23rd August 2018

Our Brilliant Day at ZSL London Zoo…

The last time I visited ZSL London Zoo, I was a little girl. I don’t remember a huge amount, but I do remember being in awe of the gorillas. I also remember it was a giant zoo, bigger than my imagination could’ve even dreamt up, with so many different animals. I genuinely remember it being the best zoo I’d ever visited – so when I was invited to visit with my little ones this week, I jumped at the chance.

Getting there

ZSL London Zoo is located in Regents Park, with the nearest tube being Camden Town. You can drive, jump on a bus, or jump on a water taxi to reach it, so it’s very accessible. We got the underground to Camden Town and then walked, which took about 15-20 minutes with little legs. It’s a really pretty walk, alongside Regent’s Canal with its resident houseboats and over bridges. We had pre-bought tickets, so joined that queue (much shorter, so I’d recommending buying online before you go – you save 10% by doing this too) and then strolled straight into the zoo.

 

Our favourite animals

The reason we were there was obviously the animals – and I was nearly bursting with excitement to see the childrens’ faces when they spotted them. Wilfred’s favourite – without a doubt – was the Tiger Territory. He loves cats, so it was always going to be the way – but when he spotted a tiger resting above our heads, he couldn’t take his eyes off it. Just at the right moment, it woke up and turned to look directly at him and I think his day was made already.

Stanley’s favourite was the Land of the Lions. This amazing part of the zoo has been styled to look like a colourful Indian village called Sasan Gir, complete with houses, street food stalls, lion transportation vehicles, and lots more. It’s really clever how they’ve done this, because you really do feel like you’ve stepped out of London and into India – and the Asiatic Lions are the icing on the cake.

Mabel’s favourite was the penguins. She was stunned into silence as she watched them dive into the water and pluck fish from the bottom of their pool. The glass wall makes this a really magical experience – and we stayed watching them for a good 20 minutes, as they performed somersaults in the water in front of our noses.

My favourite was the giraffes – because we just had the most magical moment. We walked into their indoor enclosure (the only family inside) only to discover they were all outside. But just as we were about to walk out again, a giraffe walked indoors and right up to the edge of the enclosure where we stood. He or she then proceeded to eat and drink a few feet from us, so close we could see the individual hairs and hear its breathing. I’ve been up close and personal to giraffes twice in my life before, feeding them in both Kenya and Abu Dhabi, but I have never been stunned like this. I think it was the fact we were stood at the same level, suddenly aware of its height and beauty.

My husband’s favourite was the Gorlla Kingdom – because how could you not be stunned and amazed by these incredible creatures? A gorilla was sat right by the glass of the enclosure when we walked past – and seeing its human-like expressions and sheer size was really special.

But they weren’t the only animals we fell in love with. The African Hunting Dogs were a big hit with the children, the snakes had us all mesmerised, we spent a long time watching the komodo dragons, and we adored the plump pygmy hippos. There were so many more too – bugs, birds, mammals, and fish.

The Conservation side of the zoo

But as much as we loved the animals, the zoo isn’t just about entertainment. ZSL London Zoo is run by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a charity dedicated to conserving wild animals and where they live. Ten per cent of what ZSL invests in displaying gorillas and tigers, for example, goes to protect the same animals in the wild. In fact, the zoo entry fees underpin its conservation projects in 50 countries – and as a big animal lover, this is really important to me.

 

Our day

Our day was brilliant. We genuinely did enjoy every second. I was scared it was going to be really busy during the summer holidays – and despite people being there, the zoo has enough space and enough exhibits to make it feel quite calm and quiet even at the busiest times. We only had to wait 30 seconds or so at the busiest parts of the zoo for someone to step aside so we could have a look too. We ate our (home-made) picnic lunch in a really calm and quiet part of the zoo, where there were several benches free around us. Nothing like the busy atmosphere I was imagining.It was just a lovely day and I can highly recommend visiting with your children. We will definitely be back!

Visit www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo for more information

#ZooLife

Written in collaboration with ZSL London Zoo



6th July 2018

Dear children; a year ago today, we flew back to the UK.

Dear children,

A year ago today, we flew back to the UK.

A whole year.

To the day.

The night before we boarded that flight, with our suitcases packed and lined up by the back door, we thought we’d go for a late afternoon swim to say goodbye to the desert for a while.

The heat was nearly suffocating that afternoon – but as you jumped into the pool, with fiery-red dragonflies dancing around your heads as you bobbed in and out of the water, I remember thinking “wow, you are such lucky, lucky children!”

