How To Have A Baby And Not Lose Your Shit – A Sort of Review

HaveABabyMy good friend and excellent blogger over at Eeh Bah Mum has only gone and written a blooming fantastic book. Yes this is not really a review because  a. know the writer and b. I get a mention on page 2 (plus elsewhere but why spoil the plot for you?). Although I am going to review it because today I finished the book on the train whilst simultaneously laughing and crying.

Kirsty has always been one of the mums I’ve held in high esteem for just making it all look so easy, natural and being a normal human being at the same time. When I would return her daughter from a particularly disastrous walk, covered head to toe in mud, she’d be there with a coffee on offer and a funny story from earlier in the week to counter it. I figured she’d just got the whole ‘being a mum thing’ instantly and calmly got on with it. Instead, the book tells a different side, a touching and honest side that every single mum and mum-to-be should read. If only to know that no one just ‘gets it’ however much it looks like they do from the outside.

I first met Kirsty at the wedding of mutual friends around 4 years ago. We found ourselves getting drunk over nice food while our respective children caused some manner of chaos around the room. Being from Yorkshire, it is vital that you announce such a fact when meeting new people at places like weddings and we therefore figured out that not only were we from the same place in Yorkshire, had kids but we also lived on the next street to each other in North London. A friendship was formed.

I don’t particularly need much in a friendship; the ability to see the funny side of things and a willingness to go to the pub will do. As one of the funniest women I know and her London leaving drinks being up there in the top nights out list, Kirsty has made a pretty solid friend over the years. She has given me sterling advice about second kids, relocating and doing the 30 Day Shred with a newborn. Had I listened to her at the time, I could have saved myself a lot of crying about why my 4 month old won’t sleep long enough to let me work out; why for the past year I have felt like I am losing the plot because the first 6 months of a second child is a false sense of security; and I wouldn’t have spent the past year desperately trying to win the lottery so I could return to North London.

But I didn’t. Instead I read the same wonderful, funny outlook on motherhood in her book while kicking myself for being an idiot. I knew she talked sense when she was telling me it, I was just too wrapped up in baby world and sleep deprivation to remember.

How To Have A Baby isn’t just a funny, honest account of parenting though, it is more than that. It lays bare how having kids challenges you and how you view yourself as a person. Kirsty manages to voice the thoughts that went through my head about kids before I had them, about careers once they do arrive and also nails the first post-child hangover with alarming accuracy.

This is not your usual, ‘how to raise your kids’ book. The advice is simple: chill out and make friends. Something you don’t find in the wall of other baby books telling you about routines, naps, development, and all the other stuff that won’t necessarily apply to your baby because someone forgot to tell your baby to read the book. So in the truest sense, this is a book about how to be a parent and not how to look after a baby or raise a child.

I do wish I had read this book when I was pregnant with my first child. It probably wouldn’t have saved me from new mum craziness but it would have helped me realise I wasn’t on my own. Heck, I needed this book a year ago when I was struggling with two kids in a new place and then I wouldn’t have felt the need to drunkenly apologise to half the mums at the playgroup night out for being an emotional wreck when I first met them. But it is here now, in our lives and will be the gift I give to all new mums.

You can buy the book here.

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It’s Not All Hummus and Quinoa: A response to the Telegraph and Becky Dickinson

IMG_3561

Telegraph writer Becky Dickinson went vegan – sort of – with her family for a week to see what all the fuss was about. I was curious, having very much enjoyed reading about Guardian foodie, Jay Rayner’s week of veganism back in 2008. It was a funny and honest account. Vegan food is slowly becoming more mainstream and I hoped that it wouldn’t be approached as some alien matter in 2015. I was wrong.

I am sure that Becky Dickinson did her research for the article before committing to a week of a new diet, as you would expect anyone to do when entering a new diet. She had certainly contacted the Vegan Society as a first point of call and made contact with a nutritionalist; whose comments I will address later. Although it doesn’t seem like she has talked to any vegan families about what they eat, how they transitioned. Or if she did then she went into this with her mind set that it would be awful that there was really no point in her doing it.

