Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Geronimo Family Festival - a fun family day out, this weekend!

Ethan turns three next Thursday and our celebrations start this weekend as we are going to the Geronimo family festival.


Geronimo Family Festival - To Become Mum



I've never been to a festival like this before but have seen so many other mums share their festival fun over the past couple of years and it looks like such a great way to spend a day.

Geronimo started last year at Tatton Park in Cheshire and this summer, it's going to be held at both Harewood House, just outside Leeds, from 1-2 May, as well as Tatton Park, 29-30 May - so, both Bank Holiday weekends are covered!

Two of our best friends live near Leeds so our whole group have invited ourselves to stay at theirs this weekend. And, even though one of them will be celebrating their birthday on 1st May, we're heading to Geronimo for a fun day out.

That's what godmothers and aunties are for!

In fact, they're almost as excited as Ethan about seeing the real life Mr Tumble...


There's an exciting range of things to see and do, for kids of all ages (even 32 year olds).


Here's a few highlights:

For the pre-schoolers:
For anyone 3ft and under, there is a great line-up of experiences tailored for the little ones including: The Tumble Tots Play area, Baby Ballet, Baby Massage, Soft Play, Baby Yoga, Little Tiddlers Soft Play and Moo Music.

Combined with live stage shows from TV favourites including: Justin Fletcher (on Sunday 1st May and Sunday 29th May dates only), Mr Bloom, Cook & Line from Swashbuckle, Andy Day and Alex Winters, Geronimites will be enthralled and entertained all day.

For 5-12 year olds:
A firm favourite at last year’s Geronimo festival, the Adrenaline Zone is a sure-fire hit for boys and girls who like a thrill. Featuring fencing, archery, zip lines, Mad Drop, Monkey Do, Parkour and Slack Lining.

The Live Circus Shows in the Geronimo Festival Circus Tent include live shows from Circus Fudge, with Circus Skills Workshops for budding performers. Visit the Aerial Trapeze show if you have a head for heights!

Geronimo’s theatre shows will engage and entertain with shows from Les Enfants Terrible, The Town Band of Bremen, Jedi Training, Pocket Story Theatre Company and John Campbell.

The Geronimo Arena is a must-see for all ages including: Falconry, jousting, motorcycle display teams, mountain bike show, sheep dog show, geese display and Cheshire dogs display team – all hosted by Dam Simpson from Fun Kids!

With much, more including:
Face Painting / Live Music / Victorian Fun Fair / Silent Disco / Baby Rave / Roller Rink
Drumming Workshops / Kidz Kitchen / Arts & Crafts / Boomchickkaboom
Crocodile Joe / Rent A Beast / Petting Farm / Den Building  / Graffiti Workshops
Camel Rides**  / Donkey Rides / Giant Tortoise / Ferret World
Zumba Classes / Bollywood Lessons / Science Made Simple / Clay Workshops
VIP Puppets / Junk Orchestra / Hair Braiding / Mask Making
Stone Carving / Cookery Classes / Henna Workshops / Forest School


I CAN NOT WAIT to see Ethan's face when Mr Tumble comes out and think he will be excited about Andy Day and his Dino Rap show, Cook and Line from Swashbuckle and the Frozen singalong in the Library Zone most of all.



It's going to be such a fun packed day - one day tickets are currently available for £25 each (under 2's are free), plus two day tickets are also available for £40 at the moment - and with two teacher friends in tow, I think we're all going to have as much fun as the (nearly) birthday boy.

With this crazy weather I'm not quite sure whether we are going to be in sunnies and enjoying a picnic or wrapped up warm but I know it's going to be a great day out for all of us.

Tickets are still available - maybe we will see you there...?
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Monday, 25 April 2016

Our lounge update plans

In less than two weeks, we're taking a sledgehammer to our ancient, hideous fireplace and it's something we can't wait to see the back of. It's been here for decades, no doubt, and the old gas fire and stone surround is being taken out and off to the tip, giving us a chance to rethink the layout.

We're going to paint the wall in question a bright yellow shade (Bumble Bee to be precise) then position the large Kallax unit in the centre, with the smaller two Kallax units either side. This will create one wall for all our entertainment and storage and the effect of two alcoves to work with.

