Family day out: SEA LIFE London Aquarium

Last May, SEA LIFE London Aquarium got in touch and asked if I would like to come and review the aquarium. Given Little Miss is fish-obsessed, we thought it would be the perfect day out.

Unfortunately, shortly after, the Other Half’s Aunt sadly passed away and my grandmother became extremely ill. This has meant many weekends were spent in Gloucestershire or Sunderland, not leaving much time for a day out in London. The team at the aquarium were incredibly kind and offered us an open invitation for whenever we could make it.

Earlier in November, my grandmother passed away just two days before my dad’s birthday. So, the Other Half and I took a half day and arranged to go to the aquarium – at long last – to give everyone something to look forward to.

Growing up, it became ‘a bit of a thing’ that we would always visit the aquarium wherever we went on holiday. I loved them – and growing up in the States especially, we were rather spoiled with the size and quality of aquariums to choose from!

But, in sixteen years since we returned to the UK, I don’t think I’ve ever been to SEA LIFE London Aquarium.

The OH and I tried one May bank holiday weekend in our early twenties but swiftly turned around when we saw the queue! But this time, on a rather chilly and windy Wednesday afternoon in November, we sailed straight through and only met a handful of other visitors as we walked around the exhibits.

Visiting SEA LIFE London Aquarium


The SEA LIFE London Aquarium is situated in the bowels of the old London county hall. (Turns out my dad knew one of the original project managers for the conversion and he said they were all too creeped out to visit the basement site to start with!)

The designers have been extremely clever with the limited space they have to play with. And the entire aquarium has been built with kids in mind. Tanks are low to the ground (even me at just 5ft talk had to stoop and crouch many times!) so the fish are easily visible to even the littlest of visitors.


Grandpa and Little Miss checking out the sting rays near the entrance to the aquarium. You can either crouch beside the open top tank to see the rays in action, or there’s a little step built into the unit so little ones can peer over the top for a bird’s eye view as well. (Don’t forget to check out the daily talk about rays – you might even be allowed to help feed them!)

And any tank that isn’t low, has a step built into the display unit to give kids a boost up.
There’s a few huge tanks spanning two stories. These you see multiple times throughout your walk around the aquarium (there’s a bit of a set path you follow) from all different angles allowing you so see something different every time.


They also have walk ways built through them and tunnels, only big enough for kids (and yes, my 52 year old father did test this to be sure!). They wriggle through the tunnel and pop up at the end inside the tank, surrounded by fish. It’s really quite enchanting – I think Little Miss would have stayed in there all day if we hadn’t dragged her out!

In short, we had a brilliant time. Little Miss was in her element surrounded by fish and it was a really lovely two hours.

Top tips for visiting the aquarium

  1. Go on a week day if you can, or quieter times of the year, for a less rammed and more enjoyable experience. It took us about two hours to get round the aquarium at a leisurely pace, and it was much more pleasant not having to fight for a viewing space or wait in a queue to see inside smaller tanks.
  2. Check feeding times before to go and plan your day accordingly. We arrived at the aquarium just as the Penguins were being fed but as they’re at the end of the aquarium, there was no way we could whizz round quick enough to see feeding time.
  3. Catch the talks at feeding times; With every feeding time, there’s also a really informative talk by one of the aquarists (it’s real world, look it up) that is worth sticking around to hear. We saw the Coral Reef talk (lots of Nemoes, Dories and Gulls involved) and even though Little Miss was the youngest present by far, the aquarist made sure to direct enough comments her way, engaging her so she didn’t lose interest, without boring everyone else. I was really impressed – and it was also just really interesting!
  4. Say cheese! There are various professional photo opportunities throughout the aquarium (including one with the Octonauts – I know I was excited!). You can purchase all these at the end in the gift shop. But if someone’s blinking, or this just isn’t your bag, never fear, all un-purchased photos are recycled at the end of the day.
  5. Toilets: for anyone else who may be daft enough to venture out while toilet training, I am pleased to say the aquarium comes fully equipped! Throughout the aquarium, there are signs that tell you how long a walk it is to the next toilet – genius! These signs are assuming you’re looking at fish along the way, so if you find yourself in a tight spot, a sign that says “ten minutes” could be done in a one-two minute sprint (crowds allowing), carrying the toddler. Baby changing facilities are also available.