“What’s more, I’ve always harboured a secret view that those who abstain from major food groups, often under the guise of self-diagnosed intolerances, are at best a tiny bit annoying, at worst, neurotic.”

I am very aware of public perception of vegans but it is important to say that people chose to not eat meat and dairy for many reasons, not just ethical and health ones.

If you’re going to get your family to change your diet for a week, you have to plan, adapt food from what they already like. Get a few cookbooks for a start and find out what easy oven dishes are available.

Cook books: a source of knowledge and tasty food.

Cook books: a source of knowledge and tasty food.

Of course kids can be tricky eaters at time. My own son had started to refuse onions in everything. This makes for some interesting meal concoctions at times. But the thing about vegan cooks is they love sharing what they do, they want to celebrate the wonderful food they are making so you don’t have to be creative. Just check out Vegan Dad or the PPK for starters.

What you don’t do is try replace fish fingers and chips with quinoa. It is setting the whole thing up for failure. It read to me as though the writer simply googled ‘what do vegans eat?’ and got the answer ‘lentils and quinoa’. Sure, not everyone’s child will eat lentils because they’ve probably not tried them before. It takes time to introduce new food. Why make life hard for yourself? And why reference the much discredited Gillian McKeith?

If Becky Dickinson had truly wanted her kids to give the vegan trial a go, why not start simple? Linda McCartney sausages with chips or mash. Fishless fingers, or some of the other great vegan frozen food that the major supermarkets and smaller health stores are producing these days. Ease into it before plating up the “frog spawn”. If the writer herself was going to be negative about the food, then the kids really weren’t going to get behind the whole thing.

Then there was the quote from Dr Eva Detko:

“Putting growing children on vegan diets is not the best idea and I certainly wouldn’t do it to my child.” 

It is almost a step away from saying a vegan diet is a danger to a child. This is certainly not the case. I have two very strong, healthy, well-developed children raised on a vegan diet fully for one and in the majority for the other. If humans couldn’t grow and develop on the plants around them then why are some cultures across the globe who exist on a plant-based diet still in existence? Or putting it in more scientific terms than I can, read up on two doctors who can explain why a vegan diet is healthy over at Forks Over Knives.

These comments just remind me of the eternal conversation I have with my health visitor over my very healthy vegan daughter. I will be asked where she gets her dairy from if not from animals. I respond that she is still breastfed and gets all the dairy she needs but perhaps the question to be asked is where she will get omega-3, calcium, iron, protein. If meat eaters get theirs from animals, where do the animals get their nutrients from to produce it in their bodies for us? Okay that is putting it in very simplistic terms but it is worth thinking about. Plants give enough nutrients for humans to live and thrive.

When my son was younger and still vegan we needed to take him into hospital. He had blood tests taken to check what was wrong with him and his nutrient levels came back as perfect as could be. His vegan diet was helping him thrive.

As I had been stewing over the article all day and the missed opportunity it was I realised that this is what most people think when going vegan. They go to extremes to crack and give up. They don’t understand the point of meat replacements (erm, it is not meat), and a week of being vegan probably would be hell. I just wish that Becky Dickinson had gone into this with a bit more positivity and planning.

So here is my day of being vegan with my daughter and the tasty, nutrient-packed meals we ate to help her grow and have a great relationship with food.

IMG_3543We eat as a family so the kids get a version of what we are eating in the day. It helps them try new things. My lunch today was a bean burger made with vital wheat gluten, which give it a meaty texture and look. I got the recipe from a vegan athlete blog. It was served with a potato salad and a green side salad with alfalfa sprouts. The kids grow the sprouts a few times a week, it’s fun and they like eating what they have grown. Sprouted beans help the body absorb vitamins and minerals.

IMG_3547This is my daughter’s easy-to-make and not very creative lunch.

IMG_3553And this is her enjoying it.

Friday night is pizza night in our house. Often I make tofu ‘ricotta’ from a recipe, occasionally buy fake cheese or if I am being lazy just use olive oil and nutritional yeast. It tastes cheesy and contains the illusive vitamin B12.