At some point, we may also be able to get another small sofa or armchair, but otherwise the room will be opened up and have a fresh new look.

So, I've been thinking about adding some new finishing touches to again make the room feel fresh and to reflect our tastes.

Here's what's on my list...

Alphabet LED lights, Next, £18 each
Clipboards, Amazon
Ringblomma blinds, Ikea, from £13 each (these are going up in the lounge, bedroom and dining room)
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost print, Etsy
Tezz Limestone gloss wall lights, B&Q, £18 eachRoald Dahl quote print, Etsy
Cloud mini moodlight (so cute!), Bea and the Boy, £9
Mini teevee, Bea and the Boy, £34

With the wall unit moving position, it will leave one wall with nothing next to it or hanging up so having seen a few things on Instagram and Pinterest, I've come up with a creative solution. I'm going to create a collage of wooden clipboards hanging on the wall, with a mix of favourite quotes and photos clipped on. To tie in with the tone of the carnival light letters and the armchair we have, I'm going to also add some copper washi tape trim to the bottom of the boards for a quick customised look. I think this is going to look really cool - but I haven't yet decided on whether to have these as an ordered collected of same-sized boards or a more eclectic arrangement.

I'll be sure to share with you photos on Instagram in progress, then a post after the makeover is complete, so you can see the difference before and after.

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Thursday, 21 April 2016

An update on my almost 3 year old

I can't believe that it's close to the end of April. This year has flown by and in two weeks time, our little boy will turn three.

THREE!

He's changing at a rate of knots - I swear that most days, when I've picked him from nursery, it's like he's learnt at least two or three new things. The things he says and understands amazes me and I am just so proud of him. He understands emotions and picks up on everything, so I don't think we'll be able to get away with talking about anything in front of him any more...


He's doing well at preschool and talks about all his friends and what they did during the day and I've even arranged a couple of play dates as we don't have any friends or family with young children and it would be nice for him to see his friends more.

Toddlers are well known for being fusspots when it comes to food. Ethan's been pretty good with food ever since we started weaning him at six months; he took to it pretty quickly and I was able to make my own purées and get him onto more substantial food with relative ease. And we haven't had too many trials with giving him meals at home.

Until recently.

For a long time now, we've been amazed at the variety of foods he seems to guzzle at nursery with gusto. Raisins? Not a problem - at nursery. Just try and give them to him at home...

Whether I make meals from scratch or pop something more instant in the oven or microwave, I'm never sure what reaction I'm going to get. A meal he loved the day before suddenly is the worst thing I could have put in front of him. And some days, just calling it 'lunch' or 'dinner' sends him into a fit - with him saying 'I DON'T want dinner Mummy, I just want something to eeeeeaaaaaat!".

Sigh.

Of course, we don't have nearly as much difficulty when it comes to biscuits and chocolate - unless, that is, we tell him there are none!


We're eating most evening meals at the dining room table now and I'm conscious of showing him that we (more often than not) are eating the same things as him, as my theory was that at nursery, all his friends are doing it. Think peer pressure for puddings.

I think we have got to the point of realising it is just a phase. Like so many things. We can just try and try again. So I'll keep on making portions for him to see if we can tempt him (my jambalaya went down quite well at the weekend) whilst having a few back ups to be on the safe side.

I recently came across Kiddyum - a range of ready meals that promise to have no nasties and a good dose of veggies - and quickly bought one of each option to stock my freezer up.


That's three real plus points of the range for me; 1) no preservatives, 2) good helping of veg, 3) convenient, as freezer meals will obviously keep longer so you can use what you need, when you need it.

You can choose from five different meal options: Cheesy Peasy Pasta, Macaroni Bolognese, Cottage Pie, Fish and Veg Pie and Chicken Curry and Rice. Pretty standard meal options, that most children like - pasta is always a winner with Ethan, so Kiddyum is a safe bet for him, but hopefully there will be some variety added to the range soon.


As with most things Ethan eats, I had a taste myself and thought the meals looked good and had a nice flavour to them. The meals look appealing - although the cheesy pasta is a little bland to look at - and sometimes, that's half the battle.


Ethan did well one day, eating most the pasta, and not so good the next day. But that's toddlers for you!



