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/



13th September 2017

Dear nomad children,

Dear nomad children,

It was only a few weeks ago that we told you we were going to stay in the UK. That your lives were changing forever. That you’d never head back to the bedroom you knew, nor the pool we visited every evening as the sun set, nor the school we all loved so much.

We waited until we were in the car, on the way to visit your new school for the first time. Daddy told you in the end, because my voice kept breaking as I spoke. His tone was animated and excited – and as I listened to him announce the news, tears welled in my eyes.

I always knew you’d find it hardest Stanley – and I wasn’t wrong. My sensitive little thinker, with such good friends in Dubai that you were so excited to return to. You were happy at first, exclaiming ‘We’re staying in the UK? Forever? We’re staying here forever?” When Daddy told you that was the case, you smiled broadly. But as the car wound down country roads, the sun flashing through the trees over our heads, I could tell your mind was whirring.

So we’re not going back to Dubai? What about my friends? I don’t want to stay here. I want to go back!

Oh we’ll still see them!” I managed to pipe up, as my heart shattered into a million pieces inside my chest. “We’ll be going out to see Daddy every school holiday. It’s just swapped round, so we’ll live in the UK but we’ll do our holidays in Dubai.”

You didn’t reply, deep in thought. But I could tell the faces of your friends were bright in your mind.

Wilfred, you were silent. You stared out the window as the fields and hedgerows flashed past.  “Are you excited, Wilfred?” I asked, twisting to look at you from the front of the car.

Yeah,” you said, without looking away from the window. I wondered what was going through your mind as you watched the countryside zoom past. I wondered if you were still too young to feel sad about it, whether you were imagining your bedroom in your mind, or your friends at nursery, or the fact that you were about to start school.

We didn’t say much more as we continued that journey. We were all deep in thought – half sad, half excited.  And throughout it all Mabel, you slept peacefully in your car seat, completely oblivious to the news that your life was about to take a completely different turn. That your sun hats and rompers would be packed away in boxes, replaced by knitted cardigans and tights. That your mornings being pushed along in the sunshine in your buggy would be replaced by strolls covered in blankets. That you’d no longer have to sit still while I smothered you in sun cream every morning and instead you’d have to learn to tolerate rain covers, waterproofs, hats and gloves.

Later that morning, we walked around your new school. We listened to stories about lessons deep in the forest. We imagined you climbing in the playground in the rain and the snow. We were told about nativity performances and trips to visit animals on farms. We were shown the swimming pool and I imagined you swimming in it in winter, shivering as you climbed out of the water.

Writing this letter to you today, it seems surreal that morning was only a matter of weeks away. And whilst I still feel pretty shell-shocked by the speed of it all, I could not be prouder of the way the three of you have adapted, accepted, and embraced your new life in the English countryside.

You have had your wobbles – of course you have – but you have walked into new classrooms with a bravery that has made me swell with pride. You have made new friends, played new games, and worn new uniforms – and you have taken it all in your stride. I know that you’ve found it hard at times, because we talk about how you feel every evening, but your courage never fails you the very next morning.

My little nomad children, it will always read ‘Dubai’ on your birth certificates – and I hope you always remember that life in the desert. I hope you remember the burnt orange dunes, the smell of jasmine in the air in our garden, the feeling of pink shells underneath your feet on the shore, the different nationalities that surrounded you in the classroom, and the comforting sound of the call of prayer in the afternoons.

I hope you remember all that.

It’s part of you.

It’s part of us.

But here comes the next chapter – and your courage, your adaptability, and the smiles that have rarely left your faces are just the beginning of the story.

And you have made me so proud.

Love Mummy x



8th September 2017

We’re coming home…

I remember the day that my boyfriend announced he had been offered a job in Dubai so clearly. It was a sunny evening in June 2009 – and I remember sitting there, listening to the excitement in his voice, and wondering whether he realised the world as we knew it was about to end.

In the end it was a mutual decision that he should take that job. Career wise and financially, he’d have been silly not to. And just a month later, it was time to say goodbye.

I’d had tickets booked for months to see Take That The Circus in concert at Wembley the night before he left – so I decided to still go with my sister and cousins. There was Mark, Gary, Howard and Jason dressed as clowns with their faces painted in their make-shift Big Top – and there was me sat amongst thousands in the crowd with a big lump in my throat, knowing that my world was going to change forever.

But as the boys sung out the lyrics to The Garden as the concert closed “This is the life we’ve been given. So open your mind and start living”, I made a vow to be brave and get on with it.

I haven’t been able to listen to that song or those lyrics without that same lump appearing in my throat ever since. But eight years down the line, I couldn’t be more thankful that I took that leap of faith and gave Dubai a chance.

And now here I am, as a mother of three, doing the move the other way round.

And honestly, this way is much harder.

Back then, my heart belonged in the UK. I was passionate about it. I’d have moved back to the UK at the drop of a hat, with a gigantic smile on my face. For the first few years, I hung a sign in my kitchen that read ‘When you are tired of London, you are tired of life’ – until we moved to a new apartment and I never unpacked it from the box.