IMG_3576I forgot to get extra bases in. When I have time, I get my eldest to help make our own dough but it is rare we get chance. So we pop to the supermarket for pre-made if I remember.

IMG_3578Instead I got to eat some quick comfort food.

IMG_3581 IMG_3586Empty plates all round and not a spot of hummus all day.

We love our food and we love trying new things. I just wish the Telegraph had given the article to someone who seemed more positive about a week long trial. It might have opened a whole new world of food to them as it did to me when I took the plunge 10 years ago. I still miss cheese and cheap chocolate but I love the great choice of vegan food I get these days. Even in my little market town out of London.

cake

The London Coffee Festival

 

Coffee

Coffee and motherhood go together like wine and Friday night; one could not comfortably exist without the other. So, when coffee is needed to get through the day, without waking from an accidental nap to find every surface of the living room covered in red pen, you quickly come to appreciate good coffee and what makes a great coffee shop.

So, an outing to the London Coffee Festival to celebrate all things coffee-related was a welcomed experience this weekend at the Truman Brewery. The trade show opened on Thursday evening and to the public yesterday. Today was the first full public day and it continues on into the weekend.

It is not just about the coffee, although finding new great coffee products was a clear high light, there was also a lot of tea, chocolate, talks and music with samples to keep you going. The queue stretched half way down Brick Lane before opening time; coffee appreciation is taken very seriously in London with both parents and the care-free alike. It was good to see so many little people in there, expressing their love of the babyccino or ‘hot milk’ for the rest of us.

LCF_PressImage_CoffeeFestival2013_Day4__LowRes-88Some of the highlights were the Volcano Coffee Works, who put a lot of care and thought into every stage of their coffee-making process, which clearly comes through with the taste. The Roasting Party were as good as their name, affable people passionate about their products. An intriguing concept was Grower’s Cup; great tea or coffee in a pouch that you add water to and pour. Pretty smart for being out and about while not wanting to compromise on your beverage quality.

Alpro were offering out vegan coffee and porridge, which was damn tasting and a good respite from the flurry of free espresso shots from the rest of the show. Vegan soft-drinks brand Fritz-Kola were also offering out samples of their drinks. High caffeine content and Mischmasch being pegged as a great hangover cure. Coming from Hamburg, it is probably a trustworthy claim. Mischmasch was damn tasty mix of cola, lemon and orange.

LCF_PressImage_DCS2409Tea was well represented there as well. Tea Pigs are always reliable on flavours but London Tea Company does some wonderful blends. Personally, I am addicted to their Vanilla Chai. Tea discovery of the day goes to Brew Tea Co who really nailed good old builders tea and had these great little Brew Cards to ensure no one gets your tea preference wrong again.

However, the nicest stall of the day and my favourite find was Jaz and Juls Drinking Chocolate. It can be a tricky thing finding great vegan drinking chocolate but this brand doesn’t put powdered milk into the blend and it was superb. It is organic, ethical and run by two lovely women who were really passionate and engaged about what they were doing; a total inspiration and making great hot chocolate too.

It would be amiss to not point out the sofas and chairs dotted by the stage made from reclaimed wood. The pallet sofa was surprisingly comfortable and looked damn good too.

There was plenty of beer, whiskey and coffee-related cocktail tasting going on too but being pregnant, I cannot really comment on these. Downstairs was the coffee-lifestyle room: designers, accessories, pop up cafe and furniture sellers who are synonymous with East London and knowing where to get your good coffee from. It’s not just about the drink anymore. London Coffee Festival was an intriguing day out with wonderful discoveries made. Expect some more to come on the wonderful Jaz and Juls Chocolate.

The London Coffee Festival continues throughout the weekend at the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane.

Labor Day Review

labor day

 

If you were going to get kidnapped and held hostage in your own home over a sleepy bank holiday weekend it would be nice if the escaped convict did all those niggling odd jobs around the house, made your dinner at the end of the day and promise to run away to a better life rather than terrified you into submission. It would be nice but would probably need a high degree of suspension of disbelief for such sentimentality, as happens in Labor Day. Seen through the eyes of 13 year old Hank, perhaps in a soft-edged memory, he and his single-mother, Adele are kidnapped and then come to love their captor, Frank: one to escape the fear of loneliness and hurt, the other to escape the disappointment of an absent father-figure. With severe depression bordering on agoraphobia and a teenage outsider, Frank picks his vulnerable victims well.

