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Reviews Services

An Incredible Pet Portrait From Jess Ridley Art

I got in touch with Jess Ridley after I came across her amazing animal portraits. Jess primarily gets commissioned for cat and dog portraits but also has a wonderful array of wildlife artwork inspired by her trip to Africa. I asked her to draw my golden retriever, Jofra, and I’m incredibly excited to share with you the results. I also asked Jess a few questions about her work.

How did you get started in pet portraits? Is it something you’ve always been interested in?

My whole life has been dedicated to performing, so it’s safe to say that I never saw drawing becoming as important in my life as it is now! Alongside my lifelong training in musical theatre, I drew purely as a hobby. I loved drawing as a child and would draw everything from the candlestick on the living room table to school portraits of my brother. In fact, some of my earliest (and perhaps best) pieces were crayon on wallpaper – much to the dismay of my parents! Drawing was always something that I found therapeutic. I never really envisioned it becoming such a large part of my life.

A trip to Africa provided me with a huge amount of inspiration to create some wildlife pieces that caught attention on social media and so I began my small business. I had only ever created drawings as gifts for friend and family but quickly realised there was a demand for portraits of the lovely furballs we share our lives with.

Pet portrait Jess Ridley

What is the most challenging aspect of drawing pets?

The most challenging aspect of creating a pet portrait is working with the customer to get the right reference photo. Animals are notoriously tricky to get to stay still, but getting a clear, well lit, high-quality reference picture really is the key to a good portrait. Creating features that can not be seen in the reference photo (for example if part of it is blurry) is something I find very challenging.

Why is graphite or charcoal your go-to medium? What do you like about them?

Graphite has been my go-to medium simply because it is what I began drawing with as a child. It was a natural progression from scribbling on printer paper with a HB pencil from the kitchen drawer to where I am now. I only bought my first ‘proper’ drawing pencils in my teens and used to draw with whatever I found around the house. I have always loved the effect of monochrome pieces but hope to branch out into pastels soon to add a different element to my wildlife and pet portraits.

Pet portrait Jess Ridley

How has your artwork evolved over the years? What have you learnt in the process?

Although I took art GCSE, I would say everything that I have learnt about drawing has been through trial and error. There are hours of tutorials on youtube as well. Practise really is what it is all about and I truly believe anyone can draw if they have a structured approach and time to dedicate to it. I learn something new with every portrait I create.

One of the biggest challenges is knowing when to stop! Once I have finished a piece I will often hide it away for a few days and come back to it with fresh eyes before deciding it is complete. My biggest lesson has been that patience is very important. It takes a while for a piece to take shape and it has taken me a long time to have patience with the process.

Pet portrait Jess Ridley

Interested in a portrait? Get in touch with Jess Ridley via her website: or email

Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates.

You might also like: 

Children’s Oil & Charcoal Portraits with Samuel Francis

24 Purrfect Presents For Pet (& Pet Lovers)

Looking for something else? Take a peek at my ultimate directory for the parenting, style and business recommendations.

Family Life Reviews Services

40 Guilt Free Educational Online Resources To Keep The Kids Entertained

To make this article timeless, I am not going to comment on the situation. I am no expert and it is evolving at rapid rate so I will leave that to the experts. However, the current climate has driven me to collate a list educational resources to aid us in keeping the kids entertained for when they are at home for a longer period to time than usual!

Katie’s Classroom

Pocket-size English and Maths revision cards for parents and teachers with children in Reception all the way up to Year 6/SATs/11+ Use TEACHER50 50% off your order and Katie’s Classroom Subscription Based Online Tutorials 7 day free trial and then £4.99 per month

Reading Eggs

I can vouch that this online resource to gt your kids reading is brilliant. It makes learning to read interesting and engaging, with great online reading games and activities.

