Benalmadena for toddlers: our first holiday abroad as a family of four

Back in January we ventured abroad as a family of four, and it’s only now I can bring myself to write about it!

It was a bit of a disaster:

– we hoped for some winter sun but actually had a storm on our first few days!

– my OH was in bed for most of the week with man flu

-S lost one his shoes half way through the week… and obviously I’d only packed one pair

– S also smashed my iPad to smithereens

– just to add a cherry on top, when coming into land on the way home, the pilot nearly had to divert us to Birmingham due to low-lying fog. I nearly cried. Luckily he was able to land and the whole plane cheered!

Still, we tried to make the best of the situation. My OH’s parents were staying in a hotel down the road so were able to join me and the boys for lunchtime help while OH was on his deathbed!

Beach life

Every day I took the boys for a walk down the beach where they were happy to just play with the pebbly-sand, pushing it down the slide in the playground and the like!

Sealife centre

When my OH was well enough and the weather was a bit naff, we spent a lovely hour or so in the Sea life centre. It’s quite pricey for the size of it but (being out of season) we pretty much had the place to ourselves which was fab and so easy to whizz through! We saw turtles, small sharks, jellyfish, otters, lots of fish… and W was delighted there was a little dinosaur fossil digging area!

Benalmadena marina

From the Sealife centre we took a walk round the large marina… known for its unusual architecture. It was pleasant enough but would be good to see it in full swing in the summer!

Paloma park

Had a great couple of hours here with the boys and in-laws. It’s a very large park in a central area, full of birds and animals (eg rabbits). The boys loved chasing the pigeons etc, but also there’s a brilliant, massive play area there as well as plenty of scenic areas for adults like the selection of cacti!

Buddhist Stupa

And one attraction I did without the kids was grab a taxi up to the Buddhist stupa, a beautiful monument and fantastic location looking down over miles of coastline!

The butterfly park is right next to it and as much as I would have loved to go in, I didn’t want to on my own… I think the boys would have liked it!

So there we have it, certainly a memorable holiday! There was loads to do in the wider area that we didn’t get a chance to do, or places were closed out of season… water parks, zoos and wildlife parks, a crocodile park… Costa del Sol is a great family destination and we did like our family-friendly hotel: the Benalmadena palace


REVIEW: Hotel Benalmádena Palace, Benalmádena, Costa del Sol

Back in January we spent a week in Benalmadena… our first holiday abroad as a family of four!

Our trip was a late deal, we came across the hotel Benalmadena Palace on OnTheBeach, booked it, packed it…. loved it!


The rooms are pretty much as seen/described on the website… a living/dining/kitchen area with sofa bed, a separate bedroom with twin beds and a bathroom. One of the reasons we chose this place was the fact it’s an Aparthotel and you have a little kitchen… so handy!

It feels like it’s been renovated within the last few years, quite modern and feels fresh, very clean and spacious enough.

We got a cot bed for S and in doing so blocked the space in front of the wardrobe so we ended up living out of suitcases for the week which is ok, but you’d be fine without the cot in the way!

Facilities – kids club

Another reason we chose the Palace is because they have a kids club. Ours were too young to stay in there unsupervised, which was fine… we just wanted access to a playroom to keep S entertained and we were very impressed!

Benalmadena palace kids club playroom

Plenty of toys, books, craft activities, dressing up… a ball pool/slide and an outdoor play area (which I noticed was in the shade.. very handy for hot summer months!)

For older kids there are lessons e.g. Football, archery

The kids club closes about 3pm/4pm but then opens again later after dinner and after the kids’ disco!

Other facilities

We tried out the indoor swimming pool but it’s 1.5M deep all the way around and I’m not much taller than that so wasn’t much good for me swimming with the boys… W and I stayed by the steps splashing instead! If you’re child-free, there’s a sauna and spa offering massages etc.

Holidaying in January it was way too cold to try out the outdoor pools but these would be fab in the summer.. the little toddler pool looks small but cute!


We were on half board, which meant we had breakfast and dinner included in the buffet restaurant. We couldn’t fault the food. Every night there was something different e.g. Fajitas, Chinese theme, and always plenty for the kids to eat (pasta etc).