Getting there

Westminster tube – District and Circle line – fully accessible with a buggy (though there’s stairs once you cross over Westerminter bridge unless you want to walk aaaall the way around)
Waterloo tube – Jubilee line – fully accessible with a buggy
Waterloo tube – Bakerloo line & DLR – escalators

The SEA LIFE London Aquarium is based in the old County Hall, right under the London Eye. So if in doubt, head for the London Eye and you can’t go wrong.

SONY DSCOpening Times

Monday – Friday: 10am – 7pm (last entry 6pm)
Saturday – Sunday: 9am – 7pm (last entry 6pm)

Times may vary or be extended during the school holidays, so be sure to check the website before you visit.


If you book online in advance, you save £5 on your ticket price. You’ll be required to choose and entry time, and you gain entry via the Priority entrance, meaning you miss out on the queues (highly recommended!)

SEA LIFE tickets: from £19.50

There are a variety of ticket options, including various special experience (swimming with sharks anyone?), behind the scenes tours or tickets that include entry to nearby attractions such as the London Eye, Shrek’s Adventure, Madame Tussauds and/or The London Dungeon. These tickets are valid for up to 90 days, so you don’t necessarily have to do it all on the same day, but still save up to £81.50 on ticket prices. Win!

One last thing…

If you have strong beliefs about animals and fish in captivity, this is not the day out for you. The team at SEA LIFE London Aquarium have done absolutely everything possible to ensure the habitat of the animals within the aquarium is as close to their natural habitat as scientifically and environmentally possible, taking into consideration elements such as the type of water, light levels, indigenous plant life and fellow tank inhabitants. However, this is an inner city aquarium and as such, space is limited and for some, the size of some of the tanks may make them feel uncomfortable.



Monday funday………

How is it that there is never a dull moment?Hair in a quick twist bun on top of my head.

When I got on the train to work today, I was going to start your Mondays with a giggle about how Little Miss called my bun a bird’s nest this morning (see right). She stood on the bed behind me as I expertly twisted my hair into a bun like I have a hundred times before, only for her to try and stick things in it saying they were in the nest! The OH tried to make better by saying she’s probably only ever seen perfectly formed cartoon birds’ nests… I’m not sure he succeeded…

But then I walked out of my house, fell ass over tit and took about a 10p piece bit of flesh from my knee. The OH and Little Miss walked out of the house to find me sat on the curb bleeding, swearing (rather a lot) and in need of some new tights.

Make shift bandaged knee It was at this point we realised we don’t own a first aid kit. 

So this is our make shift job with Savalon, a cotton pad and sellotape until I can get to work! 

So having all been about to actually leave the house on time, only mildly stressed… we ended up late, injured and stressed.

And to top it off Little Miss dropped and smashed her magic potion [aka: empty jam jar].

Happy Monday all!

Conversations with Little Miss, No. 9

Little Miss picks a book off the shelf and walks over to me. She turns it over, looking at the blurb on the back.

LM: Love a love a love.

Mama: Is that a book about love?

LM: Yeh. I read it a you. [Pause. Then traces words with her fingers as she ‘reads’] You love Little Miss and Daddy loves Little Miss and Nina loves Little Miss and –

[pause and she reads more of the blurb in silence, I decide not to interrupt…]

Little Miss loves Mummy and [deep breath] Little Miss loves Nina and Daddy.

Mama: Aw! We do! There’s a lot of love in this book isn’t there?

LM: Yeh. [Tracing words with her finger again] Love a love a love. Little Miss loves you and you love Little Miss a love a love. I reading it aren’t I! I reading the words!

Mama: Yes, really well done Little Miss, well done. You’re reading the book to me like I read to you aren’t you?

LM: Yeh. [Reaches for Jack, her toy black Lab.] I read it a Jack now. He loves Baby.

Mama: Aw, does he? And do you love Jack?

LM: Yeh. And you love Jack don’t you!