The tension of violence is an undercurrent that builds with the montages and flashbacks of Frank’s story, which runs alongside that of the Labor Day weekend. The film opens with scenes of Hank being the ‘husband’ to his own mother, taking her a cup of tea in bed, running her a bath, doing the errands. This is a woman who wants to be loved, who has had love taken away and as much as the story wants to be about love but there is an uncomfortable feeling bubbling under the surface. This build up is done with great speed and subtly to move the action to emotional binds built through baking and basesball.

Then there is the food, which runs as a glaring, signposted metaphor throughout. Ghost has its potters wheel scene, Labor Day its peach pie scene; which is the nearest you are going to get to sex throughout the film. The peach pie was the pinnacle of food metaphors in Labor Day and the ensuing connotations about wholesome, American family life; the pie being Frank, salted on the outside, sweet and soft inside that no one can see; the family as a whole needing a roof, being assembled together. Before Frank, Adele and Hank lived off canned goods and frozen foods which were brought back to life with the fresh, tactile cooking when Frank entered their world.

Kate Winslet plays the very submissive female lead of Adele incredibly well, showing her quick escalation from an almost catatonic state into pure fear while trying to hide this from her son. Yet it was 13 year-old Hank, played by Gattlin Griffith, who took on the bulk of the film and moved the drama.

Labor Day is laced with sticky, sweet sentimentality as it was; it was beautifully shot and acted but a stride away from the usual Jason Reitman films and ensuing expectations. Adele and Hank were outsiders looking for their place in the world and found it with an ultimate outsider, Frank.  This film needs to be watched with suspending belief at how realistic reactions to the situation are and be led by voice of Hank and his memory of the pivotal moment in his life, making him the adult he became.

This was viewed at a special complimentary screening with thanks to Mumsnet and Paramount Pictures. 

 

Toddler Sight-Seeing in London: The Rules.

Rule #1: Always check that your destination is actually open.

It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, it wasn’t but it was pissing it down in Covent Garden in the freezing cold and I found myself jammed in the Build-A-Bear workshop with two school trips because the London Transport Museum had closed for training that morning. I didn’t check before we left and so we were subject to the humiliation of the store staff trying to entertain 40-odd children and one toddler insistent on destroying any displays. I learned a tough lesson that day.

 Rule #2: Always have a back-up plan.

In the event that your destination sight to see is closed or more realistically, your toddler has scoured the whole place in under 30 minutes (sure, I am being optimistic here), then you need a plan to follow or risk ignoring rule number 3. Picking a place where there is a cluster of museums and galleries is a good idea so if you have stomped through one and not yet reached a coffee break, you can cover two or three destinations in a day.

Tate Modern on Speed

 Rule #3: Time spent sight-seeing should be greater than time spent traveling to the sights.

London has a wonderful transport network and the lure of all the different types of trains and buses can fill part of the day with total joy for your toddler. You don’t, however, want to spend 3 hours of your day traveling on said transport for less than an hour of wandering around. You will be bored or at best, entertained by some of the more colourful Londoners who grace the transport system outside of rush hour. Another way to avoid breaking Rule number three is-,

 Rule #4: Travel Light.

Nope, lighter than that. Lighter still. What are you doing putting your things in the pram? Never, ever take the pram. That is not traveling light; that is subjecting yourself to a day of the buggy-shuffle on the bus. If your child is old enough to walk, take the tube and wear them out. If your child will not manage this then take a sling. You will be thankful for this. There are many, many young families staying in London now and they are all on the bus network in the day. However ergo dynamic and designed for City living your pram may be, it is not designed to be dragged up and down the steps of London Underground. Or rather London Underground is not designed for your pram. Have you seen how few step-free access stickers there are on the tube map? Unless you want to go to Hammersmith, don’t bother.

