Where are the CBeebies Fitties?

Yesterday, The Dadventurer shared his Top Five CBeebies Hotties

Ignoring the obviously shallow and male chauvinist rhetoric laced through the blog post, I’m jumping on the band wagon with both feet to say – it’s not fair.

Where are the Fittie-McVities for the Mamas to ogle? 

Pretty much all the female presenters on CBeebies are (to use Dave’s terminology) ‘hotties’, whether they made his top five or not. But given 99%* of the adult viewers are probably female, and let’s, for the sake of argument, say that 90%* of them are probably straight – the Beeb has missed a trick.

*absolutely nothing scientific to these stats whatsoever. 

I mean, it’s pretty slim pickings, let’s be honest. 

In no particular order (because the options are dismal whatever order they appear):

Justine Fletcher as Mr Tumble on CBeebies1. Justin Fletcher

While the lovely Mr. Fletcher is clearly a very nice person to be commended for hosting brilliant programmes promoting making SEN and disability part of the mainstream – I’m afraid he’s firmly in the friend zone. I could forgive him the clowning around – at least he’s make you laugh – but the cross dressing and multi-personality syndrome (how many Tumbles does anyone need in their lives, really?) has me waving goodbye, goodbye to Justine. It’s time to run indeed…

Chris Jarvis Show Me Show Me CBeebies2. Chris Jarvis 

Sadly for Chris, even if I only require him for fantasy purposes to make my day looking after Little Miss go that little bit quicker, I don’t want him to show me anything. He just doesn’t make my kite flutter… (That’s right. I went there.) 

Andy Day CBeebies presenter3. Andy Day 

Andy’s got boingy curls and a sort of tall-dark-and-geeky thing going. This is actually a pretty solid start for any Mama’s fantasising; we could work with this! But he’s sort taken dressing up for fun a step to far. Usually soaked in some sort of archaic river water or dino spit, and that daft hat. And waistcoat. And the backpack. Aaaand the mood is pretty much as dead as his dinosaurs. 

(But doesn’t he have impeccable teeth?!)

Ben Cagee  CBeebies presenter4. Ben Cajee

Oh Ben. Baby Ben. He only looks about 24 bless him.* Such a sweetie, but he doesn’t really have you screaming ‘take me now!’, does he?

*It is possible that at only 27 I’ve missed some sort of cougar angle Ben could be working with a segment of the Mama market.

Ben Faulks as Mr Bloom on CBeebies5. Ben Faulks

Bloomin’ Ben. Where to begin? The hat? The vest? The cargo pants? Just so much plad. And no girl wants to be driven to dinner in a green truck from the 60s. Did I mention he talks to vegetables? It’ll take a bit more than a goofy grin to put Ben’s carrot on the menu.

However, in the interest of honest and fair blogging, since Googling him to find a photo, I am actually surprised – dare I say it, mildly fluttered – by the non-Bloom-Ben. I’ll just store that blue eyed beauty away for later use. (But I seriously hope he puts on the ridiculous accent or he’ll still need to stay very, very quiet.)

Hang in there ladies. The Bedtime Hour, is never far away (honest) and you never know who tonight Bedtime Stories special guest might be…

Damien Lewis CBeebies Bedtime Stories

Damien is welcome for bedtime any time he wants.

NB: this is in no way an attack on the CBeebies presenters. I love and cherish them all and speak for parents up and down the country when I say thank you for the job you do. You keep us saine! Just wouldn’t hurt to have a little less cross-dressing and a little more muscle on the presenter team perhaps…

Conversations with Little Miss, No. 8

During a fractious, over tired bedtime with lots of tears, I’d finally managed to calm her down with a cuddle and a lullaby I’ve been singing since she was a bump… 

Mama: …as the clouds go by-

LM: Why the clouds go by?

Mama: Um, it’s a windy night. 

LM: OK. 

Mama: Sail baby sail, out across the sea-

LM: Why the baby cross the sea? 

Mama: He’s on an adventure. 

LM: I like the sea. I go cross the sea. 

Mama: One day, yes. 

LM: Baby likes the sea. 

Mama: Yes she does. 

LM: She tired now. 

Mama: Yeh, she is. 

LM: She in the drawer now. 

[FYI, she’s talking about her baby doll who she had put to bed in the bottom drawer so, I quote, “she was safe” – from what, and why the drawer ensured her safety, I’m not quite sure.] 

Mama: Yes she is. [Give up on the lullaby.] Night, night Little Miss..

White paper boat onto world map with "Help" sign on it.

Refugees – should we care?

Let me start this post with a confession. Until this summer, I had become desensitized to the refugee crisis and knew very little about it. 

I’ve grown up with shocking Oxfam and UNICEF ads on TV of babies with swollen bellies; sad, dirty faces staring back at me longingly. I’m ashamed to say they’re like water off a duck’s back now I’ve seen so many so often. Save the Children’s brilliant one second a day style It Could Have Been Me campaign last year struck a chord and pulled at the heart strings, but was quickly forgotten amidst the drama of daily life. How many of the thousands of Brits who uploading a photo to Instagram actually donated, I wonder?

