Welcome to the Neev Spencer column. Each month, DJ and presenter Neev shares her latest adventures in motherhood.
Happy New Year! I hope your 2023 has got off to a great start. It’s been full on and definitely challenging – there’s just something about January isn’t there…all I can say is I’m so glad February is here!
Looking back we did have a delightful festive time with lots of family meet-ups and seemingly endless toy unwrappings. Smyths Toys have a really great selection of stuff for children of ages and you can effortlessly search by age on the site. In my household, I have one absolute girlie girl and one girl who’s a total tomboy so it was Ironman and Batman stuff – versus the girliest dress-making bits. Just to make that already very loud time of year even noisier we went for a Karokee disco ball console. As you can imagine we were delighted when nursery and school were back open again!
Much like us adults, little ones get really affected by the cold and I noticed that my smallest one had dry frizzy hair so I tried a new Kids Hair Oil. It smells divine and the ingredients are full of natural things such as broccoli and camellia seed oils that nourish and protect your child’s precious locks. Using this after a bath creates a serene and calming ritual that children love. They do a range that suits grown-ups too.
After the hectic nature of the Christmas fun, I really felt like I needed some time out so I booked a night away in London just for some peace and quiet and a well-deserved uninterrupted lie-in. I stayed at the Homegrown Club in Marylebone.
I had attended a Mother’s Panel event with the Mumble group at the club and was so taken by its style and ethos. Homegrown is part of the Home house collection and offers a unique space for like-minded professionals to meet and interact. For me, the idea of having 24 hours in a space with no children and or conversation about parenting was music to my ears. The rooms are stylishly designed and I enjoyed a sumptuous dinner in the beautiful restaurant.
I have always been a huge advocate for self-care in motherhood and taking time out for yourself to feel like the you that you were before you had kids is so important. It helps you come back to the normal slightly monotonous routine of parenting with a fresh view and an all-important reset.
Now that Vivienne, my youngest, is doing more days at nursery I have had four full days back during the week. I realised this is the first time that has happened in over seven years! I had grand ideas of all the things I would do in that first week of ‘freedom’ but the most memorable had to be going to watch Avatar in the middle of the day without anyone trying to share my popcorn!
It’s the little things sometimes that make all the difference…that course I wanted to start could wait another week! I haven’t had resolutions as such this year, more just a commitment to listening to what I need more, and finding a way to carve out more time for the things that keep me balanced and happy – one of which is Heartcore Pilates.
I started back at regular Heartcore sessions back in the summer of last year and I quickly realised that I couldn’t do without it. Their unique approach to reformer pilates and overall wellness is something I’ve been looking for in my fitness regime for years. As Mums, we don’t have much time to work out so for me it’s always about maximising the time that we get. Heartcore not only keeps me strong in body, and sculpted in shape I am healthy and strong in my mind and this for me is everything.
Look out for my next column where I share the best winter sun and half-term luxury child-friendly hotels.
Neev Spencer’s All Things Motherhood: Bovey Castle Staycation Review
Happy autumn and welcome to my column! Summer may feel like a distant memory now but what a summer it was!
Bovey Castle Review
We decided on a staycation this year so that we could enjoy the glorious British weather and went to the impressive Bovey Castle in Dartmoor Park. With all the Europe travel hassles our 2.5-hour train from London was by far the easiest option with two very busy under 6-year-olds. After arriving at Newton Abbot station we got a short taxi to the castle.
Bovey Castle is set within 275 acres of Devon’s Dartmoor park. The entire landscape is breathtaking and the long drive up to the castle was such a sight to see.
Although the castle has rooms within it we decided on a family lodge for the stay. The main issue we find when we go away and share a room as a family of 4 is the restrictions that sleeping in the same room as your children bring.
The 7pm lights out and tip toeing around the room in the hopes of not waking the baby just take the relaxation and the fun out of a parent’s holiday so going for your own living space is so advised.
The self-catering lodges at Bovey Castle are ample in size and the rustic decorations and furnishing really make it feel like a home. Our lodge had 3 double bedrooms, a large kitchen diner, and a seating area with a gorgeous outdoor space. On arrival, we hosted a BBQ at our lodge for extended family who joined us for the trip.
