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Ariella’s 2nd Birthday Party – Woodland Themed

It’s been a little while hasn’t it? I’ve been writing things slowly, drafting posts since we came back from our holiday but it feels like we stepped right into plans for Ariella’s birthday party. I sent the invites out ahead of time before we went away, thank goodness! But even with that we had plenty to organise, make and do. The invites were bear themed, from an Etsy store (JenTbydesign) and so we took this and ran with it – following with a Woodland theme for her second birthday party.

I found the design for these simple birch trees on Pinterest, I used IKEA paper and some water paints. It was really therapeutic to make them during nap time, I do enjoy painting and I had forgotten how much fun it can be. Plus you can use up the rest of the IKEA paper on a roll for other crafts or else attach it to an easel for drawing on.

Birch trees made out of paper

Also I ordered a set of woodland printable party decorations from another Etsy store (Kudzumonster) and printed them at home onto card. You’ll see quite a lot of things purchased from Etsy, it’s my favourite place to order custom items and I find the pricing much more reasonable than Notonthehighstreet.

One of the birthday banners

Many evenings spent cutting around woodland hats

Much like Ariella’s 1st birthday party I wanted to incorporate some paper decorations again, this time I had a custom order made on an Etsy store (DECOPOMPOMS). In hindsight I could have made these myself but they were made perfectly and it would have taken me a lot of time. I love the colours and variety of sizes, the honeycomb decorations were particularly lovely dotted around the ceiling. I attached them using some 3M Command ceiling hooks in the understanding that they come off without leaving a mark (I’ll let you know!). EDIT: Yes they came off, one snapped and left a mark which I’ll have to paint over but the rest came on great.

Setting up the pompoms!

An hour before the party!

We had a few children coming to the party and I wanted to make sure there were a few activities for the children to do. We started with planting sunflower seeds, tagging them with the children’s names and wrapping them to take home. I hope they grow but we will see! I also picked up some woodland animals for them to paint too from Hobbycraft and we had a big woodland colouring wall for the children to decorate.

Planting sunflowers!

Our two tiered woodland themed cake made by The Cake Revolution. Chocolate cake with Oreo buttercream and Raspberry and white chocolate cake with lemon butter cream on top. Seriously delicious!

A fabulous sunny day, Frankie the bubble fish is in full swing blowing bubbles all day long in the garden.

Giant woodland colouring poster from CaptainCookieCrafts an Etsy store. I cut it in half it was so big!

It was a brilliant party, Ariella coped marvellously and wasn’t at all upset with all the party guests around her. Previous group gatherings have resulted in her having a big meltdown, so this was amazing. The next day (her actual birthday) we opened her presents together as to not overwhelm her too much and she fell asleep half way through – as it turns out she was then sick later in the day so I think she had too much rich food! We were very lucky with the weather, it was a fabulous weekend and the warmest weekend of the year that I can remember. I really couldn’t have asked for a better day for her, she was on top form and everyone in high spirits enjoying a beautiful day evening a hyggelig during the after party once Ariella was asleep.

The next day she also started walking one-handed again which she has refused to do for a long time and she took a couple of steps alone. I just know she is working towards walking independently as she keeps testing the water by letting go briefly when standing up. We’ve had physiotherapy weekly for the last couple of weeks too which has in my view really helped (as well as the body wrap and shoes).

Being Mum Featured Travel

Ariella’s first trip abroad, London to Dubai, Dubai to Malé

Preparing to be confined to a relatively small space with a wriggly demanding toddler and actually being confined to a relatively small space with a wriggly demanding toddler are two very different experiences. All in we prepare well, we had a whole manner of snacks of which had been separated down into two plastic bags written with a good old sharpie, “Out going flight snacks” and “In going flight snacks”. I laced these with all her favourites, chocolate, crisps, pom bears (why do they like them so much?). I also ordered online using Boots air side a collection of Hipp Organic toddler meals which conveniently can be eaten cold or hot, those went down a hit. We didn’t use them much on the flight on the way as it was pretty much a sleeper flight for Ariella. A chauffeur service with Emirates was scheduled to pick us up at what was to be a reasonable time of morning, car seat prepared (they called us the day before to confirm what type of seat) we sat down in a very overly large Mercedes as the driver began the journey towards Gatwick taking a scenic route to avoid the motorway – it was a week day morning and I was quite pleased to see green rather than the long and straight of the M25. We whizzed through security using the priority lanes and soon enough we were searching down somewhere to have lunch.  I realised a day before that they had a Wagamama’s airside in Gatwick’s North Terminal, a couple of hints and we were heading there for lunch rather than making use of the Business Class lounge which I think would have been okay too.

Monkey in Wagamamas

I think sticking with the known was best, given that we knew it would lead to Ariella starting the flight off with a full belly and I had hoped she might be inclined to take her afternoon nap while on board. After lunch we hung around the lounge enjoying the many beverages on offer while Ariella sat watching BBC News on the TV behind her and eventually turning to her iPad.

Before we knew it we were boarding the plane, Ariella enjoyed all the Hello’s and Good Afternoon’s – the novelty still very much there we headed up the stairs and found our seats. Immediately from this point onwards I was acutely aware of Ariella’s noise level, however we were pleasantly surprised with her ability to cope. She was soon hooked into the entertainment system and her iPad was hardly used on the trip out, with a variety of CBeebies, Disney films and other children TV shows for her to watch instead.

On board the A380

What she didn’t do a lot of was sleep, not on our way to Dubai anyway. She skipped her usual nap and it was difficult to prise her away from all the buttons and gadgets on offer. Even with the seat flat like a bed and “In the night garden” episodes on a constant loop she wouldn’t drift off. I couldn’t complain too much, we were able to get an extra empty seat nearby so while she was happy to just lie there watching TV we were somewhat happy (with cocktails in hand and a constant supply of caffeine). I found the huge expanse of time, watching the clock slowly tick by was a struggle even with the excellent flight information and cameras to watch the sky from. I should have packed a book for myself to read as I wasn’t able to fully concentrate on the flight entertainment myself while listening out for Ariella. We had picked great seats, I left Jamie to sort this out – on the A380 leg we had the middle seats of two together and with the middle screen down it felt like our own little space.

