• How to Order Restaurant Wine

    About Will The Wine Expert

    I have been involved with the UK wine trade for about 10 years now. Before that, I worked in the restaurant business in the states. I really enjoyed that part of my life but by the time I moved back to the UK, I was over the late nights and  working weekends so I needed a change. Working with wine was what I enjoyed the most so the wine trade seemed like the logical progression for me. I currently work for Richard Dawes Fine Wine, a small merchants based in Battersea. I feel  lucky because wine is my number 1 hobby, as well as my job. Over the years, there have been a lot of recurring questions so I thought it might be useful for me to look at a few of them in a series of posts in an effort to demystify a topic that interests a lot of people.

    His Top Tips

    To kick things off, I’m going to offer a few pointers about ordering wine in restaurants. It can be daunting when you’re handed the wine list and the enjoyment of your party rests in your hands! To make your life easier, here are a few things to keep in mind…

    Restaurants make a lot of money from drinks. I don’t think that will come as much of a surprise. Typically, restaurants work on a wine cost of 30% but they’ll try to make more if they can (rent is not cheap!) 

    Avoid the house options if you can.The 30% is not set in stone on every product, it’s an average. The margin on the house options will be much more than the top end of the wine list. Even if you spend £3-£5 more, you’re likely to get something far more interesting.

    Famous names aren’t always your friend.Another area restaurants will try to make more margin is on well-known labels. People feel names like Chablis and Chateauneuf are a safe haven but I’d give them a miss if you’re not familiar with the producer. They are often made by large co-operatives and you are paying a premium for a name. If you’re thinking about ordering a wine like this, you’ll often be better off spending the same amount on a wine from a region you’ve never hear of.

    Ask.If you’re in a smart restaurant and a tome of a wine list hits the table, it’s likely that the restaurant will have an employee devoted to compiling the list and selling it. Unless you’re inclined to leaf through endless pages of Chateau This and Domaine That, you’re better off saying “I’d like a red at £X, I like things like X, Y and Z”. These guys will always have a few options that they really love that don’t break the bank.

    Eat what you want, drink what you want. A lot is said about for and wine matching and, yes, there are some good rules to follow and some dreamy matches. But, if you see a pinot noir you love but also want some cod – do it! What’s the worst that could happen? Sometimes, people think food and wine pairing is the law but you won’t go far wrong if you eat and drink whatever you’re in the mood for.

    Wine should be fun.Nobody needs to drink wine. We do it because we enjoy it. I know it’s easy to stick to what you know, especially when you are parting with money, but try new things. Try to think about what you like or dislike about it. The more wines you try, the more you’ll develop your own database of knowledge.


    I hope that has given you a little insight in to how wine in restaurants works. There are thousands of wines to try, so get exploring!

  • 5 Things Not To Say To Your Kids Teacher

    Now obviously it is important to have an on going dialogue with your child’s teacher and studies have shown the importance and benefits of parents being involved in their education. However, there are times when our desire to ‘help’ isn’t always ‘helpful’.

    So here are 5 conversations the teachers we spoke to would rather not have.


    Please can my child have extra homework?

    Teachers generally believe that as a rule, the kids work hard enough all day in school. They should use the time outside of school to relax and pursue other activities. Children need time to unwind and learning skills outside the classroom can be even more valuable than extra maths. Ultimately, if they believe your child will benefit from additional homework, they will set it; otherwise let them play.

    I think my child is misbehaving because he is bored.

    Not only is this deeply insulting, it is also highly unlikely. There may be a multitude of reasons as to why your child is misbehaving but chances are it isn’t because they are bored.

    Would you like to come to little Gretchen’s birthday party?

    This is just embarrassing for everyone. No matter how engaged your teacher is with the children in her class, it is highly unlikely that she also wants to spend her weekends with them. Furthermore, if she goes to one party, she has to go to them all. Just don’t ask.

    We are missing the last few days of school to go on holiday, can you provide a booklet so we know what they have missed?

    Sometimes you need to get away before term ends, sometimes you just want to, either way asking teachers for catch up notes creates more work all round. They won’t end up being delighted by your enthusiasm but just annoyed with having to add yet another task to their to-do list, at an already incredible busy time.

    Can you please move my child away from xxxxx ?

