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 F 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 F came along too. Luckily we mostly had the hides to ourselves as F 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 F 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. F 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 F 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!

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September, September: Autumn’s here

Autumn fruits

Parents in the UK may recognise my blog title from the month specific song on CBeebies, all about the joys of chillier days and falling leaves. Not actually the most appropriate as it has felt more like Summer for a lot of the the month, although now we’re into October it is definitely Autumn with crisp, cold or misty mornings and hedgerows laden with berries, hips, haws and other fruit.

My poor little blog has been very neglected this last month. I have been working on a few posts but was shocked to discover I haven’t checked in at all since my last monthly round up post. The weeks have just flown thanks to a last minute holiday away, and more settling back into work for me and the childminder for Felicity. I’m very much hoping to get more into the swing of everything when we’re in a proper routine, and catch up on blogging as well as life!

Beachy days

Bucket and spade

Beach crawling
This is the first September since I left full time education that I’ve had the really strong ‘it’s the end of the Summer’ feeling. I think because we managed to time going down to my family holiday home in Kent for a heatwave in the middle of the month we really savoured Summery things. We were incredibly lucky and basically had a bucket and spade holiday a bit late. We swam in the sea and were on the beach for hours every day. Felicity loved it and would have crawled for literal miles if we had let her.

Then all my lovely Mum friends are making decisions about heading back to work (or not) and the routine of mine and Felicity’s weekly meet ups and activities are about to change. Properly feeling like end of the holidays – although maternity leave is definitely not a holiday – September was filled with lots of last days out with the babies, culminating on Saturday with a Mum’s only spa day which was just heaven.

Dahlia

Dahlia festival

Anglesey Abbey

Despite the summery mood we have been embracing the new season with blackberry and sloe foraging, which will soon be transformed into crumble and sloe gin respectively. We also continued our accidentally created tradition of going to the dahlia festival at Anglesey Abbey. We must have been for the last 2-3 years and I think it will be a nice tradition to carry on as Felicity grows.

October is shaping up to be an exciting month, with Felicity hopefully perfecting her walking, her first birthday and getting into our new routines. Also I’m aiming for at least one more blog post than in September!

Some brilliant products for travelling with a baby

Even though Will and I have always been keen travellers, we perhaps wouldn’t have chosen to go away quite so much with Felicity in her first year, but circumstances overtook us. With five weddings scattered across the country plus Will’s sabbatical in Scotland which meant a month away, Felicity has clocked up a fair few nights away from home already.

This is not a definitive list of everything you’ll need to take when going away with a baby as children of different ages and temperaments, let alone different parents will clearly need different things. These are just some products we have come across along the way that have made our lives a lot easier!

Travel cot to suit your needs (1.) Before planning our month long trip I read a few baby travel essentials lists. Most of which seemed comically obvious – such as including cots/prams/car seats which I’m fairly confident parents use everyday and have the sense to take with them when away from home (rather than just letting the baby bounce around in the back of the car because you’re going on a longer journey…) So I’m trying to avoid the patronisingly obvious in this list. But a travel cot was something we thought about a lot so I did want to include it.

I’m not going to recommend a specific brand or type of portable cot. You may be cosleeping in which case you won’t need to worry. You may be in a small tent in  which case a full size version is not a possibility. Or if travelling by public transport weight and size is probably the most crucial element.

All I will say is price doesn’t really matter if it works for you as a family. We got an excellent travel cot for twenty pounds from Aldi (the Hauck Dream’n Play if you’re wondering) and we find it brilliant because it folds up and down in three minutes flat and, even better, fits Felicity’s full size cot mattress from home in it. She’s a bit of a princess and the pea around sleep – we had to give up on the under mattress breathing monitor as she didn’t like the hard lump- so lugging a massive mattress around is worth it for us. Even if we had a smaller car I would happily compromise my own luggage if it meant we can bring the mattress and get some sleep.

Clearly recommending taking a full size cot mattress around with you isn’t pack light advice, we couldn’t do it if we were flying, but for the long trips we’ve been doing it’s worked for us as everything is the same as at home from the mattress to the bedding. If we were flying I would look at getting a softer mattress insert or a different travel cot as the mattress of the Hauck one is quite hard. Go with your instincts about sleeping arrangements when away – just like at home really!

