My Top 10 Blog Posts

ham-yard-afternoon-teaThis is the first post in a new series where I’m going to talk more about this blogging thing itself. My readership has grown hugely since I started taking part in parent blogging link ups (“linkies”) at the beginning of this year, so I assume that a large proportion of readers are other bloggers who might find this sort of thing interesting!

I find it fascinating looking at which of my posts are most popular and believe me, it’s not always the posts that takes hours to put together! Here are the Top Ten in reverse order:

10. Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park – such a great day out, I’m not surprised this has had a lot of views!

9. Kiddicare Enfield – I’m surprised this is still so high up as the store sadly closed last autumn (online store still open!). This was the first blogging event we went to back in 2013.

8. Barnhouse Holiday Cottages – a post from our first holiday in North Norfolk.

7. Scarf Love – a really early post talking about how much I love scarves (for hiding baby sick amongst other things!). I got a LOT of scarves for Christmas that year!

6. 1st Year Photobook – eek, I need to do one of these for Imogen too.

5. Afternoon Tea at Ham Yard Hotel – delicious tea at this hip hotel.

4. In the Night Garden Live – such a good show, we need to go back there to take Imogen!

3. 10 Holiday Uses for Muslin Cloths – a very recent post and one linked to by Babymoov on their Facebook page resulting in lots of views.

2. Pregnancy Diaries Weeks 1-4 – the early stages of pregnancy can be a bewildering and lonely time and this is one of the top google searches leading people to my blog. I’m not sure they find the information they are looking for here which saddens me (maybe I should write a post on this).

1. 10 Signs You’re A Parent At Christmas – this post from last Christmas is the most popular post of all time on The Mama Story. It obviously struck a chord with other stressed out parents and was shared around on Facebook. Hugely unseasonal for May, sorry! I’ll re-post it nearer next Christmas as if you haven’t read it yet, you probably don’t want to now.

I’m linking this post up with The List, run by You Baby Me Baby and Mums’ Days.

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ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

ZSL whipsnade zoo giraffesWe went to Whipsnade Zoo for Imogen’s birthday outing last week. It was a truly fabulous day out! In most zoos I’ve visited I’ve always been a teensy bit worried about the animals and whether they have enough space, enough greenery, enough of a “natural” environment. No such concerns at Whipsnade though, the setting is wonderfully green, spacious and overlooks the Chiltern Hills. This does make the animals quite spread out and there is a fair bit of walking involved. We managed just fine with the buggy and buggy board and taking things slowly. You can pay a bit more to take your car in and drive between the different zones, hop on a complimentary bus or pay for a steam train ride. Kids can also take their scooters in too if they like.

ZSL whipsnade zoo chiltern hills

We arrived inside the zoo at 11am and being our first time we didn’t really have a plan. Also, we had a looming lunch deadline so wanted to see as much as possible before giving in to demands to have our picnic! The zoo is separated into 4 different areas – Base Camp, Europe, Africa and Asia. First we visited the lemurs in Base Camp straight across from the entrance. This was lots of fun – they lined up on a fence to have a good look at us and jumped over us (one landed on my shoulder!) to get to the other side of their enclosure. We also saw some tiny lemur babies clinging to their mums.

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Next we walked past the chimpanzees and briefly into Europe, past the protected English bluebell wood and the European bison and moose. We stopped to take photos at the moose photo stand and Seren took a photo of me! She’s getting better and better at taking photos (she just needs to get taller).

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Then it was into Africa and up onto the giraffe viewing tower. It was amazing being eyeball to eyeball with a curious giraffe!

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We watched them having their lunch whilst we sat on a picnic table and had ours. Then we saw the zebras before heading into the Serengeti National Park area (or me-geti as Seren called it). The animals in this area represent the wildlife found in the wilds of Kenya and Tanzania, one of which is lions. We walked through a tunnel into the amazing, booming sound of the lion pride roaring and watched as they settled down. You look into their enclosure through floor to ceiling glass with no bars, so you really feel very close to them indeed! Andy began to tell Seren that perhaps they were roaring as they were hungry and looking for a small person to eat (“rolls eyes”).