    The teacher is ultimately the one present in the class room day in and day out, they have a much better understanding as to what is really going on. Sometimes you need to trust their judgement. As they say it takes two to tango and you may not be getting the full story about exactly who  is the victim and who is the perpetrator. That being said, of course if it is making your child in anyway unhappy, then of course they would want to hear.

  • Fast & Fun Ideas for Fireworks Night


    Having just recovered from half-term and Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night is now upon us. We love a party but inevitably don’t have much time for planning or prep. So here are some ideas for food and games that help make light(er) work of it all.


    Hot dogs

    Possibly not the most original of ideas but what kids really love is being able to ‘do it themselves’ and that is what makes this idea a real winner for you as well. All you need to do is cook the sausages and then create a dressing station with fried onions, relish, garlic mayo and all the regulars – ketchup, mustard and mayo. That way everyone gets involved and makes their own meal.

    Pumpkin soup

    If you have the time, you can’t beat a homemade soup and this one is quick and easy to prepare plus it is a great way to get rid of any pumpkins that have survived from Halloween.


    1 small onion

    2 garlic cloves

    2 medium sized potatoes

    ½ pumpkin

    1 cup vegetable stock

    salt and black pepper

    (For a whole pumpkin use 1 ½ cup of onions, 2 cups veg. stock, 3 potatoes, 3 cloves garlic)

    Put the pumpkin flesh, chopped onion, potatoes and garlic to boil. Once its bubbling turn the heat down a bit and stir in the vegetable stock. Taste and add seasoning if needed. When the potatoes and pumpkin are fully cooked, blend and serve in individual mugs. Add a dash of cayenne pepper for the grownups.

    Cheesy Fondue

    Cheese Fondue Cheese Fondue

    Great for veggies and something the kids also love, as it is fun for them to do themselves. There is very little preparation required and it is best to start making the fondue once your guests have arrived, so they can enjoy it at its gooiest.



    Cheese sauce Ingredients

    Any cheese you like (can be multiple)

    2 tablespoons crème fraiche

    50ml cider

    ½ teaspoon mustard

    2 swigs hot water

    Salt and pepper

    Dash of onion powder

    Grate the cheese then make a bain-marie. Add the cider and all the cheese, stirring only to help the cheese melt. Mix in the mustard and add the seasoning to taste. When the cheese has mostly melted stir in the crème fraiche and add a couple splashes of hot water to loosen the mixture.

    Bits to dip

    Chop up some vegetables like celery, carrots, cucumber and peppers.

    Rip bread up into chunky pieces and toast them in the oven. You can mix things up by spreading garlic butter on some pieces and leave the rest plain. This is a filling addition to the dish.


    S'Mores S'Mores




    Chocolate or chocolate spread

    You can use any biscuit you like but I find oat biscuits or digestives hold up well against the gooey marshmallows and chocolate. To make this treat - toast marshmallows over the fire then sandwich it between two biscuits and a bit of chocolate (spread).

    Fondue Toffee apples

    Fireworks Night Toffee Apples Toffee Apples

    Instead of making toffee apples beforehand you can get the kids involved. Make a toffee sauce by melting butterscotch chips into caramel. If too thick add a few dashes of milk. Separate bowls of toppings like sprinkles or candy corn and cut the apples into slices. The little ones can then toffee their own apple slices complete with their favourite topping.







    Fireworks_Party_IdeasUnless you have an Olympic size budget the fireworks can be over reasonably quickly, so it is a good idea to have some games up your sleeve for the little ones. So here are a couple of bonfire night inspired games to throw into the mix.



    Blow paint ball race

    This is a simple game that also creates a bit of art.

    You need:

    Pin pong balls

    Drinking straws


    A3 or A4 paper

    Blue tack

    The race track

    The size of the sheets used is at your discretion. Cut the sheets of paper in half, length ways. Using a bit of blue tack secure it to a hard flat surface, like a table or the floor. It depends on the number of children and adults playing, but it’s better to have a few sheets cut for each race. This game can get messy so, be sure to protect the surrounding area.

    Using straws place blobs of different colours along the sheet of paper. This should be done just before the race when the paint is at its wettest.

    The race

    Once the racers are in position, put the ping pong ball on the starting side of the paper. The aim of the game is to blow the ball to end the fastest. But it must pass through every blob of paint. At the end of the race, each racer gets to keep the art they made.

