EFTELING

We've developed a bit of thing for the Netherlands. Maybe it's their love of cycling, good design and their laid back vibe. So when we were invited to go to Etfeling - a fantasy themed amusement park in Kaatsheuvel where the attractions are based on elements from ancient myths and legends, fairy tales, fables, and folklore, we jumped at the chance. 

We decided that driving could be fun (and fairly straight forward) and that taking the ferry could be part of the experience for the kids. So on a very windy October morning we arrived at Dover and boarded our P&O ferry. The waves bashed against the ship and the ferry rocked from side to side - but no one was sick and the kids loved watching the white cliffs get further away and we think this gave them a sense of leaving the UK far more than getting on a plane would have.

After about three hours of driving from Calais we arrived at Loonsche Land Hotel. It has recently been built and on arrival you immediately understand you're going to be getting into the spirit of the place. You are greeting with giant antlers that come out out the roof of the main hotel, which is set in a simple yet magical grounds.

The kids immediately headed for the obstacle course play area set over the lake, which was next to a small petting farm and a very cool barn converted into a climbable haystack and slide.

Our room kept up the woodland feel with a tree house style mezzanine for the kids to sleep on. The hotel restaurant, bar area and food was great - really well set up for families, with a play area and kids menu. Efteling theme park is either a short walk through the woods or mini-train ride from the Loonsche Land Hotel.

On our first day we started in the Sprookjesbos (Fairy Forest) which is the oldest and original area of the Park - Efteling is one of the oldest theme parks in the world and first opened in 1952. We discovered talking trees, musical toadstools, Sleeping Beauty's castle, giant monstrous fish and sleeping snoring giants. 

After emerging from the Fairy Forest we headed for the mini steam train that travels the circumference of the park. On the way we made one of our many trips to the Diorama (miniature world) which became a firm favourite of our eldest boy. The rest of the morning was filled with all sorts of rides and then lunch was at the Polles Keuken, for some traditional Dutch pancakes and to watch the crazy spinning oven.

The afternoon was spent on more rides, playing games before heading to the Het Witte van Raveleijn restaurant for a 'dining experience'.  Which involved the kids going to the kitchen to collect their meal which was served on a wooden board and Ben being given a red neck-a-chief and told he was the boss of carving.

On our second day we went to watch the impressive Raveleijn horse show with stunts, fire breathing sets and well trained birds. Our son is still talking about Thomas the red knight, and insisted on us buying his sword and cape.

We had lunch at the Octopus restaurant which had the most amazing version of a soft play area in it i've ever seen - think iceberg slides and a climbing monkey jungle with sound effects!

We could have stayed for another day in the park, but we felt two days was about right. If you had slightly older kids and could take them on all the rollercoasters and three days would only just cover the place.  

We absolutely loved Efteling - it has everything you want form a theme park in terms of variety of rides, for both dare devils and little kids, but then it is also beautifully done, plus it is full of heritage and authenticity. The detailing and design show an imagination and pride that we've not come across in our UK parks and we look forward to returning.

Efteling Tickets & Info can be found here.

P&O ferry crossing info here.

This post was created in partnership with Efteling. 

QVC

I have recently partnered with shopping channel QVC on their Blogger Series where I have compiled my edit of must have items from their fashion, beauty and homeware collections. 

As part of the collaboration I had the opportunity to spend a morning at QVC's head office and studios in London; I found it fascinating and a lot of fun. I loved seeing the sets and studios where they do all the filming, watching the presenters live-in-action and discovering all the amazing products they stock.

I had the opportunity to do a presenter mock-audition which I loved. Every show has a QVC presenter and then an 'expert' (in this case I was the expert!). I was briefed, fitted with an earpiece and given some pointers on the best way to describe the products to the people watching at home and how to encourage them to buy them.

The idea is to get the potential customer to picture themselves with the item, to give them ideas of how, when and with what they could wear it with, to talk about the details, look and feel of it. Because they can't actually touch or feel the item - in my case a very cool star studded handbag - you really have to put yourself in their place, describe in detail what it is like and why it would be good for them. 

I had a team behind the scenes watching me on screens in another room giving me instructions, tips and feedback on what to say - like 'describe the fabric', 'what occasion could they wear the bag for', 'show the fastening zip'. The whole experience was really fun and I think with a bit of practice I could get really into it.

Behind the scenes of the studios are whole teams who's jobs it is to closely monitor what is selling, what reaction the audience is having (in real time) and when to move on to talking about something else. I was so impressed by the data and technology that is involved - it is so fast paced, and when it needs to be reactive the whole programme can change and be flexible.

The next part of the day was spent selecting products for my QVC Blogger Edit - which was like a shopping dream. QVC sell brands such as Tarte cosmetics, Liz Earle, Elemis, Amanda Wakley, Lulu Guinness, Dyson, Kelly Hoppen, Orla Keily and many more - some of which I knew and some were new discoveries.

I have chosen some amazing quality makeup, cosmetics, jewellry, clothes and accessories. There are some awesome velvet ankle boots, handbags, makeup and clothes - perfect for Christmas parties and gifts.

Amanda Wakeley The Presley Leather Crossbody Bag £318 / Evolve Beauty 2 Piece Hyaluronic Feast £30.50 / Adesso Destiny Velvet Ankle Boot £66 / Tarte Limited Edition Spellbound Glow Rainbow Highlighter £27

QVC launched in the UK in 1993 and has 3 stand-alone channels: Beauty, Style and Extra - which are a mixture of prerecorded, re-packaged content and live. They also have an award winning app and website.

