run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

About to become a mum of two (or more)? You need to read this.

I've been a bit blog-silent for a few weeks because our family of three has just become four: tiniest man was born two weeks ago.
He arrived two hours after I strolled (ha! huffed, puffed and almost rolled) into the (amazing) Whittington birthing centre. 
The second-time-around birth was definitely a whole lot easier. But whilst I spent huge chunks of pregnant time musing about birth and sleepless nights all over again, I hadn't really planned or thought much about the difference between looking after one toddler, and two children.
And now I'm a veteran mama of two (hey, got a fortnight's experience), I've realised it's really different. Maternity leave with one? It was all fab baby cinema trips, relaxing Brent Cross visits, culture days in town. I even wrote a smug post about it here...
Maternity leave with two? Desperately hoping a howling babe doesn't wake the toddler next-door; getting naps to coincide being the highlight of your month, that first Brent Cross visit requiring parental assistance and a stream of toddler food bribes and getting both into their car seats at the same time, without any sobbing, seeming tougher than organising a jail-break.   

So I asked the wise, experiences mamas of Facebook, what are your tips for life with two or more babes? And these are their brilliant answers. If you're pregnant with a second/third/fourth/seventeenth (and if the latter, Channel 4 wants to make a documentary about you)... read on. And get shopping..


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Which holiday-packing parent are you?

The Facebook parenting group posts start around May. "I'm planning my August holiday packing-list (first time abroad with the babe) and I'm on my fourth sheet of A4. Has anyone ever travelled easyJet and taken over the plane's entire luggage hold with their kit? Is that doable?" 

Or something like that.

Because parenting out of our comfort zone (basically the four walls of your home, in the early days) can be scary. Those adventurous sorts who use a year's maternity leave to visit 792 countries of the world, with only one rucksack between the three of them: HOW? 

So I thought I'd put together a tongue-in-cheek guide to the simplest way to pack for a holiday. Just match your personality to your trip, and start that pile of gear..


Monday, 10 April 2017

The #parentspact and my husband the octopus

 Two years ago, when my tiny man really was living up to his moniker, I was doing my 91st lap of the bedroom at 3am, trying to rock him to sleep. He was full, burped and ready to go back to bed - ‘pleeease, I begged him in my head, won’t you just go to sleep?’
I remember dreaming of being a millionaire with a maternity nurse, who’d swoop in, bring the babe into the bedroom to have milk, then let me doze straight back to sleep… So I didn’t have eye-bags the size of Ikea’s blue plastic ones. 

But last week, I actually interviewed a maternity nurse - not for my own use, but in my job as a journalist. She works solely for the super-rich, royalty, and celebrities, and told me stories of regularly being handed over an hours-old newborn, fresh out of hospital, by parents who then wouldn’t even visit their tiny one for whole fortnight.  

Monday, 27 March 2017

Review: City Tour buggy for travel (and the space-squeezed)

It's taken two years but we've now become that family with the buggy assault-course to get in/out of the house. First up there's the Cosatto, our first and main buggy that's comfy for tiny man and great for long walks, but heavy for schlepping up and down stairs / the Tube / town etc. There's the Mothercare XSS, which I initially raved about but doesn't lie flat, doesn't have a sun shield and is a bit tinny when pushing around... And now, a newcomer amongst the midst. One that threatens the other two's existence.. Step (wheel?) forward the City Tour.

Its older sibling the City Mini is one of the most popular buggies around: it's the one that in-the-know parents usually opt for, for it's one-handed easy fold action and nice steering. In fact, as I wrote in a piece featured in the Daily Mail, it's even the buggy with best eBay value (vital if you're Definitely Not Having Any More). 

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Legoland for toddlers: a review

Theme parks are generally aimed at big kids - kids bigger than this 30-year-old blogger, actually, since scary rides terrify me.. Some are aimed at tots but not so great for older kids, but a couple stand out for being great for little 'uns and having plenty for siblings (and parents) too - and Legoland is one of them. I love seeing the amazing Lego builds, especially Miniland, so couldn't wait to take tiny man - now approaching two, and decidedly less tiny - and his nine-year-old cousin to the Windsor world of bricks and rides. And it's free for under 3s, yet there's loads for them to do. 

Here's our lowdown on what Legoland is like for toddlers - plus lots of practical top tips.


