Five minutes with … Carmel Allen, Kiss It Better

Carmel Allen, founder of Kiss It Better, with daughter JojoIf there were a nonstopmama of the year award, we’d be honoured to give it to Carmel Allen, founder of the Kiss it Better appeal for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH). A former beauty editor, Carmel came up with the idea for the campaign, which raises money for research into the causes and treatment of childhood cancer. Carmel’s daughter, Josephine, was treated for neuroblastoma at GOSH, which treats one in nine children with cancer in the UK.  All funds raised by Kiss It Better – including the sale of Clinique’s limited edition Long Last Glosswear SPF 15 (£13) in I Love Kisses, available now at House of Fraser stores – help to fund specialist nurses, enabling more children to participate in clinical trials.

With Kiss It Better now in its sixth year, how do you feel about the way the appeal has developed?

Of course I feel proud of Kiss It Better, but I always feel I could be doing more and want to push it further. Survival rates for children with cancer are improving all the time, so here we have a really positive message to send out: children getting better through pioneering research and great care. Josephine is testament to this and every day I feel proud of her and in awe of the doctors who work and research childhood cancers.

The Kiss It Better website explains that  childhood cancer is the biggest disease affecting children today. Do many people not realise this, have you found?

Interestingly, I’ve found people do know how big the problem is – and how it’s growing. Only in the past year I have heard of two other children who are suffering from cancer (one from leaukemia and another from a neuroblastoma), so it’s not difficult to get support and encouragement from other parents who are keen to help.

Working so closely with GOSH, how have you seen the funds being raised making a difference?

When a child is treated at GOSH, they go back for check-ups regularly. So, every time Jojo and I go and see one of the doctors, we bump into former patients who are doing well – like us -and that is a constant reminder of how successful the treatments can be. But on top of that there are some real, blow-your-mind-away moments too. Like the special piece of kit Kiss It Better help to fund which allows lots of samples of blood to be tested at the same time. I can’t explain it properly, but one of the research doctors explained how they used it to compare samples from twin sisters (one who had cancer and the other who didn’t). Up until then, the hospital was unable to do this kind of comparative testing. When they could, the work they did helped them make a breakthrough in understanding why supposedly identical cells behaved differently.

Along with Clinique, how have other companies got involved?

They are all on the website, but in particular I love Cafe Rouge and the Almanac Gallery cards – which are sold through Waterstones – as Josephine has designed one of the cards each year and her designs have always sold really well. Obviously, as a proud mum I’m chuffed to bits about that!

What else can people do to get involved and help raise funds?

Clinique I Love Kisses lip gloss for Kiss It BetterWe’d love everyone to hold a Bake It Better coffee morning or cake sale at school. It couldn’t be easier and lots of celebrity cooks, including Sophie Conran and Sophie Dahl, have given their favourite cupcake recipes to help draw attention to the campaign. What’s so special about it is that children can help other children this way, as they often hold cake sales at school. It helps them become aware of childhood cancer and how they can be involved.

As a nonstopmama yourself, how do you manage the juggle and find time to keep fit and relax?

Last year, I bought a bike and cycle to work a couple of times a week now. That’s made a huge difference. And reading – there’s nothing I like more than putting Jojo to bed, then putting myself to bed a few minutes later with a good book and a mug of Horlicks. I find I really need a couple of really early nights each week to be on top form.

The Kiss It Better appeal is sure to go from strength to strength. Do you have any special plans for the future?

Yes – so many ideas, but never enough time. I’ll keep you posted – there are lots of things coming up!

To donate to the Kiss It Better campaign online, click here.

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Hats off to Ollie & Agnes

Ollie & Agnes Little Vegetable Patch hatsWhen Ollie & Agnes dropped nonstopmama a line about their new Little Vegetable Patch hats, we had to show you them straight away. Handmade to order in acyrlic wool (so they’re quickly wash-and-wearable, and won’t languish at the bottom of the laundry basket each time they fall in a puddle), the hats cost £18.50 each and come in strawberry, apple and pumpkin. Part of the spring collection, catch them at while you can – and it’s still nippy enough to need them!