I hadn’t anticipated how we would navigate eating on the flight either with Ariella on one of our laps. It wasn’t until bedtime that we realised the flight wasn’t at full capacity and gained the extra seat which would have solved this issue. However on the flight back we rotated the meals, so the crew gave us our meals at slight intervals and we asked for the trays to be cleared as soon as possible so the next one could switch seats.

We kept the night-time routine as normal as we could, brushed her teeth, put her into her PJ’s and hoped she might fall asleep for a little before we hit Dubai (local time midnight). She didn’t, this was probably the most stressful part as she was tired and it was time for bed for her. For the last hour or so we had to keep her entertained with walks of the cabin, Jamie took her up to the bar for a while. Before we knew it we were making our descent down to Dubai ready to brave security again and to seek out the next lounge.

I popped Ariella into the Tula once we had landed, it was uncomfortable for a short duration as the outside temperature in Dubai was rather warm. But once in the air-conditioned airport it was perhaps the best option. Dubai Airport offer strollers which you can pickup and use all the way to boarding your plane. This is handy and while we didn’t make use of it on our way we did on the way back, I think it’s a great idea. Ariella wasn’t too happy at this point and the airport was heaving with traffic. I’ve never seen so many people, the lounge was rammed too I wouldn’t want to have been trying to find a seat outside. We found some snacks, water and more importantly seats and did our best to keep Ariella happy with her iPad while we waited for our connection flight. Luckily we rarely had to wait around long and after an hour or so we headed to our gate and boarded the plane straight away using the priority lanes.

Once on board I strapped Ariella in and she fell asleep in my arms immediately, Dubai to Male was around four hours she slept for three and a bit only waking once we started our descent down again. During which I decided to forgo my meal allowing Jamie to eat (I had dinner on the previous plane when he did not) and nursed my early morning champagne with my free hand wondering how long we would be waiting for our speed boat transfer.

Second leg, Dubai to Male

As it turns out not long, which was really welcoming given that we were all pretty tired by this point. Local time 8am, UK time 3am five hours difference in time but they do a pretty reasonable job on the flight to try to reset your clock. It had felt like we had sort of had an evening and night but also not. Staff assigned for the island resort were waiting for us once we had claimed our bags and gone through passport control, which came out first – Thank you Emirates! We waited in a little air-conditioned area while he gather up a few other guests whom were arriving shortly. We took this time to take Ariella to be changed into her dress, hat and applied suncream.
Before long we were on the speed boat, which was also air-conditioned and Ariella fell asleep in my arms again – it was only a forty minute transfer. The ride was choppy, I was amazed she managed to fall asleep but she did. Meanwhile I was trying not to throw up, still get sea sick – it had been years since I had been on a ferry at sea and lost my lunch to it. I’m glad to say I did not repeat this experience however clearly if I had then I wouldn’t be the first, they had provided bags, tissues and mints for the poor souls who might.

I was also expecting to have to wait quite a while for our Villa to be ready once we made it to the island. It was coming up to 9am by this point local time and for us 4am, I definitely felt that lack of sleep vibe. I also felt like I had been catapulted through the air at high speeds, which I replicated on the way back – does anyone else find this? Before long the boat had docked and we were taking steps off the boat onto the jetty. The weather was warm but a little cloudy, we headed to reception to check-in and find out how long the wait would be. A lovely member of staff greeted us with champagne in hand and we sat while taking in the views, hoping that Ariella would be happy enough for a little while longer now that she had slept even if just a little.

With delight we were told our Villa was ready! Before we knew it we were heading down to it on a golf buggy, sheer delight that we could put Ariella down to sleep in her own bed and that the journey was over with hit me and I finally felt like I could relax. Ariella fell asleep eventually and we let her. We decided to keep her up after the nap until after dinner and before long we had changed her over to the new time zone.

Next up I’ll be writing about all our fun while on the Island, stay tuned!

Our Holiday in the Maldives – Part 2

Featured Parenting Technology

The best iPad apps 1 – 2 years on the UK iTunes store

Ariella ipad

Ariella isn’t even two yet and she has been “upgraded” to our old iPad mini 2. I say upgraded because she is was using the even older iPad. We bought the mini in late 2013, so it’s three years old now and we really don’t use it anymore as we have other mobile devices.

As a toddler her needs are very basic, her previous iPad covers them just fine. It’s really just bigger which is a pain to carry around and seeing as we had the mini floating unused it seemed the most sensible option. Ariella has a locked down children’s account which is tied to the family, all purchases have to be approved by one of us. I wasn’t sure how useful it would be to her but it’s been truly engaging.

You can limit quite a lot, I’ve turned off access to Safari so she cannot use the internet and she also has a children’s version of youtube. There were a lot more options too but I don’t feel at this stage they are required, options like time limits and content limits.

There are lots of educational apps available for the iPad on the UK iTunes Store. I’ve summarised a little list of our favourites for her current age range below.

The best iPad apps for 1 year to 18 months

You’ll see a theme with the apps below, with a child who is under one they will find challenge enough in concentrating for long durations. These apps are basic, they allow you to turn off certain buttons so that apps can’t be exited and allow the children very limited options so that it’s similar to any kind of toy they might engage with. I’d recommend that you start with free apps and if your child likes them move on to paid versions or look for similar ones that are paid.

Our favourites in this category are below.

Fisher Price – Laugh & Learn Animal Sounds (Free)

Category: Animals and Speech

“Babies are encouraged to learn animal names and the sounds animals make through interaction with engaging animations and sound effects! Baby can tap, tilt or shake to set a learning world in motion! Designed for babies 6 months and up.”

I think this was one of the very first apps I downloaded for Ariella, it’s very basic and you have the option to limit the buttons that show. When Ariella was younger I would turn off the return to home button so that Ariella only had left and right buttons to switch to the next animal. It’s rich in content and helps children learn how to say the animals name, the noises they make and a little animation to show what kind of movements they might do. In between these interactive “flash cards” are little musical rhymes with more advanced navigation once you complete a few.