This blog post was created as part of my partnership with QVC.

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP

Being resident book blogger for DLAM means I’m lucky enough to get sent lots of different books to read and review, which is basically my dream job (just in case it matters to anyone, I’m also Head of Stationary for DLAM which is also my dream job, although it is harder to review an envelope).

Anyway, over the last few months, I’ve had a few books sent to me, some of which I really liked and some of which I haven’t.

It’s obviously really important to stay honest and genuine with my thinking towards these books, despite the fact that someone, somewhere, went to the trouble of packing the book up, writing my name on it and sending it to me (and indeed writing it in the first place!). I really don’t want to upset anyone (books are such subjective things) but also I do need to be honest and speak truthfully about how I feel about these publications.

So I thought I would do a little round up of the books I’ve been sent recently, which for whatever reason, have stuck with me - for example, often I’m not the target audience, but I can see that they would be a good read for a certain person (age, gender, stage of life etc) or they have just struck a chord with me for whatever reason.

So in no particular order, here you are - my roundup of books I’ve liked over the last few months:

We found a hat by Jon Klassen

 

If you have kids and an eye for beautiful design you will probably know this series of books, We Found a Hat being the third (the other 2 being I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat). Firstly, it’s so lovely to look at - its cover is calming and peaceful and cosy. Inside it’s a lovely story, which kids up to 4 or 5 will enjoy being read, but equally my 6 year old daughter enjoys reading it to me, finding it totally relatable as the storyline is so relevant to kids working their way through playgroups, nursery & school!. Anyway, for some reason it always triggers a response in me, usually making me cry!? It’s a touching, sweet story about kindness and friendship and it’s lovely.

The Good Father - by Lee Price

So this was an odd one for me because it’s been written by a new dad for other new dads, doing what so many women have done before - trying to pass on some wisdom, tips and knowledge to all the other new parents who are treading in his footsteps.So, in other words really not geared towards me. But - I read it and laughed throughout, appreciating the way it tried to dispel some of the myths and legends that we have in pregnancy and presenting the information in a approachable way. I think  my husband would have enjoyed it if he’d read it before we had our first kid, because the tongue in cheek and ‘we’re all in it together’ approach works well. It’s really very funny and very honest. It would be a good present to get a mate who was about to become a dad, as there is some useful stuff in there and clearly Lee Price has got knowledge and experience. I think men do fairly badly in the whole pregnancy and new baby book department which is a mistake, because their lives are changing too. This laddish, funny approach to imparting information and knowledge, is a good start.  

The Foolish King - The secret history of Chess by Lord Mark Price

 

I wanted to mention this one because I really liked the idea behind it, but it did have it’s limitations. Even though it’s not really something that I would review on the DLAM blog, I thought it would be interesting because my 9 year old son is really into chess and obviously I’m keen to promote that (anything but more Xbox!). I gave him a copy to read, with a bit of background (and also the promise that he could have the app that accompanies it if he read the book and give me his opinion - bribery yes, what of it?)

The upshot was that he didn’t get very far with the book but I think I know why. It tries to make the game of chess into a story, in theory enabling children to really understand each pieces move and the reason why they can do those moves. I felt the book was very much geared towards girls, (Lord Price wrote it for his daughter, to help her understand the game) giving it a slightly fairy tale-esque slant, with a sister and her brother on a quest to save their kingdom. For my son, it was too girly and he felt it was a bit ‘old fashioned’. But for some kids, this will only increase it’s appeal. My son just wants to play, and preferably win, at chess. But for kids who like a bit more in depth knowledge about a game, this would be a really good place to start.

A New Way for Mothers by Louise Webster

This is billed as a self help book, specifically for mothers who may be struggling with their identity and position in the workplace post babies.It attempts to enable women to take positive steps, in small but meaningful increments, to get back their previous confidence and career drive, using strategies and tips to promote self worth. It’s split into chapters and the reader is encouraged to dip in and out, taking from the book what they need. I really liked the idea of this book, having spent the last few years in a fug of not knowing what my next step would be.

I enjoyed individual chapters, I enjoyed the feeling that someone else felt like me when I had young kids (the isolation, days spent not really talking to grown ups whilst I pushed a small person on the swing for the 10,0000th time, the lack of connection with people) and I can see that Louise has an incredible brain - not only to be able to articulate all these things that I thought (and so I can only imagine a lot of other mums did too) but to get it put into book form and sell it.

This would be a really great read for a mum to buy herself one day, to dip into whilst the kid naps or is at nursery for a few hours, not just as a way of thinking about how you might move forward in the future, but also as a way to reconnect with yourself in the present.

The Supermum Myth by Anya Hayes

I think that the Supermum is a character made up by the media to market unneeded things to mums who are either feeling the mum guilt or are about to start feeling the mum guilt. This is a subject which this book attempts to tackle, which is one of lots of different reasons why any mother who doubts herself and her mothering ability (ie, all mothers) who turn to books for help, should read this one. It’s a wellness guide, it’s a self help book, it's an all round, holistic approach for allowing yourself to enjoy motherhood, using everything from CBT to mindfulness techniques to help.

