run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch


Sunday, 13 May 2018

DIY toddler party at home

Hell is a sweaty London soft play on a Sunday afternoon. Especially with a toddler and a baby, the former wanting to sprint to every sticky corner, the latter really keen on playing with a stray abandoned dusty sock discovered in the ball pond. So when tiny man's birthday approached, I was really keen to avoid the de facto soft play / freaky entertainer chap and do a DIY party.

I know the kiddos really do love a soft play / freaky entertainer chap. But until we're at the age of having to invite all the school class and having 40,000 kids to entertain, I started googling some easy ways to entertain kids with a do-it-yourself party. 


Sunday, 4 March 2018

Mothers' day gift edit

Mothers' Day Gift Guide
I've heard people (one of whom *may* be the other grown up living in my house) suggest mothers' day (and Valentine's day) are 'silly' because we should celebrate our mums / lovers every day of the year. And we should. But we don't. Because it's all too easy to forget how fab people are - whether it's that frantic phone call to your mum when you're worried about a kiddo's rash, or you're just plain knackered and they come round to give you a few hours off, or they support you from afar.

I also *definitely* didn't fully appreciate how much my parents did for me and how fab they are until I became a parent. So I think mothers' day is a fab opportunity to say: thank you, you're great... and here's a present to let you know I love you.


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Parents Selling Stuff Online BINGO

It must be something to do with all those broken nights' sleep. But when people turn into parents, some go bonkers. Nowhere is that clearer than in buying and selling groups on Facebook. . . where someone's actually selling a dummy ("lightly used") for 50p. And someone else has something advertised as "could do with a clean.." (so clean it before flogging it?). And someone actually bought a "baby wipe warmer".. and thinks someone else might want to buy this pointless ("Invaluable!") gadget off them.

Most of the time, these groups are a really useful way to get hold of stuff you need, or nab a bargain, without adding to that enormous child-rearing plastic landfill. But sometimes people are a bit, er, strange in their sales ads. So next time you're browsing a group, why not play PARENTS SELLING STUFF ONLINE BINGO?


Sunday, 11 February 2018

Children's room-decorating with Wallsauce

When it comes to kids' bedroom decor, I'm one mean mama. Thomas the Tank Engine walls or Princess duvet? No thanks. You can have the toys, sprogs, but I've always liked neutral walls and colours pops in our nurseries and children's bedrooms. Because a house is a house...  And because if you give in and go for a favourite character blanketing the walls, you can bet the £300 it cost you in wallpaper that they'll have moved on by the next week..

Wall stickers were a good compromise - you can stick em down, move them around, and they look good. But then I saw a friend's kid's room full of half-peeled off star wall stickers, because her toddler regarded their presence as an exciting real-life sticker book.. and tried to take them all off.


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The best non-chocolate advent calendar

This might seem a weird time to be writing about advent calendars... but I know I'll forget by December so just a quick one to rave about Mothercare's Happyland advent calendar. Because since opening three months ago, tiny man has played with its contents every day. 

Each day the window holds another character - a few people, angels, Father Christmas, etc or animal (polar bear, reindeer, dog etc) or accessory (table, cakes, chairs, Christmas tree). They're so useful for open-ended play - here he made a huge queue for some reason, and Father Christmas was playing a Duplo piano he'd constructed!


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Review: the Postal Museum, London for families

As London parents, it can be easy to get a bit blase about the culture oozing out of the Capital's paving stones - a free weekend means the option to visit more museums than there are Pampers stockpiled in my cupboard (A LOT). 

And it's also easy to get stuck in a rut. Lets go see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum; lets pop to the London Transport Museum - the bus soft play is great and it's free on our annual ticket; lets go to Greenwich because all the museums there are epic and there's that fab park to run around in too... 

