Tree Fu Tom live – review feature

Today, for one day only, Sister-in-law and 2-year-old Nephew have been allowed to take over blogging responsibilities: you can think of us as the Provincial Relations. We’re delighted to have the Chiswick Mum blogging mantle passed to us (for these purposes I imagine it to be a sort of Nicole Farhi-type cape, possibly with snood…). We were lucky enough to get sent off to see Tree Fu Tom Live on tour, with strict instructions to report back on how the magic really works.

Who’s Tree Fu Tom? Do you mean his blend of cartoon magic, neo-pagan tree worship, talking woodlice and kung fu has passed you by? He’s a relative newcomer to CBeebies, only arriving in 2012, and this is the first time that the show has been on tour.

In the TV version, young Tom, benefitting from some rather lax parenting practices, appears to spend most of his time in the woods, transforming himself into insect size in order to hang out with a group of more or less moral woodland creatures. When they need help with their troubles [you know the sort of thing: sap leaks, pixies getting out of control, beetles going astray] Tom springs to the rescue, performing magic movements which the audience has to join in.

Not only is it meant to get young couch potatoes up and active while they are watching telly, it’s also been designed with specialist input to help children with dyspraxia through the co-ordinated hand movements.

This is the great aspect of the live show, too, where Tree Fu Tom in his striking green moon boots urges you to get up and make the magic work. Admittedly, Nephew and his friend sat tight in their seats, observing other children eagerly participating with a cool, almost cynical air. But other, more enthusiastic, infants were clearly having a whale of a time.

 

Singing, dancing and magic – live

The live show itself is really involving, in the best pantomime style, as Tom leads his gang of arthropods on a treasure hunt with plenty of singing, dancing, and magic.

There’s Twigs, the hyperactive acorn sprite, Zigzoo the frog with his armful of sub-Dragons Den style inventions, and Squirmtum the foolish woodlouse, who has an unfortunate tendency towards cowardliness (personally, just for once, I’d love to see a courageous woodlouse; they do tend to get terribly stereotyped). Our favourite was Ariela the butterfly, buxom, be-stetsoned, channelling a country music twang: think a six-legged Dolly Parton with a mean line in lassoing errant mushrooms.

Because the mushrooms, of course, are the villains of the piece: two quarrelsome toadstool siblings who are out to cause all sorts of fungal mischief and frustrate Tom and his friends. One of the highlights of the show was hearing quite how disapproving the little boy behind us was about the bad behaviour of the thieving Mushas, who certainly know how to whip their juvenile crowd into a state of righteous disgust worthy of a Daily Mail leader.

 

Granted, this is a bit of an expensive outing, but it’s a treat. The enthusiasm was infectious, the music was incessantly catchy, and the whole show did a great job at engaging children. I was worried that Nephew was a little bit young to get into it at only 2, but although he didn’t understand it fully, he was absolutely entranced, staring fixedly at the stage throughout and wriggling to the music.

Probably an optimum age might be 4 to 6, to fully get the jokes and get into the plot line – but it definitely works for younger children too, because of the liveliness and physical element. It was also very well-timed: about forty minutes up to the interval, a good break and then a much shorter second half.

 

We went to the show at De Montfort Hall in Leicester but it’s on tour right round the country at the moment [see http://www.treefutomlive.co.uk/#!page3/cee5]. Go on, dust off those moonboots and get ready for your child to be spellbound by Tom and his insect sidekicks…

 

Phew – well what did you think of my sister-in-law's review… was I right to let her loose on my blog…hee hee

Please note – my sister-in-law and nephew were given free review tickets to this show, for the purposes of this review. But it's an honest and authentic review. Pretty darn well written I think – I think I have some blogging competition…

 

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Never knowingly undersold ? Women and confidence in the workplace

A couple of weeks ago I went for a job interview for a big promotion.

Now depending on where you are in your own career path, you may think the words 'job interview' to be a normal part of life..

But for me it hurled me into a big pit of soul searching.

  • Why was I going for another job.
  • What was I doing, trying to rock the boat.
  • What if a new job would demand more of my heart body and soul than I was prepared to give.
  • Why was I tempting fate for my family by changing an aspect of my life when the status quo is pretty okay right now.

You're right – I overthink things. But it did get me thinking about my life at work and how it has changed since I became a mother.

 

Flexible working pattern

I really love my job.

By that I mean I really enjoy being at work.

I enjoy the challenges, the team that I manage and all the responsibilities that management of people brings – part mentoring, part coaching and part mothering; just like home really.

I also have the benefit of being able to work flexible hours – worth more than their weight in gold. If time weighed anything.

I've chosen to work condensed hours. This means that I work a full time week in four days instead of five, leaving glorious Friday free for me to do the school run in both directions and spend the rest of the day blogging, or swimming, or cleaning. Less, much less, of the latter.

And during school holidays it means I get a whole wonderful and precious Friday to spend with my son, whether on adventures, mooching around Chiswick, or just in the gentle river of domesticity

So why, I hear you ask, would I rock this particular boat by looking for another job.

 

Underselling ourselves

Well I feel that I've undersold myself in my current role and that I'd like a better reward package for the level of job that I do.

I feel it boils down to two things – money, yes, but also the respect for my talents that a promotion would bring.

Now I'm uncomfortable writing about money and respect – because they feel illogically shallow. In fact I was so scared of being judged that I almost didn't write this blog post. So I decided to do some research into why I was feeling that wanting more money and more respect was shameful in some way.

 

Women less likely to negotiate on salary

It turns out I'm not alone. The Harvard Business Review notes that women are much less likely to negotiate on salary than men. And that the reason is that the consequences of failing are much greater for women.

When negoitating on salary, the Harvard Business Review says, women are more likely to be judged as therefore caring more about themselves and money than about organisational relationships. Men are not likley to be judged this way in the workplace.

In the same vein, I realise that subconsciously I've been scared about writing about wanting more money – or even asking for more money – as I fear being judged for caring about money more than about my family.

And of course we all know that women can care about organisational relationships and their family, and still want more money – but the fears of being judged are deeply engrained.

