Friday, 29 June 2012

Britmums Live - The Highlights

A couple of times a year, the blogging community escapes en masse to London for a few days to eat, drink, be merry and learn some new tricks with regard to blogging.  I'm still struggling with the whole SEO/technical side of things/pinterest/google + etc etc but if I am being honest, I don't go for the workshops but for the socialising!  

Last weekend was the inaugural Britmums Live experience and so, with my case packed for a 2 night break in London, I set off.   I'm not going to report on the actual workshops, there are plenty that have, but I am going to report on who did what, who wore what and everything else in between!!!

After staggering out of the station, I was accosted by @northernmum and @helloitsgemma who were in the pub (no surprises there) and I also had the pleasure of meeting tattie weasle who is an absolute sweetheart and a fabulous writer (just check out her blog, so eloquent).

After a cheeky vino, we headed to the Brewery where I was enveloped in a huge bear hug by my roomie for the weekend mummy barrow followed not long after by a massive squeeze from honest mum who is quite clearly from another planet - this woman ROCKS being pregnant!

We had a mooch around and then the cocktail reception beckoned.  I was delighted to finally meet Victoria who blogs at its a small world after all as I've tweeted with her for a long time, and despite us having a chat about living in London and the state of senior schools (it's a London ice breaker!) I got to grill her on the logistics of taking the kids out of school and travelling around the world as it is something that I am yearning to do.

The awards themselves were great - hosted by Katy Hill who is just as hilarious as she is gorgeous (beetch slaps).  I was delighted to see some of my favourite bloggers win awards and especially proud of     Claire from ministry of mum who is such a lovely, funny lady!

I then headed into the night for a blogging dinner in the heart of Shoreditch for 30.   I had an absolute scream with @mammasaurus, @booandme, @sohoprgirl who were on my table and I won't even begin to tell you some of the drunken antics and chats we had.   The table wasn't very well placed for socialising so I sadly didn't get a chance to meet everyone but did manage a very quick drink with @melkshammum @hpmqueen @motherventing and finally (!) got to meet @theboyandme.  The food was ace and the goody bags even better!!!  (Yes, you read that correctly, @mummybarrow and I organised goody bags for the dinner, all co-ordinated by @sohoprgirl who arrived in a cab laden with goodies!)

Huge thanks to our sponsors canvas holidays , organic burstvosene , dove for providing such lovely goodies in our bags on Friday night.

Saturday dawned and I had a fashion crisis - I had no WHITE knickers to wear under my white linen trousers...luckily for me, Tanya had bought 9 pairs of NEW knickers for the weekend (seriously?!) and so gave me a pair to wear.   We then spent the day running around, networking, eating, drinking and being merry.   Highlights for me include getting my handwriting analysed on the cuticura stand and having a long and funny chat with Ruby Wax.

I've got one critique which I hope is taken in the right way!
1) Nowhere to chill out.  If I was organising something of this scale, I would have a dedicated chill out room.  Coffee, tea, cakes NO SPONSORS and lots and lots of squishy sofas and beanbags.  Maybe with an area for massage/make overs/sleeping.  The TK Maxx lounge was the only place that had sofas/chairs (as part of their sponsorship) but it was so annoying that you would retire there for a cuppa and a catch up only to be shouted over as the girls tried to showcase the A/W collection.  I felt really sorry for them as they were talking to a room that wasn't interested.   Same goes for the lunchtime demonstrations - these poor sponsors were talking to a room of people who didn't want to know as they wanted to catch up with friends or just chill out and catch their breath.  I really hope this changes next year.

It was a great weekend that I thoroughly enjoyed and I'm looking forward to next year.

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Monday, 18 June 2012

Next Mummy Stylist Blogger Competition

The gorgeous Mirka over at All Baby Advice is hosting the competition to end all competitions.  In conjuction with Next, just by blogging about your favourite outfit from the current 2012 range, you could win £500!

