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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Review: Picnic hampers from Carluccio's

Before I became a parent I loved the occasional summer picnic: a lovingly-prepared smorgasbord of cheese and crudites and cakes and olives and... 
Then parenthood meant making picnics A LOT. Most days out involve some kind of outside lunch prep: slices of bread rapidly whacked together to form a sandwich; a bag of Babybels. Fruit that's likely to squash and/or explode en-route. A pack of crisps, if they're lucky. Shoved in a bag with a bottle of water.
The picnic has never been so unglam. And it takes a surprisingly long time to put together every time too! All the wrapping, veg chopping, fridge-ransacking.. 

So you can imagine how excited I was to check out Carluccio's brilliant picnic hampers - especially the kids' one..


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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Foxhills: family-friendly hotel review

 
Thanks to this blog and to my day job (as a journalist at the Evening Standard, where I sometimes write travel pieces amongst other topics!), my family and I have been lucky enough to visit a lot of Britain's family-friendly hotels. We've loved the Four Seasons, Coworth Park, Calcot Manor amongst others.
But we're just back from a stay at a hotel we'd not previously heard around luxe parenting hotel chat - and it was incredible - and cost a lot less than the others on this list. So we really recommend you book a trip to Foxhills - here's why:

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Monday, 17 June 2019

Family-friendly brunch in Kensington, London

Remember what brunch was like in the pre-kids days? Leisurely, long; there'd be newspapers, steaming-hot coffee, endless courses... Relaxing... And a not-to-be-repeated for 18 years memory?!

Because even the best-behaved kids won’t sit for *that* long - and you can't even leisurely stroll around the buffet table when you've got people hanging onto your legs, begging to have yet another chocolate croissant...

Or that's what we thought, until we hit up a new family-friendly brunch at the NH Hotel in Kensington this weekend.

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Saturday, 1 June 2019

In The Night Garden Live: a review

I have to confess I didn't have sky-high expectations before I sat in the velvet seats of the Hackney Empire to watch In The Night Garden Live. A kids' TV show (albeit one of the most popular on TV, and definitely one of tiniest man's favourites) would be jazzed up a little bit for the theatre, I reckoned, with those dum dum, dum dum dum dum duuuuum dum starting notes on repeat throughout. Nothing too exciting. My eldest's first theatre trip was to see The Tiger Who Came To Tea; I didn't have such high hopes for the plot of ITNG. 

But then the curtain lifted. The familiar tune played (and yes, it's been an ear-worm in my head ever since). And tiny man gasped. He really did. Then he waved wildly and squealed "IT'S IGGLE PIGGLE!!" (Noise doesn't matter, most of the rest of the tot audience were gasping too). 

Then there were beautiful, full-size puppets (with costumes made by the star behind the London 2012 opening and closing ceremony - seriously!) and excellent puppeteers, Avenue Q-style; there were dancing characters, plus there was a plot that had my four-year-old captivated, whilst my two-year-old just kept beaming. 

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Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Ten NW London Places to Take Your Kids .. That You'll Actually Enjoy Too

Soft play is the worst place to be a parent. They're stuffy, stinky, germy holes with no daylight, crappy food and worse coffee. There's only one bearable one (Ally Pally's Little Dinos, where at least you can get a great juice and it's small enough not to lose sight of the offspring you like enough to have bought to soft play). 


But as I jumped reeeally high on a trampoline yesterday whilst watching my kids racing around beaming next to me, inspo struck. Here are ten places to visit in or near NW (ish) London that aren't just about the babes - you AND your kids will enjoy them all. (And if not, tell me where's better. More days out that aren't soft play are always appreciated.)
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Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Review: Family-friendly London hotel St Ermin's

A lot of luxury London hotels are so swish you feel worried about turning up with your tots: the marble, the priceless breakables, the silent lobbies with clip-clopping heels, the too-pricey restaurant when really one of the great things about going to hotel with kids is that they can tumble up to bed upstairs after a lovely dinner.... 