The hotel delivers easy gourmet BBQ hampers to be cooked by the best chef in the family (my husband as it happens). The children loved the space the lodge gave us and it and it gave us parents a chance to relax and have a glass of wine after the kids were asleep.
The Castle has so many activities for children and we spent our mornings feeding the Goats, visiting the ferrets and feeding the chickens. The hands-on animal visits are such fun for the little ones and they loved our daily trips to the farm area.
With daily falconry shows on the main patio of the castle, archery, clay pigeon shooting and horse and carriage ride there are so many different things to keep everyone entertained. In all the fun I even had a chance to visit the spa and enjoyed a dreamy full-body massage.
As a treat for the whole family, we hosted an afternoon tea in the Great Western restaurant. The room itself is seeped in history and feels like you’ve stepped back in time.
The afternoon tea selection was delicious and the staff catered to the young children’s needs so well. All the dining experiences at the castle were enjoyable with lots of kids’ food on the menu and colouring activities to keep little hands busy.
All in all our 4 days away in Devon was everything we needed and more. Having our parents and my brother’s family join us in the next-door lodge made it feel like a home away from home. As half term approaches, I highly recommend a trip to the memorable castle and all the magic it has to offer.
Neev Spencer’s All Things Motherhood: Spring Sunshine & Holiday Adventures
Spring is here and what a difference a good old bit of glorious sunshine can do. We have swung straight into this time of year with great eagerness!
We had our first BBQ of the year and put on a family private chef experience with Yhangry. They provide a unique private chef party experience which takes the pain out of trying to host a big group or special occasion. To have a qualified chef come to your home with all the food for your party prepared, cook for you AND clean up afterwards was just such a joy.
Mamamade do a really lovely selection of child and baby food, too, so the kids were all covered and us adults got to sit back and properly relax. We enjoyed a perfect Sunday afternoon with our loved ones and chose to do it around Mother’s Day to celebrate all the Mamas in our family.
I was also gifted the most stunning and useful Mother’s Day gift from Beautifect. They do a briefcase-style makeup mirror and case perfect for adding the right kind of lighting to any makeup moment. I’ve been using my case around the house as I rush from pillar to post and it’s such a handy addition to my juggle.
The kids also surprised me with a bespoke make up brush set from Huny London for my make up case too! I now have the prettiest brushes with my name on them.
More exciting news…we managed to get a week’s holiday in Dubai, our first proper break since the pandemic and the children absolutely loved it. We chose to stay out of the main bustle of Dubai and went for the JA Palm Tree Court Hotel, perfect for kids and adults alike.
The whole trip felt like heaven after so many years of being in London and really helped my toddler Vivienne with her speech. “I want more ice cream” was probably the most frequent thing we heard, but since we came back she has a new sense of confidence about her. Speaking of changes, we are about to embark on a potty training schedule with her and my only hope is that she picks it up with ease and we get there with it soon.
I’ve been busy getting my fitness and wellness routine back in check after a slow start to the year and have gone back to my beloved Reformer Pilates again, Heartcore studio style. The combination of the all body workout and soul-shaking wellness is just what I need to maintain that body and mind balance. As a Mum of small people time to yourself is precious – we don’t get long, so it’s important to maximise it but getting all you can out of those stolen moments.
As a family, we are now looking at electric cars that suit urban and family life. Parenting and travelling around require a lot of needs so I’m currently testing out a number of the market’s top models and I’ll update you on my findings next time!
Neev Spencer’s All Things Motherhood: Spring Hopes & More Me-Time
Hello and welcome to my first column of 2022! If you’re anything like me it feels as if the year has really only just properly begun. I didn’t exactly spring into this year striving to be the ‘best’ version of myself – more sort of dragged myself through January kicking and screaming, just like my little ones!
But now that the days seem to be getting lighter and an actual real-life holiday abroad has been booked, we all seem a lot more hopeful and excited about what this year could bring.
I have taken it upon myself to get super fit and try to really stick to a proper fitness and healthy eating regime. It seems I’ve become one of those people who wears workout clothes most days – waiting for that opportune moment to get into the gym for a class!
I love the range at David Lloyd clubs, and the creche and kids activities make it really easy to keep the kids entertained while you get some all-important me time. Not only do I feel fitter and have more energy to run after my toddler, I genuinely feel happier and more settled in myself.
