**Disclaimer: this review for personalised kids book “The Tree, The Key & Me” is a collaborative piece between myself and publisher Librio. If you wish to read my full disclosure policy, you can do so by clicking here.**

My kids absolutely adore their personalised books. There is something quite magical about getting to be the hero of the story, especially when your imagination is as big as theirs. I was sent two copies of The Tree, The Key & Me by Librio for Freddy (4) and Clara (6), and it did not disappoint.

The story revolves around a little girl or boy who finds a key, which opens a secret door in a tree. This leads him/her into the forest and lots of lovely woodland creatures. There’s been a disaster, and our hero has to solve the mystery to put things right again. The book is well written and beautifully illustrated.

personalised kids bookHow is The Tree, The Key & Me different from other personalised kids books? 

The main thing which immediately stands out, is the level of personalisation. Most other books only allow you to personalise with gender and name, with Librio you can choose seven characteristics.

As well as name and gender, you can select skin tone; hair and eye colour; hairstyle and (if applicable) you can even choose the colour of their glasses. Obviously you won’t get a mirror image of the child, but it’s a pretty good cartoon version.

I love that the story itself isn’t wishy washy and full of silly gender stereotyping. It’s truly unisex and appeals to both boys and girls. There isn’t a princess or king in sight. It’s an engaging story, and my kids want to read it over and over again.

Librio are a company with inspiring ethics

Being a self-certified eco warrior, I am absolutely in awe of the ethical standards Librio adhere to as a company. All books are printed on high quality 100% FSC certified recycled paper, by award-winning sustainable printers Pureprint Group. As far as I’m concerned, this speaks volumes. There are plenty of publishers on the market printing their books as cheaply as possible. Which, of course, costs the environment dearly.

As well as going to such lengths to print sustainably, Librio plant one tree via Trees for the Future for every book printed. This amazing charity are working hard to end hunger and poverty for farmers by revitalising degraded lands. They plant specific types of fast-growing trees, hardwoods and food crops in a systematic manner. Over a four year period, families see their lives positively changed, forever. What’s not to like about a cause such as this?

If this isn’t enough, for every book sold, Librio also donate £1 to literacy charities in the country where the book is bought. But they very much do not “just give money” (their words). Librio are dedicated to building a company which gives something back to society and help those in need. Again, what’s not to like?

Why I think you should you buy The Tree, The Key & Me  

Cards on the table: the personalised kids book market can seem a bit saturated and overwhelming. It’s chock full of popular TV characters and those wishy washy stereotypes I was talking about earlier. Just as the plastic toys from last years’ favourite show get forgotten about, these kind of books get boring, really quickly. If you are going to the trouble of buying a personalised kids book, why not get one that’s truly different?

Librio’s lovely website makes the ordering process super straight forward. You can preview what the entire book will look like, which is a nice touch. The order takes just a few minutes to prepare, and is turned around within one week.

personalised kids bookThe book is currently available in 18 languages, including UK and US English; French; German; Italian; Spanish; Welsh and many Swiss dialects. They’ve clearly put a lot of thought into inclusivity.

Some of my blogging colleagues have also written reviews. If you aren’t convinced by mine, please have a look at theirs.

Arthur WearsLife Unexpected | Someone’s Mum | Spirited Puddle Jumper | What the Redhead Said  

Don’t just take our word for it though! Check out Librio, and decide for yourself…  

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Librio have already created over 5,000 copies of The Tree, The Key & Me for children in over forty countries. They are offering a 15% discount when you order two or more books, by using the code YAY15. 

 

Hands up who loves pancakes? Trust me they don’t get much better than these, made using self-raising Free From Fairy Flour, which is rice free as well as gluten free. Take a look at the Free From Fairy blog to learn more. The lady behind the blog, Vicki, is a friend of mine. She created this fabulous flour blend so her coeliac daughter could eat plenty of nutrient dense home cooked food. Check out her blog, and be truly inspired by her gorgeous recipes.

Free From Fairy Flour is available in plain and self-raising, and contains three ancient grains (sorghum, buckwheat and teff). Although we mostly eat paleo here, we do occasionally have healthy resistant starches. Grains like this are much easier to digest than gluten containing grains, especially for those with allergies.

free from fairy flour

Kids in the kitchen

My children absolutely love cooking, and really enjoy being given the autonomy to do everything themselves. Pancakes made with free from fairy flour are super easy to make. As you can see in the video below, the girls had an absolute blast making our breakfast.