There’s a little seating area for families which is handy as yes a bit more informal with wipe-clean tables, and animals on the walls etc. I notice they have an adults-only section of the restaurant too!

We also had lunch a couple of times in the pool-side bar, the food here was great for lunch… pizza, toasted sandwiches, chips etc and it was just about warm enough to sit outside!


The Benalmádena Palace is down the far end of Benalmadena so a bit of a trek (about 30 min walk?) to the main attraction of the marina etc. The hotel has a free shuttle bus every half hour/hour to a place near the marina which is handy!

The hotel is also situated at the top of a hill which a lot of the reviews mention. Although it’s quite steep, it’s not too far and we didn’t struggle with it. Within easy distance of the hotel is a small beach and promenade area, a supermarket (and Burger King with playarea!)

Benalmadena palace from the beach

Any negatives?

We really liked this hotel, the room, food and kids club were all great. I can’t say it was the best holiday as my OH spent most of it ill in bed with man flu!

But anyway, the only negative about the hotel was the noise levels from our room… we were in room 314 which was the same level as the main lobby… the bar is on the floor underneath and the sound just varied up the stairs, not so much the music but more just kids running about etc… they didn’t seem to go to bed til about 11pm! From the bedroom this wasn’t too bad, but sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room, you could hear everything!

In hindsight we should have asked to move, and if we go there again (which we definitely would!) we’ll ask for a quieter room, maybe the 2 floors above the main lobby (as they don’t have the open staircase)

Toddler S’s 21 month update

Less than 3 months to go til S turns into the big ‘2’ so thought I was due to write an update 🙂

Vital stats

I feel like not much has changed since his 18 month update. He’s still a tiny chappy, in 12-18 month clothes and size 4 nappies and size 5 shoes. He’s had a few more teeth come through lately but I honestly can’t see in his mouth long enough to know how many teeth he has!

S usually sleeps through but every now and again has a regression or cough that makes him wake in the night. When he does sleep through it’s usually for 13 hours and he wakes up about 8am which is funny as his older brother was always a 6am riser! S still has a bottle of milk for bed, a habit we took a long time to kick with W too! And S still has a 2-3 hour nap (12-2/3) every day.


For the last month or so now he’s been absolutely obsessed with ‘rah rah’ which translates as ‘wheels on the bus goes round and round’. Every time he wakes up he dies a driving motion with his arms and asks for ‘rah rah’ which means he wants to watch endless YouTube versions of wheels on the bus! Or the book version he has of the song..

And when he’s had enough of ‘rah rah’ the other thing he’s obsessed with is Baby TV, he loves it!

So I think it’s safe to say he prefers music and visual sounds to playing with toys. He’s always loved music, he got a load of musical instruments and toys (e.g. Baby stereo) for Christmas!


I don’t think he’s picked up any new words since his last update but I’m not too worried as he still communicates well, babbles a lot and has his own words for things e.g. Medicine is manamana!

He can recite a load of animal sounds on demand, and point to things. Talking of animals he loves ‘quack quacks’ and ‘cat cats’!

What we’ve been up to

Our house has been a bit of a building site but is finally done, so plenty of room to play around in! We had a week in Spain in January which I’ll blog about. And he experienced his first snow a month or so ago…. he was not very impressed!


S is pretty happy-go-lucky, he goes with the flow, following his brother W and older kids around. Having said that he likes getting his own way and doesn’t like being told off (who does!?)

Generally enjoys his food and still loves making a mess out of it. Loves exploring softplays… he’s off!

I’m back… with one ovary removed! Ovarian cyst operation update…

Another two months has flown by (life, work, finishing off the house extension) but now I finally have time to catch up with blogging as I’m recovering from an operation!

I found out about 5 years ago that I had a large (7cm) cyst on my left ovary. It explained why my periods were irregular and that I had spotting.

It meant I was consultant-led with both pregnancies, in case the cyst toppled and damaged the babies!

It never really caused me any pain, and it was a ‘simple’ cyst so unlikely to turn cancerous. I’d have it checked every 6 months and some consultants would say ‘looks the same, see you in 6 months’ but then one check-up they actually suggested removing it and I thought why not… it would probably save the NHS money in the long-run saving me seeing them every 6 months and there was always a small chance that it could burst and I’d have to have it removed as an emergency.