And you were.

You really were.

The next morning, as our flight soared into the dawn sky, we didn’t know we were saying goodbye forever. We watched the familiar skyscrapers jutting out of the sandy vista from our plane window – impressive at first, glinting in the morning sunlight, but soon shrinking to nothing more than a city made from LEGO bricks as we drifted further and further away.

We had a brilliant summer together – but just before we were due to fly back, doubts crept into our mind. A calculator, a spreadsheet, frantic googling, tired eyes, stressed brows – and a decision.

We were going to stay.

That first bit was hard for me. So hard. Your Daddy wasn’t with us yet –  and we didn’t have a home of our own. I missed my friends, my routine, my safety net. Everything was raw. Everything made me cry. I thought we’d made a mistake more times than I dared to count. I wanted to go back to those familiar LEGO bricks. I wanted normality. I wanted the life we had built together.

I just wanted to go home.

But whilst I was looking back, you stepped forward with confidence. Right from the first day at your new school, when your steely-faced bravery sucker-punched me in the stomach with a heady mix of fierce pride and crushing guilt.

You mentioned Dubai a lot at first. Your friends. Your nanny. Your teachers. Your school. Your nursery. Your favourite places to go. You packed your little rucksacks with things you wanted to take on the plane when we flew back to visit – and seeing you do that was torture, as Daddy and I had already decided we wouldn’t be heading back any time soon to help you (and me) settle into our new lives in the UK. Every time he flew back to his job in the desert, my heart stabbed with pure jealousy. I wanted to go back too. But deep down, I knew I had to close that door to be able to open the one I was standing in front.

Goodbye had to be goodbye.

Our container arrived back from Dubai in December – and we moved into our new home. As we unpacked those boxes and you rediscovered your toys, I watched your faces light up with amazement. The sudden realisation that you were getting back those belongings, those things that had long drifted from your minds was both amazing and heart-breaking to witness.

It was a long winter – and it took all of us a while to get used to it. I hated the long, dark days. I hated the rain. But you three embraced it.

Before long, I was so used to seeing you in warm coats and wooly hats, with red noses and tears streaming from the cold, that I forgot what you looked like in your swimming shorts, with sunlight glinting on your skin. You didn’t mind getting mud on your hands, or getting soaked in rain, or feeling the wind whip around your faces in temperatures dipping freezing. You morphed into UK children, so happy and settled, so rarely mentioning that old life in the desert that I was sometimes left wondering if it had happened at all.

And I realised – slowly, but certainly.

I had to embrace it too.

And now we are here.

The first anniversary of our return to the UK.

And in the perfect completion of the circle, you broke up from school for summer. Shouting to your friends in the carpark to say goodbye. Grubby knees, worn elbows, and shoes scuffed at the toes. Smiling wide smiles at the thought of weeks stretched ahead, together at home.

We jumped in the car and drove to the coast to celebrate – and as we pulled up, your grandparents appeared and your eyes sparkled with delight. You strolled away with them, hand-in-hand, shrieking with excitement, in harmony with the seagulls circling above our heads.

Life is different, yes.

It couldn’t be more different.

But every step you have taken has swelled my heart with pride.

And as I watched you walking down that harbour, with the sun starting to dip on the horizon and a warm breeze ruffling your hair, I thought to myself: “Wow, you are such lucky, lucky children”.

And you really, really are.

Love from Mummy x



2nd July 2018

Our weekend at Bournemouth Beach Lodges…

What could be better than waking up to the roar of waves breaking onto the shore – and then running down to the sand and getting the whole beach to yourself, while everyone else still seems to be sleeping? Throw in the luck of brilliant weather – and I don’t think there are many UK breaks that can beat it, which is exactly why we had the most amazing time at Bournemouth Beach Lodges this weekend.

Bournemouth Beach Lodges are located on Boscombe Beach, which is just along the coast from Bournemouth Beach and Pier. Whilst it gets much busier along the coast, Boscombe stays much quieter. It definitely has a buzz, but it’s never unpleasantly busy – and that makes the whole vibe very relaxing and easy for parents.

There are 15 lodges in a row, just a stone throw from the beach (literally – even I could’ve thrown a stone and hit the sand). Each lodge can sleep up to six people, with a bathroom, kitchen, double bed and single bed upstairs, and double bed and single bed downstairs (converted from the table area and a sofa). Each has a lovely terrace, with direct views of the beach – and deckchairs to lounge on. We asked for a cot and a highchair, which were waiting for us when we arrived. And the steps up to the upstairs area had a baby gate at both the top and bottom, which I was really impressed by.