I realised recently that it’s been well over three years now since I had more time to myself to see friends and not just being 24/7 Mummy – and with the amount of time spent doing childcare during the pandemic, it seems like such a luxury to finally get to reconnect with my old and new self.
One thing that really stands out to me within my journey of motherhood is how I feel about my body and being ‘sexy’. It takes a long time to feel those feelings after you have children and you should never put pressure on yourself, but little things like trying on lingerie or booking a night away from the children with your partner are crucial to your mental wellbeing and your relationship.
This Valentine’s Day I decided to buy some bits from Ann Summers. Just the task of going into the store to look through things and try stuff on seemed daunting but the lady who served me was so nice and made me feel really comfortable. It sounds silly, but simply walking away with a beautiful new set of lingerie for a special occasion brought me back to myself a bit more.
The weather has been causing some havoc in our household with the little people’s skin and I’ve been religiously using Weleda’s Skin Food. I’ve used a lot of their range over the years on my babies, but I find Skin Food to be one of the best to keep my toddler’s cheeks from getting chapped on our long weekend walks – and as a make up primer. I keep a hand mini-sized one in my nappy bag for my lips too when needed.
Another big thing at the moment seems to be dodging germs! I found this brilliant vitamin and supplement brand called Un’bee’lievable Health and they do a great range for adults and children – anything to prevent the dreaded lurgy in a household of little ones is a huge plus; it’s so important to keep immunity high!
We are now about to venture into the world of potty training our second, who happens to be a very demanding baby girl with a mind of her own…
Every child is different so we are using some of the old tried and tested habits from before that we used with our eldest, but are also mindful of how different the children are in their personalities. So here goes…wish me luck!
Neev Spencer’s All Things Motherhood: Goodbye Summer, Hello New Season Routines!
Well, in a flash it seems our summer has drawn to a close. I survived 9 weeks of juggling my toddler and my 5 year old – but I found some handy ways to help the long drawn out days. I put my daughter Genevieve in Summer Camp for the first time. I chose the Maggie & Rose big kids camp as both my children have been raised by the unique M&R ethos and it was also a familiar place for my eldest as it was her old nursery.
The big kid’s camps are open to all, not just members, and Genevieve spent her days learning about the different cultures, world food and came home with so many questions and colourful crafting each day. For me having some days to just focus on my work, myself and my self-care was golden.
My toddler, Vivienne, turned two this summer and she’s upped the ante when it comes to what she needs to keep her busy and entertained. To refresh things around the house and garden I got several toys from the Entertainer Toy Shop. We have a pink slide that she could go up and down on with her sister endlessly and a mini-trampoline. Just switching up what they normally play with at home was a great way to keep their curious minds engaged and give me back some all-important time to fold laundry!
When I wasn’t busy with the running of the house I took myself off for a ‘Fusion’ facial at Dr Preema Vig’s London clinic, just stepping into her stunning clinic was a pampering act of self care in itself. Dr Preema is an Advanced Aesthetic Doctor and former General Practitioner specialising in Non-Surgical Facial Rejuvenation. She just gets skin and knew how to guide me on what I needed to achieve a look and feel I wanted, whilst giving me the healthiest glow and natural results.
You would never guess I’ve had over two months of constant parenting on my hands and not taken a proper holiday in forever! My skin looked radiant with far less blemishes. I now just put on some SPF as i run out the door for the school and nursery run, and it’s made my getting ready routine far more manageable. As a busy Mum these moments of me time are worth so much and to look in the mirror and feel like my old not exhausted self has lifted me totally.
Although we didn’t get to go away as a family this summer we did escape for a few days of glamping and we all really enjoyed the change in scenery. I took my new buggy, the Silver Cross Clic, and even managed to accidentally match the kids to the pretty lilac hues. The Clic is so lightweight and easy folds and can be stored in any space in including a packed car for camping or a family-sized tent!
One of the most challenging things about the long summer at home was bedtimes and how affected both children became by the lack of school and routine. My baby, Vivienne, was struggling to settle down for the night and my eldest just wouldn’t adhere to her 7pm bedtimes. I consulted with behaviour and sleep expert Laura Amies, who identified the problems and set me up with some really easy and practical solutions.