Take a backpack, put in minimal nappies and fill the rest of the space with food. Lots and lots of food to entertain your child on the big-ass long journey you are about to undertake. Your phone will have a camera and anything else you might need, you will be able to buy when you are out.

The bus is your friend.

 Rule #5: Embrace the gift-shop.

When I was a child, we were never allowed to step foot into the gift-shop at the end of a museum visit for fear of our eyes lighting up at the plethora of tat. My mother made a grave mistake. The gift shop is often the best part of the visit; that or the place where they keep the headphones. We went on a cultural visit last week, spent 15 minutes charging around making loud echoes and 35 minutes sitting on the floor of the gift shop. The boy read the books, played with the beautifully designed toys and I checked the news on my phone. We were both happy. When he finally got bored, we upped and left in search of a place to eat our picnic.

Rule #6: Avoid the entry-fee unless you really have to.

There are some wonderful child-centred museums such as the London Transport Museum where I am willing to pay for the entry fee. Actually, that is the only one I can think of. There are many, many more museums, galleries, open houses, towers and the like that do not cost any money at all. In fact, these are probably of no interest to your child at all but they will still get something out of running around quiet, open corridors shouting at the tops of their voices. Smaller under-funded museums where you pay a nominal fee (I have a personal cap of £5), are also great because you get to visit something out of the normal tourist range and are usually very quiet. I’ve found staff in these smaller museums to be very welcoming and can go out of their way to make their specialist subject matter more engrossing for the toddler. When you want to go see the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy or other such event that genuinely interests you, go on your own. You will be wasting your money otherwise. I have been to some museums umpteen times and I cannot tell you the first thing about what is on display in there unless it has caught the eye of the boy.

 Rule #7: Never go on a rainy bank holiday or a weekend.

We made the catastrophic mistake one bank holiday to take a family trip to Exhibition Road because some website recommended it for a family-friendly day out. How foolish we were. We have learnt from our mistakes. We even took the pram. We spent 25 minutes waiting by the lift in the Science Museum to be taken to the basement floor where the Children’s Play Area is housed. Wonderful play area, I am sure but I will never step foot in there again unless I win enough lottery money to hire it out. It could be the most educational and child-friendly space in the world but when hundreds of snot-nosed children are charging around and there is a queue to even park the pram you know you have made a big mistake. We lasted 5 minutes on the floor we thought we wanted to be on and then a further half an hour queuing to return to the ground floor and left without even glancing at the gift-shop. Arriving at 10am on a week day is blissfully calm and by the time you have finished, the place is just starting to get busy and you are enjoying a nice cup of coffee elsewhere.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

 Rule #8: Avoid the big museums.

Even on a good day you will need to queue to get into the Natural History Museum and then queue again to see the t-rex. By all means, go have a look if you have not done so before but prepare for this with a lot of food. Have an escape strategy at the ready as well, including the location of the nearest place to sit down. If it is raining, this may be a tube ride away. Elsewhere in London I have seen wonderful views of the skyline from the top of a very quiet Monument, done free crafts with my son in various small museums, spent an hour watching him play with a model underground railway in the Museum of London. All of these experiences have been vastly more enjoyable than going to see the big stuff. That is not to say that we will not do the tourist circuit but just chose our times wisely. Still on my list of upcoming attractions are Westminster Abbey, which I have shamefully not been inside yet and the V&A.

 Rule #9: Chose a place that you will both enjoy or employ bribery.

I make a list of all the places I have yet to see in London and make my way through them once a week. Sometimes we return to a particular museum because the boy loves it so much and there is something new there for me, such as The Museum of Childhood being right next door to a vegan café that I want to try out. Sometimes we go to a museum relentless times because it fills my son with joy like the RAF museum in Colindale. We spend a vast amount of time on the Chinook Helicopter and in return I get to sit and drink a cuppa in peace in the picnic area. But really I try find things that we will both be happy with. I do get asked to not see any more picture museums (art galleries) but if we do, then I cut a deal that we can follow it up with a trip on the Clipper, or more realistically, a trip to visit his Dad at work. If we only went to places that he enjoyed then my patience would soon run out, this is a day out for both of us.