Whilst the lodges sleep six, there isn’t a huge amount of space to move around inside – so my first tip would be to pack light (and make sure you pack soft holdalls you can carry on your shoulder, rather than dragging a suitcase down a zig-zag cliff path to the beach like us – spot the first timers!) Packing light is really easy, because all you will need is swimwear, beach towels, perhaps one outfit for a trip into Bournemouth, and some snacks / drinks.

When it comes to food, there is a kiosk on the beach that opens around 10am and makes bacon and sausage sandwiches – and you can buy some essentials (bread, milk, eggs etc) from the lodge office – but if your kids like something specific for breakfast, I’d advise throwing it in, as there isn’t anything open early in the morning. The kiosk is perfect for lunch – and in the evening, you can order pizzas from a restaurant just down the beach, which will deliver to your lodge in 30 minutes (or head to a vast number of restaurants in the area). We had pizza one evening – and the next, we ate at Prezzo in Bournemouth.

Talking of Bournemouth, we had a brilliant afternoon down there on Saturday. We took the land train from Boscombe Beach (right outside the lodges), which goes all the way to Bournemouth Pier. Once we were down there (with three exhausted children fast asleep!), I was horrified to discover the beach absolutely packed – and I’m not exaggerating. Local press reports told us that 100,000 people were on that stretch of beach – and suddenly visions of the pier and aquarium being packed to the brim filled my mind, which was our plan for the afternoon.

But do you know what? With the beach packed, the inside attractions were really quiet – and we had one of the best family afternoons we’ve had for a long time. We started with RockReef at the end of the pier, which had 25 ‘clip and climb’ walls for the boys to try climbing up, along with a cave network they could explore with headlamps. Mabel slept through this whole experience, waking at the end to watch her brothers crawling like spiders up the wall (at 4 and 6, I was seriously impressed by how quickly they got the hang of it – and they are now totally hooked and want to find one close to us to continue their climbing obsession!)

We then walked over to Bournemouth Oceanarium, meeting turtles, penguins, and crocodiles – and Mabel especially enjoyed pressing her face up against the glass and meeting all the creatures (I used to take the boys to aquariums all the time in Dubai – I mean, we walked past walls of sharks and sting rays while even shopping in the mall – but I realised Mabel hasn’t actually been to an aquarium since she’s old enough to enjoy it and it was so lovely to watch her little face light up with amazement!)

We finished our afternoon in Bournemouth with dinner in Prezzo (kids eat for £1 is back on for summer, don’t ya know!) and with tummies full of pizza and pasta, we then slowly walked back to Boscombe along the promenade (which took us about 45 minutes in the lovely late afternoon sunshine.

So what were our highlights of our holiday at Bournemouth Beach Lodges? For me, it was sleeping right on the beach, waking up to the sound of waves and the tranquillity of that view first thing in the morning. It was sipping my coffee in the early morning sunshine and feeling totally detached from normal life for a while. We were only away for two nights, but I felt like we’d been away for a week. It was such a tonic to the mind.

For the kids, I think the best thing was the novelty of beach lodge living – with their beds upstairs and the beach right on their doorstep. And I know they absolutely loved the afternoon down in Bournemouth too – everything from the land train journey, to the ‘Clip and Climb’ at RockReef, to the Oceanarium, to the colourful beach huts in neat rows on our walk back home.

It was just fantastic – and we will definitely be back. I love the idea of an early autumn break, hopefully enjoying some brisk walks along the beach and then drinking hot chocolates on our terrace. It must be so tranquil at that time of year – and the lodges would be lovely and cosy when you wanted to retreat inside.

If you want to look at availability for the rest of the summer and ongoing, visit www.bournemouthbeachlodges.co.uk/  

And for more information about everything there is to do in Bournemouth for a holiday, visit www.bournemouth.co.uk/

 

 

We were guests of Bournemouth Beach Lodges this weekend, in return for an honest review

 

 

 

 

 



28th June 2018

We test: ‘Real Food Kids Will Love’ by Annabel Karmel…

Annabel Karmel could write a book about anything and I’d buy it. I totally trust her. I know that she’s the best at creating recipes that get the good stuff into my kids, whilst being so yummy that they don’t hesitate to pick up their cutlery and tuck in – and I’ve followed her recipes since my babies were weaning (and years afterwards) for that very reason. So I knew I was going to like her brand new book ‘Real Food Kids Will Love’ (released today) before I’d even seen it. But still, I was intrigued and excited to see what was in store – and when I got the chance to have a sneak preview of the book a few weeks ago, I ripped open that padded envelope and settled down on the sofa for a flick through immediately.

