Hello 30 Days Wild 

I saw the 30 Days Wild hashtag on Instagram last June and thought ‘that looks fun’, and I’ve actually remembered to start on the 1st June this year which is a small miracle.

The 30 Days Wild challenge run by the Wildlife Trusts is all about making room in your life for wildlife and nature every day in June.

I think we already have a lot of contact with nature, but there’s always room for more so I’m interested to see how we do, especially how well we can get Felicity engaged with different things. Even though she isn’t two yet, she is already so enamoured of wildlife and natural spaces. It will also be good for me, as I’m very aware that with the slightly hectic pace of our lives I have taken a lot less time to visit a nature reserve or just observe wildlife and not be distracted by the smart phone to do list.

There is so much evidence emerging that contact with nature is a really important part of wellbeing and mental health. Because of this I very much see connecting Felicity with wildlife and the wider environment as a crucial part of her childhood her. In the same way as I try and make sure she tries a variety of food, reads books, learns new words and runs around a lot, introducing her to nature is an essential part of hopefully raising her as a healthy and happy person. Of course it’s also great fun too!

I’m hoping to blog during June about our challenge, but we’re on holiday for some of it so there may be pauses. I’m sure I’ll still be on Instagram though. What are your favourite ways of sharing a love of nature and the wild with toddlers?

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A little North Norfolk break 

Felicity on the beach

Just before the work on our kitchen started, we managed to escape to North Norfolk for five days housesitting for Will’s parents near Hunstanton. It was our first actual holiday this year (and first for #take12trips), and although things were a little hectic at home it was so nice to take some time out and have some family time. We spent a good bit of time just pootling about on the beach, searching for shells and generally enjoying the bracing March air. Here are some of the other things we got up to.

Felicity and beach huts

See & do

Wells-next-the-Sea – it’s not a trip to North Norfolk without a trip to Wells, and it turns out that it is just as enjoyable with a small human as it was in our pre-child life, though admittedly for different reasons. This time we spent a lot more time in the quayside public playground – the pirate ship climbing frame is very impressive – then took the little train along to the beach. We weren’t completely lazy as we did at least walk back. We ate lunch at the beach cafe and then had a wander on the beach, which was mostly desperately trying to convince Felicity that the beach huts aren’t amazing Wendy houses we’re keeping secret from her. A quick stop at the chocolate shop (see below) and we headed off after a thoroughly lovely morning.

RSPB Titchwell Marsh

RSPB Titchwell – this is perhaps more of a reserve designed for wildlife enthusiasts rather than toddlers, but it is a spectacular place to see wildlife and we’d also arranged to meet my Mum there for Mother’s Day so obviously Felicity came along too. Luckily we mostly had the hides to ourselves as Felicity merrily stomping around making the wood echo and pointing out every bird loudly both in and outside the hide is not the most social of behaviours when you’re trying not to disturb the peace and quiet. Will even managed, purely by luck, to coincide our long planned visit with a twitch (a trip to see a specific rarity) and managed to see a bird he’d never seen in Britain before, quite an unusual occurrence for him now. We’re looking forward to taking Felicity again when she can have her own little pair of binoculars.

Sealife Hunstanton

SeaLife centre – I love aquariums but I am always a bit dubious about how ethical the SeaLife chain are.  I did used to go to the Hunstanton one when I was little, and due to some unexpected weather Will and I ended up there on an early date soon after we met, so I do have a bit of a forbidden love of this attraction! At least Hunstanton SeaLife also has a seal sanctuary so I feel some of our entrance money is going to help wildlife at some point. On the last day of our holiday it was grey and a bit rainy, so this seemed perfect way to spend the day. Felicity also loved it, which helped, she is a big fan of ‘phish’ and the ability to run up and down the walk through tunnel was endlessly entertaining (even on roughly the 18th rotation).

Eat

Thornham Deli. This is a lovely farm shop and cafe and handily the village’s playground is right next door, combined with a mini play area in the farm shop and it is a reasonable relaxing ‘nice’ cafe to take Felicity to – which is a lovely change.