What you’ll need to make 10-12 pancakes 

  • 1 cup of self-raising free from fairy flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla powder (or one tsp of vanilla extract)

Method

  • crack your eggs into a large bowl and give them a whisk
  • add the rest of your ingredients, and mix well with your whisk
  • heat your pan until it’s med-hot, and grease with oil or melted butter
  • cook as you would any other pancakes
  • serve immediately

how to be authentic It’s a bit of an oxymoron writing the words ‘how to be authentic’ when my personal feeling is authenticity can’t be taught. If you naturally veer towards materialism and shallowness, then you’ll have to brace yourself before reading. And most definitely be prepared to do some work on yourself afterwards. This blog contains lots of links to other blogs I have written, which you might find useful. They are not affiliated links, and this is not a sponsored post. 

It’s easy to write the phrase ‘how to be authentic’ but what does being authentic mean?

The dictionary defines the word authentic as not false or copied; genuine; real. An authentic person isn’t trying to emulate anyone else. They don’t jump on every faddy bandwagon there is. They most certainly practice what they preach. Authentic people don’t say things, then behave in ways which indicate they’re not adhering to their own words. In a nutshell, authentic people are comfortable with their own opinions and values to always mean what they say.

Here’s the thing though. Even the most authentic people have to sometimes tone themselves down in certain work-related environments. Yes of course they shouldn’t have to, but when bills need to be paid, jobs need to be kept. The difference is that authentic people do not mask their true selves in front of their close friends and family. I’ve learnt quite a lot from observing my autistic daughter mask. For fear of not being liked, she presents the very best of herself to a group. This usually comes at the detriment of her family afterwards, because she knows she is 100% safe with us. Masking is exhausting and frustrating and leads to her being miserable.

If we get to full blown adulthood, and feel we have to mask to absolutely everyone we know, then it’s definitely time to reevaluate our inner circle. One of my big bugbears is when someone says something because they think it’s what I want to hear. Firstly they usually get it wrong, and secondly I’d rather they spoke the truth, come what may. Life is too short to waste time on the pointless minutiae.

how to be authenticAuthentic people don’t feel the need to share everything

Here’s a novel idea: minor difficulties can often be overcome quickly. There I said it. Society’s obsession with sharing every-single-thing-247365 means people are becoming incapable of dealing with normal challenges. I’m not talking about the big things. The bone crushing, soul destroying things. Death, divorce, serious illness, etc. It should go without saying that in these instances we need all the love and support we can get.

Do we really need to make such a big deal out of every teeny tiny inconvenience? Does everyone really need to know that your waitress was a bit shit at lunch? Or that you missed the bus and had to wait for the next one? Or that the man in the post office was really grumpy?

No good comes from holding onto anger and annoyance. It takes up too much headspace, which could be spent on being useful. Ask yourself: will these small details be remembered in five, ten years? Save your big emotions for the important stuff, otherwise you might find your reserves are empty when you need them the most.

The sad fact is, not everyone you’ll meet is authentic

I like to give everyone a chance and take them at face value. It’s really important to make our own minds up about other people. Whether or not we enjoy their company should determine our relationship with them. Allowing ourselves to be influenced by what other people think of them is nothing more than school playground behaviour.

Unfortunately social media has a way of making things blurry, and the fakery can be overwhelming and draining. Especially when a lot of the so-called celebs and high profile accounts do not even write their own content. Or have a personality to back up their witty words (which they didn’t write). Makes you think, doesn’t it?

how to be authenticSame with faddy bandwagons. Now, I am all up for people changing their ill health with good, clean food. This is a subject I have a lot to say about, and hugely advocate. I reversed my own infertility diagnosis in 2007, by cutting out refined sugar and processed carbs. I then went onto start eating the paleo way in 2012, years before it was mainstream. I also did the gut healing GAPS Intro Diet in 2014, and had brilliant results.

Now, almost twelve years after first cutting out refined sugar, guess what? I still don’t eat the stuff. How could I possibly know as much as I do about the damage it causes, and the way it makes me feel, then go ahead and eat it? That would be pure hypocrisy.

One thing I absolutely cannot stomach is when people claim to live a certain way but actually don’t. Scratch the surface and you realise that the all-natural enthusiast is as hopelessly addicted to junk (food, clothes, tv, etc) as everyone else.