But I didn’t get to keep it for long. Because not long after I started scanning through the tantalising recipes for kids (there are over 100 in there), my eldest child stole it off me. And for the next 30 minutes, he sat there reading through every page, making a list of the recipes he wanted me to cook for him and his siblings. Every few minutes, he shouted out “MUMMY, LOOK!!” and held up a page with the most beautiful food photography pictured alongside the recipe. I quickly realised that the book wasn’t just written to provide me with inspiration in the kitchen – but to get children excited about eating wholesome, healthy food too.

Stanley’s picks were:

– Scrambled Egg Muffins

– Pot-Roast Chicken

– Thai Chicken and Rice Soup

– Fruit Flower Pots

– Easy Banana and Strawberry Ice Cream

– Blueberry Muffins

We decided to start with the recipe for the ‘Thai Chicken and Rice Soup’ – mainly because his younger siblings both adore curry and rice too, so I knew they’d like the flavour too. So the next day, we went to the supermarket to find the ingredients and got to work in the kitchen, with Stanley watching my every move.

I found the recipe really easy to follow, with only a few steps to work through once the prep had been completed – and once dished up, all three children tucked in straight away and cleaned up their plates. Mabel, in fact, was the first to get through her bowl and ask for another serving – and with plenty of vegetables packed into the dish, I had a smug smile on my face as I poured her another spoonful!

And it was really delicious. In fact, it was so delicious that my husband and I used the leftovers in the pot as the base for our dinner that night too (just chucking in some extra chicken and vegetables to stretch it further). It really is a recipe that the whole family can enjoy – and I think that’s the whole point of this book, as it encourages the whole family to enjoy the same recipes, the same food, and the same mealtimes.

So would I recommend the book? Without hesitation. For the vast range of recipes that will inspire you in the kitchen, without challenging you with advanced cooking skills (if I can do it, anyone can do it). For the gorgeous layout, tantalising photographs, and helpful tips from Annabel. And for the food you will go onto create.

It’s one of those books that you would add to your kitchen shelf now – and pick up regularly for years and years to come. With sections for ‘Family Favourites’, ‘Meat-Free and Vegan’, ’15 Minute Meals’, ‘Healthy Fast Food’, ‘Lunchbox and Playdate Snacks’, ‘Desserts and Sweets’ and ‘Holiday Cooking with Kids’, there is lots and lots of ideas and inspiration. I can imagine my copy will become heavily thumbed, as we work through the recipes and come back to revisit them in years to come. And if you are feeling a bit ‘stuck in a rut’ when it comes to feeding your children, I am confident you will love it just as much as I do.

Real Food Kids Will Love by Annabel Karmel is released today, June 28th 2018. You can get your copy at Amazon here – https://amzn.to/2yPo1Ex

 

This blog post is written in collaboration with Annabel Karmel



18th June 2018

Mabel tries: Baby Led Spreads

I am contacted about new products for babies and children on a daily basis – but every once in a while, a message makes me immediately stop what I’m doing and shout out loud “What a genius idea!” And when I found out about Baby Led Spreads a few weeks ago, that was exactly what happened.

So what are Baby Led Spreads? Designed for baby led weaning, these little jars contain a range of different healthy, versatile spreads. They can be used on sandwiches, as fillings in jacket potatoes, as an easy sauce for warm or cold pasta dishes, as bases for homemade pizza, or as dips for crunchy vegetables, breadsticks, or toast fingers.

The spreads are the perfect accompaniment to your baby’s diet, with a range of tastes, textures, and nutrients packed into each jar. You can pick non-dairy jars, dairy jars, or a mixture of the two – with six flavours to pick from, including ‘Spicy Pumpkin and Chickpea’, ‘Carrot, Apple and Hummus’, ‘Ricotta & Bean’, ‘Green Pea, Rocket and Dill’, ‘Red Lentil and Sweet Potato’ and ‘Avocado, Red pepper and Tomato.”