London’s Little Thinkers

A trusted online community which inspires Little Thinkers with a huge amount of resources. Also follow them on Instagram for bite size inspiration

My Busy Bots

Busy bags and activities for toddlers and young kids


The trusted home of teacher-created planning and assessment materials and teaching resources! Perfect for inside and outside the classroom. Use PARENTSTWINKLHELPS for 1 month free

TT Rockstars


TTS Group

School supplies for primary and secondary education and free downloads for home learning

ICT Games

Free educational games created by a UK teacher

Education City

Engaging, educational resources and games for students aged 3-12 years, as well as time-saving tools that support teachers in the classroom and at home. You can try for free.

Phonics Play

Phonics games, planning and assessments. Free for parents and schools.

Oxford Owl

Discover FREE expert advice, educational resources and free eBooks to support children’s learning at primary school and at home, from Oxford University Press


Recap what your child should know with an in-depth look at the curriculum for the year.

Teaching Packs

High quality resource packs for educators


Free virtual Homework and learning for GCSE & A Level



The Big History Project

A joint effort between teachers, scholars, scientists, and their supporters to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to knowledge to lifelong learners around the world in a series of wonderful videos.



World Geography Games

Geography games online from Reception to year 12!

National Geographic Kids 

Games, quizzes and videos



Mystery Science

Free science lessons!




Learn computer programming


Creative Computer programming




Learn a language for free!



Done enough work? Some great light hearted ideas for what to do with kids.


Free mini courses for kids one ervtyhing from coding to e-safety

Hand In Hand Parenting

Fun ideas to keep the kids amused like Skype playdates and youtube tutorials


10 real life challenges for your kids

Virtual Museum Tours

12 of the most worldwide museums are doing virtual tours. I can’t wait to sit with a cuppa and have a look, especially the Uffizi Gallery in Florence!

Nature Detectives

Age related outdoor activities


A free, easy-to-use app for 3D design, electronics, and coding. It’s used by teachers, kids, hobbyists, and designers to imagine, design, and make anything!

Red Ted Art

Easy craft ideas for kids

Blue Peter Badges

Apply for a Blue Peter Badge!

BBC kids show!

Apply to be on a kids show!

Rooster Money

Teach your kids the value of money in this digital age. Free trial.

The Kids Should See This

Wonderful videos on everything!


Let me know of any others! xx

For more tips and recommendations have a look at The Ultimate Directory

Reviews Services Travel

Family Transfers : Take The Hassle Out of Your Journey To & From The Airport

We have all had the dilemma when the taxi has arrived without the correct car seat you definitely ordered. Only one thing for it – to take your own, which is a massive inconvenience – who wants to lug that across continents? Family Transfers is a company that specialises in making your trip as hassle free as possible.


We were lucky enough to review this service, starting in Hampshire at 4am at the beginning of the Easter Holidays. With an early flight booked and a way to drive to Stanstead it was brilliant to have a car to pick us up – with all the correct sized car seats for our three kids aged 8, 6 and 4.

Car Seats

A comfortable 8 seater arrived quietly in our drive ahead of schedule and Jorge our quiet and helpful driver leapt up to take the suitcases as soon as we appeared. We spaced the children out, seat belts on, radio off, perfect temperature and within half an hour all of us were asleep.


As they drive you straight to the drop off point there was no tassel of finding our designated parking space for the week.  Although I will hand it to Stanstead it is a well oiled machine and very organised, it is still quite far from the terminal to walk with kids – especially when it is so fresh first thing in the morning.


On our return, Jorge had our flight details so met us off our slightly delayed flight.


He immediately took control and loaded the bags onto a trolley (and maybe one or two kids!)


It was very helpful to have an extra pair of hands when dealing with tired hyper kids. My kids seem to go potty in an airport! Jorge pushed the trolley all the way to the car that gave us extra hands to guide the kids.


He delivered us home safely without a hiccup and I can honestly say it was such a joy having the transfer both ends sorted.  It is just another area to tick off your list when you are travelling that you don’t have to worry about.

Now for the next holiday….