So many people advocate a certain way of life but don’t actually live it. They’re desperate to, they want to so badly, but they just can’t. They don’t have the inner resources, and the strength it takes. Unfortunately these same people are easy targets for con artists to take advantage of. I think faddy bandwagons can be a very dangerous thing to jump onboard. Have a read of this if you’d like some help breaking out of bad habits, and forming some good ones.

I asked my Instagram followers if they considered themselves to be authentic

I found it astonishing that so many correlated authenticity with how much they were comfortable with sharing. Lots of people commented along the lines of “I am definitely authentic, but I don’t share everything online…” I genuinely do not agree with sharing every last detail online. Even during my earliest days of anonymous blogging, I didn’t. There might be plenty you all know about me, but there is a crap tonne you don’t. Especially over the last few years.

It would be all too easy for me to chase after the potential viral posts, by writing about autism. I just can’t bring myself to do it though. Every now and then I will, if I feel I have something useful and unique to say. Writing about it day after day basically meant reliving the hardest parts of my motherhood experience, and not moving forwards. Plus my daughter became hype aware of my online presence, and it didn’t feel fair to share such personal details about her.

how to be authenticChoosing to share certain elements of our lives does not make us inauthentic. Providing we aren’t misleading our readers with a false version of ourselves. The absolute best part of my job as a writer is when a reader gets in touch and tells me that my words have had an impact. I for one wouldn’t be able to live with myself if it was all a pack of lies.

The reason bloggers are getting such a bad rap at the moment is because this is so rife. Especially on Instagram. Surely if we have a public profile, the least we can give our readers is our integrity?

How to be authentic? I have come to this conclusion

Authenticity cannot be packaged up and sold. It can’t be copied or taught overnight. Values such as kindness, compassion and honesty cost nothing, yet they are so lacking in today’s society.

We are all a work in progress, living authentically simply means being true to our core beliefs. Not selling out for five minutes of fame or a few ££. Saying what we mean, and meaning what we say. Knowing not everyone will like us, and that being okay.

Authenticity is looking in the mirror, and genuinely being comfortable with what we see. It’s about owning our story. War wounds, warts and wobbly bits included. If you don’t, then it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee/tea/kombucha, my friends.

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I’m writing a piece on authenticity, and would like to pose the question to you all, my dear readers. Do you consider yourself to be an authentic person? 💖 Now, I am certain everyone would be inclined to immediately answer with a yes. In case you didn’t know, the dictionary defines the word authentic as: “not false or copied; genuine; real” 💖 Now ask yourself again. Am I authentic? Or am I just another wannabe in a sea of shallowness? I’m not asking this to start a fight, or be mean. I really do welcome interesting debate on here, and I love knowing that I often spark thoughts in people’s minds that most definitely weren’t there prior to reading my words. I’m hoping to spark one this evening…please discuss in the comments, and don’t forget to be kind! Can’t wait to see who replies!

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

I’m starting to think the Tribe App is the biggest swindle on the so-called influencer circuit. For those not in the know, it’s an easily accessible app connecting brands and influencers, for social media campaigns. Here’s the kicker though, you have to do the work upfront. So essentially you create content in advance, with zero guarantees of ever being paid for said work.

Tribe AppI’ve had several posts declined with good reason

For example a paleo protein energy bar, aimed at those doing lots of exercise. Now, as anyone who reads this here blog will already know, I’ve been eating paleo since 2012. I have also genuinely adored the brand since they launched their first products. However, the most exercise I manage is a five minute workout before getting in the shower.

Unless of course I’m on a pilates retreat, and in which case I’ll be doing a years worth of exercise in three days. So I can totally see why I wasn’t the best fit for this campaign.

I received this feedback from the Tribe App yesterday, rejecting a post I’d created a few days back

“Great content, but we’re looking for social accounts better aligned to our brand.”

Here’s the thing: this was for a waste reduction recycling campaign, and my post was all about how to not waste. In it I discussed how living in a world renowned eco estate for seven years helped me think creatively about our collective family waste, and how to avoid it in the first place.