So after a couple of cancellations yesterday was finally the day. My FIL dropped me off at Llandough hospital at 730am (my OH was on his way home from a weekend in Vegas!). Very organised, lots of questions and checks, straight into a fetching gown and paper pants. At 0830 I’m in the anaesthetic room and then I woke up about 0930.

I was very relaxed going into it. I’ve never had an operation before or had general anaesthetic so I thought I’d feel nervous but I didn’t have much time to dwell on it in the run-up. It was such a smooth process when I got there, I thought there’d be lots of hanging about but again it left me no time to get nervous and all the staff were lovely and friendly, put me at ease. I thought I’d be most nervous at the anaesthetic stage but that was strangely relaxing, a nice feeling of drifting away…

I’m not quite sure where I woke up but then I was back on the ward. I slept in and off for a couple of hours and then by mid-day they were waking me up giving me tea and biscuits, wanting my bed for the next batch of day surgery patients.

At some point during that groggy morning the surgeon came by to tell me that she’d taken my ovary out. She told me this might happen before the operation. It was such a big cyst it was easier to remove the ovary. All done via keyhole surgery as planned. She showed me some photos, I’m not sure they would make sense to me now but they certainly didn’t when I was still very woozy!! I don’t remember her name (Hassan maybe) but I’ll always remember her beautiful brown Mulberry bag!

I’m not that bothered that she had to remove the ovary. We weren’t planning on having any more children, and it’s one less place that I could get cancer in! She said there wouldn’t be any side-effects etc to just having 1 ovary.

So I was home about 1pm, slept all afternoon, as the painkillers wore off last night I was in a bit of pain. So far today I’ve just stayed in bed reading. That area is very tender so hurts a bit if I move around.

Hopefully a couple of days bed rest and I’ll be right as rain. Nice to catch up with reading some books and maybe writing some blogs!

Huge thanks to whole team of NHS staff who cared for me!

6 alternative things to do with a toddler in Cardiff

Everyone’s writing family bucket lists for the year ahead… I thought I’d try an alternative take on the must-do things for a toddler in South Wales… forget Barry Island and St Fagan’s…. what about…

  1. Car wash – the nearest theme park is probably Oakwood which is a couple of hours away. Save hundreds of pounds on a theme park trip by using one of the drive-through car washes… your toddler will find it amazing (and maybe scary) and funny! It’s a good few minutes of entertainment (longer than a rollercoaster) and you end up with a clean car… bonus! There’s one by the Tesco on Western Avenue, pop in there to get a free piece of fruit for said toddler and then treat them to a McDonalds which is also nearby!
  2. Cardiff airport – can’t afford a foreign holiday? Check the departures/arrivals on the airport website (they’re not that frequent) and go and watch an aeroplane land and/or take-off instead! Much excitement for the little ones and chuck in a car picnic for the full sense of adventure! We’ve watched them from the Premier Inn car park and also the playing fields in St Athan where you can see small/private planes take off too!
  3. Pugh’s garden centre – we don’t have an aquarium or zoo nearby so here’s the next best thing. The fish shop at Pugh’s in Morganstown is AMAZING… such a massive selection… plus a tank that little ones can stand in and watch the fish swim past them! With free parking, this is a great, low-cost way to spend a couple of hours…. see snakes and lizards in the reptile shop, treat them to a cheap book or toy in the Works then have a cuppa and a cake in the family-friendly cafe in Pugh’s itself… perfect!Pughs Garden centre fish
  4. Ikea -another great place to kill a few hours…. let your little ones run wild over the showrooms, they will play house for ages! And follow the arrows around the store to the family-friendly restaurant, great value food and good facilities e.g. Plastic cutlery for kids. On a nice day they also have a play area outside. Just don’t go on a weekend. Or when you actually need to buy something. (For those times put them in their crèche!!)
  5. McArthur Glen – best place to get toddler’s feet measured? Clark’s McArthur Glen…. you get the quality of Clark’s but at a fraction of the price! Free parking so a much better idea than going into the city centre… kids love running wild here and wait til they see the free dinosaur-themed play area! One parent watches them while the other gets some retail therapy in! Finish your visit off with an ice-cream or Wagamamas (crayons included!) just don’t let them see the Little Tykes cars you can hire…. oh also this is the only place in South Wales I’ve seen family-friendly toilets with an adult-sized and child-sized toilet in the same room… cuuuuute!
  6. Funky little chickens – if getting your feet measured is a milestone, what about haircuts too… are you really a toddler from Cardiff if you haven’t had your hair cut at Funky Little Chickens?! You get to sit in a car and watch cartoons, so don’t even notice the hair cut going on… genius! Plus they have toy box to keep them entertained while they wait 🙂