Monday, 20 March 2017

11 hilarious tweets that reveal what it's REALLY like to parent a toddler

Screw those perfect Insta-shots. This is reality, toddler parents-to-be. Get ready.... 

1) When you lick just to check and...  

2) When your phone's memory is suddenly full and you're sure you didn't take 34,000 photos overnight, and then you check your camera roll....

3) When blindly inserting a hand into any cavity in your home is actually kinda dangerous...

 (via @marketingelise)


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Luxury family travel: Lime Wood in the New Forest

 Lime Wood is the kind of place you go on a babymoon or minimoon (it has the most amazing food, a beautiful spa and a lovely New Forest setting), laze happily by the pool, fall in love, and fear you'll never be able to return to once you Become A Parent.

Luckily, having just returned from a brilliant two-night stay at the 32-room hotel just outside Lyndhurst, we can report it's a brilliant place to go as a family too. In fact, it might just be one of Britain's nicest luxury mini-breaks: fancy but not fussy; interior design that makes you wander if they'll notice if you fork-lift, say, the entire bathroom home with you, and food so good you're uber-grateful the New Forest is a (free-to-borrow) Hunter wellies waddle away, because you need those good long walks. 


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Mothers' day gift edit

Mothers' day gift edit

This is the post you want to leave lingering on a tablet/phone/laptop for your other half to "accidentally" spot and buy you something amazing from your tinies. Because let's not pretend otherwise - you love being a mama but it's seriously hard work and why not have a little gift reward once a year..? Sure, once they're older you'll treasure their homemade gifts - and there's a brilliant idea for one below so lets hope the other half keeps scrolling - but for now, a little bit of luxury would be lovely, right?

Here's our edit of SEVEN amazing Mothers' Day presents - and the first one is that home-made cracker:

* I'm in-love with this family fingerprint heart art idea by a fellow blogger - it's not too much work and will look lovely on the wall. There are canvases at Hobbycraft for as little as £2 and fingerprint paint there too, then it's just a question of making a stensil and getting the kiddo(s) to do their very best fingerprints. The end result looks wall-good and is such a nice present for mamas/grandmas/etc.


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Nursery Crimes - or, making it up as we go along..

* Guest post from Giles - first-time dad, PR supremo and creator of London dad blog YOU THE DADDY) * 

Even at just five months' old, our little boy Teddy loves the classic nursery rhymes and vintage lullabies of yesteryear. But - if you're anything like me - remembering the words to said nursery rhymes (and definitely anything more advanced than the first verse), is a feat well beyond the new parent skillset. 

So, to ensure our new babe still gets the benefit of these dulcet tunes, even when his baby-brained dad can't recall the actual words, I've come up with a simple solution. Engaging my mad riffing skills (Vanilla Ice, watch your back), while avoiding the temptation to just read the lyrics verbatim from my phone, I've taken instead to making them up. 
Of all the classic, difficult-to-remember nursery rhymes, I find 'Hush little baby' to be the easiest to bastardise, thanks to its slow ambling melody and simple rhyming structure...

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Family travel review: Abama, Tenerife

Ritz Carlton Abama Tenerife
In holiday-planning, picking Tenerife was the easy part: if you want some winter sun, a not-too-long flight (it's around four hours), budget airlines, all-year sunshine and no risk of Zika virus, then the Canary Islands are the best (only?) option - and Tenerife is one of the most family-friendly around. 

But which hotel/resort/villa to pick? We spent so long trawling websites and Tripadvisor that I thought a full review of the Moorish-style Ritz Carlton Abama, from where we've just returned from a week's break, and its family-friendly credentials would be useful for those looking too. So, here goes:

The Location

The Abama is about a 30-minute drive from South Tenerife airport, and we then prebooked a transfer with Kiwi taxi. The company was cheaper than a hailed one or a hotel transfer, at €47 for a mini van; you can also pre-order a free car seat which normal taxis don't offer. (Although it wasn't the newest/cleanest car seat around, it worked!)

The Abama is quite isolated - there are no villages or shops that you can walk to - but there's a shuttle to a big international mall, and a local village about a five-minute drive away. We, however, (and I'm a bit embarrassed about this) didn't end up leaving the resort - for the first time ever..!


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Monochrome Spring Shopping

Monochrome Mothercare 2
You know those chilly/rainy toddler days when it's too cold for the playground and you've done the library, you've no play dates and the thought of soft play makes you wanna explode? On those days, we hit a shopping centre. Tiny man loves the toy shops and people-watching and the inevitable apple that keeps him busy for ooooh 20 minutes - and I ... love shopping. 