Anya has a lovely, personal way of writing which makes you think that it’s written specially for you and her use of personal stories and other case studies means that every angle is covered. Full disclosure, i’m quoted in the book as I was one of Anya’s pilates students and she knows I like to talk, and reading my own words in relation to subjects which are fairly close to the bone really strikes a chord, especially when alongside other women who have bravely spoken out about issues which affect most or all of women when they become parents.

I have kept this book on my bedside table to pick up and dip into when I’ve had a particularly challenging day - it’s like having your best mate on her best form by your side at all times, supporting you and basically telling you that everything's going to be ok.

The last chapter, ‘Letting go of perfect’, is such a good way to release yourself from the guilt of feeling like you’re getting things wrong - it reminds you that we are, all, good enough. And that’s good enough for me.  

Read, reviewed and written by Hannah de Lasti www.londonviewofbooks.com

THE KIDS ROOM

My children's bedroom is one of my favourite rooms in our house - I love seeing all their things, the colours, space and furniture - but most of all I love seeing them having fun there.

I am from a family of designers and studied 3D Design at university so I knew I wanted their bedroom to be good quality, well designed and functional. 

Flexa Child's Side table £70

The main thing we invested in was a bunk bed which they absolutely love (and actually manage to stay in for most of the night!).  Our kids (currently aged 3 & 5) share a room, this is mainly due to lack of space so we decided to maximise floor (and playing area) by getting a bunk bed.

The bed is designed by a Scandinavian company called Oliver Furniture who create high quality, sustainable wooden furniture and I have been so impressed by both the design, quality and ease of build. Oliver Furtniture are based just north of Copenhagen and manufacture in Europe (their stuff is all amazing).

The version we went for was the wood + white with the end ladder but it is also available in different finishes and with a front ladder.

OLIVER FURNITURE White and Oak Curved Bunkbed by Oliver £1635

The other thing we wanted to create was a cosy reading corner with bean bags. We read a lot of stories so it was important to have a space to do this.

Beanbag by Nobodinoz £55

I also wanted to have a shelf that the kids could access themselves - where they could keep and reach books and toys. Also this is a shelf for life so although it is in their room it may well one day end up somewhere like the kitchen..

Ferm Living Wooden Shelf £75

We have had these display shelves for a while now and absolutely love them. I tend to change what is on them around a bit - to let toys have their moments instead of being hidden away in storage boxes. The kids love looking at all their things on them too.

Babou wall-mounted shelving by ‘Rose in April’ £79

This post was created in partnership with Nubie - who are all about Modern Design For Kids. They have so many beautiful things - not just for kids.

Nubie are offering a 10% discount to dresslikeamum.com readers with code: DLAM

DETOX WEEKEND + ADVENTURE YOGI

I have recently returned from an Adventure Yogi Detox Weekend and I loved it. I've never done anything like it before and had no idea what to expect, but I knew I fancied a bit of time away from my busy life, to reconnect with me, get some rest, eat good food and generally relax and reset - and for that, it was perfect.

The retreat I went on was held in a beautiful converted barn in East Sussex with the most amazing views over rolling hills and english countryside.

I arrived on the Friday afternoon and met the other guests (there were about 12 of us altogether). Then that evening we had our first Yoga session, which was followed by the most delicious healthy dinner.

The following morning we went for a silent walk - I wasn't looking forward to this as i'm not the silent type but I actually really enjoyed it. It was really calming and I found I was more engaged with what was around me. From the walk we went to Yoga and from there breakfast.

The food was so delicious - before going I was worried that i'd feel hungry or crave things like coffee and sugar but the meals and healthy snacks were so satisfying and more than enough to keep me full throughout the day.

After breakfast we went for a swim in the outdoor heated pool which was so lovely, especially as the sun was out.

We then had a cooking lesson from the extremely talented, lovely and knowledgeable chef Laura - she taught us how to make among other things herb pestos and nut milks. She was also able to answer any questions we had about our diets, food choices and eating habits which I found really helpful.

We had some time to relax in the afternoon before we headed to our evening yoga session - which tended to be more restorative and relaxing than the morning session. After that we had dinner and to bed - where I slept better than I had done in ages.

The following day was a similar schedule but we went for a lovely long walk around a local lake. When we got back I had a massage and enjoyed being in countryside.

I loved this weekend, being a busy working mum there are not many things better that being able to have some peaceful me time - with no distractions, to do lists, or people wanting something from you.

Adventure Yogi do holiday all over the world that cater for all different fitness levels and standards and interests. A full timetable can be found here. The weekend I went on was called 3 Day Detox Yoga and it was in East Sussex.

If you book a retreat using this link you will get a free 30 minute massage worth £38. 

 

I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE

Temple Cycles hand make bicycles in Bristol, Southwest England. The company was founded by (a very cool guy) Matt - who after running a small vintage bicycle restoration business while studying Mechanical Engineering at University started designing his own, and this later evolved into Temple Cycles.

I had been looking for a bicycle for a while when I discovered Temple Cycles. It was important to me to get a bike I really loved, enjoyed riding and that looked great. I have had bikes in the past that i've not liked and it has taken the enjoyment out of cycling.

My husband and I went to meet Matt and visit Temple's workshop just outside Bristol so I could test ride some bikes and immediately I was in love!