Mama: Yes, I love Jack too.

LM: [Tracing the words on the book again] Jack love Baby. He wants to eat Baby. NOM!

Mama: What!?

LM: [laughs manically] 

And just like that, the moment was gone.

Have an environt-merry Christmas

When I met the Other Half, he barely even knew what recycling was. He was the epitome of materialism and he certainly never turned the lights off when he left a room. Meanwhile, I was brought up to not even pick flowers when out for a walk -“leave nature as you find it” – so I basically became an environmental Nazi once we moved in together.

But over the past three years, the OH has in fact surpassed me with regards to environmental awareness and now actually calls me out on not putting things in the right bin, not buying food from sustainable sources whenever possible and spending too long in the shower!

This Christmas is our first in our own home. And as such, we’re getting really excited at the idea of starting to put some of our own family traditions in place.

We’ll be buying our first proper Christmas tree, decorating the house properly for the first time and buying and making our own Christmas lunch.

With this in mind, we’ve been looking at how we can celebrate Christmas in a less wasteful manner, both financially and environmentally. Some of the things we’ve come up with are pretty obvious, but some of the research we’ve unearthed might come as a bit of a surprise to some…

1. It’s what’s inside that counts…

I’ve always taken immense pride in my present wrapping, whatever the occasion. So this is a particularly difficult one for me… But here goes…

In 2006, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimated that the UK used 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper over the Christmas period. That’s enough to wrap the island of Guernsey. That’s insane. So what can we do?

  1. Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. If the UK recycled even half of its wrapping paper each Christmas (4,000 tonnes), we’d save 25,000 trees.
  2. Avoid foil or glossy wrapping papers as these are harder to recycle. Opt for matt papers or even better, wrapping paper made from recycled goods., has lots of options available, as does Not On The High Street.
  3. Options such as brown paper on a roll are more cost effective and can be dressed up with pretty ribbon or even print your own festive design onto it. Paperchase sells 5m rolls of recycled brown kraft wrapping paper for just £3.50.
  4. Re-use old paper. I realise to many this will sound really sad in some ways (it’s something we laughed at my Grandma for doing when I was younger) but actually, it is a really environmentally friendly way to wrap gifts each Christmas. If you use tape sparingly as well, you can reuse paper more easily.
  5. Finally, be sparing. Do you need to wrap it? Can you use less paper somehow? Can you wrap gifts together? For example, we’re doing a Book Advent this December, but rather than wrapping 24 books, we’re buying one nice gift bag, which we’ll place the book in each day.

2. Christmas Cards – no one reads them anyone (right?)

Toddler making Christmas cards

Little Miss making Christmas cards for the grad parents last year.

Apparently we harvest 300,000 trees per year just for Christmas cards – and that’s just in the US alone! That’s a shit ton of trees. So, what can we do?

  1. Send less cards. Ask yourself – are they really necessary? They all end up in the bin anyway. Could you send a digital card? Record and email a personalised festive video for close family members or send everyone a festive letter printed/written on recycled paper instead.
  2. If you have children at nursery, put all their ‘drawings’ and ‘paintings’ [edit: smeared melange of colours] to good use. Simply save them up throughout the year, then, come December, fold them in half and write a message inside. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and god parents will love the personal touch, and you’re re-using paper that would other wise have ended up in the bin. (Just be sure it’s recycled after!)
  3. Which is a great segway into… Obviously you can’t stop others sending you cards, so make sure you recycle any cards you do receive. Either pop them in a biodegradable bin bag for bin day. Alternatively, save them for next Christmas and let the kids cut them up and stick them together in different ways to create new cards next year. (Something else my Grandmother did every year…) Finally, The Woodland Trust has also partnered with numerous retailers across the UK, offering card recycle drop off points. For example, both M&S and Sainsbury’s have drop off points in store and in previous years, customer could simply hand their Christmas cards to their delivery driver and they’ll recycle them for you! Easy peasy.
  4. Finally, if the homemade route isn’t for you, just make sure you purchase Christmas cards from sustainable and/or recycled sources, like these from Plantable Seed Papers – simply plant the card when you’re done and give something back to the earth in the form of a little seedling!

