28 January 2019

London with kids: The best kept "secrets" locals recommend

Ever wonder what to do in London?  I've lived in London for over a decade now, and and while you might think I've seen it all already I feel like I have just barely scratched the surface. When I first got here I was still a student and did all the touristy things. Now, ten years later and with kids, and much more familiar with the London landscape I like to explore local gems. I've got a few favourites of my own, and I also asked my fellow London bloggers for their tips.  So if you want some choice local tips from Londoners on what to do with kids in London, read on! 

toddler in greenwich university

Over the years I've also found quite a few non-touristy places I tend to recommend to others. These favourite local "secrets" of mine are:

1) On a rainy day - V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is a great place to check out historical toys and have a indoor play sessions. 
2) A great park in Central London - Coram's Fields is situated close to Russell Square Station, and is a fun place to run around on a pretty day. 
3) A North London gem - Forty Hall Estate, a large park and a manor house in Enfield, full of North London history!

My fellow London bloggers recommended quite a few places other places across London,  and there was a lot of love for both outdoor areas and South London! Quite a few of these places I've never even been near to, so I've got plenty of good ideas now. I've divided the places by rough geographical area, starting with Central London, and I hope you find some good tips here too.

tower bridge from beneath

Central London

Both Eva from Captain Bobcat and Sarah mentioned their love for the boat ride on the Thames. 

Sarah explained how with smaller children it's great to see the big landmarks, Big Ben, the eye, St Pauls, Tower of London and traitors gate but to visit each is really tiring.  Taking the river bus you can see it all and have a boat ride on the Thames.  Eva on the other hand reminisced how they went on a whole loop on the Thames Clipper, and as the boat was empty "the crew took the kids up to the captain’s cabin and let them sit in his chair. It was fab to point out all the famous landmarks whilst cruising. It’s cheap too, a lot cheaper as a sightseeing boat trip."

I've been on the tours as well, both Thames Clipper and a City Cruises, and I've taken pictures of the scenery you can expect on the cruises... It is pretty wonderful!

Indoor fun can be found at a few places.  Amy from All about a Mummy recommends Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Sq. She says they "play lot classic movies, arthouse films sing a longs and fancy dress events. Many are shown on the original 16mm or 35mm celluloid.". Apparently audience participation is encouraged and is great fun!

Mel from Le Coin de Mel exclaims how they "love the London Transport Museum. It's not as busy as the Natural History Museum or the Science Museum (our other favourites). Children go in free and adults pay £17.50 once and with your entry fee, you get membership for a year.". 

For outdoor historical fun, did you know there was a Roman temple in the City of London? And it’s free entry! Megan from Truly Madly Kids recommended this and has also written a post about the temple too! I personally always recommend Coram's Fields, a great park near Russell Square Station, with a small petting zoo, and lots of climbing frames and places to run around for kids of all ages. 

climbing frame in coram's fields

South London

Both Han-Son from DaddiLife and Renee from Mummy Tries recommended Morden Hall Park, right at the end of the Northern Line. Renee explained how it is "an absolute gem, and never massively busy. It’s a National Trust property, immaculately kept, and their events are always lovely" and with a fab cafe. Han-Son described how "you enter onto a bridge with a wonderful stream of fish, and then you can go onto the massive park areas, play grounds or wild gardens" and has seen families with kids of all ages and regularly takes his son there pretend fishing.