The bikes are made from a lightweight and durable steel frame and are painted with a highly durable coating which protects them and gives them the unique pastel colours. I went for a cream coloured frame but they are also available in pale grey, mint green and dark blue - you can also get one custom painted to order (yes I nearly got a pink one). 

They come with a Brooks leather saddle which is super comfortable, I also went for the bamboo mud-guards and a wicker basket and a very satisfyingly copper dinning bell. I also opted for the leather carrying handle that fixes to the bottom of the frame - this is such a great idea and design and really works well.

Another important thing for me to was to get a good looking, comfortable helmet to match the bike. I went for a Dashel Cycle helmet - which is a company that was founded by an ex-colleague of mine. They also manufacture in England using premium, sustainable materials. There is a massive lack of good looking cycling helmets on the market so I was really pleased to discover them.

I really (really) love this bike. It is a joy to ride and is a privilege to be able to be able to support such an authentic, exciting British brand.

BOOKING.COM + THE BIG FEASTIVAL

My family and I have just spent the most amazing August Bank Holiday weekend in the Cotswolds.  We stayed in a beautiful peaceful cottage at night, but spent the days dancing and eating at The Big Feastival - which turned out to be the perfect combination.

I have been to a fair few festivals in my life but usually camp or stay on site - this was the first time that i've stayed in a house and it was great.

The obvious benefits are that you get to sleep in an actual bed and have an actual bathroom, but what I didn't consider were the little things - a full length mirror, a hair dryer, being able to make my own morning coffee!

The other thing that surprised me was the ease of it. At first I was worried that it could feel a bit disjointed travelling to and from the festival but it was so easy, plus the surrounding countryside was stunning so it was great to be able to enjoy the views and scenery.  

I was also impressed by the ease of the whole process, especially the booking (location based search) and the checking in (you simply retrieved the front door key from a coded lock box by the front door and let yourself in). There were detailed instructions and local information in a file in the cottage - that was conveniently located right next door to an excellent pub.

Greystone Cottage (where we stayed) has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a dining room and a sitting room with 2 very comfortable (especially after a day's festival-ling) sofas. There is also a very pretty garden complete with BBQ and garden furniture and the parking was right outside the front door.  It was perfect and we were very reluctant to leave.

The cottage is listed on booking.com who have over a million places to stay around the world - suitable for everything from holidays, weddings to festivals. You can search for accommodation using addresses, postcodes or towns which makes it so easy to find the most suitable locations.

We had the perfect weekend and will defiantely be doing this again.

This post was kinding sponsored by Booking.com - and it is the perfect sponsored post because it is something we would defiantely do as a family anyway. Thanks Booking.com

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BOOK REVIEW: The Awkward age by Francesca Segal

The Awkward age by Francesca Segal

Did you know that it’s scientifically proven that in teenagers, the hormone that encourages sleep, melatonin, isn’t released until late in the evening and continues being released in the morning, meaning they can’t help but go to bed late and wake up late? I didn’t. But I wish I had known, in fact I wish my parents had known, because it probably would have made that particular stage of my life a little more pleasant.

James and Julia however, do seem to know, both seeming to have the ‘being parents to teenagers’ thing licked at the beginning (only at the beginning mind) of The Awkward Age, a novel about trying to do whats right for you as an adult but also your beloved offspring - and realising that often, it can’t be one and the same thing.

Julia is a widow, her husband leaving her and their heartbroken daughter Gwen living in the family home and with close ties to his parents. Julia falls in love with James, the American divorcee doctor with two kids, one of whom, Nathan, is still young enough to have to live at home when not at boarding school. Gwen and Nathan hate each other. This makes James and Julia sad and they decide to go on holiday together to try and make it all better. Instead, they unleash hell and everything goes to shit.

What follows is a funny, beautifully written story of an unusual family, detailing how far removed teenagers are from being the child they once were and from being the adult they will become.

Throughout the book, the close relationship that Julia and Gwen have at the beginning is torn to shreds which I found a little heartbreaking - Gwen starts to think that her mum doesn’t love her and I think that at some points Julia’s devotion to Gwen is sorely tested. I thought that as a mother, I’d be completely on Julia’s side, but in fact the writing is so precise and engaging, I found myself remembering being a teenager and really sympathising with Gwen’s bloody mindedness.

As a parent to young kids, it’s fairly easy to love them 90% of the time (don’t call social services, I challenge anyone to feel deep love at 4am when you’ve been woken up 5 times beforehand because the cuddly toy they can’t find is on the floor by the bed - again).

However, when my beautiful young children turn into sulky, hormonal teenagers, is it going to be a challenge to even like them 90% of the time? Anyone else hear ‘I love you but I don’t like you’ fairly regularly throughout their teenage years? I certainly did, but that’s ok, because sometimes, I wasn’t very likeable. What this book has reminded me of though, is that being a teenager is bloody hard, but with lots of understanding, love and patience, once they come out of the other side, you’ll be left with an adult who also understands how hard you’ve tried. And please remember about the melatonin, it could save everyone a lot of grief.

Book review by Hannah @alondonviewofbooks

BOOK REVIEW: Help your kids with growing up by Robert Winston

My 9 year old is hilariously easy to embarrass. I only have to say the word S. E. X (even in the context of Middlesex, seriously) and he goes the most beautiful pink colour whilst scrambling to get out of earshot. I have sat down with him and gone through the very basics of the facts of life, but he couldn’t cope with much and frankly, I’m in no rush for him to know all the details - I guess that soon enough that’s all he’ll be thinking / talking about. But the good old Clare Rayner book that I bought to assist with that conversation is a little dated and although very factual and not too complicated, doesn’t really cover all the issues that kids these days need to know.