 

R.E.S.P.E.C.T

The other reason for my wanting a promotion is greater respect. Or rather, I would like the greater acknowledgement of my talents and the increased challenges and team size that a promotion would bring

I work in an organisation which is extremely hiearchical and grade-based. I find that the ceiling between the grades is, if not glass, at the very least a barely perceptible perspex. We have equal rights laws and diversity awareness courses coming out of our ears, but there's no escaping that as you get nearer the top of the organisation, the bands get whiter and more male.

At the risk of sounding churlish and egotistical, every day I see people who are working at a higher grade than me, who on the surface are no more qualified or experienced than I am. Yet I've found it really hard to move from my current grade to the next one up, in my current organisation.

Atlantic Magazine says that “explanations for a continued failure to break the glass ceiling are missing something more basic: women’s acute lack of confidence”.

And I think that this is a key to underselling ourselves in the workplace.

 

Women in the workplace

I think that as women we don't push our own agenda at work, and can be more reticent to talk about our achievements. We assume people know what we've done on our project, and the extent of our involvement, so we feel embarrassed about 'showing off'.

We're more likely to say 'we did' than 'I did' – more keen to sell our team then ourselves.

A study documented in Patient Education and Counselling showed that able female medical students showed decreased confidence when dealing with patnients.

Forbes Magazine says that even high executive women struggle with the softer skills of the workplace – like self-promotion.

Kathy Caprino, writing for Forbes, says: women often do, in fact, let their doubts and insecurities about themselves stop them, whereas men tend to push forward despite their doubts.

 

That inner criticial voice

What's interesting is that there's ample documentation to show that women perform equal to, if not greater than, men in the workplace. But that people's perception of our abilities is not based on our outputs, but on our confidence about our abilities.

The Guardian cites a study that shows '24% of women said they'd be at a more senior level in their careers if they were freed of their self-doubt'.

In response, Sarah Graham, Feminist Times, agreed that 'women often have to work twice as hard and be twice as confident to make an impact', compared to their male counterparts.


The vicious circle

There are two things at play here. First, women lack the self-confidence they need to sell themselves. Next, workplaces can be tuned to recognise confidence and mistakingly equate this with competence.

For women who deliver on projects but lack the confidence to sell themselves, they get feedback that they're not achieving. This results in even lower self-confidence, and the vicious negative cycle feeds itself.

For myself, I know I have a constant voice in my head with a critical monologue on a loop: 'you're rubbish, you're awful, you're getting it wrong.'


Motherhood could rewire our approach to the career ladder

There is another thing at play here – one that is much more contentious. Because I wonder whether you can have it all – or even, as a mother if you really do want it all anyway.

For years mothers were told to enter the workplace, free ourselves from a tyranny of dirty dishes in a scullery and take our rightful place as breadwinners and brain users.

But being a mother really has rewired my relationship to the career ladder. Now my focus is on my child and work is no longer the be all and end all, but a means to an end.

The Atlantic Magazine recognises this. It says: 'Some observers say children change our priorities, and there is some truth in this claim. Maternal instincts do contribute to a complicated emotional tug between home and work lives, a tug that, at least for now, isn’t as fierce for most men… '

At home and at work I have days when I feel I am failing – I'm not helping out on a school trip but Chiswick Daddy is free to go. The house is dirty and I've had to dry a pair of tights with a hairdryer again. Or it's Friday after school and I'm taking Chiswick Boy to a cafe for supper because Chiswick Daddy is working and I can't be bothered to cook.

Sometimes I think would I be happier in a world where women hadn't fought for the right to retain a career after motherhood. And yet….

 

… I'd be a rubbish housewife

I look at my house, at my slovenly ways when it comes to cleaning and my wilful neglect of cooking. At how Chiswick Daddy wakes me up in bed with a coffee, gets Chiswick Boy to school and has supper ready when I get home in the evening, so that all three of us can sit around the table together.

So I'd actually be a crap homekeeper. Plus as I said above, I do enjoy my job while I'm there.

So I'm not quite sure whether what I want is permission to succeed at work, or permission for it not to matter.

And does wanting to slide a little further up the greasy career pole make me a bad mother… or does it just mean that as a mother and woman I'm never going to think that I'm succeeding

 


Which way to turn

Oh and the job I went for ?

Well I didn't get it. The questions were quite leftfield and while I love thinking on my feet, I don't think I got enough of my key project examples in to really show I had what it took to do the job.

Am I sad – no. Part of me – most of me – is glad that I get to stay in the comfort zone.

At the moment I know confidence is an issue. Only I don't know whether I need to find the confidence to say that a promotion doesn't matter and I'll stick with the work-life balance. Or the confidence to keep going for other jobs until I'm offered one with the rewards package I'd be happy with.

 


What is your experience of confidence – as a mother, or in the workplace?


Sources of quotes

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-10/iu-msg100308.php

https://hbr.org/2014/06/why-women-dont-negotiate-their-job-offers/

http://www.theguardian.com/careers/careers-blog/lack-of-confidence-holding-back-womens-careers

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815

With thanks to http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/ for the illustrations.

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Children and family choices from the Bedford Park festival – 12 to 28 June 2015

The Bedford Park Festival is a bit of a Chiswick fixture. Over 17 days there's a variety of talks, concerts, shows and activities – with something to fit even the hardest to please person. It is organised by St Michael and All Angels Church with the 'active help of many non-churchgoers'.

Organisers say the 'fortnight of arts and social events raises money for charity and celebrates the wonderful sense of community in Chiswick'.

The Frozen sing a long was definitely the highlight of the children's programme – but it's now sold out, unsurprisingly but still disappointingly if you didn't get a ticket in time.

But chin up – I've worked with the organisers to pull out the other best choices for kids and families. So without further ado, here is is – the Chiswick Mum guide to Bedford Park Festival.

 

Star Wars Epic Yarns

Saturday 20 June 2015, 10.30am, £3.50

St Michael and All Angels Parish Hall


One of the odder offerings, but even more loveable for that. A celebration of a board book series which involved handcrafting felt Star Wars figures and using them to recreate iconic tableaux from the films.