3. Twinkle, twinkle…

photo of toddler and christmas fairy lights

Did you know that leaving your fairy lights on for ten hours per day over twelve days (of Christmas perhaps?) produces enough CO2 to inflate twelve balloons. In 2004, EAUK estimated that 90% of Brits put up Christmas trees. That’s 54 million trees. That’s 648 million CO2 balloons – not including all the shops, restaurants, train stations and town squares with twinkly lights this Christmas

  1. Turn them off! If you’re not home, or are going to bed, switch off your fairy lights. Pretty obvious one.
  2. Switch to LED fairy lights. LED lights use 95% less energy than standard lights. (That goes for any outdoor displays you might be planning too.)

4. Go loco for local screen ticking UK stores onlyEvery year, around 4,000 tonnes of products arrive from China. Not only does this mean we’re not supporting local businesses and manufacturing, but it also means we’re pumping a hell of a lot of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, just to get that supposedly perfect (imported) gift.

Meanwhile, the average family Christmas dinner travels a grand total 49, 000 miles including everything from the pigs in blankets to the plonk. (Can I get a side of air miles with that, please?)

  1. Source as much of your Christmas feast from local, sustainable sources as possible. Google your nearest farm shop (The flavour of eggs and other produce from a little farm shop really is three times that of a pack from any major supermarket!), head to your local market or check out the butchers, bakery and green grocer’s in town. It might be slightly more per kg, but it’s completely worth it in flavour and quality – and you’re supporting your local economy.
  2. And don’t forget to buy less too. There’s a trend to buy way more than we need at Christmas, but really, we probably each only need eight roasties, rather than preparing ten per person (and that is coming from a complete roast potato addict).
  3. While you’re in town, check out what the little local gift stores have to offer. You might be surprised what unusual finds they may have to offer for stocking fillers.
  4. If you’re shopping on Etsy or similar sites, be sure to tick ‘UK sellers’. Not only will you be supporting homegrown talent, but you’ll save money on the postage and packaging and use a little bit less CO2 getting your package delivered.

5. Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…

Placing the angel on top of our fake Christmas tree - a long standing family tradition photo!

Me placing the twenty-odd year old angel on top of our nearly twenty year old tree!

Ok, this is the biggy. With 54 million of us in the UK having (at least) one Christmas tree each December, surely there’s some way we can help the planet with this much loved tradition? You might be surprised…

  1. The obvious option is to go fake. Buy it once, use it for years and years to come. My family have had a fake Christmas tree since we moved to Malaysia in 1998 and couldn’t find anything else. My mom still uses the same fake tree nearly twenty years later because we bought a good quality one in the first place and looked after it well. But don’t forget, fake trees use a lot of plastic and are likely to be imported (not to mention, who made that tree?). So if you aren’t buying it as a long term investment, you might actually be doing the planet more harm than good because…
  2. If you purchase a real tree from a sustainable and reliable Christmas tree source (check the British Christmas Tree Grower’s Association website to find your local sustainable festive source), the trees actually help rid the world of CO2 as they grow. And for every tree sold, another is planted – it’s the great circle of life (or trees, as the case may be).
  3. Likewise, consider a Live Tree – another long term investment tree. This is a potted Christmas tree, with roots, not chopped down just for you to decorate and throw away. After Christmas, it lives (in its pot) in your garden, patiently growing and waiting for its moment in the limelight next December. Check out Christmas Tree Land UK (yes, really) for more info.
  4. If all else fails, at the very least make sure you recycle your tree. Lots of UK councils offer Christmas tree collection services. Just give it a Google.

What does your family do each Christmas to save a little? Do you have any other tips to share?

Little Miss goes to ballet classes {The Wonderful Ordinary 27}

So, following on from the other weekend, the ballet obsession continues. 

Little Miss has now watched various excerpts from the Sleeping Beauty ballet numerous times as well as Swan Lake, and I’ve started introducing The Nutcracker too – because, you know, it’s nearly Christmas… Ish…

She loves them all. Hall of the Mountain King is still a firm favourite, however, which sees Little Miss stomping round the house like a troll very proudly. (Trolls are currently a big phase thanks to this song as well.) 