One look at my blog or social media, and you’ll see that I am a real-life-tree-hugging-eco-warrior. Not an imposter, claiming to be for a collab. I even took a nice crisp photo on my proper camera, rather than the phone. In other words, I couldn’t have been MORE aligned to the brand, and yet they rejected me with the most ridiculously generic reasons. Making me think it’s a complete sham, and they have no intention of seeking people who are properly aligned to the campaign.

It’s not the first time this has happened with the Tribe App

Tribe AppAn organic non-caffeinated hot drink, even though I have spoken extensively before about the health benefits of the main ingredient (in non-sponsored content). Nail polish I’d been sent as a PR sample – clearly my channels were good enough to talk about the product for free, but not good enough to be paid. Wild caught salmon, again a perfect collab for someone who eats the way I do. I’d been chatting to the in-house PR and they’d specifically asked me to create a post via the app, then rejected it.

The list goes on…

All over the app you’ll hear that brands are looking for authentic content. Trouble is, authenticity does not come with professional level photography skills. Authenticity doesn’t come with every single product that falls into your path. Authenticity is very rarely found against an Instgrammable backdrop.

The Tribe App is making me miserable. It’s making me feel like an inadequate failure. So I’m deleting it. If it’s doing the same to you, I’d suggest you do the same!

London festivals

I’ve been to three lesser known South London festivals recently. They each had their positives and negatives, so I thought I’d do a little round up post. In the interest of transparency, I’d like to disclose that I was given press tickets to attend the first two events. I have not been asked to or paid to write this piece. Click here for my full disclosure policy.

Go Organic (8-9 Sept, Battersea Park)

The lowdown: Tickets were priced around £25, and it would have been worth the money simply to see the impressive headline acts. The Magic Numbers played on Sat, The Hoosiers on Sun, and there were plenty of other bands in between. The live music created a fab festival atmosphere. There were also live cooking demonstrations throughout the weekend. Again they had some impressive names, among which Melissa Hemsley, Theo Randall and Grace from Eats Amazing.

Alongside the music and demos were over 100 exhibitors. Organic food and drinks producers of all shapes and sizes. From big brands stocked in all the supermarkets, to small independents only found in select health food shops. For someone who takes their organic food as seriously as I do, it was quite literally heaven.

There were plenty of children’s activities going on, including an eco arts cafe, headband making, a mini farm and cookery classes. Being without the kids, hubby and I skipped it all, but the little people looked like they were having lots of fun.

Favourite bits: I absolutely loved chatting with some of the small business owners. It was wonderful to meet Philippa who created Fatty’s Organic Gin from her house in Dulwich. Not only is it a gorgeous flavour (watch out Hendrick’s!) but the branding is printed onto the bottle with vegetable inks, and unlike most other gins on the market, the bottle isn’t wrapped in plastic. This clever lady has thought of everything, and I wish her nothing but success.

London festivalsWe spent lots of time at the Vintage Roots stand, learning all about how organic and biodynamic wine is made. I found it fascinating hearing about the sulphite levels, and how sometimes biodynamic wines contain next to no sulphites, due to the completely natural fermentation process. This is how wine used to be made, in the days before nasty pesticides and overloading the drinks with sugar and sulphites to make it taste nicer and last longer.

We paid £5 to do a thirty minute wine tasting session with Queens Park Wines. The lady running it really knew her stuff, and it was far more insightful than I was expecting. Rather than discussing which food to pair the drinks with, we learnt all about growing regions, and cooperatives. There is so much innovation happening with organic wine right now, which is music to my ears.

Least favourite bit: There were only a handful of stalls to buy food, rather than nibble on samples, so the queues were huge all afternoon. We opted for Helen Browning’s delicious sausages, which were definitely worth the wait!

My verdict: It’s not often my husband and I get a whole six hours to ourselves without the kiddos, and we both agreed it was an excellent use of our time off. We had a blast wandering around, sampling all the delights and chatting to the vendors.

Is it running in 2019? Tickets will be going on sale in January, but you can sign up here to be the first in the know when there is any news.

Wild Child (17-19 Aug, Trevor Bailey Sports Ground, Dulwich)

London festivals

The lowdown: Wild Child promised to be an enchanting new type of family festival celebrating child-focused workshops and entertainment. It was designed by parents and arts educators, with the main emphasis on arts, creative play, STEAM and wellbeing. Ticket prices were £5-30.