Link App Store

Fisher Price – Laugh & Learn Let’s Count Animals (Free)

Category: Numbers

“Babies are encouraged to learn about numbers and animals through interaction with engaging animations and sound effects! Baby can tap, tilt or shake to set a learning world in motion! Designed for babies 6 months and up.”

This would be the second app I downloaded for Ariella, it’s the same concept as the above but instead it has an animal with a number. Each card increases in size and the animals are duplicated on the screen. I do believe this has helped Ariella learn to count to ten so well, it’s been backed up with number books and games too but repetition is key with her and the iPad enables this under her own terms.

Link App Store

Fisher Price – Laugh & Learn Shapes & Colours (Free)

Category:  Shapes and Colours

“Babies are encouraged to learn about shapes and colors through interactions with engaging animations, sounds and sing along songs! Baby can tap or tilt the screen to set a learning world in motion! Designed for babies 6 months & up.”

Link App Store

Childs Play (Free some content paid for)

Category:  Interactive Play

“Child’s Play is an app that is literally bursting at the seams with fun games for the under fives. They will delight in tapping the screen to join in with the simple and colorful games, whether they be popping bubbles, tapping open a piñata, or launching beautiful fireworks above a storybook village at night. There is no reading required, and young children will love being able to join in without any help from mum or dad. There’s no violence, no failure and no tears – just fun games that pre-schoolers can pick up and play.”

Ariella enjoys this still even though it’s in the earlier age group, short mini games which are designed to just be picked up and left easily.

Link App Store

These were our first basic starting apps, she mastered these quickly and easily navigates them now. Once ready I downloaded the following more advanced apps.

 The best apps for 18 months to 2 year olds

You might notice there is a gap between 18 months and two years, I really think it depends how your child interacts. Ariella was ready for

BBC CBeebies Playtime – Free

 

Category: Multiple

This app has so much potential and content within in, this is currently the favoured app for Ariella. Many of her most loved Cbeebies characters are involved like The Teletubbies, Swashbuckle pirates, The Furchester Hotel, Mr Tumble. At first I thought it was probably too advanced but she’s picked up on what the app asks her, there is a lot of interaction available with hands, voice, shaking and tilting the iPad. The best part is it’s all free, we really love this app. Inside are many mini games and this is just one example of Ariella playing the Something Special Mr Tumble game below, Jamie adjusted the size and speed of the bubbles as Ariella was finding it -too- easy! Look at her go! I think this is great for her fine motor skill work and I’m so pleased she enjoys it too.

Link App Store

Edit – CBeebies have now released another app called CBeebies Playtime Island, the original Playtime app will no longer recieve updates as of December 2016. We won’t be moving onto the new app until Ariella has completed the first, but I’ll install the new Playtime Island app ready for the plane trip next month.

Youtube Kids – Free

Category: Media
Youtube offer a app which enables parents to restrict the content their children can access. You can set time limits, stop “searching” options and also generally speaking the content is aimed at children. If you find a video which isn’t suitable listed you can report it easily, it’s not fool proof but it does offer an alternative.

Link App Store

 

Peppa Pig: Holiday

Category: Holiday Prep!

“Back by popular demand and relaunched for 2015. Peppa is going on holiday and she wants you to join her travels in this official app.”

We downloaded this one for my niece years ago but it’s come round and is still great for Ariella. She loves George from Peppa Pig, but if you were going on holiday this is a great one to prepare them for it. The app features the airport, ice creams, photo cards on the beach, going on an airplane.

Link App Store £2.29

KidloLand – Free limited content

Category: Educational

Full of interactive nursery rhymes, phonics, shapes and activities. You can download this for free but if you want full access it’s subscription based, it’s definitely become quite a favourite so we may have to shell out for the full blown version. Ariella has picked up lots from the nursery rhymes many of which we’ve never taught her!

Link App Store Free (Paid subscription of 4.99 USD a month for full access)

 

CBeebies Story Time – Free

Category: Educational reading

The CBeebies Storytime app is filled with free story books for young children and is a great way to enjoy reading books with your little one. Open the book to discover a world of stories featuring much-loved CBeebies characters; turn the page to find your favourite story and visit the library to choose new stories such as CBeebies classics: Topsy and Tim, Peter Rabbit, Something Special, Charlie and Lola, and many more.

Link App Store Free

 

Kids Doodle Games and Free drawing for toddlers

Category: Drawing

“All the kids love coloring books, don’t they? Recall yourself in the childhood: back then wasn’t coloring one of your favorite activities? Let your kid enjoy this great joy of coloring. Bimi Boo Drawing – is not just a funny game, but also a lesson of drawing! The app will guide kids in drawing awesome cartoons and aid them in coloring them.”

Link App Store Free

There is a huge amount of applications available for toddlers to use but these are some of the ones that have kept Ariella very happy and that I’ve found particularly useful for this age group.

Check back for our next age group 2 – 3 years shortly!

 

Being Mum Featured Lifestyle Parenting

When you have more questions than answers

Monday we visited Ariella’s physiotherapist, its was a morning appointment but with the likelihood of me arriving back around lunch time I knew there was a chance we would miss the post lady. The appointment went very well, Ariella’s leg has resolved itself and we now believe that this was due to her feeling unwell. Her therapist checked her leg again and we did some play exercises, reaching around cruising benches for toys. We were both pleased to see that she was walking normally again, which was very reassuring to see! We agreed that it was good that she had been seen limping by her therapist because such a dramatic change from the flu/common cold is hard to believe.

What wonderful news to start the morning off, Ariella was walking around looking very pleased with herself – she felt stable and was letting go of one of my hands to pop the bubbles without wobbling. We are really hoping she will start to walk independently soon. After the sessions we jumped into the car and headed home for lunch, as I was pulling into the drive I saw the little royal mail red drag along cart they use. My first thought was “Will I have missed her?”, I knew that I had to sign for Ariella’s MRI report and CD and that if I wasn’t in I’d have to wait another day. Luckily the post lady was just making her way down to leave when she spotted me and I signed for it as I got out of the car. Perfect timing! I thanked her a lot, she probably wondered what she had delivered to me!