As a mum who went down the baby led weaning route fairly recently (with Mabel, who is my third baby), I would have found Baby Led Spreads so incredibly useful to have in the cupboard at home. I always found breakfast pretty easy – and dinner tended to be exactly what I was cooking for her brothers. But I often really struggled with inspiration for her lunches, usually giving her platters of bits and pieces I could find in the fridge. Having these little jars on hand would’ve given me so many options when putting together her plate – and I would have thrown the jars into my bag for meals out at restaurants too, letting her dip breadsticks into the spreads and feeling reassured she was getting some goodness.

We tried the jars out yesterday at lunchtime, letting Mabel use the spreads as a dip for her toast soldiers, cheese cubes, and tomato slices. I showed her what to do – and she carried on independently, happily gobbling up most of the plate. Her favourite was the ‘Avocado, Red Pepper, and Tomato’ – whilst her brothers (who happily dipped their toast soldiers into the leftovers in the jars) liked the ‘Carrot, Apple and Hummus’. I know the jars aren’t designed for older children, but it occurred to me that it would be a brilliant snack / packed lunch item to send into school, with a few breadsticks to dip into.

 

So how much do Baby Led Spreads cost? Well, I was seriously impressed. A selecion of 9 jars (three different flavours) costs just £6.50 (72p each) or a selection of 18 jars (6 different flavours) costs just £12 (67p each). Postage and packaging is free too, which makes it even more affordable.

But that’s not all, because this company has a heart too – and for every sale, money is donated directly to Bliss; a charity dedicated to helping babies born premature of sick (www.bliss.org.uk). For every 9 jars sold, they donate 30p to Bliss and for every 18 jars, they donate 60p.

You can buy them online at www.babyledspreads.co.uk

 

Written in collaboration with Baby Led Spreads



7th June 2018

Stanley tries: MentalUP (plus discount for every reader)

Summer holidays are coming – and if your children are anything like mine, they will need to keep their minds busy when school is out! I don’t always find it easy to dream up ways for them to do this, which is why I am relieved to have discovered MentalUP just in time – and having had the chance to play it, Stanley agrees…

Experts agree that the most effective and organic way to improve development in children is through play – and the MentalUp app contains a series of exercise that feel just like games to the children that are playing them. The app was developed by a team of doctors, scientists, academics and game designers, ensuring that every game challenges them, keeps their minds busy, and ultimately ensures that they have lots of fun.

 

So how does it work?

I’ve sat with Stanley while he’s played it several times now – and my favourite game is one called ‘Equalization’. It’s all about eliminating numbers you don’t need and collecting ones you do. Stanley really enjoyed it, completely unaware that he was practicing problem-solving skills as he played.

But that’s just one of the games… There are dozens with similar ideas, from remembering sequences of numbers, to matching patterns, to arranging letters in the correct orders. Each game helps children to practice different skills (focusing on memory, concentration, visual or logic) – and as the child progresses up the levels, the games become increasingly difficult.

MentalUp is used in 48 different countries worldwide, with over two million users. It has a rating of 4.8 in the app stores too, making it impressively popular with users.

The details…

MentalUp can be used on a computer, a tablet, or a phone.

It’s suitable for all children, adapting to their age, experience and performance.

Time is limited to 25-30 minutes per day, which is enough to keep their minds busy. I LOVE this feature! Stanley happily walks away saying he’s finished his slot, so no battles over handing back the laptop or iPad.

You can track your child’s performance with regular reports.

 

Where do you get it?

You can try the app completely for free for 7 days to see whether you like it. Head over to www.mentalup.co to sign up.

And if you want to buy the full-package, I have teamed up with MentalUP to offer a big discount. See below for all the details of the offer – and using the code 3056 with automatically apply your discount (valid until 24th June).

12 MONTHS PACKAGE

  • List price: £71.88
  • Current promotion price: £47.88
  • Price with the discount code: £23.88

6 MONTHS PACKAGE

  • List price: £35.94
  • Current promotion price: £29.94
  • Price with the discount code: £17.94

 

How to redeem the discount code (Android and IOS, Tablet and Phone)

After logging in, you will see the screen below. When you click on the buttons I’ve highlighted with arrows, you get to a screen with all the packages listed. You can then enter your promotional code.

 

 

Enter the code in the field and click “Apply code” – the package prices will then be automatically dropped.

 

Head over to www.mentalup.co or download it from App Store or Google store. The app is available both for IOS and Android.