Cold water sterilising tablets (2.) my mother in law suggested these when we were having to do lots of little bits of sterilising when Felicity was on reflux medication. I have to say initially I was a bit dubious as they seemed faffy compare to our microwave steriliser but I’ve been converted. We used to keep a tupperware box on our worktop which we chucked things into as and when, which was very easy as you just need to change the water once every 24 hours and then you’re done. Super small to pack and you can use a zip lock bag or any lidded box (like an ice cream tub) to set up your portable sterilising station whilst away.

Gro anywhere blackout blind (3.) People seem very divided on these portable black out blinds, there are some quite negative reviews online saying they don’t work. I have found completely the opposite, they darken the room well and stay attached. I haven’t just been using them on a standard window either – they still stayed up even when stretched over a half open window in a recent heat wave, and round a slight corner due to the particular way this window opened. You do have to spend a bit of time making sure all the sucker pads are moist before attaching, the only time one fell off was when I was being lazy and skipped this bit. It maybe takes three minutes more to do this though so not exactly a hardship. They work great for us as there is no way we’d ever get Felicity into her bed during the Summer without something to darken her room.

IKEA Antilop high chair (4.) Again this is more for when travelling by car if space is less of an issue but we’ve found this super cheap IKEA high chair is actually very easy to pack up and take on the road, as the legs pop off and on very easily. I stuff it in the car very regularly when heading over to friends’ houses. Even if you don’t have room for the whole chair, the padded blow up insert is also really good in the early days of weaning and is portable for restaurant high chairs which may be a bit big for baby initially. We also have a fabric over-seat high chair which is much better space wise but isn’t always very good for bringing Felicity up to the height of the table, so the Antilop is still my favourite if there’s room.

Lassig long sleeve bib (5.) I admire the parents who freestyle it with tiny little bibs when weaning. For Felicity I’m a fan of the coverall smock and she still usually manages to make a mess all over her clothes. We use cheap supermarket towelling ones at home but these can rarely be reused without a wash so aren’t the best for out and about. I love these German made bibs though, you can both give them a quick wipe with the washing up like a plastic bib, or a very quick handwash at the end of the day, and you can still machine wash. Very fast drying as they’re mega light and they fold really small which is also a win for travelling. They’re also not too expensive if you compromise on choice of pattern, and are produced in an ecologically conscious way as well.

Tiny tots bath (6.) I’m a bit obsessed with this blow up bath. I bought it in a panic when suddenly realising we weren’t sure if we would have a bath on one of our nights away. We rely on our bath time routine too much for Felicity’s sleep to wing it. This bath can fit in a shower tray and was about ten pounds so I ordered one, worried it would be a bit of a gimmick. It’s actually amazing! We’ve started using it every night at home rather than use a bath seat. For Felicity, who randomly flings herself at things, the blow up soft sides are only a good thing, and it also saves water as you don’t have to fill up the whole tub. It’s easy to blow up without a pump and obviously folds down smaller when deflated. It even has a hook so you can dry it off before packing it up again. Stupidly one of the most unexpectedly good baby products we’ve bought overall, not just for travel.

OiOi fold up changing mat (7.) This is a luxury one as they’re quite pricey, but I love the pattern on mine so much (and I got an in packet brand new one for two pounds secondhand, which also helps). There’s room in the side pockets for a small pack of wipes and a couple of nappies, plus a zip pocket which I use for nappy sacks. Great for slinging in a backpack before heading out, and not lugging the whole changing bag across crowded cafes.

Happy travelling!

The lovely Lake District (with a baby)

It was slightly by default, as a lovely place about the right distance between home and Will’s sabbatical location, that the Lake District ended up being our first family holiday destination. I’m very glad it was though as we spent a happy five days there in glorious June weather.

We had to slow our normal holiday pace down significantly with a little person. Not that we never used to relax on holiday, we most definitely did. It’s just when we headed out we did tend to cram a lot in and I think we tried to replicate that initially. We’re up and about early these days so Will was bouncing to get out the front door and start exploring from about 8am. It meant we hadn’t got quite as organised with packing all the stuff Felicity needed for a day out and we ended up setting off at an odd time for her nap, which created a bit of baby boredom and grumpiness later in the day. We took it slower on the following days, soon learning that it was ideal if we headed where we going during her morning nap (or arrived for her morning nap if she could drift off in the sling or the buggy), did activity, made sure we could get her lunch at a sensible time and easily and basically repeated in the afternoon. She loved it though – I was rather dreading going home as she loves anywhere with people to nose at. She is in her element in cafes and tourist attractions and has learnt if she stares at people very intently they then generally smile, and if she then waves and smiles at them they smile more. Peak Felicity making friends on holiday was reached in Scotland by her grinning at a Norwegian man so much that he ended up giving her a bit of her lunch (with my permission!) Here’s a little synopsis of what we got up to during the Lake District bit of our June trip.