 Rule #10: Do not travel during rush hour.

Obvious, right? The amount of times I have found myself rammed on a bus with the boy at 4.30pm where the school rush crashes straight into rush hour at 5pm because nowhere takes less than an hour to get to, is ridiculous. I should really know better. And still it happens. Making sure you are safely ensconced indoors when rush hour hits is the key to a happy end to a happy day.

River Dance

Why babies are like kitchens.

Babies and kitchens: both come with a huge amount of crap that you don’t need all under the guise of making your life easier. In fact these time saving devices tend to fix a problem that doesn’t exist and spend their time collecting dust in over packed cupboards. Also, you never need to buy anything new as everyone thinks they need these vital things (and are often included in lists that tell you so), so you can often find them second hand in the dusty cupboards of friends and family who will quite happily off-load them on you. That goes for kitchen stuff and kid-related stuff although not the child itself. They do like cupboards though.

I remember a friend telling us that we would soon need to move out of our one-bed flat when our impending child arrived because they “come with a lot of stuff.” Actually kids turn up naked and don’t need half the things you buy for them. We just think they do to make our lives easier. Much like kitchen gadgets. The reason you never need buy a bread maker is that someone you know will have one in a cupboard somewhere. We did and off loaded it onto a friend looking to buy one. In fact, it was gifted to us from a dusty cupboard elsewhere. They really at the gift that keeps giving.

You know why we did not use the bread maker? Because by the time you’ve weighed and measured, cooked and washed you realise that it is just as easy to make the bread yourself and will not look like a rectangle with a hole in the bottom. Or better yet, walk to the shop, hand over £1.30 and get a freshly baked loaf of bread handed back. Now that is quicker and cleaner than a bread machine. This third-hand machine is probably now languishing in another cupboard right now after a single use.

Last night I spent the night giving a slow cooker a good scrub. We had been gifted this from family because they no longer needed it. That should really have been the first sign that this was an unnecessary kitchen addition. I was told it needed a wipe down because it had sat in a cupboard for some time. Yeah with the remnant of dinner from 2003 still stuck to the inside. I spent an hour scouring the inside of this thing only to reveal underneath 2003 casserole a warning that said ‘do not place liquid in this section due to risk of electric shock’. I could have done with that information before I put a load of hot soapy water inside to scrub off said casserole. We had better get more than one use out of this. In fact, it had better live up to its promise that it would ‘change our lives’.

Everything you read when pregnant is full of advice of what things you will need when you get pregnant. Most of it you will use once and give up on. My favourite item that I was told would CHANGE MY LIFE was a door bouncer that he used once and cost me £30 for the pleasure.

Mumsnet have a helpful list of essentials you will need:

1. A Cot or Crib – If you get a moses basket, your child will sleep in this once, maybe twice if you are lucky. My cats spent more time sleeping in my son’s basket than he did. We even got a cat protector – a netting that goes over the top of the cot. All that happens is the cat sleeps on top of the netting inside the cot. Most babies end up in bed with you, you know why? You both get more sleep that way. Get a cot bed, they last longer and you will have more use out of them. I am still trying to figure out the essential use of the cot bumper.

2. Nappies – Yep, you will need these and lots of them. Why a life time supply of baby wipes is not on here too, I do not know. Resuables are great, much easier than your parents will tell you they are. Everyone warned me of the horror of reusables and quite frankly, they were one of my best investments.

3. Pram – another useless thing you are told to get. I did my research when buying my pram, talked to friends in London with kids, talked to my midwife, read reviews. In the end I took the advice of one friend who said she did not get a Bugaboo because everyone else did and then regretted it when kicking her pram down the street because she wasn’t able to get on the bus. My midwife laughed at me when my bugaboo arrived and said the maclaren was better. How I should have listened. My Bugaboo broke after 6 months and I am still trying to get it replaced. I stopped using it when I invested in a sling that I use every day. The only thing a pram is good for is parting the crowds of Oxford Street on a busy Saturday. Otherwise, stick them in a sling, you’ll get places quicker.