The shops are full of Spring right now, but buying something light and bright and totally unsuitable until, well, who knows but probably May is just too frustrating. So monochrome is the best way forward - and Mothercare was so chocka with lovely bits for Tiny Man (and his tiny girl-friends' upcoming second birthdays) plus I spotted some black-and-white maternity bits in-store that were far nicer than anything I saw when pregnant with Tiny Man.. And here are some of our faves all together. 


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Easy, freezable, make-ahead toddler meals

I love cooking, but coming up with endless ideas plus juggling busy-at-work weeks with tiny man's voracious appetite means I've come to be one of those freezer-obsessives. We don't have a big one - but it's Jenga-style filled with ickle tupperwares that I can pull out in the morning and be 40-heat-up-seconds ready for supper that evening.

I'm freezer-lazy: where's the benefit of bulk-cooking bolognese/tomato/cheese sauce etc, if you've still got to boil up some pasta that's another 15 minutes.. So I prefer stews, pies, bakes: I like all-in-ones. Luckily, so does tiny man.

So here are 10 of our favourite easy, big-batchable recipes for toddler meals - and how to freeze them. Enjoy!


Monday, 9 January 2017

Luxury London family hotel review: The Berkeley

 Lie ins, unmarked cream carpet, and luxury hotels: three things I was pretty sure we'd have to give up when we became parents. And the first two, pretty much - bar those amazing mornings when Mr ROOW does the early shift. But the latter? No way. 

Hotels have got savvy and know that families aren't all looking for Crayola-coloured furniture and a children's menu when they book a holiday. I was a total luxury-lover who'd save for a splurge-hotel before I became a mama... And I still am now. 

Which is why we just had the best weekend at The Berkeley, in Knightsbridge, a super-lovely hotel which you might think is too designer/relaxing/foodie for families - but which doubles over backwards to make you feel welcome.

It started at check-in: my shoe-less toddler (long story..) was greeted like a celebrity, not with the snooty look some hotels hand out. Three Golden Key-totting concierges were competing to get a smile or a wave out of tiny man, whilst someone else dug through a toy box to hand him a fab musical paintbrush gift. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017


“After hearing nothing from our youngest for too long, I discovered a kitchen covered in turmeric..” A friend’s Facebook admission inspired me to ask mamas and papas of babies, toddlers and kids about their #thatswhatquietlookslike experiences. Do they sound familiar...?!

“I was stuck on the phone fielding three emergencies related to work and our house - and my 18-month-year-old was happily playing on his own. He had disappeared into the kitchen. So after dealing with all the hassle I became suspicious and checked on him. He had gotten hold of the dishwashing liquid, and poured it over four baskets of freshly washed and folded summer laundry ready to be put away for winter. He even made sure that every single piece of clothing had some on it… #thatswhatquietlookslike 

“Quiet looks like a little boy eating coal from the fireplace! He won't eat what I cook him, but he will eat coal..” #thatswhatquietlookslike 

“Once found the boy at 20 months, licking wrappers. He had found the stash of chocolate in the kitchen and eaten it. All of it.” #thatswhatquietlookslike 


Monday, 2 January 2017

Christmas at Kew: top tips for family visits

Christmas at Kew has become an annual highlight for many families - one of those rare London festive events that is great for all ages, not super-commercialised, and makes you go 'wow'. 

It's not cheap - £16 per adult, £10 for kids, under 4s are free, or a family of four costs £52 (these are advanced prices) - but having just unwrapped our scarves, hats and gloves from our New Year's Eve trip to Christmas at Kew, we can definitely say it's worth it.

So here's our top tips and FAQs for anyone planning a trip.

What is it?

Without wanting to give away the magic - plus the actual attractions change every year - it's a lit-up trail with attractions (some set to music) ranging from multicoloured lights in trees, to the 12 days of Christmas in models and fire rings, to giant candles and light tunnels. There are lit-up sculptures too, a Santa, elves and a short show, plus - my personal favourite - marshmallow toasting fire pits. You can buy marshmallows (£1.50) which seemed miraculous types - always caramalisingly toasting and never burning. We bought one each and kept having to restock... The finale is a laser light show outside the lake outside the Palm House.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

TOP TIPS FOR BABES - if babies did Facebook groups...