Eric’s Fish and Chips – this is on the main road between Wells and Hunstanton and randomly for the location is a lovely fish and chip shop. We had takeaway but you can also eat in too.

The Chocolate Deli – this is on the quay at Wells and (at my request) my Mother’s Day present came from here. They even had an Easter egg making robot when we were there. It wasn’t Easter yet though so we went for a pick and mix box of chocolates. They were absolutely delicious, perhaps not the cheapest, but interestingly they were so rich that you didn’t need many of them, and I’m someone who can usually eat a lot of chocolate.

In fact I think I may have to have a trip back to Norfolk very soon just to eat a few more of those chocolates!

A little life lately catch up 

This is rather epic as I haven’t written a general chatty post for ages. I’m hoping to return to my monthly updates as I love having a record of what’s going on, this is basically a three month version of my usual end of the month catch-up. My camera roll shows that we’ve gone from snowdrops in February to bluebells at the end of April, and we’ve been very busy in between too.



I didn’t post a February update deliberately. It was a quiet month, as well as a short one. For Will, Felicity and me there was a lot of home pottering and local days out. However it was a very bleak month for a number of our friends, though, with bereavements, redundancies or health problems. Our little family bimbling along happily in the midst of this seems quite unfair, but a lot of time was spent with others and hopefully helping to support them.

March arrived almost before I realised it and life has been so busy since then. Almost too busy to be honest, everything went a bit bananas as soon as we heard the date our kitchen was going to be redone. Our oven and dishwasher both broke before Christmas, so we decided to bite the bullet and get a completely new kitchen rather than spending a not inconsiderable amount of money getting new appliances replaced in a kitchen that was falling apart in places and was not to our taste decoratively.

We’d done all the decision making and ordered the cabinets and appliances quite a while ago. Then we went into the waiting phase before hearing when they could come to fit it. Of course it did not happen in our relatively quiet time in February or the first half of March. Instead we found two weeks before that it was all starting at the beginning of April. This was great as we were so ready to get it fitted and have a working kitchen again. It did mean, though, we were racing around a bit ordering things we had selected but couldn’t order until we had a date – like the flooring. We then had to pack everything up whilst trying to work out what was still needed in the interim and setting up a mini kitchen in the dining room. In the midst of all this we went on holiday to Norfolk, which was lovely, but was perhaps not the best timing. Although having a rest elsewhere – with a fully stocked and working kitchen – was wonderful.

When we’d finally had a few late nights trying to carry heavy furniture about and not wake up the toddler who sometimes gets disturbed if we sneeze too loudly, the kitchen fitters arrived and it all started to disappear and be replaced with dust, dust everywhere.


As it was so noisy at home on my non-work days, Felicity and I roamed the countryside for a week or so in search of car naps, lunch and toddler friendly activities and parks. In a way this was fun – and we discovered an amazing park complex really near us which is always a winner – but it was still so nice to get back to normal after Easter with a morning pottering out to park, shops and Library and no need of the car.

Easter was spent by the sea at the family railway carriage in Kent, we were so glad this was arranged as we were midway through the kitchen floor being fitted so we had no oven, washing machine or fridge as they needed to fit the floor underneath where they’d all go. Having to go out every day at Easter when everything’s so crowded wouldn’t have been as fun as our weekday adventures either, so all in all another welcome escape.



The kitchen is now so nearly finished. There is just some plastering to get rid of two holes in the wall and some rough concrete for it to be completely finished. We’re then planning to paint the whole thing as some rather exciting yellow paint was revealed where we changed the layout of the cupboards in the utility room. We are so pleased with it though, having a working oven (and quite a fancy oven at that!) feels like the height of luxury. Let alone the dishwasher which is genuinely magic: press a button and no need to spend ages washing up – literally getting more minutes in the day. Just as importantly, it now looks wonderful and much more us, all the fun accessorising can now start!