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We stayed in Africa to see the cheetahs, hippos and flamingoes.

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We also spotted some of the deer (and some really small baby ones!) that are free to wander the zoo. Wallabies and peacocks also roam.

Next it was Asia for camels, a rhino (so, so big!) and another highlight, the elephants. Seren loved watching an elephant use her trunk to place food into her mouth and we all enjoyed watching them play together!

ZSL whipsnade zoo rhino ZSL whipsnade zoo elephant

Then it was time for ice-cream (the only time we used a cafe, they all looked nice though) and the outdoor play area. Imogen enjoyed having a roam around and I was impressed at how confident Seren is getting at climbing!

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After play, Seren & I hopped on the steam train for a tour of the zoo by railway. We saw the wallabies by the track, lots of deer on the hills and got a close up of the elephants. The tour guide on the 15 minute journey was really informative, telling us all about the different animals we passed.

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It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the station and I gave Seren the option of soft play or seeing the petting farm. She opted for soft play and Imogen enjoyed this too – with a bit of a push, she could climb up onto a ledge in the baby area and get herself over to the little slide and come down by herself too! Where’s my baby gone?

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We made our way back to the exit via the sealions and over to the penguins. On the way to the penguins we saw a couple more European animals including a brown bear and a wolverine (I had no idea this was an actual animal and not just a fictional character!). The penguins were ace, we were able to get so close. Their pools are in a lovely spot too, over looking the hills.

ZSL whipsnade zoo penguins ZSL whipsnade zoo penguins ZSL whipsnade zoo penguins

At 5pm it was time to leave with 2 tired children! As ever, there was so much we missed out on; Hullaballoo Farm, the sealion show (I wish we’d seen it as Seren showed a real interest in the sealions toward the end) and birds of the world. There is also a butterfly house opening in time for half term!

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is open from 10am every day of the year (except Christmas Day) with seasonal closing times. It’s definitely on the expensive side for a day out so perhaps more of a special treat place to visit. Prices are £25 for an adult and £18 for a child aged 3-15 (this includes a voluntary donation). Under 3s are free! 

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2LF
General enquiries: 0344 225 1826
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

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Imogen’s 1st Birthday Party

imogen's 1st birthday partyI’m sharing a couple of photos from Imogen’s birthday party today. When Seren turned 1 we had a party with her baby friends but 2nd children don’t tend to make so many baby friends and I wanted to keep things very simple (and appreciating more this time that the celebrations would go straight over Imogen’s head!) so it was a family, old friends’ party with one of her new baby friends too. We did hire a bouncy castle though as Imogen loves them! Plus it kept the bigger kids entertained without me having to do any party games. We also got out Andy’s table top retro console games console too which was a hit with grown ups and older kids alike.

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I went for a bit of a random summery gold and pink theme with some neon thrown in for good measure. I used my trusty crepe paper streamers, tissue paper and honeycomb pompoms to decorate and made a tall lemon birthday cake. I made cake toppers using gold glitter card and also decorated a vest with a gold ‘1’ in fabric paint for Imogen to wear.

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She had a blast. She was a little overwhelmed at times but loved the bouncy castle and having lots of attention from family and the older kids. And the sun shone which was an absolute bonus (since it has disappeared ever since!).

I’ve still got to tell you about her birthday outing to Whipsnade Zoo (which was amazing) but I’ll do that before the end of the week (it would make a great half term outing!).

Happy 1st birthday Imogen!

I’m linking this post up to Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog Posts Link Up.

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REVIEW: BUBABLOON – Safe Balloon Fun for Babies & Young Children

bubabloon reviewImogen has a thing about balloons, she loves trying to chew them, I think she likes the way the rubber feels against her gums and the squeaky sound they make. Obviously, I take them off of her as I’m worried about them popping in her face and scaring her and then her then trying to eat the popped balloon and choking. We’ve been surrounded by birthday balloons over the weekend so have had to keep trying to hide them from her!