Now, as many of you know, I have my own business Halo Lifestyle which specialises in iconic, classic photography taken at home or your favourite location with a vintage twist.  As the business is growing, we are getting more and more involved in stylised shoots, which is where my real interest lies.  I adore getting creative, getting the storyboard together and watching the idea transform into something that I have visualised.  I am lucky that so many of my clients are thinking the same way - no boring white background shoots here thank you very much.

Obviously 2012 is a HUGE year for the UK.  As a Londoner born and bred, I really wanted to do something to commemorate the jubilee and so my idea for a jubilee shoot was began to blossom.  In my mind, it was all vintage tea cups and bunting and the idea bloomed into a jubilee vintage tea party.  All I needed were a couple of gorgeous models and some iconic clothing.

After scouring the charity shops for what felt like days, I was beginning to despair.  In my minds eye, I didn't want a union jack t-shirt, but a 50s style prom dress.  Luckily for me, next came up with the goods and I got my lovely Pixie this beautiful prom dress for the shoot.  I also used a bunting print scarf as my tablecloth which you can see in the picture below - consequently, "Rule Britannia, Cool Britannia" was captured.

Rule Britannia, Cool Britannia - Jubilee Photo Shoot

My next (no pun intended!) mission is to do a vintage, Olympic, styled shoot.  I am currently working on the concept but it will be themed around Iconic London and I'm working on something very "special" that I don't want to jinx in case it doesn't come off.  Let's just say, it involves water and a flowing, billowy, union jack dress like 

Luckily for me, I have three, gorgeous and willing models living right under my roof and they are always more than happy to pose for my shoots and unlike Linda Evangelista, will get out of bed and model for less than £10k a day!  I would love to use the following in my "London 2012 -Chariots of Fire " shoot and I will be dressing my two boys aged 8 and 5 and my daughter of 3.  

We are also using 3 gorgeous, teen models and I would love to see them in the following, mixed up with plain white vests (going with the shorts) and block colour shorts to go with the sports polo.  

I've added in the retro union jack telephone as a prop, and plan on using the official team GB scarf as a flag.

I'd love to win this fabulous competition in order to style my "Chariots of Fire" photo shoot, it would be the icing on the cake to use such amazing clothes and props rather than my usual method of beg, borrow or make do - the bonus being that my kids would get to keep the clothes at the end of the session.

Styling a shoot is one of the best bits of my job and I'd love to do it in style - I would of course, report back with the after shots.

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Sunday, 17 June 2012

I've been around the block. Several times in fact.

Yesterday was the School Summer Fair and as I was pre-occupied with the children's lucky dip (70p a go, everyone a winner!) and HAW was running around after the Pixie who was obsessed with the beauty room (nails, hair sprayed wild colours, MAKE UP) we decided to let the boys hang out with their pals and do what they wanted!  This is the first year we have let BoBo do this, and so he was very excited to be running around with his friends playing hook a duck and all sorts.  

I love a Summer Fair and ours is very much a traditional one with maypole dancing, hook a duck, pony rides and of course, a performance from the school choir.  It is also a great fundraiser and early indications show that we have raised about £10k which will be going towards new, outdoor play equipment.

Everyone was having a fab time, and I realised I hadn't seen Beansey for a while so off I went to look for him.  He was in the toy room, eyeing up a pair of roller blades that were £5, brand new, in the box.  Now, he is a canny wee boy, and only had five pounds on him for the whole day, I could see him weighing up the fact that if he bought the skates, he wouldn't be able to do anything else.  He reluctantly put them back and ran off with his friends.

At the end of the day, as we were rallying the troops (I really must see if I can find a sheepdog to do this for me, I spend a large percentage of my time herding them, calling them, going back for one who has escaped) Beansey looked at me and said "mum, I'm just going to see if the skates are still there" and off he flew.

