run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

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
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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! 

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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. 
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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!

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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."

* BabySamples.co.uk – 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.
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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."

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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.
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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!
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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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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Review: Tielle Love Luxury cot bedding


There are two types of bedding in our household. One of the bedrooms is dominated by a king-sized bed with one of two stripy double duvets. On posh weeks, the cover's John Lewis. Other weeks, it's Ikea. 

Then there's another bedroom, next door. That one's got a much smaller bed. A cot, actually. And that cot is swathed in another kind of bedding all together... One so good it's used at the Savoy. 

And we don't envy tiny man his super-soft white duvet cover, pillow case set and feathery duvet one bit.. OK, maybe a little bit. But - coincidence or otherwise - he's finally started sleeping well. So I might well start washing his bedding all in one day, so scared am I to lose the Tielle Love Luxury sleeping wonder-effect.

The brand was set up last year by TradeLinens, who make bedding for the Savoy and other 'spensive sleeping spots. There are duvets, cot sheets, pillow cases and pillows, and they're seriously so luxury-feeling that you'll want to crawl into the cot yourself. Practically speaking, they can also be washed at 40 degrees and have anti-allergen fillings in the duvets.

It's pricey - you get a complete set of duvet, cover, pillow case and pillow packaged in a lush cotton drawstring bag - and that's £85.

But it's been keeping tiny man cool in summer and warm in autumn and - best of all - asleep in the night time. So we wanted to share the secret.

* We were sent a cot bed set to review, but rest assured we're only raving because we love it!
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Thursday, 25 August 2016

The best pregnancy apps

Sitting next to each other on the sofa in their west London home, Anna and Alex swipe left and, occasionally, right on a Tinder-like app. The married couple gradually build up their own lists, before comparing their selected names to see if they’d picked any of the same options.
Oh, and Anna is pregnant. The couple aren’t involved in a weird new dating-while-up-the-duff trend, but using BabyName, an app where parents-to-be filter by gender (or, if preferred, by celebrity, hipster, or athletes’ names) and swipe through names looking for ones they like. 
BabyName is the latest of many new arrivals on the pregnancy-tech market. Where once parents-to-be received health advice from antenatal appointments and Dr Spock books, now pregnancy is all about downloadable, recordable and wearable technology that keeps you in the loop about everything from the size of your baby to its heartbeat...
Read the rest - featuring BabyName, Ovia and others - on the Evening Standard website
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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Toddler eating armoury

If there's one part of human-rearing that requires a lot of equipment, it's feeding. I have a whole huge drawer in my kitchen devoted to cups, bottles, bibs, bowls, plates, bibs, random plastic items that tiny man has put there.. And that's lucky because that drawer is the only reason I'm ever allowed to do any cooking - because tiny man is next to me diligently removing entire contents of said drawer, and spreading it around the kitchen to leave it looking like the opening scene of Holby City.. (you know, where man walks up wonky ladder.. WHATEVER COULD HAPPEN NEXT?)

Anyway, we've tried out more plastic crockery, drinking mechanisms, on-the-go snacks and bibs and bottles and food-making devices than, well, fit in that drawer. Some were amazing for the early weaning days - if you're just starting to Spread Food Around Your Baby's Mouth (aka Weaning), check out my guide to what to buy here. And some were brilliantly useful for when they got a bit bigger, and you need slightly larger freezer pots as those ice-cube trays aren't cutting it anymore - my Weaning Part 2 equpment guide is here.

But then they keep on growing, and want to feed themselves all the time, and are hungry for snacks, and you need car food because otherwise there's whaling non-stop in the car seat and so that's why I wrote this post: your toddler eating armoury. Here's what we're using most, in an order that doesn't match the pictures because I didn't think ahead...

8 and 4. Once you're done with sucky teat bottles (which should be around 1, apparently, as they're no longer good for babes' teeth after that) these miracle cups are brilliant: Tommee Tippee's Meal Trainer and Munchkin's Miracle 360 cup. I don't really understand the physics, but when your babe sucks either cup, at any place on the rim, water comes out, and when they don't suck (when said cup is tossed around your handbag, for example), water doesn't come out. Teaches them to drink from a beaker with no mess: amazing.

5. We're that family who still like going to hipster/cool/nice places to eat even when they don't have highchairs. The ones everyone else in the restaurant stares at; the ones who call to book and in response to the 'no we don't have highchairs' say, 'oh never mind we'll bring our own.' The Oxo Nest Booster seat isn't absolutely tiny, but it fits in our buggy basket and is far more comfy than the usual travel high chairs - it firmly clips onto nearly any chair with a back (rounded backs don't work) and usually gets tiny man level with the table, where he's super-happy. My mum's bought one too now as it's great for her house - can easily put it away when not being used.