So, on Saturday, we took Little Miss for a trial ballet class. 

On Friday evening, we explained we were taking her to a ballet class in the morning. Being pizza night, she was relatively distracted, so it wasn’t quite the reaction I was hoping for. But she seemed to like the idea. 

We read Angelina Ballerina and Marinette at the Ballet before bed to set the scene (and again the next morning) and she went to sleep dreaming of ballet slippers and sugar plum fairies (I assume). 

The class was at 10am just down the road from us. Little Miss doesn’t yet have a ‘proper’ ballet outfit (I figured her existing frothy peach tutu is probably a bit full on for a toddler dance class!) so I dug out a top my cousin (about fifteen years my junior) gave her as a hand me down with ballet slippers on it so she felt she looked the part. Toddler in ballerina top

She was thrilled with her special ballet top, and even proudly showed the teacher at the beginning of the class. 

Allthe other parents disappeared but seeing as this was her first class and a trial, we stayed to watch. (And there was no way I was missing her first ballet class!) The little school hall was was freezing; we sat in our coats, and me in my bobble hat! The poor girls looked perished perished at the start and Little Miss kept her hands tucked up inside her sleeves most of the lesson, even after I put her hoodie on!

The Other Half had to sit with Little Miss for registration while she acclimatised (much to my amusement – though he didn’t dress appropriately at all) but once they all stood up, she seemed content to take the teacher’s hand and the OH joined me on the sidelines. 

It was just so lovely. We got a couple of big smiles as they ran around in a circle, though she moved at half the pace of everyone else. 

She kept her head down, shy, looking at her hands a lot of the time, which I couldn’t decide if she was putting it on (as she seemed happy to join in and smiled very genuinely at us a few times) or if she was a bit unsure. She was the youngest in the class, with most of the girls being four or five, so no one would have blamed her for being a bit overwhelmed!Toddler ballet classShe didn’t come and sit with us once, she never looked at us unsure or tried to stop. She just carried on, a very serious look on her little face as she watched the teacher and took it all in.

Afterwards, we asked Little Miss if she’d had fun and she nodded. We asked her if she’d like to go back again, she nodded more vigorously. And then suddenly piped up,

“I go to ballet class and I wear my ballet slippers but it’s not real ballet.” 

It seems we may have raised her expectations a little too high with all the YouTube clips! I think she thought she’d be doing pirouettes and arabesques by the end of the morning! Whoops! 

I started ballet, I think, at age four or five and within a year, I refused to go anymore because ‘it was girlie’ (despite still enjoying watching ballet?!) – something I secretly regretted later in my teens. So it will be interesting to see over the next few years whether Little Miss has a genuine passion for ballet or if it’s just a fad…

Little Children’s Music Book, Usborne Noisy Books {Little Bookworm 10}


Last Christmas, my Dad & H got Little Miss Usborne’s Little Children’s Music Book (I know – the most non-descript title on the planet).

Last Christmas, she was nearly two, now (and this may come as a shock to some of you) she’s nearly three. But it has lasted the year, grown with her and ultimately, it has been one of our favourite books of the year. And I can see it lasting for quite a few years more yet.

The story follows five woodland animals who are practising their parts for a concert in the woods. Each page focuses on a different animal and their instrument, introducing little ones to not only slightly different animals than usual (ie, not a cat, dog, rabbit and duck) but also instruments and talking about music beyond your standard (mind-numbing) nursery rhymes.

Fox bows his violin, Squirrel blows her flute, Weasel strums his guitar, Mole taps his glockenspiel and Badger plays the piano.

SONY DSC(Try getting a not-quite-two-year-old to say ‘glockenspiel’. Hours of fun right there!) Raccoon also heads up the gang as conductor.

But let’s be honest, shall we? We’re all sick of the all singing, all dancing, brightly coloured plastic in our lives that blares whiney, slightly shouty, voices ‘singing’ only-just-in-tune nursery rhymes at us.

And this book is the perfect antidote.