Luckily, we're just back from a stay at St Ermin's, a four-star hotel in Westminster, a toddler's scoot away from Big Ben, the Thames, St James' Park and the West End, where the kids couldn't have been more welcome, the food was really fantastic, and the stay was relaxing. 
Oh, and you're sleeping a few metres away from 350,000 bees, too, which was a real favourite with the kids... Read on to find out more about St Ermin's Hotel.
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Thursday, 6 December 2018

Christmas at the London Transport Museum with #LTMChristmas

Vehicle-loving tiny man means we already know (and love) the London Transport Museum. In fact, despite its entry fee, I think it's one of the best kids' museum in London. So much interactivity, space to run around, two soft play-style areas, great food and coffee, and lots to learn about the Tube, trams, buses and more of London town.

But I digress - because we're just back from a very different-to-usual trip. Why? Because the museum is all decked out for Christmas - and it's brilliant. Here's why now is an amazing time to visit, on top of all the usual exhibits: 

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Sunday, 2 December 2018

Family-friendly afternoon tea at London's Langham Hotel

Enter the Palm Court setting of the afternoon tea at The Langham Hotel, London and you hear the rippling notes of a pianist with dancing fingers; the tinkle of silver tea spoons stirring the best blends in the Capital, the whoosh as another laden tower of scones, the ooze of burrata in a savoury course, the crackle of chocolate patisserie as a fork slices through it. You don't expect to hear the gurgle of excited children in the mix.

But you do - and ours added to that hubbub because the Langham's new Children’s Afternoon Tea with Daunt Books (£29) both encourages kids' love of literature and gives them the chance to be chefs at their own table: a winning combination.
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Monday, 26 November 2018

Review: Dinotropolis, Bluewater




The prospect of soft play normally gives me sweaty palms. Especially on the weekend. Hot, sweaty, packed, scream-filled. No thanks. But we've just visited the brand-new Dinotropolis centre in Bluewater - it's soft play, but with a twist. It's actually really good.

What is it? A massive dinosaur-themed adventure playground, with a decent-sized area for tots (ball pond, two slides, squashy things to hurl around) and a huge expanse of twisty slides, climbing areas, soft ball-shooting machines to control, massive spacehopper-style balls to jump around - all surrounded by huge, animatronic T-rexes and more, who moved their heads, twisted around, and generally delighted kids, and, er scared my toddler!

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Monday, 12 November 2018

Review: family-friendly stay at the Grecotel Corfu Imperial

We have One Year To Go until we're locked into a fourteen year cycle of school-holiday-only (aka extortionate and packed to the gills) breaks. And we're making the most of it. With tiny man at nursery and tiniest man being home-schooled (aka tagging along to Brent Cross and house-tidying and cuddles with mama), October was the perfect time to take a break in Corfu. It's still warm, it's not far (sub three-hour flight, we didn't even have to break out the expected Paw Patrol episodes) and you can scoop amazing deals at five-star hotels because it's the 'off season'. Here's our review - and top tips for booking  - at the super family-friendly Grecotel Corfu Imperial.

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Monday, 8 October 2018

Learning to swim with Swimming Nature

I'm not the kind of parent who's always carting kids to after-school classes. Tiny man does a whole lot of activities at nursery; afterwards, he's happy playing at home or out on an adventure with me and his brother. I don't think a packed timetable is a good way to grow up. But there's one class I do think is worth the effort and investment: swimming. 

It's not only a life-saving skill, it's fun exercise, it's hours of pool-play on holiday, it's an amazing feeling to love the water. Swimming lessons are a ticket to a love of one of the best activities there is - and one you can do solo, at any age, and for as long as you like.

But when I think back to my swimming lessons as a kid, I think, ugh. I only got in the pool due to the promise of Pom-Bears afterwards. Lessons meant hanging to the side by your fingertips, waiting your turn to splash around and be told what to do by a teacher on dry land. 

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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Winter Things to Do in London with Toddlers and Kids


Summers in London are great - endless places to go, city beaches and parks to play in, fruits to pick, playgrounds to explore. 

But Winter? It's trickier but there's still a lot of fun to have - I really hate soft play so always try to think of other places to fall back on. Here's a list of a load of great, often indoor London places to go when the weather's not all that warm...
They're all within an hour's travel from NW London, cos that's ROOW HQ and I'm not *that* adventurous. So, enough chat... Bookmark it, share it, but most of all visit them - and let me know what I've missed...
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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

A robot made our dinner at Yo!