In the midst of all this, Felicity turned one and a half. It is slightly blowing my mind that she is now nearer to two than one. She’s walking further and further and is properly talking which is just amazing, as you never know what new word she will have learnt next. No swear words yet thankfully – ‘booooob’ is probably the most embarrassing. If I ever have another child I definitely need to refer to milk instead!


Will’s most proud we’re already on five types of birds (‘duck’ – for ducks, geese and gulls – ‘owl’, ‘peacock’, ‘penguin’, and ‘bird’ for everything else). Her interests are almost like a mini me of her Daddy at the moment which makes me think genes have more to answer for than we suspect. Her favourite toys are balls – ‘ball?’ is a constant refrain and she’s already disappointed at my lack of skill at football. She is also obsessed with birds, moths and bees. When Will’s out entomologising she copies him (so cute) although I’ve now got two people who stop and stare at bushes looking for bees. I’m sure some of this is nurture, but she spent twenty minutes clutching a moth that Will caught the other morning (no moths harmed, it was in a pot), which makes me think there may be some innate interest there as well.

April also saw me leave Felicity for the first time overnight – I went on a hen party to Brighton – I completely forgot to mention that in my outline of our lives during the last couple of months above, usually this would be a big event, but it kind of got lost in the general hecticness. It was a mixed success I would say. In a way I’m glad I tried it, but she did scream a lot apparently, as she will only really accept me at night, and woke up very confused after going to sleep fine. I really enjoyed the hen weekend (an actual cocktail!), but I’m not going to rush to leave her again anytime soon I don’t think.

After all this excitement this month is turning out to be slightly more relaxed. We have got a wedding which we’re away for (we’re glamping – finger cross weather!), and a Christening , but also have some much needed free weekends which seem just as sweet after hurtling around the country so much in April.

The other Natural History Museum: #take12trips February

Did you know there are two Natural History museums in the UK? There is the famous, South Kensington one, but there is another outpost of this most famous of child-friendly of museums in a small Hertfordshire town. The Natural History Museum at Tring is less famous than its larger sister in London, but we still thoroughly enjoyed a day out there on a rainy Saturday.

Tring butterfly case

Disclaimer from the off: if you’re not keen on taxidermy and natural history specimens, this is probably not for you. I’m really not keen on anything stuffed  just for decoration, but it feels completely different to me if it’s for a scientific purpose.

The collection at Tring came about in the 19th century when a member of the hugely rich Rothschild family, Walter, decided to build a natural history museum as a child – as you do – and was given the land and money to do just that on his 21st birthday. He built up one of the largest private natural history collections in the world, which was then gifted to the nation and is now part of the Natural History Museum. On a side note, he also taught zebras to pull his carriage.

Tring corridors and excited Felicity

Tring rhino

The building where he founded his museum is still open to the public. It is simply the best day out if you’re one and are obsessed with animals, as Felicity has been pretty much since we knew she could be interested in anything. We first discovered her love of stuffed animals in the Castle Museum and Gallery in Norwich last year, so thought Tring might be a hit. I’m not sure we have ever seen her more excited at being able to get nose to nose with a polar bear though. She was literally running around shrieking with happiness at all the different exhibits (apologies to anyone visiting on the same day we did!)

Gastropod case Tring

Tring badger

The museum is free to enter and is reasonably small, spread over four floors. It still feels very Victorian and the specimen drawers look like they are the originals from Walter Rothschild’s day. Unlike the London museum there are no dinosaurs, but being able to stroke a stuffed badger more than made up for that in Felicity’s eyes!

Sundial Tring

There is a cafe within the building but it is tiny and doesn’t have the widest choice so we walked to Tring High Street, which is a couple of minutes away and had lunch there instead. The cake did look good in the museum cafe though! If you wanted to bring a picnic there are lots of places to eat outside, but as you can see from the rain sodden butterfly sundial, it really wasn’t eating outside weather when we visited.

Felicity at Tring

Very helpfully there’s also a free cloakroom where you can leave buggies and cloaks. We caused enough chaos with out toddler running underfoot to go and gesticulate at the latest exciting specimen she’d spotted without blocking people with the buggy as well!

