Day Out Review: Tenby

I could waffle and waffle about Tenby for days – I love the place!  I had never been to Tenby before our holiday this year, but it reminded me so much of some of the lovely seaside places where I spend much of my Summer holidays as a child.

Unlike some seaside resorts, which have unfortunately become rundown over the years, Tenby still retains a lot of its charm, and has a lot of character to it which is still so appealing to tourists.  With the town walls and the colour-washed buildings, I would almost say it has a meditteranean vibe going on – I think the weather helped of course, I probably wouldnt have the same opinion if I had been there on a rainy, autumnal day!

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There’s a lot to appeal to all kinds of visitors – out of season it seems pretty peaceful so I’m sure it attracts a lot of the older generation, however it definitely feels like a very family-friendly resort, with lovely safe beaches, ideal for getting the bucket and spade out!  There’s public toilets and a baby-changing room right next door to the main beach – great for getting all that sand out of our baby’s nappy!

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Just around the corner from the main town beach – tucked away under the arches of the harbour wall is a lovely little coffee shop called Stowaways – please visit if you get the chance.  It’s a tiny little place, blink and you’ll miss it, but the coffee is amazing and it’s run by the friendliest guy in the world!  He couldn’t have been more accommodating with E and treated her like a little princess (he has children the same age) and he was just a wonderful character to talk to.  We could have spent hours in their, it was so interesting!

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Later in the day we ate in the Ocean Restaurant overlooking the harbour.  Again, a very unassuming, run-of-the-mill Italian restaurant but the staff couldn’t have been more friendly.  We’d attempted to have lunch in a pub a few doors down the road, but we found the staff so rude that that we got up and walked out before we even ordered!  The staff at the Ocean were by contrast, extremely helpful to us, going so far as to help us choose off the menu for our fussy-eater – and when the meal arrived, she scoffed the lot!

When we came back to Tenby a few days later, we grabbed some fish and chips from Fecci’s which is a well-known traditional italian takeaway situated just within the town walls.  We sat on a bench along the seafront and enjoyed them as they should be – they were amazing – just watch out for the pesky, giant seagulls!

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Top Tip:  Parking in Tenby can be quite expensive if you’re there for the entire day, but if you arrive early enough there are quite a few places for free on-street parking at the top of the hill above North Beach.  It’s only around a ten-minute stroll into the town from there, and the views on the way in are lovely!

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Day Out Review: Bluestone

Have you ever been to Bluestone?  I suppose it’s a little bit like Centre Parcs, just a bit on the smaller side!  And it’s really geared up for toddlers so if you have small children it might be one for your list.

I’d heard quite a bit about it before we went to Pembrokeshire from some friends and had initially considered it as a place to stay for our break, but being on a budget prices were a little expensive for what we wanted (although it’s still waaaay cheaper than Centre Parcs!)  Our holiday cottage worked out much cheaper so that’s the option we went with!

However, only being a few miles away from the resort we decided to head over to Bluestone for a few hours and use their waterpark facilities – The Blue Lagoon.  There are no charges for Bluestone guests as it’s included in the cost of your holiday but they allow the public to use the pool for a charge.  Tickets can be quite expensive in high-season, but as we were there out of season, it wasn’t too expensive.  It was around £7 each for adults, and £2.50 for under-4s, but this did include a swim nappy too, a nice touch, particularly as we hadn’t taken any with us on holiday.

Blue Lagoon

Your ticket gives you three hours of fun in the ‘waterpark’ – a term I use loosely, as to many people it won’t hold the excitement that some of the larger waterparks do, but for us it was ideal.  There’s a decent sized pool (although I imagine in high season it can get REALLY crowded), a lazy river which takes you around the pool and outside into the bracing air, two or three waterslides (we didn’t use them but they looked fun), and a couple of smaller pools at the side – one with a pirate galleon and water fountains, and the other a really shallow toddler pool – which we obviously spent most of our time in!

Oh, and by the way – if you lose your glasses in the lazy river (J had the unfortunate experience of a water cannon shooting him in the back of the head and firing his glasses into the pool!) the lovely lifeguards will turn off the flow and help you spot them under the water!  Thanfully we got them back and normal service was resumed!