My love for Dubai grew slowly, but steadily. I remember one trip home for summer in the early days when I was on a train back to Kent from London late at night. I picked up a magazine that was lying on the seat next to me and flicked through it, coming across a page with a full page glossy advert for holidays to Dubai. Real tears welled in my eyes I realised I felt homesick for a place I never even realised was home.

Over time, I built a home in that city. I grew three babies without ever having to step out of my summer maternity dresses and flip-flops, I decorated apartments and villas with framed pictures of desert dunes, and I filled my work days writing about what a fantastic place it was to bring up a young family.

And it was. It really was – and if I could’ve moved all my family and friends over to the desert and fixed the climate a little, I probably would’ve stayed there forever.

But forever isn’t happening – and we are now home to start a new life in the UK. Not all of us, admittedly – as that boyfriend who was packing his bags back in 2009 is now my husband. And he’ll still be based out there in the desert (for the meantime, at least), flying back and forth when he can.

We always intended to come home soon – but admittedly it happened much quicker than we had planned. As the summer ticked on, a few things made us realise that now was probably the best time. At the beginning of a new school term for Stanley – and before Wilfred had started full-time education and we ended up paying for a new villa contract without wanting to be there. There were hours of discussions, plenty of tears, moments of excitement, and a heavy dose of ‘what the hell have we done?’ as we signed the kids up to a new school. But with that, the deal was done.

On Sunday afternoon, we decided to take the boys for one last treat with their Daddy – before he packed his bags and flew back to Dubai. I had spotted that the circus was in town and hastily booked tickets to the afternoon performance. It didn’t even occur to me that we were going full circle, until I was sat in the audience watching those clowns in the Big Top.

Back to the circus, with a lump in my throat – waiting for my husband to head to Dubai.

All over again.

I know we are going to OK here in the UK, but it’s going to take some adjustment. I’ll miss my husband all the time he’s away, Ill miss my friends in the desert, I’ll miss our nanny who had become part of the family, and Ill miss the weather as it starts to cool down for winter. But seeing my children exploring the countryside, running around in the fresh air, getting to experience the seasons for the first time in their lives, to kick leaves, to feel snow fall on their noses, and to head over to their grandparents houses whenever they are missing them. This will make it all worthwhile.

And the rest? I have high hopes that it’ll fall into place.

After all, this isn’t the first time I’ve left a place that I love.

And this time, we’re coming home.



5th September 2017

Stanley tries: Reading Eggs

At 11 weeks, the summer holidays has been an extra long one for us – and oh my goodness, I’m so ready for both my boys to be out of the house for a while! But that applies to my eldest especially, because he’s always been academic and thrived into the classroom – and entertaining him at home has been really, really hard.

I’ve also worried that with such a long break, he will have forgotten pretty much everything he learnt in the last term – and without the time to sit down and read with him (with his siblings usually sat on my hip or clinging to my legs), I enthusiastically accepted an invitation to sign up for a trial of Reading Eggs.

So what is Reading Eggs?

Available for children to play on both a laptop and iPad, the programme is designed to teach young children essential early literacy skills in a fun and engaging way. Reading Eggs was developed by a team of primary teachers, with over 30 years experience, and is built on recognised learning principles and solid scientific research on how children most effectively learn.

I simply logged in for Stanley with my username and password (he preferred to play on my laptop as it’s usually totally forbidden!) and chose the programme for children aged 3-7 (there’s also a section for those aged 2-4 years and 7-13 years, along with a maths section for 3-9 year olds). Stanley then took it from there – and I’d occasionally lean over to find him flicking the pages of a book, playing puzzles with words, or (the best bit) dancing along to party music when he completed a level!

You can add more than one child to your trial too, which is a big bonus to those of us with younger or older siblings that fancy having a go too.

Did he enjoy it?

He loved every single second – and literally begged me most mornings this summer to have a go. I’m usually quite reluctant about handing over the iPad at home, but I didn’t mind him playing Reading Eggs at all as I knew how well respected the programme is and that it was really helping with his reading and literacy skills.

One element that I loved was that I got regular reports on his progress emailed through to me too – so even if I was busy with his siblings, washing up bottles, or trying to make a dent in the laundry pile while the baby slept, it meant I knew he was completing the stages. If I wanted more information, I just clicked the link so I could see the reading level he was working at too.

Do I recommend it?

Yes – definitely.

To be honest I didn’t really expect to be so impressed, thinking that it might kill a few hours over the summer so was worth the trial. But Stanley enjoyed it so much and I can see the progress he has made in black and white, meaning it’s a far better alternative to the YouTube Kids videos he’d probably be watching if he asked me for a bit of screen time. If you child enjoys playing on an iPad or clicking on a laptop, this is a very reassuring way to know that they are learning too. And with school back now (hurrah), it’s a great way to get them in the mood for learning again too.

Fancy a free trial? Reading Eggs are offering all of my readers a free 5-week trial by registering at this link – www.readingeggs.co.uk/mobam17/

 

 

In collaboration with Reading Eggs