That being said, I’m a huge believer in giving to charity. I’m of the opinion that for those of us privileged enough to consider ‘struggling at the end of the month’ central heating and running water, food in the fridge and 50MG wifi surging round our house, I am of the opinion, we could find a few quid to help those who are genuinely struggling. 

But it wasn’t until Brexit unfolded earlier this year that I began to take real notice of the conversation about refugees, asylum seekers and migrants (and yes, it turns out they’re all very different types of people in the eyes of the law as this article from the Red Cross explains). My mom then volunteered for a weekend in the Calais camp, and hearing her recount her experience, stories of the people she’d met and not only what they’d been through but the circumstances they were living in now as well, I felt I could sit on the sidelines no longer. 

Paper Boat Map Help Refugees

The Crisis

In December 2015, across the world, it was estimated that 65.3 million people had been forced to flee their homeland as part of the current Refugee Crisis. That number increased by 5.8 million in just one year.

Let’s put this into perspective.

The UK’s current population estimate is 65.1 million.

Let that soak in for a moment: there are more people in the world displaced by war than UK citizens.

That also means there are more displaced people than the population of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined.

40.8 million of these displaced people are still residing within their own countries. Only 24.5 are classed as refugees or seeking asylum. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still a huge number (roughly twice as many people as all of Britain’s major cities combined). But (in an ideal world) if nations not directly involved in the conflict the world over were to equally share that 24.5, it wouldn’t feel like so many all. And then we could start to figure out what to do with the remaining 40 million…

Breaking Point. But for who?

Last year, the Prime Minster (David Cameron) pledged to re-home 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, saying it was our “moral responsibility” to do so. He then made a further pledge earlier this year to resettle 3,000 child refugees from the Calais and Dunkirk camps. Reports suggest Britain is already looking likely to fail on this promise as only 2,000 Syrian families were admitted asylum in the first quarter of 2016. This is not helped by the fact May has apparently dissolved the recently created role of ‘Minister for Syrian Refugees’.

And to add insult to injury, The Guardian reported last week that local authorities are struggling to find homes and school places for the asylum seekers, making it difficult to achieve the 2020 targets.

Yet, overall, we have accepted and housed just 0.18% of those 65 million people to date. We haven’t even managed a full 1%.

How tragic is that?

We, one of the spearhead nations of Western society, the land of hope and glory, haven’t even managed to help as many people as live in Newcastle, Wigan or even Derby.

Britain, to date, has granted asylum to just 117,00 people. That is the population of the borough of Lambeth in South London or East Hampshire (which is all villages, FYI, I checked).

Winchester has more people than that. And Sherwood (an area of Nottingham, not even a whole town). And Sedgemoor. Where’s Sedgemoor? Exactly people. Exactly.

Not my problem.

Many Brits, particularly from the older generations, are struggling to understand the plight of refugees: they didn’t flee during WWII. They stayed and fought for our country, our home. They didn’t let Hitler win. So these displaced people who choose to run, it’s their problem.

But what about France? And Italy? And Eastern Europe?

We have no idea how lucky we are in Britain, how privileged we’ve been to be in a position of strength and economic power. We can afford to fight, but more than that, we’ve never been at the hand of an oppressive regime. We haven’t been ruled through fear and brutality in any living generation’s memory. We haven’t been occupied since the Medieval age.

Despite the eerie similarities between the mass Jewish migration pre and post WWII from and today’s migration crisis, (read the full story on the Washington Post here) these wars aren’t like WWII with trenches and tanks and bombers, with soldiers integrating into society in occupied nations.

There is no rationing because there is no food at all. These people can’t fight back because they are unarmed civilians and the regime they are fighting will literally shoot them dead in a heartbeat if they so much as whisper about rising up. They will rape young girls and boys, they will leave you for dead.

Pretend for a moment that it was Britain savaged by war beyond recognition.


If you lived here, wouldn’t you be desperate? Wouldn’t you do whatever it took, go wherever would take you to give your family a better life? To give yourself a better life?

How do you choose who gets to start again, safe in a foreign country, and educate their children and live. Or who is left to starve and freeze in a camp in no-man’s land, unwanted and left for dead?

How would you feel if a country only helped those residing in Chichester? Or Chorley? Or Darlington, with a few extras thrown in from surrounding villages to make up the numbers?

Because that’s the number of people we’ve helped so far. Physically, we are a small country, yes, but politically and financially, regardless of what many may believe we are mighty. There must be something more we can do?

These are not just refugees or asylum seekers. These are people who had lives and education and families and a future before they were forced to leave their homeland due to a war they didn’t support or take part in, just as we would be if it was us.

I don’t make these comparisons to scare readers or to suggest we should surrender our own homeland to all of them. I merely want to put the crisis into perspective, into numbers that make sense to us in the UK.

There’s no place like home…


Based on the latest UNHCR‘s Global Trends report, published June 2016.

Contrary to what many Brits seem to believe, asylum seekers don’t want to be here. They don’t want to be in Germany. Or Sweden or Hungry or wherever else they may have been granted asylum. And they certainly don’t want to be in a refugee camp in Greece or France or Turkey. They want to go home. But they can’t. Home now only exists between bombings, shootings, rapes, and worse.