Available from Sainsbury's from around £1.90 per meal, and taking just four minutes on average to prepare, I'd recommend Kiddyum and, despite how changeable he is at the moment, Ethan probably would too. Handy to have on standby and with something to suit even the most fussiest of fusspot eaters.

Here's hoping...!

Aside from being a bit of a fusspot with food every now and then but other than that, he's doing really well.  His 'no' phase seems to be waning (thankfully!) and he's very affectionate of late too, telling us that he loves us with all his heart every day and being free with the cuddles. We've had a few weekends at home, just enjoying each other's company and it's been nice to do just that.

We've been using stickers to help reinforce his good behaviour, and this seems to be really working, which is a relief.


It's a funny thing; when it comes to brushing his teeth, Ethan can be hit or miss. He runs to the bathroom, in his PJ's, with glee to brush his teeth each evening before bed. He can even move his potty, which can be used as a step, into position, climb on, turn on the tap and pick up his toothbrush all by himself, ready for me to help him with the toothpaste. But in the mornings - well, let's just say he's less than keen!


It helps that we have a tap extender, in the shape of an elephant, to make the whole process easier and Ethan always laughs when he sees his giraffe shaped toothbrush holder. Sometimes, it's the small things that just make things easier for little ones, isn't it?

We've always used toothpaste appropriate to his age, like Pronamel (which we use the big grown-up version of ourselves), as it's meant to have the right balance for them. They kindly sent us a reward pack, complete with paste and reward stickers that Ethan's really taken to, along with some helpful information about acid erosion.

You've probably seen this in the news over the past week, and there's been a lot of talk about how many young children are having teeth issues. And even if they avoid fizzy drinks, there's other causes too.


I've made a little tune up to encourage Ethan when he's brushing his teeth - top and bottom and front and back - and he knows this well now, even if I need to step in and help him to make sure he's got every single toothy peg! They're meant to spend two minutes brushing apparently, so it's worth setting a timer too so they know what they should be doing.

The other reason why stickers are our friends right now is because we are potty training. We've taken baby steps to be honest, not forcing things but trying to encourage Ethan. And to be fair, whilst he's still in nappies, I feel like this way of doing things has helped him come around to the idea in his own time.

After several weeks of neglecting the potty, we are now going through a phase that most evenings, he will say he needs to wee and we go upstairs so he can sit on the potty. And, most of the time, he does indeed do a wee. Hurrah! The things us parents get excited about...

Our potty training kit - plus some superhero stickers for when he uses the potty as a reward!

But I really do get excited and I am so proud of him. And he is too. Almost every day now, he will successfully go potty and the other night, he went twice. The pirate potty book really helps, as do pull up nappies and pants.

There's a baby and toddler special buy event at Aldi starting today, so it's a good time to stock up on essentials. I know that nappies aren't the most exciting thing to buy online, but they're an essential and one thing I hate running low on, particularly when potty training. You can get jumbo boxes of Mamia nappies, sizes 2 to 5 online now for the first time, from £3.79 to £5.79, plus there's plenty in store too. Time to fill those cupboards!

* Whilst I received a couple of samples, this post and all opinions are my own - and that of my fusspot, potty training, teeth brushing toddler!
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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Our spring home


Spring has well and truly sprung and it's given me a real boost in terms of mood but also in clearing the clutter from our home and welcoming the brighter, lighter days.

It's all been about instant updates, clearing shelves, fresh new touches and daffodils. Lots of daffodils. They just look like sunshine and make me so happy. Not bad for just £1 a bunch.


If you follow me on Instagram then you'll have spotted a few new touches here and there. Something about the new season makes me want to shrug off the old and bring in the new.

My tidy stationery nook - including this super cute mini shopping basket, Asda, £3
I've been picking up bits and bobs as I've seen them, not really looking for anything specific, and can highly recommend a trip to Primark, Wilkos, Dunelm and George At Asda in particular if you want some inspiration on a budget.

Wooden tray from Asda, £6
I'm also a little obsessed with milk bottles and jam jar style glasses at the moment...

Milk bottle set with straws and crate, Asda, £10

And I'm all about the fresh candles too...

Primark has a great selection of stylish candles right now

Aside from a vase of flowers here, a cleared shelf there, we're working on a lounge makeover. It all focuses on one wall in the main.