    Chocolate Game

    This is a game we always used to play as kids and was always a real highlight of any party. As everyone is bundled up anyway with hats and scarves we think this is the perfect night for this game. All you need is:

    Large bar chocolate

    Knife and Fork





    Everyone sits around in the circle with the chocolate bar, knife and fork on a plate in the centre. Each player rolls the dice and then passes it onto the next player. If a player rolls a six, they put on the hat, scarf and gloves. Once dressed, they go to the centre of the circle and start eating the chocolate bar using the knife and fork. They continue eating it, until the next person rolls a six and then they change places. The game continues until all the chocolate has gone.

    Red Light Green Light

    I loved playing this as a child, although this game does require a lot of space, it can be played inside. One person stands at the front of the group with their back turned. They are the “stoplight”. Everyone else must stand in a horizontal line a few feet well away (depending on the space available).

    The game starts when the stoplight (with their back turned) says “green light”. This is when everyone else is allowed to move towards the stoplight. At any point in the game, the stoplight may say “Red light, green light 1, 2, 3!” and turn around. If anyone is caught moving after this, they are out. The aim of the game is to get to the front and tap the stop light out. The stoplight wins if everyone is out before they can be touched. The fun is all about the poses the rest of the players create and how fast or slow the stoplight does their bit.

    Hope you have lots of fun as you remember the 5th of November!

  • 5 Minute Halloween Ideas

    It’s Halloween and you have no time to spend crafting, baking and turning your home into the perfect eerie destination. Don’t stress we’ve got you covered. Here are some quick and easy Halloween ideas to get you and yours ready for some spooky fun!

    Easy Costume Ideas for your Kids

    These Halloween costumes can be put together at the last minute.


    Take some brightly coloured paper and make a cone. Tape the end to make sure it keeps it shape and cut off the excess so it rests flat on your child’s head. You can punch to holes on either side of the horn and use string or yarn to fasten it to your child’s head. You can also use the string to secure the horn to a hair band. It really depends on the time you have.

    Add some glitter around their eyes using some of your own eyeshadow. Dress your kid in bright colours. If you have any tutus or any other pieces from their dress up box, which you can mix and match.


    To make a witch hat you need card or Bristol board. Paper would work but you may have to stuff the tip with something to keep it firm.

    The best colours are black, grey, purple, blue or red.

    You need to average the circumference of your child’s head. With that in mind cut two circles out of the material, making sure one of them is larger than the other. On the smaller of the circles, you can decorate with a spider web, any kind of spooky pattern or leave it as is. Make a cut into the circle almost to the middle and then shape it into a cone. Secure it with glue or tape.

    Now you need to make a ‘donut’ out of the larger circle. Rest the base of the cone in the middle of the larger circle and draw around it. Take your scissors and cut out the inner circle, staying within the circumference of the one you have drawn. Slide the donut over the top of the cone. It should remain snug at the base. You can use some tape here, to keep the brim in place. Use any ribbon, cloth or remaining paper of card to hide the tape, it also adds some style to the hat. Job done!

    If it doesn’t stay on, on its own you can attach string to either side of the hat and tie it where your child feels comfortable.

    If you don’t have enough material for a full sized hat, make a small one, and attach it to a hairband or string. It has the same effect.

    No card or paper around, use an old T shirt for a quirky floppy witch’s hat.

    The great thing about a witch’s hat is that your kid can wear whatever they want. They can wear dress all in black or wear something colourful outfit they already own. Cut out a star and clue it to the end of a chopstick or wooden skewer and your witch becomes a good witch or a fairy God Mother.


    If you have more than one tyke, dress the other as a cat.

    To make the ears cut two triangles out of black paper and another two out of pink paper. Make sure that two pink triangles are a bit smaller than the black ones. No coloured paper to hand? Use white and colour the triangles using markers or paint. Glue the pink triangles to the middle of the black ones. Once dry, fold the bottom of each triangle around the left and right sides of a hair band.

    Use some eyeliner to give them a little kitten nose and whiskers.

    Your little one doesn’t have to wear all black they can wear whatever they like.

    If you want to make a fancy cat you need to make a tail and bow tie in addition the ears. To make the tail you need any old bit of clothing and a used pair of tights. Cut up the old bit of clothes into pieces and stuff it down one of the legs of the tights. Once it’s at a length you both like cut it, tie a not and pin it to whatever they’re wearing.

    For the bow tie, cut a bow out of what’s left or paper. Glue or stich it to the neckline of your child’s top head and call it fancy. Naturally, he or she can wear whatever they want.