Would you want to live like that? If it was you in their shoes, would you stay? Or would you flee and beg any country that would have you to let you start a new life there and raise your family where it’s safe?


Asylum claims in Europe in 2015, courtesy of the BBC.

The Middle East and Northern Africa look after 39% of all displaced people. Turkey is currently taking 200 refugees per day.

When you look at things in perspective, Britain doesn’t seem so overwhelmed now, does it?

A few more key stats to consider;

  • Over 50% of those displaced people are from Somalia, Afghanastan and Syria alone.
  • Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon together host over 5 million displaced people.
  • Over 50% of those displaced are under 18. They are children.
  • In 2015, 24 people per minute were forced to flee their homeland. That’s 34,000 per day. That number has increased four times since 2005.
  • 11,000 children died in the first three years of Syrian conflict alone. Two years on, the war is still on going. How many more have we lost?
  • Currently, there are 10,000 displaced children missing within the EU.
  • Between January and April 2016, 28,000 people made the harrowing journey across the Mediterranean from Northern Africa to Italy. 4,474 of them were unaccompanied children.

So what can we do? 

I am extremely proud to write that the blogging community is pulling together in aid of the Refugee Crisis.

Last month, I kicked off the UK contingent of the Bloggers for Refugees campaign (which started in Germany a few years ago). We are working with CalAid to change perceptions of displaced people within the UK and to raise much needed donations for the people living in the camps.

Over the next few weeks, fellow bloggers up and down the UK will be sharing posts like this of their own, trying to present readers with the facts, and to start to un-desensitise the UK population from the Refugee Crisis.

We’ll also be sharing posts giving our readers all sorts of ways to get involved, from donating old baby clothes stored in the loft, ‘just in case’, to buying a storybook to help explain what’s going on to your children (all proceeds of course go to helping the crisis) or even just donating cold, hard, essential cash – whether you can spare £1 or £100.

Our aim is not to get you using a hashtag or uploading photos to Instagram. It’s to affect real change, to encourage and drive donations, which are at an all time low when the number of displaced people round the world is at an all time high.

In the meantime, here’s some helpful links to get you started:

Find your local donation point in the UK via this helpful Google map.

Donate today! Help CalAid purchase much needed supplies and resources from food to school books and caravans for families to live in.

Join Bloggers for RefugeesIf you’re a blogger and would like to get involved, join our Facebook group today to keep up to date with our efforts, get up to date stats and information to use in your posts and event information.

Helpful articles for further reading: 

Migration in Europe explained in four maps.

UNICEF’s report into sexual exploitation, trafficking and abuse against children in the Calais and Dunkirk camps.

The UN Refugee Agency’s latest report on Global Trends, publishes June 2016.

The difference 21 years makes… {The Wonderful Ordinary 24}

A little while ago, I got a text from my mum;

All in 1995 X

And then a series of photos came through.

These are all excerpts from her diary from when we moved to the States when I was four (though at this point in the diary, I’m six). The first two entries are from this week 21 years ago.

As far as I’m aware, she’d never really been one for keeping a diary (unlike me who kept a diary religiously from age 12 until I started blogging – though safe to say my blog is somewhat different to my diaries). But she kept one when we first moved to the States to document how life had changed for us.

Some of the entries really made me smile at how much the world has changed in twenty years;

I listened to the OJ Simpson verdict today and held the phone to the TV to Richard could hear it live. I was more shocked by the US reaction than I was by the verdict

My dad travelled a lot when I was a kid, so no doubt he was abroad somewhere or at the very least in the office without a TV. (I assume there were no TVs at the office…)

If this was a diary entry from 2016 it would probably read something like;

OJ Simpson verdict today. Richard text. The verdict broke the internet! Twitter went mad, it’s been trending worldwide for hours. Facebook feed is very divided.

Kinda sad when you think about it…

But I thought it was interesting that she too felt the almost unconscious need to document our lives. Granted, she did it far more privately than I do and with a lot less pictures! But there was still that basic instinct to want to capture and retain those memories.

As she was texting me these photos, she was saying how she’d forgotten x or how y brought a smile to her face. And it reminded me why I started blogging in the first place.

To document, to remember and to celebrate our lives together as a family. (And to find a way to come to terms with a very unexpected pregnancy…)

But above all of this, I’ll leave you with this last entry she sent me, which brought a tear to my eye. The innocence of a six year old…img_6132

#GiftCrimes: guilty as charged?

Last year, some friends of ours mentioned that they had attended a sort of ‘getting ready for marriage’ course before tying the knot.

The course encourages you to find your motivators and to understand your partner’s, leading to a harmonious partnership.

Now, anyone who knows the Other Half and I in real life knows we’re a little firey… So we thought this course sounded like a pretty good idea (not that we’re married or even engaged, but we’ve been together nearly eight years, have a baby,  and all that jazz, so we basically are).

A quick Google brought up the questionnaire they’d had to fill in and a few minutes later we discovered:

  1. We actually knew each other really well and
  2. Our motivators were pretty different. (Shocker.)

Top of my list was that I valued time over all other love languages (there’s five total, FYI). I need undivided attention and your time. (I know, total Prima Donna.)

the modern man's mix tape, USB playlist

One of the many little, thoughtful gifts the OH has given me over the years, showing me up in the process. This one was hidden in my house when he went travelling (without me – not bitter at all) for six weeks when we were 23. it was loaded with a playlist of songs that made him think of me. I mean, how is a girl supposed to compete with this level of romantic prowess?!