They aren’t limited to airports – ports and train stations too or you could even hire a car and driver for the day and do a sight-seeing tour.

Use LONDONMUMMY10 for 10% off all bookings. Valid until end of June.


Reviews Services

13 Websites, Apps & Businesses for an Organised New Year

Happy New Year! Ok, might be 7 days late, but today is when the New Year officially starts. Back to school, work, tidy up, planning, to do list and sorting. I want to share a few useful ideas and businesses that you may find helpful at this time of year.

If you need personalised sticky labels…. 

Ooh La Label 

I buy these on repeat for shoes, water bottles and stationary. They are rub proof and dishwasher proof and I LOVE them (and even keep some in my wallet.

If you want to lower your monthly household bills… 


We have a few questionable bills at the moment, so I am going on to simple to use uSwitch and see if I can find a better deal. The win here is they switch it for you!

Time to book your next holiday…

Seventy Ten Travel 

Ed and his team are experts in all fields and will be able to curate a holiday for you saving you money at the same time.

For holiday ideas, explore the Travel section on TLM.

Thank you letters to write…. 

Small Signatures 

Gorgeous personalised writing paper for both kids and adults. My current stationary crush.

Small Signatures

If you have a pile of kids art work you don’t know what to do with… 

Barney & Wilf

Send off your prints to Catherine & Jennifer and they will draft artwork of all your kids artwork collated onto one big print. Genius and brilliant.

Barney & Wilf

Have old clothes to sell… 


Choose a cause for the money for the items you sell to go to. Great way to fundraise too.  Read more here


Looking for a new car… 

Car Sleuth 

Choose your next family car with the help of the team at Car Sleuth. Read more here 

Need to sort out your photos… 

Ella’s Books 

Send Ella all your photos and she will collate them into a beautiful hard back book for you.  Read more here

Need a shared diary.. 

Cozi Family Organiser 

I don’t think life would work without this app that both Alex and I have on our phone. Each family member has a coloured spot so we can see exactly what everyone is doing each day. It even has to do lists which we happily write on eachothers!!



Realise kids need new school shoes… 

Cece & Me 

Sam can pop over to your house with a selection of kids shoes and measure and provide the perfect pair!

Need your car washed at your convenience…


Ecofriendly waterless car wash that comes to your door. Read more here 


Have a property in London you need managing… 

A & L Property Solutions 

It’s one thing running your own house, but if you (are lucky enough to) have another property to manage it can all be too much. Contact Amelia who will be able to manage all aspects.

Looking for a nanny or nanny share… 

The London Mummy Network 

Join my Facebook group specifically set up for you to share what you need.

If you are looking for a caterer, artist, tutor or even organising a kids party – have a look at The Ultimate Directory for swathes of personal recommendations in lots of categories.

Please keep recommending to me, I love to hear and share!

Have a great day


Lucinda x

Gift Guides Reviews Services

Children’s Oil & Charcoal Portraits with Samuel Francis

Deciding on who to paint what will inevitably be passed down to the next generation and so forth, can be a tricky one. Should you go oil or pencil, traditional or contemporary, capture the kids at the same time or at the same age…. Having the children painted by a portrait artist has been on my ‘to do’ list but it had never made it to the top until recently, when I was introduced to Samuel Francis.

This is where the lovely Samuel Francis can help. Samuel has drawn and painted from childhood and started to specialize in portraiture from an early age. These years of experience show in his beautiful portraits, in which he uses charcoal and oil paint. His approach to portraiture is based on simple draughtsmanship that results in a timeless yet informal feeling to his portraits.

Samuel came up to our house in Hampshire to meet the kids and do a pencil sketch and take some photos to work on to complete the finished piece.

Samuel Pencil

One of the most profound quotes from the day was his reply to my 8yr old commenting on his pencil sketch, that it slightly looked like him

‘At the moment it is half you and half stranger and I am going to take it away and make it look 100% like you’


And he certainly did, not only did he physically capture him, he really captivated their personalities. We agreed on the photo from which to work on, the colour palette to suit the room they would be hung in, and the size.