So there you have it. Can you think of any other random places that could be added to the list?!

Review of the year 2017… and looking forward to 2018

Happy new year!

I’m looking forward to this one!

2017 felt a bit relentless. After a year of maternity leave, I went back to work in June but started a new role, in a new department. Then about a month later we moved into our new forever home… which we then turned into a building site for the latter part of the year…

My OH was unable to take the 6 month career break he hoped to, so we muddled childcare from family members while juggling jobs and our boys, and while he project managed the house extension etc.

All very #firstworldproblems I know!

But life just seemed to pass us by a bit. Before we knew it, W had done his first term in school which ended in his first Christmas concert. And finally S started walking so became a fully-fledged toddler!

We had a week in Center Parcs in January then no other holidays other than a weekend to Bluestone with friends and a weekend to Chepstow with friends. I did manage a child-free break in Marrakesh and oh my god it was just amazing!

Oh yeah back to the relentless bit… since we moved house in July and W moved into a proper bed, he’s pretty much spent every night sleeping in our bed, waking us up at some point between 11 and 5 every night. S has been a terrible sleeper during the same period, waking once or twice a night on average.

So I started this great new job and I’ve turned up for work every day on broken sleep… I wish they could see me at the top of my game!! Sleep is one our basic human needs and my god don’t I know it!

Happy new year!

So bring on 2018!:

  • OH is finally starting his 6 month career break to look after S and do W’s school runs
  • Hopefully that will re-adjust/improve our domestic life, sleep etc
  • The kitchen/diner/extension should be finished in Jan, again much-improving our home life
  • We’re about to book a week in Spain for late Jan, and already got a hen do in Edinburgh and a girls’ night in London to look forward to
  • I will get fit! (I’ve been saying this for 5 years now!!)
  • I will see more of friends. I feel like this has suffered due to craziness of last year
  • More quality time with OH and the boys.. again, without the house project hanging over us!
  • All of the above should lead to a much-improved mental state which I feel has been suffering this year

The blog has suffered this year, traffic grew by about 10% but mostly due to the same top 5 posts as last year. I probably managed to write about 20 posts this year. I’d like to blog more in 2018 but realistically it’s always going to be at the bottom of my list! And I have a big list!

So, onwards and upwards.. here’s to lots of family and friends fun in 2018! Wishing you all good health and happiness!

Toddler S’s 18 month update

A few days before Christmas, toddler S turned 18 months old. We can finally call him toddler S…. because he’s finally toddling!!


He’s been walking for about 6 weeks now and so he finally has his first pair of shoes (3.5G) a bit smaller than his big brother’s (a 5 at this age!)

As the weather’s bit a bit wintery we haven’t ventured outside for too many walks, I’d forgotten the fun of teaching them to stay on pavements… and now we have double the fun as the first time I took both boys out without S’s pushchair of course they walked in different directions!


S can say a handful of words… mamma, dadda, his brother’s name, banana, tractor, tigger, cat, dwr (Welsh for water)

But he’s pretty good at communicating. He knows a few signs that we taught him when he was a baby… the main one he uses is pointing at his mouth when he wants food, and signing for his milk after his bath.

He’ll point to what he wants, he directs you where he wants to go eg towards his coat if he wants to go out! He babbles a lot… so I think when he starts talking properly, he won’t shut up!


He’s had a tough couple of months, first with a sickness bug then with a lingering cough, but when he’s on form… this boy is wild!