9. and 1. When out in restaurants, we use the Oxo Nest in combo with Bibetta's amazing place mat with pockets- in fact, I take this everywhere even when they do have a highchair, because inevitably it doesn't come with a tray, or the tray isn't the cleanest, and if I can give my boy his own finger food it means I can eat my meal (for a whole two minutes). The pocket catches stray food, it folds up small and I love not having to rely on cafe's dodgy table-wiping... We're also big fans of Bibetta's Ultra Bib with Sleeves-  it's waterproof (made of wet suit material) and even that killer tomato sauce doesn't stain it: amazing.

2. and 6. On the crockery front, we only eat from white porcelain because it's so much more... Yeah, whatever. Meal times mean tossed plates and plastic all the way - so Tommee Tippee's Magic Mat  is fantastic: keeps the plate on the high-chair tray. It's not pictured but I like to use the same brand's section plates to try new foods and old ones alongside each other. Oxo's tot-training tablewear is great too: the plates and bowls are slightly weighted via a removeable ring, so help them learn how to use cutlery as the plate doesn't jump around when it's tapped. In fact, Oxo is one of my favourite brands for weaning - not least because the stuff actually looks really nice and Scandi-style (if you squint) so your table doesn't look like a brand of Toys R Us. Its Flippy Snack Pot and Small & Large bowl set are perfect for storing food and snacks for a day out.

1. and 3. I used to have a parenting theory about not giving too many snacks because they're bad for your teeth and ruin meals. But then I had a baby. Snacks mean you can go shopping, do things that a toddler wouldn't normally put up with, go out... etc. My favourite at the moment are Kiddilicious' couldn't-be-more-middle-class Quinoa and Lentil super snacks - awkwardly these crisps really are my favourite, tiny man usually only gets half the pack. They do have a little salt in though, so are only for older babes. Piccolo's organic pouches, meanwhile, are the best for hands-free snacking: we love the cherry yogurt ones for dessert, and the banana blueberry ones are delicious on their own or use them to make really easy sugar-free fairy cakes for the tots. Dare I say it, but these are yummier, to my mind, than a certain baby pouch giant's versions...
Beach-side Piccolo-ing

* Some items were sent to Run Out of Womb for review - but rest assured we're seriously gobby and only rave about what we really love.
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Monday, 8 August 2016

TRAVEL: baby-friendly Fawsley Hall

If you asked tiny man his favourite thing about our weekend at Fawsley Hall, a small luxury hotel near Daventry, I reckon he'd have a lot to say about its stick collection. At 15 months, he loves pottering around gardens and 'drawing' on tree trunks with the carefully-curated vault of sticks that he will rapidly accumulate at any opportunity. 

Luckily for us, then, that Fawsley has beautiful, lush green grounds (and trees) and is in the middle fo 2000 acres of parkland; the relaxing spa garden with outdoor hydro pool was particularly ideally located, giving tiny man space to quietly pad around, and his mama and dada the chance to share pottering with him alongside lying on comfy loungers. We all loved the big indoor pool, and the grown-up outdoor hydro pool too.
Fawsley is a particularly baby-friendly bolthole because there are lots of ways for adults to relax - that spa, and long walks, croquet, gorgeous afternoon teas, stacks of games, and a well-stocked bar.. - and babies and toddlers are very welcome too. 

Home-cooked meals are free for under threes - so we took tiny man for a fish, potatoes and vegetable and berries for dessert dinner at 6pm, before returning for a more leisuringly three-course adult dinner ourselves later. 
The main Cedar restaurant served food that looked as good as it tasted: we opted for beetroot carpaccio with goats' cheese, guinea fowl, and an amazing tart tatin. Three courses were pretty good value at £39, and there was a more intricate tasting menu for special occasions too. 

Many of Fawsley's staff are big characters: a lovely restaurant manager (with excellent advice on ice cream flavours), the charismatic Mo who enthusiastically describes every element of each bedroom, and Jimmi at afternoon tea, who couldn't have been more excited about our cakes if he was about to eat them himself. 
The grounds were a highlight of our stay: we were too relaxed to consider any proper exercise (though there are hills for hiking a-plenty), so we strolled and tiny man toddled. 


There are lots of maps and suggested walks, and even wellies for wet weather, though luckily we had a warm sunny weekend.