We really enjoyed being in the main pool – it has a shallow end which gradually gets deeper (like a beach) and every 15-20 minutes a siren goes off, signalling the start of the waves.  At this point I usually descended into the deep end and relived my teenage Summers spent in Rhyl Sun Centre whilst E and her daddy sat on the beach letting the gentler waves break over them.  E loved it!  The toddler pool was brilliant too – it’s fenced off from the other areas, and has it’s own lifeguard (bless) and has various water features for the little ones to play with, including some cute little rock pools for them to explore.

Gruffalo Towel

There’s a poolside cafe too if you need refreshments but I can’t say whether or not it was good as we didn’t use it.  I found that three hours was probably the right amount of time for us – I probably could have stayed longer and I’m sure it may be hard to drag older kids away.  But then I guess that’s the beauty of staying on-site at Bluestone is that you can use the facilities as much as you like.

A tip for non-staying visitors like us:  Head to the Blue Lagoon on a Monday morning or Friday afternoon.  These are the main arrival/check-out times for guests so everyone staying at the resort will be pre-occupied either packing or unpacking, leaving the pool really quiet.

I don’t know how much we would have enjoyed it had it have been so busy, particularly with E being so small so I really appreciated how quiet it was!

Day Out Review: Folly Farm

Who doesn’t love a day out to see the animals?  Wherever we go – even before we had E – we’d always go to the local animal attraction and this holiday wasn’t any different.

We knew about Folly Farm prior to our holiday because E’s cousins, a few years older in age and who live in Wales, always choose it as the destination for their special birthday day out.  It’s always been a bit too far for us to attend in just a day, so we made sure it was on the list of places to visit whilst we were staying in the area.

Folly Farm is situated in Begelly, in Pembrokeshire and is approx. 11 miles from Haverfordwest.  It’s only a relatively small zoo (we live near Chester Zoo, so there’s no comparison) but actually for the size there is loads to see and do.

It was perfect for E – sometimes I find Chester Zoo can be a bit overwhelming for really small children with so much to take in, but this felt just right.

When we first went in we went to the farmyard area and petting area – this was definitely our favourite bit.  There were a variety of farm animals (including miniature horses which are my favourite), as well as smaller domestic animals such as rabbits and ferrets.

Miniature Horse

Throughout the day there were demonstrations from the staff where kids (and big kids) were allowed to hold or feed the animals.  We got there just in time for the rabbit demo so we took E for her first experience of the furry little creatures.  She wasn’t overly impressed but I was excited!

Outside there are some impressive animals – I wasn’t expecting to see penguins, giraffe or lions in the zoo but the enclosures are pretty expansive and it’s really good to see the zoo doing their part in the conservation of endangered species.  It wasn’t a very crowded day so it felt like there was a lot of space in the zoo so it was really enjoyable to walk round and spend time learning about the different species – again, there are lots of keeper talks and demos throughout the day making it a really interactive experience for the little ones.

If your kids have had enough of the animals (I really hope E learns to love them as much as we do) there are lots of other activities on-site to keep them occupied – pretty useful if it starts raining as well as some of them are indoors. There’s a large indoor adventure playground which looked pretty cool – the cost of this is included in the main ticket price I think.  There’s also a go-karting track and mini-diggers which there is an extra charge for.  There are also little tiny diggers for babies and toddlers which are free and E absolutely loved!

Folly Farm Diggers

The main attraction at Folly Farm – aside from the animals of course – is the Vintage Funfair.  It’s the sort of place that if you were there alone at night, it’d be the creepiest place in the world – however in the day, it’s vibrant, noisy and just a little bit crazy – but I’m sure the kids love it!

When we first went in, it was a little bit TOO much with all the various ride noises all going off at the same time, but once you got used to it, it was pretty cool.  I love retro fair rides like the dodgems and the carousel with the galloping horses.  I don’t have much of a head for heights, but of you do there’s even a vintage ferris wheel outside to give you a birds eye view of the park.

E was a little bit too young to go on anything this time but I definitely want to take her back when she’s a little older.  It’s the sort of funfair I grew up with as a child and I’d love for her to experience the same thing.  I know we live in a hi-tech world these days, but the simplicity of these rides are just wonderful.