    You can add more bits and pieces if your little cat doesn’t think it’s fancy enough.

    Halloween Cat Halloween Cat

    Costume Ideas for you

    The next two ideas are perfect if you have leftover chopsticks from takeaway orders or a plethora of drinking straws and pipe cleaners.

    Cat Burglar

    Make yourself a set of cat ears following the instructions above, only this time leave out the pink. These cat ears need to be all black much like the rest of your outfit. Style you hair however you like. Now for the burglar bit. Make yourself a mask by cutting two eyeholes out of a strip of black cloth. For a faster method, use eyeliner and eyeshadow to give yourself a raccoon look.

    Photo booth prop.

    You can finish this in no time. Make the prop using a wooden skewer or chopstick and construction paper or card. The colour of the paper depends on the kind of prop you’re making. You can draw and cut out: a vampire’s mouth complete with fangs, a moustache or even a crazy pair of glasses. Let your imagination run wild but not for too long.

    Once you’re satisfied with your cut out, stick the left or right side (depending of your dominant hand) to the top of the dowel or chopstick. What you wear is then up to you, you can dress preppy to suit the glasses, all in black for the vampire or like a hipster for the moustache.

    You can have a go using this print out.

    Halloween Props Props To Use


    Hanging Bat silhouettes

    Black paper, scissors, tape and string at the ready! Find some bat silhouettes you like, at least 2 different ones. You can draw them out, or print them off online and cut them out. Once you have a decent amount of bats, tape different lengths of string to each bat and hang them from the ceiling, on walls even doorways.

    Be sure to hang any sleeping bats upside down, this adds to the fun.

    Here are some batty silhouettes, you can print out.

    bat stencil Bat Stencil
    Bat Stencil Bat Stencil

    Scary Fairy lights.

    Perfect for recyclers. What you need: any empty jars, bottles and their lids, permanent marker and a string of fairy lights. Feel free to use one from your Christmas stock.

    Draw scary faces on each of the jars, you can copy faces you find online. Make holes in the lids and pop a light into each hole. Set the string of lights and lids on mantle, window sill, dining table, and path or near the front door. Flip the switch and watch the creepy faces glow.

    If you find the jars getting too hot, remove the lids but be sure to leave the fairy lights hanging over the top of each jar.

    Can’t find any fairy lights; keep the lids off the jars and use tea lights or small candles or glow sticks.

    If the ink from the markers doesn’t show, you can always draw them on paper (black if you have) cut them out and stick it to the front of the jars.

    Halloween Lanterns Halloween Lanterns

    Halloween Treats

    Cereal cakes

    Melt some chocolate, add the cereal (plain cornflakes or Rice Krispies work best) and mix them together. Make sure the cereal is coated. You can use a spoon but I find hands work best. Shape handfuls of the chocolatey mixture into balls, place them on a baking sheet or tray and pop them in the fridge.

    No time to melt chocolate, use Nutella instead.

    Marshmallow spookies

    You need marshmallows of any size (white ones work best) and edible black ink pens or markers. Draw bat silhouettes and ghost faces on one half of the marshmallows. On the other half write Halloween themed words like trick, treat, boo, spooky, witch’s brew, grim, scream! etc. The size of the marshmallow dictates the length of words.

    Marshmallow Spookies Marshmallow Spookies

    Creepy margarita fingers

    You need bread, tomato sauce, cheese and a bell pepper.

    This makes good use of any bread in the house. Spread tomato sauce on each slice, top with cheese and bake until golden brown or the cheese melts. It’s down to personal preference.

    While they’re still warm slice them into thin strips. Using the bell pepper, cut triangle shapes no wider than the strips of pizza bread. Press them into the top end of each strip and it looks like creepy fingers. The colour of the pepper doesn’t really matter but I find red or green ones work best.

    No peppers? Try any vegetable tiny cut into triangles. I find carrots or tomatoes to be substitutes.

    If you don’t have the time to get Halloween ready any combination of these tips will get you and yours set for the scary holiday. If you have the time, these treats are fun to make with your children too.

  • Puppies and Parenting

    parenting advice

    This week on our blog, Melissa from the Parent Practice asks the question what does raising a puppy and raising a child have in common? Here are her thoughts:

    My only child has just turned 12. For the last 6 years she has been repeatedly asking for a sibling - in the form of a dog. After years of promises and procrastination we finally adopted Ozzie, a Cavapoo puppy, and I feel like I have a new baby in the house!