Clapham Common is one of the favourite places of Lisa from bare mother who describes it as "easy to get to on the Northern Line. There’s Mount Pond for feeding the ducks (responsibly, with peas or duck food), Long Pond to watch the model boating, and a choice of two playgrounds. If you fancy a coffee or ice cream (or a nice Italian meal) there’s the child friendly La Baita cafe, right by the historic bandstand. Or the Windmill Pub for something more substantial. There’s a free ‘One o’clock club’ stay and play session for under 5’s every Wed to Fri afternoon, and plenty of green open space for little legs to burn off some energy - in winter or summer". She also recommends the many music events and fairs throughout summer over at Clapham Common.

greenwich university

Southeast London

Southeast London has fab places to visit, and one of my favourite locations is Greenwich. This is also recommended by Lauretta from Home and Horizon who says "In the summer I love taking the kids to Greenwich - you can visit the park to play games and feed the squirrels (and admire the views of London), head to Greenwich market to pick up some unique buys or visit the Royal Observatory for some star spotting - there is something for everyone. But my fave thing to do is grab an ice-cream in the park, sit on a bench and people watch!" Speaking of Greenwich, over there I've really enjoyed seeing Cutty Sark as well, the great historical tea clipper cum museum. 

From indoor places, I've heard great things about the Horniman Museum in Sydenham Hill, also recommended by Jemma from Thimble and Twig who also recommends the triangle park opposite for a great day out.

cutty sark deck

West London

Nadia from Scandi Mummy recommends The Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park . She says it "is amazing in spring. Full of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas in bloom which makes for the most spectacular colourful scenery. Stop in for afternoon tea at Pembroke Lodge afterwards for beautiful views of SW London and the river Thames.".

West London seems to be full of beautiful outdoor locations, as more are recommended by Neelika from Nel C3. In her words, "Osterley Park in West London is beautiful in all seasons. It's a National Trust property and it has a car park, toilets and cafe. If you don't have to park in the car park, try and park on the neighbouring roads. The walk up is lovely, you'll see horses, ponies and cows and some beautiful houses! You miss that if you drive up the path." And who could forget Kew Gardens, that she also recommends. She says  they "have been countless times and have still never made it all the way around. Get a family membership, if you use it twice in the year you've made your money back!"

The one hidden gem Danielle suggests is a must-see, is "the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. Gorgeous Japanese garden hidden away". I have heard this is beautiful and would love to visit one day!

ker gardens and grumpy toddler

So there, quite a few gorgeous hidden gems here in London for you guys to go and visit. Were there any you have already seen?

What hidden gems would you recommend if you have any local tips to give?

Unusual and less-known family days out in London and places to visit with kids in London - top tips for hidden gems from Londoners!

23 January 2019

What I've done instead of the New Year's resolutions - My happy list

So, how are your New Year's resolutions going so far?

I can't remember when I last made a proper New Year's resolution. At some point I realised that had I actually ever followed through my resolutions I'd be a marathon-running polyglot with an impeccable figure and a thought-through wardrobe and just an all-around enviable human being.

Just to clear it up, I'm not.

mum with two kids

So there have been numerous resolutions I've done over the years. Lots about more exercise, lots about learning new languages or skills, and even more so about being efficient and organised. Yup, what I have learned from that is that I am not particularly organised nor am I efficient, and there is always the next day...

I have also tried choosing a "word" to guide my year, which I suppose has worked a bit better in the past. The idea is to, instead of specific resolutions, choose a word that you aim your year towards. So it might be balance (work-life balance, balanced eating etc.) or freedom (from debt, obligations, midfulness etc.), whatever you want or need most in your life.

So far the only resolution I have managed to make into a regular thing has been flossing my teeth. Small, easy, daily habit. Using the "word" (I think one of the years is was "me") I've also managed to clear some obligations and relax, but nothing extravagant.

This year I am not doing any of it. This year I decided I am not going to set myself up to fail. This year what I will do however is exactly what I did last year - and that is to make my happy list. What is that I hear you say? (OK, I don't actually hear you say that, but you might wonder quietly...)

mum and kids in matching pyjamas

Happy list is exactly as it sounds like - it is the things that make me happy. Things that I actually WANT to do, instead of OUGHT to do. And my happy list has these eleven things on it:

1. Have a weekly family tradition. Lat year we started doing Film Fridays - we got the pizzas in, snuggled under a blanket, ate home-made pop corn and watched an animation or another family film. It was a nice end to the week, a relaxing evening after a full week at work. Nowadays I make the pizza and we skip the pop corn, but the principle is the same. Sometimes we make it into a Games Night and play Junior Scrabble or Junior Monopoly. 