Oh how this photo makes me cringe

We have this awful, old gas fire and stone brick surround and after nearly 10 years of putting up with it, we've had enough and we're having it all taken out. The wall will then need plastering and while we are at it, we've decided to replace the wall light and add another to the same wall, to brighten things up - these lights from B&Q are the ones I'm thinking of.

Our plan is to then move our Expedit entertainment unit (it's called Kallax now at IKEA) onto this wall, with our two smaller two by two square Kallax units either side. This will change the layout of our living room and will put all the storage and focus on one wall, freeing up the length of the room for lounging and just general space.

I'm thinking of going for a lovely shade of yellow on that wall, so it flashes through the units, and I'm rather taken with Bumble Bee from Wilkos paints. I love yellow (hence my main blog colour) and I want the room to feel bright and friendly. We may change our minds, and go for a very light, soft grey and then have yellow accents - I'm not sure. I want the room to feel bright but worry about being too bold - or too bland. Thoughts??

Then, it's operation hallway. I want to make the hall, stairs and landing a brighter space (can you sense a theme?) with white on the top half of the walls, above the dado rail, and a soft grey on the lower half. I'm going to take down, rearrange and rehang what's on the walls - adding these carnival lights from Next (one letter for each of us) to add a fun edge plus the banners shown at the top of this post (£2 each, Primark) and some square photos and polaroids I've had printed. I may need to use a Bosch measuring and levelling tool to get this just right! I'm thinking of creating a 'washing line' of photos going up the stairs, fixing photos with wooden pegs...


This shouldn't be too hard to do or take too long, but will make a big difference. The bigger job is the stairs themselves, as Ste removed our old, worn carpet and we plan to paint the treads grey and the risers white.


I'm still looking for a fun wall sticker motif or decoration idea for the risers, so let me know if you spot something suitable or have done something similar with your own staircase.

Displaying my Mr Fox collection
A tidy bureau is a tidy mind!
So, that's a look inside our spring home. I'd love to hear about your spring home projects, particularly in the lead up to the long weekends - Bank Holidays were meant for DIY!

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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

In pen heaven

Next week is National Stationery Week and you've probably seen that I've been getting prepared for a week of stationery geekery - any excuse for new paper and pens, right?!

There's lots of ways to get involved (see below for the 'seven days of stationery' social posts you can join in with) and I've also seen a great competition from Pen Heaven.

As the name suggests, if you like putting pen to paper, you've come to the right place.

Offering a wide range of writing paraphernalia, including pens and leather journals, brands such as Parker, Cross and Lamy and offering in-house engraving and embossing, Pen Heaven is celebrating National Stationery Week 2016 by offering a £150 hamper to the UK's biggest fountain pen fanatic or stationery hoarder.

Hands up who has a slight addiction to papery goodness...!

In their words, "Whether born from a love of childhood memories, where collecting rubbers, pens and cases were as much a part of daily schooling as the lessons themselves, or founded later in life when the desire to write in pen and ink became too overwhelming, Pen Heaven want to hear from stationery enthusiasts big and small!

Addicted to cursive and obsessed with the humble pen and paper, Pen Heaven invite devotees to tell them why they relish over the comforts of their perfect pens, the smooth leather of notebooks and how some items (like your first fountain pen) have true sentimental value. 

All you have to do is share images of your stationery collection in all its glory and complete the sentence ‘I love stationery because…’ to enter the competition and to join the campaign to keep handwriting alive.

Oh, what I would spend the prize on...

I have a brand new pen to hand and have already thought about writing notes to my friends, rather than just sending a text message.


It's this beaut of a fountain pen and it's a real, real treat. I remember buying my first fountain pen when I was about to start secondary school. I felt so grown up and I loved using it; buying the ink cartridges and practising my neat writing.


Well, I never did perfect perfect handwriting but I still like doing it regardless, and it's nice to have a special pen any way.

The Pen Heaven competition closes on 1st May 2016. To enter, send an email to info@penheaven.co.uk or tweet @pen_heaven using #ILoveStationery.

If you're keen to take part in National Stationery Week at all, be sure to follow the hashtag #NatStatWeek.