28th May 2018

Motherhood is all about balance – and that’s why I love Annabel Karmel…

Regular readers of this blog will know that Annabel Karmel has been a bit of a guru to me since I became a mother. Because whilst I didn’t open a single other manual on motherhood, I religiously followed her recipes and tips when it came to weaning my first baby. And when I had a second and third baby, I reopened those books and revisited those much-loved recipes all over again.

But as much as I love Annabel’s cookery books, I don’t always have them to hand. I’ve been stood in the supermarket racking my brains about the ingredients I need for certain recipes. And whilst away on holiday or travelling with the kids, I have wished that I’d had the foresight to take a picture of the recipes on my phone so I could refer back to them when preparing food for the kids.

This is why I was excited to hear about the newly launched Annabel Karmel Healthy Baby and Toddler Recipes App, which includes a selection of her most popular recipes. The app is organised into neat sections so you can find the recipe you need (or browse for inspiration) – and when you click into each dish, there are ingredients and step by step instructions. You can add each recipe to a handy planner so that you are organised for the week ahead – and you can add ingredients to a shopping list section, so you have everything you need when you head to the supermarket. It’s well designed and easy to navigate – and means that I have my favourite recipes at the click of a button.

But do you know what? I don’t always have time to cook for the kids from scratch – and on the nights I’m in a mega hurry (which happens a lot), I’m a fan of the range of Annabel Karmel Chilled Toddler Meals too.

With dishes including ‘Lovely Beef Lasagna’, ‘Mild Chicken Tikka and Rice’ and ‘Tasty Spaghetti and Meatballs’, not only can the individual meals be stored in the freezer and prepared in a matter of minutes, they also contain good, wholesome, and nutritious ingredients. Each meal contains up to three of their five a day, are low in salt, and contain no artificial additives or preservatives So despite the fact I’m popping a meal in a microwave for their dinner, I am totally reassured that they’re getting a dose of goodness too.

So there may be nights when I flick through an Annabel Karmel book or open her app and knock up a dish from scratch – but there will also be nights when I reach into the fridge or freezer and pull out a chilled meal in a hurry too. And that is what I believe is called balance…

Find out more about the Annabel Karmel Healthy Baby and Toddler Recipes App here.

And find out more about the Annabel Karmel Chilled Toddler Meals here.

 

Sponsored Post



31st March 2018

We try: Tutti Bambini KOJI Pushchair

With my youngest now 18 months, I’ve been hunting for the perfect pushchair for a while. I wanted to move on from the bulky, hard-to-collapse, and not hugely practical travel system I’ve been using since Mabel was born – but given I needed a replacement to be as suitable for laps of the local park as it would be strolling down the high street, I needed it to be a bit sturdier than the average umbrella stroller. And naturally I wanted it to look stylish, be lightweight and easy to push, and have a big basket underneath (because as a mum of three, I have everything but the kitchen sink to transport when I muster up the energy to take them out).

With perfect timing, I was asked whether I’d like to try the Tutti Bambini KOJI Pushchair and tell you all my thoughts – and after a browse online, I realised it ticked every box for our next pushchair and hastily agreed to give it a try.

 

The Specifics

The KOJI is suitable from birth, with a forward and rear facing seat (also compatible with a carry cot and a car seat) that can be removed from the chassis. It can be folded with the seat attached and has a large shopping basket underneath, extendable handle, five-point safety harness, a large shopping basket with magnetic flap for easy access, and a hood with an extendable sun canopy. It also comes with a rain cover and has puncture-proof tyres.

First impressions

First impressions were very good. I set my husband the challenge of getting out the box and building it – and he was finished in a matter of minutes. I took it for a quick stroll around the lounge and was impressed with how lightweight and easy to steer it was. I was so used to the bulk and heaviness of my old buggy that it was an absolute pleasure to push around (you know when you have long hair and get several inches cut off? it was similar to that…) Even looking at my old buggy made my arms ache and now I couldn’t believe I’d clung onto it for so long.

It looked great too. The brand sent me the red Poppy colour and in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have chosen the red – but it is also available in Oatmeal, Liquorice, Charcoal, and Midnight Blue (and you can buy the fabric packs separately too if you want to swap between them). You can choose the chassis in either silver or black too, making it truly customisable. I know that the aesthetics of a buggy isn’t important to everyone, but it is to me – and the KOJI is definitely a stylish one.

Taking it out

It took us a while to work out how to collapse it down for the car boot, but once we’d mastered it, this was super easy – and you can even do it with one hand (handy when you have a baby or toddler in the other one).