The OH on the other hand valued gifts. Whether being showered with gifts on a special occasion or a surprise mini Toffee Crisp in his lunch to show you’re thinking of him (if I made his lunches, that would be more relevant, but in reality, he makes mine…) – gifts, in a very unsuperficial way (most of the time…) are how the OH knows you love him.

Now, the difficulty for all people is that we naturally will show love by giving/acting on our own strongest motivators. Because that’s what makes sense to us. E.g., I give my time, energy and attention; the OH give gifts. Of course, if the other person doesn’t necessarily value that motivator (or ‘speak your love language’ as it were), you might be in a bit of hot water.

This starts to make a lot of sense when you look at our history…

The OH ‘jokes’ about the various gift crimes I’ve committed over the years – ie, when my gifts have completely missed the mark.

Our first Valentine’s: we’d only been dating two weeks and he secretly stole my charm bracelet and had a four leaf clover attached to it (my nickname since we met has been ‘Irish’ – a long story!).

I got him, err, nothing…

Our first Christmas: (11 months after the Valentine’s bitter disappointment), I got him the Kiehl’s Men’s range… Which while that’s actually a lovely gift and one he’d probably love these days, it didn’t exactly scream romance and ‘I know you so well!’ given he only needed to shave about once every two weeks at the tender age of 20…

There’s also been a fondu set (he loves to cook! It made sense at the time…) which he’s still never used (not bitter at all…); the clock made out of a Rolling Stones record (he’s a huge fan! But granted, it was utterly not his style and a little tacky…); a tweed blazer (he’s really into fashion – sadly, it turns out I know nothing about men’s style…) and I won’t bore you again with the story about his first Father’s Day… Not my finest moment…

They haven’t all been tragic. Successes over the years have included a popcorn machine, *thinks really hard…* a onesie, *strains memory* oh and a massive, snuggly dressing gown, which at the time, he was really bad at lying about how great it was when he first opened it, but a month later, writing an essay wrapped up in his robe he conceded it was indeed a good gift. (And five years on, he still loves it and says it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever got him, “even if it was kinda boring”. I’m taking that for the win and running.)

But buying gifts for someone who

  1. Has really high expectations
  2. Values gifts above all else (see point one)

is really bloody hard! And I’m bound to have made a mistake (or ten) along the way!

Traditionally, August/September is the time I start putting together lists of what to buy him, as, to add insult to injury, we have Christmas, both our birthdays and our anniversary all within three weeks of each other. That takes a bit of forethought!

But this year, I’m trying something different.

I recently discovered giftwink.com. You plug in each person’s details – their birth date and interests, and it spits out recommendations based on that demographic information.

The site then stores this info and sends you a reminder before their birthday next year as well, including a suggested list of gifts for someone of that age, sex, location (showing my age now…) and those interests. Genius.

I tested the site’s gift giving abilities a few month’s ago for Cousin Munchkin’s fourth birthday. I followed Gift Wink’s recommendation and purchased the interactive book, “Press Here“. It was an absolute hit – even the other adults were asking where I’d found such an unusual book. (Winning! I’m a gift giving ninja at last!)

So having now made lists for Little Miss, my mom, Auntie Chatterbox, the favourite Uncle, my friends, my in-laws… Basically everyone, I put this to the ultimate test.

I showed the OH the list Gift Wink generated for him based on the information I input – age (to-be), male, likes cooking, fashion, sports & fitness, etc.

It ranged from £3 to £185 and included everything from the Ladybird’s The Husband book (an ironic gift, perhaps? Lucky for him, I’m not fishing for a ring.) to a Beginners’ Indian Cooking Course at The Cooking Academy (apparently giftwink has met the OH, or at the very least, stalked his dreams…!).

The OH’s response:

No. No. That’s cool. I like that. No. Yes.

Yeh, that’d be cool if I wasn’t an Apple nerd. Max would like that actually… God no, that’s awful. Nice.

Ooh, yeh, actually, that’s quite cool. That’s a really nice messenger bag. And that clock is a lot better than the monstrosity we have at the moment, Amie. I like the Star Wars t-shirt, get me that! Oh, that print is cool, wait, only £5, really?!

Honestly, the OH hates any kind of gift giving/finding service or site because he says they’re generic and full of shit gifts no one would actually want (his words, not mine). Despite my best efforts, he also doesn’t really shop online for presents  – apparently the insane stress the day before said present is needed, running round inspirationless shops is all part of the fun… Who knew…

But as he scrolled through his list, he admitted that he was pleasantly surprised. Even one of the £5 stocking fillers (a peg-leg pirate bottle opener, note to self!) was ‘pretty on the money’ (and I cannot stress enough how much the OH hates a stocking filler!). Out of 84 gift suggestions, he said something genuinely positive – almost excited even! – about over 20 of them. That’s pretty damn high praise from one of the fussiest gift receivers in the world.