I dressed them traditionally in the same hue so they could be hung together. The colour of the frame brings them out beautifully and altogether.


We are yet to paint the house so the cool colours of the paintings didn’t work on the ‘magnolia’ walls above the fireplace, so we had a reshuffle and for the time being thought they looked best in the TV room. This is not their final resting place, I wanted to hang them up to correspond with this post so you could see the whole process!


Having two children himself, sam has a very natural way with the kids and the whole process was really fun.


He is a true professional and his communication throughout was brilliant – he sent me the finished paintings on whatssapp so I could suggest any changes – not that I needed to!

We are so thrilled with the paintings and highly recommend Sam to paint your kids. I am thrilled to have got them all done at the same time as it captures them at a moment in time as siblings and we were able to get the proportions and colouring correct. I urge you to call Sam and get cracking, they won’t stay young and angelic forever.


Sam has a few slots left before Christmas – so get them done as a Christmas present for your other half!

07542 023614

Reviews Spotlight

SmartMats : Keeping Kids Mealtimes Fun and Interactive

Let’s not judge the family next door who are letting their children play with their iPads during mealtimes. But oh, the family next to them are really engaging with their children.  Aren’t they good parents. Oh look at that family, that kid can’t sit still however his parents are trying his hardest to amuse him… and so on. Oh that family is dreadful letting their kids run around the aeroplane (so us…)

We can all identify with each situation and if there was a solution to having calm happy kids in a restaurant or aeroplane – we would all know about it.  Until now, when there is an answer!

I recently came across the genius idea of SmartMats – quite simply, educational and interactive paper placemats.  Nathalie, the founder of SmartMats is here to tell more…

What are SmartMats?

Brightly coloured paper placemats which redefine kids dining experiences. SmartMats engage with kids through interactive and dynamic subject matter. Parents are kept happy too with the educational content of the mats.


We are also a socially aware company. Social responsibility is very important to us. We give 10% of our profits to the NSPCC and only use 100% recycled paper.

Why did you set up SmartMats?

As a mother of three young children I saw and studied the considerable physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family mealtimes. With this often came the challenge to create a positive experience away from technology. SmartMats enable children to interact with each other and their parents through the use of a fun, unique, educational tool. Creating fulfilling family mealtimes and expanding children’s knowledge.


Who are SmartMats designed for?

SmartMats are aimed at children between the ages 2 and 12. They are divided by age group, 2-4, 5-7 and 8+. However, each mat has a drawing and colouring section which can be enjoyed by all ages.


SmartMats can be used at home, in restaurants, hotels, airplanes. These mats are filled with games and activities to keep kids busy, happy, and off screens!


We used them after swimming and they were particularly useful for our mixed age group.


How Can We Buy SmartMats?

SmartMats can be purchased directly from the website  and are also sold on The Event List 


If you are looking something to keep the kids entertained whilst also mentally stimulated  – get a pack of these for the summer!!


Natalie’s Favourites

Shop : Hours are spent at Daunt Books in Marylebone High Street. The kids love sitting in the corner of the shop on the little chair and trying out various books before buying.

Website : I spend much too much time browsing Net a Porter as well as Trip Advisor.

Restaurant : River Café on the river in Hammersmith for special occasions. I also love The Fromagerie in Marylebone for a quiet breakfast away from the craziness of London life. The kids love the pizzas at a small pizzeria Olivetti.

Hotel : As a family we have spent many, many happy times and adventures in the treehouses in Chewton Glen. Situated in the New Forest in Hampshire. Being outdoors and hiking in the beautiful, lush countryside and having picnics on the nearby beach is perfect.

Holiday Destination : Each time I visit Venice I am amazed by its rich history, beautiful architecture and the wonderful Italian culture. Above all walking between the canals and exploring secret passages is so much fun.

Parenting Tip : What you do has a far greater impact than what you say. It is important to lead by example through actions, not just words.