    Just as the parents of a new baby would stock up on all the necessities, I headed down to the local pet shop! I bought chew toys, special organic puppy food and treats … and, on the recommendation of the owner, a book called The Art of Raising a Puppy, written by The Monks of New Skete, who in addition to living a monastic life, also run a well-regarded dog training facility in upstate New York.   A few pages in – with my Parent Practice facilitator hat on – I did a double take! Was I reading a puppy-training book or a parenting book? Many of the things I read were looking awfully reminiscent of things that I had read in parenting books and were equally applicable.   I suddenly had a surge of confidence that I can adapt the positive parenting skills I use with my daughter in order to bring out the very best in our puppy as well

    Here are some of the lessons:

    1. Children thrive on routine

    Once I hit page 145, I was right back at the beginning of my daughter’s life, nursing in the rocking chair, with my head in a parenting book! Puppies, like babies … and growing children, thrive on structure and routine. While following a schedule may not have had my daughter sleeping through the night until she was well over a year old, the Monks of New Skete have made it possible for Ozzie to sleep through the night from the very first day!

    You have the Power to Bring out the Best in your Children

    “Part of training means that you become a student of your dog and employ an approach that brings out the best in him.”

    This is true for raising children as well. Over time, we become the experts in our children – we start to know what triggers their upsets, what drives them, what makes them happy, and we get really good at reading their cues. While being the expert doesn’t always mean that we consistently do the right thing, it puts us in the position to choose our approach. As Goethe wrote:

    “It is my personal approach that creates the climate.

    It is my daily mood that makes the weather.

    I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.

    I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.”

    When we choose to use the positive parenting perspective, we are choosing an approach that ultimately makes our parenting life more joyful and inspiring … and better yet, it helps us instill in our children the values, qualities, habits and behaviours that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

    1. You are in charge … in the best possible way

    “Being a benevolent leader is learning the characteristics of good training: patience, fairness, consistency, attentiveness and intelligence. Good trainers may feel impatient with a dog, but they always do their best to avoid showing it. They take a long view of the training process and don’t try to do too much too quickly, building one step at a time. They keep their anger in check when things aren’t going as planned and realize that a calm and quiet approach vis-à-vis their pup is more helpful. With that sort of self possession, a trainer can be flexible, responding to what the dog needs, instead of reacting to mistakes.”

    In our Being in Charge class, we ask our clients to come up with qualities and characteristics they believe inspiring leaders posses. The common responses are things like: motivating, kind, trusting, patient, charismatic, visionary, and calm.

    When we are calm we are able to access all our positive parenting skills. We are able to use positive rules to consistently reaffirm our family values; we are able to use descriptive praise to build motivation, cooperation and confidence; we are able to be emotion coaches to help our children handle upsets and disappointments; and we are able to use positive discipline so that our children can make mistakes and learn how to fix them.

    1. Parenting requires a long-term focus

    Another thing parenting and raising a puppy have in common is that it is most effective to take the long-term approach to training our children in the habits and behaviours that will last a lifetime. We can get our children to do things out of fear of punishment, but this doesn’t teach them to do the right thing because it is the ‘right’ thing to do. When we can look upon our children’s mistakes as opportunities for teaching and learning rather than as deeply rooted deficits, we can approach them in a whole other way – with compassion, kindness and a focus on solutions rather than blame, anger and judgment.

    One of the benefits of positive parenting is the constant creation of meaningful relationships with our children. As our new addition has his mid-morning nap (lunch is in 20 minutes!), I know that he will teach us all a thing or two as well!!

  • Don't Pick Your Parenting Battles

    Don't Pick your Battles

    Don’t pick battles with your children. Battles are between enemies and result in a win/lose situation. If you win, your child loses. We often forget this when we talk about not letting our children ‘get away with things’ and not letting them win.

    Parents do need to provide discipline for children because their frontal lobes are not yet fully developed (and won’t be until their 20s). So we have to lend them our higher brains with their greater capacity for rational thought and impulse control. We are not our children’s enemy –we are their teacher. The purpose of discipline is not to win, or to get revenge, but to teach. Effective discipline comes from influence over time rather than the exercise of power in the moment.

    We need to make sure we avoid the terminology of battles even in our own minds because language shapes our experience and the more we talk or even think about battling with our kids the more that will happen. That’s how our brains work.