At the event you'll get a book reading, and have a chance to do some felt crafts.

Book online: http://www.bedfordparkfestival.org/e/97/children-s-morning-star-wars-epic-yarns

 

Pinball Wizard competition, up until Sunday 28 June.

I love pinball but have only been able to show Chiswick Boy the xbox version – now pinball comes to Chiswick. Hurrah indeed.

Head to Chief Coffee's Pinball Lounge, in Turnham Green Terrace Mews (by Snapdragon) before Sunday 28 June.

There will be prizes for the players who get the highest total on each of the six pinball machines. Bagsy the Star Trek one.

Simply take a photo of yourself with your winning score and tweet it to @chief_coffee. Or email it to hello@chief-coffee.com. And ask the coffee shop staff for a High Score form to fill out your details.

http://www.bedfordparkfestival.org/e/107/pinball-wizard-competition

 

ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS JUNIOR CHOIR AND ROSALIND LENEY'S PUPILS' CONCERT, Sunday 21 June 2015, 6pm

£5

The Studio, 2a Blenheim Road, W4 1UA


Advance booking only from Rosalind Leney on 020 8994 0762

If your child's in the school choir or plays piano, then why not put them on the other side of the audience and bring them to watch another choir and piano pupils.

Organisers call it: “A varied programme of short piano pieces by Rosalind Leney's pupils' and choral music by St Michael & All Angels Junior Choir, performed in a beautiful Bedford Park studio.”

http://www.bedfordparkfestival.org/e/70/st-michael-all-angels-junior-choir-and-rosalind-leney-s-pupils-concert

 

 

CHISWICK AND BEDFORD PARK PREPARATORY SCHOOL ART EXHIBITION,Tuesday 23 June 2015 to Thursday 25 June 2015

St Michael and All Angels Church


Admission free. No booking required

Tuesday 23 June from 3.30pm – 6.30pm
Wednesday 24 June from 1pm – 5.30pm
Thursday 25 June from 1.15pm – 5.30pm

My son creates art practically from the moment he gets up to the moment he goes to sleep. So I think it's a lovely idea to bring him to see an exhibition just of kids art. Students aged 3-11 from Chiswick and Bedford Park Preparatory School have produced artwork for this.

http://www.bedfordparkfestival.org/e/47/chiswick-and-bedford-park-preparatory-school-art-exhibition

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Swedish ethical fashion that hits all the marks – review feature of Me&I

Last year I reviewed two items from the Me&I collection. Both are still going strong, despite several washes and unforgiving rough and tumble family life.

So this year I was thrilled to be invited to select two more items from their new collection to review – one for me and one for Chiswick Boy.

 

 

Brightly coloured ethical fashion with true wow factor

Last year I wrote about how delighted I was to discover this clothing firm. Vibrant colours, refreshingly unisex items for children, plus soft fabrics gorgeously cut and finished. And a truly ethical ethos that delivers on a practical level – clothes are made in Portugal and there's a full ethical statement on their website.

 

Khaki jumpsuit made me jump for joy

I decided to be a bit more adventurous than the cardigan I chose last year, and I went for a jumpsuit. Now I know that the 19 year old version of me would be horrified by my definition of adventerous now being a jumpsuit. But kids, family, the daily juggle, and suddenly yes – trying a jumpsuit instead of my go-to wardrobe of skirts, cardi and boots does feel adventurous!

I wasn't sure if it would fit my shape (small and curvy) but when it arrived it fitted like a dream. Again, simple fabrics, great cuts are the secret to Me&I's range. The jersey material hangs really well and it's a truly beautiiful shade of khaki which has prompted me to seek out more clothes in this colour – I didn't have anything this shade in my wardrobe before.

 

As comfy as your favourity pair of PJs

What surprised me most was how amazingly comfortable this jumsuit is to wear. It's as comfy as my favourite jersey pyjama bottoms – and believe me, I love to hang around in my pyjama bottoms! (Yes, I'm one of those people who gets into their pyjamas as soon as they get home – no matter what time of day it is!)

And I can honestly say that I have not had as many compliments on a piece of clothing as I have since wearing this. I truly truly adore it. In fact I've had so many compliments that I'm going to get the jumpsuit in black too. And please Me&I, bring it out in some other colours

Styling – vests and boots

I tend to team this with my newish leopard spot caterpillar boots but I imagine that you could dress it up with heels. Although I think it looks pretty dressy with flats too! .

It needs a vest under it as it's a loose crossover style at the front. I've used multiple colours – from black and beige neutrals to a bright orange pop of colour, and they've all worked.

What else can I say – I love this item! It's been a true revelation for me!

 

Rough and tumble test – kids' joggers

Now on to the item I chose for Chiswick Boy. Last year I chose some yoga pants in blue and they've been such a success that this year I went for jogging pants – in bright red.

There's nothing you could fault about these. They're bright, vibrant, ethically made and have fabric that's guaranteed free from chemical residue.

 

Designed by someone that really knows kids

Finally – kids trousers that have been built with kids and parents in mind. As well as ticking all the ethical and environmental boxes, real thought has gone into making trousers that will last for years. You can roll them up if they're too big and they still look great – and roll them down again when you need to.

The slimline style fit in the leg is fantastic – streamlined enough to do sports in, and smart enough to wear outside the house as day wear (I normally don't like Chiswick Boy to wear jogging pants outside the house as 'normal' wear).

Chiswick Boy put his through the paces at Boston Manor Park after his tennis lesson – as you can see from the photos.

 

A great brand – that makes you feel 'in the know'

I'm really excited about finding Me&I. The clothes are made from great materials, look original and are in gorgeous colours. When you get compliments on an outfit and say where you got it from 'Swedish brand Me&I' it feels like an insider secret. And best of all they're an ethical and environmentally sound company.

Okay – buying from Me&i is slightly different. Please don't let this put you off – the website explains it all easily. Rather than ordering online you contact a sales rep (easy form on their website), or attend/host a me&i party. All the details are on their site. Let me know if you host a party!

http://www.meandi.se/en/

This is a review feature – and I was given the items for the purpose of review. But the views are entirely my own.