The same cannot be said about this book, which the nice Robert Winston with the big mustache has written, alongside other worthy contributors including child psychologists, mental health nurses and professors in sexuality education (no, i didn’t know that was a thing either).

This book literally covers EVERYTHING. Literally - from studying abroad to armpits, dandruff to halitosis, household chores to safer sex - it’s all in here. It’s format is simple, there are chapters and within the chapters are more detailed sections. There are diagrams and pictures, little boxes with side points. It’s this that makes it so useful - a lot of the info is for older kids (it’s meant to cater for kids aged 9 - 18) but as the chapters have been broken down into different sections, you can ensure that your kid only sees the bits that are relevant (unless you let them loose on it, which I wouldn’t recommend for anyone younger than 15/16).

In a year or so, I’ll be able to sit down with my kid and talk him through the healthy body section (maybe he’ll start actually washing in the shower rather than just making a godawful mess). The healthy mind section will be useful too, to engage him in chats about positive mental health from a young age, and covering confidence and self esteem and resilience and stress as he makes the transition from primary to secondary education. There’s a great chapter on School life, with homework tips and of course the all important Digital life chapter, all about staying safe on the internet, and how to use social media effectively. There is also, obviously, everything you need them to know about sex and reproduction, all in glorious technicolour - I honestly found a lot of it really informative, and although I knew most things (but not all!) it’s really helpful to have the facts laid out in such a clear and direct way.

I genuinely think this book will give me the confidence to tackle issues which I feel important to have a dialogue with my kids about - as with all things in life, I feel more confident with a book in my hand and as a reference resource for me and them, this will go a long way toward being able to broach certain subjects, secure in the knowledge that I’m giving them the right information.  

In many ways this is the modern day Clare Rayner book, dependable, sensible, not too worthy and above all, hugely informative. For parents of kids aged nine upwards, I would say this is a must have.

Review by Hannah @alondonviewofbooks

BOOK REVIEW: STANDARD DEVIATION

I’ve been married for 7 or 8 years now (both my husband and I regularly forget exactly how long it has been and have to be reminded by friends and family - I count that in our favour for relationship compatibility) and it still never ceases to amaze me how male he is. For instance, when I say things like, ‘y’know I just felt that, well, it was a bit weird, y’know?’, he genuinely doesn’t know what I’m talking about and really needs me to clarify, whereas a female friend will say ‘oh I know, totally agree, it was weird’. And she means it.

Men also guage relationships differently (mainly by how much sex they're having) while we, as women, are much more emotionally intuitive (obviously I’m generalising but I think that’s mainly fact) and what Standard Deviation does so brilliantly is actually lead the reader through the workings of a man's thought process and highlights the differences in how a man (in this case Graham) and a woman (his 2nd wife Aura) think.

The story follows Graham through a small mid life crisis and explores the way he parents his autistic son whilst also trying to figure out Aura, who is a dynamo of a woman, whichever way you look at it. Graham is actually a really lovely husband and father. He’s also a bit of a dick, but not in a mean way - more in a ‘how did this actually happen to me?’ way, so he remains likeable.

Alongside the story of their relationship, this is also a brilliantly funny insight into the challenges and rewards that having a child with special needs can provide. It’s set in New York and the family and their numerous associates feel very American (funnily enough) and sometimes they feel like caricatures of themselves, but actually I think it’s just that they are American and therefore do things differently to the British.

The main crux of the story is how a man and a woman, who are in an imperfect marriage (ie the only kind), come at life from completely different angles and sometimes, just sometimes, end up in the same place.

It’s a good, meaty read, with an outcome which I found strangely satisfactory. Being in an imperfect marriage myself, this story helped me remember that although men do think differently to us, and although loving and being loved is amazing, it doesn’t always guarantee a happily ever after - it is however, a bloody good place to start.  

This book review was written by Hannah @alondonviewofbooks

BOOK REVIEW: THIS IS GOING TO HURT BY ADAM KAY

I am very pleased to introduce the first in a new series of Book Reviews.  The reviews will be written by the amazing Hannah de Lasti who already has a popular Book Blog: A London View of Books and who is the fastest reader in town.

Hannah will be regularly reading and reviewing and helping you choose your next book. If you are an author or have any suggestions of books you think should be featured in the DLAM Book Review Series then please email Hannah on: info@dresslikeamum.com. And if you have feedback on the books we feature please feel free to add your comments in the box at the end of the post. Thanks Zoë X

THIS IS GOING TO HURT BY ADAM KAY

This is obviously an ‘interesting’ time for the NHS. The amazing service they provide to us on a daily basis in London alone, coupled with the pressure they've been under very recently from the terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower disaster, means that my admiration and gratitude for all of its staff has never been greater. So reading a first hand account of the daily grind, straight from the horse's mouth, felt really appropriate.

Adam Kay kept this diary throughout his journey as a junior doctor, outlining the pitfalls of each stage and attempting to document the reality of the task in hand. He has had to go through the diary with a lawyer to ensure that nothing is too liable (although I think I’d prefer not to know about some of the things doctors get up to between shifts) but that doesn’t detract from the genuine feel of the book.  

