How I got to Machine Learning from Studying Adulthood Success from Childhood

There were lot's of topics at the World Economic forum that were spot on, but one very close to my heart shined.  His talk fused what might seem to others to be a dichotomy in what I do: tech and childhood!!!  Tech and Childhood Impact - that's my why.  My why is to impact the next generation because of what Jack Ma crystallises very well.

We have to teach the things that make us different to a machine, and when you understand what those things are it makes solutions for AI and machine learning very powerful.  For teaching it is not about knowledge, memorising and data; a machine can do that better.  Jack points out we have to teach:

  • Value
  • Believe
  • Independent thinking
  • Team work
  • Care for others

He conveys that these topics are learnt in sports, music, painting making sure we teach things that are different from a machine. On a competition in knowledge between man and machine knowledge it will beat us!  I work in tech and even have my own tech company, but what got me here was the understanding from data on the key to success in adulthood.  I would go further to say the correlations for success sit in: creativity, make believe play,  active play and interactive virtual play.  The ability to imagine solutions for problems that may not even exist yet.  We need to look at learning through play.  It is not just the education system that is holding us back, but the stifling of parents and the lack of time they have bogged down in work, chores and the red tape of society.  My key focus now is:

  1. Use machine learning to give parents and particularly mums more time to impact childhood play
  2. Inspire, influence and empower creating ways to learn for the next generation
  3. Apply Tech in a powerful way across industries to make an impact on society for that next generation

A Letter to my younger self - The Power of ‘YES’

Baby Bed Time, Moon And Starry Night

I'm teaching my kids about the Power of Yes.  Here's my personal story to the unplanned 'Yes' and one very few people know.

Whilst many people were in awe of the full moon on the 31st, as was I.  The super moon also marked a key milestone in my life.  It’s been 10 years since I left England with 2 suitcases for Switzerland.

Very few people know the true story of how this black girl versus tech ended up in Switzerland, with a hubby, 2 kids, an awesome job, tech company and inspiring the next generation by giving Mums more time with my APP WhatifIhadaPA, as well as exec board member for girls in tech.

If I could go back I would tell myself to say ‘yes’ sooner and see what happens.  The day I said ‘yes’ everything changed, and I truly believe it can for you.  I was recommended to a head hunter for a job I was told in Zurich.  I went in and sat down with Luke the head hunter, asked me how do you feel about moving to Zurich.  I can honestly reveal I thought the job was for ‘Zurich’ as in the insurance company.  I said ‘yes’ I’m used to travelling as a consultant.  The interview went really well, and the first thing I did was ring my Mum afterwards and say ‘Mum I think I am moving to Zurich.’ 

I take every opportunity in my stride, and even if it seemed a huge step or ask.  I break it down to key must do, and actions.  This ‘yes’ and mind-set changed my life in every single way. 

1.     Moving abroad was not as expected.  At first it was lonely it is not like being a consultant, if you want to integrate you have to NOT fly back every weekend.  You have to connect with locals, learn the language and create a village.  I’ve done that learning German, teaching yoga, doing my doctorate, founding my company, putting down routes and we will go for our Swiss Pass this year.

2.     Moving abroad meant I looked at the world with a different lens.  Everything and everyone was unfamiliar.  So rather then have my head in comfortable friendships, I had to look up and connect.  I’ve fostered new friendships, business collaborations and got married to the most amazing man I know!

3.     The world is as small or as big as we make it.  I work and act globally to make an impact.  We move between Switzerland, France, Denmark and the UK and this year we travel the world, and I work further on Machine Learning and Block Chain in a way that will disrupt globally.

In a way I should thank the mishap interview, but also my Mum and Dad for brining me up with the mind set to go for it; with 'Yes' to the unexpected you can thrive.  My second 'Yes' came when I called my Mum and I really wanted kids, but life was not working as perfectly planned.  She said to me 'there is no perfect time to have children, life does not work like that. If you want kids have them and it will work out.'  That it did Mum!  

I listened and the day after my husband proposed on an escalator in Copenhagen when of  course I said yes (I will leave that for another blog), I had a gynaecologist appointment.  After examinations of a lump in my breast he did a full examination and told me I was pregnant.  We were married in 3 months!

If you ever have a hesitation on a decision, think what is the worst thing that could happen.  Your next step could be life changing. Yes can be such a powerful word, if you know it is right go for it.

I literally still call my Mum every day – but nothing surprises her!

Dr. Chantelle Brandt Larsen Founder WhatifIhadaPA saving Mums 2 hours a day!

Behind a Successful Woman is also a Strong Man

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There's a saying we hear often behind every strong man is a strong woman.  My experience has been that the flip side is also true. 

I never had success the way I have it now.  Previously it was false success. I was in a very senior role, six figure salary, apartment with a Jacuzzi; but lonely.  My husband came into my life just as I was about to turn 30, and I certainly would not have been able to found a tech company, hold down a full time job, run, do yoga, be a mum and wife without him.

The story of finding my husband will let everyone know the right person is out there, but I will leave that for another time (I did say at one point I would be a nun)!!! There are clear things he does that have enabled my success.

1. He is comfortable with fierce successful women, and in fact has always encouraged me to go out and slay everyday in what I am passionate about.  In fact, as a viking (Danish) he would just say in the old days we would go and send our women to fight with us.  This mind set frames every conversation we have as an equal, or that I may be going into battle first.  The decisions we make are about what is right for the family and not about egos.  He is comfortable with me earning more, and is more concerned with our passions and happiness.

2. He draws me back to the important things.  He keeps me true to what is important even if I am passion orientated and we speak every night.  In those conversations he is so good at holding a mirror on the importance of the little things, family and let's just say he has the best humour I have ever come across.  So even when things are tough I go from my office to his and I get perspective, and often come out with a smile.

3. We enrich each others goals.  If we consider a big or significant goal we talk it through.  We talked through the decision to undertake a doctorate.  Recently reached one of our dream goals together, we both wanted and visioned a place in the South of France where we had time as a family, and we finally did it.

4. We are a team.  Sometimes life does not go as planned but the other one is always there.  We have a aim to be at the dinner table each night as a family it is our time contract as a family.  There are times when we need each other to share the load for a doctors appointment, a school event, something happens in the middle of the night with the kids, pesky chores that cannot be automated or just give one or the other times because there is a peak at work.  We are there for each other.  Motherhood for our family is also parenthood and that involves both Mum and Dad.