Vivienne was picking up on her big sister’s energy and, without knowing it, we were getting her into a really hyper state at bath and book time. Laura expressed the need to quieten down the whole early evening and get Genevieve to help settle and put her baby sister to bed. Vivienne went from rolling around and singing in her cot for up to one hour, to passing out within 10 minutes by day two!
Laura’s help with my 5-year-old’s sleep issues was so welcomed, too. She explained that we need to build more firm structure to her bedtimes and give her new comfort markers to help her settle. Just taking the time to work through why your little one’s sleep times have changed and learning new ways can be so beneficial and now we have that extra hour back to relax in our grown up time.
The Neev Spencer Column: Seeing in the Summer
Hello there! So summer may have made a late appearance to the party but what a party it is! As we slowly and cautiously step out into a post-lockdown world, it feels great to be starting to get back to some kind of normality.
I’ve been busy occupying both of my girls and trying to keep them entertained as always. Genevieve went back to school with great ease for this last term of the year and Vivienne is enjoying her two days a week at nursery. We’ve had a lot of great and helpful additions to the home like the Little Helper Funpod. The tower is such a great way to safely keep children in the kitchen area while you cook. It also allows them to try their little hands at washing up and takes away any fears of your child falling off a step.
Crafting has become a big thing in our house after a year of Lockdowns but I have found it to be a really therapeutic thing for me too. The Toucan Box craft set is a subscription and is a great and fun package through the door every single time. For messy play in our home we find the Toddlekind mats brilliant. They come in a whole range of colours and aren’t just good for the children to roll around on and play, they also double up as great yoga mats for Mummy!
With all of the time my little ones have spent together in the last year is it any wonder they started squabbling over toys and my attention. It’s so hard to know how to parent children when they start to see red and fight so I went to the UK’s leading parenting consultant Laura Amies. Laura considered their age, individual characters and my parenting style in order to create a really personalised advice plan. She helped me take small actions into my own hands to control and defuse situations giving me a far greater understanding of what my children were thinking in these moments. I’m so glad to say so far it’s working and there are far less fight-y moments between the children!
This new found peace in the home gave me some all important time back and have been relishing in trips to my local David Lloyd gym. It’s so hard to find time to stay fit and get into shape after you have children and the pandemic certainly didn’t help but I’m finally starting to see results. I found a great activewear brand to prance around the gym in which is hugely eco friendly, too. Boody does the most comfortable bras, loungewear and the softest baby bits. All made from bamboo and in really great neutral colours.
All this ‘me’ time allowed me to focus on something I’ve wanted to do for years: get my teeth straightened! I’ve now taken out a 16-week programme with Invisalign. I went back to trusted dentist Dr Zainab Mukhtar who I saw for my teeth check ups during pregnancy and she has been keeping a watchful eye on my new smile’s progress! Your teeth can really change when you have children so it’s crucial you have regular check-ups. Such small things like making this kind of time for myself has been a huge act of self love and I’m feeling so much more like the old me, the one that isn’t always just juggling a million and one things for my beloved children!
Neev Spencer Column: A Family-Friendly Staycation
Before Christmas and the latest lockdown restrictions came into place we managed to get away to the country for a few days of festive fun. As a family that would never have usually considered vacationing in the UK, this past year has been a real eye-opener into some of the country’s most beautiful properties. I had heard the Four Seasons Hampshire is one of most child-friendly hotels and we were excited to check it out for ourselves and to see it in all of its Christmassy glory.
Only an hour’s drive from London, escaping to the country was easier then we had hoped and the ease of packing up the children’s needs but without having to do the airport and aeroplane run is something that may win over holidaying at home for the foreseeable future. Upon driving up the beautiful country lane that brings you to the Four Seasons main house we were taken aback by the stunning Christmas tree and festive decor.
The whole hotel was dressed in pure luxury and just what we all needed to lift our dreary pandemic-affected spirits. We checked into our comfortable room and explored the hotel and it’s 13 real Christmas trees!