So apparently I’m done and dusted for this year! Win!

But I have been very firmly told if I get him any more cuff links, he’ll swiftly return whatever he gets me. Message received. *Quietly scribbles out ‘cufflinks’ from the Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary list*


So, to help make gift crimes a thing of the past, giftwink are asking you to share your #giftcrimes stories – whether you’re giving or receiving – on Facebook or Twitter, using the hastag, by September 25, 2016. 

For sharing your story, you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win £50 worth of gifts via giftwink.com. 

You can find out more about the competition here



The first weekend of Autumn {The Wonderful Ordinary 24}

Autumn is by far my favourite season. Yes, flip flops are my solemates (see what I did there?), but nothing beats Autumn.

The weather – warm enough that you don’t need a coat, but cool enough that you’re not sweating from every pore of your being and can warm your hands on a hot coffee as you listen to the pitter patter of rain on the window. Perfection.

Welly walks, sunshine through the leaves as they drift slowly to the ground, Halloween, pumpkins, crunchy leaves, stews and BBQs in big cosy jumpers. What’s not to love about Autumn?!

Well, last weekend, I am extremely happy to say (if that wasn’t clear already) was the first weekend in Autumn. And by pure chance we also had a free weekend, which was a nice change of pace!

So we celebrated with the first welly walk of the season. Little Miss was in her element, running through the forest, building wigwams out of sticks and logs, sipping coffee (the Other Half and I, not Little Miss!) and searching for muddy puddles (which sadly, there were none after the dry week beforehand).

Little Miss (toddler) running free through the forest on the first wellie walk of the season.

Little Miss running free through the forest.

We love our welly walks. They’re a treasured family pastime for us that started in the small wooded park behind our London apartment and now continue through the Hertfordshire countryside.

A friend once read that everyone has a ‘homeland’. My mom’s is most definitely the sea, the Other Half I think is the countryside but mine seems to be the forest. (Which if you pay any attention to zodiac signs – which, of course, I don’t……. – makes total sense for both The OH and I as we’re Capricorns, i.e., Earth signs. Little Miss is a fish, and so far is rather fond of the bath, beach and pool, so we’ll see how her preference progresses… I digress!)

I don’t think I’d realised how much I had missed our welly walks this summer until we were back amongst the trees in the cooler air this weekend. For me, this weekend was honestly the ultimate Wonderful Ordinary moment.

Mama and toddler walking through the woods in matchinf red wellies.

Matchy, matchy! I love my red wellies, but Little Miss is due to grow out of her’s any day now.

With Autumn, comes another favourite pastime – baking. Back in the day, I used to bake something different every week, whatever the weather. But since having Little Miss, that’s fallen well and truly by the wayside. But Autumn was always my peak season, with  warming walnut loaves, Halloween treats and Christmas planning underway.

Now Little Miss is older, she’s shown a real interest in cooking and baking [edit: getting messy and eating cake mix] so we also made some dairy free rock buns this weekend, much to Little Miss’ delight.


“Massaging” the butter (Little Miss’ words, not mine!).

I thought I would find baking with Little Miss a bit stressful – I mean, there’s no way a two year old would successfully ice even a coffee cake, let alone help me create a Minion cake! But actually, I really enjoyed myself and was surprised by her patience and the care she took gently rubbing the butter into the flour, etc.

Homemade rock buns cooling on a tray

Little Miss’ dairy free lemon zest rock buns – they were delicious!

I definitely see more baking escapades in our future (though I’ll be keeping things simple with Little Miss for a while! We’ll build her up to a Chocolate Ganache!)

toddler watching the rain

Watching the rain – a girl after my own heart. (Look at those pigtails!)

See more The Wonderful Ordinary posts.

See more Finding Our Feet photography on our Instagram, @findingourfeet

This post is part of the My Captured Moment linky from Running In Lavender.

Conversations with Little Miss, No. 7

Lactose Intolerant toddler looking at chocolate selection in a shop

When Little Miss discovered the chocolate selection at the service station…

One from our road trip to Sunderland last weekend… 

Having a run around in the shop at a service station after being in the car for approx three hours, and still another three to go…

LM: What’s dat Mummy?

Me: A Whispa.

LM: What’s dat Mummy?

Me: A Whispa Gold.


Me: It’s like a Whispa, but different.

[Satisfied, LM continues down the line.]

LM: What’s dat Mummy?

Me: A Dairy Milk bar.

LM: What’s dat Mummy?

Me: They’re all chocolate Baby Girl, they have lactose in them.

LM: Oh…

[sighs, turns and wanders off utterly disinterested]

We are so lucky (and grateful). We have reached a point with Little Miss where, she doesn’t understand what lactose is, she knows it makes her tummy hurt.

I’ve been really consistent since day one, saying ‘it has lactose in it; you can have lactose; it hurts your tummy’ and, thankfully, it seems to have paid off.

Whatever it may be – cake, ice cream, cheese – she really calmly just loses interest.

I’m sure there will come a time this won’t be the case and she’ll start to question why it doesn’t make others’ tummies hurt, but for now, she’s doing brilliantly.

To the deep, dark north…

Last weekend, we headed aaaaaall the way oop North to visit Grandmo for her 85th birthday.