* I was sent the pen as a gift from Pen Heaven, but all sloppy handwriting is my own.
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Monday, 18 April 2016

Midweek meal for all the family - jambalaya!

Trying to please everyone round the dinner table can be hard. And making something that's full of good things, and doesn't take ages to prepare when you get in the door after work / nursery / school can be even harder.

I'm always looking for new meal ideas and make my own up as I go along. I rarely take a recipe as it is, without adding something and I find that this makes cooking and meal times more fun. Who knows what we could be having tonight...?!

There's a few basics we always tend to have in - chicken or turkey, including breaded options as these are always a winner with Ethan, pasta and rice in the cupboard and a good stock of veggies, particularly peppers and onions - which means that come the end of the week, there's often a similar selection of leftover items that need to be used up.

At the weekend, I decided to have a play and see what dish I could come up with to use everything we had. And the results were delicious, even if I say so myself - just ask my hubs and Ethan, as we polished off the whole lot in one sitting (even though there would have been a good amount of leftovers for lunch the next day!).

Family favourite Bernard Matthews asked if I had a meal idea to share that could incorporate their new Buttermilk Turkey Fillet Cuts into an American influenced dish - challenge accepted!



We love Mexican and American South inspired meals in our house - anything which can be served with a side of coleslaw or guacamole is a winner in my book - so I decided to have a go at making my own take on jambalaya, using the 100% British turkey breast fillets to make more of the meal and keep my little boy happy too.

Here's what I used and how I made this perfect midweek meal idea in just 20 minutes...



Ingredients:

- 2 x Bernard Matthews Buttermilk Turkey Fillet Cuts (340g pack, RRP £3.00 and available from Sainsbury's)

- 2 x sausages / diced chorizo (we had two chorizo inspired sausages left in the fridge that I used, but diced chorizo would be a good choice too, if your children don't mind it, to add flavour)

- 1 x packet of instant rice (for speed, and I choose a wholegrain rice and quinoa mix to pack in lots of good things)

- 1 x red pepper

- 1 x red onion

- 1 x tin sweetcorn

- 1 x tin chopped tomatoes

- 2 tbsp paprika

- Hot sauce of choice (add as much as you like, according to taste - I added this after serving a portion for Ethan)

- Grated cheese

Method:

1. Pop your turkey breast fillets onto a baking tray, in the oven for 20-25 minutes at gas mark 6. As soon as they're cooked, you'll have everything prepared and will be ready to serve.


2. Cook your sausages in a large frying pan for around 10-12 minutes. When they are nice and brown all over, cut in half and then into smaller cubes. If using diced chorizo, add this to some olive oil and cook for just 4-5 minutes on a medium heat, to release the juices and flavour.


3. Whilst everything is sizzling, remove the core of the pepper and the skin of the onion, and dice both up as small as needed to get past your children... depending on how fussy they are! 

4. Cook your rice in the microwave for two minutes.

5. Meanwhile, once the sausages / chorizo is ready, add the onion then the peppers to the pan and stir for a couple of minutes until softened and the onions are browned. Then add the sweetcorn and stir through.


6. Add the paprika, stir everything together before mixing in the chopped tomatoes. Keep the pan on a medium heat for another two minutes.

7. In a large serving dish, combine the chorizo / veg mix with the rice. By now, your oven timer should be going off to tell you the turkey fillets are done...


8. Remove the turkey fillets from the oven. Cut through the buttermilk fillets in a diagonal direction then add to the serving dish - you're good to go!


Bring to the table and allow everyone to dig in, adding a sprinkle of cheese or another dash of hot sauce according to preference. 


And just watch the lot disappear in next to no time...


Alternative ideas: 

- add peas or diced / grated carrot to add even more veggies to the mix - mushrooms and courgettes would also work well and, to really beef it up more, you could add roasted sweet potato (expect leftovers if there isn't more than 3-4 of you!)

- char-grill some corn on the cobs to serve as an accompaniment

- serve coleslaw or guacamole on the side (any excuse!)

This is a really straightforward meal to prepare but has lots to it, making it a nutritious and filling dish. I all too often just serve things as they are presented, but what I like about this and the new Bernard Matthews Buttermilk Turkey Fillet Cuts is how versatile they can be with a bit of thought. Ethan is a fan of the turkey dinosaurs and I use the cooked turkey options in salads, but these fillet cuts are tasty and have a nice crunch to them too so I think I'll carry on experimenting. 