Activities Days Out Family Life Places Reviews

25 Things To Do With Your Child This Summer

As I enter the first Monday of the summer holidays without any plans, trying not to switch the TV on – this post from Emily at Kings Tutors is so helpful, I am devouring every suggestion. Have a look at her ideas – you will be so enlightened!


Take it away Emily…

It can be difficult to keep a child entertained for a summer, but with this list of fun, educative and healthy activities, you should find the task somewhat easier.

Reading Challenge

Head to your local library and see if they are holding a summer ‘reading challenge’. The summer reading challenge uses various rewards to motivate your child into reading 6 books over the summer break. If your library is not holding the challenge, you can always create your own. More information about the reading challenge can be found here


There’s an app for that

There’s an app for almost everything these days and summer activities with kids are no exception – explore app stores for ideas. Lots of these apps will involve outdoor activities, so you don’t need to worry about spending a day staring at a screen.


A fun evening activity, it is best to stargaze on clear nights and in areas with low light pollution. Don’t worry if you don’t worry if you know nothing about astronomy. You can find apps, websites and magazines to teach you and your child the stars.

Get lost in a maze (and hopefully find your way out again)

Find your nearest maze, let your child lead the way, and see how long it takes before you eventually find your way back out.


Find some wildlife to enjoy and to learn about. This could be in the zoo, an aquarium, a farm, or just in your back garden.

A day at the beach: a timeless classic

If you want the day to be somewhat educational, spend some time looking for shells and wildlife. There are also lots of urban beaches around the country now too, have a look online and find a more convenient and local way to enjoy the sun and sand.

Fruit picking

Another way to make healthy eating more fun. Whatever it is you go pick, your child will be more enthusiastic about eating it than they would be if it was shop bought.

Cherry picking

Board games

Pause the video games and take a break from screens, take the time to play some board games. If you want a more educational game than monopoly, there are lots of options out there.

Visit a cave

Do you know your stalactites from your stalagmites? If not, head to some caves and learn something new with your child; if you do, head to some caves and enjoy feeling knowledgeable while your child learns something new!

Grow something

Whether it be fruit, vegetables or some flowers, children will take pride in growing something, will learn some gardening skills and, if it is fruit or vegetables will be willing (at least try) to eat it.

Science experiments

There are lots of simple, fun and educative experiments to do from the home. This video is full of ideas.

Practice a new language together

There are lots of ways to learn some basic language skills, including apps, books and videos. You could help your child with some vocabulary they have learnt at school or try something entirely new with them. If you are lucky enough to be travelling abroad over the summer you could try to learn some of the language skills you might need; children will love having the chance to practice their skills on holiday.

Write a book or story together

This doesn’t need to be anything particularly long or spectacular, but it can be a fun and productive way to get creative and practice writing skills.

Take classes/lessons together

Everyone can always learn a skill and everyone can always get some more exercise, so have a look at what classes and lessons are offered locally. Leisure centres always have lots of options.

Scavenger hunt

Plan a scavenger hunt around your house, garden or beyond. Use clues as a way to practice educational skills.


There are lots of ways to make crafts fun – you could go for a walk and make a collage from items you find on the way or you could use crafts as a chance to re-use and recycle.


Educational, free, and out of the rain, museums are always a great way to spend a day.


Fossil hunting

This could be slightly more difficult because it can’t be done anywhere, but there are lots of places across the country which are suitable – just make sure you know your ammonites from your belemnites!

Have a smoothie day

Spend the day making smoothies. This can be a fun way to eat healthily and to sneak some fruit and vegetables into your child’s drink.

Summer sport

There is almost always some sport happening over the summer. See what’s on and try to get your child interested and see if they would like to try a new sport.

Bird feeders

Bird feeders are easy to make as this RSPB guide shows and they provide a great opportunity for your child to engage with nature.

Look local

Have a look on your local newspaper’s website; it will be full of local activities and events which are happening across the summer.