5. We debate and give each other a sounding board.  Ever since I met my hubby we talked and debated the world to rights.  We met by accident on a roof top bar and after many mojitos and steak tartar we looked up and the whole place was empty.  We often read different things as he reads the Danish newspapers.  He is able to get me thinking in different ways on each of my goals.  I remember when I was formulating the App he was getting me to think about points of the design, and getting me to have members of the Facebook Group test out functionality.  I've also got into coding, so now we are both geeking with Python together.  Sometimes our worlds come together, and even when they do not the diversity of thought makes us better together than we are apart.

6. We cuddle up at night.  He's a late owl and I'm an early bird, but we somehow still seem to find each other at night.  When I wake up in the morning I have so much gratitude when I see his face, and often one or two of the kids have snuck in.

Chantelle Brandt Larsen, mum of two and founder of WhatifIhadaPA

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10 Top Tips: How to Study and be a Mother Working.

Education parents and inspiring the next generation.  Working with other Mums at a workshop in Zurich to focus on 1.  Sensemaking for our children which develops their cognitive ability, leadership, personality, G.R.I.T and ultimately happiness. 2. The biggest statistical correlation as mothers care and protection, and 3. Understanding, observing and resolving the main challenge TIME!

Education parents and inspiring the next generation.  Working with other Mums at a workshop in Zurich to focus on 1.  Sensemaking for our children which develops their cognitive ability, leadership, personality, G.R.I.T and ultimately happiness. 2. The biggest statistical correlation as mothers care and protection, and 3. Understanding, observing and resolving the main challenge TIME!

Just before having my second child I decided and discussed with my family to study a doctorate. My husband chuckled in his typical danish humour 'you never stop wanting to learn' and I rebutted 'is that a bad thing.' 5 years later and it was the best thing I did for many reasons. Not least I found from my passion a way to help other mothers, and my 'why' was to give more women time in their day.

If you are a busy mother working and you are making the choice of can I? Shall I? You may find my tips and learnings useful.

1. Assess if it’s right for you and your family?

a. Sacrifice

• Ask yourself what you want to do and why you want to do it? In that process challenge yourself really why, and are there other ways to get there? An academic qualification may not be the only way to achieve your goal. Then if it is what you want, are you willing to give up your time when the children go to bed? Are you willing to give up some of your time with your partner? Is it worth it? Dependent on your answer it may be that it is not the right time.

b. Passion (1)

• Are you passionate about it? If you are not – do not do it. Life is too short to waste time on the things that we are not passionate about.

c. Routine

• Do you have a routine that would enable you to study?

• Do you have structured sleep times that you can guarantee regularly time to study?

• Do you know on the whole your kids sleep well? So that you have energy to focus.

• Do you have regular travel times on public transport that facilitate regular reading and or study time? Or do you have any other time that is not being utilised?

If the answer is yes to the first two points, then you can organise the time resources necessary. The final bullet is a bonus. It may not be how other students might work, but 2-3 hours a night adds up to 14 – 21 hours a week.

2. Initial Investigation

• Investigate what possible courses are available that provide different options: location near home, online, opportunity to defer, mixture of assignments and exam, the languages you can take it in, past students outcomes/ successes (call the course supervisor or dean), resources and cost. Analyse and prioritise the option/s to discuss with your support framework.

3. Support framework

• Ask the same questions about sacrifice to your family: partner and kids, and are they willing to support you? It has to be a joint decision because if not the times when you need to have your head down to get an assignment finished and are unavailable could lead to resentment.

• Is there anything that you can add to support you? Can grandparents help? Can you afford outside help: a babysitter, au pair or nanny? Think these things through because there is a lot of time involved.

4. Cost

• It may not be cheap! There can be scholarships available but be realistic because parenthood is also not cheap. Research funds and make a budget plan accordingly.

If you that you are willing to make the sacrifice, identified that there is a routine that would facilitate study and support. Then move on to the next stage ‘Design’

5. Design in a way of working that will make you successful?

a. Where

• Pick the physical or virtual location to study that makes sense to you. I choose to study in the city that I now reside. I sometimes travel with my job, so as a family it would be an extra burden to go away to university weekends. There are 11 compact weekends in total, but each one I am home for breakfast, and to spend time with my family in the evening. A work colleague suggested going to Copenhagen to study, but what was more important to me was limiting the impact on my family. Secondly, a doctorate is not marked as traditional exams or coursework. Essentially your body of work has to be accepted by the experts, so in this context the place became irrelevant. This may not be true for all qualifications, but it is something to take into account.

b. Organise

• Go through and request the timetable for the course that you decided on. Put all the assignment dates in your diary, and make a plan ahead of time that allows you to meet the deadlines. Strangely, 1 single man has dropped out the doctorate and 2 people have been late with assignments out of 9 people. I am not aware of their full circumstances, but what works for me is the scheduling of completion in advance. I cannot afford to wait until the last minute. I have to dedicate time to it regularly; no excuses.

6. Tools

• If you haven’t already you will need a dedicated machine just for you and your study, and I highly recommend an Ipad with a kindle app, or kindle. The ability to read anywhere and everywhere that you have a free moment means that you can maximise your research and analysis time, boosting your productivity.

Use Your Network

• Mummies are the most powerful and resourceful network. We all make choices and I know Mummies who are blissfully raising their children that were lawyers, copy writers, teachers, HR Directors, CEO’s and the list goes on. Reach out for help. I needed someone to proof read my research proposal. I stopped counting after 8 people stepped forward. The value they added was colossal, because they provided a second pair of eye’s to: grammar, clarity and even built on the process.

7. Do it in a way that makes you successful.

8. Family

• Check in with your family how it is working and if there anything that would help each other? Overall my family is so proud of me. There have been times where we have had to make sure that we both get a break.

Reality Check

• The good thing about studying later on in life is actually I am no longer an anal perfectionist. I work hard at it and do many drafts, but there is a point where I say ‘that assignment’ will have to be enough as I want to play with my son and daughter.

9. Passion (2)

• If you are doing a thesis make sure the topic is what you are passionate about. My topic is how to develop talent in children. When I was on maternity leave with my second child I was so engrossed in the subject that I would sit down to research, and then before I knew it, it was time to pick up my daughter from kindergarten.