2. Do my yoga. I don't do much exercise, which I ought to I suppose, but this is the want to list, eh, so yoga. It never fails to make me feel better, my back feel straighter, my posture more upright and my well-being better.

3. Go out experience London. We live in this amazing city, and spend silly money for the privilege, but do we really experience it? It is so easy to discount going to see anything just because "I don't feel like it, let's do it another weekend". And then that another weekend never comes. There are still places I'd love to see here that I haven't yet seen, and we might as well go and explore.

4. Read books. They transport you to another world, educate, entertain, do I need to continue? I used to love reading, but I find it difficult to find the time now. I WANT to make the time.

5. Use my good stuff. At some point I realised I hardly ever used my good stuff. It was just there waiting for "the special day". But you know what, the special day might never come. The stuff might get broken, old, go past its date. Or you might die. And there would be all that stuff, waiting for that special day. So now I wear my nice perfume on a school run, and wear my nice top to the cafe with kids.

6. Bake. Just because I quite like it. I don't do it that often, and I don't go all that fancy, so not a Bake Off contestant hopeful material here, but I do enjoy the kneading, and feeling the dough change consistency and it getting all buoyant and most of all, it in my mouth afterwards. I nearly always get good results, and nearly always get good feedback of my bakes, so it's these little rewards of success that make it my happy thing.

7. Learn a new thing. Not sure what it could be this year. Last year I tried my hand at making a perfume. This year, maybe something crafty?

8. Sleep more. Nowadays I usually fall asleep pretty early. And after a good night of sleep (if you really ever can get one with young kids...) I feel like the troubles of the day are much easier to deal with. They say any problem can be solved with sleeping on it...

9. Tidy up my wardrobe. I have far too many things I don't wear, and when I wear them, I find them just a bit off. Ill-fitting in some way, not exactly my favourite colour, a bit odd looking in some way, and even when other people tell me they look nice on me, I just feel off in them. So thus, 2019, let's make my wardrobe spark joy.

10. Meet new people. I find I don't know a whole lot of people in my neighbourhood, and me thinks it is time to change that. I am away from the area most of the week, commuting into Central London (except now while on maternity leave), but it would be nice to know more people in my local area.

11. Keep on taking family photographs. I loved the monthly challenge of taking a family portrait. It wasn't always easy, and it wasn't always with the best results, but I did it and I loved looking back.

mum and kids making funny faces

So those are the eleven things on my happy list - things I want to do this year. This I actually want to, instead of think I should. And all of them are things that help make me more happy.

What would be on your happy list?

13 January 2019

My lovely luxury baby gift from Willow and Cole

There are some baby items you know you will hold on to. You know instantly you will save these items for your children's children, just because they are so beautiful and precious. Willow and Cole provide exactly these types of baby gifts. 

When Willow and Cole got in touch and asked me to review their baby gifts I could already picture myself handing over these treasures to my future little grand-darlings... And I'm really happy to be able to share the joy with you guys as they have provided one of their beautiful merino wool cashmere baby blankets to give away to one of my readers too!

baby in a cot with cashmere blanket

I loved how stylish and luxurious the baby gift sets Willow and Cole provide are. There were gorgeous little dresses, dungarees and cardigans for the fashion-conscious amongst us, and practical yet luxurious everyday items for us who just want to have a little extra beauty in our days. My lovely luxury baby gift included a cashmere cable knit baby blanket, an olivewood natural goat hair baby brush and Shelly the Sheep, the softest ever cuddly toy. 