The next thing I know, he is back, clutching the skates to his chest, eyes all lit up and beaming like you wouldn't believe.  "Mum, Mum, I got them for just £1".  He'd only gone back and haggled them down at the end of the day.  That's my boy!!!!

I adored my disco skates when I was younger, and was just as excited as him.  So, today after golf he couldn't wait to get on them.  It was a hazardous few minutes as he worked out how to balance, glide and turn.  But he got there in the end and we have now been around the block several times.

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Ben and Holly Magic Castle Review

Pixie, at 3 and a half, is a real girls girl.  She loves nothing more than fairies, make believe and ponies and so when she was offered the chance to review the latest offering from golden bear toys to review Ben and Holly's Little Castle she was very excited indeed!

The whole family love the award winning Ben and Holly who go on adventures in their magical Kingdom that is filled with fairies, elves and insects.  Holly is the Princess who lives in the castle with her parents, King and Queen Thistle.  Her best friend is Ben elf and together with Gaston the ladybird and Nanny Plum they set about creating magic and mayhem.  It really is enchanting to watch and beautifully scripted.

The playset arrived and after an hour of sticking the stickers on, it was ready to be played with.  Here is a little video review that my Pixie did:

She has played with it non stop and as you can see, LOVES it!  It represents excellent value for money at a RRP of £34.99.

  • All of the furniture is fixed within the castle.  This means that they cannot be lost although the figures are small so you need to keep your eye on those.
  • Great value for money
  • Encourages imaginative play
  • Lots of different features from the "magic" created to the variety of rooms
  • Very well made with the exception of the stairs

  • Lots of fiddly stickers that took me an hour to apply, my advise would be to stick before giving it to the child to enjoy!
  • The stairs don't close within the castle, therefore you need to take them out before shutting.  They are then really fiddly to put back in
Overall, this was very well received and has already provided lots of hours of fun.

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

The Clubbing Years

The lovely Sian over at geek is new chic blogged yesterday about the clubbing years and music in the early 90s.  Well, me being me, I had to put my tuppence worth in and whilst Sian has a GOOD selection, I think she has missed some corkers!   I was in my late teens in the late eighties/early 90s and spent many a night driving around looking for raves.  Sometimes we found them, sometimes we didn't but we had a good time trying to get there and an even better time once we did.

The Spiral Tribe ones were always good and I also loved the Sunrise events.  I also did many a club night in London at Rage (underneath the Arches at Kings Cross on a Thursday) and Orange on the Holloway Road (small gig) as well as some of the bigger, commercial raves held in warehouses across the South East.    

Here are some of my favourite tunes from that time:

Shades of Rhythm - Sounds of Eden

Kariya - Let me love you for tonight

Future Sound of London - Papua New Guinea

The Prodigy - Your Love

Blame - Music Takes You 

Rhytmn is Rhythm - Strings of Life

Fantazia - 15th May 1992 - first 30 may *just* recognise someone in a SUIT!!!

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

This post will be only be live for 24 hours, I don't want my street cred ruined ;-)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Super Amazing Mum Loves......Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  The secret to perfect legs that are neither fake tanned, streaky (yes I am talking to you) or covered in tights.  You see my problem with tights is that they ladder, and if I am being honest, I don't like the feel of them so the only other option was to fake tan.  Despite years of experience, I always end up with a tell tale streak or two no matter what brand I use.

Then, I was let into a little secret. 

There is a new kid on the block.  The new kid is less than a tenner and gracing the legs of just about every supermodel you can think of (well, maybe).  The secret to perfect looking legs is airbrush make up from Sally Hansen.

This weekend just gone I had a crisis, I was at Polo in the Park and the weather was absolutely dire.  I had planned on wearing bare legs but didn't have time to fake tan and the thought of tights all day and night was not a good one.  In desperation, I grabbed a bottle of the airbrush legs in medium to see what the outcome would be.

It was really easy to apply, spray onto hand and then rub into legs.  It covered my scar and evened out my skintone. 