4. Be clear what success looks like, and it is not what you think!

10. Outcome

• Be clear that this does not define you. It may help you to get to a goal but success does not come in the form of a job title, or degree. How you live, experience life and the difference you make to the people you meet is success. It could be as simple as you need a mental challenge, or you want to make a difference in a certain field. So if this helps you in how you live and experience your life then go for it.

The original article was actually published during my studies, to help and support other mothers.

There are two outcomes from my study:

  1. Research on adulthood success from childhood, to put it short parental attachment is statistically significant.
  2. What I did not have was automation of the crappy, pesky chores or the things that drain time.
Running workshops even when your own children still need you.  Role modelling to be there for your children giving them the love and safety they need and make a difference in the world.

Running workshops even when your own children still need you.  Role modelling to be there for your children giving them the love and safety they need and make a difference in the world.

Graduating a Dr, Thank You to My Mum and Dad

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Graduation day which seemed so hard to get to, but never impossible. The first sentence my dad taught me, and I repeat it to my children is 'there is no such word as can't.'  It's a powerful value as there is always a solution, there is never a point where you stop, you just find a different way.  So I graduate a Dr. but it's because of my Mum and Dad that I am here.

To do the thank you justice I need to rewind to my family history to let you know how big of a deal it is.

A Generation of Change

In not so recent history even in 2017, there are generations that had: no access to education, carried wood on donkeys and even if they were educated did not get the opportunity to explore, discover or excel in their passion; that's my parents.  Yes we have entrepreneurial-ship and people can find ways to make their impact; they both did.   However, let's not pretend that there are not Mums and Dad's who have done everything for the children to put a roof over their head and send them to school.  

My Mum was born on a tiny island called St Helena where she collected firewood by donkey.  She came to the UK to be with her Mum (who was illiterate) but actually put her out on the street at 15, and from that age she fended for herself.  She gave me so much love, safety, security and support that she herself never had.   She did all this between working shifts at a health company, Oxfam and then finally setting up her own business with my Dad.  She would go to the butchers in the days of the strikes at the factory, and ask for bones for the dog, and with that she would cook the most amazing healthy soups and casseroles.  I look back and I never wanted for anything I actually needed.  At Xmas I was so happy with the warmth of the family meal, top of the pops playing and my stocking of clementines, nuts and if I was lucky 1 small toy.  We may not have been able to afford much but we had so much love.  She gave me what she never had.

My Dad came to the UK when he was 8 from a tiny island in the Caribbean called Anguilla.  He studied hard until his A'levels and started work at Rover as a foreman.  My Grandad Herman Edwards was an activist (where do I get it from ;)) who opened The Black House, which was a half way house to get young black people (mainly men) socially mobile.  I visited the Colin Jones exhibit when it was in London some years ago to find out more myself, and even found John Lennon's involvement.  My grandad gave us a large family, there are 14 uncles and aunties that I know of and have visited all over the world (he left my gran and was very popular with the ladies).  My Dad was raised by his Mum alone and he has done everything for us.  He was the Dad working at 2, 3, 4, 5 am in the morning to keep a roof over our head when interest rates were at 18% and then to put me through university, and my sister through drama school.  He was the Dad that appealed to get me into the best school in Oxford.  He stood up at the appeal and called out the lack of the diversity at the predominantly white school, and on appeal we got in (I'm an identical twin).  He was the Dad who went without on top of his day/night jobs, to pay for extra tuition in English and Maths.  He knew that as a black female: education, education, education would give me access and social mobility.  He gave me the chance that he did not have.

My friends would say what are you studying now.  Whilst I agree university is not everything, there are many ways to get up the mountain, this is great from a point of privilege.  When you live in a world where you are at a disadvantage due to the colour of your skin, and I will leave that for another post, education is another gate that can help the path that you choose.  When my Dad used to say you will have to work harder than everyone else, you may be smarter than everyone else but you still might not get the job, as a child I didn't really comprehend what he meant.  As an adult who has had 17 years career experience of what he said, and a now a Mum, Dad I understand your words of wisdom.  I cannot even put into words what you have done for me.


All of those lessons that you taught me, have made me into the person I am today.  Even though my mum was chucked out on the street at 15, she still visited her Mum and even took care of her when it mattered.  My Mum truly taught me to treat others as you wish to be treated, even when they have not done the same to you.  To take that higher road and turn the other cheek.

Skill Sets

My Dad gave me that sheer gravitas, and when they both started the business he involved me in everything.  I did their accounts from the age of 9.  I interacted with customers from an early age and helped with strategic decisions.  All of these things set me on the path where I am today.  I made mistakes for sure and that was okay, as long as I learnt from them.  I was allowed to go clubbing from 14 as long as I completed my responsibilities at home and at school.  It makes me laugh now, as I was savvy in making sure that homework and cello practice was done, that I could still serve breakfast to guests and cook the Sunday dinner; after a great night out.  I was not raised in a bubble, I was raised to be a strong independent woman who could take responsibility for decisions good or bad; but take risks and make the decision!  He taught me to take risks, and I did.  I have taken risks my whole life from financial transactions, business ventures and moving abroad living in Switzerland.  I have learnt from each one and some have been hugely successful and others failures.  Success was not the point, it was the confidence to navigate the facts, make and decision and execute.


Doing my doctorate in my 30's meant my Mum and Dad were not paying, but their support was there.  Working and living abroad has it's issues particularly in Switzerland where childcare is more than interesting.  They invest 0.2 GDP in childcare so the mother is very much expected to be at home, whilst the kids come home each day for a home cooked lunch and most days finish school at 11:50.  So having a full time job meant studying everyday consistently between 20:00 and 23:00 and on the weekends.  There were peak times when my parents came over and helped  my husband and I with the kids.  As grandparents I couldn't ask for more, and their daughter they still gave me exactly what I needed.

Playing it Forward

So when the graduation ceremony application came and I could only have 3 people in the room, I knew in my heart I had to have 5.  I wrote back to the university to explain why my parents had to be there, but also why my children had to be there.  If I could give my kids just one ounce of what my parents have done for me, and play it forward.  I would be a great Mum.  Mums raise and inspire the next generation, but we are here because of our parents.  So thank you Mum and Dad because of you I graduate a Dr. and am part of a fantastic Alumni here in Switzerland.

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Final Viva and Call to Action

So today I have my final Viva, and I have all kinds of feelings.  I passed all exams and aced my Thesis so I am heading into the Viva in my style, I love storytelling but most I love action.

