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?!

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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!!

Walking

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!

Talking

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!

Personality

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.

Favourites

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!

Baby S’s 15 month update: what to expect at the 15 month health visitor check 

I’m not a particularly nervous person but I always worry a bit about health visitor checks! For baby S’s 15 month check I was worried he’d show up as underweight and a bit behind on development milestones as he always seems a bit behind what his older brother was doing!

15 month health visitor check
I didn’t need to worry, he passed with flying colours. This may vary by region but here’s the checklist we talked through in his check-up:

  • Eating – what’s his appetite like, what does he eat, does he feed himself… S generally loves food and loves feeding himself trying to use a fork and spoon!
  • Drinking water – does he use a sippy cup, yes and actually prefers normal plastic cups ie without the lid
  • Sleeping – he goes to bed lovely about 6.30-7pm but usually wakes once a night – 10/11 or 2/3. Sometimes we give him a dream feed, sometimes he still wakes later on. We give him milk to go back to sleep, you gotta do what you gotta do! She thought he might be hungry but I think he eats as much as he can in the day… I think it’s just a bad habit now!
  • Walking – he’s taken a few steps but he much prefers bum-shuffling. She saw him walking while holding on to the sofa so she was happy with that. She told me that bum-shufflers end up having more supple limbs which I never knew!
  • Climbing stairs – yes he can! And a few points he’s gone to climb the stairs when he’s ready for bed, clever boy!
  • Words – by this age they want them to be saying 2-6 words and S says mamma, Dadda, nanna and his brother’s name. She heard him babbling lots and she said babbling is good as it means they’re trying to talk!
  • Clapping – he’s been clapping since he was 8 months 
  • Building stacks – can they stack things? She saw him building duplo blocks and was happy with that 
  • Pointing – can he point at things he wants? Yes! Usually the things he’s not allowed!
  • Hidden things – if you hide something, does he realise it’s hidden? Yes – remote controls!! And he’s great at hiding things himself… last week I lost my car keys… they were in the mop bucket!
  • Pincer grip – can they pick up little things? Yes – raisins is a good example!
  • Scribbling -can he hold a pen and scribble, yes and my work notepad is testament to that!
  • Dentist – S has 12 teeth, she reminded me to get him registered with a dentist
  • Potty training – he’s showing no signs of being ready for this, but most don’t until they’re about 2 so I’m not even sure why they ask this?!
  • Vitamins – the only thing she didn’t mention is vitamins, some other mums have mentioned that we should be giving them vitamin supplements?
  • Weight and height – so the thing I was most nervous about didn’t even happen! As S was getting grisly for his nap, she told me to put him down for his nap if I wanted to… and said not to worry about his measurements. She could see that he was happy, lively and alert so I guess she was happy!

So all in all a good visit. He’s had a tough few weeks of teething but seems ok again at the moment. Still loves music and his big brother!

Talking of his brother it’s always nice to compare their updates – funny they both had 12 teeth by 15 months, funny I was calling W a toddler but S isn’t quite toddling yet so still our l’il baby! 

REVIEW: Cocobubble – dinosaur bath-time fun for kids!

I’ve blogged before about how much the boys love their bath-time as part of their evening routine.

So it’s always great for them to have new things to play with in the bath… so I was delighted to get sent some fab things to try from local, Cardiff-based company Cocobubble.

For W we were sent a ‘Dinosaur adventure pack’ (RRP £14.50) which is a pack of dinosaur soaps and a dinosaur finger puppet that can help to build a nest of ‘sand’ (lemon-scented play paint/soap) in a coconut shell for the ‘dinosaur egg’ (bath bomb!) Continue reading “REVIEW: Cocobubble – dinosaur bath-time fun for kids!”

W starts school! 

Yesterday was a huge day, W started school. School nursery to be precise, they start early in Wales at age 3.

The run-up

We bought his school jumper and polo shirts a few weeks ago, he’s so small that even school trousers aged 2-3 are too big on him so I checked on the Facebook group for the class parents if joggers are ok to wear… they are… phew!

Didn’t manage to get his haircut in time so looks slightly overgrown.

The day before his start day I had to nip up to the school to get the paperwork I was given to fill in months ago. I had visions of him being turned away on day 1 for not having filled it in!!

I booked this week off as it was such a big event. So W and I spent Monday together, bought him new shoes, had a wagamamas then went swimming… lovely day!

Tuesday and a Wednesday afternoons he was back at Cylch meithrin (Welsh pre-school playgroup), they’ll be doing his wraparound care, was good to get him back into a bit of a routine….

Then it was time for….

The big morning Continue reading “W starts school! “