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A Chiswick 5 Mins with… Kelly Reeves

Our regular feature catching up with the local folks who help make up our Chiswick life. Today it's local mum and photographer Kelly Reeves.

You can't go far in Chiswick without running into one of Kelly's photographs. An active local Twitter user, Kelly's beautiful images capture local events and people perfectly and provide a literal snapshot of life.

As a portrait photographer, photography is her business as well as her love. She's also the official photographer for local Foucan Freerunning Academy and the Super Saturday of Sport.

Read on and find out why unwinding with coffee, Spring blossoms and social media help make up Kelly's Chiswick life. Plus get Kelly's lowdown on her love of photography, and the answer to the ultimate question – can you take a good photo with an iphone?


How long have you been in Chiswick? I have lived in Chiswick for 15 years.


Favourite place to unwind here?

I love to unwind with a coffee in one of our local coffee shops. Badger & Earl is one of my faves – it has such a relaxing vibe.


Top local tip?

Get yourself on Twitter and come along to the Chiswick 'tweet up’. It’s a great way to meet fantastic local people :)


And what's your hidden gem?

My hidden gem has to be Gunnersbury Triangle nature Reserve. Tucked away opposite Chiswick Park station. This truly is a hidden gem! Offering lots of daily activities or just a pleasant stroll away from the hustle & bustle of the high road.


Favourite signs of spring in Chiswick?

The blossoms in Stavely road – just beautiful!

Tell us about your day job, in a nutshell…

I am a local portrait photographer & official photographer to Sebastien Foucan’s Freerunning Academy & Super Saturday of Sport.

Apart from this, what other hats do you wear?

I am a bit of a social media geek – you can find me on pretty much every platform! I am a mummy to 3 and nanny to 1.

Is your glass half full or half empty?

Definitely half full.


Night in or night out:

Night out – we are spoilt for choice here in Chiswick, right?


Secret talent:

I am a netball goal shooter.


Philosophy on life?

Live and let live.

And now a few questions about photography:

First camera you ever owned: My first camera was a polaroid given to me as a child by my dad.


Best shot you've taken: Has to be of a newborn just minutes after birth.


Black & white or colour? Black & white.


Favourite photographer: I love the work of Lee Jeffries. His portraits are simply stunning.


Does the camera ever lie? Hmmmm the camera not so – the edit most definitely.


Photoshop or no photoshop? Personally I love natural shots, however my clients can’t get enough!


Settle this question once & for all – do you need a posh camera or can you take a good photo with your iPhone?

IPhone picture quality has improved so much & combined with all the apps you can now purchase, great results can be achieved. You can’t beat a camera set to manual partnered with a quality lens and a good light source though! Knowing how to use them together helps :)

Website: www.kellyreevesphotography.co.uk

Twitter Tag: kel02100

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kellyreevesphotography

 

 

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Have you been hit by the fear?

Twitter user @MrsLeapOfFaith posted this today – which sums up nicely what I've been feeling lately:

Torschlusspanik (n.): the fear, usually as one gets older, that time is running out and important opportunities are slipping away #German

I'm a big fan of language and one delicious linguistic oddity is the way that different languages have words for whole concepts that other languages don't.

For the last few months I've been pursued by a feeling that time is running out and that there's something I'm meant to be doing, that's on the periphery of my vision… but which I just can't glimpse.

 

Are you a list maker?

I'm a big goal setter AND a big list maker. I have a new year routine where I set out my 10 year goals, 3 year goals, annual goals. I then divide each of these annual goals into dozens of baby-step tasks, and try and slot these into various weeks – or at least tackle some every week of the year.

My lists drive Chiswick Daddy mad – but if you're a list maker then you'll know the allure of bullet points on a page!

My goals centre around five key themes:

  1. Children
  2. Family, friends and community
  3. Financial and career
  4. Creative (writing and performing)
  5. Healthy mind and body

 

So do you feel the fear?

Yet despite this goal making I still feel that there's something I'm meant to be doing, but that I'm not. Something that I should have achieved but haven't – but can't put my finger on it.

There's certainly things I'm striving for. On Children for example, I have my son which is absolutely amazing. I think being a mother is a wonder and despite all the goals I haven't met yet – when I remember that I have a son I breathe a deep sigh of relief and say 'yes – thank goodness!'

As you may know if you are a regular reader of my blog, I am trying to conceive number two at the moment. It hasn't happened as quickly as I'd like and this is really one of my key focuses at the moment. It just doesn't seem to be happening for us. Whereas child number one appeared so unexpectedly that it came as a complete (pleasant) shock!

 

Family and friends

I am a family girl at heart. My year revolves around the family celebrations – birthdays, christmas, Easter…and I'm happiest when I have my brother, his girlfriend and their baby, my mum, and my aunts and uncles around me playing silly word games or having a singalong. I love any excuse for a family gathering.

Friends are harder. It's very hard to keep up an active social life when you have a child. Not many of our pre-child friends have gone on to have kids themselves. And while I thought that once my son started school we would make lots of friends with other families, it all centres around the kids parties.

So I now have built into my daily schedule a reminder to text or email a friend – basically I'm trying to remember that you only get out what you put in.

 

Social media is a godsend for community

Even though social media is global, for me the wonder of twitter and blogging has been the ability to connect with the local community. I've 'met' so many wonderful people this way that I count people I've only met virtually as people I know well! And I'm lucky that in Chiswick there is plenty of opportunity to go out and meet twitter friends in real life. While blogging has helped me connect with both local people and other mothers from further afield.

We're still largely homebirds in the evening – let's face it, getting a babysitter takes time and energy that as parents we're short of! But it's great to know that the opportunities are there – and I'm planning to make more of them!

I'm lucky to live in an amazing part of London where there's always something happening at a weekend – most of it free, and very kid friendly.

 

So what's glimmering out of sight?

So what is this Torschlusspanik that I feel? The book I've yet to get published? The musical comedian I long to be? A lurking feeling that maybe one day we should move away from beloved Chiswick and London? Or is just a sense that life is so short and fleeting?

What do you think?

 

 

 

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Our adventures at the Park Club – part two

I was given guest passes to the Park Club for the purposes of this series of reviews. Although this is a review feature – the thoughts are entirely mine. I know you wouldn't want it any other way – and nor would I!

We love being outside as a family – but this is the first time any of us have been members of a gym (well I had a brief dally with the subsidised one at my place of work, but it didn't really work for me – going to work early or staying late just isn't a fun option when you have a child. And who has time for a lunchbreak these days?)

Now I'm not a big fitness freak – for us the primary aim of being part of the Park was to spend time together as a family. In particular the swimming. The facilities are excellent at the Park Club and getting changed is really chilled there – no queuing for changing room space, rooting around for locker change or slippy floors.

A big surprise

So in all honesty Chiswick Daddy and I are really surprised at what seems to be a side effect of all this – WE'RE FEELING HEALTHIER and have more energy.

This is the conversation we had this morning at breakfast (in between running around finding clean shirt for Chiswick Boy and finding keys etc).

Chiswick Daddy: It may sound strange but I've been feeling like I've got much more energy since we started going swimming at the Park.

Me: Me too… But I didn't know you did…

Chiswick Daddy: And I'm not feeling knackered running up stairs at the station.

Me: I've been feeling like I have loads more energy. My chest is feeling better when I'm walking... (Aside for readers – I suffer from asthma and have had a persistent cough for months)

Chiswick Daddy: But we've only been a few times… is this really the effect after a few times? Imagine if we went all the time…

Me: Exactly what I was thinking. Can it really be that simple? Is there actually something to this fitness lark? By the way, where's Chiswick Boy's book bag and have you hidden my keys?

So it's almost as if we've had a Damascus moment. If we can keep going swimming – which Chiswick Boy absolutely adores and it's so lovely to do it as a family, and do some classes… then I think we're really going to see some benefits. Keep watching this space!

Guilt free half hour to myself

I always feel guilty going in somewhere to get a wax / have my eyebrows done / ge a hair cut. Because it normally means leaving Chiswick Boy and Chiswick Daddy in a cafe somewhere while I rush off.

Then the texting starts.

'How long are you going to be?'; 'We're cold'; 'We'll meet you in the bookshop'; 'We're now out of the bookshop – what's taking you so long?'

(Some day let me tell you the story about when I was getting highights and Chiswick Daddy came in to the salon at half hour junctions with a crying Chiswick Boy aged one asking me how long I'd be. NOT a relaxing piece of 'me time'!)

So I was really pleased to find that there's a spa at the Park. It meant that I could leave Chiswick Boy and Daddy happily swimming, while I nipped to the spa for a leg wax and then went back to wave at them from the viewing station.

The spa is really tranquil too – calm music playing, smells gorgeous, and a candle-lit hallway leads you to the treatment rooms. A really unstressful experience all round – and my beautician was really lovely, and was raving about how great the Park Club was for kids. It's great to get such enthusaism from staff.

 

It's a class thing

The other thing that we've been braving at the Park is classes. Chiswick Daddy has been going to Pilates. He's the only guy in the class but doesn't seem to mind. (I don't mind either, in case you're wondering!)

Chiswick Daddy does a lot of yoga and says that the class is paced really well – challenging but not too challenging. Plus all the mats etc are provided, so all you have to do is turn up in your fitness gear (simple jogging pants & a t-shirt for Chiswick Daddy).

I'm a little shy about classes and I've been building up my courage. Tomorrow (Friday) I'm going to take the plunge and go to a Stretchworks class. I've picked this because it says it's suitable for all abilities and can be tailored to individual need… I know it's silly to be shy about going to a gym class… but there you have it – I'm silly!

 

So what are the top things about exploring a world of fitness as a family?

1. Fantastic swimming time as a family with great facilities – and time for me to get a sauna and steam too!

2. Somewhere fun to go as a family – where we can take breaks and have coffees (ahem – or a beer) and watch Chiswick Boy make new friends in the soft play area.

3. A really surprising boost of energy… that has blown us away. Let's see what happens when I start going to classes! Maybe I'll shake off my tiredness even more!

 

PS I know what you're what you're thinking… what was the reaction to my nicely waxed legs when I got back to my family?

“Wow, what lovely smooth skin,” he said. “You're beautiful like a princess. In fact you're MY princess.”

Well that was Chiswick Boy's reaction anyway. Chiswick Daddy just shrugged and said: “You weren't too long for once – shall we go and get a pizza at the cafe?”

I know.

Oh well. It was a yummy pizza.

I'm blogging with The Park Club and having a truly amazing time. And was given guest passes to the Park Club for the purposes of this review. Although this is a review feature – the thoughts are entirely mine. I know you wouldn't want it any other way – and nor would I!

 

 

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Bugsy Malone at the Lyric, Hammersmith – a flawless production… Chiswick Mum’s review

I don't think I've ever seen my seven-year-old son so entranced. And with good reason. From set to costumes, from the fabulous ensemble dance pieces to the powerful singing, Bugsy Malone is flawless from beginning to end.

The talent of the all-kid cast is jaw-dropping – watching them sing and dance their hearts out and deliver a passionate performance is an amazing experience and an absolute triumph for the Lyric theatre.

First class theatre on our doorsteps

In fact Bugsy Malone made me realise how lucky we are to have the Lyric practically on our doorstep. This production heralds the reopening after a multi-million pound redevelopment, and it's firmly putting the Lyric on the map.

I'm going to make much more of an effort to go and see stuff on at the Lyric this year.

 

Amazing experience for kids and grown-ups alike

This was an amazing introduction to musical theatre for Chiswick Boy. He was completely bowled over from the time we sat down.

Kids' excitement is enough to melt the heart of the most jaded theatre goer. When your son squeals with innocent delight at the moody dry ice floating across the stage ('wow mummy – smoke, how do they do that?') you know that they are going to be simply entranced by the magic of theatre.

The set alone is something that you'd expect at a West End theatre for at least twice the price. With moving set pieces, a magical nightclub setting, and a moody fire escape, the set was a key part of the experience.

And it's really shown me that it's time to go out and take my son to some more London musicals. But I know he will always remember his first – so thanks Bugsy.

A whispering in the stalls

As a parent it can be a bit stressful when your child asks you questions while a performance is on. You're worried if other audience members will be able to hear… but the questions came nonetheless! 'Why is he being horrible to him', 'What happens if they catch him', 'Oh no – has he gone to Heaven?'.

(Answers in case you're wondering: 'He's mean but it creates dramatic tension', 'They'll put custard tarts in their faces – let's hope they get away', 'No – he's been hit by the splurge gun and is foamed, so he's out of the game'.)(These are not brilliant answers – if you want to send yours on a postcard, suggestions welcome!)

What I'm trying to say is that kids don't need to learn suspension of disbelief – they have it naturally.

He shed a tear when the endearing Blousey was denied her audition by the overwhelmingly cute Lena Marelli; he yelped every time a splurge gun went bang; and bounced up and down in his seat with uncontained excitement during the car chase scene (he's small – minimal damage to sight of people behind us!).

And at frequent intervals a small voice whispered in my ear 'I want to be an actor, I want to be in Bugsy Malone, or even in Bugsy Malone 2, I want to be an actor…'

Splurge guns and custard pies….

I thought I 'knew' Bugsy Malone – in that I had vague memories of loving the film when I was a child. But I'd forgotten just how many toe-tapping heart-stirring songs there are. Chiswick Boy and I have been leaping around the house for a whole week, singing 'so you wanna be a boxer'.

All in all, a lovely and ultimately life-affirming show that has given us a renewed love for musicals… and for the lyric.

Hats off to Olivier award-winning director, Sean Holmes, and the fantastic cast!

http://www.lyric.co.uk/whats-on/production/bugsy-malone/

We attended this performance as guests of the Lyric. But although this is a review post – the thoughts are entirely my own….

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A Chiswick 5 minutes with…. Lisa Barrett

We're such an interesting bunch here in Chiswick and environs. From stay at home mothers to writers, designers to filmmakers and everything in between – the variety of lovely people never ceases to amaze me!

So I love running these Q&As with local folk. Today it's time to meet Chiswickian and style writer Lisa Barrett. Read on and find out why writing, beauty advice and family help to make up Lisa's Chiswick life.


Name: Lisa Barrett
Business: Glowology is the name of my blog but I'm a freelance writer, copywriter and blogger.

How long have you been in Chiswick?


I've lived in Chiswick for 9 happy years although I've always been close. I was born in Acton and moved to Brentford when my kids were born and so have always known and loved W4. When my oldest was 4 she started at Strand on the Green infants and had dance classes in the area too and I fell for the area hook line and sinker and knew I wanted live here one day.


Favourite place to unwind here?


Chiswick House – walking my loony black labrador Troy every day during the week. I love watching the change of seasons on my daily dog walk – it's beautiful, peaceful and serene…unless the dog decides to bomb dive in the lake and then shake all over me…which he does regularly. I also love the cafe in Chiswick House and their Eggs Benedict is the best hangover cure!


Top local tip?


Bedford Park is gorgeous but it Chiswick doesn't start and end there – make the most of Grove Park and Strand on the Green! I love all of Chiswick but am so happy living in Grove Park right by the river. There's always something going on – especially in the summer – street parties and festivals where the locals mix and catch up with the goings on in W4. The river boat from Kew to Richmond/Hampton/Westminster is a fabulous way to travel as well.


And what's your hidden gem?


There are a few! But Anny's Personal Best Pilates/Fitness studios is up there with my favourite gems. I was a competitive swimmer as a child and trained at 5.30 every morning before school and again, 2 hours after but once I entered adulthood I've lacked the motivation to keep to a fitness routine. But since finding out about Anny and her studio opposite Chiswick Station (around 7 years ago now, I think), I've kept fit and had fun!


The classes Anny takes are great – they suit all fitness levels, there's always something new going on – like DD Mix – which was developed by Darcy Bussel and features songs and dances from around the world – it's addictive!! Anny has a real knack of making you work your hardest while actually enjoying it! Strange, but true. I also love The Strand Cafe run by the charismatic and charming Hussain..the best Thai in the area and prices are so reasonable. He always stocks up on my favourite bottle of rose wine in the restaurant for springtime – love it there!


Favourite signs of spring in Chiswick?


The blossom trees lining Staveley Road, the swans and nature coming to life on the river, and watching the ducks in the park tenderly building their nests and preparing for their chicks to hatch. This year, my 21 year old daughter and I were keeping an eye on one nest in the lake in the park at Chiswick House and on her actual birthday, one of the little chicks hatched from the egg! We saw it all and my daughter has it recorded on her phone. What a lovely surprise for her 21st!

Lisa and family


The joggers come out in their droves around Strand on the Green in spring and the paddle boarders look like they're having fun too – we are all full steam ahead in achieving our best beach bodies right about now!


Tell us about your day job, in a nutshell.


No two days are the same that's for sure! I'm a women's magazine writer, copywriter and blogger. So, I could be researching for a feature on improving cellulite for Healthy Magazine or having a high tech facial with a specialist for the column I ghost write for a broadsheet's online lifestyle magazine – or taking some product shots on my iPhone (I'm not great at photography – yet) for my beauty and wellbeing blog Glowology which I aim at the fabulous over 40s! As well as writing, I pitch ideas to commissioning editors and will also work on ideas for clients' website or marketing copy.


Apart from this, what other hats do you wear?


I'm a mum of 3 – 21, 19 and 15 and although I know they're grown up and very capable, I am a bit of a mother hen and like to keep my chicks fed and watered and comfy as poss :-), And, I've been sort of keeping this a secret, but it's time to talk…I'm writing a fiction novel with a friend of mine – we have almost finished and will be sending off a synopsis and a few chapters to potential agents very soon, so please keep your fingers crossed for us!

Is your glass half full or half empty?

Mostly half full

Night in or night out?

Both! I love nights in with a glass of wine and box set in the winter but in the spring and summer the river pubs are too tempting so it's night out! :

Secret talent:

I suppose it's swimming butterfly. Unless you knew I swam competitively as a child, you wouldn't expect me to get in the pool and charge up and down doing butterfly and tumble turns…after all, I'm just a 47 year old mum and writer. But it's quite nice to see people stare when I get out of a pool…which isn't often enough I'm afraid.

Philosophy on life?

Oh, I could go on all day with this one :-) I love a good philosophical quotes! Here are a few of my faves…


Be nice to people on your way up because you never know who you'll meet on your way down. I was told this in my first job at Cosmopolitan by a colleague who was high up in journalism but always had time for everybody – even me, the lowly beauty junior. It's quite true I think as I've seen karma at work and it can be unforgiving.


Alway be kind – to yourself and others. A kind word or compliment to somebody can really make their day and don't be too hard on yourself. If we love ourselves and feel happy and confident, it affects everyone around you and makes for a happier more content life.


Manners cost nothing. This was my mum's favourite and one which I've instilled in my children. I hate bad manners more than anything. I'm not saying you have to be perfect, nobody is, but simple courtesies of please and thank you and being aware of people around you and not just thinking about your own needs all the time is the way to behave.


Always try and see the good in people and to do this I really try my hardest not to 'judge a book by it's cover'. I've often been surprised at how I've met somebody and thought, oh we aren't at all alike and I don't know whether we'd get on – only to find a few months down the line we are the best of friends. I know we all make generalisations but so often they're wrong! So, keep an open mind.


One quote that I try to carry with me through life is from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, which I studied for A level a million years ago…she said:

'Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.'

This resonated with me and still does today. In the words of Frozen…'Let it Go!' it's so important not to harbour grudges and regrets – love, live and laugh – as much as you possibly can!



And now a few questions about style and glamour:


What do you prefer – high end splurge or budget beauty?


There's nothing like the click when opening or closing a quality gold compact or lipstick from a high end brand like Dior and I do love more expensive brands like Bobbi Brown, Nars and Chanel. But if I'm honest – it is often for the packaging and the cache of the brand. I feel that beauty today is all about the budget brands, some of which really are second to none.


The B range from Superdrug have fantastic skincare products that rival the more expensive brands and make up wise – Makeup Revolution and W7 are really giving the 'big boys' something to be worried about. There's no need to spend a fortune on makeup or skincare anymore. But if it makes you feel good and you can afford to – or just like the idea of treating yourself, then do!


Favourite product:


I adore lip gloss – Boots Time Delay Instant Lip Plumper gives lips a little boost and a natural sheen which is great to wear alone or on top of a lipstick – it has really subtle golden flecks which make lips look pretty. And I love anything that gives me a little hint of colour. I'm a bit of a bronzer freak and hope I don't often look too much like a toffee apple with a brown face and white neck! Body Shop's Honey Bronzing Gel for Face works really well

Best local treatment?


Ooh, that's difficult because I often get sent to review treatments away from W4 but I have recently been introduced to a lovely, extremely experienced skin specialist called Josie Valerio who runs La Pelle Skin Clinic opposite Sainsbury's. She suffered with rosacea and bad skin for years after having had clear skin all through her teens and early 20s and so she set about clearing it up and through trial and error she has found a way that has given her back amazingly clear skin and has helped countless others with problems. She runs tests on her clients to find out if they have allergies, she advises on nutrition and uses a qualified nutritionist to back this up and uses IPL (intense pulse light) therapy.

I have a few broken capillaries and hyper pigmentation due to age and sun damage (remember carrot oil with no sun protection factor back in the 80s! It wasn't good for our skin!) and Josi is working with me to improve it. After one treatment I've seen a slight difference, so I'm looking forward to great results. She's really knowledgeable and that helps me make a choice on whether to go ahead with a treatment or not.

I have checked out the fairly new Nuberose beauty salon on the high road and am booking in for a CACI lip treatment which is designed to make the lips look less lined and more plump without injections! I'm not adverse to one day having a bit of botox or fillers but am holding off and trying a less invasive route for now.

I'd also like to shout out about The Chiswick Salon in Fauconberg Road and its owner Vicki who have always been amazing and never once told my daughters' off for their DIY hair mistakes! They've always rectified bad colour beautifully and I love the relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the salon. My highlights are something I can't do without and I often go from quite blonde in the summer to a little darker in the colder months and the team at Vicki's get it just right each time.


What can people get away with doing at home?


That's a difficult one because it depends on how adept you are at beauty treatments and the like. I, for example am royally bad at hair removal and go for a razor as I haven't time to book in for waxing all the time – especially in the summer. But my two daughter, 15 and 21, are very good – they have more patience.

So, if you are a patient type, I think you could safely wax, pluck eyebrows (I get mine done wherever I am at the time I feel like my unibrow has a life of its own and needs taming), manis and pedis can be done at home too.

And never underestimate the power of a long, hot soak in the bath with some fab smelling bath products and candles dotted around the bathroom. Giving yourself a pampering bath, exfoliation, face mask and then slathering on some body oil/cream or a self tan can make you feel wonderful after a hard day with the kids or at work and doesn't have to cost a fortune either. My favourite kind of night in!


And what should people always visit a pro for?

I haven't tried at home laser hair removal but I would definitely go to a salon for anything like that. If you are having trouble with your skin such as acne, rosacea or sensitivity, I would also go to see a good skincare specialist and get advice. Don't suffer in silence. Oh, and one very close to me is NEVER pierce your nose or dye your hair blonde or pink yourself – hello teenage daughter!! She has done both those things and they didn't end particularly brilliantly! So, always go to a pro for a drastic hair colour change…or a piercing!


Your favourite beauty product as a teenager?

Anything metallic! I loved a metallic purple or blue eyeliner – sometimes both worn together! And who remembers UltraGlow? My first foray into bronzing. I would dip a large brush into the brown powder and cover myself from head to toe. My darkly tanned skin against the pale lips I favoured wasn't very flattering, but I thought I looked great!


True beauty – is it within or outside?