If you want a one line summary it's this: It is an absolute travesty that these people, who train so hard to do a job which benefits us, are so badly treated by our government.

But before you think that the whole thing is an ongoing moan about the terrible conditions that our doctors and nurses have to work in, it really isn’t. I mean, it is, but it’s also one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time and made me laugh out loud and interrupt my husband so I could read him excerpts (which he asked me to stop doing as he wants to read it next seeing what a great time it gave me).

There are some real gems (why would anyone put a toilet brush up their arse?!), heartwarming stories of success over adversity and insights into the real and scary stupidity of some (only some) individuals. He marvels at humanity on a daily basis, not just the patients, but also his work colleagues, the good, the bad and the downright ugly. On a personal note, I found the bits about Obstetrics and Gynecology (in which he specialised) fascinating and terrifying in equal measure, and I think I’m quite pleased I didn’t read it whilst pregnant (maybe a word of warning there for anyone who is).

Mainly the diary explores why doctors stay doctors - after all, some of them aren’t very good, while others obviously find the whole thing really stressful. And eventually Adam answers the question himself, making a decision which although shocking, is entirely understandable.

We all know that doctors work long hours and we all think we can imagine the things they have to do, but this diary that Adam has brought to life in book form, really drives it home. If it wasn’t funny, it would be tragic and it’s his irrepressible & almost entirely black humour which makes this read a memorable one.

THREE DAYS AROUND AMSTERDAM ON A BIKE

By Ben @cooklikeadad (my husband!)

We've been to some cool places recently, so I thought you'd like to see some behind the scenes tips, tricks and holiday hacks for traveling with a family. Before I start, I was asking myself does the internet need another family travel blog? Answer's probably not, but I think we have got pretty good at this family travel thing, so I want to keep these really brief, informative and to the point. So here we go...

Amsterdam was not the first city that came to mind when traveling with the family, but any memories of my teenage 'interrailing' days were quickly replaced by a beautiful, quirky and family friendly city. My mission was to put the kids in a cargo bike to explore the city's parks, districts and museums.

  • WHICH BIKE TO RENT

If you’re a confident cyclist, go for a traditional cargo bike, with a wooden front to them where the kids can sit. The advantage of these over the back child seats is that you can have two kids sitting together facing forward. You can see them, they can see out and it's generally a far more fun experience. If you're less confident at cycling you might want to consider the three-wheel version.

  • WHERE TO RENTING A BIKE

It's worth saying that not all bike shops in Amsterdam are the same. Check the reviews on Google, TripAdviser or other trusted source. Amsterdam is famous for its bike riding, which means there are going to be people profiting from tourists who are easy pickings. I failed on this front and was left renting a bike with handlebars too low to clear the kid’s heads. (I opted for a forearm across the bar to protect them, but both got the odd clout to the head). Likewise, Zoë's bike had seen better days. Black Bikes seemed like a better outfit, so they'd get my recommendation. 

  • HOW TO NAVIGATE USING TECH

As I said, Zoë and I are terrible at directions (Zoë denies this with the confidence normally reserved for five star generals marching troops into battle). My solution was to use my Bluetooth headphones, combined with Google Maps voice prompts. This allowed a hands-free, in ear direction guidance, meaning we flew around the city like locals. Well almost, there were the odd wrong turn and back track, but it felt far safer and more sensible than riding while trying to read a map off you phone.

Having a bike clip for your phone would also have been another good idea, which I’ll bring for the next family bike trip.

  • WHERE TO GO

DAY ONE: We flew in and dumped the bags off and headed straight out to the NDSM area of Amsterdam. This former disused dock yard has been transformed into a hipster playground, with its own beach, hotel in a crane and other cool bars and cafes. Great views over the bay and lots of decaying/reborn industrial heritage to check out. Easy bike ride to one of the free ferries taking you to the NDSM. Once there, you're free to cycle round and explore with few cars to bother you.

Photos taken using an original Polaroid camera

DAY TWO: Vondalpark was a 1.8km ride away, where we cruzed around the park seeing the beautiful gardens and cafes, then stopping for a paddle in a kids bathing area. After this, back on the bikes and across town to the Horus Botanicus (botanical gardens), with its spectacular café serving exceptionally nice salads, butterfly houses and picturesque gardens for the kids to explore.

 

DAY THREE: Artis Zoo, is a reasonably sized, but very nicely laid out Zoo in the centre of the city. We rushed it in about an hour and a half, but really you should be spending the day there. By this point we were riding like the Tour De France peloton and felt confident to dash back to drop bike off and get our taxi to the airport.

 

OTHER OPTIONS: We could have had at least another two days in the city as there are so many other places to explore. The NEMO Science Museum looks like a great option for the 6 years plus age group.

·         WHERE TO STAY

The Pulitzer Hotel is based in the fully gentrified Jordaan district of Amsterdam. The Hotel encompasses a number of sixteenth century town houses in a street block, with a fascinating higgledy-piggledy maze of stunning rooms and courtyards. It had that balance of beauty, function and play that is so hard to get from a hotel experience.

Giving us some variation from the bikes, we went on the Pulitzer boat tour. They have their own canal boat, which is so far removed from the tourist cattle trucks, it’s hard to even compare the two experiences. Zoë and I had a glass of Chablis, while the lively Captain entertained us with stories of Winston Churchill being taken around the canals on this very boat after the liberation of the city.

