Meet Alfie

Three years of brand development work has culminated in our new brand campaign about a boy called Alfie. It signals the start of a journey to talk less about what we stand against and more positively about what we are fighting for: childhoods free from abuse and full of dreams and endless possibilities

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7 things to do in Puglia

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Trulli in Alberobello

  • Stay in a Trulli. A totally unique experience.
  • Have the set lunch menu at Garibaldi Bistrot in Martina Franca to sample traditional Puglian fare, accompanied by a glass of the local red. We went here two days running it was so good.
  • Go to Polignare a Mare and wander the winding streets, ending up with a swim in the sea
  • Visit an unassuming looking fish restaurant by the sea on the way to Torre Canne and eat delicious fish you have chosen fresh from the sea
  • Indulge in a day snoozing on sun loungers at the Guna Bar beach club

And a couple of things we would have done if we hadn’t had a 1yr old in tow:

  • Found a little bar down one of the winding streets of Ostuni, the beautiful White City on the hill, and enjoyed the view with a glass of chilled Prosecco
  • Enjoyed some world class Italian food in Ceglie Messipica

At last…

mybookshop…a bookish website that makes both commercial and good sense! The Independent Bookshop is a new website from Penguin Random House aimed at people who love both reading and recommending books in equal measure. I am so far deeply impressed. I loved designing my own bookshop  and filling it with my favourite books; browsing other bookshops and finding like minded readers for future inspiration; and getting a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that my local bookshop will benefit from any sales I inspire via Hive.  The site itself is beautifully simple to use and I’m pleased they’ve used a Facebook page for ‘community’ rather than attempting to reinvent that wheel themselves. I just hope I keep coming back after the initial excitement of setting up shop. What would help is a wishlist or ‘to read next’ function. Not everyone will want to buy straight away and whilst this site is brilliant for inspiration, one’s Amazon wishlist is only a click away and this is surely the wolf they are trying to keep at the door. But the publishers behind this site have a fine digital and marketing pedigree so I’m sure it will be sufficiently resourced to develop and evolve with customer feedback. I’ll be reading the trade press to track its progress with great interest. And in the meantime I’ll off to browse my Kindle history and Pinterest lists to pick out the rest of the books to adorn my virtual shelves…

 

websites for books

baby boy reading

‘That’s not my…’ books from Usbourne are a current favourite….

At the moment my boy’s appreciation of books extends to chewing their corners. Nonetheless, I read to him every day in the hope of nurturing a love of reading, surely one of the best gifts a mum can give.  The library and Waterstones are wonderful treasure troves to feed this habit but I do appreciate some help in navigating their riches.

The sites you’d expect to find some useful guides rather lazily offer a list of books by age (Waterstones and Words for Life, I’m looking at you). If you are after something a bit more thoughtful then you need to browse a bit further. Using the help of services like Netmums’ Blog directory, I’ve come across some brilliant sites that give you more interesting jumping off points. Those that make my bookmark folder:

Bookstart:  this website is chock-a-block full of good stuff, although as a result it is a bit tricky to navigate. My tip is to head straight for their curated booklists that help you find books about Friends, Rhymes, Journeys to other lands etc

Babbleabout: a great website resource that helps you discover books through different themes eg: ‘books that encourage generosity’; ‘books about Christmas’; ‘books featuring Monsters’…etc etc. There are also useful posts around ‘areas of learning’ such as ‘books that help introduce babies to reading’, ‘older children to science’ etc. The only downside is that its not been updated for nearly a year but there are plenty of archived posts to keep us going for now.

Playing by the book: I love this blogger’s attitude of building on the reading experience through play and activity; this is very much my philosophy, although I’m interested in how this can be done digitally. This blog has become a regular read for not only discovering new books, but also for ways of extending the world of a story beyond its pages.

Buggy explorer

Greenwich park

Greenwich park

I spend a fair bit of time pounding the streets of SE London as a mum.  Whether its coaxing the baby into taking a nap or simply a bad case of cabin fever, getting out and about with the buggy is a daily necessity. Whilst it can be a little cold and miserable at times, it does mean I’m stumbling across some interesting places:  

Point Hill in Greenwich:  what an amazing treat it was when a little patch of green on Google maps turned out to be the antecedent to a truly awesome view of London. Better than its grander neighbour Greenwich Park and more impressive than Primrose Hill, this unassuming little park unveils a panoramic view of the city that actually took my breath away. It feels like you have climbed up into the sky and perched upon a cloud with all London’s glorious landmarks spread out before you in a way you’ve never seen before.  (Parenting footnote: from here you can then drop down into Greenwich and weave your way through the windy streets to Buenos Aires cafe on Royal Hill for a lovely coffee in the sunshine. They have baby change facilities here)

Hilly Fields: this park is an oasis of loveliness nestled between Lewisham and Catford and their much less ugly sisters of Ladywell and Brockley. It has a lovely little cafe and some more great views of the city (Parenting footnote: as its name may suggest, this park has some excellent inclines to work off the calories you consume via the excellent home make cakes in the cafe)

Deer in Greenwich park: I’d heard rumours that there were deers in Greenwich park and one day I set out determined to track them down. The rumours were indeed true although they took some hunting down. I rather like the fact you need to properly explore the Rose Garden to find the little track through the bushes to the deer. (Parenting footnote: from the Rose Garden you can head down the hill and take a left for the Maritime museum cafe or a right down towards Maze Hill and onto the Vanbrugh pub: both very pram friendly and with baby change facilities)

Apps for mums

pic of newborn

mini digibooky (photograph by charlotteknee.com)