Ariella was suitably tired from the session that I knew she would have lunch and then probably take a long nap. During which I could open the letter, look at the CD and look at the radiographer report for her recent MRI. That’s exactly what happened, we don’t really own a laptop that can take a CD anymore so Jamie had prepared an older machine which we had wiped completely ready for it’s new home the night before in preparation. I didn’t know it would come Monday, I had waited in all Friday and most of Saturday for it’s arrival too. In fact the most peaceful day in our home for me was probably Sunday because I knew there would be no post. Anyway it arrived and with it the worry of what I might find out imminently. I think I probably paced the room a few times by myself while Ariella slept completely silently in her bed, I shoved the disc into the machine and waited for it to engage. By the time I had come back with a coffee it was ready and I used a special password that was sent me to unlock the CD and MRI viewing program.

I think the first thing I thought was how different the software was compared to the one used for my own MRI many years before. It wasn’t too complex to understand but took me a few moments to load the correct scans, they are separated by types of view – which I now understand what these show and the purpose of them. But at the time it took a little while to understand and then to further my understanding of the scan slices navigating my way through my daughters brain slice by slice. I knew what I was looking for originally, I wanted the sagittal view going from side to side so that I could first identify the Corpus Callosum. I knew this would be the easiest part for me to identify due to my huge amount of reading I have done on the subject, MRI, Ultrasound and classification of the various parts of it. I first will say that I’m not trained in medicine and we of course wait for the Neurosurgeon to diagnose Ariella, I requested the results myself because I don’t like surprises that are sprung on me in the moment, where I don’t have time to understand or relate the words to whatever context someone is trying to explain them to me in.

I believe the Corpus Callosum is thinner than typical for her age, it shows signs in my view of Hypoplasia (underdeveloped) which fits under the umbrella term Dysgenesis of the Corpus Callosum. This is what the ultrasound at three months suspected and I think that this is something that will be brought up in the next meeting we have. The radiographer report is very basic, it just says reduced white matter bulk it does suggest there is moderate ventricular and sulcal prominence that is non specific and had no specific features demonstrated. It does state no signs of Hydrocephalus, her Hydrocephalus was the external type (which is better) often it resolves itself by two years old and thankfully it has. I think from reading, the moderate prominence is typical of External Hydrocephalus so I’m not too concerned about this sentence but we will see what the Neurosurgeon has to say in February.
I definitely went to bed that night with a full brain and with a head that felt like it probably had too much input and not enough output. When I woke up things I had read just clicked together in a way that didn’t the night before.

You just never think that you’ll be looking at your own child from the inside out, I truly hope you never are.

Being Mum Featured Lifestyle Parenting

A Winter trip to RHS Wisley

It was forecasted to be quite a dull day, not raining but very wet from heavy rain the night before. I woke up rather indecisive we almost drove down to the sea! I wanted to pick somewhere Stroller friendly as I wasn’t feeling 100% and Jamie has a bad back at the moment. Instead we drove to The Royal Horticultural Society’s garden Wisley, it turned out to be a fantastic choice. On arrival we opted to become members as I felt it would be another great venue to add to our portfolio of places we can go for family picnics and outdoor time. Membership is quite reasonable for the year, It’s going up in price tomorrow I believe but we paid £42.75 for a year by direct debit at the time.

I’m really excited about this place, It’s huge and I wish we had planned to stay longer as we didn’t cover half of what was on offer. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in Summer when all the flowers outside are blooming. I do believe that if you visit somewhere at its weakest point and love it, that’s a great sign.

Ariella-fountain

There is a neat wooden seating area near the fountain which you can sit and admire the water from, it’s sheltered from the rain and in part the wind. In my childless days I could imagine coming just to sit and read here. After a short while we wandered off up a long path to go and explore the rock garden, there is an accessible path way but we only found this out after. I decided to take the long way round and Jamie took a little trip up to check things out. The paths are really great for pushing the stroller around and Wisley are renovating many of the other paths that are a little more bumpy but still very accessible.

The Wisley rock garden, you can just see Jamie in the background.

At the top of the rock garden are lots of alpine plants some growing outside and some cleverly inside greenhouses which are open to walk through. We really loved the Bonsai walk, I’ve always admired the Bonsai but never been able to successfully keep one alive. I loved how it all came down to this big tree point and I can’t upload it here but I took a large panoramic photo. From the end of this path you get a high view across the gardens, in which you can see the huge Glasshouse built around a lake.

Walking down to see some Bonsai trees.

Before heading down to the Glasshouse we stopped off at the teaching garden.

The teaching garden, what a lovely facility

The teaching garden

More from the teaching garden, creating little insect habitats.

I love how the teaching garden (used mostly by school trips) had everything down at child level. I look forward to taking Ariella there on days out when she is older to study gardening, learning about insects, growing vegetables. It’s great to see such a neat resource available, the garden was surrounded by classrooms which must be used by the school also.

Before heading into the Glasshouse we stopped by the Glasshouse Cafe attached, it has a soft play but it was closed. I ordered a couple of coffees, they weren’t bad but they weren’t amazing – on par with the stuff Waitrose normally hands out.

The big glass house

I was really amazed by the underground Root Zone section, fascinating that they built it a level down so you really do feel under the roots of the trees above. Lots of interesting facts about roots, it was very sensory and Ariella enjoyed all the screens and lights. You could spend quite some time wandering around the different zones in the Glasshouse, we didn’t head up to the very top-level as we weren’t sure if it was accessible and had plenty to look at going through the zones.

Ariella found the roof of the glasshouse really fascinating and kept proclaiming “wow” as we walked around. Many of the trees overhung across the top so she must have got quite an interest view.

Moist Temperature Zone

It was fascinating that they had lots of little waterfalls and various water running through, it reminded me a lot of the Eden Project but on a smaller scale. We went to the Eden Project back in the Summer 2016, I highly recommend you go – although it’s quite a trip down to it.