I started my research when my daughter was less than 1!  I started out by looking to research cultural difference in leadership, but frankly a) it had already been done and b) who really cares.  Well I do,  but seriously the world has bigger problems.  When you're a Mum things change and there are bigger questions I wanted to impact.

'What in childhood impacts our success at adulthood, and by success also happiness?  What is going to impact my child's happiness?

The research itself measured statistical correlations between 2 independent factors Sensemaking and Parental Attachment, and the dependent variables of Cognitive Ability, Leadership, Personality, G.R.I.T and Satisfaction with Life (aka Happiness).

As I present it back I will tell the story through a mothers eyes.  At the time of the research my son was not even born, but at Christmas he had a moment.  He was continually playing Monopoly in Danish with his sister  always won.  One Christmas we got a new Monopoly in English (we often have a set of 3: German, Danish and English).  This was different as the demonisation of the currency was '1's' instead of '100's.'  He won!  Here you will see him dancing around his favourite toy the transformer.  He just had share joy on his face, he's now building lego technic and coding at the age of 4.  That's where a lot of my research resonates and has changed my world, and theres.  What is that magic transformer that engages, raises and develops little minds in childhood?

1. Sensemaking has different capabilities as I discovered in the quantitative research, and correlations to developing a childs capabilty.  For example, constructive play and make believe play correlate to leadership differently. Make believe play should not be under estimated as the research identified.  What I also observed post research in the Monopoly game, is the level of sensemaking has to be right.

2. Motherhood care and protection has pretty much correlated everywhere in the quantitative research, and together with certain sensemaking has statistically significant correlations.  Fathers only correlated from sensemaking 'interactive play' like board games to cognitive ability.

3. The lack of time that Mums have was a factor observed in the qualitative research. This was a key barrier to sensemaking and motherhood care and protection, which correlated to the success of our children in adulthood.

When I decided on my Doctorate, I wanted not just to research and have a piece of paper.  I wanted to make a difference.  So when I deliver my orals this is not the end of the journey.  Giving mothers the tools, the community to change policy and their lives, and technology to give them more time is what I walk into that Viva with, and walk out with the journey not being over.

Talk is great but a call to action is more important.  Giving Mums or Moms more time in their day.

The Day Before the Final Exam


Today I took a day out of work, the app, coding and the Mother Unplugged 2.0 summit to focus on one thing.  Tomorrow I have my Viva, the oral defence of my thesis, this is the final exam for 5 years of work. The thesis has to be a Times New Roman word document (kind of boring), but I could not help to allow the presentation to authentically reflect who I am.  To walk into that defence as me.  My preparation has been:

1. Meditation: This morning I did a 10km run and light yoga.  These are my forms of mediation and it got me in the place to disconnect all the other 'me's': mum me, corporate me, friend me, wife me and just focus on Dr. me.  As mothers we play so many roles in life, and we need to look at the space for each.

2. Story Telling Whats my 'Why?':  One of my favourite Ted Talks of all time is Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action.  I started with my 'why', my passion and why it's important.  At the time of my doctorate my son was not even born.  However, I start with the first words the university Dean said to me 'study what you are passionate about.'  I looked at my son in complete joy at beating his sister in junior Monopoly.  He had tried so many times in Danish (currency is in 100's DKK), German (currency is in 10's Euros) and English (currency is in 1's and 2's GBP).  He won, it was the right level for him to make sense of the game and beat his sister.  At the bottom of the picture you see on my screen above, you see a transformer, and he's not looking at me.  He is totally partying with his transformer.  Now he's coding lego We Do himself at the age of 4!  That special ingredient to success in adulthood is my research over the last 5 years.  What are the variables that define success in our children later on in adulthood, their: cognitive ability, perseverance, leadership, job satisfaction and happiness.  So that's the story I will tell, of course research led but from the point that matters.

3. Practice mummy brain: I've practiced so much today but 20 year old me is not the same as 39 year old me.  Pregnancy brain even when your child is 4; is an actual thing!!!  I know there is research on depleted oestrogen levels, but I don't even need that to tell me my memory recall is slower.

Tonight,  I know I've done as much as I can.  Mentally, physically, my mindset and knowledge is walking into that room tomorrow.  Incidentally I am 1 of 14 students who started in 2012.  Of those 14 students there was only 1 woman and 1 mother; me.  Many have found it too tough and dropped out or have extended again, and to date only 1 has graduated.  This year myself and another colleague who is a CFO and ethnic minority should graduate.  Fingers crossed!!!




4 Tips for Legoland Germany


1. Staying Over Night.  The Legoland Hotel was something special.  I had images of sleeping on a lego bed, but it was a normal bed; ha ha!  The decor however was so great for the kids, with little pieces of lego art everywhere, and lego to play with in the room.  The only thing is you had to book a breakfast sitting.  We do like to just chill and get up to our own beat, but that was not possible.  We booked the later setting and we had a late check out, but it felt restrictive.



2. Birthday booking.  I booked a birthday package and was not disappointed.  They made a birthday room for my daughter, she had her own bottle of birthday bubbly to share with her brother and friends, as well as a birthday present.  It was super special and made her day.


3. Separate parts shop.  This is where my husband got his big kid on, and came into his own element.  So to say the family a lego fanatics is an understatement.  We like to build cars, canons, catapults and anything that can be concocted in the imagination.  So in the lego shop you can buy multiples of parts, some special parts are restricted to a 100 grams, but if you are there as a family, you can still get what you need.  It's well worth a visit if you are looking for certain parts that you don't necessarily find enough of in lego sets.  The kids are also into We Do and code what they want their creations to do, you can see videos on my instagram.

4. VIP Gold Pass Token.  I know it's costly but it was worth ever penny.  We never waited for a ride and did all rides in one day:Ninjago was so cool.  If you can afford it, I would highly recommend booking a gold pass.  You reserve a ride and when it beeps you walk into the entrance, the max we then waited was maybe 4 minutes.  Time is precious!  My parents were with us for this trip as it was my daughters birthday, and we both said "we never had this in my day", but they loved it.  My 66 year old Dad kept hoping onto all the rides.


The only thing that could be improved was the food, like most theme parks the food is much to be admired.  The food however at the hotel in the evening was very good.