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nsm Food: Slow cooking for novices!

Crock-Pot Slow Cooker at Robert DyasThe first time, it felt weird – making dinner at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning (not helped by fact that the tin opener had broken, the clock was ticking and I couldn’t prise open the chopped tomatoes).

But when the smell of veggie chilli bubbling away in the slow cooker started wafting through the house by lunchtime and, hey presto, there was something not just edible but yummy to eat by 5pm (when I’ve usually forgotten about getting dinner going), it was as if the domestic Fairy Godmother had visited.

Yesterday, I bunged half a bag of lentils, a roughly chopped onion, spoonful of tomato sauce, cubed bacon and garlic – all raw – into a pot after breakfast and called home to say (running late as usual) “there’s some soup ready ” – rather than “stick the oven on, I’m just nipping into Waitrose for a pizza” – when hunger and crankiness were kicking in late-afternoon. Too grown-up.

I have my friends Cheryl (domestic princess, on top of it) and Lisa (from Texas, equally organised and makes a mean Chicken Enchilada Casserole, taken from to thank for introducing me to the slow cooker thing. For interested nonstopmamas, I’ve been using the Crock-Pot 3.5 Litre Slow Cooker, currently on sale for £19.99 at Robert Dyas. It comes with a booklet featuring recipes, but, of course, you can find endless ideas on-line. And do share yours here!

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Five minutes with … Sinitta

Sinitta supports the Disney Princess Dance campaign

You can take the girl out of the Disney Princess phase, but you can’t take the Disney Princess out of the girl. Nonstopmama of two Sinitta is supporting the launch this month of the Disney Princess Dance initiative in collaboration with The British Dance Council. Participating dance schools nationwide are hosting special sessions teaching the new Disney Princess Dance, created by choreographer and former world champion dancer Lorraine Drolet (click here to download a list of schools involved).

Part of this year’s Dancing On Ice line-up, Sinitta started her career on the West End stage, with starring roles in musicals including Cats and Masquerade.

What’s the Disney Princess Dance campaign all about?

It’s a great idea that aims to encourage children aged six and under to give dancing a go with a fun, easy to learn dance routine. The dance is inspired by the Disney Princess characters – including Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty – and has been created with the support of the British Dance Council.

As a mum of two young children, you’ll understand why the idea of learning a special Disney Princess Dance will be hugely appealing …

It’s a fun way to help keep children fit and healthy. Trying to get children interested in something is hard, but the appeal of Disney characters is timeless. My daughter Magdalena loves Cinderella, while my little boy Zac likes Aladdin. I think of him as my little prince!

Do you find it a challenge, juggling your busy schedule with family life?

Definitely! I’m always find it challenging, as I’m sure most mums do. I do really try to find time for myself and, amazingly, I do get it.

How do you keep in shape and what helps to keep you glowing?

I regularly do ice skating, Power Plate and Trixter Exercise Bike workouts. I also have One Healthy Habit, a drink with antioxidant mangosteen juice.

How has becoming a mum changed your life?

Being a mum has almost entirely changed me as a person. I don’t just have to think about myself now, I have three of us to consider! I would probably say the worst bit is the worry and the best bits are the kisses and cuddles!

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Blooming lovely

English Rose Bunting, from Wisteria Gifts, DorsetSpotted in the new issue of House Beautiful magazine, nonstopmama loves the wide range of sweet gifts and home accessories available online from Dorset-based company Wisteria. This small, family-run boutique has a great eye for gifts and goodies with a Shabby Chic/vintage/retro feel, from ornate mirrors to tealight holders, blossom fairy lights to English Rose Bunting (£10.99, pictured). Brilliant for a virtual browse …

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