But when a new museum opens, and it's fantastically kid-friendly AND we parents can learn something new AND there's a train ride that all the family will really, really enjoy (unless you're 8 foot tall or claustrophobic, in which case, watch out..) AND there's great coffee - you really need to go.
Step forward, the Postal Museum in Clerkenwell. It's only been fully open for a handful of months, and is the perfect mix of fun for the kids (there's a whole Kidzania-style soft play, where kids can pick up post, weigh it, sort it, send it on a conveyor belt, pull posties' wagons and drive their vans..), interest for parents (I had no idea the world's first driverless rail ran under the City for more than 75 years until 2003, and loved travelling on its tracks) and interactive exhibits. Here's the lowdown:

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Review: family-friendly Cyprus at the Almyra, Paphos

I’ve just come back from the closest experience to being a celebrity that I’ll probably ever have: a week in a Pathos, Cyprus hotel so fantastically baby-friendly that it could take me ten minutes to walk the 10 metres from breakfast table to buffet.

That long because the staff were so lovely with our two tinies that, if they weren't six months and two, I’d worry about them getting big headed.

It wasn’t just the staff who loved seeing our kids - the December clientele, mostly retired Brits spending a few weeks in the sun - made us feel like the Beckhams on holiday, stopping us to say hello, to offer help with the buggy (though there are sloping ramps all around the grounds and the glistening turquoise pools) or just to coo.

Travel in the "off season", November-February, and you can bag a five star hotel for less than half the summmer price.. and, unless you’re pretty unlucky, enjoy some lush sunshine time too. Here’s the lowdown on our baby-friendly week at the Almyra, Cyprus.


Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Jumping in Muddy Puddles: the Scamp Suit

There are a handful of baby/kid inventions that they really need to extend to adult usage. Gro-bags; naps; teethers (hey, my wisdom teeth really hurt..). 

Now, after tiny man tested out a new outdoor outfit, Muddle Puddles' Scamp Suit this weekend, I've immediately added it to my list.

I mean, I think I might look a bit like an oversized Teletubby if there was an adult one, rather than the cosy bundle of energy that tiny man looks like in his Scamp Suit. But it'd be worth it. This outfit is ideal for outdoors-loving toddlers (all of them, right?). 

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Best Presents for a Sibling from a New Baby

Giving birth is hard enough, but I'm extremely glad I didn't have to also push out the present my baby 'bought' for his new big brother.. It was a toddler version of the etch-a-sketch drawing board. A really, really big version... Good job the new baby Amazon Prime'd his gift rather than buying it in-utero. But it did turn out to be a really good present: his toddler bro loved it, and it was especially helpful in those early weeks when I was feeding the newborn and didn't have free hands all the time - something the new big brother could get along with solo.

Obviously you'll know your own kid's likes and obsessions the best and that will feed into the present - but in my experience of a close gap (mine were born exactly two years, one month and one day apart), you want a toy that your eldest can play with solo, for a long time, and/or which helps them feel involved.

So here are some great ideas for new big brother / sister presents if you've got a toddler (or older kid) who's about to lose his or her I'm The Boss Around Here title...


Now is the time to say #ThankYouMidwife

Not many memories of giving birth to my two babes are crystal-clear. It's become a bit like one of those BBC sports montages: a mishmash of blood, sweat, tears and then - big soundtrack - the emergence of a tiny human being. 

I know biology's amnesia happens to all of us mamas, and that's the main reason why siblings exist… 

But what I do remember out of the blur are the two midwives who helped me throughout. 


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Accessories Dreamin' with Mamas & Papas

Sometimes mama-hood can feel a bit like starting school: eyes darting around the Monkey Music room (instead of the classroom) looking for Someone Who Looks Like You To Become Your New (Mama) Bestie. Learning stuff all the time (albeit How to Make a Happy Human rather than double maths). And... making sure you've got the coolest kit. Because, lets face it, parenthood can sometimes be knackering, messy, and a bit gross (whole-outfit-and-carseat poonami, I'm looking at you). Which is why, in the same way that getting the best rucksack/Kickers/hoiked-up-skirt for school was Very Important, with my second pregnancy, I wanted an epic nappy bag.