Best of lasted for HOURS.

So if you want to give the illusion of perfect legs without tights or fake tan, then I can highly recommend this!

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

PS this is NOT a sponsored post, I am just sharing something I found that I love with you all!

Great Garden Moments

Nothing beats the scent of home grown flowers!
Our garden is an extension of our house.  We have a stable door in the kitchen that overlooks the garden and from March onwards, the top half of the door is pretty much open letting in the sounds and sights of the garden beyond.  In fact, I blogged last week how the garden comes alive in the warmer months, as the neighbourhood comes out of winter hibernation and a gaggle of children descend into our little piece of heaven.

The hum of the lawnmower and the unique smell of BBQ fills the air as we entertain and relax and make the most of the humble space we do have.   As children descend to set up cricket wickets and build camps, I turn my eye to the borders that we have as well as some of the more established bushes and trees.  I prune, I weed, I clip, and plan and plot, but ultimately I take the time to sit back and enjoy as mother nature does her magic.

We have a very "Wild English Country Garden" feel to our little plot, I couldn't even tell you the name of some of the flowers or plants as I go to the local, family run, garden centre and pick up what I like the look of or more to the point, the smell of!  We have an eclectic mix that isn't beautifully manicured but more left to grow.  

My favourite part of the garden is my "Pimms Patch" where wild mint and strawberries grow in abundance in the summer months, all planted a few years back with just two strawberry plants and the same of mint.  I don't do anything but weed the patch, yet each year we are spolit for fruit and mint when the Pimms is calling!  Equally, I make refreshing home made rose lemonade with the fresh mint and this year, am planning on making my own rosewater.  No lemons as yet, but one can hope!

As a working mum with my own business, I am very fortunate that I can work from home whilst the children are at school, and sitting in the garden, with my laptop and a glass of chilled white wine, listening to the bees hum and birds sing is the perfect backdrop to a productive working day.

In fact, for the jubilee, it was the backdrop for a jubilee inspired photoshoot starring my youngest and her best friend

Of course, before you imagine I have the life of riley, that peace is shattered once the kids come home and the garden is once again, turned into the battleground for princesses vs soldiers or the water pistols and paddling pool comes out for a neighbourhood water fight.

For us, the garden is not just a Summers delight, we enjoy it all year around and it is just as much fun in the winter time - our rasta snowman seems to agree:

I adore our little piece of paradise, so many happy family memories have been created in the garden from building "rasta snowman" to getting stuck on the shed roof to laying back on a hot summers day and cloud watching.  It is an integral part of our family home and I look forward to many more summers in the garden celebrating and enjoying life with family and friends.

This is my entry into the Great Garden Moments Competition as I would dearly love to win some new garden furniture to complete our perfect idyll and create a truly magical family space. 

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Schleich Dinosaurs

I blogged last year about how much the kids love dinosaurs and so, when were were offered the chance to review the latest collection from the Schleich range of dinosaurs, we were more than happy to oblige.

The dinosaurs are made in Germany to the highest standards and are tested by teachers, parents and kids alike which means that not only are they sturdy and robust, they are also incredibly lifelike.  Each dinosaur is hand painted and the range is vast.  They are really well made and last a long time.  We have some Schleich dinosaurs from the 1990s that were my younger cousins - passed down and still immaculate.  These are also very well priced and we are now on the hunt for T-Rex!

I am all for imaginary play and very quickly, the latest models integrated into our family play:

Because everyone knows that Dinosaurs, My little Ponies and Princesses are best friends?


Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

We will rock you at the Dominion Theatre Review

"We Will Rock You" has just celebrated its 10th Anniversary at the Dominion Theatre in the West End and we were lucky enough to have been sent tickets to review the performance from superbreak the experts in hotels, experiences and packages.
  Although this is a review on their behalf, I have used their services on lots of occasions and they really do offer value for money with lots of variety.  