Top 5 failures turning negative energy into success

Turn negative energy into success

Turn negative energy into success

This weekend I'm preparing for my Doctorate Viva which I give on the 7th September.  It's been full of ups and downs, even the weekend marked that.  My daughter feel down the stairs and of course she's my first priority so the time to prepare did not go as planned.  I didn't think I would need to take the day before off of work but now I will.  That pretty much outlines how I have learnt from previous failures to say it's ok to postpone (I postponed for 1 year) and it's okay to make sure you have time for yourself and your family mentally and physically; health and memories are more important given failures in the past outlined below.

1.  One GCSE D.  I got almost all B's and C's and 1 D. Ultimately years later who cares I learnt a lot about understanding the world, solving problems, since got my A'Levels, 1 degree, 2 x maters and 1 x doctorate.  You can fail but that's not the end of the story, what do you love and how do you want to excel at it; there are many ways to get to the top of the mountain.  There is not one route to take, and it is not a race.  Treading your own path and not comparing yourself to others is enlightening and has led me to so much personal growth.

2. My first business I founded '' I learnt a lot from this venture, gained international exposure and mentored almost 50 designers, some of which have gone on to achieve great things.  Ultimately was it profitable enough to live on? 'No.'  The cyclical nature of the fashion industry was hugely expensive with continuous shoots, PR, IT and frankly I could have had a more effective business model with social media as it is now.  What did I learn: to be social media savvy, tech/coding/my own site instead of paying massive bills to website builders, I had the balls to put myself out there and I knew how to contact people and build a brand.  As I was pregnant with my first child I decided to call it a day and start a fresh, walking away with my authenticity and knowledge that I helped to grow some amazing talent.  

Fast forward and now I am launching the App (launching soon) WhatifIhadaPA App.  A productivity app for a Mums pocket to save them time.

3. Being made redundant. Let's face it, it sucks you give everything to your work and the company misfortune lets you go.  I lost my job twice in my life.  The first time it empowered me to start my business, and know that a job is not a certainty; so I never let a job define my life.  The second time the headquarters closed in Zurich, and I was pregnant with our second child.  After that, I had this calm that I've been there before and I can start anything from scratch.  I found a job in tech, and then a job of passion and purpose which is what I am doing now, defining and designing digital solutions (since I was young my talent was high puzzles and brining people together to do it, so I've learnt to orientate to my passion spaces).  Work does not define you, you define it and your life.

4. I was at Bikram yoga training in 2010.  I stood up and explained my concerns about the training on quality, harassment, language that was being used about gay people, misogyny, bullying and what he called fat people.  As I stood up to feedback to inappropriate behaviour, I was shamed down, it was the most shaky experience. Years later the truth started to come out about how systematic this was, and that was only the tip of the iceberg.  Bikram was faced with allegations of rape and sexual assault.  At the time of writing this there is a warrant out for his arrest.  The community was broken, with death threats and bullying happening outside of training.  I never just stand and watch injustice, but at that point and in that time I was not heard and failed to stop what happened in training.  I choose to not give up and do something about it and started a petition for Bikram to step down, and after courageous efforts by brave women; he stepped down. Activism is part of who I am, and right now I am working on projects that support Motherhood Unplugged 2.0 in this generation, and change systemic racism.

5. Men.  It seems silly to put men but I had so many failures here to get to my soul mate; seriously I could write a book!  Here are some of the highlights: I moved in bought a house with a man that then revealed he had been lying to me for years, and was 100,000's in debt.  Then I was with someone who told me he was gay.  The final straw was on a 1 year anniversary I was told 'I have something I need to tell you.'  I thought at that point he was going to break up with me, instead he proceeded to tell me 'I'm married and I have a daughter.'  I felt sick and dizzy and ended it.  Shortly after I moved to Zurich Switzerland and was at peace with myself and God to be happy and single.  I exhaled when we had that conversation.  Then I met my now husband Morten (I will leave that story for another blog). What I can say to any other woman out there is that it should feel effortless, and it did.  I married my best friend, my soul mate, the person I giggle, snuggle, netflix, travel and do everything with.  I never had to think is he calling me, does he want 'x' or second guess anything. It was just simple.

Failures are part of life.  It may seem corny that every failure has an upside, but you can choose what to do with negative energy or failure.  The greatest successes come from our failures and these are mine.

Life Long Learning Means That You Constantly Evolve

#StudentSpotlight: Chantelle Brandt Larsen

I was featured in Moms Can Code as soon as I came back from holiday.  It was such a surprise they contacted me in Austria, and I didn't get the chance to post. On 16th September I graduate and can say I am Dr. Chantelle Brandt Larsen.  My best friend said can you stop now.  For me I constantly learn it keeps my mind fresh whether it' a new language, concept or coding. I'm a life long learner who constantly evolves, but also makes it difficult for people to define.

Chantelle Brandt Larsen

I started Coursera’s “Machine Learning” as an extension of my Master’s in Applied Business Research and now love the more pragmatic data science boot camp on Python. I fell in love with getting behind the scenes, and making the patterns happen myself. I’ve gone from a world of data that I did in my doctorate to understanding how to build simple algorithms. I’m progressing each day. It keeps my mind fresh, and I’ve been able to shape my own future.

- Chantelle Brandt Larsen, mum of two and founder of WhatifIhadaPA

Follow Chantelle and WhatifIhadaPA:  

Website • Facebook • Instagram • LinkedIn • Twitter (Business) • Twitter

Life long learning bridging the journey in Motherhood, Corporate Intra-preneur, Entrepreneur and Founder in Tech

Life long learning bridging the journey in Motherhood, Corporate Intra-preneur, Entrepreneur and Founder in Tech

Beetroot Hummus

Beetroot Hummus topped with roasted pine nuts and it tastes divine.  

Beetroot Hummus topped with roasted pine nuts and it tastes divine.  

Hummus is one of those easy go to's, so full of iron and I make so many different flavours.  One of my favourites is raw beetroot and it's so simple:


  • One tin / jar of chickpeas
  • A teaspoon of Tahini
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Half to One Lemon - taste 
  • Maldon Salt two pinches and then add to taste
  • 3 good pours of Olive Oil
  • A small raw beetroot peeled


  1. Drain the chickpeas add to the food mixer. 
  2. Add the tahini, garlic, lemon, salt and beetroot
  3. Pour in the olive oil to have the right consistency 


21 Top Tips for Date Weekend/ Week in New York

1. Johns Coffee Shop for breakfast with the locals


2. Breakfast at Jacks Wife Freda 

Lush fresh and healthy bowls.