He doesn’t sit still, always on the move. Switching stuff off. Throwing stuff! When o take them both to softplay, he’s fearless… off he goes!

He’s musical, loves music and dancing and repeats songs he hears etc. It’s only now he’s starting to sit down for storytime.

Routine: eating, sleeping etc

This week he’s actually slept through for 2 nights in a row, for over 12 hours… quite a shock as for MONTHS now he’s been waking at least once or twice a night for milk/attention/play…. habits we need to get out of if he doesn’t start sleeping through consistently soon!

He has a daily nap about noon which usually lasts between an hour or two. We still do our bedtime routine and he goes to sleep (with a bottle of milk, my bad) by 7pm.

He still likes his food especially pasta and fruit.

Vital stats

No idea on height and weight but he’s in 12-18 month clothes and still in size 4 nappies. He’s had 2 haircuts (he has lots of blonde hair!) and I think he has 10 teeth.


playthings… phones, he loves playing with our smartphones, toy phones, our landline.. so much so that a month ago he accidentally dialled 999 and the police turned up at our doorstep to make sure everything was ok :0

Book… like I said he’s not a huge fan of storytime but Santa bought him Julia donaldson’s ‘monkey puzzle’ which he’s loving at the moment. He makes monkey and elephant noises when he sees them 🙂

Random habit… he’s done this weird thing for ages now, he likes putting his socks under his chin and holding on to them with his chin… very strange!

Can’t wait to see what the next few months brings 🙂

Benugo, John Lewis, Cardiff: the Christmas menu

I hardly ever make it to any ‘blogger events’ so I was delighted that I could make it to lunch at Benugo’s last week to try out their new Christmas menu…

My office is pretty much next door to John Lewis but I’d not checked out Benugo’s before, luckily the event was sandwiched between two of my meetings…

I arrived to a lovely selection of sandwiches. I say sandwiches but really they were more like wraps, mini baguettes etc. Posh sandwiches!

I tried:

-Roast beef (rare) and horseradish sauce

– chicken and avocado (with a little kick)

– middle Eastern mezze wrap, (with hummus, falafels etc)

ALL were delicious! (And I think the latter two are available all-year round) Really tasty, flavoursome and good quality. I think they had a festive turkey, bacon and cranberry baguette on the menu but I was a bit late and missed out on that!

These were washed down with a glass of fizz and mulled wine 🙂 I only had a few sips of each as I had to go back to work, but it was a nice treat to have them both! My first mulled wine of the year… smelled and tasted like Christmas in a cup!

And to cap off a wonderful hour, we were given Christmas scones which contained cranberry, orange and cinnamon.

Again: delicious!!

Before I knew it, it was time to head back to work, but what a magical hour I had! Was lovely to meet John Lewis’ Ruth and local bloggers KellyAllenWriter and NuggetStumpBlog.

I will definitely be back for lunch! Thanks for having me Benugo’s!

Disclosure: I was given a free lunch but wasn’t asked/paid for a review 🙂

11 reasons to visit Thailand (and some of my Thai memories)

If you’re a regular reader you might know that I LOVE travelling.

Phi phi Thailand

I did a fair bit of independent travelling on my own, then with my OH before we had the boys… those long-haul holidays to exotic climes are on hold for a couple of years til the boys are a bit older but it’s nice to reminisce….

In total I’ve probably spent about 2 months in Thailand, it’s an amazing holiday/travel destination and I can’t wait to take the boys there when they’re old enough to appreciate it…. why do I love it?….