Yup, there's a sentence I never thought I'd write... First time around I was all, 'any bag is fine', and though I tried a bunch out, I ended up using a Herschel rucksack a lot of the time. I never understand why people spend £50+ on changing bags that literally say 'Yummy Mummy Cupcake' on them (ugh). But I do get why it's nice to get a great-looking bag, since you're going to be schlepping it around for a long time, and a practical one, because you're going to want to grab those nappies pretty sharpish and don't want to be rummaging around in a stamp-sized baby changing room.


Monday, 27 November 2017

Review: Winter Wonderland for toddlers

This week has been a sleepless one - two babes with colds = two tired parents. But tickets for the press preview of Winter Wonderland were on our noticeboard, and we couldn't pass up the chance to check out one of London's festive highlights. 
With our baby snoozing in his sling all evening (apart from a brief attempt to grab my mulled wine, above) our focus was on Winter Wonderland for toddlers - they're not going to be going on the rollercoasters or downing the tankards of mulleed wine, but they'll still be having a fab time thanks to the special rides, the lights, and the food. So, what's good, what's free, what's worth visiting and when? Here's our guide to Winter Wonderland for tots.


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Review: family-friendly Algarve luxury at Anantara Vilamoura

With tiniest man born in May, we stayed put for most of the summer - playing in the garden, a few weekends at the beach, exploring London. It was lovely - but when the chilly autumn days started blowing in, we missed summer and wanted some sunshine.

And so we started hunting for that elusive thing: an affordable, luxury hotel that was still warm enough in October, but that didn't mean spending a very long time in a plane ... (you know those hate-filled stares you get when boarding a jet with a toddler? Times those by a million when you embark with toddler AND newborn).

It took a while, but we came across the brand-new Anantara Vilamoura in the Algarve: fab for kids, but still flying under the radar. So we thought we'd shout about it here.


Monday, 13 November 2017

Review: family-friendly brunch at Eneko

 A big, someone-else-is-cooking brunch used to be *the* most relaxing start to a weekend. A lush cafe/restaurant, all the papers, a couple of hours, sunshine or a roaring fire, the occasional bottomless treat... It was just about still doable with one babe - if you scored nap-time bingo. But two? Nah. All the papers would be gummed by my baby, the sun / a fire are major danger zones, and a couple of hours grazing over brunch? We do well staying put in a restaurant for an half that time.

But this weekend we found Eneko: a spot with great-cooking, dramatic decor, relaxed, friendly staff, a great brunch, very sippable drinks - and surprisingly kid-friendly. I mean, this isn't Disney, don't expect a character breakfast - but it's part of the gorgeous five-star hotel One Aldwych, sits on the doorstep of Covent Garden and the Thames, for lots of post-meal fun, and had such relaxed, friendly staff who bent over backwards to make sure the toddler, his baby brother and their parents were happy - that it's a luxe family-friendly delight. 


Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Only Guide to Weaning You'll Need To Produce A Perfect Eater

After canvassing much advice and as mama of two, here's the definitive guide to raising a baby to be a non-picky, adventurous eater..

One who hits the scales at weight 'perfect' and turns pale at the thought of refined sugar. You've bought the best weaning gadgets... so follow these steps, and you will have an adventurous eater on your hands in a mere 12 days.

1. At the start of the weaning process, remember that your baby will only be used to drinking sweet milk, so ensure their first foods are soft, liquidised sweet fruit puree such as apple mush.

2. This is true except if you want your child to be a sociable eater when older - one who enjoys eating out in restaurants and gobbles everything put on their plate. In this case, never offer a baby pureed foods - doing so is pandying to their inexperience, and lack of teeth. 


Friday, 27 October 2017

Review: Car-seat family taxis to the airport *and discount code*

You know how you book a holiday, get super-excited, start planning the epic packing-list and then think.. ugh... we've got to get to the airport. With 18.2 million bags, two buggies, a baby, maybe also a toddler, older kids, sleepy parents... etc? We faced just this dilemma on an autumn trip to the Algarve - we didn't want to schlep a car seat all the way to Portugal just for the airport bit, we didn't want to plonk our kids on our lap and hope for the best in an Uber, we couldn't drive there as we were returning to a different airport... 