They're the most useful parenting innovation of the last few decades ever, but do you ever wonder what our babes would say if they got their hands on our Facebook parenting forums..? We found out...

1) the gift crowd-sourcing
2) the buying and selling

Monday, 28 November 2016

Review: Enchanted Christmas House, Islington

So, *that* time of the year is approaching... and there are so many fun festive days out for the kids. There are grottos, but visits don't last long, and there are Christmas shows, but my toddler wouldn't sit still for a whole one. Then I heard about Enchanted House, Islington - an "interactive show" with lots of activities and characters, music and noise. This weekend, we (tiny man, his parents, and his eight-year-old niece) headed over to the Sunday afternoon session to check it out.

My main question was: is it worth the money? Because the Enchanted Christmas House an expensive place - from £129 for an adult and one child, up to £195 for two adults and two kids, or if you've five kids it's a whopping £270! 


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Toddlers and kids' days out in London: Greenwich

We're always looking for new places to visit around London, and Greenwich struck gold: it's kid-friendly (there's loads to do) and parent-perfect (there are almost no chain stores, great markets, food, and shopping). It's also really busy - packed with tourists and Londoners alike - but plan ahead with these tips and you'll have the best family day out.

First up, what to do? Obviously there's a lot of water- and maritime-based history in the home of world time - so if you've got the time, and the weather, a fun way to arrive is by water taxi, or via the Thames cable car. We were more boring (it was cold!) and drove all the way, but parked the other side of the water and walked under the huge Greenwich foot tunnel, which tiny man enjoyed so much we could have just gone home then....

Instead, though, we hit the National Maritime Museum. It's free (horray!) and a really interesting museum of the history of the seas, including shipwrecks, maps, pirates and more. But if you've a tot, the best place to be is the Ahoy Gallery  - it's 0-7s, and there's so much to do: a pretend shop, boats, shovel coal into 'fires', sensory area with bubbles and water, build freight trains, try out a ship's cabin, get dressed up, cook a 'meal' on a ship... You can easily spend over an hour here with a toddler never getting bored. 

Friday, 11 November 2016

WIN! The ultimate pregnancy and newborn bundle worth £400

As soon as you announce you're pregnant, Facebook starts flogging you a gazillion baby-related "essentials." But ask anyone who's grown a human before, and they'll likely say the only thing you *really* need whilst pregnant is a massive chocolate supply.. And some bump jeans (which you'll want to wear every Christmas for years after.. expandable wasteband: amazing.) 

There are, though, a bunch of hero products that'll make the nine months a whole bunch easier. So we had companies send in their very best pregnant products - and a couple for new babes too so you feel organised - and mamas at various stages of pregnancy tested them out. 

These are the stand-out items that they fell in love with - their verdicts, and, the best thing of all? You can win the whole lot, worth more than £400. Just enter the competition at the bottom of this post. Good luck!


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Online baby clubs: the best freebies

Online clubs for new and expecting mamas mean you can score piles of freebies without leaving your laptop (or phone: midnight scrolling sessions, we're looking at you..). But watch out! Some have over your data to other companies so you could be left with a bombardment of spam. 

Bounty Parenting Club - Free goodie bags, guides and samples from big brands, but note that Bounty sell data to third parties and so it’s a good idea to create a separate email account.

* Boots Parenting Club - 10 Advantage points for every £1, free magazines and gifts (like a free nappy bag when you sign up). May share your info with branded sponsors.

* Huggies Pull ups potty training: Free Huggies Pull-Ups when you complete a form to access their School of Toilet Training. Will keep sending you emails.

* Your Baby Club – Freebies (like Ella's Kitchen pouches, bubble bath, bottles and more) plus discounts and competitions. Do not sell your data to third parties, but pass on your details if you redeem an offer. Send out 5000 boxes of samples each month.

* Emma’s Diary – Week by week info about your pregnancy and development of your baby, and £200 of money off vouchers to spend at Argos on registration, plus gift bag of freebies (wipes, stretch mark cream, breasts pads). Send details to third parties so it’s a good idea to create a separate email account.

* C&G Baby Club – advice, free goodies and forum to meet other mums. Says "It would be very unlikely for C&G Baby club to share your information with 3rd parties, although they can share info with other Danone brands."

* Hipp Organic Club - expert advice on weaning, and samples - Hipp will contact you with their own marketing info.