    What makes you want to go into battle with your child? Is it when you’ve asked them nicely to do something several times and they ignore you? And then you calmly and reasonably give them a gentle warning that they won’t get their TV time or stories… and they ignore you. And then you shout… but they still ignore you. And then you take away the TV or story… and then they react. They act as if that came straight out of the blue and is the most unreasonable thing ever and you are the meanest mummy/daddy in the world.

    Generally when people suggest picking your battles it means choosing which things you’re going to get into a lather about and ignoring the rest. At The Parent Practice we say don’t ignore behaviours that you’re not happy about and don’t battle over them. Don’t ignore but take small actions before the behaviour escalates too far and while you’re still calm enough to deal with it.

    Take action sooner with take 2s –Get your child to do it again correctly. This works well for little things like saying please and thank you or speaking in a polite tone of voice or asking to get down from the table.

    Here’s how you can teach rather than engaging in battles:

    • Understand your child. Is what you’re asking them to do reasonable given his temperament and stage of development? Does he need time to transition from what he’s doing to what you’re asking him to do? As soon as parents start thinking about why kids aren’t cooperating and what their needs are then they can be more compassionate and more effective.
    • Don’t give too many instructions. Young children are likely to forget parts of what you’ve asked them to do and they may feel nagged and tune you out. Reduce the number of instructions you give by having some written rules and routines and by asking the children what they need to do. They usually know.
    • Children have their own set of priorities and their agenda is just as important to them as ours is to us. They will give up on what they’re doing and submit to your control when there is the greater priority of pleasing you. That means they have to know that they can earn your approval.
    • Give lots of approval with descriptive praise. This means that kids want to cooperate. And spend time with them doing fun things.
    • Connect with your child. Acknowledge that he doesn’t want to do his homework, have a bath or stop playing and come to dinner. When we recognise how they feel about the situation children feel understood and are more likely to comply. Once feelings are heard much resistance disappears.

    If something has gone wrong and you’re heading into battle mode:

    1. Take time to cool down - essential to avoid saying or doing something you’ll later regret.
    2. Connect –acknowledge the feelings driving the behaviour.
    3. Take constructive steps –have a problem-solving conversation without anger, blame or judgment (hence the need for the cool down) to help your child see why their actions were a mistake and what they can do about it. Use natural consequences (if they don’t get out of the bath promptly there’s no time for the story) or fixing consequences (clean up a mess or mend someone’s hurt feelings). Teach your child what to do differently next time –practice it.

    Kids will get things wrong because they’re learning but the way we teach them how to behave will have long term ramifications for how they deal with disagreements in their lives. Instead of teaching them to get into battles don’t we want to teach them to try to understand, use words to negotiate and compromise?

    For more on Positive discipline techniques see www.theparentpractice.com

  • My Top 5 Sleep Tips



    Sleep tips have to be one of the most written about subjects when it comes to babies and children, so I will do my very best to not bore you with stuff you have already read. Now, health warning on this, I’m not a doctor and claim no expertise other than having dealt with the problem – a lot. So here are my top 5.

    1.Starting with the most bizarre, I was very lucky to have had a lovely Ecuadorian nanny for the girls. One evening, when they were a bit older, she announced she was going to give them lettuce milk. Now, I was incredibly sceptical but also incredibly desperate for a good night sleep, so the lettuce experiment commenced. All she did was put a lettuce leaf to soak in their warm milk at bed and to my surprise I genuinely believe it helped. Now it appears I may not be alone in this, as shortly after I was reading Beatrix Potter: The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies and came across this: …. the little bunnies ‘did not awake because the lettuces had been so soporific’. So maybe lettuce milk isn’t so mad after all?



    baby_sleep_pillow_spray_princess_final2.My next tip actually started off as something I use; insomnia appears to run in the family. For sometime now I have been addicted to ‘This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray’ and during one of her midnight missions, Lady Iz told me she preferred my bed as it smelt so nice and calm. Now, I was obviously being played but then I thought about my pillow spray. Next time I was out I discovered they did one for kids – ‘Sleep Like a Prince/Princess – Baby Sleep Pillow Spray. It contains lavender, vetivert and camomile and she genuinely believes it helps her sleep – which to be honest, is good enough for me.


    3.There aren’t many kids who like the dark and we went through all the night light phase and the lights on in the hall etc. etc. but over time we found that light just made it worse. The science is that exposure to darkness triggers the production of melatonin, which among other things makes us sleepy and exposure to light does the reverse. So for us putting those night-lights in the bin, investing in black out blinds and dimming every other light possible was yet another steps forward.