But luckily a friend recommended Family Transfers, a taxi business that specialises in getting families to and from the airport - their motto is "so that you can relax from the moment you leave your house" and since it all went so smoothly, I wanted to tell you all about them - and share a discount code for your next family airport transfer.


Monday, 9 October 2017

Double buggy review: Cosatto Duo To & Fro

As my second-baby bump grew and I pushed my toddler to the swings, I was adamant I wasn't going to need a second buggy. I'd spot huffing, puffing mamas pushing hefty multiple-kid-cart-about-ers to the playground. And I'd smugly think about how my back/shoulders must have become SO strong by now after carrying my toddler around, that I'd spend all my time sling-ing the newborn, and staying nippy with my two-year-old in a light stroller like the City Tour or light XSS.

And then along came tiniest man, and I realised I was wrong.

There's a limit, I now concede, to how much you can carry a newborn in the sling. First, it makes them sleep all the time - which sounds great, until night-time beckons and your babe's been sling-snoozing all day long. Second, mine was born in May: it was soon very hot and I worried about sun protection. Plus we both got super sweaty when walking for more than ten minutes..

So it was time for some swift double buggy research. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Review: Calcot luxury family hotel

'Family friendly' isn't the label I usually look for in a hotel. Yup, we're a family, and with two tots who only just escape the two-under-two banner, we definitely want a friendly hotel. But 'family friendly' conjures up images of fish finger kid menus, shrieking swimming pools, garish colours.. And just cos I'm a mum, I still hanker after luxury on a weekend away...

But a few minutes after settling in at Calcot, a 14th-century farmhouse in the verdant Cotswolds, you realise they've managed the double. It's a super child-friendly pad (there's a little kids' pool, a free all-day crèche with more toys than Amazon, and an over-eights’ loft with games, outdoor playground, daily children's high tea, kids' crockery and cutlery and even bibs, and changing mats in-rooms..) plus there are 220 acres of grounds with free bikes, fitness trail, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, epic spa, great restaurants, and cool but still comfy design touches everywhere. We stayed two nights, and wanted to stay longer... so did all the other guests we met. It's family friendly - but luxurious too. And not a fish finger in sight... here's the lowdown on Calcot (where rooms are from £209/night):


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Review: a baby and toddler-fun day trip to Margate

When a sunny weekend blows into town, I'm drawn towards England's coastline like baby vom to a white T-shirt. The only problem is, so is everyone else. 

So when we were invited to visit Dreamland, Margate with face-painting specialists Snazaroo, in the middle of September - it sounded ideal. We hit the weather jackpot as the sun came out, there were no queues for any rides, and Dreamland - the retro fairground that dates back to 1908 and is compact and walkable, has lots for tots, and is packed with smiley staff and lovely designs - was brilliant. 


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

No Phone Zone at Chessington World of Adventures

My toddler kept picking up my phone, dumped on a sofa or left on the floor, and handing it to me quizzically as if I'd left my arm lying around and really needed it back. It made me realise how near-surgically-attached I must seem to be with my iPhone.. And it made me feel guilty.

So when Chessington World of Adventures got in touch with research saying almost two thirds of kids reckon their parents pay more attention to their phones than them, and did I want to visit their theme park if I vowed to give up my phone for the day - the answer was definitely yes.

Entering via Chessington's No Phone Zone entrance, we checked in our mobiles at the gate and were handed a disposable camera (remember them? And the exciting week-long wait to pick up holiday snaps and see how they came out?!) to take photos of our day.


Five best mumhack gadgets

One thing I love about my 'mum friends' - the ones I've met at the playground/rhyme time/etc - is they get the whole excitement about things your old friends would think bonkers. Like being in bed at 9pm... Or a poo landing in the potty.. Or four consecutive hours' of sleep... Or the fact that your most-regular shops are no longer Anthropologie / J Crew (just too devastating when a £25 (albeit beautiful) mug is smashed, or £60 top gets pawed by a toddler) but Tesco and .. Lakeland. Yeah, the fact that the plop of the Lakeland catalogue on the mat gets my pulse racing is a bit of a surprise to me too...