* My Mothercare – Sign up and receive £100-worth of discount vouchers at Mothercare, 20% of toys for your child’s birthday and personalized offers. Shares info with Mothercare brands and sister company the Early Learning Centre, as well as third parties "we believe are of interest to you" unless you opt out.

* Toys R Us Gold Card – money off vouchers: Toys R Us will share your info with third parties until you opt out.

* The Pampers club – app that allows you to obtain rewards points whenever you buy Pampers nappies. "Your details will be shared with other group companies within the P&G network."

* – freebies with an opening offer to choose "from a boy or a girl pack." Have to work for it - must claim offers or refer friends to build credits on the site and Baby Samples will exchange your data with brands for marketing purposes. Best to use a different email to avoid spam.

* Little Bird – discount vouchers for all sorts of family activities. Will share your details with third parties unless you opt out. 

* This guide has been created with info help from Your Baby Club, all information on the guide has been collected by Sway PR using information from the privacy policy section of the website of each club listed. Valid as of 2 November 2016.

Friday, 28 October 2016

You know you have a toddler when...

My 'omg I have a toddler' moment wasn't when my 'hey, isn't he a baby?' started negotiating with me (over raisins, not world peace). 

It wasn't even when I turned around after boiling the kettle (three seconds) and discovered my kitchen looked like it had been burgled. 

It was when I realised my favourite car audio was no longer XFM, but the three chords of track four of 'Children's Favourite Car Music' (Nelly the Elephant: upbeat version) which mean I can drive without back-seat screaming.

So, I asked the mamas of Facebook and blog-world: what was the moment you knew you were the parent of a toddler? 

(You might want to do some pelvic floors before reading... Some of these are funnnnny.)

You know you have a toddler....

"When you don't look at the clock anymore because you know the time by what children's programne has started. Oh Playschool is on? It's half nine.... must get a move on..."

"When miscellaneous items can be found in random places, all over your house. 'Oh, there's the wooden spoon. In the toilet.'"

"When your hottest gossip is about what's happening at nursery - mainly who complained about who, how long the new manager will last, and which key worker's bloke left her..."

"When you no longer get excited about the clocks going back an hour."

"When you find yourself saying things to the toddler that you would have in the past only said to your drunk boyfriend / husband. Eg 'please stop trying to eat the stones'..."

"When your toddler grabs the breast of a visitor and shouts 'BOOBY' and you're so tired you can't even be bothered to apologise..."

"When you realise you're watching Paw Patrol, 30mins after the kids fell asleep..."

"When your car and carpet are full of sand..." (from Whinge Whinge Wine)

"When there are food smears on every wall in the house about 76cm high..."

"When you refer to yourself as mummy to an adult by mistake..."

"When you walk along the street with toddler in buggy singing 'Wheels on the bus/ Old MacDonald' at full volume with no embarrassment..."

"When you are so sleep deprived you try and unlock your front door with your car remote..."

"When you can't go to the toilet without an audience."

"When you haven't seen the bottom of the washing basket for over two years, despite putting on three loads a day..." 

"When you start saying sentences that you never thought would fall out of your mouth... such as "please don't hit your sister with the elephant."

"When you realise you know the entire script for every Peppa Pig episode, ever made...

"And your YouTube homepage is filled with videos of Chu Chu TV and 300 versions of 'Family Finger..

"And you have a favourite Paw Patrol character...

"And you automatically type in 614 on Sky TV every time you turn it on (damn you, CBeebies)," says Twinderelmo

"When you find yourself saying 'please don't put your potato in your eye' during dinner time."

"When your most commonly-used phrase is 'mind your head'."

"When you find yourself having a debate about why you (the mum) don't have a willy... in a public toilet, with your toddler son. Obviously he chooses to talk really loudly so everyone can hear."

"When you find yourself having to learn the names of every train that has ever existed because your toddler quizzes you about them all the time... from Suburban Mum

"When you get to work, open your bag to take out important work things and find 17 small cars, a pair of socks and a lump of playdough all placed there lovingly by your toddler ... but no important work things.." laughs Rock and Roll Pussy Cat. 

"When you find yourself singing along with the toys whilst out and about... "Circle triangle square, shapes are everywhere," sings Fab Fat Mama

"When a 30-min round walk takes two hours (because: leaves, twigs, dents on the ground, driveways, grass, flowers, man-hole covers, puddles...)" says Adventures of a Novice Mum 

"When 8am is considered a lie in..."