Last but not least, we managed to grab a ride on the land train before we went home.  We only just discovered it on the way back to the car, and I’m so glad we did.  Again, its another activity that’s included in your ticket price – and basically its just a few trailers pulled along by a huge tractor, taking you around the farm area of the park.  E thought this was fantastic and was waving at all the animals as we went past – it was the best thing ever to see her face, although I actually think she was more excited over the tractor than any of the pigs or sheep that we saw.   She’s definitely a petrolhead like her daddy!

All in all, I’d totally recommend a day out to Folly Farm – we were there for a good few hours, but if E was a little bit older I think we’d have been there all day.  We had lovely weather so were able to appreciate every little bit of the zoo outside, but there’s definitely enough to keep everyone occupied indoors in case the heavens open.

Ticket prices are pretty reasonable considering all the activities that are included – we actually used our Tesco Clubcard vouchers to get money off entrance so to us it was even more of  a bargain!

 

 

 

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!

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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….

 

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.

The benefits of babywearing

Have you heard of attachment parenting?  It’s one of those buzz words that seems to have sprung up recently and I guess it means different things to different to different people.  To me, it’s all about creating that all important bond in the first stages of life and being there to cater to the needs of my daughter, who at only a few weeks old needs nurturing while she develops the skills to do this for herself in the future.

So E isn’t attached to me permanently, hubby does his fair share of holding the baby, so to speak – but it was important for me to remain close to her in order to establish a real bond between mother and daughter.  Many mums find that bond through breastfeeding – because I havent been able to do that I’ve had to find other ways to create that closeness.  And to me that means being there to comfort her when she cries, feed her when she’s hungry, play with her when she’s awake and letting her nap on me (in the day) if she’s tired.

Constantly picking E up or having her lie on me did take it’s toll in the first few weeks and it was hard to get on with anything else in my life. I of course wanted the best of both worlds – not only did I want to have that bond with my daughter I also wanted to retain some kind of independence, well what I really mean is actually just maintaining a sense of normality and being able to do those everyday humdrum tasks without being constantly disrupted by having a baby (although I must say it’s an excellent excuse for getting out of a lot of the housework!)

The solution: Wearing my baby

I’d read about baby wearing when pregnant and thought it was something I could see myself doing. The only carrier I really knew about was the BabyBjorn so we picked up a cheap one off eBay so we could give it a try once E came along. However once E was here I couldn’t bear to put my little squish into something that looked so uncomfortable! I’d heard about a local sling library and decided to take E along to see if there was something more suitable for such a tiny baby! I didn’t realise there was so much choice, and now she’s bigger there’s even more, I can see how addictive it could become!

We started off with a stretchy wrap which was so comfortable and great for getting E to sleep, even while doing the hoovering! It was really easy to put on too so it’s a great starter wrap for someone with a tiny baby!
When we’ve had those difficult weeks with a crying, clingy baby the wrap was a godsend and helped me to retain some kind of normality whilst still feeling close to my baby.
I used it mainly round the house but managed to get out in it a couple of times (I might have gone out in it more often if it hadn’t have been so pink!)

Here’s a pic of me wearing E at our local nature reserve.

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Babywearing: Moving On

As E started to get a little bigger I found that the wrap was beginning to take it’s toll on my back so I wanted something a bit more comfortable. I also wanted something a bit more unisex so that my husband could wear E too as I know he’d been looking to it from before she was born! Back to the sling library I went!
I thought I wanted something really structured and tried a Manduca, a Boba and a Beco but as it turned out I just didn’t get on with any of them! I watched a demonstration with a girl trying on a Connecta and instantly fell in love! It looked so simple and comfy!
When I started doing some research I realised how many pretty designs there were and knew that this was the sling I was going to buy!! But which one to choose!
In the end we decided upon this Tortoise print – we love animals and it’s unisex so hubby is happy to wear it too!

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It came in so handy on our recent trip away – I wouldn’t be without it now! Trouble is I’m following the Connecta page on Facebook and they keep introducing new designs which are just beautiful. I wonder if I could sneakily buy another one…. Damn you statutory maternity pay!!

I’m after a ring sling next so it’ll be another trip to the sling library soon to see what pretty things they have to match my outfit!! 🙂