The walk to Wray Castle

See & do

Walking Usually on this length of holiday somewhere outdoorsy like the Lakes we would probably spend a couple of days sightseeing, and at least a day or so going on long walks/hikes. We were a bit worried we wouldn’t really be able get out into the National Park at all with a baby but thanks to a combination of the sling and a great scheme called Miles without Stiles, a collection of routes with access for those in wheelchairs and buggies, we did manage to see some countryside. There needs to be more initiatives like this in my opinion so as many people as possible can enjoy beautiful places outside cities and towns.

The sling walks we did were all fairly niche wildlife related so I won’t share them here, Will has over on his blog though if you’re interested. If we visit again I’d be keen to try and get up to the fells as that was the only thing the walks we did were missing this time.

Some of the Miles without Stiles routes are very short for those with limited mobility, but there are a couple of longer ones too. All are fairly flat by Lake District standards. We got the buggy round fine on all of the walks we tried and the shorter routes we did in Grasmere and Staveley helped us discover some quieter off-the-beaten-tourist-track places, especially in busy Grasmere.

The longest walk we did was up to Wray Castle on the western banks of Windermere. I didn’t quite twig that the mileage listed on the walks is the round trip total, so was a bit surprised at how quickly we got to the castle on the journey out!

Soft play at Wray Castle

Wray Castle – This definitely wins the competition for weirdest National Trust property I’ve ever been in. It is a nineteenth century replica of a castle, set just up from the shores of Lake Windermere. It is not a stately home as such so it has been given over to various children’s activities, including a soft play/build your own castle room that Felicity very much enjoyed. I don’t think I’d necessarily bother paying to go in with a baby if we weren’t members anyway as most of it is  designed for slightly older children – with things like ping pong, colouring and a hands on Peter Rabbit play garden. It would be good for a rainy day though, and on any day the cafe is lovely and there are stunning views to take in.
Beatrix Potter's Hilltop Farm
Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit garden at Hill Top

Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Another National Trust property that I was keen to visit as I missed it on a previous trip to the Lakes. This was Beatrix Potter’s home and an inspiration for her children’s illustrations and stories. We didn’t spend long here as it was very crowded (even just after opening at 10am). It was fascinating to see the inspiration for her illustrations though and some bits were so obviously the model for her books it was almost surreal. It’s quite a small site for the number of visitors and there was no lawn or anything in the garden where we could put Felicity down for a crawl and to let off some steam so we retreated to the hotel next door for a coffee instead.

Boat trip on Windermere

Boat trip on Windermere – It was so hot one day the idea of sitting on a boat with a breeze blowing was heaven so we hopped on the 45 minute island cruise from Bowness. We weren’t sure if these would be suitable with a baby but we were assured they were. The only thing we were requested was to fold up the pram before boarding, for obvious reasons. We were a bit worried that with the design of our buggy (the seat unit has to come off to fold), we were going to lose the seat over the side of the deck where buggies had to be left, as the railings weren’t that close together. It survived though – phew. I would definitely consider getting an umbrella style buggy for future trips. Felicity took the boat trip in her stride and I don’t think realised there was anything different going on!

Lakeland shop – I’m a bit obsessed with Lakeland generally, any kind of innovative homeware is the sort of thing I love looking at, and Lakeland is the ultimate home and kitchen shop. As the name suggests, the shop originates in the Lake District and their flagship shop is right next the train station in Windermere. I managed to convince Will to pay a visit one rainy afternoon with the lure of their excellent cafe, and we were so glad we did as not only were the coffee and cake amazing there was also a free and pretty much deserted small soft play area for Felicity. She had never been to soft play before this trip as everyone I know usually mentions it in the same breath as the scream emoticon. She loved it though and it was certainly a very civilised introduction to the seemingly inevitable soft play visits for us. We ended up going back a few times whenever we were in need of cake or Felicity was in need of a bit of crawl.

Stay

We rented cottages for the whole our trip as it’s just so much more relaxed being able to watch TV or read after bedtime rather than sitting in a hotel room in the dark when Felicity has gone to bed. We did initially look at AirBnB but there doesn’t seem to be much availability in rural places as yet so going through traditional holiday cottage companies worked out cheaper. We booked with Lakes Cottage Holidays for this part of the trip, who I would thoroughly recommend as they allow flexible bookings and shorter breaks, not just Saturday-Saturday whole week stays.