Doors opened at 10am, and we arrived shortly afterwards. Cards on the table, when we walked into Wild Child everyone was a little bit underwhelmed. It was very small, and there didn’t appear to be all that much going on. Once we’d settled in however, we saw that the organisers were going for quality over quantity, and had done a marvellous job. There were theatre and dance companies, a wellness warren for yoga, and wellbeing, messy play and sensory activities for the toddlers, a circus tent and science corner. As well as an indoor market, full of London-based independent businesses.

Favourite bits: We set up our little camp outside the Fantastiko Circus School, which provided brilliant entertainment, especially for the younger kids (aged 4, 5 and 6). At the start of the day, Clara was wobbling on the tightrope, balancing on two hoola hoops and by the end she was walking on it unaided. It was quite incredible watching her progression throughout the day.

London festivalsIt felt very safe from the moment we stepped inside, so my friend and I gave the 9yo’s freedom to roam around and check out the activities aimed at the bigger kids. They did yoga, Bollywood dancing, cheerleading, mindfulness and painted affirmation pebbles, among other things.

Dino-obsessed Freddy was in his element with the Dino-Land immersive adventure. It was a proper mini show, and the actors were just fab. We went no less than three times throughout the day.

Least favourite bit: There wasn’t much choice food wise. It was very pricey, and not amazing quality. If we were to go back I’d take a full picnic and plenty of snacks with me. Also my friend’s son had just turned twelve, so was out of the 0-11 age range and there wasn’t anything for him to do at all. He was fine hanging out with us oldies, but other kids his age might not have been so willing to sit chatting to their mum and her mate all day.

My verdict: It was great fun, and we all had an awesome day with our lovely friends. They live a fair distance from us, so we only get to meet up a couple of times a year. When we do we always add quirky memories to our bank, and this was no exception.

Is it running in 2019? I can’t find any information about next year’s event. Which is a shame, because it really was a lovely day.

Lambeth Country Show (22-23 July, Brockwell Park, Herne Hill)

The lowdown: The Lambeth County Show boasts a unique line-up, celebrating the very best of both city and countryside. Over 100,000 people attended this year, making it one of the biggest free family festivals in the UK. The event is organised by EventLambeth and part funded by Lambeth Council, along with commercial sponsorship and funding.

It might be easier to ask the question, what isn’t there to see at the Lambeth Country Show? Expect everything from a traditional fairground, and fitness area to horticultural shows, animal displays, home grown veggie and flower competitions, craft and food stalls as well as their very own farm. Not to mention the music – which is just as eclectic a mix! With dub, Afro-beat, disco, jazz, folk, ska, soul, and local talent playing acoustic folk, choir, soul and pop, steel orchestras and samba bands. All this served with lashings of pop up food stalls, fully licensed bars and the very popular Chucklehead cider.

London festivalsFavourite bit: We hung out for well over an hour in the free activity section, which was sponsored by the charitable leisure centre chain Better. They had a soft play/gymnastics area, rowing machines, football, volleyball and a giant wall made out of velcro to chuck yourself at. So much fun.

Considering they have such huge numbers to contend with (among other things), I was very impressed by their sustainability policy.

Least favourite bit: The fairground section was extortionate. Most rides were £4 or £5, so times by three for us, it was very expensive to keep everyone entertained. Our faux pas was going there first, but if I had my time over, I would have gone straight to Better, and perhaps let the kids have one or two rides at the end.

The food has definitely improved over the years, and there is tons to choose from now, including lots of veggie/vegan options. BUT, it’s really costly. I do wonder whether they’ve managed to keep this lovely London festival free by charging the stall holders a lot more than they used to, which is of course reflected back in the prices they have to charge us?

My verdict: We’ve been going for over a decade, and it’s been quite interesting watching it grow over the years. I had a stall in 2007 selling smoothies and iced coffees, which was a lot of fun but so much work I vowed never again. Since then we’ve gone as a family six or seven times.

It’s a mixed bag to be honest, we’ve had some brilliant days here and some howlers. Like so many other things in life, our experience totally depends on the kiddos’ collective mood. If you’re in the area and happen to be free on Show day, you’d be mad not to pop down at least for a few hours. Be prepared to spend quite a lot of money though!

Is it running in 2019? YEP! Next year’s event has already been confirmed. The 45th Lambeth Country Show will return to Brockwell Park on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 July 2019.

Did you attend any good London festivals over the summer? Where are you planning on going next year? Tweet me @MummyTries