Pushing it around was a dream, as it was just so light and easy to manoeuvre. I found it easy to use the break, which is down by your feet, and also found strapping Mabel into the harness very easy (I have had strollers in the past that sometimes made me tear my hair out trying to get a child into them, so this was a big plus point for me).

I loved the magnetic flap on the shopping basket underneath too. It means that when you need to pop something in the basket, you can pull the edge down to slide it in easily, then pop it back up in a split second. As I’m that mum piling things up underneath the pushchair, this is also a big positive.

I also really liked the hood, which has an extendable sun canopy with UV protection. Having lived in Dubai with small babies in the past, I know that the sun glaring in a baby’s eyes can be a big problem – and this small but very useful feature will make life a lot easier in the summer, without having to fiddle with sun umbrellas or completely cover them (which isn’t advised).

The compact design of the pushchair was also a big positive when shopping on my local high-street. I’ve had to ask for double doors to be unlocked in the past so I can get my wider-than-average travel system through them, but the narrow width of the KOJI allowed me to get through all doors of shops and cafes (and small gaps between rails), which makes the pushchair idea for city-based parents that want something totally practical.

Overall opinion

This is a premium pushchair and you can tell from the way it looks and the way it feels to push it. Mabel is super comfy in it – and I am super comfy pushing. And compared to my last pushchair, it’s light as a feather.

The price tag reflects all of this and it certainly isn’t a budget option, but I have spent double the amount on a pushchair in the past and I feel the price is very good value for money for what you are getting.

Mostly, I love the fact it’s compact and takes up less room in my car boot, takes less effort to push around, and is easy to strap Mabel in. I feel like I’ve streamlined my life and that is such a relief after six years of bulky pushchairs.

It just makes life so much easier – and when you are a mum of three, that is a godsend.

 

You can find out more online at https://www.tuttibambini.com/product/koji-pushchair-silver-liquorice/

 

This post is sponsored by Tutti Bambini

 



28th March 2018

We review: Toy Box Tots

I’ve travelled a fair bit with my children over the years – and whether we are heading away for just a couple of days or jetting away for several months, the one thing I make absolute sure that I pack is a whole bag of their favourite toys and books to keep them amused throughout our stay. I say ‘make absolute sure’, but I actually forgot once on a weekend away and immediately regretted it when the kids threw themselves on the floor and wailed that they were bored. I never made that mistake again, but that has meant sacrificing a fair bit of boot space / luggage allowance over the years.

This is why I think Toy Box Tots is an inspired idea for parents – and we got to try it out over the past three days while we were glamping at Kaya Lodge.

So what is it?

Toy Box Tots will send you an age-appropriate box of toys for your little one for breaks away. You log onto their website, choose the box to match the age of your child (we went for 18-24 months for Mabel), and choose the length of time that you would like to rent the box for. This could be as little as 3 days or as long as a month. And once you’ve decided, simply input the delivery address and date you would like your box delivered – and hey presto, your children have toys to play with throughout your stay.

I think this concept works really well for families across the UK heading away for short breaks and holidays – but it also works incredibly well for expat families returning to the UK for holidays to stay with relatives. Just book a box in advance – and it’ll be there waiting for you when you arrive, without having to use up your luggage allowance to transport everything back in your suitcase.

What’s in the boxes?

The focus of each box is a book – and the toys that are included in the box are themed to match the book. For example, Mabel got the book ‘The Lion Who Lost His Voice But Learnt To Roar’ and she had a whole box of safari / animal / drawing themed toys to enjoy for the few days we were away. This included a wooden jigsaw puzzle, a large Noah’s Arc filled with plastic animals, a safari-train, a hand puppet, an aqua doodle mat and water pens – and lots more.

I was seriously impressed with how well matched the toys were to her age. She especially loved the Noah’s Arc and spent hours putting the animals in and out the arc, putting the top back on, and then marching around the tent with it! She loved it so much that I am now considering buying her one for home to keep her busy. The company really understood what keeps her age of toddler busy.

But it has to be said that it wasn’t just Mabel that loved the box. The boys loved helping her unpack it and spent as long as her playing with the items inside. In future, I think I’ll order a box for Wilfred too (as they go up to aged 4-5) so they both have their own selection. I also think the concept works really well for group holidays where you can club together to get a couple of boxes to entertain the various kids in your party.

How do you send it back?

When you are ready to head home, simply pack up the box of toys (you get to keep the book!) and the company will pick it up again (they will pre-arrange this with you when you first order the box).