  1. Culture – it’s mostly a Buddhist nation… with temples and Buddhas on every corner… some very grand, some more modest. You’ll see Buddhist monks walking around in their robes and if you speak to some of the locals you’ll learn bits about their positive approach to life (and death!)Grand palace Bangkok
  2. Food – it’s amazing, the curries, the noodles and pad Thais, the fresh fruit…. it took me a while to build up the courage to try the street food but you MUST try it… it’s how the locals eat (many city dwellers don’t have a kitchen!) and for a couple of quid you can eat like a king!
  3. Beers – Singha and Chang: both delicious in Thailand’s humid climate! There were always rumours going round that Chang’s alcohol content wasn’t very accurate which was used to explain many a drunken night and hangover!
  4. Beaches – you can’t mention Thailand without mentioning the beaches… I’ve been to a few including some on Koh Samui and Phi Phi but one of my favourites has to be Haat Rin where they hold the legendary Full Moon Parties – for one night a month it’s carnage, the rest of the time it’s paradise… the other beaches on Koh Pangan are too!Sunrise haat rin beach
  5. Finding your own paradise – there are so many beaches and destinations, it’s really hard to choose where to go but the beauty of Thailand is you can just follow your heart and find the most amazing place for you! I loved Pai, a very hippie-ish town a few hours away of Chiangmai and also Koh Chang which was one the less-developed parts I went to… where we hung out with locals, saw fluorescent phosphorus in the sea, slept in huts for less than a pound a night and had some adventures on moped!
  6. Adventures – I went on an amazing 2 day white-water rafting trip in Northern Thailand. We spent the night sleeping in the jungle and saw a cobra swimming across the river! If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, the diving and snorkelling is world-renowned and there’s lots of other things to do… zip wiring, treks, boat trips Thai boxing, cookery etc
  7. Wildlife – amazing place to see exotic creatures like monkeys and elephants in their natural environment. Avoid elephant rides, taking photos with monkeys, tigers etc… if you want to support animal welfare you can spend time volunteering at elephant and/or monkey rescue centresWater buffalo Thailand
  8. Transport – for such a big country, it’s easy to get around between the main touristy destinations. Overnight train sleepers are a great adventure, overnight bus services are surprisingly comfy and internal flights with companies like AirAsia are brilliant – low-budget but good quality! Oh and quite often your journey might involve a boat ride too… bliss! We actually chartered our own fisherman’s boat in Phi Phi!Fishermans boat Thailand
  9. Laid-back pace of life – it is so relaxed compared to British life! Generally people seem happier, more relaxed and happy with their lot. Their relaxed approach can infuriate Westerners especially on long journeys on budget buses where you get dropped off at roadside cafes for an undetermined amount of time…. #memories
  10. Nightlife – I’ve already mentioned beers and food… there is nightlife to suit everyone in this nation… beach bars, beach parties, live music bars, reggae bars, nightclubs and beautiful rooftop cocktail bars in Bangkok.
  11. Budget – I’ve alluded to it already but it can be a cheap place to travel/holiday. As well as slumming it in budget beach huts and guest houses, I did stay in some lovely hotels in Bangkok which had rooftop swimming pools and cost peanuts compared to hotels in the U.K. I’m really looking forward to taking my OH and our boys to explore Thailand in a few years time, can not wait already!

W’s first girlfriend, and first parent’s evening

W had only been in school a week or so when he started talking about ‘M’. He said he was going to invite her over to watch Zootrpolis, and then the next day he said she’d kissed him!

A few days later on our class Facebook group, her dad outed them… she’d told her dad they were girlfriend and boyfriend and that they were going to get married on Barry Island!

I was really not expecting to be dealing with child romance at such a young age! It’s very cute. She lives nearby so they quite often walk home together….. melts my heart!

Young love
W has settled really well into school, never had an issue dropping him off… he’s straight in there. He doesn’t tell us much about what goes on there and I tend to learn more about what he’s been up to via the other parents!

So it was great to go to our first parent’s evening this week! His wonderful teacher showed us his workbook, which they use for assessments. I was so proud to see his work following letters etc.

His Welsh language, drawing and writing skills are all coming along nicely. So we just need to keep practicing more at home. She also told us he was a little shy at times e.g. Needs to be more confident asking to go to the loo.

We told her that his confidence had grown loads since starting school… he likes going to the loo by himself now and can wipe his own bum! And he’s getting much better at dressing/undressing himself.

Teacher said he loves outdoor play, and exploring…. he’s definitely going through an exploring phase. He loves carrying his backpack around, filling it with all sorts just like CBeebies’ Andy!

He’s grown up so much in this past half term. We’re very proud of him. Luckily he still loves cwtching in and sitting on my lap and long may that last – they grow too fast!