Being big coffee lovers I couldn’t help but snap a shot of one of the coffee bean plans growing, I’ve never seen beans growing in person. I have a lot to thank this plant for!

A coffee bean plant!

coffee beans

Coffee Beans!

We ended our trip by taking the winter walk path up to the exit, that’s the featured photo at the top. I wasn’t expected much from a garden in Winter but I was throughly impressed by Wisley and can’t wait to go back. I think it will be a firm favourite as Ariella grows up, once she is walking then it will be a great way to tire her out. Cost wise it’s really very good, we pay a lot more for the National Trust membership in comparison.

Check it out! We will be going back soon, check back for more updates.

Being Mum Featured Lifestyle Parenting

Bocketts Farm – Leatherhead

I’ve had Bocketts Farm on my list of things to do for a while, when I saw this week that they had a new alpaca cria born this week (via their Facebook page) we decided that we would go during the week between Christmas and New year. As Ariella had gained a Happyland farm set and more interest in naming animals I felt a trip to see them in real life would be a great way to follow on the farm theme. Leatherhead is under an hours drive from us, much like when we visited Fishers Farm, we visited there in the Summer before I established this blog but I’ll have to go again and when I do I’ll be sure to post!

Alpaca cria – Picture credit directly from official Facebook page (Bocketts Farm Park)

Conveniently during lunch Ariella’s new sun glasses arrived, we had to try them on and it was a sunny day so I thought I might as well bring them along. She really likes putting glasses on but I don’t know if she will keep them on for long durations and we are prepping her for our Indian Ocean trip in March.

On arrival we were greeted by a really friendly woman who gave us a map of the farm and a schedule for the day, she explained what animals we shouldn’t feed with the animal feed bag (extra charge).  Feeling like we had a good idea of what was on offer we headed straight to the Little Hoppington small animal village. It really is a village, they’ve created little houses for the animals which are mostly Rabbits, Mice, Guinea pigs and some birds. Each house is themed with a doctor surgery, market, town church. It’s really adorable, I really loved the mice church as they had made a run all the way up the inside to the top steeple so that the mice can really get a good exercise. At the back they had a handling section with animals that don’t mind being handled, each cage had a timed event to spread out the handling sessions for them too.

Little Hoppington – the small animal village

There were bigger animals to see also, horses, ponies, pigs, goats, donkey’s, sheep, chickens and cows. The most friendly cow’s I’ve ever seen, normally I find them rather intimidating. I think it’s great that they had the horses in together in pairs, with each horses name and descriptions about their friendship with the horse next to them. There was one horse that wasn’t feeling too well so he had a sign up to say so, very nice to see that the animals seemed to be being treated very respectfully.

The stables

Snuggling in

Cool girl, trying out her new shades

Feeding time!

Ariella had a little moment when she saw the animal feed bag, expecting something for herself. We found a great little picnic sheltered area for her to eat her snack. Lucky I thought ahead and packed a few things for her as it was only just after lunch!

Someone had food envy when she saw the animal feed

It was very cold out, they had some spectacular playground areas, soft play, farm walks, pony rides for the older children, pig racing, goat milking and trailer rides. We could have made a real day of the farm but Ariella wasn’t feeling too well, she was being a bit grumpy. Which is understandable as she has had a cold, when she started looking very sleepy we decided to head home.

Schedule of the day’s events.

I think we could have made much more of the farm if Ariella was more mobile, many of the children were really enjoying the playground areas but I couldn’t see any baby swings and Ariella doesn’t really like to play on the rest of the equipment. She does enjoy a slide but can’t get to the top of the slide herself and won’t climb the stairs to get there.

There were interesting play diggers, a few of the activities were an extra cost but the cost wasn’t very high. Around £2 for the pony ride, £1.25 for the tractor ride if memory serves I think the diggers were around £1 too. Children could ride little tractors around, lots of fun to be had, if you were up to walking you could enjoy the longer walks around the farm. We didn’t do this as I forgot to put my wellies on and Jamie doesn’t even own a pair. I think perhaps we need to rectify this! It was so frosty out on Thursday that I actually had to grit the steps to our home in fear that we might end up sliding down them today. Alas the weather has changed, didn’t need to bother!

Children under two get in free, adults I think it is £9.50 per adult. So really for a whole day’s fun it isn’t too bad, I particularly like the indoor soft play area as a way to warm up from the cold. Having lived in London it still amazes me how beautiful Surrey really is, truly the best of both worlds.

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Christmas Eve 2016

We visited Santa for the second time this year, this time in his Ice Castle! The second time around was much more successful, I hope that might be due to all the exposure Ariella has had to Santa now while playing with toys, watching TV and being out and about. We also considered doing some ice skating afterwards as they have a great ice rink in the Winter Wonderland which is made of ice and maintained after each session. Unfortunately the ice rink was booked up already, not a huge issue for us though as we had planned to eat lunch after (and then Ariella would probably want to go home and nap).

Waiting for Santa, looking a little sad.

The Ice Castle grotto was great, far better than the one we had visited previously. You were walked through it by yourself (rather than as a session group) and they had set it out completely like a little ice cave with moving bears, penguins and lovely frosty lights. Ariella really enjoyed this part, all the staff dress up to and in very realistic costumes. Once we reached Santa she became a little shy but wasn’t crying like last time. Santa looked much more authentic than the last Santa we saw, he almost had me believing too!

Even the little area Santa was sat in was really great, you really did feel like you had made the trip to the north pole. He asked Ariella if she had been good this year and what she wanted for Christmas then we took a nice group picture and Ariella was given a lovely book as a present.

A little market after the Grotto, sweet treats!

The ice rink was fully booked, boo!

We headed off back indoors for lunch and we knew where we were going to try first, Wagamama! It was unexpectedly quiet, in fact the whole place seemed much quieter than we were expecting. I guess by this point if you haven’t done your Christmas shopping you are in a small pool of those who haven’t. We were seated at a large table near the back and Jamie ordered our usual, Ariella was most pleased when her’s arrived. Ariella loves the mild curry sauce that can be ordered with the children’s katsu, whenever we order it for her we get an unsure look by the waiter.