Week two of the summer holidays, and if you're already struggling for things to do, check out this list of fun activities in North London

And one to add - we've just come back from an unexpectedly entertaining restaurant meal!

We eat out a lot - a combo of being a foodie family and the exciting opportunity of *not* having to sweep my kitchen floor 2.3 million times a day when one meal's mess is swept away by a restaurant's broom instead. 

And we've just had such a brilliant meal at YO! Sushi. It seems to have had a rebrand - and the menu was a lot more wide-ranging than the last time I visited too. I loved the bao.

But this trip wasn't about me. 

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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Family car review: Peugeot 5008 SUV

 This is the least car-y car review you'll ever read. I don't know what a carburetor does (and spelling it wasn't easy either). I could more easily change a nappy whilst blindfolded, and handcuffed, than change a wheel. When the mechanic starts talking at the end of an MOT, I zone out at the gobbledygook and focus on hoping the final price isn't too high.

But this is a parent's car review of Peugeot's new SUV (aka Mum-Mobile) - from a mum with limited car knowledge, but with a ton of honest feedback after a week driving this seven-seater, ramming it with luggage, squeezing it into parking places to the backdrop of one screaming babe and one shouting toddler, driving it for hours on the motorway, fitting and unfitting it with car seats, and - spoiler alert - falling in love with this car. Here's why... 

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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Review: Baby Bjorn's new One Air carrier

You know how you have some friends who've seen you go through a lot of stuff? They've mopped vom out of your hair after a bit of a session when you were at uni together, or helped you get over awful guys including seeing you cry more than the audience of every screening of every Nicholas Sparks film, ever? Well, little compares to re-meeting up with the midwife who was there for you when you gave birth.. 

But my midwife with tiniest man, Cassie, was not only amazingly calm and brilliant at her job, but super nice too. We kept in touch with the occasional baby photo spam, and then I was so excited when she told me she was pregnant (and a bit terrified, obv: can you imagine giving birth after seeing hundreds of other women, er, not exactly beaming through it in the past?!). 


Anyway, to cut a long story short, as a new mum Cassie agreed to review Baby Bjorn's new version of its One carrier, and she came to my house to pick it up, and when I opened the door all I could think about birth and everything she'd seen and I'm pretty sure I turned tomato-red-faced.. 

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Dairy-free weaning, breastfeeding and CMPA: a survival guide

When tiniest man was teeny, he got a bad tummy. Pooping as much as 15 times a day, occasional strands of blood in the nappy - it was enough to get this stresshead-mama-at-the-best-of-times frantic with worry. After it went on a few weeks, we went to see a paediatrician, who thought he might be allergic to cow's milk. It was the first time the word 'allergy' had entered my family at all. As a breastfeeder, I had to give up dairy. 

I wasn't used to a restrictive diet and, in truth, surviving on zero sleep with a bouncy baby, an energetic toddler and NO chunks of cheese on crackers / slabs of Dairy Milk etc didn't feel good. Especially since I can't stand coconut, and an expensive trip to Planet Organic armed with all the dairy-free chocolate/cheese/yogurt etc options resulted in the discovery that, er, basically everything tasted of coconut.

Then there were the other worries... how to get enough calcium into my diet? What to do about weaning, making sure dairy-free didn't mean tiniest man missing out on vital nutrients?



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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

How to Turn Your Toddler into Your Cleaner

OK, not quite. No tot is gonna be Cif-ing your loo or anywhere near any dangerous cleaning products, and frankly if I could get mine to put the Duplo BACK IN THE BOX once a month I'd be happy. ("Duplo Foot - Standing on a Killer Piece of Duplo in a Dark Bedroom at 2am: more painful than childbirth? Discuss...")

But cleaning powerhouse Zowie Ashton got in touch to tell me her tips can turn any pre-schooler into a tidy chore-doer. I was intrigued... So here's her advice on how to get a little assistance with the chores from your small uns... 

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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. 

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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.


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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?

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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.


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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!

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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:
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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.


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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?). 
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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...

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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. 

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