We were based in the lovely village of Staveley, just a few miles from Windermere – which is why most of the things we did above were based in the South Lakes area. There was plenty to do around where we were staying rather than dragging Felicity further afield. Staveley was a great place to be based, not as crowded and touristy as Windermere or Bowness, but with a lovely pub and some other amazing food and drink options (see below), and a little playground for Felicity as well.
Eagle and Child beer garden

Food and Drink

Eagle and Child Inn, Staveley – Lovely pub food, but the main thing we liked about this pub were the most fantastically beautiful beer garden views I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. They were also lovely with Felicity, a high chair appeared before I’d even got her out of her buggy as soon as Will went in to order drinks and mentioned we had a baby.
Hawkshead beer and Felicity
Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall * – We couldn’t resist stopping in here on an afternoon walk, me to buy a present for my real ale obsessed Dad, and Will to sample some local ales. It was a lovely atmosphere on a sunny afternoon and I’m told the beer was good and the honey roasted with chilli nuts were definitely very good.

The Sourdough Pizza Co. – we had decided to get a takeaway on the last night as a treat, but didn’t realise where we intended to order from didn’t deliver. Due to sampling at the brewery earlier in the day Will couldn’t drive and I had to feed Felicity before bed. So even though we’d already had a pizza night earlier in the week we decided to try this company. I am so glad we did, sourdough pizza is officially amazing, I’m still fantasising about this pizza. In fact I might have to go back to the Lakes just to have more.

More? Artisan Bakery – Located right next to the Brewery, we didn’t realise this was here until the last day, so only sampled some of the cakes we bought to share with some friends we stopped in with on the way up to Scotland. They were delicious though so I’d really recommend this place, looked like they did a lovely breakfast menu too.

Booths' Wuthering Bites bag
Booths – I always take an opportunity to visit these lovely supermarkets whenever I’m near one. I really want them to come down South rather than just being a Northern England thing. We got all our food here for meals at the cottage. Also they were doing these amazing pun based resuable bags for three pounds which I couldn’t resist. Other options included ‘The Cake District’, no comment on how well that summed up our holiday…

*No babies were fed beer in the making of this blog post.

Home again and hello July 

It doesn’t seem like a whole month has gone by since my May post, probably because we spent all of June travelling and time flies so quickly in new places.

We are feeling pretty good that we survived a month away from home with an eight month old. In fact I think survive is too negative a word, Felicity loved being out and about all day and seeing new things, she genuinely seemed to thrive on it. She even slept better than she ever has before for a good portion of the trip  – teeth have now wrecked that happy spell sadly. I’m hoping her early adaptability is a sign she will be a traveller when she’s older, and that we haven’t put her off with the epic car journeys that she was distinctly unimpressed with (screamed her lungs out at) by the end of the month.

Felicity's first beach

Obviously almost everything  is new when you’re a baby, but there have been lots of firsts for her on this trip. First train ride, first time up a mountain, first sight of the sea and first time on a beach. Weaning continues apace and being out so much has meant she has tried a variety of things, there have been some unexpected successes: Venison (she’s clearly training to be a tiny Tudor monarch), raw onion, rocket, spring onion mash and fried bread all were received with enthusiasm; grapefruit was the only real failure and her expression when she tried it was amazing!

Having grandparents around for two of the weeks we were away also meant Will and I managed our first meal out as a couple since Felicity was born, and even managed to get a sauna, hot tub and swim on our own whilst in Northumberland. It was rather heavenly to reconnect as adults rather than just parents for even a short time.

Then there was, of course, the EU Referendum, and the subsequent apparent disintegration of UK politics. I was upset at the result, but I was also not very surprised either. I can’t work out whether it is more depressing I always thought that it might go this way or if I was saved the nasty shock that it did. I still count myself very much as a European and am just praying that the impacts are not as terrible as predicted. On a personal level I am so sad that people I care about have been affected by the anti-immigration tone of it all. Several friends are now in limbo due to jobs being funded by the EU, couples from different nations are worried about residency and what it will mean for them, it just seems like a terrible mess.