The present from Santa

It was quite wonderful to complete the Happyland calendar today, meet the final piece behind the final window. I’m glad it’s done with as there really is too many people for the little cottage now, hopefully Santa might bring Ariella some new Happyland buildings for all these festival villagers to play with. As you can see we bought Ariella the Happyland box/play mat, It was supposed to be a Christmas gift but I never got around to wrapping it and it gave us something to pack the pieces in so we could transport them to my parents home easier.

The final Happyland piece, number 24!

Please totally ignore the crazy hair, we have a storm coming here in England but I felt that Ariella would benefit from a trip out in the afternoon to the park. We needed to use up some time before dinner, she wasn’t too sure about the wind until I put her hood up to keep the wind off her head a bit more.

After a wonderful dinner cooked by my mother, I headed into the kitchen to start mulling some wine. Bring on Christmas Day! Let’s hope that Ariella doesn’t wake up at 6am tomorrow, that seems to be her favourite time at the moment. Merry Christmas!

Mulled wine, cheers!

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The last few days before Christmas

These last few days are mad, everyone running around trying to tie up loose ends before the big day. Looking for some kind of resolution in the chaos of the whirlwind so that you can just relax and chill out with family and friends on Christmas day. For that reason I decided not to book our calendar up with much during the run up, we already have Hydrotherapy (or so I thought – duh broke up for Christmas) and Physiotherapy on Thursday. This gives plenty of time to finish anything last-minute jobs and tasks, such as post parcels, write last-minute Christmas cards from unexpected sources, buy the last few presents (then subsequently be in for their delivery).

With that in mind we wandered to the park Monday (with firm instruction from any couriers to leave our packages in our preferred safe place). It was a really wet day out so Ariella wore her all in one waterproof which given the other parents were having to dig deep to find something to dry off the playground proclaiming loudly “Mummy forgot your waterproof” I think it was a good call, this normally does not happen for me! Without the fleece liner in it’s actually pretty mobile, you can easily fold it down to fit in a handbag. This is why Polarn o Pyret market it as season variable (perfect for our unpredictable weather here).

Lunch this week I wanted to try a few different recipes as I was getting quite bored with the same combinations. I found a recipe online for Lemony Fish Bites, a simple method which if you have covered things with bread crumbs before you’ll recognise. If you want to give them a try yourself I’ve linked the recipe above, Ariella liked them. I think they were surprisingly easy to do as the Cod I purchased had the bone removed and also the skin had been removed already. This meant that really it was just a matter of dipping in each bowl and then frying. I’m sure you could bake them if you preferred rather than frying.

I don’t know why everyone seems to do this but the Christmas deadline really makes you want to clear out any old jobs that have been sitting around for a while. One of which was sorting through Ariella’s outgrown clothes. This is something that I used to have to do a lot more frequently than I do now, when she was outgrowing clothes sizes from Newborn/One Month, 1 – 3 months, 3 – 6 months, 9 – 12 months, 12 – 18 months then 18 – 24 months. The first few months it felt like she had just arrived and we were already shipping out her clothes from the drawers. I remember fondly keeping back  few outfits that had sentimental value to us and selling the rest for another parent to enjoy on Ebay. You really don’t get much for the clothes, even the designer clothes online but It felt reasonable to give those clothes a use.

I had stored up things from over a year ago, Christmas 2015! Probably 9 – 12 months onwards. We are now in the 2 – 3 year range, although some things from 18 – 24 fit fine still but I won’t buy anything in that current range now. We are keeping all of this though, I feel that any other siblings should have their own newborn clothes so that they too can have a special box of memories of things I identify as “theirs”. Ariella’s drawers now look as they did long before her arrival, neat, tidy, organised. This pleases me, I do love an organised home as I feel it gives me the ability to hold an organised mind. I must try harder to keep this so!
On Tuesday we needed to play Postman, I had a few parcels to send and thankfully everything arrived in time to do so. I think I may have mentioned in a previous post that this year two of my deliveries (although it’s now looking like three) have gone missing? The rest of the year I can’t even think of one time that my parcel has wandered off. Picture me with a huge parcel in my hands, two parcels in a big side hold shopping bag and Ariella strapped to my front in the Tula as I walk down to the post office. If someone had been around to take my picture I would have asked them to! It was all in the careful knowledge that my efforts would be rewarded with a foot long sandwich from Subway after.

Tuesday afternoon there was a chill in the air, but we decided to catch up with one of my friends and her son at the park and to check out how the birds were getting on.

I forgot to say another job on the list of tasks was building the IKEA kitchen that is our gift to Ariella for Christmas. I wanted it pre built as there was little point in wrapping it, so for now it’s hidden in the Study, I’m so pleased with it. It took some time to build even with the two of us doing it, but it’s a great height for Ariella and I’m sure she will enjoy it for years to come. If you are still looking for ideas for your toddler at Christmas please check out The ultimate Montessori gift guide on Fridabemighty.

Wednesday I thought we had Hydrotherapy in the madness of all the letter’s I receive I had just auto pilot entered a lump of dates into my calendar on my phone. We didn’t have it, which I realised when we got there and were told it wasn’t on today. But never mind, the trip out settled Ariella and when we got home she had a major nap. She had been really unhappy all day, it was only during the evening that I noticed she has some more teeth coming. Finally the gaps between the front and back teeth are starting to fill out, but it explained why she was grumpy and why she had started to expect her milk and bottle again.

We don’t have any of the bottles in the kitchen anymore, so we haven’t given in at all with this. I’m sure once those teeth are through she will be back to her normal self. In the afternoon we baked some mince pies! I didn’t make my own pastry, I could say this was because it’s quicker and yes it definitely is in my view. But it’s mostly because every time I make my own pastry it looks like some of rerun of the days where I used to make play doh food (or my mum’s home-made version of it). I loved doing this with Ariella, it really did make us feel very festive and set the mood for the rest of the holidays. Little hands can really help with cookie cutters, when she got bored she could go off while I finished up. One thing she made sure of was that she got a taste straight after they came out the oven!