We will rock you is the biggest and best rock phenomenon to hit the West End and is loved by audiences of all ages. Created by Queen and Ben Elton and seen by over 11 million people world wide, we took Beansy aged 8 and BoBo aged 5 to an evening performance.  The boys are both Queen fans and know most of the songs and were really excited to be going to the theatre.  Friends had been before us and told of people dancing in the aisles to Bohemian Rhapsody and of course, we will rock you.  
The first ten minutes, I wondered what on earth was going on, but very quickly the story falls into place.  Without giving to much away, we follow a bunch of Bohemian Rebels who are determined to breakaway from a world where music is generated by computers and all musical instruments are banned.  It is set in a world where everyone wears the same thing, thinks the same thing and individuality is punished by the Ga Ga police.  
However, the rebels believe in a Golden age, a time when music was written and instruments were played and they believe that Gallileo holds the key to the time, they call, The Rhapsody.  To be honest, a lot of it went over BoBo's head, but he still really enjoyed it as did Beansey.
Suffice to say, this is a musical that delivers.  It is a satirical look at the current state of the music industry (my opinion of course!) it has the big hits, it has audience participation and as you would expect, a set and score that rivals no other.  It is really well executed with a great cast.
In short, would I recommend it?
A thousand times YES!
Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Monday, 11 June 2012

Polo in the Park London 2012

One of my favourite spectator sports is Polo and despite it being called "elitist" (which to be fair, you do need to have money to play or a very rich patron) to watch is cheap as chips.  Some of the smaller events you can attend (Ham for example) and it will cost you £20 per car to enter and you just bring your own drink/picnic.  It's a lovely, social day out and one that the whole family can enjoy.

This weekend, was the 3rd Polo in the Park from the Hurlingham Club and I was lucky enough to attend as a sponsor, thanks to HAW's newspaper sponsoring a team.  Friday is known as "city day" with Saturday being "ladies day" and Sunday being "family day".    We went on the Friday and Sunday and it was a fabulous day out on both occasions.  Each day had a slightly different feel and the family day had all manner of entertainment prior to the polo from space hooper races and bouncy castles to face painting and a kids dodge ball championship.   

It's no wonder that the event has been voted winner of the best sporting event in London in both 2010 and 2011 in the London lifestyle awards.  It really is a fabulous, fun filled day for everyone to enjoy.

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Win a family Holiday with Content and Calm

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover" - Mark Twain.

Content and Calm have launched a nationwide search for the next budding Judith Chalmers and if your child has natural flair in front of the camera, then this competition is perfect for them!  All they need to do, is create a short, fun video sharing their favourite holiday memories, and they could win a family holiday to a luxury villa in Greece courtesy of Simpson Travel or an all-expenses paid trip to a top UK family attraction.

I blogged last year about our amazing trip to France, and Beansy couldn't wait to record his version for his entry into the competition.  He amazes me when he does things like this, as he refuses to plan what he is going to say, instead flying off the cuff and going with the flow.  He really is catching the trade winds in his sails and I am so proud of him.  I particularly like his mispronunciation of the word "Chateau" .  You can have a look at his entry here:

Content and Calm are looking for 10 budding travelbug reporters who will set off on an all-expenses paid adventure with their family and report back with insider tips and recommendations that will then be used as a series of online travel guide videos.

Here are six sample questions that you can use as a prompt and if you want to dress up in your favourite costume and shoot on location, then please feel free to do so.

1.       Tell us about your favourite holiday, where you went and what you did?
2.       What was the best element of the holiday and why?
3.       What was the worst part of the holiday?
4.       If your best friend went there tomorrow, what would you tell them to do?
5.       Who would you most love to go on holiday with?
6.       Who is more fun on holiday, mum or dad and why? 

Anyone can enter in just three easy steps:

1.       Take a quick video of your child chatting about their holiday

2.       Upload it to the Facebook App - Content and Calm Travelbug Competition*

3.       Get your friends and family voting

*terms and conditions apply.