So we were excited when BUBABLOON send us their new product to try out! The BUBABLOON is basically a washable 100% cotton balloon cover that keeps the light, floaty effect of the balloon but protects children from the balloon popping and the choking risk.

bubabloon review bubabloon review

The BUBABLOON fits over a standard 12 inch balloon and don’t do like I did and blow up the balloon before inserting it into the cover! Whoops. So, you put the balloon into the cover then blow it up and the cover fits snuggly. It’s great for taking on holiday or to the park as takes up next to no space before it’s inflated and comes in a neat, little bag.

P1170578 bubabloon review

The balloon becomes a bit like a ball when inflated in the cover and Seren enjoyed using it to play ‘piggy in the middle’ with Andy and I – she hasn’t quite understood yet that her height puts her at a real disadvantage in this game and she keeps wanting to play it! Imogen has enjoyed chasing after it, pushing it to me, cuddling it and trying to chew it too! After a bit of practice she is getting better at picking it up and being able to walk around with it too, it takes a bit of co-ordination for her to balance when holding it.

bubabloon review bubabloon review bubabloon reviewThe BUBABLOON has been developed by mums Elena Torres and Lorna Edwards after Elena received a similar gift from Australia but couldn’t find anything like it in the UK. The toy is made in the UK and is certified as EN71 compliant, carrying the CE mark. It’s available in a range of bright designs and colours, we tested out the purple Pirate design. We liked the way that this pirate design came in pink and purple colours as usually pirates are designated for boys!

BUBABLOON is available to buy via www.BUBABLOON.co.uk, priced from £10.99 and is suitable for children from 4 months to 4 years old. 

We were sent the BUBABLOON to review. All words are my own.

I’m linking this post up with We’re Going On An Adventure’s Tried and Tested link up.

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Fancy Dress & Fire Safety

halloween-fancy dress and fire safetyAfter a pretty hectic few days celebrating Imogen’s birthday, I caught up with last Thursday nights’ episode of Watchdog yesterday. In the episode, Claudia Winkleman bravely talks about the Halloween fire in which her daughter was seriously injured when the supermarket witch costume she was wearing caught light when she brushed against a candle-lit pumpkin when Trick or Treating. In the programme, the Watchdog team set fire to a similar costume and it goes up in flames in seconds. Powerful and scary stuff.

Even though these costumes are obviously made of synthetic fabric, I hadn’t realised that they are not subject to the same stringent fire safety regulations that children’s clothing is. This is because they are able to be classified as toys not clothes. I assumed that as they were being legitimately sold for children to wear then they would be as safe as they possibly could be. As Claudia points out in the programme, a toy that sets fire can be dropped whereas a costume that quickly sets light whilst a child is wearing it is much, much more dangerous. Quite rightly, Watchdog has called for changes to the safety rules around flammability testing for fancy dress costumes. This change is back by the fire safety officers and surgeon interviewed in the programme. Apparently, hospitals see a spike in paediatric burns admissions at certain times of the year, Halloween being one of them.

Like a lot of 3 year olds, Seren puts on a fancy dress costume most days, not just whilst she is ‘playing’, but for wearing to walk to the shops and to the park and other every day activities. Not that she is often near a flame, we very rarely use real candles (we use LED ones at Halloween), no-one in the house smokes and we don’t have a fire. We do use gas for cooking though and I now keep thinking back to her leaning over Imogen’s birthday cake to blow out the candle wearing her favourite pound shop Frozen dress. Having watched the Watchdog episode, I’m not sure I’d let her that close to a birthday candle (let alone a Halloween lantern) wearing a dress-up costume again.

Episode 2, Series 35 of Watchdog is available to watch on iPlayer for the the next 4 weeks.

