amazing places and had huge amounts of fun in the process. But a successful roadtrip takes some planning so here’s a post summarizing everything we’ve learnt along the many miles we’ve driven and addressing some of the questions that I’ve been asked over the past few months.

Should you bring your own carseat away with you? This is such a personal question and really depends on a few external factors: how many hands will you have when navigating airports? What country are you visiting ie. are there likely to be good, sturdy carseats available?  What’s your travel budget? How old is your child? How many of them are there?! Historically we’ve opted not to take our own car seats – the pros of this is that you don’t have so much stuff to lug around – a real priority for us. However the cons are that you never quite know what you’re going to find the other end, and they can be pricey to hire. Also, they’re often tricky to fit and car hire companies aren’t legally allowed to do it for you – cue Sam trying desperately to work it out using his iphone torch in a darkly lit car park whilst an unfriendly Italian man looks on and I wrangle two tired kids. If you do decide to take your own, I would definitely recommend phoning the car rental company ahead of your trip and doing some serious probing into what brand car seat they have and if someone is at least going to be available to advise you how to fit it. Better still, find out the type of car seat and do some research beforehand into how to fix it in the car .

How long is it possible to drive in one go with no breaks before everyone goes a little crazy? Again, this is very personal and wildly differs from family to family. The key factor is of course the driver and how alert they are / how many children have kept them up in the night and how much your little ones can handle. We once drove 8 hours in one day (with a break) which was our absolute limit and we had to resort to using every single one of the aids I list below. Read on for some other tips..

We want to cover a lot of distance – should we just do a little bit every day? I would say don’t make every day a driving day so gear yourself up for and prepare for one day of a lot of driving and then have a few days when you’re doing hardly any, ideally no driving at all. Take breaks when ideally you don’t even step foot in the car. The last thing you want to do is make your kids dread getting in the car because they think it’ll just mean hours of driving again.

Where should we stop? I recommend doing some researching and looking ahead to find a nice spot to stop at for something to eat and to stretch everyones’ legs. There’s such a difference between making a deliberate, planned stop somewhere lovely as opposed to reaching breaking point and having to pull over at the nearest petrol station as everyone is just desperate to get out the car. Cafes with play areas are obviously ideal – it’s worth bearing in mind that chains often offer these. The kids had a great time in a McDonalds soft play in a tiny town driving through Arizona!

How do you keep the kids happy? First of all, unless your child really can’t nap in the car try to be driving for the portion of the day when you know they’ll be sleeping. When roadtripping it’s even more important to have loads of snacks, water and wet wipes on you before setting off. Avoid any food that is messy for little ones to eat – even food you don’t think is messy will be messy – that ice lolly above was not a good idea). That said, rather than stress about keeping the car clean, let the good times roll and consider keeping a bit of time and cash aside for popping to the car cleaners before returning your hire car. In terms of entertaining them, we go by the rule that so long as they are happy and quiet, leave them alone! There is so much going on out the window for older children to watch; Jack stares out the window for a good while and remember to bring some toys too – Jack loves just holding trains and for younger children remember to bring a few of the car toys you might use at home along. It’s also fun to tap into everyones’ imagination – we have recently entered the world of i spy which has been really sweet and I’m sure audiobooks are soon to follow. (Any recommendations?) Music is also a real help and when things are looking a bit wobbly, we use bluetooth to connect our Spotify to the car system to put on some nursery rhymes or lullabies. As a last resort we use technology – mainly because I want Jack looking out the window not at a phone but also to avoid any car sickness. If and when necessary though, we do have some apps loaded on Sam’s phone that he can use – he loves the Peppa Pig paintbox app. I love the fact that inside your car is your own space to do whatever you want away from the real world so I’d say embrace that and have some fun.

How do you adults stay sane? One of the main reasons I love roadtrips is that it gives Sam and I a proper opportunity to just chat and catch up in a way that we can’t always manage to do at home. We also load up some podcasts and playlists (Desert Island Discs is our favourite) and we make sure we have shed loads of coffee, water and snacks.