Mixing the fillets with the rice and veg in this dish adds more substance as they are really 'meaty', and I'd suggest they would also be great in a wrap, either as a lunch option that busy mums can prepare the night before or for a quick fajita dinner on a Friday night.


Ethan was suitably impressed, eating the turkey and the cheese first, but also tucking into the veggies and the rice (he can be a bit fussy sometimes, liking something one day and then not the next, so was pleased that he didn't just leave the peppers). 

For more family meal ideas from Bernard Matthews, visit their Facebook page and check out their brand new look too - it actually took me a while to spot what I was looking for in the chiller section at Sainsbury's because of the new branding! 

Let me know what you would do with these to make an American themed midweek meal that makes everyone happy.

* All opinions in this challenge post are my own, as is the recipe - let me know if you give it a go!

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Friday, 15 April 2016

Method in my mumness

This parenting malarkey is a funny old business. When you think you've worked your little one out, they go and throw a spanner in the works.

Refusing to clean their teeth in the morning, and kicking off big style, then running to the bathroom in the evening to brush their teeth with glee, asking for more toothpaste. Eating the meal you've lovingly made for them, sprinkled with cheese and made just the way they like it, to exclaims of 'this is delicious Mummy!' only to be told the next time you serve it, 'I don't like this. It tastes horrible'.

It's a never ending see-saw of getting things right and seemingly getting things wrong, and keeping the balance is a hard thing to do.

That's parenting all over; balancing.

This blog started as a record of my journey 'to become mum' but as time has gone on (coming up for four years now), I've realised it's a journey I will always be on.

And it's got me thinking that to be a parent, you have to be a little mad. Or succumb to the madness.

Kids can be very astute but they can also be completely crazy and unfathomable. It's amazing how much Ethan seems to know, understand and articualte at the moment but, come one of his sudden mood swings, where asking him to show us his drawing like above, and his reaction makes no sense and you can't reason with him. It's like arguing with a drunk - they don't understand logic! So, the best course I've found is to ride it out, leave him to it and then he snaps out of it almost as quickly as his bad mood started in the first place, with as much clue as I have as to why he had a meltdown.

All the time, I hear other parents talking about the judgement they feel they have had - see Charlotte's 'Mums, Sticks & Stones' post - and how we all should just accept that everyone does things differently. In their own way, in their own time.

And we should realise and accept this.

Sure, there's expert advice and studies and lots of information out there about having a child and how to deal with the different stages. And for the most part, it's useful and can be reassuring. But with so much information at our fingertips - literally, on our smartphones, in the dark of the night, googling 'why won't my baby go to sleep?!' - it can actually make things worse.

We hear too many opinions, too many conflicting 'facts' and come to the mistaken conclusion that that inner voice that sometimes says 'you don't know what you're doing' is actually right.

We all know our little ones better than any expert, other parent, relative or complete stranger and we have to trust our own instincts.

Work out what works best for ourselves and our children. It's trial and error, but we should take comfort in the fact that there is no definitive answer, no magic solution - and that it's ok to get things wrong.

Try and try again.

Find your own method in the mumness.


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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

My tips for toddler travels in London


Travelling with a toddler can be tricky. I only have the one but he's fiercely independent, shunning the pushchair and even the trolley when we go food shopping, because he can and wants to walk around and see things for himself.

One thing that has got easier as Ethan has got older is packing to go away. He doesn't need half as much stuff as he did. To be honest, I think I've always over-packed for him - from my hospital bag that by and large went untouched to our breaks away at Center Parcs or weekends to see my parents, babies and little people have a lot of stuff. And I've always been one of those 'better to have too much than too little' types.

Nowadays, going away for a couple of nights only requires a couple of outfits, and one still for back up (although we haven't had to change Ethan when out for any reason for so long now), then his toiletries and snacks for the road. Add a fully charged iPad, some kind of activity (like colouring) to keep him occupied and his flavour of the moment toy (currently his Paw Patrol cuddly toys), and we're good to go.