 There was one other baby staying whilst we were there, and a handful of kids (making use of the brilliant board game collection plus free DVDs), but it was mostly spa-ing couples: there's enough space for everyone to have lots of room, though.
Bedrooms are really spacious and designed with an eye to Fawsley's history: it was royalty's resting spot as early as the 7th century, now mostly Georgian with modern additions and owned by the Handpicked hotel group.

Our bedroom  - room three - was up a winding staircase that was difficult to navigate -with the buggy (no lift), but there are accessible options. Ours was decorated in shades of green, with traditional portraits handing on the walls; the big windows and huge bathroom were our favourite features - love a nice bubbly tub!

Just before we headed home, there was one more treat: afternoon tea of cucumber, salmon, ham and egg sandwiches; fruit and plain scones with cream and jam (of course) and macaron, chocolate and lemon cakes. It was served in the grand Great Hall, with Elizabeth I staring down from her huge portrait on the wall, but we liked the little touches best: tiny man being offered warm milk or specially small sandwiches; the waiter noticing my suddenly-sore throat and bringing ginger, lemon and honey tea - and the really tasty scones and macarons.

For families in that phase where you want to relax in a sprawling natural space and don't need oodles of facilities to entertain older children, Fawsley Hall is ideal: you can easily take a weekend out (it was just under a 90-minute drive from north-west London), have a lazy day in the small spa, pool, gym and gardens, do lots of exploring with the tiny one, (there are sheep, ducks, and fish to see all around you - what more could a one-year-old want?!) then take them for a pre-dinner walk to zzzzzzzzzzzzz-ville and enjoy a romantic dinner without needing a babysitter - the staff happily accommodated our softly-snoring buggy right next to our table. And didn't mind when we had to do some speedy laps to get tiny man to sleep again, mid-meal...

It's not all perfect- the breakfast array was fine, but not a highlight, and children are only allowed in the pool for two scheduled slots per day. But it's much more reasonable than many hotels aiming to lure in London parents - starting at just £124 a night - and a lovely place to spend time relaxing in beautiful grounds - and with plenty of sticks...
Hand Picked Hotels (0845 458 0901) is offering a two-night classic break at Fawsley Hall Hotel & Spa from £248 per room, including a three-course dinner for two on the first night, overnight accommodation in a classic double or twin room and a full traditional breakfast on both mornings.  Run Out of Womb was a guest of Fawlsey Hall for this review, but rest assured we're seriously gobby and only rave about what we really love.


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Friday, 5 August 2016

37 seconds inside a parent's head


THE SCENE: playing in tiny man's bedroom; books and miscellaneous items he has picked up in the last ten-minutes (reel of sellotape, single work shoe of husband that husband will shout at wife for losing, car key that I will later hunt down for 15 minutes, kitchen wooden spoon).

THE HEAD (seconds 1-3): This is amazing. Look at him reading the book! He's so clever! I'm so lucky to have the time to sit and read with him on a Thursday afternoon. Life is great!

THE SCENE: tiny man bores of That's Not My Elephant book (who can blame him), and upturns box of wooden train, which I OCD-ishly earlier spent ages intricately setting up Exactly As The Box Says. 

THE HEAD (seconds 4-9): I should stop pointlessly building that train to its box specifications. It's not a Northern line to Morden. WOW! He can build the blocks onto the train himself! It's so fun and beautiful to watch my little guy growing and learning all the time!

THE SCENE (seconds 10-20): I slip my iPhone out of my back pocket, check work email, finger slips onto Facebook icon, scroll through old school frenemy's wedding pics.

THE HEAD: (seconds 22-24): Oh man. I'm addicted to my phone. It's pathetic that I can't mindfully be 'in the moment'. When tiny man's doing art in five years' time and the teacher asks him to draw his mama, will I be the shamed parent who gets sketched with her hand permanently attatched to a phone?!

THE SCENE: (seconds 25-27) hurls phone into other room, focuses back on tiny man, who is now emptying his vest drawer out onto the floor. 

THE HEAD: (seconds 28-30) Wonder what the time is. Can't check as don't have phone. Is it nap time? 

THE SCENE: (seconds 31-33) All vests, trousers, babygrows, PJs and socks have now been removed from all drawers. Carpet no longer visible. 

THE HEAD: (seconds 33-35) Doesn't matter, already posted perfect room shot on Instagram today. OH CRAP DISTANT RELATIVE IS COMING OVER LATER. 

THE SCENE: (seconds 36-38): Mad 'tidying' (hurling items in drawers), effusive praise for three items tiny man also puts away (despite fact he then takes them, and others, out again.)