The continuing depressing news, and the end of our holidays, meant it was rather back to earth with a bump when we got home properly at the beginning of July. Will was back at his desk on Monday morning and I was completely solo parenting for the first time in almost a month, I had some work admin to sort out urgently and slightly unexpectedly and then the dreaded teeth made themselves known. Lunch was cooked and then abandoned on Monday for both me and Felicity as all she wanted was cuddles and quiet. Back to reality! This is my excuse for why this end of June post is going up a week late…

Hit the road Fliss

img_3432

So we’re off – we have completed the Lake District and ‘first family holiday’ part of our little month long meander. Will is doing a work sabbatical looking for insects in the Cairngorms, and as I’m still on maternity leave we decided we couldn’t resist Fliss and me joining him. So we’re spending almost a month away from home, with stops in the Lake District, Aviemore and Northumberland.

I fully intended to take a family ‘we’re setting off’ picture with our new roof box (makes me feel very grown up having a roof box) and laden family car before we left home. This didn’t quite happen though as getting ready to set off was, shall we say, not such a calm experience. Between recovering from a hen party on Saturday, making sure we had the million and one random things we needed to remember to put in and getting the house ready for my best friend house sitting, it was a little manic. But we made it and touch wood haven’t discovered we’ve forgotten anything really crucial yet.

Being on holiday with a baby is certainly a change of pace but Felicity if anything seems to relish the change of scene, doesn’t sleep any worse in her travel cot and thoroughly loves having her Mama and Daddy around all the time. We’ve had to adjust our usually fairly busy holiday schedules to much more mooching, although going slower is no bad thing. We have still managed to get out for walks, and see some countryside, which is what we’d spend most of our time doing on this type of holiday anyway. I will write a post all about visiting the Lake District with a baby very soon, as there are lots of lovely things to do with a little person in that part of the world.

We’re so glad we opted for self catering, what with still being in the weaning stage and her going to bed at 7.30, being able to prepare our own food and have somewhere to sit not in the dark and silence after bedtime (unlike a hotel room) makes everything a lot more relaxed and like a proper holiday for us too.

Next stop Aviemore!

So that was May

Well this last month flew past. I always feel like this at this time of year, I think as the days get longer and the weather gets better I try and cram more stuff in so everything goes very quickly.

We’ve had several glorious bank holidays to spend time as a family, a few days out and a lovely trip to London to celebrate a family wedding. There has been some glorious weather and the first barbeque of the year with friends. Felicity was very impressed with her first taste of sausage.

Enjoying the sun in the garden

Although the weather has now gone horrid a lot of this month has been warm. A lot of time has been spent in the garden or experimenting with our new baby carrier – a Connecta – which has made mid afternoon walks through the woods and fields a nice change of pace from endless buggy tours of our ‘technically a small town but verging on the size of a village’ home and the supermarket.

 

Sling walks

We’ve hung out with our Mum and baby friends once a week, discovering ball pits and swimming for the first time. Felicity has also thoroughly mastered crawling which has made her a lot happier as she’s able to explore more but has the disadvantage that she is finding ways to get into scrapes and accidents in lots of new interesting ways – and terrifying me frequently in the process.

Jennifer from Pastry & Purls invited us to celebrate her birthday at the Harry Potter Studio Tour and a grand day out was had by all. It was so lovely to catch up with Jennifer and finally introduce her to Felicity. There will be a more detailed post on visiting the Studio Tour with a baby very soon.

Jennifer and Felicity

Family photo with the Hogwarts ExpressKnight Bus

Towards the end of the month we headed down to London for a few days for Will’s brother’s wedding. Such a happy occasion! Will was performing some best man duties so the wedding day itself was busy but we arrived early the day before and enjoyed wandering round Greenwich. I’d forgotten how much I love London and we had glorious views over the East End from the hill in Greenwich Park, and also whizzed round the outside of the Cutty Sark, although the weather was starting to turn at that point.

View from Royal Observatory Greenwich
Cutty Sark

Since getting back from London thoughts have turned to preparing for our epic trip for Will’s sabbatical work in the Cairngorms. We are off for almost a month (although not really – it’s complicated by more weddings!) and stopping for a family holiday in the Lake District before heading to Aviemore. I will be trying to entertain myself and Felicity while Will is working – we have the sling so I’m hoping on some good walks with plenty to look at for Fliss. I am slightly regretting booking a cottage with a ‘steep bank’ in the garden – we really didn’t think she’d be crawling yet! We’re then finishing it off with more holiday in Northumberland and a wedding in Somerset is thrown into the mix too. I’m both excited at seeing new places, and slightly nervous about Felicity’s  reaction to all the changes. I’ll keep you updated…