Lush fresh and healthy bowls.

After a healthy bowl I of course indulged; rich but devine!

After a healthy bowl I of course indulged; rich but devine!

3. Jimmy for an adult night out, the ability to lounge, a roof top pool and view

Late night drinks in Jimmys with my bestie, we flew in from Zurich and she flew in form Oxford.

Late night drinks in Jimmys with my bestie, we flew in from Zurich and she flew in form Oxford.

Art installation as you go up to Jimmys.

Art installation as you go up to Jimmys.

4. The Waverly Inn we ended up eating here twice filled with art character drawings you have to pay a visit, great food and a little yard where the carriages used to come into New York.  Steeped in history.


5. Speak easys where you can buy home made gin, protruding brick walls when you walk around greenwich village.

Walking around there was so much history in the architecture that was unexpected.  Rich in history you just have to open your eyes.

Walking around there was so much history in the architecture that was unexpected.  Rich in history you just have to open your eyes.


6. Rockafella for the art deco and the Rainbow Rooms


7. Empire estate building

8. Statue of liberty I'd seen before, it was a foggy day and my bestie wanted to see.  It was the funniest inveigling moment when you could see nothing it was so bad. Note to everyone do not go up on a foggy day, but when it is clear the views are well worth it.  We did have such a laugh though!

9. Time Square - from the Marriott gives you 360 views of the city without the hustle and bustle

One picture in Time Square then up to the 360 views of the city with cocktails.

One picture in Time Square then up to the 360 views of the city with cocktails.

10. The High Line started as a regeneration project by 2 individuals, and the community then restored and regenerated the space along the high line.  We had a relaxing walk all the way along, and enjoyed finding exhibits and just letting life pass us by.


12. Little Italy and China Town for a little of the cultural make splashes, street art and maybe grab a coffee in Little Italy.  China Town had become very run down from when I was last there in my teens but still work a look.

The different feel of the village at night.

The different feel of the village at night.

13. Bath Tub Gin had great cocktails, but you need to book to get a table.  It was so packed we decided to leave after a few cocktails.


14. The Musket Rooms highly recommended, it was one of our favourites the food was amazing.  If you follow me on instagram you will see I could not choose which dish to post, so I posted them all.  Well worth it.


15. Ta Combi recommended for dinner and drinks, it was so fresh and so cheap mexican food with a great ambience.  

Great little Mexican so fresh, cheap and full of atmosphere.  We visited here twice as it had such a buzz at night.

Great little Mexican so fresh, cheap and full of atmosphere.  We visited here twice as it had such a buzz at night.

16. Caribbean gourmet try the banana bread from Heavywoods Bushwick.  We were so full after Jacks Wife Freda we walked, found a Danish artisan bakery my husband wanted to try and then Heavywoods.  The banana bread was so delicious, and we saw the other guests dishes that next time we will definitely book there for breakfast.

We walked a lot sometimes 20,000 steps on my Apple Health App this was on the way to Heavywood, and you find so many little gems like this.

We walked a lot sometimes 20,000 steps on my Apple Health App this was on the way to Heavywood, and you find so many little gems like this.

17. Central Park walking central park was great, the restaurant very over rated.  I would pass. We did it for the a friends 40th, but the other restaurants we visited were far more delicious.

18. The 9/11 memorial.  This was one of the most somber places I have been, but the memorial and the never ending hole that it has left is a place to reflect.  You can then head to the financial district, which is weird as the commercialism and divides in the world are kind of depressing/


19. The Intrepid Museum.  I'm married to a geek but even I got lost in this museum for the good part of the day.  It was fascinating not just the machinery, but all the stories and how they lived during the hanger in World War II.


20. Shopping.  Of course my Marc Jacobs broke which was a disaster.  However, Macy's was run-in a 25% reduction of everything.  That was just half a day of buying more than a bag.  I discovered Rachel Roy, just how do we not have that label in Europe! People trees and basically you will find a lot of your favourite brands in New York. I basically topped up my wardrobe as I never get to shop and try things on in a shop (online shopping is typically my go to as a mum). 

21.  Go to the main station and look up at the stars.  Keep an eye on your pockets, but you will find little finds like these.


I can't breastfeed and I am ok with it not killing me.

After going in for what was supposed to be a minor surgery, I was signed off for 6 weeks recovery.  This was then, and now I am so much fitter and healthier thanks to being pain free.

After going in for what was supposed to be a minor surgery, I was signed off for 6 weeks recovery.  This was then, and now I am so much fitter and healthier thanks to being pain free.

This is a hugely personal event in my life, but typifies where I am in my life, living my truth, authenticity and vulnerability. I actually just finished writing an email to a role model mum Meg from from and there was a reason this email was so important that I had suppressed.

In December 2012 I gave birth to my second child.  I spoke with the hospital and explained that I could not breastfeed.  As a teenager I had a breast reduction as had my sister and mum.  However, for some reason with her operation she could breast feed, and mine not.  We are identical twins and were somewhat of a phenomenon at birth as we were born with breasts, so you can imagine the size of them in my teenage years.  This was not a cosmetic choice they were large, grew so big, so fast with stretch marks and back pain and I was still a kid myself; so I made the decision with no regrets to reduce them.  I knew the risks and having children meant possibly no breastfeeding for me. 

Fast forward nearly 20 years, I tried to breastfeed the first with no success.  I was okay with it but Swiss society was not. The nurse at the hospital told me to drink sage tea, and would not give me any pills to stop the milk coming. My breasts just got harder and harder like breeze blocks.  The kind of bricks that you use on the inner walls of an extension before you lay bricks, it didn't matter how much tea I drunk.  I tried the hospital several times but with no luck. I rang my old gynaecologist and he told me to get to the hospital ASAP.  I'd moved Kantons (we moved districts before moving birth), so I still had the old contact.  I was lucky.  I was on the verge of sepsis. I was treated and managed to get back to good health or so I thought.

For the next 3 years I struggled around every period my breasts would be so painful, and a big ball would grow until I relieved it.  I was in chronic pain, pain that I never had before and embarrassed that the only relief would be to squeeze stuff out of my breasts.  My kids would come and give me a hugs and I would screech with pain. Eventually the hospital operated, and scraped everything out behind my nipples.  I went in for what was supposed to be a few hours and ended up being 6, my husband said he was so worried.  I remember going in and feeling grateful that God gave me a chance to be a Mum, telling him my family would be there if he needed help, and that I was the luckiest to have him. These are moments as a Mum where words do not do it justice.  After the operation I didn't care that my nipples were flat, it was a relief that the pain went away and I was lucky to be healthy, alive and able to run, do yoga and cuddle my kids.  I have a pain free body!