We ate at their restaurant the Jansz the first evening there. The menu was unpretentious, but with enough flare to feel both homely and high end. Even if you’re not staying there, just go for breakfast to get the scrambled eggs on brioche with avocado and truffle oil. Perfect start for a hard day cycling the kids around town. 

According to Zoë the shops around the Pulitzer Hotel are also excellent.

Pulitzer Amsterdam offers a Family Programme for those travelling with children which includes children’s programming, natural skincare amenities for babies and personalised surprises and activity books for toddlers and kids. Lead-in rates for a family of four start at £410.

DLAM LIFE QUOTES

LUMITY

Since hitting my mid-thirties I have started to take better care of my body because I have noticed that it doesn't seem to recover so well as it used to and needs a bit more care and attention. I don't mind looking my age because there is nothing I can do about that - I am my age, but I would like to look the best version of myself at my age - if that make sense.

Throughout my life I have dabbled in the world of supplements and vitamins but have never taken one religiously. The reason I haven't committed I think is that I either forget to take or that i've never seen a direct effect from and so ended up stopping.  However a few months ago I started taking Lumity and i'm now committed - I love it.

Lumity is basically a anti-ageing, beauty and well-being supplement. It is good for healthy skin, hair, nails and teeth, inner and outer vitality, brain health, bones, joints, muscles and your immune system. (What else could you need?)

You take 3 brown coloured capsules in the morning and 3 white one before bed. The capsules contain a mixture of Vitamins, Omega 3, Vita and Renew Complex and Minerals, that work with what your body needs during the day and night.

The ingredients in the morning capsules are specifically formulated for daytime health. They support your brain, skin, hair and nails and your immune system. They also contain nutrients to assist with joint, muscle and bone health.

The white (night time) capsules are high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids and contain Amino acids to help maintain the elasticity of your skin.

I keep my morning Lumity in the cupboard with my tea bags and my night time capsules in my bathroom cupboard and haven't once forgotten to take them. 

Since taking Lumity I have found that I sleep better, my skin feels great and overall I feel healthier. So if you are looking for a supplement that pretty much does everything you need it to then I would definitely recommend Lumity. 

This post was kindly sponsored by Lumity. All thoughts and opinions are entirely me my own and I was a fan of Lumity before I wrote this post.

 

 

HomeAway

To celebrate the upcoming release of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, HomeAway are running an amazing competition to win a holiday for you and 20 guests to Duns Castle. Plus, five runners-up could win a HomeAway® holiday. I have already mentally prepared my invite list!

If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen that I have just got back from a brilliant weekend in Lisbon where I stayed in a HomeAway apartment. I went with a couple of girlfriends and had a brilliant time.

Lisbon had been on my wish list as somewhere to go for ages and it didn't disappoint. The people were friendly, the bars and cafes lively, the architecture stunning and the shopping was great too. 

Vintage shops / Breakfast with a view / Markets selling Cork products

We stayed in a beautiful apartment that we rented from HomeAway and it was perfect. It had 2 bedrooms (1 twin, 1 double), 2 bathrooms (with gold taps), a fully equipped kitchen (with a washing and coffee machine - the most important things in a kitchen!), a sitting room (with TV), dining area and loads of storage - all to ourselves.  

The owner was so welcoming and organised - he sorted airport transfers for us, adviced us on places to go and things to see - nothing seemed too much trouble. The apartment was so centrally located and we were able to walk everywhere and were even able to pop back during the day to collect something we forgot. 

I have stayed a few times in HomeAway properties and they have all been great. We have rented a large house in Formentera with my entire my family, an apartment with an amazing roof top in Malta when my son was a baby and a flat in London during London Fashion Week. And we have never had a bad experience.

HomeAway have over 2 million places around the world so if you are looking for a place to stay then make sure you check them out.

More information and how to enter the competition to win the enchanting getaway in a castle for you and 20 friends or family go here.

This post and stay was kindly sponsored by HomeAway all thoughts, opinions, photos are entirely my own. 

 

 

 

MUMDAYS

Mumdays is a gifting business designed for Mums who deserve a bit of a treat (which is all mums obviously).  Founded by mother of twins Ursula, who set out to make mothers feel special by giving them a bit of 'me time.'

Mumdays do stunning, practical gift boxes that include everything from flowers, to cleaning services, to beauty treatments - all of which have been carefully curated and selected with the mum in mind. 

I was lucky enough to receive a Mumdays gift box and loved it - mine included a manicure, pedicure and flowers and made me very happy!

Here is some more information on the company and how it came about:

NAME OF BRAND/COMPANY: Mumdays

DATE IT WAS FOUNDED: Launched December 2016

BY WHOM IT WAS FOUNDED: Ursula Brunetti, Channel Mum Vlogger and Mum of twins

WHY WAS IT CREATED:  I created Mumdays with a simple mission in mind – to make mums feel special. Becoming a first time mum of twins was such a huge adjustment for me (I’m still reeling from the shock of that first ultrasound!). One of the things I struggled most with was the fact that you no longer have any time for yourself. This inspired me to create a gifting company that offers mums exactly that – experiences and crucially, quality me-TIME that is just for them.

When it comes to mum gifts, we’re often faced with generic tat that no one really wants. I realised customers needed someone to make it easy for them to get it right with thoughtful gifts for mums.