Recently, we took Ethan to London for the first time and with a train journey, taxis, the underground and sightseeing to prepare for, I knew we'd need to, well, be prepared!

So here are my top 10 tips for travelling with a toddler, to London or indeed anywhere else where you're going to be out and about, perhaps without a car and away, from your usual routine and ease of creature comforts, for a couple of days:

1. Take a backpack 
Whether you have a standard nappy bag or can't bear to be without your own handbag, trust me, a backpack is an essential. I hate having a heavy bag swinging on my shoulder, particularly if you're on your feet and going to a lot of places, so being able to carry everything on your back will make things so much easier. And, if your toddler gets tired and wants a ride, you can pick them up.



I have this fold-up Cath Kidston one (there's four designs to choose from) and it's great. I put Ethan's juice in one outer pocket, and umbrella in the other and then wipes (THE parent essential!) in the pocket, with everything else inside.

You'll be much more comfortable and free to enjoy your time out and about - and it goes without saying that flats or comfy shoes are a must. I ditched the Converse as I know they always pinch my feet after more than a couple of hours (I highly recommend these CK hightops for comfort and style).

2. Be prepared for all weathers
Particularly at this time of year. It's a pain, but having gloves and a hat packed just in case it's brisker than you were expecting - or sun tan lotion, in the hope the sun may have its hat on - will have you covered for all eventualities.



3. Plan ahead
I've been to London many a time for work, but seeing it through a toddler's eyes is quite different. It's good to ask around to see what people would recommend, for children of different ages. I asked fellow bloggers for their tips and where to go (and shared links to lots of London related posts if you want to read on) and had a few ideas in mind.

Planning ahead will help you to get the most out of your break away, so you can fit everything in and also so you can book some things in advance if possible, to make the most of any discounts. Think ahead to in case there's any potential conflicts to your plans; we went over the Easter weekend and didn't think (d'oh!) that places would be shut on the Sunday. Luckily, museums are always open and we headed to the Natural History Museum, but it meant that we missed out on the big Disney store on Oxford Street (we love our Disney!).

The thing is, little legs can get tired quickly so planning your day so you can cover off your 'must-sees' in good time is a good idea. You can work out quicker routes or where other attractions might be close to one another and you can also think ahead to when you might need to change or feed them to keep in line with their current routine.

4. Don't forget the pushchair!
We have two strollers and the Quinny Yezz is by far our favourite for nipping around town. To be honest, we have barely used a stroller for months now, as Ethan is so confident on his feet and we don't tend to go anywhere too busy or be out for too long a period. Going to London, or on a city break in general, is a different matter and it can get really tiring - for little feet, and for you when they decide they don't want to walk any more!

Our Yezz collapses down easily, so it was fine to carry and take on the underground, as well as manoeuvring through busy restaurants, and Ethan even had a nap at one point when he'd had enough of Mummy shopping around in Covent Garden...

5. Go underground
Hubs was a bit anxious about taking Ethan on the underground but we braved it on the second day (thank goodness I had my backpack!) and it was probably a real highlight for us. Ethan loved the experience and getting to see all the trains, and we could nip here and there with relative ease.



6. Ask your hotel
We stayed at Holiday Inn Bloomsbury and the staff were so friendly and helpful. They really engaged with Ethan from the moment we arrived, they gave him an activity pack and they also told us what we could find nearby - including a private playground a few minutes' walk away.

We were just your average hotel guests but the team made sure we were comfotable and made some really good suggestions during our stay.



7. Keep them occupied
We might think seeing the sights and doing a spot of shopping is oodles of fun (because it is!) but we all know that toddlers can be temperamental. We took a fully charged iPad, with downloads of Ethan;s favourite Cbeebies shows and films, ready to whip out when we were having something to eat in case he got bored, so just think about what you can take to keep their hands busy.

Ethan chose to take one of his Paw Patrol friends along for the adventure.

8. Take an open bus tour
I really wish we had been able to do this, as it's such a great way to take in the sights without pounding the pavement or taking hours and hours to do. You can sit back and enjoy the view, hopping off here and there if you want to. Everyone gets to sit down for a bit and even if the weather is a bit grim, you can go inside and still enjoy the journey.