I’m linking this post up to Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog Posts Link Up.

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Living Arrows 20/52

imogen at 1Living Arrows is the weekly portrait project run by www.shutterflies.co.uk which we take part in. It’s a lovely way of choosing my favourite photo or photos of the girls from the week before. This week is all about our birthday girl, baby Imogen turned 1! She had a lovely celebration, Whipsnade Zoo on her birthday and a little party on Saturday. Here she is in her new Cosy Coupe at her party. She loves beeping that horn!

Living Arrows 19/52

Living Arrows
Living Arrows | A Weekly Portrait Project
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Happy 1st birthday Imogen!

Living Arrows 18/52

Wow it’s here already. The year has flown by since the (quite frankly terrifying) newborn days though it also feels like she has been here forever. It’s been amazing watching her personality unfold, especially over the last couple of months and see how different she is to her sister. I’m excited about the next year and all the many changes that happen between 1 and 2. But before that we’ve got a trip to the zoo today and a little party tomorrow (as much as a celebration for the 4 of us as for Imogen).

Happy birthday Imogen!

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A Week in Beautiful Norfolk

weybourne norfolkWe spent the first week of May in Norfolk with Andy’s folks. Despite the rain and the North Sea wind that followed us around, we had a lovely week, relaxing and making the most of the sun when it appeared. We went to North Norfolk for a holiday last September and loved it so much we headed back to the same area! We needed a bigger cottage this time though found a lovely, recently refurbished place in Weybourne.

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After we had unpacked and had tea, we walked over the Weybourne beach to see the sea. Grandad and Seren enjoyed throwing pebbles in the sea.

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We went to West Runton the next day, the boys had fun flying a kite, Seren enjoyed running in the waves and Imogen enjoyed eating sand (then and for the rest of the week). The wind really was biting though so we only stayed as long as we could bear that!

west runton norfolk

On Sunday we found a pub in Edgefield called The Pigs for a late Sunday lunch. This was a real find, for as well as lovely food, it had both indoor and outdoor play areas. The outdoor play area, Piggleplay, is an amazing space with a tree house den building, climbing, balancing and a zip wire. Piggleplay was designed by the same team behind the tree house adventure attraction, BeWILDerwood. The girls loved it, I was only sorry there is nothing like this nearer home.

the pigs edgefield norfolk the pigs edgefield norfolk the pigs edgefield norfolk the pigs edgefield norfolk the pigs edgefieldThat evening we walked along the seafront at Sheringham.

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On Bank Holiday Monday we planned to go to Holkham but we got a tyre puncture so while  Andy got that sorted out the rest of us headed to the nearer Sheringham beach. Seren enjoyed rock pooling and wave jumping. Imogen tried paddling and didn’t like it – too cold I guess! Andy & I had fun trying to win a duck on the tuppenny falls game in the arcade.

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The next afternoon we all went to Cromer for beach play, a walk on the pier and super tasty fish and chips at No1 Cromer. I still love how the kids meals are served in a little bucket and spade and they even gave one to Imogen despite us not ordering a meal for her!

cromer norfolk cromer norfolk cromer norfolk cromer norfolk cromer norfolk cromer norfolk With rain forecast for Wednesday, we spent the day at a National Trust property, Blickling Hall. We had SUCH a good day there and I’m going to do a separate blog post on that soon.

blickling hall, norfolk

Thursday was supposed to be nice and we went to Holkham to go to the magnificent beach. We had a good hour or so before the heavens opened and we had a long and very wet trudge back to the car. It’s an absolute stunning beach (often used for film and TV shoots) though perhaps not the easiest to navigate with small children.

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On Friday we had a final fling on the beach at West Runton before bundling the kids into the car in their swim suits and driving home. So, that’s our main holiday for 2015 over now. But we have such happy memories, we love north Norfolk – we’ll be back!

west runton norfolk

Read more about our 2014 Norfolk holiday here: Barnhouse Holiday CottagesSheringhamCromerWest Runton & The North Norfolk Railway.