What about if it all gets too much? If shit hits the fan, be prepared for the non driver to clamber into the backseat and soothe children / drip feed them snacks / sing very out of tune lullabies. I’ve spent a fair few journeys doing all of the above and sometimes it just has to be done. Better still, if everyone’s hating it, pull over when you can, grab a coffee and some snacks, and take 30.

Any other quick tips? Don’t ever drive in the dark in an unknown place – we’ve been there, and it wasn’t entirely ideal (you can read more about that here) so set off early and allow plenty of time for traffic, getting lost and spontaneous stops. On the note of directions, do not always rely on Google maps or having signal – if you’re heading somewhere remote, Google Maps might not have it covered or even more likely, there won’t be signal so a good old fashioned map is really worth investing in. We always print directions off so we’re not at the mercy of technology. If you are using your phone for navigation, remember to pack a car adaptor and USB cable for charging phones. Sun shades for the car might be useful to invest in / fashion yourselves – this can really bother children (understandably so). Try to be vaguely organised – everything should have its place – this should avoid too much getting lost. Most of all, have fun!

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I hope you found this post useful – if you’re thinking about doing a roadtrip or have one coming up, just know that they are things might not always be plain sailing, but with a bit of planning I’m sure you’ll all have an awesome time. I find this kind of trip incredibly bonding for you and your family and we always create great memories in the process. If you have any questions, or experiences of your own around roadtripping, I’d love to hear them so pop me a comment below.

Thanks so much for reading and have a fab day,

Emma xxx

 

 

Mamalina Meets Lisa Bronner

Lisa Bronner is a descendent of one of my biggest idols so to have the opportunity to interview her was a huge honour. Not only is she a writer (check out her blog ‘Going Green with a Bronner Mom‘) and a prolific speaker on health and green lifestyle issues, she is also the granddaughter of the incredible Dr. Emanuel Bronner, founder of Dr. Bronner’s, one of the world’s top-selling natural soaps with the most epic and unique mission statement. The story of Dr Bronner, his journey and that of his family is deeply moving – he fled Germany, his parents tragically died in the Holocaust and he became an impassioned soap maker who used the labels on his soaps to spread his message that we must unite across religious & ethnic divides or perish: “We are All-One or None!” He had an incredible vision which the family-owned and run company continues to honour today: Dr Bronner’s is fair trade, organic, zero waste, and dedicates profits to charity to help make a better world. Spreading love comes first, profits second. There’s even a film all about his life and the company. A truly remarkable man, here’s what his lovely granddaughter had to say when I caught up with her a few weeks back:

  1. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The thought of a fresh new day with no mess ups in it yet.  So much potential!

  1. Whats the first thing you do once you are up?

Drink water and hop in the shower.

  1. Fry up or healthy?

Healthy.  Fewer pots to scrub.

  1. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Books.  I am truly concerned I won’t have a chance to read all the books I want to before I die.

  1. When are you happiest?

I am by far happiest laughing together with my husband and three kids.  Especially when one of my kids laughs so hard, they snort milk out their nose.  That never gets old.

  1. What makes you angry?

When someone’s sense of entitlement makes them think they deserve this or that, instead of pushing up their sleeves and getting to work themselves.  There is so much good to be done in this world and each one of us can do so much where we are, with what we have.  If we sit still and wish we had that person’s situation or that person’s finances or that person’s health, we are paralyzed from doing what we can.

My grandfather Dr. Bronner taught me a lot about this through his life’s story, because if anyone had a reason to give up and say that life is too hard, it was him.  He lost his homeland, his wife, even his freedom for a while and eventually his eyesight, but he never became bitter.  He only became more determined.  Determined to “unite the whole Human Race! For we’re All-One or None!” And he did so much!  He built a successful soap company through sheer force of will that simultaneously spread this amazing message of peace through the most unconventional of methods – on a bottle’s label! He started a legacy that is flowing strong through the generations and around the world.  Things could have turned out so differently if he had chosen to give up.

  1. In the last year you have become…

More focused, more able to shut out distractions.  Part of this has been learning to prioritize and plan, learning to make decisions more quickly, learning to declutter both my schedule and my physical surroundings.  There is so much good work to be done.