"When you're always covered in glitter and no longer bother explaining why."

"When you find being given a "bogey present" to take to work, on your way out of the door, endearing..."

"When you find yourself 'repairing' a banana."

"When you are so tired that you have to feel if your toothbrush is wet ... because you can't remember if you brushed them or not."

"When you eat in secret because you don't want them to want what you are eating. (It's chocolate.)"

"When you're just happy everyone survived the day."


Thursday, 13 October 2016

Review: family-friendly afternoon tea at One Aldwych

If you want to splurge on afternoon tea in the Capital, and you want amazing food but also the London-wow factor, and you want the kids to have as good a time as the grown-ups, there's only one place to go: One Aldwych.
Here's why.

The hotel's afternoon tea is themed around Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and you know how the kids in the book find their eyes boggling at the innovations and flavours and smells and colours? That's what you get here - via the food.

You're sitting in a relaxed five-star hotel's restaurant around the corner from Covent Garden, but drinking a steaming yet cold (ah, dry ice) pomegranate mocktail.
The teapot was still steaming (and my niece only stopped staring to start Instagram boomerang-videoing to show friends) when a platter of egg, roast beef and smoked salmon sandwiches, plus tomato filo and stilton tarts, arrived. They're just about the only piece of traditional afternoon tea you should expect, but so good that we had to go for a second round (ushered over without extra charge) in part because tiny man ate so many.

Then the seriously-wow platter arrives. Tall pink candy floss lollypops, in a flavour that's at the tip of your tongue, only what is it? (The waiter gives you clues - Wonka style - until finally you realise. I'm not giving the secret away here!)

Tiny bottles of caramel chocolate milk, which we slurped down so fast replacements arrived and were guzzled down too. 

Dainty gold-dusted chocolate eggs, filled with vanilla cheesecake and mango 'yolk'. Lemon cake pops. Blueberry financiers. Crumbly scones with berry or apple compote. Little pots of Eton mess. Plus cream, of course - this is afternoon tea in London.
It's smart - everyone's dressed up - but not fusty. Tiny man had his high chair surroundings covered  in cake faster than the Great Glass Elevator could travel, but the waiters didn't mind, as they might in other top London hotels.

You can feel relaxed about taking the kids and certain they - and you - will enjoy it. We loved the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea. Just understand that you're going to feel like an Oompa Loompa afterwards.. there's a lot of delicious food.

* Run Out of Womb was a guest of One Aldwych for afternoon tea - but we're seriously gobby - especially about food - and only rave about what we really love. Tea costs £37.50 per person, £27.50 for kids.

Monday, 26 September 2016

What babies and toddlers are thinking at 3am

You're asleep. They looked asleep when you popped in to gaze lovingly at their cuddly torso at 11pm. But they were just pretending. Now it's 3am, and they're plotting. And this is what's on the agenda...

1. These pyjamas aren't my colour. What's the quickest way to get some new ones? Oh yeah I remember. Think of a water fountain and peeeeeeeeeeeeee. Perfect: now it's out of my nappy, onto the PJs, on to the bedding (always nice to have new sheets), so I'll call the washer woman. 

2. I wonder if baby sibling is awake too. I'll yell and find out. BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYBEEEEEEE....? 

3. What's that small thing lying on the carpet almost within touching distance of my cot? Is it White Bear? OK, I know that Green Bear, Grey Bear, Brown Bear and Yellow Bear are here in my cot, but I'd like White Bear. And I know just the person who'd love to bring me White Bear, and have a tea party with all the other Bears, for an hour, now. I'll just call her. MAAAAAAAMAAAAAAAAAA!

4. What? You outsourced me to dada? No. Not happening. I wanted the other one. The milk one. MAMAAAAAAAAA!

4. Haven't seen the neighbours for a while. It was pretty funny when they rung the bell to check 'if everything was OK' because they hadn't heard screaming so loud "since that episode of Crime Watch." Time to try it again. WAAAAAAH!

5. The side of my cot looks a lot like the slide at the park. Going to try to get over it.

6. Do my teeth hurt? Actually no. But that gel they bought tastes nice. Fancy some. Will cry whilst touching mouth and get some. MAMAAAA!