9. Don't over pack
I know I said to be prepared, but I always over pack and really, going to London isn't going to another country - if you need something, you're sure to find it if you really do need it.

I always take more than we need with us but if you're trying to keep your baggage to a minimum (and you really should, because you're probably going to be like a donkey for the weekend) think about what you're going to wear and whether you really need to take three pairs of shoes, 'just in case'.



10. Relax
Life with a toddler can be unpredictable and sometimes we can really over-think things and get worked up that travelling or staying away is going to be a nightmare. We all know our own children but you can never really tell how they will take a new experience until you try it and if they have a full on tantrum in the middle of Leicester Square, so be it. It'll pass.

Going away for the weekend should be more fun, less stress, so try and not worry too much if you can't fit everything in or if your visit doesn't go to plan. There's always next time.

If you have some top travel tips to share, for London or just in general, do add your link below.

Here are the other posts I read before we went again for you:




(love the sound of the Peter Pan playground!)




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Monday, 11 April 2016

Toddler-proofing my technology

Toddlers today are almost as tech-savvy as us, wouldn't you agree? I think the iPad is a saviour for many a parent, with its wealth of apps, endless photos, music, videos and TV streaming.

I certainly see it as an essential bit of toddler kit!

I first got my iPad mini when I was expecting Ethan. I thought it would be useful for late night feeds, for playing music to send baby off to sleep and for giving me something to do whilst hour after hour was spent in the dark while the rest of the world slept.

I used it, and still do, to keep my favourite photos in one place, to read emails, prepare blog posts and catch up on social media. It's my travel library, it's my entertainment system (as Ethan often has control of the TV) and it's also a tool for work.

As for Ethan, we've used it since he was born to play music, to use baby friendly apps that show shape and colour, and more recently, for things like Cbeebies, picture books and his favourite shows and films.

Of course, we're conscious about how much screen time Ethan has and he doesn't have free reign at all, but the iPad is really indispensable to us.

It's a travel companion, close to hand should we need a distraction when we are out and about (like when we went to London over Easter weekend) and it's also going to be well used I'm sure as Ethan continues to develop and we can add even more apps to help his learning.

It's always in use by someone, although I am conscious of Ethan's time with technology.

And I'm also really conscious of damage.

Because I'm clumsy, worse than a toddler at times, and have picked up a few scuffs and a couple of cracks to my dear iPad.

I've lost count of the amount of times I have dropped my iPad. Off the edge of the sofa. Knocked off the coffee table. Dropped from a great height onto the hard floor below.

It is pretty impressive that it's a) still in one piece and b) still works - not for lack of trying! - but now that Ethan gets his hands on it more often, and as we need it for more and more things, I want to make sure it doesn't get any more nasty knocks.

I'd be lost without it.

That's why I was keen to try the Logitech BLOK.


The BLOK Protective Shell is designed to withstand bumps and accidental drops without any damage to the edges of your iPad. In their own words, "the weakest part of your iPad is the strongest part of our case". Basically, when you drop it, the case 'flexes' to protect your pad and the square corners offer more impact absorption, apparently.

I have the mini version, and a full size option is available too - and opted for red, with bright blue and black also available.


It's easy to fit, feels really sturdy and it has a soft feel to it which is nice when you're using it.


Just look at those poor, thin cracks!


Ethan likes to have a play on the iPad by himself now, dipping in and out of his favourite apps (but not for very long or unsupervised - I know as he gets older it's going to get harder!). 

And it's good to know that I don't have to panic when he does get his hands on it.


The Logitech BLOK case retails for £29.99 (and comes with a handy screen protector too) and whilst I haven't tested dropping my iPad on purpose, just in case and not wanting to tempt fate or be proven wrong, it does feel secure and like my iPad is well protected.

Colour wise, other options would be nice, as the contrast colour is on the inside so not visible when it's on my iPad, and really I'd like an integrated stand, as I have the shell version of the Logitech BLOK. It's great if you mainly hold your iPad but when it comes to watching TV, an in-built stand function is a welcome addition - so I would recommend the case version, or even the keyboard if you regularly type on yours (only available for larger iPads, I believe).

Regardless of this, I really like our new cover and it's look and rigid design are perfect for toddler-proofing my technology.

* All thoughts are my own, as always.
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