  1. If you could pass one piece of advice on to your former self, what would it be?

Live intentionally.  There was too much aimlessness in my days (years) of early adulthood.  So many missed opportunities.  The thing is, if I don’t aim at something specifically, I will get nowhere specifically.

9. And finally, crunchy or smooth? (peanut butter)

Crunchy!

 

What Blogging Means To Me
I love writing blog posts but it doesn’t happen often that I’m actually counting down the minutes til Sonny goes for a nap so that I can get in front of my far too grubby laptop screen and get typing. You see, this is a blog post that I’ve been formulating in my mind for months but it was only when I happened to switch on BBC radio 4 this morning looking for Thought For the day but instead stumbling across an absolutely fascinating programme titled Post Truth and Revolution, that everything fell into place. As with most things in life, there are good sides and there are not so good sides and I battle with both of these when it comes to social media. For me, my blog, YouTube and Instagram are all spaces for me to share passions, ramblings, stories and opinions and which mainly centre on motherhood and travel but also cover everything from my obsession with coffee to how much I dislike scrubbing down a highchair; it’s where I go to find answers and inspiration on everything from why the leaves on my palm tree are turning brown to how to make tofu taste good; it’s where I have made genuine new friends and connected with old ones; it’s a place that has brought me solace when I just felt a bit lonely; where I can unleash some creativity and get excited by a new font and most recently, it’s a place that now earns me income. It’s mine to do whatever I want with, I have no idea where it will take me and I really, truly love it.
On the other hand, the online social media ‘world’ – and it really now is a world – comes with its own complex set of problems. ‘Keeping up with it’ requires effort and takes up a sizeable chunk of my time which I could be using to do any number of other things. On average, a blog post takes 2-3 hours to write and edit – and there are times when I feel real pangs of guilt that I should be doing something in the ‘real world’.
And then there’s the pressure: I often feel I should be posting content in line with what people expect and keep putting ‘something’ out there. This can feel a bit heavy and starts to make social media feel like a chore. It’s a constant balance that takes time to work out. Sam and I now have a rule that we don’t look at our phones whenever we’re around each other, for example, and I keep my phone out of the bedroom. We might glance at them but we don’t sit there, staring at them.
But these are all commonplace problems. What I really, really struggle with about the online world is its ability to destabilize the truth and put out a different reality. As Matthew D’Ancona says in this interview, it can proliferate falsehood – and that’s a really, really serious issue. On a good day, it can just be a different perspective; on a bad day it can spread lies and make people feel shit and affect their whole being.
So I want to make a promise. There are now over 15,000 of you on Instagram which I’m really grateful for and don’t take lightly. I want this space to be something that I’m proud of and that I can tell my kids about when they’re older. I owe it to them, I owe it to myself, I owe it to my patient husband who probably misses out on a bit of TLC because of it, and I owe it you. I commit to always putting out content that is truthful. Whether it’s feelings I’m experiencing, information I’m sharing, products I’m using, the truth matters – not just in a moral dimension but in a practical one too as its on this basis that we make decisions on everything we do in life. As a reader you are at the mercy of what you are scrolling on your screen which means anyone creating content has a responsibility to speak from the heart and not from their a*** and to put genuine information out into the ecosystem. And sometimes, in this age of Instagram filters and Facebook likes, this doesn’t always happen.

More than ever I want my content to be three things: I want it to be truthful, I want it to be useful and I want it to be beautiful.

So:

* If I don’t post in a few days it’s because I simply don’t feel like it. I want to relieve myself of the pressure to post.

* I want to ensure all the information I bring to you is well – researched

* And yes, if every once in a while I choose to spend 10 minutes of my life that I know I’ll never get back arranging a bunch of flowers around my coffee with the sole purpose of creating an aesthetically pleasing photo, I’m OK with that.

Thank you for reading and for helping my blog make me a better person and for helping me make this space one that I love and not somewhere that creeps me out. I sacrifice a lot to put content out there – and you sacrifice time to consume the content – which means I want everything about it to feel 100% right. And if you can’t handle the truth and are looking for what I often see as a white washed, dare I say it, fake approach for life, then you won’t find it here.

Love,
Emma x