The illustrations are lovely, the story is sweet, it’s a great length keeping Little Miss entertained and engaged both at 20 months and now at nearly age three.

But where this book really shines for me is that the noisy buttons play actual music by the different instruments, meaning Little Miss is starting to differentiate more complex sounds (not just being able to tell a ‘quack’ from a ‘moo’) and it’s not super irritating to read/listen to.

I’ve been so impressed with this book that I’ve added the Little Children’s Christmas Music Book to our Book Advent this year. (More details to come on that very soon!)

You can purchase Little Children’s Music Book on Amazon, at Waterstones or alternative British online booksellers, Books Please!. Alternatively, support your local book store and ask them to order it in for you.


Bonfire Night 2016 – as fun as a damp firework

So, today is Bonfire Night. One of my favourite nights of the year. You get to stand in a field (or generic public space near your home), freezing, nursing a mulled wine/cider or spiked hot cocoa, while you try not to make a wrong step in the dark and end up down a rabbit hole or ditch (or drain should you be a chic city dweller) and ooh and ahh at the fireworks. 

It. Is. Glorious. 

My love of Bonfire Night has only increased since having Little Miss too, seeing her insane excitement at the sight of fireworks!

Alas, this year, our Bonfire Night resembles more of a damp firework that won’t light than a snazzy display in time to the Lord of the Rings music. 

I’m back in Sunderland this weekend visiting Grandmo to give my dad a break. The Other Half (who is hungover today after a work do) and Little Miss (who came down with flu yesterday) stayed home this time as we didn’t feel it was appropriate for LM to visit anymore. 

Grandmo is just about hanging on, stubbornly (I’d expect nothing less) but will no longer acknowledge anyone’s presence apart from the nurses and carers here. So I’ve spent today sat by her bedside reading my book, admiring the view of the sea and having the occasional conversation with what feels like thin air. 

I had forgotten how cold it gets up here during the winter. It’s only November 5 and already, it’s 4 degrees (though the Met Office app informs me it ‘feels like -1,’ which I can confirm, it feels like -1) with a wind that whips round your ears like teeny tiny razor blades. 

Freezing on the Sunderland seafront, Seaburn.

So cold!! This is definitely not how my coat is supposed to be worn!

I popped out for lunch earlier and  it was so cold I even heard a local saying she couldn’t feel her fingers. This made me feel better – I’m not just a softie Southerner.

At home, I can only imagine the fun The OH and LM have had, both of them high on paracetamol! (I got an update about midday saying ‘Kung Fu Panda is such a good film.’)  

I assume this means bonfire celebrations are off at home too as Little Miss sips Calpol (always in line with the packaging recommendations, naturally) curled up under a blanket on the sofa wth Lambie and new pal, Nelly Elly.

Even Nina was texting saying she had a crap day, stuck at home waiting for a delivery that has never showed up and then managed to lock herself outside without a key or a coat. Good one Nina. 

Not the Finding Our Feet crew’s finest Saturday, let alone Bonfire Night. 

It’s 4:30pm here in Sunderland and already dark. It’s the last night of the ‘infamous’ (imagine me doing ‘air quotes’ with extreme exaggeration there) Sunderland Illuminations tonight, though I am yet to see a single soul brace the cold sea front! There’s a woman in the room next door that continually shouts ‘Hey!’ every five minutes since Grandmo first checked in six or seven weeks ago. I can hear two different TVs in rooms nearby blaring two different programmes. But the staff are impossibly chipper and kind.

We (ie, the carers, who Grandmo will at least nod or shake her head for, which is more than she’ll do for us) finally got her to admit she was in pain today. So they administered morphine and she’s been a lot calmer since then. All we can hope is that she’s as comfortable as she can be and that it’s not long now.

I’m heading to get my train back to London soon. I’ll get home about 10 or 11pm tonight, provided there’s no delays.
Colleagues yesterday joked I’ll see more fireworks than anyone in the country as my train whizzes the length of the country this evening! But in reality, it’s probably one of the pantsest (yes, it’s a word…) Bonfire Nights I’ve had to date.

But pretty safe to say it’s not as pants as Grandmo’s.