7. Wait. Is that those noises I hear? The weird ones I heard about nine months before the New One came along? Better do a massive poop and WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Review: the Rainforest Cafe in London

The Rainforest Cafe might just be the only restaurant in London to have buggy valet-parking. You stroll up to the red velvet rope at this Piccadilly Circus spot, hand over your wheels (removing the precious cargo inside who might just be inhaling excitement after walking through the cuddly animal-stuffed shop first), are handed a ticket and descend down, past an interior waterfall, into the jungle.

No navigating a buggy around the tables here - but then, the Rainforest Cafe is probably London's most child-friendly eatery. It's the sort of place I'd have mocked before I became a parent - I'd have thought the hairy, breathing, tree-tickling gorrillas tacky, and the prices - well I'd have reckoned that I eat at Nobu for about the same price as our family would munch at the Rainforest Cafe. 

But then I became a parent, and I just visited  - with my own tiny man and two nieces, aged 11 and 8 - and the cynicism's gone. They started grinning as soon as we walked in, when our khaki-clad 'safari guide' (the bloke who walks you to your table - you have to enter with a Disney-style belief in magic here) pointed out the parrots hanging from the ceiling, the enormous trump-waving elephant, the fish in the central aquarium, the big dangling gorillas. He remembered that I'd mentioned a special occasion (my oldest niece's starting Big School) on my booking, and asked her all about it. And all three kids beamed all lunch long - and tiny man is still talking about the giant frog who visited our table, of which more later. 

When we left, the older kids - who I've taken on trips including Legoland, press cinema trips, beach amusement parks, treasure hunts around London - exclaimed: "that was one of our best days out ever!"

So that's why I've lost my cynicism. That and the fact that the food was surprisingly good, so I was full and happy. Sure, you're unlikely to win at your diet here: there are salads and I did have one of the best fresh juices I've ever had (freshly-squeezed raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, blueberry & cranberry -  £6.30 and worth it, seriously). But nearly every table is gobbling sweet-smelling fries and so... you're likely to enter into said spirit.

We started with nachos, sharing cheddar-oozing and guacamole-loaded chips, then all went for juicy chargrilled burgers. They came loaded with chips and portions are big: the 11-year-old ordered from the adult menu and wouldn't have been able to finish even the kids' burger. I like the way the children's menu is split into one for under sevens, and tiny man demolished his salmon fish cakes from this section (really fishy and good, with steamed veg) - and bigger portions for under 11s. 

No salt is used in kids' meals, and either option is available for £13 (including a main course, drink, and dessert) or £17 (with those plus an extra side and an activity pack, with a pack of Snap, masks, stickers, puzzle book and more). It's fantastic for anyone with allergies too: there's an interactive menu-helper to work out meal choices in advance if you want to, and staff are super-clued up on gluten-free, allergen-free and other options.

They're generally really thoughtful too: there's a rainforest-style thunder storm (complete with singing animals) every so often. Our waiter came over to warn me in advance in case it scared tiny man; "it's every 30 minutes but only lasts 57 seconds," he knowlingly told me. We had the same warning before the restaurant's giant walking frog came to visit - "give me a thumbs up or down if he's scared and we'll leave" - but no need, he was a big hit.

Oh... and then it was time for dessert. A dessert so amazing I wondered if the husband and I would look weird swinging by the Rainforest Cafe without kids on a date night. Bigger Eyes Than Stomach syndrome saw us pick three options - a fruit salad for tiny man (well, someone had to be sensible), a delicious strawberry and lightly-toasted marshmallow set of kebabs (with a slightly odd chocolate sauce), and... The Sparkling Volcano. This is the one that saw the kids' eyes pop out of their heads. It's humungous. A bigger than an adult-sized head-kind of humungous sundae. There's strawberry and vanilla ice cream, cream, marshmallows, strawberry and banana chunks, caramel and chocolate sauces, chocolate brownie at the bottom and two jazzy sparklers setting the whole thing alight.

Stuffed and beaming, we basically rolled out of the Rainforest Cafe, auntie of the day award secured. It'll cost you more than a trip to the average family-friendly chain - but you'll probably enjoy it a lot more too: birthdays are a big thing here, with celebrating kids invited to stand on chairs as the whole room sings to them.

Winding our way out, we picked up the buggy from valet parking. There were no cleaning service on offer at this valet, but hey, every restaurant has to have some ideas for improvements... We'll be back.

* Run out of Womb was a guest of the Rainforest Cafe, but rest assured we're seriously gobby and only rave about things we really love.
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