Because a road trip isn’t a road trip without Maccy D’s breakfast! (NB: Little Miss had homemade PB&Js for breakfast. No Maccy D’s for her. Because we’re cruel parents who care about her health like that.)

Usually, my dad comes back from Azerbaijan for her birthday and he and I would go together. But this year, he wasn’t able to make it work (he’s coming back in two weeks instead). So, for the first time in seven and a half years I dragged the Other Half’s Southern ass to the deepest, darkest, coldest corner of England:

Sunderland here we come!

imageRoad trip!

As it was bank holiday weekend, we were up at the crack of dawn and in the car at 6am to try and miss the worst of the traffic. (Granted, most people head south to the coast, but just in case…) Also, seeing as we’re still very much in the throws of potty training, we anticipated the usual five hour drive would take significantly longer…

We got there about 3pm in the end. Including a service stop pretty much every hour for a potty session (all successful – the only change of clothes needed was because she spilt a bottle of water on herself!) and an hour in Durham for a late lunch (which included one successful potty session and one spectacular accident with a poo on her chair and a puddle of wee under it……. Oops.)

But really, she was good as gold. Given we didn’t even own a car until shortly before her second birthday and the longest she’s done is the hour drive to my in-laws’, we were really impressed. She sat and read stories; played with her ‘laptop’ and Lambie; she sangs songs; she ate her lunch in the car without complaint… we didn’t even need to whack out the iPad and Lightning McQueen until the final two hours of a nearly nine hour drive. I’d say that’s pretty much a resounding success.

imageWhen we arrived in Sunderland, we were greeted with very uncharacteristic sunshine and a balmy 20 degrees.

Our hotel room looked out over the sea, which Little Miss was incredibly excited about – she kept asking to go to the beach, which we planned to do the next morning. (Though I didn’t quite have the heart to tell her it probably wouldn’t be warm enough for a paddle!)

We then hot footed it over to Grandmo’s and took her out for some tea.

Age is a sad and scary thing; seeing how much that short trip in the car to a café tired her out was alien to me – the woman who even five years ago was still doing five mile walks with the Ramblers (because apparently ten miles was pushing it a bit these days…!).

Sunderland: not quite the culinary capital of the world…

That evening, we had planned to get fish and chips on the sea front – a real family tradition for me – but unfortunately, the weather closed in. So we decided to cut our losses and go to one of the restaurants near the hotel instead.

Now, apart from when we were at Uni in Nottingham, a few weekends visiting his best mate at Leeds Uni back in the day, and one weekend at Dad and H’s in the Penines, the Other Half has never been north of Watford. (And I mean actual Watford, not the Watford Gap.) So, I had tried to prepare him a bit before we arrived. Coming from Surrey, it’s a smidge different to what he’s used to…

Not to mention he’s a total foodie and, well, Sunderland isn’t exactly the culinary capital of the world…

It was slim pickings, but we settled in a new looking bar that had a family sat in the window. The staff were incredibly friendly and Little Miss loved watching the lady making cocktails at the bar (girl after my own heart). The food was simple, and not the best we’ve ever had, but was far from awful too.

Then Little Miss did a poo under the table (in her knickers) while we were waiting for the bill. And that basically sums up that evening.

And thus began the comedy of errors that was the following 48 hours…

We had an awful night. Little Miss woke every hour from nightmares, until 4am when, delirious, exhausted and at the end of my tether, I finally brought her into bed with us, where she proceeded to wriggle and kick us to death – at one point even lying on top of me with her head on my neck, forcing my head sideways for about 20 minutes. But at least she was still and quiet?

At 6am, CBeebies saved us and bought us an extra hour of undisturbed sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep…

Sadly for Little Miss, when we finally opened the curtains at 7am, it was pouring with rain and a pretty chilly 14 degrees. This was the Sunderland I knew.

It was at this point we realised we had forgotten her wellies. Fools. No beach for you, Little Miss!


Little Miss with her small pig in a bun! A true Sunderland Stottie [sandwich].

Breakfast brought another Sunderland tradition: The Bungalow cafe with bacon and sausage sto tries (baps to you and I) the size of your head (yes, really).

It’s about as greasy as a greasy spoon gets with bad coffee and a through draft. But it’s got a lovely view of the pier and the lighthouse. And it’s tradition.

The rain stopped while we ate our small pig in a bap so we decided to brave the wind and drizzle and head down the pier to show Little Miss the lighthouse. We only made it about half way before we decided to cut our losses as the chain fencing between the bars disappeared and Little Miss was definitely able to skip through the bars and into the waves. (And no amount of Water Babies would have helped her if she’d fallen in!)


The OH being his warm blooded Southern self against the elements on a typical August morning in Sunderland! Little Miss fairing a little more fool-hardily…

A birthday lunch to forget…

Grandmo, to be polite, is a hoarder. And not a tidy one at that. We try to spend as little time as possible in her house. This was a lot easier when she herself would be waiting at the door with her bag on her shoulder at 9am, asking why we were late to start the day! But she, sadly, is not the cantankerous biddy she once was and instead, wasn’t even ready to go out when we arrived at 10am.