I would thoroughly recommend it as a slightly quirky museum if you’re ever near Tring. We will definitely be visiting again. I am loving doing the #take12trips challenge from Need Another Holiday as it encourages me to discover some local places I’ve never explored.

Reading with Felicity: Favourite books up to age one

Happy World Book Day!

As I’ve blogged about before, after the very early enjoyment of high contrast books and rhyming books, Felicity’s bookworm impulses all but disappeared (aside from noisy books of course) until the age of about 7-8 months. Then suddenly she seemed to twig that books were fun and would sit down and enjoy stories with us.

Here are a few of her favourites up to the age of one, that I haven’t shared already in my Reading with Felicity series. I’ve been meaning to share these for ages, so what better occasion than World Book Day?

ageonecollage

Puffin Peter by Petr Horacek
We’ve noticed Felicity goes through phases of being obsessed with different books which mysteriously become the biggest love of her life before she completely switches off from them again. So far Puffin Peter has been the longest lasting love so far, although it is starting to wane now as it is quite a long book for her. I’m slightly in love with this book too – Horacek was a new author and illustrator to me when I picked this up in the library (because it had a puffin on and who doesn’t love puffins?!), and I’m a big fan now. The illustrations are gorgeous and I’m hoping the plot is sufficiently engrossing we’ll be sharing this together for a good few more years. It’s also the nearest a picture book gets to an introduction to bird identification so Will is a big fan too! There’s even a whale so we get to practise our Dory from Finding Nemo whale voices. More seriously this is a very clever book which is touching and engaging as well as gently exploring how much using the right words matter.

Global Babies published by the Global Fund for Children
A classic of the first books genre is the ‘photos of baby faces’ book, and a lot incorporate photos of babies with other basic plot or rhymes (see This Little Baby below). Before Felicity was even born I bought this lovely little book. It’s very simple, with photographs of babies from many different cultures across the world who are all ‘beautiful, special and loved’. I thought it was a lovely way to introduce the idea that there is a whole world beyond our white Western bubble. Also, without getting too philosophical over baby books, frankly these days I think anything that teaches the concept that wherever you are from in the world every human has a lot more in common than anything that divides us is very valuable. She really really likes it as well, which is fairly crucial!

Orla Kiely’s Colours and Numbers
Will said I was being ridiculously pretentious when I bought these cheap at an NCT sale. Then Felicity loved them so I say it is never too young to introduce mid-century inspired design. They’re lovely, traditional picture books with a colour or number to a page, but with Kiely’s trademark patterns and eye for colour. They are very enjoyable objects to handle as well – board books but with lovely thick covers too so they feel like a proper grown up book.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes by Annie Kubler.
I don’t think I grasped the point of books that illustrated songs or rhymes – couldn’t you just sing the song? But this is very much enjoyed when we sing it, and the pictures help show where to point on your face and body. Having a book with lyrics in it also allows a pre-verbal baby to request a bit of singing, as they can point to the book and know a terrible performance from Mummy or Daddy will be forthcoming.

Tabby McTat by Julia Donaldson
It is a rule that any of these lists I write has to have a Julia Donladson book on it. Tabby McTat was a great loved favourite (in fact this reminds me I need to get it out of the Library again). It’s all about how Fred the busker’s cat gets lost but finds a home and family along the way.

ageonecollage2

Penguin by Polly Dunbar
This has a slightly bizarre plot involving a silent penguin, a lion and an epic tantrum. I enjoy its slightly quirky humour and this is one of those books that makes me glad we offer Felicity a wide range of books as I could never have predicted how much she would love this at quite a young age. As with Puffin Peter, I think the plot about exploring strong emotion and disappointment (and not, er, firing penguins into outer space) will mean this comes back as a favourite when she’s a bit older too.