It’s as easy as that – and believe me, these boxes make such a big difference to stays away from home!

How much does it cost?

The boxes start at £19 plus delivery/pick-up for a 3-day rental and rise to £30 for the month. If you have twins, you can get a 50% discount on a second box of the same age category (either an identical box or a different selection). Simply input TWINNINGIT at the checkout and the company will sort out the discount.

I really recommend Toy Box Tots. Packing light for our holiday felt really liberating – and Mabel was far more interested in these toys than she would be if I’d packed her own anyway! She was such a busy little girl playing with her box of toys throughout our stay – and that made my life so much easier too.

To find out more or to book online, visit www.toyboxtots.com  

 

This post is sponsored by Toy Box Tots



11th October 2017

We try: Slumbertots Sleep Training

Rewind to the day I stopped breastfeeding Mabel to sleep, when she was 7 months old. The very moment that the milk stopped coming and she started flailing around on the boob and we both decided we were done – that was the very moment she stopped falling asleep in my arms.

As the months ticked on, I came up with other ways to get her to sleep. I’d lay her in her bedside cot and feed her to sleep with a bottle as I lay in the bed alongside, creeping outside when she was snoring away. When she got older, I’d lie her next to me in the big double bed to feed her. And when she stopped falling asleep doing that, I’d lie next to her and cuddle her until she finally dropped off.

This all worked well and I loved those bedtime cuddles – but as the months ticked on, it was taking longer and longer for her to fall asleep. She’d try to stand up, she’d try to roll, she’d laugh hysterically, she’d whip me in the face with her cuddly elephant, and she’d cry with frustration. A few weeks ago, with my husband in Dubai and my boys downstairs with their grandparents in their pyjamas, it took over two hours to get her to sleep. And as much as I enjoyed that sleepy time with her, that was the moment I knew that something had to be done. It wasn’t fair on either of us – I was frustrated and Mabel was over-tired. We both needed to come up with a better plan.

Step forward Katy from the sleep consultancy Slumbertots.

Katy is a Certified Baby and Child Sleep Consultant – and she’s also a mum-of-two, meaning she understood exactly what sleep deprivation feels like and how we feel as mums when bedtime isn’t going well. She’s also lovely – like really, really lovely. Warm, relatable, gentle, and helpful. She can work with you anywhere in the world, as the consultations are by phone/skype, whilst a lot of the support is by email. I highly recommend reaching out.

But back to my story. After a consultation (Katy offers 15-minutes free consultation to all parents), Katy came up with a 10-day plan to help me get Mabel to sleep happily in her cot. Katy works with parents that want all kinds of different things for their babies – and I made it very clear from the beginning that I didn’t want to simply leave the room and let her cry. With that knowledge, Katy came up with a very gentle 10-day plan, where I would gradually retreat from the cot.

Over 10 days I would move from sitting right by the cot and comforting her – to being able to walk straight out the room by the end of day 10. It sounded amazing, but I have to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes that it would work – I just couldn’t imagine Mabel ever settling herself to sleep.

I don’t want to go into exact details, because it isn’t really fair on Katy to give away the tricks of her trade, but let’s just say that I followed the plan to the letter – and I was amazed by how quickly it worked. Katy offers a couple of Skype calls throughout the plan too, alongside email support, which means that you can check in regularly, ask questions, and be reassured that it’s all working OK.

Night one was the hardest, but I was still pretty amazed by how quickly she settled down and went to sleep (it genuinely wasn’t that hard at all). The middle of the night wake-ups were also tricky for the first few nights, because whilst Mabel didn’t always wake up during the night, she wanted to come into the bed for milk when she did and I always obliged. However, after a few nights of staying in her cot (with me comforting her and laying her back down to sleep), she understood that she would be staying in her cot and learnt to settle herself back to sleep.

So now I’m at the end of the plan, how does bedtime go now? After her milk and her bath, I kiss and cuddle Mabel to say goodnight – and then I place her in her cot. I say ‘Sleepy Time now, Night Night. I love you!’ and I walk out of the room. And she goes to sleep! I’m still in shock.

The first night that I walked straight out, I went downstairs and put the monitor on and heard silence. I sat with the boys in their pyjamas, cuddled them as they watched the CBBC Bedroom Story – and I got to read them a story when they went up to bed. I hadn’t been able to do this for a long time, as I’d been with Mabel on the bed – and I was so, so thankful that Katy and Slumbertots had come into my life.

Highly, highly recommended!

www.slumbertots.com/