Most of all, mums crave some quality me time (and some appreciation for all that they do). And it’s the least they deserve. As mums we’re so used to putting everyone first that I felt there needed to be a company putting mums first instead. And so Mumdays was born!

WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BRAND: Mumdays is a brand that comes from the heart and is born from that feeling every mum has of finding it all too much. Mumdays are for that mum. The mum that every so often misses a piece of the well put together (and slightly more sane) version of herself that she used to be. It’s for the mum that loves her children fiercely but doesn’t know if she is getting it right. The mum that is exhausted or lonely and juggling a thousand balls but none of them have her name on them. It’s for that mum. It’s for all mums.

I’m also proud that all Mumdays are 100% mum approved! At Mumdays we make buying thoughtful gifts easy, because all our partners are carefully handpicked and tested by our panel of influential mums, to ensure that every Mumday has the desired effect of making her feel like a real life VIP.

We blend experiences together from different partners like Le Salon, Hassle, Urban Massage and Bloom & Wild to offer practical and pampering gift solutions that are thoughtfully presented in our signature pink gift packs.

WHAT WE SHOULD BUY FROM YOU: I’m particularly proud of our Combination gifts http://mumdays.co.uk/product-categories/combinations/ which blend gift experiences from different partners in combinations you can’t find anywhere else. Our Boost & Bloom http://mumdays.co.uk/product/boost-and-bloom gift combines gorgeous letterbox flowers from Bloom & Wild with an at-home massage from Urban Massage for an indulgent pick me up.

Or our New Mum Indulgence gift http://mumdays.co.uk/product/new-mum-indulgence-package is perfect for new mums or mums to be. It includes flowers, an at home massage, domestic cleaning and even laundry collection services, all focused on making life easier with pampering and practical services – the things that make a difference to your wellbeing as a new mum.

Or you could buy one of our Moments http://mumdays.co.uk/product-categories/mumdays-moments/ which are stand alone experiences for a small gift or treat to self.

I really believe happy mums make for happy children. I think every mum deserves a mumday (and not just for Mother’s Day either!).

THE DENTIST

Everyone knows going to the dentist is important but it is often something that is put off or forgotten about. We are surrounded by messages encouraging us to eat well, be healthy and stay fit but no one really emphasises the importance of looking after our teeth.

A few weeks ago I took my son to the dentist, he is 4 (and a half) years old, it was his second time to the dentist and he loved it! I don't mind going to the dentist (that much) but I know a lot of people are terrified of it. And it is a fear that we, as parents could easily project onto our children and the fear of the dentist cycle will continue.

My son and I visited Dawood and Tanner  in London and it was great - Dr Saul the dentist made my son (and me) feel really relaxed - he explained exactly what he was going to do, he let my son press the buttons on the chair and look into his own mouth using a special little mirror. He managed to make the whole process fun, interesting and a positive, enjoyable experience.

Since our appointment my son is much more conscientious with his teeth brushing and my daughter after hearing about her brother going is now desperate to go and have her own appointment.  

So the moral of this blog post is to take your kids (and you) to the dentist more often, it is something that they will thank you for later on in life.

If you are looking for an excellent dentist then we can highly recommend Dawood and Tanner (and ask for Dr Saul).

 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

FLOWER FACTS: TULIPS

THE TULIP

  • The name "tulip" originates from the Turkish language, where this plant represents national flower. Tulip in Turkish means "turbin" because this flower has the similar shape like unique-looking Turkish hat
  • Even though certain parts of tulips are toxic, petals have been used as food during the Second World War.

DATE NIGHT TO ALADDIN THE MUSICAL

When you are a parent I'd say it is safe to assume that you go out less at night than you did pre-kids (based on my experience anyway). So when you do make it out you want it to be good and you want to make the most of it.

With Valentine's Day fast approaching my husband and I decided to go out on a 'date night' where we went for dinner together then on to the theater to see Aladdin The Musical and it was brilliant.

Disney's Aladdin has been on in London for just under a year and I don't know how you could not like it. It is full of energy, music and sparkly things and I left feeling full of joy!

The singing, choreography and music is fantastic and I watched a few grown men (including my husband) bopping in their seats. Every single one of the cast is incredibly talented and one thing I didn't expect was that the script is very funny, there are so many good one-liners in it - the Genie especially is brilliant.

The set is incredible and changes continuously. We were lucky enough to have a backstage tour after the show and I was amazed to see the complexities and mechanics of it all. We found out how they created some of the illusions and special effects (that I will not ruin for you) and saw the areas where the cast have to change in seconds. There is so much that goes on backstage with about 100 people working there every performance.

Being a colourful fashion (and fancy dress) lover I really, really enjoyed the costumes. There are over 350 of them and the attention to detail and craftsmanship on them all is incredible. There are also so many different hats, turbans and headdresses in every scene and despite all the energetic movement they all manage to stay on the actor's heads!

The Prince Edward Theatre is in the centre of Soho so we went for a pre-theatre dinner on Old Compton Street.  It felt pretty liberating to be out-out and kid-free for the evening.

Both my husband and I really enjoyed ourselves and loved the nostalgic element of watching the classic Aladdin Disney story that we grew up with as grown ups - it was a whole new world and an excellent Valentine's Day date night.

This post created in assosiation Disney - but when they offered it to me I jumped at the chance because it is something I genuinely wanted to see and do. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.