My Beak, Your Beak by Melanie Walsh
The lovely Jennifer from Pastry & Purls bought this for Felicity and my goodness it’s such a hit. Thank you Jennifer! It links together different types of animals, both everyday and more exotic, and notes their similarities, ‘penguins live in the snowy South Pole, robins live in the garden, both have pointy beaks’. We have had finger points to this quite regularly consistently since she got it, so I’m quite sad it’s gone out of print as clearly it is one of those ones that just appeals really visually to her.

This Little Baby by Sandra Lousada
Another one that’s sadly gone out of print, this simple black and white rhyming board book with photographs of babies doing a variety of things has been a regular book we enjoy sharing for ages now. Felicity has started to say ‘hello’ to the baby waving at the beginning and gets very sad at the crying baby ‘making lots of noise’. She loves the end when she sees her own reflection in the mirror and we say ‘and this is the baby I love the best’ with big cuddles.

Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr
I was surprised Felicity would sit through the whole of this book as Mog is quite long, it must be something to do with her great love of cats! I grew up with Mog and indeed this copy was actually one I used to read at my Gran’s house. If you’re not familiar with Mog then I thoroughly recommend getting hold of one of the books in the series. This is the original story about egg-loving, forgetful Mog, who manages to accidentally become a crime busting super cat!

That’s Not My Hedgehog, published by Usborne
We only have a few of this very popular and long running series, and this one about a prickly hedgehog was her favourite at her childminders just before her first birthday. She really likes the texture of the prickly hedgehog at the end.

I hope you had a lovely World Book Day. I’m so looking forward to when she’s a bit older and I can help Felicity choose a fun costume. I’m sure parents of older children will correct me about how differently I’ll feel when the pressure is on to come up with something she’ll love!

A family day out to Tate Modern: #take12trips 

So a few years ago I merrily posted about my intention to join in with Clare from Need Another Holiday‘s #take12trips project. This was when travelling and days out were very much part of our lifestyle, and I thought 12 trips in a year would be easy. Well best laid plans and all that. I had thought I’d sail through pregnancy and we’d have an amazing babymoon somewhere exotic before our lives changed forever. I then spent the first five months with such bad sickness that I couldn’t get out of bed on some days, then managed to get pelvis pain when I finally got over that. So travel took a backseat.

Ironically, last year, even with a small baby, we would have easily hit the target of twelve trips or days out, what with a month away for Will’s sabbatical and five weddings meaning weekend stays in various parts of the country. I was not organised enough to actually blog about it though!

So this year is my #take12trips year, though I feel like I’m jinxing everything saying that. 2017 is looking like it is going to be UK focused again, we already have pencilled in trips to North Norfolk, the Isle of Wight and are attending a wedding where we are glamping for the first time, which I’m very excited about. I’m trying to work out how I can squeeze a trip to Scotland in there as well but I fear that may be unrealistic.

The first part of the year has been about day trips at weekends though. We have finally started to be brave enough to take Felicity into London. I know tens of thousands of Londoners travel around the city everyday with their babies but it still feels like a big thing to me to navigate the train and tube with a buggy/toddler who sometimes hates the buggy. The sling helps but I have to say finding a big enough bag to hold that and all Felicity’s stuff for the day and still have my hands free to stop her running away when she wants to walk is something I haven’t worked out yet. I still haven’t been brave enough to do it with or without the buggy on my own.  

When a friend suggested meeting for a catch up I realised that we could quite easily get to Tate Modern from Kings Cross on the overground or tube and avoid steps. I used the very helpful GoBaby app for this which I’d really recommend if you want to find buggy friendly tube routes. I was also keen to take Felicity to her first gallery – I thought Tate Modern was a good place to start as it always seemed more family friendly than most galleries when I visited pre-children.

