Holiday Review: Pembrokeshire

Last month we spent a lovely week in Pembrokeshire.  Despite it being somewhere that I’ve always looked at and thought how beautiful it looked, it’s never really been on our radar as a holiday destination.  The main reason being that we already spend a LOT of time in Wales due to family living there and although it’s a different area – it has always seemed to close for a holiday.

However after an extremely stressful trip to the south coast last year and an epic 10 hour car journey with a teething baby, a holiday only a short distance away was sounding more and more like my cup of tea.

From home to holiday, it was around a three hour journey so perfectly acceptable travelling time with a little one on board.

We booked a lovely self-catering cottage just outside Haverfordwest.  It was located down a few windy country lanes so definitely one to avoid if you’re relying on public transport but as we had the car it was perfect.

We booked the cottage on looks, budget and of course whether or not it was family-friendly, we weren’t too bothered about the location but as it turned out it was ideal – it’s pretty much right in the heart of the county so everywhere we wanted to visit was never more than about 10-15 miles away, plus Haverfordwest itself had a decent range of shops including a giant Tesco, Aldi and an M&S for our holiday treats!

Weather-wise we couldn’t have picked a better week – probably the best week we had all Summer so we had a great time exploring many of the beaches in Pembrokeshire.  Although it was beautiful weather, there were occasions when we had the place pretty much to ourselves – the joys of having a child that’s not of school age and can go out of season!

The first beach we came across was Newgale – this seems to be a popular spot with surfers and has a campsite right next to the beach. The views as you come upon this beach were absolutely stunning as you can see below:

Newgale Beach

We were disappointed not to see some of the beaches – E isn’t quite walking yet and some of the more spectacular of beaches along the Pembrokeshire coast are only accessible by long walks or steep climbs – not ideal with a buggy.  We do have the sling of course, but she’s just getting a little bit too heavy for back-breaking treks!  Also, some of the beaches are managed by the National Trust and operate car parks with a £5 charge.  We wouldn’t resent paying if we were planning a day of it, but that’s not going to happen with the attention span of a 1 year old!

Instead we decided to save the beauty spots for another occasion when E is older – and more steady on her own two feet – and opted to go for the beaches with easy access and with free (or very cheap) parking!

Broad Haven was probably our favourite beach spot – not least because we were the only three people on it!  It was lovely – such a broad (obviously) expanse of sand, which was clean and flat with no shingles so you could walk all the way to the sea completely barefoot without uttering all the swear words under the sun.  E loved being on the beach – it was a shame she’s not walking as it would have been lovely to have her toddling on the sand here.  Instead she just treated it like a giant sand pit as well as consuming a good few mouthfuls of it.  She’ll eat anything this child.

Broad Haven beach

Just round the coast (at low tide you can walk here – just make sure you take note of the tide times before doing so) is Little Haven, a pretty little fishing village with a couple of pubs and a cafe – we stopped at one of the former for a wonderful lunch of fish and seafood, enjoying the charming little seating area outside.  E decided this would be a good time to poo all over her entire outfit – luckily the car was parked right next to the beer garden, so off daddy went to change her in the boot!  (This happened on our last holiday too, I’m hoping it’s not going to be a theme!)

We visited lots of other places during our stay – including St. Davids, Tenby, Folly Farm and Bluestone – they all deserve a post of their own so I’ll be writing about these over the next few days.  We always like to have quite a full itinerary on our holidays and Pembrokeshire certainly ticked all the boxes when it came to offering lots of interesting days out.

It’s definitely on our list of ‘places to go back to’ – although the thing with us, is that we’ve never been back to the same place twice.  When it was just the two of us we wanted to explore lots of different places while we had the chance, but now we have E our holidays are different and the focus is mostly on her enjoyment, as well as ours.

So the likelihood is that we will return here as it’s definitely a family-friendly destination and one that I think she’ll enjoy more and more in years to come.

 

 

Day Out Review: Cheshire Craft Workshop

I’ve known about Cheshire Craft Workshop for years but despite being a crafty person, I’ve never actually been. However, a few months ago, I was fortunate enough to win some vouchers which meant I had to take a trip and it seemed like a fun day out for E and myself!

CCW

The workshop is based at Blakemere Village, near to Northwich in Cheshire. The village has a number of warehouse/barn type buildings housing different retail outlets -various little gift shops selling homemade crafts, such as cards and jewellery, garden accessories, baby clothing, vintagewear, film memorabilia – it’s all a bit random really.  There’s also a restaurant, tearoom, children’s playbarn, falconry centre, segway track, mini golf, an outdoor playground and a miniature railway that runs at the weekend.