I was a bit worried how we would fill the time on Sunday, but the only upside to being with a toddler and an old lady is that everything takes forever. So lunch – getting there, eating, getting back – took up most of the day.

Being her birthday, we chose a restaurant down the coast my dad said Grandmo likes.

UNfortuna, it was pretty tragic, even for old ladies in Sunderland. Grandmo’s never really been a fan of food, but even she agreed it was tasteless and none of us finished our lunch.

I ordered pork, they brought me turkey and proceeded to cover my chair in gravy (thankfully I was on a potty run with Little Miss at the time!); it did come with veg (an improvement on last night’s meal!) and two types of potatoes, but the OH’s cod goujons with pea puree were more like long fish fingers in paper thin batter with green soup dribbled on the plate – no other veg required apparently… All in all, not the best birthday lunch!

But at least the sun was trying to break through the clouds and we managed a quick, chilly jaunt along the river mouth before setting off back to Grandmo’s so she could have a rest.

More family tradition

I think secretly my dad would have liked to have been there to take Little Miss round Sunderland, as he did with me twenty-five years ago. He and H had sent Little Miss a kite to fly on the beach, but with the rain, we hadn’t been able to in the morning.

imageOn the way back from lunch, the clouds parted just as we passed a massive grassy stretch along the coast. We parked up and jumped out of the car, with Grandmo watching from the front seat, and took Little Miss to fly a kite for the very first time.

I’ve always loved flying kites, so I was in my element. Little Miss seemed to enjoy it too, trying to chase it, then being frustrated when the kite wouldn’t chase her back!

We dropped Grandmo back at her’s and plugged ‘Newcastle’ (only 20 minutes west) into Google Maps.

Ending on a high

I thought the OH had suffered enough and so we headed into Newcastle for dinner on the Sunday night. We surveyed the options on Foursquare but in the end, opted for family friendly, safe bet, Pizza Express.

We felt like those cliched British tourists who go abroad and crave British tea and bacon butties. Only, we were from the South, craving vegetables and decent food!

But I won’t lie – it was glorious.

We had a lovely meal, laughing and drowning our sorrows in pizza (cheese-free in Little Miss’ case) and dough balls, punctuated by regular potty trips up and down two flights of stairs to the bathrooms.

The OH even had a desert – which I think I can count on one hand how many times he’s had a desert in eight years of knowing him, so he must have been feeling sorry for himself!


Little Miss ensuring she got every last dribble and drop of her raspberry sorbet!

And you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s where the story ends, at the bottom of a sorbet glass. Oh no…

It’s not over yet. Not until the fire alarm sings…

Back at the hotel that evening, we opted for a sad, parenthood style early night. By 9:30, I could barely keep my eyes open after the night before and the stress of dealing with Grandmo all day. (Not to mention running up and down two flights of stairs numerous times during dinner!)

And at 2am, the fire alarm rang loud and clear through the hotel. We jumped up and without a second thought, started getting dressed (amazing how things change once you’re a parent – before, there’d have been a very real possibility I’d have slept through the alarm entirely or I’d have wrapped a towel round me and sleepily dawdled out into the corridor, questioning whether there was even an actual fire…). In the rush, the OH managed to pull on my skinny jeans rather than his (yes, he’s that slim… the bugger!) and scooped up Little Miss in a blanket and two towels against the cold night air, who was just starting to rouse in a rather confused fashion.

As it turns out, my pre-parenthood self would have had the right idea. Our hotel was hosting two weddings that weekend and a drunken party-goer thought it would be fun to play a little prank on all the guests…

A fire engine came, which Little Miss was quite pleased by as she sleepily looked out from her bundle in Daddy’s arms saying, “there’s a fire. We have to find it. There’s a fire engine. It goes nee-naw-nee-naw…”

We got back to our room at 2:40am and fell into bed. Our alarm went off three hours later and we were on the road around 7am.

By 8am we were headed back to Sunderland as we realised we’d left the OH’s wallet in the hotel room.

On the upside, on the drive home, Little Miss was perfect. Not one accident, then slept for the final two hours.

So I see more road trips in our future. Just maybe not to Sunderland…

Provence in pictures

Just a quick one to round up our holiday in the South of France the other week. We met my in-laws and their eleven and nine year old out there for a proper family holiday. 

Sadly, I don’t have as many holiday days to play with as the Other Half, so I could only join them for a long weekend, where as Little Miss and the OH we’re out there a week. 

Little Miss loved having Auntie Chatterbox and her favourite Uncle 24/7 to play with. And this year was the first year she’s actually wanted to go in the pool!


The holiday was nearly off to a rough start, delayed for hours in Luton Airport… But nothing a bit of beer and Little Miss’ first taste of sushi couldn’t fix!


First morning in Provence and Little Miss was straight out to the pool. She was a bit tentative at first, sticking to the steps, filling up her water pistol…


But we got her in eventually!


We took my old Canon IXUS from our Uni days with its waterproof case. We thought the kids might enjoy it and thought we could get some cool shots of them in the pool. Little Miss’ favourite Uncle has started showing an interest in photography recently (taking after big bro, clearly!) and took quite a shine to the luminous pink camera!