Why am I sharing this.  Well motherhood is not all highs, it's also lows. Many of us cannot breastfeed, or even have low milk supply. When I found milkmeg I thought I wish I would have had access to that.  As a young woman for advice on my future, and as an expat who can contact a lactation expert globally.

I'm blessed because both my kids are super healthy, smart and happy.

5 Tips for Antigua Guatemala

1. Rum.  The bars in Antigua and Guatemala City are full of amazing rum, I'd never tasted a Mojito like it

2. Visit The Plaza Central Park and chill out.

3. I recommend you stay at the Monastery not only a great hotel, but steeped in history and great food.

4. Cathedral de Santiago is picturesque inside and out.

5. The street markets are full of interesting cloths, food and jewellery.  You d get a lot of people approaching you so be prepared to say no.

I was down to do a trek on one of the volcanic mountains, but my our son got sick with an ear infection his health was obviously more important.  What I experience of Guatemala was amazing and is on my list to go back.

The architecture in the old church was amazing

The architecture in the old church was amazing

Expect regal religious relics and catholic symbolism

Expect regal religious relics and catholic symbolism

Inside the monastery was fascinating and we had a delicious meal there, I wish we would have stayed the night.

Inside the monastery was fascinating and we had a delicious meal there, I wish we would have stayed the night.

Religious symbolism on the streets

Religious symbolism on the streets

9 Top Tips for Date Weekend in Porto Portugal

1. Intercontinental Hotel Porto.  The intercontinental suite was amazing. We have an ambassador card well worth the investment as your room is always upgraded so our suite was amazing!  The weekend was so special, with lay ins in luxury and a late night jazz bar.

View from our hotel room

View from our hotel room

2. Walking around all the architecture.  When we are away even with kids, or on a date weekend we love just walking around.  Life has a different pace just taking the cultures, people, smells and architecture in. Porto has this amazing blue and white tile work.

The blue tiling facade which is everywhere and just gorgeous 

The blue tiling facade which is everywhere and just gorgeous 

Fantastic architecture everywhere just explore!

Fantastic architecture everywhere just explore!

3.  There is an old small bookshop that was so cool.

Loved this book store

Loved this book store

4. The railway station.  The art work in the rail station was well worth a visit, beware of pick pockets as ever.

Inside the train station

Inside the train station

5. Restaurant ODE okay so in porto I fell in love with molasses bread and sheep cheese, you will no what I mean when you visit.  This stuff us phenomenal.  I got the concierge to book ahead as these restaurants really get booked up.

6. Restaurant OPaparico.  This was out of the way but amazing. Again I got the concierge to book.

The entrees in the restaurants were always so fresh, having some sheeps cheese again!

The entrees in the restaurants were always so fresh, having some sheeps cheese again!

7. River tour.  We did the 6 bridges river tour, just relaxed back and soaked in the atmosphere. The  buildings were interesting as you could see the lack of funds to invest or renovate, but there was still so much beauty in the place. 

The 6 bridges boat tour where you get to see the buildings in their full beauty, but can see the renovation needed.

The 6 bridges boat tour where you get to see the buildings in their full beauty, but can see the renovation needed.

Just 2 of the 6 bridges.

Just 2 of the 6 bridges.

8. Port tasting. We went tasting port after the river tour and it was so smooth.  

We tried the port at Porto Calem

We tried the port at Porto Calem

9. Tour of Porto we took the bus tour and in some ways got to see the whole of porto, in others it was such a short weekend, we wish we would have stopped a bit more between stops especially the beach,

The bus tour took us past beaches and fishing men.

The bus tour took us past beaches and fishing men.

A C section is not easy and does not determine the second birth

My first birth was an unplanned c section, let me tell you they are not the easy way out!  After 64 hours of: pushing, going on all fours like a cow,  being shoved to try and move her, hubby going to sleep 3 times, 3 midwife shift changes, my daughter was so distressed from continually getting stuck as she tried to find her was out her heart stopped, and had doctors rushed in to restart it. I was in a queue behind two emergencies, but I finally had a c-section.  I had practiced and taught yoga until the day I went into labour, but my contractions were off the charts.  They had not seen anything like it and I opted for an epidural, but then the contractions themselves were not strong enough for her to get out.

Our best friend did a video in Switzerland and sent it out to our friends, it was funny as one of my friends remarked how could you let them take photo's of you like that.  For me that's the reality of child birth, there was no spa and sudden make up. Child brith is sheer primal motherhood where I did not sleep for over 3 days and kept going, as my one focus was to get my daughter out safe.  

After I eventually had a c section I could not stop shaking uncontrollably.  It was a feeling I've never had before, as well as crying with tears of joy. What I looked like was far from my mind having my daughter safe and healthy, and being a mother which changed my life for good was part of that sweaty and exhausted photo.

When I was pregnant with the second the gynaecologist was sceptical of a natural birth.  I was prepared to do what meant my son was safe and healthy, but we would try.  This time I opted for no epidural, and just gas.  The only thing was they had none!!!  I had moved kantons (the Swiss equivalent of districts in the US or shires in the UK) and in the process silly me assumed all hospitals were the same.  The moment the doctor told me, I looked at my husband and said what the F***.  He just said 'it's too late now,' we laughed and I just decided mentally to suck it up.  He came out in a few hours it was so quick. 

I'm obviously not a doctor so of course listen to your gynaecologist, we all want our babies to be safe and healthy.  My story was that my first birth did not determine my second, and their is no easy route only the right route for Mum and baby.


3 Tools I taught my daughter to make friends (when she had none)

Starting school or kindergarten can be a challenging time if you do not know anyone.  Even if you made all the best laid plans, and attended nursery (Kita in Swiss German) in the same village where you children build friendships.

When my daughter started school she was put in a different class then all her kindergarten friends.  It was heart breaking as she spent 5 years making friends and then suddenly she was on her own.  As a Mum I approached the school but they had their rules, and you could not change classes (there were 5 classes in total).  As a Mum I also knew that this lesson would come at some point, so as tough as it was: making friends, networking and being ok with ones self is a key skill in life.  My daughter learnt this lesson early on and we navigated it together.  