Today we had Physiotherapy as expected! It went really well, Ariella is making progress and progress is always good! We have a few things to concentrate on, lots of work with standing and sitting. At the moment Ariella isn’t able to reliably get back down from standing, so we will work on getting in and out of this position with her and hopefully by our next appointment things will have progressed again. Our physiotherapist is going to be running a few of the Hydrotherapy session so it will be good fun to see her more regularly!

Tomorrow I have not one single thing in the calendar booked in. Blissful!

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Twenty Months – “Walking in a winter wonderland…”

Twenty months old, twenty. I guess we stop counting in months soon? Maybe when they reach two? To say they are only one for such a long time in which so much changes, seems silly so I understand why things still count in months. I guess if I was looking at clothes, they all seem to stop counting in months at two. Two it is then.

Sleigh Bells Ringing, Just hear those sleigh bells
ringing and jing ting tingaling too
Come on its lovely weather for
a sleigh ride together with you – Neil Diamond

We put the Christmas tree up this week, I wasn’t going to I know but looking at it every day sat out in the cold looking sorry for itself all wrapped up. Everyone else seemed to be putting their’s up and it only has to survive a couple of days without me topping up the water. Worst case scenario? The husband has to take it outside and saw an inch or two off the bottom again. Because I’m not doing it, having done it by myself while I was feeling all high and mighty during the start of the week I’ve decided that using a saw while simple involves quite a lot of physical effort and it’s definitely not for me! I did it though and I dragged it’s sorry self all the way up into the living room. Put it in it’s stand, unwrapped it, threaded all the lights myself and then decorated it. Where was little Ariella during this? She was napping, pretty good use of time in my view. My back does not agree but that’s an ongoing debate between me and it.

Taking a little rest while admiring the various hours of hard work

Taking a little rest while admiring the various hours of hard work

If you don’t have a Christmas tree stand for your real tree yet I really do recommend you spend a little more than you might normally and buy a Krinner. You can put the tree up by yourself as it has a little foot pedal and a great big water storage area.

In other news, we’ve ditched the bottle (hooray)! Ariella has slept through the whole night for quite a while but when we tried to remove the bed time bottle she was waking up in the middle of the night for milk. She definitely wasn’t waking due to hunger at this age and she didn’t really want the milk after all she wouldn’t drink it in a beaker cup. We decided to just go cold turkey, we explained to her that she was a big girl now and big girls don’t drink milk in a bottle. The first night was predictably dramatic, she had full blown tantrums, threw her arms around, threw her head back, screamed, cried, could not be comforted. We kept going in to reassure her and eventually she wore herself out when her efforts did not bring us running to her room with bottle in hand.

The second night, it was like a switch had flicked and she no longer woke for milk. Just a little whimper then soothed herself back to sleep. Third night in she didn’t wake at all, I did go have to go in and put the blankets over her again as she really loves to move around at night. But other than that she was totally asleep, I had no idea we would only be in for one night of tantrums. It feels really too good to be true!

We had our first hydrotherapy session on Wednesday and I had no idea what to expect, although Ariella did attend swimming lessons for many months I had never taken her myself. I also wasn’t sure exactly how hydrotherapy would be different to normal swimming, but from what I can tell the pool is warmer but so far most of the swimming exercises are on par with the likes of Waterbabies. Naturally the amount of children attending is a much smaller group, just three but this gave the two therapists plenty of one to one time to help out with the exercises. Ariella really enjoyed herself and spent most of the time laughing, It reminded me to book up some regular swim classes again as she really does enjoy the water (we stopped when we moved). One big difference as I said was the temperature which is comparable to being in a hot tub, so rather warm! Ariella has never liked a cold pool so this was perfect for her, for me I can’t say It bothered me too much but I do tend to have quite a good tolerance for warm water.

At our last physiotherapist session Ariella was given some orthopaedic footwear (Piedro) to aid her recently diagnosed hyper mobility, hyper mobility is in basic terms over flexible joints. We decided this week to put them on her routinely, so she now wears them from waking until bed time and this has really improved her walking hugely. I’ll definitely be looking at the Piedro brand for her next pair of shoes, they also do sandals so I’ll look to add those to our holiday list. The pricing of the footwear is greatly inflated but the extra support really helps gain confidence in the basic structure of the foot. Even when we take the boots off now she seems much more stable, so I’m sure the specifically designed footwear is having a large impact.

Watching Tv in new boots

Standing practice

This week has been a real run up to festivities for us, we had plans to attend a glitzy red carpet affair on the weekend and then continued that with a long weekend spa break. Both were exceptionally well timed, fun, relaxing and I think Ariella enjoyed spending a few days with her grandparents who offered up their babysitting service for the red carpet affair before heading into the Cotswolds. We greeted them at the door with a vomit soaked toddler, vomit covered mum and the external pieces of the car seat in hand. Everything was sponged down or washed, just in time for her second go hours later at which point we decided she was either car sick or unwell. As days past it was clear she had some kind of vomit bug given the car seat was covered once more (and currently sitting in the washing machine for a good deep clean).

Red carpet evening, child free!

Red carpet evening, child free!

Champagne!

Next in line was Calcot Manor & Spa in the Cotswolds, one of our favourite places to relax. They have an onsite creche which you can use included in the room rate when staying in the family rooms alongside the baby listening services. The Creche is such good fun, the staff are always very reassuring and all lovely. As well as this they have the most awesome spa with a blissful outdoor hot tub and top of the line treatments. We used to visit often before children and it’s remained consistently excellent throughout the years with a unique balance between catering for the couple market and also families. This is such difficult line to walk on! The food is top quality, the spa excellent, the family rooms lack nothing – they are as comfortable and accommodating as our own home. Perfect!