My iPad has been poached by my son at the ripe age of 5 months. No longer a device for idle browsing, it’s now a workhorse for the entertainment and management of a small being. The silver lining to this situation is the discovery of a whole new world of apps for mumdom:

Sprout:  like many new mums, I like to obsessively track and record my baby’s feeds, naps and development. This app makes the daily recording very easy and turns all this data into satisfying graphs that help you spot a modicum of progress and order amongst a sea of feeds and nappy changes. It also gives you a daily digest of tips and advice based on your baby’s age and you can capture milestones by uploading pics of baby’s first bath, smile, rollover etc.

screen shot of Lifecake

Pics of my boy on Lifecake

Lifecake: I’m determined not to become a mum who plagues Facebook with daily pictures of my baby. Lifecake is an app that indulges a parent’s desire to share pics of their bundle of joy, but contains the sharing to those who are in the market for them (namely grandparents). It’s very easy to upload pictures and everyone following your account gets an alert when a ‘life event’ is uploaded. For proud parents, its a joy to browse through as it organises your pics in a pleasing chronological flow; you can take a trip down memory lane and be reminded that your newborn looked like Winston Churchill for a while.

path screenshot

Path screenshot

Path: one up from Lifecake, this is an app for far flung families who are genuinely interested in keeping up with the small details of each others daily life. Dipping into Path is like a ‘how was your day’ chat in pictures and comments. The joy of this app lies in the small circle you create and with whom you share your ‘moments’; to get the most from it and to keep it like a distinct from Facebook, you should limit it to family or a special group of friends.

And what should become an app…

Pathways.org: I came across this very useful US website when I was doing some research into baby milestones. The site has a useful development tracker tool which generates weekly games and activities to play with your baby to explore their emerging skills. I find it fascinating as a first time mum and its hopefully entertaining for baby too. Someone just needs to turn this into an app that retains your profile and dishes up a daily game or activity to do with baby. I’d imagine it would be pretty easy to monetise too for what is clearly a very good cause.

daily wisdom

Image from Agent Carly Watters website

Image from Agent Carly Watters website

My Kindle died recently which was a very upsetting affair – more so than I expected. I’ve clearly become very attached to transporting all my reading material around on one small, light device that fits snugly into my handbag; going back to the library and lugging around a thick paperback (the heavy but excellent Sea of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh) was pretty inconvenient. But happily I have a new Kindle now and even more happily, as a by-product of retrieving my library of e-books, have stumbled across the Kindle website.  As with many sites, it is clearly taking baby steps toward becoming a social space but its main proposition is a user-friendly space for  reviewing the notes and highlights you make as you read your eBooks. It encourages you to re-visit these thoughts through a ‘review of the day’ which displays a random highlight or note from across your eBooks. You can also browse through the notes and highlights from people you ‘follow’ which is a lovely serendipitous way of stumbling across interesting things. Its a brilliant tool for students and pretty useful for anyone who wants to revisit, reflect or indeed act upon the inspiration you find in books. Hopefully the app version is to follow…

a game of apps

The English student in me feels guilty about the amount of time I spend reading The Game of Thrones.  In fact I try sandwich GoT  with a strict diet of literary fiction to stretch my mind back into shape. But much as I’m currently enjoying Eugendes’ The Marriage Plot, I secretly yearn for a return to the fantasy world of Westeros. It’s just so addictive! Beyond my helpless addiction to an age of chivalry and power-play, what is also interesting about this series is that for the first time I’m finding apps are directly complimenting my reading experience. I read the books on my Kindle – which is sensible given that each book weighs a ton – but my e-book doesn’t include a map. To help keep track of the complex world,  I’ve downloaded the Westeros map app for my iPad and also the GoT Wiki as a tool for quick familiarisation with the vast cast of characters. Both are quick and easy to use but do mean reaching for a different screen. Ideally the e-book would come integrated with this kind of functionality. There is a interesting review of an enhanced iBook on Future Book but it sounds like it’s not been cracked properly, and certainly not for the Kindle. Publishing houses have not yet dedicated enough time to considering how to enhance the reading experience across different devices and so add a different (monetised) dimension to their products. They need to start thinking like this or Apple will steal a march on them again.

It Follows Me Around

I’m particularly proud of this latest piece of ChildLine content. My colleagues in the content development team have pulled out all the stops and generally busted guts to produce a highly professional, compelling and beautiful bit of film. The acting, the production values, the tone: it all comes together to create something that sits comfortably with the kind of content our target audience are seeking out. We hope the message hits home.

Shaky Em

Cosy Victoriana  Image from The Cocktail Lovers.

The highlight of our latest date night for me was my amazing cocktail at the Hawksmoor bar. It was a Shaky Pete which is essentially a gingery shandy with a cheeky shot of gin. It took a small leap of faith to order a cocktail that blends London pale ale with spirits, but boy did it pay off. Delicious. And I didn’t fall up the stairs as we went to be seated at our table, which was a bonus. The bar itself was also a delight. The decor felt like a mash-up of a ship’s interior and a Victorian public amenity: a mix of brass walls, utilitarian white tiled walls and ornate booths. Cosy but atmospheric.

My man, the birthday boy, was also impressed with everything Hawksmoor had to offer, although I suspect his favourite bit was more about the big and tasty slab of beef we ate upstairs in the restaurant. He was also pretty pleased with the goodies we picked up for him at Boxpark, the new pop-up mall that has sprung up next to Shoreditch High Street. Full of skate and achingly cool menswear, it’s not a shopping experience designed for the ladies but the marketer in me appreciated the experience as an innovative take on the high street. All in all, it was a fantastic night out in the East End shaking up the new and the old.