    4.Something for the older ones, I am pretty relentless in my search for ways to get my kids to sleep and this one I found online. It is called the 4-7-8 breathing technique and promises to help you nod off in 60 seconds – had to be worth a try. It was developed by Harvard trained Dr. Andrew Weil and basically all you need to do is exhale completely through your mouth while making a 'whoosh' sound.

    Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Now hold your breath for a count of seven. Then exhale completely through your mouth, making another whoosh sound for eight second in one large breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three times.

    Clearly the whoosh sound provokes great hilarity but for us, even if it didn’t result in sleep 60 seconds later, it definitely beat counting sheep. If you are interested, head to YouTube.

    5. The last tip is something we try to enforce each night - no fights or negotiations before bedtime. This is almost impossible and still something we are working on but getting rid of any drama definitely makes settling to sleep easier. One thing that weirdly helps is that my girls are obsessed with stop watches and egg timers – they like knowing how fast, how long, how much quicker or slower? So when I know bedtime is going to be tricky, out it comes and rather than me being the bad guy saying ‘bed’ or there being any ambiguity about what 5 minutes actually means – we use the timer. What I have found is that they seem to accept its judgment and whilst they might not be happy about going to bed, they are definitely more compliant - after all it really isn’t much fun trying to argue with a clock.

    Sweet Dreams (hopefully....)

  • The Ultimate Guide To Winter Coats

    0-Amori prix littéraire-023The winter coat should be the one big investment piece you buy for winter – all kids spend a lot of time out doors, so you need a coat that not only you both love but is warm and practical too. So what do you need to know?

    The Classic Puffer

    This is a great staple, buy the right one and it will keep them warm and dry throughout winter. The main decision you need to make is whether to opt for down or synthetic. As ever there is a debate about which is better, but for kids our preference is down as they are much warmer for their weight and they compress better. Their biggest disadvantage is they are more expensive. If your preference remains synthetic, then the good news is that the technology is improving all the time (thinsulate and thermolite). Pick the right one and the difference between down and synthetic is less significant than it used to be. Their biggest drawback, is that they are much heavier for the same warmth and they don’t compress as well. So, whilst for adults, weight might not be an issue for little ones they definitely feel it more.








    The Posh Puffer

    If you love the warmth puffa coats offer but also need something smarter then opt for one with a fur trim or hood. Often these trims are detachable so you can add it or take it away at will. Think also about colours, as more tonal colours will work better than brights if you want to ‘posh up’ at puffer.paradise_aqua_01






    The Classic Wool Coat

    Few things look smarter than a well cut wool coat and they are definitely more practical for kids than you might at first think. Wool is actually water resistant, due to the lanolin in the sheep wool, so it will keep them dry throughout our British Winter. Wool is also a brilliant insulator and is great for keeping the cold out. The other big advantage of wool is that it doesn’t wrinkle or crease so always looks lovely and smart. As parents however, the one big drawback is how to keep a wool coat clean. The majority require dry cleaning, so if this is a concern check the label. Also make sure it is fully lined, otherwise it can be scratchy on young skins.capuce








    Not strictly a coat, but we promise once you buy one of these you won’t ever look back. The gilet is the perfect transitional piece making it perfect for early autumn and again early Spring. So whilst it might seem like a bit of an extravagance, in reality you will get plenty of wear from it. As it isn’t a full on coat it is perfect for our unreliable climate, when there is a nip in the air but its not quite full on coat weather. They are also great for kids who are always saying ‘I don’t want to wear a coat’ – as technically they aren’t but they will do the same job.









    For the Smallest Ones

    For babies make sure whatever you buy you can wash easily. Also check all the fastenings, as trying to put a small baby into a coat or snowsuit can be a real challenge.

    Our preference is definitely the snowsuits as they are effectively like wearing a duvet outdoors. Good snowsuits also come with hoods and occasionally mittens making them a really practical, easy solution. As with babygrows, if your child is tall, opt for one either without feet or with detachable feet so you can extend its wear. If you are thinking a full on snowsuit is a bit too much for early autumn opt for a fleece one, they are an incredibly versatile layer as they will work for early spring as well.
