I can't wait to see what you all come up with - Good Luck!

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and all monies received will be going to my little budding reporter who has decided he wants to use it to pay for golf lessons over the half term.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Tuscan Tour

In the 90s, I was lucky enough to be earning a decent salary and doing a job I adored in advertising.  It opened lots of doors to me and I was soon eating in wonderful restaurants across the World - I couldn't believe I was being paid to eat in lovely restaurants, all in the name of work and client entertaining.  The best bit was it was on expenses - I was like a kid in a candy store.

Food has always been important to me - I love the social aspect just as much as the taste factor and growing up, we always had a very social dinner in the kitchen with an open door policy.  One summer, a friend and I decided to go on a tour of Italy to sample the delights first hand, and so we landed in Rome, picked up a convertible and navigated our way out of the airport.  If you have never driven in Italy before, you must, MUST give as good as you get - the Italians can be so intimidating but you'll soon be beeping and tooting in no time at all.  Once we had gotten out of the city, we had a four hour drive to Tuscany and our first stop on the gastronomie tour.

We stayed in a beautiful Borgo (hamlet) called Salvadonica which is a truly wonderful, family run affair with simple but beautifully decorated rooms and breath taking views across the Tuscan hills.  We got into a routine of waking mid morning and relaxing by the pool.  Lunch would be the most amazing, home made, brushetta with home grown, vined tomatoes and home made olive oil or a simple meat platter.  It was all from the immediate region and I am yet to replicate or taste anything as honest and simple again.  I want to go back just to sit in the sun, with the panoramic views and wine and that oh so perfect Brushetta.

What I love about Italy is the fact you can be driving along and will see a home made sign for a restaurant - one such place was not too far from Salvadonica and yet it was only open 2 nights a week.  We ventured up the drive and met the owner/chef who insisted on showing us the wild boar he had shot the day before.  You could see he was passionate about food and cooking and I really looked forward to dinner the following night.

We had the most exquisite truffle risotto as a starter followed by wild boar pasta in a delicate sauce followed by fried rabbit and chicken in a batter that was a match for the Zucchini.  Pudding was the most amazing Gelato that the chef's wife had made.  

We drove all over the region from Florence to San Gimigano sampling food and wine at its best along the way.  We stayed out of the "tourist traps" and instead looked for restaurants that had fresh and local produce on the menu.  There was no greater feeling than the wind in my hair, the sun on my face and the anticipation of a great lunch - I'd love to take the kids back one day to discover the delights of pure and simple cooking at its best.

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Jubilee Party in London - Hyde Park Family Festival

As per usual, we left it until the last minute (Thursday) to decide what we were doing for the Jubilee weekend.  Our street isn't having a street party and we didn't fancy going to a friends for a BBQ.  We wanted to do something special and memorable and different to our usual weekend.  We knew we wanted to be in London at the heart of the action, but we also knew that getting into town at 9am with 3 kids in tow to stand on the banks of the Thames to "bagsy" a space was a no-goer.

Then I came across this:

It is exactly the sort of big event that we wanted to go to in order to create those special memories for the children, just look at what is on offer:

Strictly Come Dancing
Disney Parade
Brass Band
Highland Drummers
Big Screens showing the Flotilla 
Kids dedicated area with Fireman Sam, Angelina Ballerina, Mike the Knight and Bob the Builder
The Royal Corps of Signals
Pearlie Kings and Queens
and to top it all - A Spectacular Disney Finale at 7pm.

It is the perfect solution for us as a young family and I for one, can't wait!!!!  You can still buy tickets online and there will be limited availabilty on the door on the day.

What are you doing? 

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Disclaimer: We have been provided tickets for the event on Sunday.  

Saturday Song

We are going to see Coldplay on Monday as an early 40th present for HAW...he has no idea and I can't wait to surprise him!

Enjoy your jubilee celebrations!

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo