2016 monthly challenges (part 2)

So here we are, 15 days in to 2016 so Happy (sort-of) New Year everyone!

As an update on my monthly challenges part 1, I decided to swop the challenge for January (no TV) with February (write a diary everyday). Partly because I felt keeping a diary was a better challenge to start a new year with and partly (mostly) because there are some films out this month that I really want to see. I appreciate is perhaps not the most disciplined attitude to take but better to be honest!

I am so far enjoying writing and haven’t found it too much of an effort to do so each day, although I was hoping i’d unlock lots of profound thoughts and dreams and it’s mostly stuck to what I’ve been up to and the trivial things that are on my mind. I’m hoping this will evolve as the month goes on and it’s definitely something I would like to continue beyond January (not least because I bought some lovely notebooks that I would like to use!).

BOKAC notebooks

As for the rest of my year, here is what has been fixed so far.

July – Meditate every day for 30 minutes. I’m particularly looking forward to this one as I really struggle to focus for long or even short periods of time and often flit between multiple tasks at once, which is not productive. I would like to feel clearer headed and I think meditation would help. I’ll look into various apps and podcasts – I think the obvious choice is Headspace but if anyone has any suggestions, I am all ears!

August – Get in touch with someone who I haven’t spoken to for a while, everyday. This is another one i’m looking forward to, although I think I might struggle to think of 31 people that I haven’t been in touch with recently who I do want to get back in contact with…some friends from uni, colleagues from previous jobs and friends I made when I lived abroad spring to mind but I’ll have to decide whether I want to scrape the friendship barrel so to speak (and hope they don’t read this!) or perhaps i’ll combine this with another challenge.

September – December are still up in the air for various reasons but I would like part of this time to involve remote working (ideally in California), inspired by Josh who runs Stand4Socks (as a side note, their socks make great presents or just make you feel good about doing something charitable if you want to jazz up your sock collection).

If you have set yourself a challenge(s) for this year, or if you’ve started on some new year’s resolutions, i’d love to hear how you’re getting on!


Planning ahead for 2016: monthly challenges (part 1)

Like most, I love the new year and that ‘fresh start’ feeling. I also love making resolutions and challenging myself to something new.

I was part of the 2015 cohort of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation (incidentally, the best thing i’ve ever done, applications for the next cohort are now open so apply!) and I have been inspired by some other NEF alumni who have completed a series of 30 day challenges:

Mike: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2534558/Need-resolution-inspiration-This-man-completed-12-month-long-challenges-2013-including-kayaking-work-learning-sing.html

Greg: https://medium.com/the-30-day-challenge

I have therefore decided that 2016 will be the year of month long challenges. I appreciate the importance of moderation and agree that living a life stripped of guilty pleasures somewhat takes away the fun but these will be things that I would like to do less/more of and I think that focusing on each intensely for a month will help me on my way.

January – No TV. I am not ashamed to admit that I love watching TV, it’s one of my favourite ways to relax. This would be fine if I were watching documentaries or old classics but more often than not it’s Gogglebox (which I stand by as an excellent choice), Eastenders (less so) and Coronation Street (ditto). I also spend more time than I would like watching YouTube so in January, TV/cinema/Netflix/YouTube are banned!

February – Write a diary everyday. I was an avid diary writer up until about the age of 21. I still find the process of writing down my thoughts (usually in list form) very therapeutic but i’d love to return to keeping a diary and documenting what’s going on in my life. To me, the small things are the most important and it’s often those small things that I forget!

March – Wake up at 6am. I am a morning person but one of my biggest personal gripes is that I can’t wake up before 7am. Everyday I set my alarm for 6am and everyday I re-set it for an hour later. There is endless research on how waking up early is great for productivity, creativity and general happiness and man oh man do I want those things! This will include weekends which, granted, is a bit mental but i’m sure my readers with young children would find a 6am Sunday start totally normal!

April – No meat. My sister is vegan and while I am not planning on heading that way, I am conscious of how much meat I eat and the effect it’s having on the environment and my body. I do consider myself an animal lover and while I think eating meat is a natural part of being human, I disagree strongly with mass meat production.

May – No alcohol or chocolate. I’m not a big drinker so I thought I would combine this with cutting out one of the great loves of my life – 70% dark chocolate. This is more a test of character since my chocolate intake is also not crazily high but I absolutely love it!

June – 30 day yoga challenge. I have heard great things about Adriene (luckily this will fall on a month where I can watch YouTube) and I also have a friend who is an excellent yoga teacher http://www.sophieyogalondon.com/ so I will be combining the two to complete some (it may be 15mins some days and 1 hour on others) yoga every day.

Stay tuned for part 2 and my challenges from July-December. If you have any suggestions or if you’re keen to do something similar, please let me know!

Life lessons from a 13 year old

I have never underestimated how much us ‘adults’ (I use that term loosely as most of the time I still feel like a child) can learn from children. Their way of viewing the world through uninfluenced eyes is always remarkable and I was reminded of this during a recent babysitting appointment.

I was babysitting for one of BOKAC’s first families who have a 9 year old daughter and a 13 year old son. I was chatting to their son about exams and how he feels about them having recently completed his 13+ and now that GCSE’s weren’t too far away.

I used to HATE exams. To the extent that I would cry myself to sleep before a class test, because I was so worried about it. I was always a hard worker but the format and process of an exam would send me into turmoil. Even now, I count my lucky stars that exams are over and I will (hopefully) never have to take one again.

I obviously didn’t relay this to their son and just said that they were never my strong point. His reply was that actually, he enjoyed exams because it meant there was something tangible to work towards and whatever the outcome, there was always a sense of satisfaction having done it. Even if you didn’t do as well as you hoped, you could still feel proud of the preparation you went through beforehand and know that you had achieved something by completing the task (these were pretty much his exact words, although I wasn’t writing them down!).

I was so impressed by his mature, wise and grounded attitude and it has been on my mind all day. We always focus on the result, without stopping to congratulate ourselves for the work we are putting in to get there or appreciating how much we’re learning on the way.

This lesson is paraphrased in lots of different ways but to hear it from someone relatively young and specifically related to exams, which I had always bookmarked as a topic I had nothing positive to say about (except that they’re over) made me see it with fresh eyes.

This conversation is yet another reason why I love running Babysitters of Kensington & Chelsea (and now Babysitters of Southwark too!) so much.

What are some of the life lessons that you’ve learnt from children?

Celebrating a London institution – Trotters turns 25!

If you live in Kensington, Chelsea, Notting Hill, Fulham, Battersea, Clapham, Shepherd’s Bush or anywhere near those areas, the chances are, you’ve been to Trotters.

For as long as I can remember, Trotters has been around. It was the only place that I would have my hair cut without screaming bloody murder (when I was under 8 years old I hasten to add!) and it’s always been the kind of place that parents and children are equally happy to spend time in.

Not surprisingly, Trotters has been incredibly successful and they are soon to be celebrating their 25th birthday. On Saturday 26th September from 11am-5pm, Trotters will be hosting a party at Duke of York Square. Unfortunately I can’t go as I have a wedding to attend but for all of those who will be in the area, don’t miss it!

Trotters 25th BOKAC

Here is what Trotters had to say about the event:

“As a thank you to loyal customers, Trotters are throwing a big party for children and their families to come and celebrate their 25 years. Activities on the day will include a petting zoo and pony rides, a Victorian carousel, cookery classes, live music and children’s performances, a baking and biscuit decorating competition with Partridges, entertainers by G&O Parties, face painting with Galt, posh hot dogs from Manicomio, ice creams, candy floss, traditional fete stalls, Harper Collins storytelling and book signing by some of Trotters favourite children’s authors, an arts & crafts area and a quiet corner for mummies in need of some pampering by the team at Liz Earle…and much more! For more information visit: http://www.trotters.co.uk/trotters-25-birthday/

With support from local businesses and retailers Trotters will be donating all proceeds on the day to one of their chosen charities Place2Be, who provide much needed school-based mental health support to children across the UK and for whom The Duchess of Cambridge is patron. To read more about Place2Be visit: http://www.trotters.co.uk/charity/

We look forward to seeing you there!”

Pony rides, candy floss and Liz Earle – oh my!  #TROTTERSTURNS25

Our fantastic new intro video!

Adding video content to our website is something I have wanted to do for ages but I just haven’t had the time or access to the right resources. That all changed when I met Frédérick, a serial entrepreneur and also a BOKAC parent!

Frédérick Tubiermont is the founder of adsy.me, webringmaster.com and 24hWP.com. When I told him that I was looking to create an intro video for BOKAC, he said he could help. He created our video in less than a day which is amazing and I am so delighted with the result!

Frédérick is also an expert in WordPress so if you are looking for a bespoke WordPress website, get in touch with Frédérick who can do this in 24 hours and from £699! 

#SummerTimeOut Pick of the week – Food glorious food! (markets)

This is our last #SummerTimeOut pick of the week post and think I have saved the best to last. The food markets dotted around London are one of my favourite things about this city. What better way is there to catch up with a friend or spend some quality time alone then to potter along rows of stalls run by independent (and usually incredibly friendly) business owners selling delicious food and drink?

There are far too many to list in one post (quick shout out to Herne Hill Market which is also great) so here are a few of our favourites:

Borough Market

Image taken from the Borough Market blog

Image taken from the Borough Market blog

It is no coincidence that our second branch, Babysitters of Southwark (opening in September) is for families in South and South East London, including those in Bermondsey where Borough Market is! This has got to be the king of food markets. Whether you’re looking for cheese, paella, curry, vegetable juices, brownies the size of your head, pulled pork sandwiches or granola – they’ve got you covered. Go hungry because it’s an excellent place to have lunch before you pick up something sweet for the journey home. Borough Market is also circled by many wonderful cafes and restaurants including Monmouth Coffee and Elliot’s Cafe (in my opinion the best burger in London but they only debut on weekdays at lunchtime).

Portobello Road

Taken from  'Shop Portobello'

Taken from ‘Shop Portobello’

If you’re not all that interested in food (in which case i’m not sure we have a lot in common) then Portobello Road will keep your foodie friends happy while you get lost amongst antiques, jewellery, leather bags, paintings, postcards, clothes, pocket watches and pretty much anything else you can think of. Portobello Road is a complete tourist hot spot and only crops up on Saturday’s (there are some food stalls open during the rest of the week though) so get there early to avoid the crowds. If your feet are aching after a long day of browsing then treat yourself to a red velvet cupcake from Hummingbird Bakery before curling up in a luxurious red velvet chair at the Electric Cinema.

Duke of York Square Market

Image from The Blimey Blog

Image from The Blimey Blog

If you’re looking for a much more serene version of Portobello Road, this little gem pops up on Duke of York Square (nestled into the King’s Road) every Saturday. One of my favourite things to do is to buy some sushi rolls from Aki Maki (in fact, I mentioned them in my interview with Sloane Square Magazine at the beginning of this year) followed by a coffee and a cannoli from Casa Cannoli to eat on the grass in front of the Saatchi Gallery (particularly nice when it’s not raining…but don’t count on this!). The Saatchi Gallery is free to enter and a wonderful place to wander around and work off those pistachio treats.

We’re only just getting in to August so with the rest of this month and September (my favourite month) still ahead, I hope you can all find some time for yourself and enjoy some #SummerTimeOut!

Thank you so much to Vicky for running such a fantastic campaign. The lucky winner of our #SummerTimeOut competition was Fiona Armstrong who has won a free BOKAC babysitting appointment – congratulations Fiona and thanks for entering!

#SummerTimeOut Pick of the week – Outdoor theatre and cinema

There is nothing like an evening at an outdoor cinema. It takes the already luxurious experience of watching a beautiful film on a huge screen with great sound and a comfy chair to a whole new level.

Pack the mother of all picnics (i.e. lots of wine and cheese), grab a rug and some blankets and you’re on your way to a very special night out!

London is full of outdoor cinema screenings as well as theatre performances and here is a rundown of some of my favourites:

Theatre: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

I first visited this theatre on a school trip to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and have been totally enchanted ever since. Being outdoors brings a whole new element to the play and without the help of fancy lighting or microphones, the atmosphere feels very intimate. I have been to see ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Peter Pan’ recently and both were excellent. There are bars, bbq’s and picnic benches to grab a bite to eat before the play and I would definitely recommend doing so in order to take full advantage of the evening.

How beautiful is this! (taken from 'theatrebreaks.com' )

How beautiful is this! (taken from ‘theatrebreaks.com’ )

Cinema: Somerset House

Last year I booked tickets to see Annie Hall with a group of friends and.it.poured! The fact that I am still recommending this place, even though we were draining our humous before the film even started, says a lot. Bring a thick rug as sitting on the cobbled stones for more than an hour gets a bit sore! Somerset House is absolutely beautiful and the courtyard where the screenings take place feels very secluded, despite being smack bang in Central London. True Romance is showing on the 15th August and Roman Holiday on the 16th which would be my films of choice. Book soon because tickets sell out fast!

Ice cream available throughout the performance! (image taken from Somerset House website)

Ice cream available throughout the performance! (image taken from Somerset House website)

Pop-up Screens: Various locations

If you don’t want to trek to Central London, there are loads of pop-up screens across West and South-West London. Grab your partner, a group of friends or (if you’re feeling really generous), your children and give them a go!

Here are my picks for the films left to see this summer (can you tell I like a classic rom com?!)

  • Stand By Me: Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith (14th August)
  • Dirty Dancing: Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith (15h August)
  • Grease: Bishop’s Park, Fulham (6th September)
  • The Notebook: Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith (18th September)
  • The Shawshank Redemption: Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith (20th September)

Prufrock #OfficeToday

I am writing this in one of the most trendy places I have ever been. Prufrock is not only a coffee shop come coffee academy come coffee purchasing arena but it is also home to the coolest coffee drinkers ever known (I don’t include myself in that set!). It may be close to the hustle of corporate Chancery Lane and Holborn but it is a far cry from corporate.

From Prufrock's website

From Prufrock’s website

My latte was exactly the way I like it. Smooth, creamy, nutty and served in duck egg blue china (i’m a sucker for trendy). It was £3.30 (would have been £3 if I had had cash) which is pretty punchy but not as punchy as the sausage rolls retailing for £5.50 each (served with leaves).

Come to mamma

Come to mamma

I arrived at 2.15pm on a Wednesday to kill an hour before a meeting in Farringdon. I liked the atmosphere and my latte really was spot on but I wouldn’t come back here to work, mainly because it is SO noisy! Music is blasted at full volume (yes I am aware of how like my mother I sound) and the floors, tables, chairs and counters are all wooden which means nothing is soaked up.

Also, I couldn’t see any plug sockets so make sure you come with your laptop on full charge if you do plan to get some work done.

BOKAC Prufrock

This is a great place to meet a friend for coffee (i’d stick to lunch from the market outside on Leather Lane) or if you’re the type who likes a lot of noise to concentrate.

I’d also be very keen to come back and try one of the coffee classes as i’d love to know how to make the perfect latte at home.

  • Coffee: 8/10
  • Ambience: 7/10
  • Price: 6/10
  • Good place to work: 5/10
  • Overall: 6.5/10

#SummerTimeOut Pick of the Week (and it’s free!)

If I am feeling stressed, anxious, overloaded or an important decision needs to be made, I will instantly suggest a walk. There is no better way to clear my head and I find it so much easier talking to someone when you are walking side by side.

The beautiful serpentine lake has solved many of my problems!

The beautiful serpentine lake has solved many of my problems!