Let sleeping dogs lie

The workshop itself is set near to the back of the centre – I went during the week, quite early in the morning and the place was pretty deserted.  When I went to the door of the workshop I wasn’t even sure whether it was open (I drove 20 odd miles without booking so it would have been pretty annoying if it was shut) but thankfully it was!  I opened the door and headed to the counter, when a MASSIVE alsation came out of the back, heading towards us and barking!

Those who know me well understand my fear of dogs (big and small) so to be confronted by this, in an empty warehouse, well and truly freaked me out.  I gasped loudly and turned the buggy away from the dog, instinctively protecting E, whilst I fully expected to be mauled by this beast of a dog.  Thankfully I heard a friendly voice, calling the dog back and that was when I noticed that it was actually behind a baby gate anyway.  I tried to act all nonchalant after that, like it hadn’t bothered me, but it wasn’t the start to the morning I wanted!   The dog is was really very lovely, and is a big softy, so thankfully the rest of the morning only got better!

What is involved?

Firstly you choose your activity – mainly its painting a piece of ceramic, however I think if you have pre-booked there is a potters wheel, clay imprinting and candle making.  For the painting, you choose your piece of ceramic – there’s loads to choose from including plates, cups, money boxes, frames, plant pots etc.  Average cost seems to be around £15-20 per piece, although there were smaller items which were cheaper such as coasters.

I chose a moneybox (for us) and a plant pot (for E’s Granny and Grandad) which came to a total of £30 (paid for with my vouchers).

Once you’ve paid for the items at the counter (and arranged a time when you are able to pick them up), you are free to paint them as you see fit!  The fun part!

You’re given a table on which there is a selection of paints in all sorts of colours (including some glitter paints) – they’re all non-toxic and suitable from birth, so I wasn’t overly disturbed when E tried to eat them (it was inevitable!).  There’s also the brushes, a pot of water, a sponge (for mistakes!) and tissue to clean up with.  Everyone is provided with an apron – in kids sizes too.  Erika had to sit in a highchair of course, which didn’t bode well in regards to thinking that the paint was for eating, but we managed to keep ingestion to a minimum.  The clean brushes were tasty too apparently, but at least this kept her entertained while I created the finer details on our creations.  Well I say finer…. what I really mean is a few random splodges here and there!

The main thing I wanted to do was to capture E’s handprints in paint – I’ve really only ever managed to capture her footprints at home, handprints have usually ended up on her face, my face, the floor, the sofa – anywhere except the piece of card that they’re supposed to!

I was glad to be told that the paint will wipe off with a wet sponge if we were to go wrong, but it appears that all the stars had aligned right at that moment and we managed to capture 8 perfect handprints with ease!  E seemed to finally understand the concept of having her hand-painted and then pressing it down flat onto a surface.  There was the odd moment she tried to lick it, but we managed it all the same – I was impressed and I think the lady who worked there was too!

Then I had to free reign to decorate the rest of it – however that’s where my imagination decided to get up and leave! Some nice words for the grandparents, a few splodges later and we were pretty much done.

With hindsight, I wish I’d thought about a design before arriving – although I’d had the vouchers for a while, the decision to go was actually a spur of the moment thing so perhaps i’d woken up on the non-inspirational side of the bed that morning!  We shall wait and see what the finished results look like. (I’m going back at the weekend to pick them up after glazing and firing – I may or may not post the finished product!)

After thoughts

I really enjoyed the craft workshop – despite my terrifying encounter with the jaws of death (just kidding!) – and would absolutely love to go back.  I think E enjoyed it – she probably loved the experience of being able to get messy with Mummy, without me being overly OCD about getting paint on the furniture! It’s definitely a place I’d love to take her to when she’s that little bit older and understands the concept of painting with a brush as opposed to eating one.  I think as a kids party idea it’s brilliant – messy but brilliant.

They do adults parties too, and I’ve just found out that they do late night specials once a month where you can take your own food and alcohol – now that I would love to do, although I’m not sure what the results would be after a bottle or two of wine!  I’m definitely going to mention it to the girls and see if they fancy trying it though!  Without a baby in tow, I reckon my creative juices would flow more easily and I can finally create my masterpiece.  Or a few more drunken splodges.  Whatever….

 

Eating Out Review: Prezzo

Following our trip to Wagamama a few weeks back, this time we went around the corner to Prezzo – of all the italian style chains this has been one of our favourites, particularly as they usually have really good offers!  It’s all about finding the bargains!

I ate here a few times when pregnant – pasta was one food that I couldn’t stomach during pregnancy, even looking at it was a complete no no so not sure why I ended up in Prezzo in the first place, however the lasagne went down so well that I had to go back! I was wondering if the taste of  it might have rubbed off on E!