I will not say it was easy as initially in some ways it hindered her German as she would come home crying, and withdrew a little.  Secondly, she went to one extreme attempting to get everyone to like her, now as she starts school she has the balance just right.

The key was a bit like we make friends and connections as adults, 'how to win friends and influence them'.

1. Empathy - we talked to her about how the other children were feeling. How did she think other kids felt that did not know her, 'did they know anyone' and this helped her to identify that she was not alone.  That other children might also be feeling the same.  We worked on treating others the way she would like to be treated.

2. Observing - we talked to her about observing what people were doing, looking at their interests.  She could then see what other people were playing, and look at either playing with them or getting others to play together. She actually became the master of this, and leads groups into playing activities together.

3. Acting on commonality - acting on a commonality, so once she observed an interest and could influence what to do with that and act on that commonality.  Sometimes this meant she may play what she wants, and others it meant compromising or joining in something new.

Today 2 years later we have a different child.  It was not easy but she has the confidence in new surroundings, she can go into a place where she knows no one and she's thrives and has started to navigate the difference between true friends and acquaintances.  In some ways I wish she did not have to learn this too early and in others we don't get to pick the lessons we have to help navigate in motherhood.

Growing up in a different country, different language and giving children tools to make friends when they have none

Growing up in a different country, different language and giving children tools to make friends when they have none

Badenfahrt the festival that happens only every 10 years (kids perspective)

Badenfahrt is the festival that happens only every 10 years.  It's a unique, special and I would even go as far to say spectacular festival in Switzerland.  There is an eclectic mix of music, food, bars, exhibitions, fair grounds and activities. 

My kids favourite things were:

1. Kids disco

2. The fairground had so may rides for the kids from mini rollercoasters, merry-go-rounds, water-balls, heater shelters and the list is endless

3. Music stages (we attended the free ones but you can pay for access, and also go at night)

4. The book bar and cafe to chill out

5. The children's association area with circus equipment to try and climbing

My tip is to take a spare water bottle.  Switzerland is full of free fountains and at 4CHF a bottle its easier to fill up.  We take the kids everywhere as we have no grandparents here; the kids love it.  We will go to Badenfahrt again before it closes for a date night, but even in the day the atmosphere was amazing.  The bands were buzzing and in Switzerland everything is pretty safe.  Of course things are crowded so always keep an eye on the kids, this is just the nature of being a mother.

Street art between Badenfahrt exploring the main stages and sections with the kids, there was music galore: soul, jazz, folk, rock....

Street art between Badenfahrt exploring the main stages and sections with the kids, there was music galore: soul, jazz, folk, rock....

So many fair rides for the kids

So many fair rides for the kids

A children's area with circus school, climbing walls, skate park and an imagination treasure trove for kids

A children's area with circus school, climbing walls, skate park and an imagination treasure trove for kids

5 reasons not to miss the Glauker Festival (Magical Festival)

The Glauker festival is one of a kind.  We discovered it about 5 years ago as the kids were allowed to touch, feel and see performing arts, magic and real imagination.  This year there were 5 reasons not to miss it, and here is the pick of the best bits:

1. The kids having to make their own candy floss, nothing in life that is worth it comes without hard work ;).

You have to ride for your own candy floss

You have to ride for your own candy floss

Nothing in life comes for free

Nothing in life comes for free

2. See and hear a band of geese, this is the stuff of fairy tales and here anything is possible for the kids.

3. Ride a self powered train.  Last year it was a self powered carousel that was just magical.

4. Robot giraffes out of Africa.  These were life like Giraffe robots making their way down the middle of a historic Swiss town, the kids were in wonderland.

5.  There are so many performing artists, clowns and acts not to miss.

Look out for this festival in 2018.

5 Essential Morning Mum Routines

1. Apple Cider Vinegar 

The first thing I do when I wake up is go downstairs boil the kettle. Whilst I'm waiting:

  • 1 desert spoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 squeezes of lemon
  • circa 5 Mls of boiler water
  • circa 5 Mls of cold filtered water

I drink this and it balances me, my PH and digestion and has worked wonders for my energy and skin.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother)

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother)

2. Run/ Yoga/ Mediate

So as a working mum I know it's not always possible to ring fence time, so it can depend on the day or maybe the nights sleep that was had.  What I do have is even if it's 5 minutes mediation, downward dog or more ideally for me a run and yoga.  After one of the above my energy levels are on peak for the day, if I have not down in the morning then I make sure I do a session at lunch.  I would be lying if I said as a mum life always goes as planned, but I've found a healthy habit is easier with a diversity of practice and making it achievable, as opposed to punishing the body for some unsustainable routine.

After a run I also do some yoga and kettle bells

After a run I also do some yoga and kettle bells

3. Coconut Oil - Teeth Pulling

I got into teeth pulling 3 years ago.  I wanted a more natural way to fight cavities, maintain and improve gum and dental health.  

  • I take a spoon of coconut oil when i finished my run or practice, and literally swim it around my mouth.  
  • Pushing and pulling it the coconut oil in and out of my teeth with my mouth closed for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Typically, I am still teeth pulling whist showering, doing my hair and getting ready.  
  • Sometimes, I use the floss tips at the same time or before for an extra clean.
  • Finally I gargle and spit it out into tissue or kitchen towel in the sink, so it does no block the drains.  Then straight into the bin.  
  • Finally, I scrub my teeth.
Organic Coconut Oil

Organic Coconut Oil

4. Salt (when needed)

8 or so years ago I got an infection from a spa, and to say I had acne was an understatement. It left my face badly scared,  After several treatments to the dermatologist which did not work the one thing that did was salt!  Just ordinary table salt.  None of the fancy kind which i normally cook with, but just cheap as chips table salt.  If my face needs a bit of an exfoliation or brighting (now only now and again). 

  • Splash warm water onto my face to open up the pores
  • Take a handful of salt and gently rub onto the skin
  • Rinse with warm water 
  • Finish with cool water to close the pores
Salt (just normal table salt)

Salt (just normal table salt)

5. Olay with SPF

I gave up using fancy cream. My husband has tried to treat me to posh creams, but honestly the best cream that works for me is Olay.  However, what ever your cream moisturise ideally with an SPF inside.

Oil of Olay

Oil of Olay

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