4. Baby Bouncer – This was used to enable me to take a shower. So yes it is useful, just don’t pay more than £30 for an all-singing, all-dancing one. The child doesn’t care. They stop using them after a few weeks and move onto the Bumbo instead. A big plastic seat that you are not meant to feed them in or place them on the kitchen sides but everyone does so anyway. Again, everyone buys one so get one second hand because they don’t stay in them long.

5. Breast Pump or Bottle Steriliser – You could probably just breast feed and live without both. That’s up to you. A dishwasher is more useful and sterilises the bottles at the same time. Or a pan of boiling water will do it too. Save yourself some money for coffee and cake.

6. A Sling – I cannot stress enough how much a sling will save you so much hassle. Every time I see a Mum struggle to get her pram on a bus or tube or there are already two prams on board I want to tell them to just sling their kids and London will open its doors to you. Kids sleep in slings and they can use them until 4 years old if you get the right one. That’s the trick. You need to try them out at your local sling library and get the right one for you and your child. Mine was £40 from ebay and I love it.

Now for things that you aren’t told you need but in fact you do:

1. The dishwasher – Anyone dare to take or damage my dishwasher will be damaged themselves. This is saves hours of my time. I do not even care that I am the only one to empty and reload it. I put plates, bottles and dishes in dirty and they come out clean.

2. Tumble Dryer – I love the environment, truly I do but I love getting the endless pile of washing done in a day more. Winter evenings are no longer spent staring at damp clothes drying by the radiator. Nope, they are spent marveling at how clothes I wore yesterday are back clean in the wardrobe today, not in a month’s time.

3. Lie-ins – Do a deal where you and your partner take one weekend day a piece to sleep in until naturally woken up by the screaming from the living room. Your life will be hugely improved.

4. A scientific knowledge of skin care products – All those sleepless nights, rushing around, never getting to pee in peace will take its toll and spending freely upon gorgeously packaged products will be a thing of the past. Unless you are a lottery winner. Knowing what makes a good moisturiser good will save you a lot of money. Currently I am testing some home made aloe vera stuff, but well I am a hippy and spend thrift.

5. Coffee (or tea) and plenty of it. – One of my most-used kitchen buys was the french press which gave me a plentiful supply of coffee throughout the day.

 

 

Kings Cross Shuffle

When planning a day trip in London for the wee people, it’s normally best to check that the destination you’re aiming for is actually open on the day you visit. Unlike me who just assumes that everything across London is open pretty much year round. Not the case when I arrived at the Canal Museum today to find it is closed on all Mondays that are not Bank Holidays. I take it as a sign that I am destined to never visit the place. We used to live nearby and never made it despite numerous attempts that tended to end up in pub crawls as those were pre-child days.

Thankfully, Kings Cross has a hub of places to entertain kids so we pottered down to the nearby VX to grab some food for a picnic. Even if you’re not vegan, this place is worth stopping by for some tasty goods if you’re in the area. It’s a small place, not good for prams but very welcoming. There used to be a short cut through the back of Kings Cross Station to our next destination, Camley Street Nature Park, but the ongoing gentrification of the area meant that was cut off and we had to schlep around St Pancras past all the building sites. This was pretty much the highlight of my son’s morning as he looked on in awe at all the diggers, cranes and dumper trucks in full swing.

ponds We had our scran by the ponds and then went and lay belly-flat looking out for dragon-fly and tadpoles. None were forthcoming so onwards we walked around the park. It’s best to either not take the buggy or leave it by the volunteers hut.

When I first visited Camley Street  many years ago, it was a eden of tranquility. Sadly, all the ongoing works around the park have massive amounts noise pollution seeping through. Not so good for listening to the bird song under the biodome, but not a problem for a toddler who wanted to name each sound.

wild flowersWe did have great fun following the trails and trying to spot beetles, bees, birds and bats. The place is well thought out and sign posted for things to look out for and hints to find them. It would probably have more of an air of tranquility on a weekend but then that would have taken away part of the fun for the boy.

Guess the beastie game

Our plan after this was to head for Corams Fields but the heavens opened and so we headed home to hunker down away from the wet until Summer deigns us with its presence once more.