    Long versus Short

    This is definitely more than just a style issue; with kids it is fundamentally a practical one. The longer length obviously gives you more warmth but if your kid loves to tear around, kick balls and climb whatever is available, then shorter is definitely a better option. Toddlers also struggle more with longer length coats as they do restrict their movement. So whilst as parents we want them to be as warm as possible, for many kids shorter coats are a better option.

    In a nutshell

    This is one item not to impulse buy. Think about what will work best for your child and read the label so you know what you are getting; as tempting as it is don’t buy it just because you like the look of it. It is also definitely worth spending the money and economizing on other wardrobe elements - good coats are expensive to manufacture but worth their weight in gold.

  • Back To School Tips

    44322145_sBack to School for parents invariably means getting their 'stuff' ready - be it uniform, stationary or endless name tagging. However, whilst this is essential, having been on holiday for so long, children also need some emotional preparation that sometimes gets lost in all the chaos. This week Melissa from the Parent Practice offers some top tips on how best to get them emotionally prepared for the year ahead.

    Emotional Preparation

    Emotional preparation is just as important as getting kit together.

    Build confidence by focusing on your children’s efforts, attitude and improvements – not results!

    Although schools keep their main focus on results, we can provide an alternate view, putting the emphasis on the journey or process. Keep noticing these qualities WHENEVER and WHEREVER your children display them using Descriptive Praise to describe in detail the good stuff they do.


    If we can point out to them qualities that they are showing in non-academic areas they will be more likely to transfer those attributes to school life.


    For example: “I am impressed how you kept working on this juggling. It’s complicated and time-consuming but you persevered until you can do it.” Or “You made such an effort to keep up with everyone today, and you kept a smiley face and a happy voice which meant we all had a lovely day out together.”


    Helping them cope with their feelings

    There are many feelings associated with school – good ones, and not so good ones. And we need to know how our children feel – even when the feelings are ones that we’d rather protect them from, or don’t feel comfortable handling.


    When we accept and validate negative feelings we reduce the need for children to ‘act out’ these feelings in ‘misbehaviour’ - such as irritability or being ‘mean’ to siblings or rude to parents or indecisiveness or defiance. Instead we help them learn how to identify and manage negative feelings appropriately.


    For example: “I imagine you are totally exhausted by all the new people and places you have to deal with this week. It probably feels quite overwhelming.” Or “You might feel like you can’t possibly do one more thing for anyone this afternoon. You’ve been told what to do all day long, and now all you want to do is nothing.”


    Remember, there is a clear distinction between acknowledging negative feelings and condoning negative behaviour. So, although it’s understandable a child might feel left out at school, it is NOT acceptable to hit a sibling.


    Sometimes children’s excitement at starting school is tinged with the conflicting and confusing feeling of anxiety.


    Sometimes feelings have physical manifestations – butterflies in the tummy, headaches, eczema or nausea. It can help children to know that these feelings won’t last and there are solutions too, like breathing, visualisations or distraction. It helps to hear that other people have similar feelings – most children love hearing about your experiences at school.


    Empathise with any reluctance to go to school. Did you love every single day of school?! It is TOTALLY normal for there to be times when they don’t want to go. Knowing that feeling is understood and accepted makes it easier to keep going.


    For example: “I bet you wish you could stay at home today – it’s such a huge change to being on holiday. You probably wish we were still on the beach.”

    “You might be wishing you didn’t have to change schools. You feel sad about leaving your friends and teachers. Maybe you are worried you won’t know anyone and you won’t make friends quickly. You might miss your old school for a while. Maybe a part of you is also looking forward to making new friends and having more activities. It can be confusing when you feel two different feelings at the same time.”

    Continued reluctance may mean there is something else going on which merits further investigation.


    And two last tips!


    First, remember how tiring school is for children of all ages. It’s not unusual for children to display regressive behaviour – sucking thumbs, using baby voices, disrupted sleep, rudeness - because they are so exhausted by their efforts to be ‘good’ at school. Plan time for them to rest each afternoon and at the weekend – avoid lots of playdates and activities until things settle down.


    And, secondly, our children follow where we lead. When we enthuse, we create enthusiasm. When we look forward to new challenges, they do too. And when we show an appetite for learning, they pick this up. So, be positive about school, and it will help give them a very good start.



  • Win £100 Summer Wardrobe!

    In collaboration with MumandBaby Centre we are offering one lucky participant the chance to win £100 Summer Wardrobe for their little one. Simply enter the competition below for your chance to win.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

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