First family touristy London picture!
Getting the tube to Blackfriars also meant that we had a mini sight seeing tour – walking past St Paul’s Cathedral and then over the Millenium (wobbly, or Harry Potter Death Eater destruction bridge, depending on your cultural taste and memory), to get fantastic views of the Thames.
It was a rather wet and windy January day  though so we retreated quickly into the Tate. As predicted the huge former power station building, and the changing exhibition space of Turbine Hall, proved a big hit, mainly as some genius parent had  bought a ball to roll up and down the large slope. There were herds of children running after it – Felicity was in her element as she is a big fan of kicking footballs at the moment, and all the open space was brilliant for her to let off steam. I can’t say we really took on much of the current installation at all if I’m honest. I’m sure the artist would have valued the addition of a Peppa Pig ball though (!)

The ball in Turbine Hall

I totally failed to get many pictures in the main section of the gallery, mainly because it took us a little while to figure our the best way to take her into the more traditional gallery space. If you’re thinking of visiting with a toddler I would really recommend a sling, or buggy if they’d be content in that. Unless they’ll hold hands really well the possibility that they will run straight under the protection barriers and dangerously near some probably very valuable sculptures is high, and doesn’t feel very fair to other visitors either. Felicity liked being able to peer out of the sling and was very impressed with this Antony Gormley sculpture and a version of Monet’s waterlillies. She hated Mark Rothko’s work and we had to leave that room very quickly! 

Tate Modern restaurant views
After a little bit of wandering we headed up to meet our friends at the sixth floor restaurant. I would so recommend this for any visitor to London or the South Bank – just look at the views – and it is very family friendly as well with table cloths to colour in and crayons provided for every table, and a good children’s menu. 
A thoroughly lovely way to kick off the year of trips! 

Breaking out of the gloom – January

Logically I know we have had a great month. When I think about our little family it’s all loveliness, but the outside world is encroaching so darkly.

Good stuff first though. Thanks to lots of time at home over Christmas we have been able to keep the house as under control as it can be with a toddler who likes taking everything out of everywhere she can reach then scattering it far and wide. I have even managed to do a bit of decluttering as and when I see it, which also helps as there is less general stuff everywhere.

Trike & ducks
We have managed to find a few new groups to go to which fit with Felicity’s nap time and we fill my non working days very happily with lots of trips down to the park, Library, feeding the ducks or toddling about our little town. Her latest obsession is her push along tricycle which she points to ever so hopefully every time we open the garage to get the oh so much more practical pushchair out. Most of the time I can’t resist either…

A lot of time has been taken up with planning our kitchen renovation, which is very exciting. Ignoring how much our savings are going to disappear the thought of a working oven and dishwasher is so wonderful. And the fun of looking  at storage solutions – under plinth drawers and pull out spice racks make me genuinely shudder with delight. Felicity has been so patient with us spending a large percentage of our weekends at kitchen showrooms too. She is going through a phase of loving to nose in cupboards, so going to places where there is nothing to do but open and shut drawers and cupboard doors seems to be a hit way to spend a weekend in her eyes.

I have also been keeping in mind my word for 2017 and have been crafting almost every evening for the first time in a long time. It has definitely helped to have something relaxing to focus on rather than just drifting the evening away messing about on the Internet. The only trouble with my tactic of using up random craft kits is my makes aren’t necessarily things I need. Anyone want this owl? I don’t trust Felicity to not chew the felt bits off.

Handmade owl

All lovely and yet I feel gloomy – the news from the US has literally been keeping me up at night, with the Muslim ban being signed just as I was up for Felicity’s first wake up and stupidly checked the news. It was all so horrifying that I then couldn’t get to sleep for hours watching the developments.

I desperately feel I want to be doing something but managed to completely miss that the Women’s March was happening until it was too late to go. We would have loved to have taken Felicity as I worry so much about her growing up in this kind of environment for women. I feel guilty for worrying about kitchens which I know is so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. All the things I hold most dear: human rights, the NHS, even actual facts (I’m a librarian, verifiable sources are kind of important to me), are being chipped away at the moment.

Yet I know that just obsessing about these things – rather than resisting them in a useful way, I’m obviously going to do that – won’t make them go away. So I will continue choosing kitchen flooring, taking my daughter to the park and making. Then ramble on about all that on the Internet.