What I love about Prezzo is that they don’t just have a generic kids menu – which in most restaurants is aimed at bigger kids, and the smaller ones just have to like it or lump it – they also have a tots menu (aimed at those up to age 5).  It’s £3.95 for three courses and a drink, which is excellent value.

So, what’s on the menu?

Considering it’s aimed at those ‘with smaller tummies’, the portion sizes were pretty generous.  There’s only one starter – garlic bread, which comes with or without cheese; two choices for the main course – either pasta (with a choice of 3 basic sauces) or a small margherita pizza (with a choice of three toppings).  Dessert is either ice cream in a choice of flavours or a fresh banana, then either juice or squash for the drink.

E polished off the garlic bread (this is always a winner), but the tomatoey pasta mainly got launched on the floor.  We realised pizza may have been the preferred option when bits of Daddy’s meal were sneakily snaffled off his plate. Of course the ice cream was polished off, no problem.  We turned the drink down in favour of our own water – as I’m a mean mummy who hasn’t let E taste juice or squash yet!

The paper menu included puzzles and various things to colour in, however E decided that the crayons were much tastier than the pasta so these were swiftly hidden at the other end of the table!

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Results:

Food: 4/5 standard italian fayre, nothing adventurous
Service: 3/5 – could be friendlier
Baby-friendly: 5/5 separate menu, clean highchairs, colouring activities
Toilets/baby-change: 3/5 clean and tidy, nothing special

Total: 15/20

Eating Out Review: Wagamama

Since E was very young we’ve never shied away from taking her to restaurants – both her dad and I are real food lovers, and we’re hoping it will rub off.  We want her to get used to trying new tastes and to feel comfortable in restaurants – meaning that we can enjoy the experience all together as a family.

The first time we took E out for a meal, she was only around 6 week old and she just happily snoozed away in her car seat under the table!  Now she’s older and eating real food, I really enjoy being able to pop her in her high chair and let her experience the same things that we do.

Now we’re not a huge fan of chain restaurants and generally prefer to eat at more local, independent places, however for the purposes of this blog, the larger restaurant chains are going to be more well known to the majority of people, as opposed to the little cafe round the corner from our house so we will be trying a few more out – and as I’ve found many of them are very well equipped for families so are ideal for introducing baby to eating out, without too much stress!

Wagamama is actually one chain that I’ve never had an issue with.  We have an abundance of chinese restaurants and a handful of decent thai places but that’s really as far as oriental cuisine goes round here – so having a wagamama on our doorstep is actually very welcome.

We decided to head here with a couple of friends (also with baby in tow) on a Sunday lunchtime – due to the location we knew it would be busy so called to book, forgetting their policy of no bookings for tables under 8 people.  However, when we told them we had two young babies with us, they waived their usual rules and were happy to book us in.  So far so good!

On arrival, we were shown to a table at the back of the restaurant – I had completely forgotten about the layout of the tables (long benches) in Wagamamas and had a mild panic about where they were going to fit us in with two highchairs!  No need to worry, they give you ones that clip to the table!

Phil and Ted

Have you ever used a Phil and Ted highchair?  They’re pretty cool!

When we’ve taken E to restaurants previously, we’ve always either taken our own food – particularly when we were just beginning weaning, or she’s eaten off our plates, but we decided to try something off the kids menu this time.

The staff in the restaurant were brilliant and really friendly with the babies – we’re familiar with the adult menu but they were happy to go through the children’s dishes with us explaining what each one consisted of, so we could make an easy decision.

My all time favourite dish at Wagamamas is the classic Katsu Curry and I was so excited to see that they did  a mini version of it too – including a vegetarian option of Yasai (Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato).  I ordered the latter for E – she’s not a massive fan of chicken (or any meat for that matter) so we thought this would go down well.  The dish arrived very well presented – with a small portion of sticky white rice, a decent size portion of the Yasai, plus a salad of grated carrot, cucumber and sweetcorn.  The curry itself came in a separate dish which meant E wouldn’t have to eat it if she didn’t like it.

For around £4, it was pretty good value for money, and it seemed like a pretty healthy option. The portion size was probably more suited to a slightly older child but it wasn’t overwhelming for a baby or toddler, particularly if you are used to baby-led weaning.  And of course any left over, was obviously going to be polished off by me or her dad anyway!

All round I’d highly recommend it – it’s nice to see a kids menu that’s not all burgers and fish fingers – and as E seemed to love it we’ll  definitely go back.