I'm a firm believer in that in your everyday life you should use the best possible things you can. It is all about using items that work well, feel pleasant on your skin, are a joy to touch with your fingertips - it just makes your day so much better, these tiny little touches. An ordinary day can be made a little bit better by adding a bit of luxury in it, be that in fun things like taking care of your baby or mundane things like doing the laundry. We only live once, we might as well enjoy it and have fun doing it.

willow and cole gift box

cashmere baby blanket gift set

brushing babys hair

grey cashmere baby blanket

olivewood baby brush

mummy brushing baby's hair

It is pure joy using luxurious and beautiful items. I loved brushing my baby's hair using her new olivewood hair brush, pretty to behold and pleasant to touch. The bristles feel soft on the skin, so my baby loved the feel of it on her head. Her cashmere blanket was luxurious, soft and warm, and oh so pretty with the intricate cable knit pattern. Her little sheep was another high quality item, soft and cuddly and perfect for little hands to hold. 

What I loved about Willow and Cole was also the finishing touches. It's the little touches that make for a perfect gift. Seeing the beautiful gift box, having the anticipation of opening the bow and peeling away the silk paper to reveal the luxurious contents... It's so exciting opening a gift! Obviously the gift is for the baby, but as the parent you get the full benefit of opening and appreciating it, so it is nice to have that extra special little something.

baby in a cot with grey blanket

Anything from Willow and Cole would make for a very well-received gift I am sure, so if you ever are looking for that extra special something to give to a new baby, their baby gift sets will be a great place to start.

All in all, I loved my gift, or ha ha, my baby's gift. See, I like it so much I have pretty much appropriated it for myself! I personally love the feel of cashmere and merino wool on my skin, so I am sure if my baby could speak, she'd say "Me too!". These materials feel warm, soft and breathable and incredibly comfortable, and if I could, I'd wrap myself and my baby in them head to toe. 

What was the best baby gift you've ever received or given?

beige merino wool baby blanket

The gorgeous merino wool cashmere blanket Willow and Cole provided for this giveaway is another beautiful luxury item that any baby (and parent) will absolutely love. Soft and beautifully produced, it will keep one very lucky baby cozy and comfortable. Enter below, and lots of luck! UK entries, over 18 only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You might also like: From three to four! How our family is growing...  and 24 hours with a newborn baby

10 January 2019

My top picks from the Aldi Baby and Toddler Event

Me, I love a good bargain. After Christmas I quite enjoy having a look through the sales and seeing if there is anything decent that I need (or just purely want) at a good price. Speaking of bargains, whenever I go to Aldi I always check their middle aisle, aka the random aisle, for any weird and wonderful things on discount. I've bagged quite a few nice things in the past for the kids and myself!

In January these combine to a Aldi Baby and Toddler Event, where the middle aisle is filled with weird and wonderful items for the littlest ones in our family - in store from 10th January. Aldi sent us a few items to check out, and asked us to check the rest of the sales out. Alongside the very well thought-of Aldi Mamia nappies, wipes and baby food pouches, I've looked through the Specialbuy bargains for my other top picks!

aldi nappies and wipes

We are in the weaning stage now, so Annabel Karmel's Baby Weaning Book (£4.99) was something I'd be keen to get my hands on - I've had this from the library forever now so having my own copy would be great. We also really love Nuby's Silicone Animal Bibs, that are in a 2-pack (£3.49), and Food Flasks (£5.99).  

Speaking of Nuby, there are also loads of Nuby toys and teething products to choose from - I quite liked the look of Teether Socks (£4.99) and Pull Along Wooden Toys (£7.99). Bath books (£2.99) are popular toys in our house too, with the big one wanting to read them to the little one in bath! 

aldi baby products

When I go to the store I might pick up a few items to go alongside the Baby Bodysuits (£2.99) - like Baby Tights 2-pack (£2.79) and Baby socks (£2.49) as these things are always needed. As I am quite keen on cloth nappies I was really happy to see Bambino Mio reusable nappies for a very affordable price (nearly half price at £8.99!) so will pick one or two of them to add to our collection, alongside their washable and matching changing mat (£8.99). 

So those are my top picks - what baby items would you want to find in sales?

You might also like:  Book review - Easy Indian Supermeals for Babies, Toddlers and the Family

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