Even when there isn’t something on my mind, a walk is a wonderful way to spend a morning or afternoon, especially when there is a treat in store at the end of it. One of my favourite places to walk is through Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park, across the bridge to the Serpentine, around the pond (a quick pit stop at the end for an ice cream) and back again. In the sunshine, you’re surrounded by families picnic’ing, couples sunbathing in the long grass, teenagers messing about on the pedalos and masses of dogs running around having the best day ever.

In the winter, the lack of activity makes it peaceful and the fresh air really blows the cobwebs away (but let’s not think about winter just yet)..

The view from the bridge in Hyde Park

The view from the bridge in Hyde Park

If you’re looking for a longer walk, I highly recommend the route from Hammersmith to Richmond. You can follow The Thames Path which hugs the river through Barnes, Putney, North Sheen and Richmond and there are parts where you can barely believe you’re still so close to the city.

When you get to Richmond, walk the extra 25minutes on to Petersham Nurseries and the full trip will take around 2 hours. If that sounds a bit much, you could always start at Barnes Station (roughly half way).

Image from

Image from GQ magazine

Petersham Nurseries will probably be familiar to many of you but if you haven’t heard of it or haven’t been before, GO! There is a beautiful teahouse selling delicious cakes, tea and coffee (well deserved after the walk). If it’s a really special occasion, book in to the Michelin starred cafe which is more than worth every penny. The food is delicious and the setting makes for a truly special meal.

Image from 'Great Cake Places' (so they would know!)

Image from ‘Great Cake Places’ (so they would know!)

Now i’d love to say I would then set off on the walk back to Hammersmith but let’s not be too virtuous, especially when the District Line from Richmond will have you back to High Street Kensington in under 40 minutes. Blissful day!

#SummerTimeOut Pick of the week – The pub!

Hurrah, the sun has made an appearance! I don’t mean to panic you, but as we can’t be sure how long it will stick around for, I’m going to start planning some al fresco drinks and meals asap!

Living in West or South West London means being spoilt for choice when it comes to pubs with beautiful outdoor spaces. Below are some of my favourite spots for a glass of Pimms over the weekend or a cheeky mid-week burger:

The Devonshire Arms (Kensington)

Image from 'Fancy A Pint'

Image from ‘Fancy A Pint’

Since it’s slightly away from the madness of High Street Kensington, you might describe this place as a hidden gem if it weren’t for the pretty substantial beer garden at the front which entices passers-by. Monday’s are ‘beer and burger’ night (£10 for a pint and a burger) and the inside is cool and airy (they recently redecorated) in case you can’t nab a table outside. Find out more here or visit 37 Marloes Rd, London W8 6LA (between High Street Kensington or Earl’s Court tube stations)

The Windsor Castle (Notting Hill)

Image from 'Londontown' (looks much better in real life)

Image from ‘Londontown’ (looks much better in real life)

This pub has the seasonal X-Factor in that it is popular all year round. In Winter, the low doorways, cosy nooks and rustic furniture make the place feel snug and cosy. In Summer however, the garden is where it’s at. A gigantic (by Central London standards) area at the back complete with its own bar (sometimes). The food is also very good and it’s a favourite with the locals of Notting Hill. Find out more here or visit 114 Campden Hill Road, London, W8 7AR (between High Street Kensington and Notting Hill Gate tube stations).

The Queen Adelaide (Putney)

Take from The Queen Adelaide website

Take from The Queen Adelaide website

I rarely make the trip to Putney but when I do, it’s usually to come to The Queen Adelaide. This place really sings in Summer thanks to their humongous garden and fantastic Sunday roasts. Book a table and get there at the beginning of lunchtime because I have been known to wait over an hour for my food. However, the crisp white wine and Bloody Mary’s more than help to pass the time! Find out more here or visit 35 Putney Bridge Road, London, SW18 1NP (between East Putney tube or Wandsworth Town station).

I know everyone will have their personal favourites when it comes to the Great British past time of whiling away the afternoon in a pub so I’d love to know where your hot spots are?