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Results:

Food: 5/5 tasty and fresh, miniature portions of the adult menu
Service: 4/5 – friendly, smily staff – happy to explain the menu
Baby-friendly: 4/5 great menu, cool highchairs – not much space for large prams – we put our umbrella fold under the table, but if we’d had the larger buggy we’d be a bit stuck.  Take your sling!
Toilets/baby-change: 4/5 spotlessly clean – I didn’t use the babychange here but my friend said it was fine!

Total: 17/20

It’s been a while!

Here I am back again – it’s been a while since I last posted. There’s obviously a lot with E to catch up on but this is a post just about me!

Under the Weather

The main reason for my absence is that for the past few months I feel like I’ve been fighting off illness after illness. It’s not been a brilliant time to be honest.
I got a cold around mid-October and since then it’s just been one thing after another. It took me about 6 weeks to shake off the cold and then just after Christmas I ended up with a stint in hospital. The doctors thought I had a blood clot and I had to go through a whole rigmarole of tests to discover it was actually gastro related but it was a scary time. I was given medication for that which seemed to help but just a few days later I got tonsillitis.

I haven’t had tonsillitis for 18 years, so it was a bit of a shock to the system. Back then I was told off for kissing too many boys! I promise I haven’t been doing any of that this time around!

The tonsillitis seemed to clear up pretty quickly but then turned into a nasty ear infection. It was so painful and I couldn’t hear properly for about 2 weeks (which came in handy in a few situations!) I was overjoyed when my hearing finally came back though. Once the infection had cleared up I thought I was over the worst of it, only to be hit by another cold followed by an even worse bout of tonsillitis. I’ve really not been having much luck.

Keep taking the pills

I can’t tell you how many antibiotics I’ve been on since the New Year – I really don’t like taking medication if I can help it and I’m all about the prevention rather than the cure but unfortunately everything I had was too nasty just to leave so antibiotics it had to be.

E has been pretty lucky and managed to avoid most of my illnesses – we’ve had a few days when she’s not been too well but she’s a little fighter and she generally makes a full recovery after 24 hours, while I’m still lagging behind with my rubbish immune system. E has started nursery now so she’s bound to pick up a few bugs here and there – I’ve never been too bothered about her getting ill, as long as it’s nothing serious. I’m of the thinking that the more things she gets at a young age, the more her immunity will build up so she’s super healthy when she’s older!

She did manage to pick up conjunctivitis last week – one of the most contagious things ever. After fighting to put drops in her eye (have you ever tried to administer eye drops to a strong, wriggly, screaming baby? I have no useful advice apart from to go back to the doctor and get cream, i’m sure it’d be so much easier) it cleared up within a few days but lo and behold who was the next person to get it? Yes me, her already poorly mummmy!

So here I am writing this blog with a lovely red, crusty eye – having the same issues of trying to get the eye drops into my own eye. Seriously who invented these things?

Building up Immunity

I don’t know if my low immune system has anything to do with having a baby. Throughout my pregnancy I wasn’t ill once (not counting morning sickness), I didn’t even have the slightest of snuffles. In fact I’ve never felt more healthy than in those 9 months – the ‘blooming’ phase was just so true for me. When E was tiny, I remained pretty healthy but then it’s like after a few months someone switched off my immune system and I’m under attack.

Most of my friends who are new mothers have experienced a similar thing, although none seem to have had it quite as bad as me. We assume that when the baby is born we pass on most of our immunity to them and then we need to build it back up again, it’s obviously just that some take a bit longer than others!

I have started taking vitamins now – I really wish I’d started earlier. If you’re reading this and you’ve just given birth, then start taking your vitamins now and hopefully you’ll avoid the immunity slump further down the line.

I’m hoping that there’s no other illnesses waiting around the corner to ambush me – I would just like normal service to resume as soon as possible!

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The Story of E – Season Two Recap

So following on from the Season One recap – here we are already at the end of Season Two (3-6 months)! It’s really scary how fast it’s going. Where’s my little newborn gone?

What’s she up to?

We’re on the move!! Okay so we haven’t mastered crawling yet but you can’t put E down on the floor without her rolling from one end of the room to another, so you still need eyes in the back of your head. She rolled for the first time on our holiday and since then there’s been no stopping her.
Just recently I’ve had to borrow a playpen off a friend in order to contain her while I get the housework done otherwise there’s no telling where she ends up. She’s such an inquisitive baby and seems to be drawn towards all the things she shouldn’t, such as remote controls and tv cables!! I didn’t think I’d need to start baby-proofing the house until she could crawl – I was so wrong!!

She’s also great at sitting up and relished the opportunity to sit and play with some of her toys – by playing, I mean bashing stuff on the ground but it’s very cute!
Top Tip: Buy your baby some stacking cups – I got some from Ikea for about £2.  E loves them and they are her go to toy at the moment. Every baby I know who has them absolutely loves them – such a simple thing!