Calcot Manor

Christmas Tree outside

On this occasion we decided to go for a family suite as Ariella tends to get disturbed now when we come in and out of rooms. It’s not always an option but she did sleep a full 12 hours as normal here, the rooms are beautiful whether you have older children or younger. They are accommodated with tv’s, games, books and also the younger children have all the extras you might usually need to bring (steriliser, washing up liquid, nappy bin). Family Suite

The first evening we dine with Ariella at the children’s high tea then once she was asleep enjoyed some superb cocktails in the beautiful decorated lounge area with some of our close friends, with roaring fires and Christmas trees scattered throughout it was very relaxing. Just what we needed to unwind and prepare for the rest of our stay (as well as the treatments had scheduled at the spa). The following day we made use of the creche, dropped Ariella off and headed to the spa where we enjoyed spectacular massages – I opted for my usual hot stone but a much longer duration this time. We managed to change or creche booking to a little earlier so that we could enjoy the spa and the hot tub before our treatments, as we weren’t sure if we wanted to take Ariella swimming. The swimming times for children is quite a narrow window but as it turned out, Ariella wasn’t feeling very well anyway.

Cocktails with friends

Yummy lunch in the conservatory restaurant

Yummy lunch in the conservatory restaurant

The following evening we had a baby sitter booked in, the creche at Calcot offer baby sitting in the evenings which is really a treat. So that left us free to dine with more friends in the fine dining Conservatory, exceptional food and wine is on offer. It was so great to have a huge amount of time to ourselves, child free and I feel very much ready for Christmas now!

Ariella

 

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Weekly Update – Wintery walks, Oxenford Christmas Tree farm & The Enchanted Grotto

What a great week to start December off with, sub-zero temperatures mixed with beautiful crisp days and warm sunlight. I actually felt prepared for this, with the cold winter coat I had picked up from Vertbaudet I just popped in the warm insert. Fully prepared with the finger gloves too, which are 100% times better than mittens (a topic discussed by my fellow mummy friends) I’m just lucky she keeps them on!

It was absolutely freezing, even the bar of the swing was frozen and Ariella did not want to stay on the swing for as long as she normally does. I wasn’t quite ready to take her home yet so we went for a wintery walk.

Wintery Park

A wintery park visit in minus figures, even the handle bar was frozen

Winter Walk

Brrrr!

Ariella' s Name

This week Ariella surprised me by counting to ten! I’ve always known she likes numbers but I hadn’t realised she knew the sequence of them. Often I’ll count the steps up to our home out loud, we do a lot of counting. Colour’s have really developed too, she likes saying purple “pur pel” and is linking more objects with their colours. The other theme for the week has been posting, she really likes slotting things under other things or into little gaps. To encourage this I bought the ELC Post box which has gone down a treat, they had a nice little discounted sale on for a few days. I’ve tried to get all the Christmas presents done this week and by doing so we’ve made use of many of the sales that have been on.

In other news Susie was put on her chair this week by Ariella, clearly Susie knows her place in Happyland Cherry Lane Cottage. Perhaps Ariella was making room for all the new friends that will be joining Susie and Savannah with the new Happyland Advent calendar she received. Although Ariella seems quite pleased we are even more happy that she has an advent calendar that is suitable for her age and should be better long-term use for her aka not chocolate. It’s a lot more expensive than its chocolate counterpart at £25 and was very tricky to get hold of due to the stock, but we did manage to get one on the second wave of restocking. Part of me is irrationally excited to show Ariella that Susie and Savannah will be getting a Christmas tree in their cottage this year, I hope in years to come when we get more expansive dolls houses (which I already have my eye on many) this imaginary play will just blossom further.

- Picture from ELC website

– Picture from ELC website

We had booked in to a local garden centre in Milford to their Enchanted Grotto to see Santa for the first time. I think we knew given the fact that Ariella isn’t fond of strangers specially those with beards that she might not find the whole experience joyful but in the interest of getting her used to the big bearded man we wanted to try. To help ease the process I picked up a couple of Christmas themed books a few weeks ago That’s not my Santa by Usborne, Nativity by Usborne and Spot’s First Christmas by Eric Hill. I’m hoping given that the Santa book has a touch page for Santa’s beard that it might help. We will be seeing Santa again on Christmas Eve so I will be sure to update! We did still get a present from Santa for Ariella and also to see some Reindeer which I had planned to do later in the month, I’m not sure the reindeer are part of the Enchanted Grotto. I think we just got lucky that they were appearing that weekend, but it was a lovely experience and the elves were definitely in character. These reindeer had come down from the North Pole for Christmas and were staying at a local hotel which they liked very much!

Reindeer

Reindeer stroke

Did you know their fur is exceptionally soft?

Santa

Meeting Santa for the first time – Ariella was not impressed, hence not sitting on Santa! Oh Dear, maybe next time Santa! Sorry

We also popped by Oxenford Christmas Tree farm to pick our own Christmas Tree, it was lovely and I highly recommend you go down and get yourself one. They offer delivery too, which we’ve taken advantage of because we are both pretty unenthusiastic when it comes to leaving pine needles in the car and faffing around with ropes. They have some beautiful decorations in their Christmas shop and they picked a really gorgeous high ceiling barn to display them in. It really feels like the spirit of Christmas in there and I’m glad we didn’t just arrange to have a tree delivered from the garden centre. Oxenford sell a whole range of Christmas Tree types which you can read about here. We decided to go for the Nordmann Fir which typically is the most popular style, I love the shape and needles but given it’s our first real tree we will see how it lasts once we put it up for decoration.Barn Ceiling

Christmas shop

The Christmas Shop in Oxenford Christmas Tree farm

Picking a Christmas Tree

Deciding on a Christmas Tree!

It was also my turn to host the play date this week, to keep things festive Ariella and her lovely little friends all made some of the snowflake ornament’s which you can find the post for here. Using a lid is a handy way to get everyone to help press down clay so that it’s flat (just roll it into a ball shape first!).

Festive Crafting with friends Once they departed to go enjoy their dinner Ariella sneakily found a triple chocolate cookie tucked away on a plate for the adults, she helped herself to it obviously. Not long after she then proceeded to vomit twice, I think that’s a lesson learnt!
img_2476

Evening chillout

Natural order was resumed by bedtime!