Outdoor cinema

Every summer there seems to be more and more open-air cinemas popping up around the UK. A trip to one of these cinemas is great for the evening; they often show family-friendly films too.

Art galleries

Let your child attempt to draw their own versions of the classics and teach them about the exhibits (or find a tour guide or brochure to teach them instead). Art galleries are often free, too!

Fly a kite

An old-school option, but always fun, especially if you make the kit with your child before flying it! This CBBC video might help you get started.


Kings Tutors are leading Private Tutors in London so if you are looking for a tutor to keep your kids brain ticking over this summer, contact them!

Reviews Services

Dropless : The Eco Car Wash That Comes To You

Do you judge people by the state of their car? I was driving a friends child the other day and they actually said ‘your car is really dirty.’ I almost swerved! Where on earth did he get that from?  Having a clean car comes 3rd after house and then children (in no particular order) but when do you get yours cleaned?

  • At the supermarket? My car was actually declined last time I tried this as it was too muddy!
  • A ‘Mega Car wash’ in the back of a car park? What do you do whilst they are washing it?
  • An old school travelator car wash? Hmmm, it seems so indulgent using all that water and what are they actually using on your car.
  • Or a good old hand wash at home with a hose and a bucket? Nahhh.

This is when Dropless takes all the benefits of each of the above and brings a convenient, eco friendly car wash service to your door.


It was as easy as –

  • book online at a time to convenient to you
  • meeting your Dropless guy outside your house
  • getting on with your day
  • wait for him to return the keys when he is finished!!

My car looked and smelt wonderful.

I was thrilled.

At a time when we want everything on demand, Dropless has arrived at an excellent time for busy people.

Spotless car

So, What Is Dropless? 

Dropless is a car washing service that uses 300 liters less water than a normal car wash by using special Advanced Nano Solutions which are completely eco-friendly and non hazardous.



How Did It Begin?

Back in the summer of 2017, Mike, co-founder of Dropless, kindly lent his beloved Porsche to his wife, Bella, to head to a local music festival in style. After returning to her busy life, with a rather filthy car, Bella turned to tech to find a suitable on-demand car wash to quickly get Mikes car back to its usual showroom shine.

To no avail.

So, Dropless was born.

The pair knew immediately that due to the heightened need for convenient time-saving services and the worlds growing concern for being eco-friendly, Dropless was going to be a hit.

With that, Christian and Mike got to work and quite quickly the company was up and running!

Who Uses Dropless? 

Since week one, the company has been on a wild growth ride, supporting Mums all over London and Surrey, and now supporting the likes of Chelsea Football, Harlequins Rugby, P&G and Sony.

How Does it Work? 

Everything they need for a full days work fits inside one of their duffle bags!  This means no heavy van full of water causing extra pollution, their guys travel by car, bike, scooter, even public transport!


The guys are soon to launch their premium valet option that includes a seat shampoo, leather clean and protection, and a second nano wax coating!

The nano solution is sprayed directly onto the car, this lubricates and lifts dirt from the vehicle surface that is then removed from the car using microfibre towels.  The product also contains carnauba wax, also know as the Queen of Waxes, which gives the car a high gloss finish and layer of protection against further dirt and grime.

Helping Others at The Same Time

Partnering with WATERisLIFE to help save water and save lives.

In today’s world, over 780 million people still don’t have access to clean water and millions of litres are wasted each day at traditional car washes! Dropless donates 10% of all profits to WATERisLIFE to help build sustainable drinking wells and provide drinkable filter straws to deprived areas. Each Dropless customer is helping to make a huge difference, and we will keep you updated on all the progress you’re helping to make.

Dropless are offering you all a 25% discount if you use MUMS25 when booking online.

I highly recommend it!!

Pricing (before 25% discount) 

Outside Wash & Wax = £15
In and Out Valet = £25

Areas covered:

All SW & W1, W2, W8 and Surrey postcodes KT10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17