THE HEAD: He's so gorgeous. I love him so much. Is it nap-time yet?
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Monday, 1 August 2016

9 Words That Change Meaning After You Become A Parent

"Going out-out"

USED TO MEAN: a Saturday afternoon of pampering, blow-drying, maybe some Brent Cross outfit-shopping, followed by getting changed, made up, sorting an Uber and leaving the house.
NOW MEANS: a whole day of routine-tweaking to get the baby to sleep by 7pm. Fail, and eventually get them down an hour later. Madly Batiste hair, rub self with baby wipe, pick some clean (black) clothes out of wardrobe, pay £15.3 million to a baby sitter, give them 45-minute lecture about baby's routine, leave house at 9pm (you drive, too tired to drink), realise at 10pm you're knackered and would rather be in bed. Go home again.

"Me time"

USED TO MEAN: an afternoon reading in the park, an evening getting a massage at a spa, a night out with friends and a lot of wine.
NOW MEANS: the chance to do a poo on the loo with just Instagram for company, and no one redecorating the bathroom with toilet roll / asking about lunch / yanking on your leg.

"Just popping to the shops"

USED TO MEAN: walking out the door with a wallet, buying some milk / gin / Hula Hoops, coming back.
NOW MEANS: grappling an irate octopus into a car seat by promising said octopus rice cake snacks, proffering it three books and a spinning electronic toy, and playing the octopus's favourite six chords of the eighth track on a nursery rhyme CD repeatedly. Getting to the supermarket, doing six circuits of the car park before finding a space, trying 12 trolleys before finding one with a working baby chair AND seatbelt, rushing up the aisles doing a supermarket sweep whilst singing Ten Green Bottles, bagging up the food one-handed whilst keeping a now-screaming octopus in its seat.. Then going through the whole rigmarole on the way home.

"Early night"

USED TO MEAN: bed at 10pm, bit of Netflix, sleep an hour later, for a nice nine-hour slumber.
NOW MEANS: bed at 8pm, woken at 9pm by waaaaahh, same at 9.20pm, 9.40pm, 10pm. Then finally get the babe properly asleep, as you lie awake, unable to sleep. Wake up at 5am (not independently..)

"Making dinner"

USED TO MEAN: Thumbing through Ottolenghi / Nigella / bbcgoodfood.com to find a new recipe; pick any required ingredients (see above 'just popping to the shops'), spending an hour in the kitchen stirring, cooking, etc, then sitting down to eat said meal.
NOW MEANS: Opening up the Kitchen Drawer of Delights (tupperwares, spoons, pans, bowls) to allow toddler to take entire contents out and spread around downstairs of house (the tip of a wooden spoon makes a lovely protrusion to sit on in the sofa, I find). Chucking onion, tomato and mushroom into pan. Hurling drawer contents back (promising self will remember to wash said items before use, definitely). Giving now-bored toddler a bowl of cold water to stir / upturn on the floor / entertain self with. Cook pasta. Do kitchen dancing with toddler. Give toddler the pasta / sauce combo for dinner. Leave rest on stove for parental dinner in six hours' time after bathtime. Eat dinner, disturbed only by 45-minute cot back-patting session to get said toddler to sleep.

Alarm clock

USED TO MEAN: Setting your phone to wake you up for work, at the time you wanted to wake up.
NOW MEANS: Being dragged awake at a time not of your making, too-often beginning with '5', but by the world's cutest alarm clock so that makes it OK.

iPad

USED TO MEAN: Device to read the news on, play Angry Birds on, quite nice entertainment for plane journeys. 
NOW MEANS: Electronic babysitter, with a hard drive large enough for innumerable In the Night Garden / Peppa Pig / Paws Patrol episodes. As in, "He's tired - get the iPad". You won't get on a plane without it.

Sling
USED TO MEAN: A cocktail you might have on a summer's eve
NOW MEANS: Life-saving device with a better chance of getting a babe to sleep than ANYTHING.

Tired
USED TO MEAN: Yawned at one point today. Only got 8.75 hours sleep last night. Could do with an early night (see above).
NOW MEANS: You're in a heap on the carpet, counting the seconds til bedtime. (Theirs, and yours: it's the same thing). You've done 'all nighters' (hourly baby demands through the night, no dancing involved) for four nights/months/years in a row and feel like you were run over by the bin men's truck, sixteen times, and have dumb-bells hanging off your eyelids. You'd laugh at pre-parent you's idea of tired, but you're too tired.
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