Sunday, 10 September 2017

Review: family-friendly luxury at Coworth Park

There's a knock at the door and opening it reveals a suited man. Balanced in his palms, like a sacred offering, is, he announces somberly, "your room request." Then he hands the item - a plastic green potty - over.

It's typical of Coworth Park, the Dorchester-owned country house hotel where service is everything, and every need catered for, whether that's a 3am demand for a helicopter, an eighteen-course picnic or, as in our less-romantic case, the rather urgent requirement of a potty after tiny man's announcement of an imminent arrival..

In the growing collection of uber-luxe English hotels where kids aren't just allowed, but welcomed with outstretched (potty-filled) arms, Ascot's Cowarth is seriously good. The experience starts at check-in, where tiny man (aged two) and his tiniest brother (three months) are proffered wrapped perfectly-pitched presents (Paw Patrol car and Fisher Price shape-sorter). Then our room was stocked not just with two cots, a changing mat, and kids' toiletries, but also Coworth teddy bears sporting towelling robes, matching ones plus slippers for tots, and even gingerbread men waiting to be gobbled...


Monday, 28 August 2017

Review: Vtech's 5-in-1 Stroll & Grow and the Tour de Trike

Summer 2012 was one of the best of my life - my journalism job led to track-side seats for some of the London Olympics' most-memorable moments, and then in August, as the athletes left town, Mr ROOW and I got married on a sunny bank holiday weekend. 

So the Olympic park hosts lots of happy memories - but, living in deepest north London, I've rarely ventured back, and never with tiny man. All of which meant, when Vtech got in touch to ask if he (and I) wanted to check out their newest vehicle at the Olympic Velodrome, we were there faster than Usain Bolt (OK the trip involved the north circular, so this is definitely not true..)

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The 11 Definitive Steps to a Perfect Sleeping Baby

After canvassing much advice and as mama of two, this is the carefully-honed, definitive guide to how to get a baby to sleep, eat and thrive. Follow these 11 steps, and you will be the perfect parent*.

1. To a newborn, the world is a big, scary place, so it's best to rock them gently to sleep in your arms in the early days. If, however, your baby was born on a day with 'y' in, you'll need to worry about over-attachment and your kid not sleeping solo until they're at uni, so never rock a baby to sleep.


Wednesday, 9 August 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..!


Thursday, 3 August 2017

Two under two? This is the hideous advice from strangers that you won't be able to avoid...

Something I learnt on the first day I stepped onto the Tube wearing a 'Baby on Board' sign: if you're pregnant, you're the *top* story on the rolling news channel of Joe Public. 

You'll be judged, discussed, interrogated, poked and reprimanded. Previously you could walk down a street and exchange nothing more than a nod with a passer-by or two; as a parent-to-be, you suddenly become public property.  

And never is that more true than when you become pregnant to a second babe, after just a small gap. 

Not just those parenting Irish twins - a pair of siblings born less than 12 months apart, but "anyone with kids who doesn't look like they waited a decade or so before having sex for a second time," according to one mum of two-under-two.

I just escaped that bracket - my toddler was two years and one month when he walked into the hospital to see my newborn - but still, if I had a nappy for everytime Mr. R. Random had quizzed me, "so, it can't have been planned?" then I'd never need buy any Pampers for no. 2. 

Here, some epic mamas of two under two reveal the batshit crazy/downright rude/plain unhelpful things total strangers have said to them...


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

WIN! Hotel Chocolat goodies worth almost £350.. and the chance to be in a book

'Scuse the small interruption to normal Run Out of Womb services, but who DOESN'T want to finish off a hard day's parenting with an amazing box of Hotel Chocolat Summer Sleekster desserts (36 chocolate petits fours, from patisserie to sorbet via cheesecakes and more...)? 

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