I’m linking this post up to Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog Posts Link Up.

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Sisters | May 2015 

sisters may 2015 sisters may 2015I thought it was time for another sisters post to celebrate a year of the girls being sisters (yep Imogen turns 1 on Friday, how quickly has that time gone!). Interestingly, I was chatting to Seren about when I was pregnant with Imogen the other day and it turns out she doesn’t remember it.  I quickly grilled her on what else she did / didn’t remember and she does remember last Christmas and going to Peppa Pig World so that is OK.

So, as far as Seren’s concerned Imogen has always been in her life. Sweet. It’s a huge parental cliche but I get so much joy from watching their relationship develop. Imogen adores her big sis, she bounces up and down and says her name, “yeahyen”, when she sees her. Seren is enjoying Imogen being more of a playmate and came out of her room this morning with some In The Night Garden toys as she knew Imogen would like them.

Of course, it’s not all cuddles and happy playing. Imogen is going through a hair pulling stage and enjoys kicking Seren when they’re in the buggy / on the buggy board (I try not to laugh). Seren gets cross when Imogen grabs at her toys. We now have a rule that if Seren gets something out to play with then Imogen is around then she must be prepared to share the toys. Sometimes that leads to Seren saying that she wants to play on her own in her bedroom for a while, which is fine too.

I’m linking this post up with ‘Siblings’ hosted by Dear Beautiful.  

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10 Holiday Uses for Muslin Cloths

10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoovMuslins are one of those multi-use items that you’re not sure how you lived without before you had children (sort of essential like baby wipes but with many, many more uses!). They are great for cleaning and taking make-up off when your baby no longer needs them too. I don’t remember there being much choice of design, size or brand of muslin when Seren was born but over the last couple of years, the choice has grown and I love looking at the different patterns now available.

Stylish French baby brand Babymoov recently sent us a set of their muslin blankets to try. We received the ‘Dream’ set (there are 6 patterns to choose from) of 3 super soft 100% cotton muslins – 1 large (80cmx80cm) and 2 regular sized (60cmx60cm).

A021006-Dream SetWe took the pack on our recent holiday to Norfolk (nowhere is a ‘double duty’ product more welcome than when travelling with children!) and enjoyed putting them to the test there. The days of protecting my shoulder from baby sick and using a breastfeeding cover (traditional uses for muslins) are now gone but they are still super useful, especially in the summer for things like:

10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov

1) Covering the buggy to make a snug place for naps. The plastic clips that came with the Babymoov muslins were brilliant at securing the muslins to the hood of my Bugaboo Bee+, I usually use pegs for this.

10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov

2) Sitting or lying on instead of a picnic blanket.

10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov 10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov

3) Wiping too much sunscreen off faces and sand off of hands.

10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov

4) Covering baby’s head when they won’t wear a sunhat.

10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov

5) Using as an arm sling or bandage either in case of real injury or as part of a teddy bear hospital game.

10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov 10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov 10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov

6) Playing peekaboo – Imogen’s absolute favourite use! She can cover her face / head herself now with a muslin and then pull it off with a huge smile.

7) Using as a wrap sling to help carry weary small children home after too much fun on the beach.

8) Lining car seats to protect them from damp, sandy children.

10 uses for muslin cloths | babymoov

9) Using as a sheet cot when you forget to bring one (depending on size, the large Babymoov muslin would be suitable to replace a pram or crib sheet).

10) As a comforter, for baby to snuggle when going to sleep, especially if it smells of home!

Read more about the innovative Babymoov brand on their website and you can also buy the Babymoov muslin set online for £19.99.

www.babymoov.co.uk

We were sent the muslin set to review. All words are my own.

I’m linking this post up with We’re Going On An Adventure’s Tried and Tested link up and The List, run by You Baby Me Baby and Mums’ Days.

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