The reservation staff were brilliant at arranging all the child and baby amenities for the room with fold-out bed options for bigger kids and large cots for babies. Dinners at the Wild Carrot restaurant were inviting and child friendly without compromising on luxury for the grown-ups. The food was deliciously fresh and the children’s menu was varied with fun activities to keep them entertained at the table. We also enjoyed the famous Afternoon Tea experience in the stunning library which the children absolutely loved and made a lot of mess at.
All staff were ready to help and ease the mealtime experience in any way they could. It was really comforting to look around and see so many other families socially distancing and sharing a common knowledge of how hard eating out can be with little ones!
We spent our days walking in the vast breathtaking grounds of the hotel and even had Genevieve our eldest on a pony for the first time as the Four Seasons offer a memorable up-close equestrian experience with a highly trained expert. Our favourite moments, though, had to be pool time fun at Sharkie’s Reef.
The hotel has a separate child pool play area which is heated to make you feel like you’re on holiday and bursting with every exciting thing a child’s pool area should have. From water slides to fountains we spent hours watching our two little ones splash about and play. To top it all the property installs an ice skating rink during December and we got to experience another first with our eldest as she went ice skating for the first time with her Daddy. Needless to say our time at the Four Seasons Hampshire was exciting, relaxing and just felt like that little bit of luxury we so needed.
Find out more about The Fours Seasons Hampshire re-opening and to book your stay at fourseasons.com/hampshire/.
The Neev Spencer Column: A New Year’s Health Kick
I hope you all had a safe and enjoyable festive time. It seems so odd to think that we are back here in lockdown and the year has started off on such a strange foot. We’ve been busy trying to focus on home improvements because well… we don’t have much else to do!
We have been renovating a play area for Genevieve and Vivienne. I love Kidly’s website, they have such a great selection of playmats, decor and furniture. From stylish mats you can use under your baby’s highchair, to toys for the new playroom it’s a great place for all things kids.
I recently found a great charity that comes and collects old clothes and toys. I waved off five black bags of bits and it felt so good to know it was all going off to someone who could benefit from it all.
We’ve started 2021 in the most positive way we can with lots of fresh starts and healthy focuses. I’ve been focused on my fitness more than ever after such a difficult time trying to maintain baby weight loss through the pandemic. I called upon two of the country’s top experts for advice.
First up, Jess Schuring, an old friend who actually trained me for my wedding. Jess’ approach comes from a place of pure heart, and I love her ethos. It’s not about pushing yourself into oblivion or trying to get somewhere fast, but more a journey into self-love, strength and listening to your body.
I’ve always loved reformer pilates and even though we can’t get into the studios at the moment, her online classes are setting people’s hearts on fire all over the country through such a challenging time. Just carving out a little bit of time for yourself to focus on your body and your personal power is so beneficial when you have to keep up with homeschooling and constant stresses of parenting in lockdown.
Next was an important consultation with leading nutritionist and weight-loss expert, Kim Pearson. Kim first asked me to complete a detailed questionnaire and to keep a food diary. During my initial consultation, Kim did an in-depth review of my health, diet and lifestyle, as well as what I was looking to achieve. She devised a tailored plan that would work around my hectic Mum life. I find that I’m now eating healthy, balanced, easy-to-make meals and I’m enjoying them. I have a treat meal once a week and spend the rest of my time mindfully eating nutritious foods that support my health and weight loss. For anyone that can’t lose weight gained during pregnancies, having a qualified expert review your health and habits and provide personalised advice is so valuable.
Kim introduced me to two brilliant brands Keto Hana and Freesoul Protein. When I am genuinely hungry for a snack, Keto Hana does really yummy low sugar low carb bars and granola. She recommended FreeSoul’s Vegan Protein powder in berry flavour blended into a smoothie with frozen berries, avocado, half a courgette and water or almond milk. This is a great way to start the day so that no matter how busy the kids keep you, you are getting one nutrient-rich dose of goodness a day.
Little Vivienne is now one-and-a-half years old and it’s crazy to think she’s spent the majority of her life thus far indoors! For the cosiest nights and to help her sleep soundly I chose a Baby Mori Sleepsuit. It’s easy to zip baby up in and keeps them snug through the chilly nights. Genevieve, my eldest, just turned four-and-a-half too, and is keeping us all on our toes! The most positive thing for us as a family is how close our girls have become in the past year. All this time together really has been a blessing in so many ways.