Auntie Chatterbox making a splash!




Auntie Chatterbox and Little Miss’ favourite Uncle (and my toes). 

toddler in pink rubber ring boat in the pool, in pink sunglasses and a pink swimsuit looking uber chilled

Meanwhile, above the water… It’s the first holiday Little Miss has actually wanted to get in the pool, not least thanks to her little boat – a very pink rubber ring with a betting base so she couldn’t fall through. It made such a difference. She felt safe and independent in the water and could join in the fun – until the netting base suddenly came away and she was left calling “Daddyyyy!!” As she gripped the ring!


Little Miss felt a little left out and so took the camera from me while she was on the side and took this photo of me. Honestly, I was really impressed! At two and half, she’s definitely taking after her Daddy. This photo will always be a special one for me as the first Little Miss ever took all on her own. 


Auntie Chatterbox being super patient as Little Miss did her hair one morning. (I speak from experience when I say this is a painful task!) 


While chilling at our favourite cafe one morning with coffee and croissants, Little Miss made a little fury friend. He was lovely, and let her pet him time and time again… until she pet him too hard and then he retaliated… Oops!


Of course, if you combine a toddler with a nine and eleven year old, eventually, something will come a cropper… Her Uncle was trying to teach her pinky promise but it didn’t quite work out as he had imagined. Little Miss couldn’t remember which finger she was supposed to use! The Other Half, of course, there with the camera at the perfect moment as ever!

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Lactose Intolerance on Holiday: Italy

Being lactose intolerant at home (which for us is the UK) is hard enough. But going on holiday can really throw a spanner in the works, especially when kids are involved.

We’re lucky that Little Miss is a relatively good and non-fussy eater. But just like every other toddler, she has her moments, and you never know what will be her pet peeve of the day – strange tasting milk or cheese that doesn’t look the same as at home, perhaps?

My parents have a house in Italy, so we’ve spent a reasonable amount of time there over the years – both myself as a lactose intolerant adult and now with our daughter who is also lactose intolerant since birth.

Italy is actually a great place to go away if you’re lactose intolerant and over the past five years or so, the range of products available has really increased.

So I thought I’d share my top tips and learnings from our time in Italy with a lactose intolerant family member.

Eating out:

By law, Italian menus must state any potential allergens on the menu. And most restaurants, particularly in metropolitan or tourist areas are geared up to deal with special dietary requirements.

The Italians are exceptionally friendly, and almost all the waiters we encounter speak enough English to help us get by. They love children and will do anything to help us  find something for Little Miss to eat. But a few ideas to get you started…

Cheese options:

  • Parmesan has minimal lactose content, but may still upset little tummies. (We’ve had mixed results with parmesan and Little Miss.)
  • Pecorino cheese is a hard sheep’s cheese and very, very, very light on lactose content. Our two year old eats this without any problems (once she got over the fact it tasted different to cheese at home). Most restaurants will have Pecorino in the kitchen, you just have to ask to swap out mozzarella or other cheeses.
  • Buffalo mozzarella is almost completely lactose free, so worth asking if they have this too.


  • Hotel breakfasts are a lot of pastries and cereals so eggs or a cooked breakfast and toast with honey or jam might be your best bet.
    (If your baby is weaning, try spreading olive oil on the toast instead of butter just to soften it a little.)
  • Traditional pizza bases are made with olive oil, not butter, so you’re all good with pizza without cheese (or one of the alternatives above). But be aware, pizza is traditionally a dinner only meal, so unless you’re in tourist areas, you’re unlikely to find anywhere at lunch serving pizzas.
  • Pasta with a tomato sauce or Bolognese.
  • Fish and meat dishes are on most menus as well, just make sure the vegetables are cooked in olive oil rather than butter.
  • Sorbetto and Granita are both dairy free ice cream options at the Gelaterias (sometimes contain egg white) and taste amazing.
Little Miss with her beloved lemon sorbet


Things to watch out for…

  • Double check any pasta sauces are dairy free as many traditional recipes with include a handful of parmesan in there too.
  • Risotto is likely to be cooked with butter and olive oil, with parmesan and possibly cream in the mix. So this might be best avoided.

Food shopping in Italy:

lactose free milk in italyOver the past few years, lactose free options in supermarkets have increased significantly, making it an ideal location for self-catered holidays. Even the tiny SPAR at the end of our road had a good selection of lactose free and soy products.

In various supermarkets we saw the following:

  • lactose free milk
  • soy milk
  • lactose free cream cheese (Philadelphia)
  • lactose free cheese and ham toasties in a bag ready to be popped in the toaster (in the fridge aisle)

If you’re weaning a baby:

  • lactose free Aptamil formula powder (I advise you used bottled water for this FYI)
  • numerous baby food options that were dairy free

Helpful phrases: 

  • latteria (dairy)
  • latte (milk)
  • senza lattosio (no/without lactose / dairy free)
  • senza formaggio (no/without cheese)
  • lo non sono (no soy)
  • Possiamo avere la pizza con pecorino, invece di mozzarella? (Can we have the pizza with pecorino instead of mozzarella?)

Other than that, have a great holiday!

Have you been to Italy with lactose intolerance? Do you have any tips to add?