We’re getting lots more smiles and giggles – which melt my heart. Seeing her giggling the other day with my friends little boy was just adorable.
And despite teaching her everyday to say ‘Mama’ she’s only gone and said ‘Dada’ instead! I think someone has been teaching her in secret when mummy isn’t looking!
We’ve had our first holiday, first wedding, first Christening – it’s been a busy few months but loving every minute of it.

There are still ups and downs, including teething which isn’t a pleasant experience, but I wouldn’t change the rest of it for the world!

Next season preview:  Weaning, moving rooms and looking for a nursery (boohoo!)

Here is E at 6 months:

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Are mother & baby groups worth going to?

Mother and baby groups can conjure up a number of images.

Of course they can be great for babies development; learning lots of new skills and experiencing different surroundings.  For mums it can be the chance to meet other like-minded folk with similar worries or aspirations, spark up some new friendships or at the very least, a way to stop going stir-crazy from staring at the same four walls for days on end.

However, they can also put the fear of god into someone like me, who although very sociable, can be painfully shy when it comes to meeting new people.  Would I walk into a group to find a competitive coffee-drinking clique who would tut at my silly questions and obsess over our feeding and sleeping habits?

The Lazy Daisy Chain

E was only 6 weeks old when I attended the first group which was part of the Lazy Daisy franchise.  (You may have heard of Lazy Daisy via One Born Every Minute or if you follow Tom from McFly’s wife, Giovanna Fletcher).
I’d heard that Baby Massage was good for babies with reflux (which E appeared to be suffering from at the time) and as none of the free classes were running locally I thought I’d bite the bullet and sign up for a paid class.
Most classes that you have to pay for aren’t cheap – which is why I’ve not attended many – unfortunately statutory maternity pay doesn’t really stretch that far!  This one worked out around £6.50 per class for 5 weeks and each class lasted around 45 minutes – with time before and after to get settled, chat to the other mums or just sit with a cuppa and a biscuit (included in the price thankfully!)

The Lazy Daisy classes were nice and relaxed – and very much baby led so any feeding/crying/nappy changes could be dealt with, without feeling you were interrupting anything.  The sessions included various songs/nursery rhymes to accompany the baby massage sections, and a little added exercise at the beginning for mum and a relaxation session at the end.  It was all very gentle and natural and quite a calming way to spend an hour.

I didn’t go with the intention of making any new mum friends which is just as well as I didn’t!  It was a very small group, and don’t get me wrong they were all lovely, but I could tell from the first week that there wasn’t going to be any lasting relationships made.  Perhaps it was just new mum nerves but no one in the group seemed to click and we all went our separate ways at the end of the course.

 Surestart Baby Massage

Several weeks later I attended another baby massage course which was more local to me and it couldn’t have been more different!  This was a free course run by Surestart at our local children’s centre.  (Check out what’s going on at your nearest children’s centre in case you’re missing out – some of our local ones are fantastic!)
This course was literally just about massage so the techniques were much more in depth than the Lazy Daisy course and I really enjoyed doing it.  We were also given a booklet to take home, which included all the various positions/techniques so we could carry on doing it at home.

The mums who attended were all very different – from all walks of like but all very down to earth and very chatty.  There were one or two who didn’t come back after week 1, however those of us who stayed all got on and it was nice to see them each week.  At the end of the course, I stayed in touch with another mum, who in fact only lives around the corner from me and since then I  have seen her and her little boy quite a few times.  We’re a similar age and seem to have similar things in common and it’s been lovely to spend time with them.  Not a bad result from a free baby group!

Baby Bounce and Rhyme

We’ve occasionally attended another group together at our local library – Baby Bounce and Rhyme.  Basically half an hour of Nursery Rhymes and music suitable for singing to your little ones by bouncing them up and down on your knee.  It’s also a free class that is run by the local authority – SMP stretches further when you can make the most of the freebies!
I don’t go to this every week, but E does love it.  There’s songs which she loves that I’ve never ever heard of – but I’ve swiftly had to become an expert at them seeing as she enjoys them so much!
If you’re thinking of attending a group but aren’t sure I’d just say go for it! Certainly try out any free groups that get the chance to.
If you don’t like it, you don’t need to go back and you’ve not wasted any money.  You might love it and it might become part of your weekly routine, and you may meet some lovely new friends.   You’ll never know unless you try!

I don’t think groups are something that will become a regular part of our lives but having the opportunity to try them out has been great – and I now know where they are if I ever just need to get out and do something a bit different.