Definitely within! A great personality and caring nature is so attractive in both males and females. But I do advocate the saying 'if you look good you feel good' but I think it works the other way around too…'if you feel good, you look good' So, I'm all for the holistic approach of caring for how you feel and how you look. You don't need to be a raving beauty to feel good about yourself or your looks – just stay as healthy and happy as you can and you'll glow!


Go on – give us one of your secret top tips…

Find a medium soft flesh coloured lip pencil – I have lost mine so can't tell you what make it was but I'm looking for another one – and outline just outside your lip line and fill in the the lips with the whole of the lip area with it before adding your lipstick and a touch of gloss on the middle of the bottom lip. It'll give you a great pout! Also, after applying lippy, put your little finger in your mouth, close lips over it and pull out. Excess lipstick will transfer to your finger and you can wipe it away – and you won't get it on your teeth!

Website: www.glowology.co.uk
Twitter tag: @ukglowology

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Date morning is the new date night – Park Club review feature

!


Please note – we joined the Park Club on a temporary membership, as guests of the club, for the purpose of writing a short series of reviews. But this review, and all others on my blog, is impartial and honest. Having said that, this post is just my opinion – and because it's all my views it's completely subjective..


Well when we joined the Park Club as a family I thought it would be a great place for us to spend bonding healthy time as a family. I wasn't expecting it to become the place for a hot date with Chiswick Daddy. But that's exactly what happened…

Sometimes things work out in a better way than you imagine! Having come round to the realisation that we'll probably never get it together to get a babysitter and go out more than once every few years – we've discovered that date mornings are the 2015 equivalent of date nights!

 

Quality family time

But let me rewind… as you know if you're a regular reader of my blog, I believe in quality family time. The weekend is a time for us to do things as a family and these hours are precious to me. With a full time job outside the home, I value each and every weekend. This doesn't mean that we have to do something 'epic' every weekend – just gentle domesticity and having fun together out and about is perfect for me!

What really struck me about The Park Club is that it has this ethos at its heart too. Far from being a place that you go to because you want to escape the kids, it's a place where you can have fun together. It's not just a gym. And it's perfect for a bit of adult time too! Because what a healthy family needs is happy healthy grown ups as well as happy healthy children!

I'm not big on fitness for its own sake. To me health is holistic. You'll never see a blog post on these pages about body image or moaning about weight…But over the next few months I'm going to share with you our journey as we discover the Park Club together as a family and make swimming and exercise part of our weekday routine, a a way of enjoying our time together.

 

A Friday morning date!

The Park Club has signs dotted around which illustrate its balanced approach to wellness. As well as exercise, this includes nutrition (with wine and cakes part of that in moderation), movement and mental approach (including what I love most – spending time nurturing emotional and social relationships).

Which brings me on to last Friday's hot date with Chiswick Daddy. As you may know if you read my blog regularly, I work condensed hours – which means I work long hours Monday-Thursday and have Fridays 'off'. (If you count writing, blogging, cleaning and doing school runs 'off' haha.)

Last Friday Chiswick Daddy suggested that as we were both home we headed off to the Park together.

“What, just the two of us?”

“Yes.”

“Without Chiswick Boy?”

“Yes. It will be fun.”

Wow – I felt I was cheating on our son as we packed up our swimming togs and headed for The Park.

 

No wet towel syndrome

Swimming at the Park is a stress free experience. Now you may be used to going to a club, so maybe this isn't such a big deal for you – but for me the changing rooms were of the standard you'd get in a nice hotel spa and this was TREMENDOUS. Just a few small things that make such a difference. They provide towels for one thing – a heaven sent gesture. No lugging sopping wet towels in an unglamorous carrier bag back home.

And the showers have lovely shampoo, conditioner and body lotion in. Less stuff to carry there and back – hurrah! And showers in stalls – no shivering waiting for the communal swimming pool showers with bits of other people's shampoo pooling over your feet. Plus the changing room floors aren't slippery. Don't know how they manage that – probably because they ask people to dry off before moving from the showers back into the changing room.

As well as male or female saunas in the respective changing rooms, there's also a communal steam room by the indoor pool. And – bliss – a hot tub too. (Steam, sauna and hot tub for over 16s only.) There are two pools – one inside and one outside. And what I love about the Park is that you really have the freedom to be yourself.

 

Be yourself

In the pools there were a few kids splashing about in a fun but completely non-disruptive way. There were some mothers catching up for a good old chinwag. There were people swimming lengths, one person walking lengths and vigilant lifeguards. Nobody cares how good a swimmer (or walker!) you are – whether you want to swim butterfly lengths (not me!) or just laze on your back. I'm actually quite reserved and can get shy in the silliest of situations – but there's a real laissez-faire vibe at the Park.

Chiswick Daddy and I swam lengths together. This is the first time we've ever done this – we only usually go swimming as a family. I discovered that length – chitchat with partner – length – chitchat is a really relaxing and theraputic way to while away an hour or two. We just had a really good time together. And without vegging out in front of Game of Thrones with a bottle of wine. (Don't get me wrong – we did plenty of that later too… oooh we've just started watching season four… are you a fan?)

Not just that but we had a great time keeping warm while chilling out (see what I did there?!) in the hot tub.

We finished it off with saunas in our respective changing rooms – and I did a session in the steam room for good measure. Look – it's ages since I've had the opportunity to do this!

 

Almost as good as a holiday

So hopefully this has set a new chapter in our routine… more date mornings like this and it's going to be a good summer! In the meanwhile if you want to find me this weekend at some point we'll be at the Park Club swimming with Chiswick Boy…as well as drinking cappuccino in the cafe there and watching Chiswick Boy run in and out of the indoor play bit screaming….. Boys are noisy! And that's a good thing!


We joined the Park Club as guests of the club, for the purposes of a series of reviews. But this review and all others is absolutely impartial and honest – I know you wouldn't want it any other way!

The Park Club: http://www.theparkclub.co.uk/

Coming soon – my experiences of the MediSpa at the Park Club; swimming with Chiswick Boy; and the big question – will I pluck up the courage to go to a gym class on a Friday on my day off (hoping the answer will be yes!)

 

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