A Perfect Weekend In Whitstable

I love discovering places far afield (our recent trip took us to Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam) but I also have a serious thing for seeking out gems in the UK, and Whitstable has to be one of my new absolute favourite towns. No more than about a two hour drive (or around 60 miles) from London, Whitstable is an absolutely gorgeous seaside town packed with restaurants, plenty of art and culture and of course, a plethora of beautiful beaches. 

Apart from its decidedly sweet name – Salt Marsh Cottage – the first thing I loved about our cottage for the weekend was its location: a stone’s throw away from the beach and slap bank in the middle of town, it could not have been any better.To this end, as soon as we arrived, there was no option but to dump our bags, throw on some woolly hats and scarves and head straight to the beach to catch one of the most beautiful beach sunsets I’d possibly ever seen. From the word go, Whitstable wowed me and I already knew we’d be returning. In terms of evening beach spots, you can’t do any better than the Old Neptune to watch the world go by and frolick in the pebbles whilst enjoying a cheeky little tipple. Once back at the house we started exploring inside; aside from its positioning, the cottage itself was absolutely beautiful. It’s grade 2 listed so had some amazing features from original wooden floorboards to fire places but it had also recently been renovated so felt super clean with a load of handy amenities such as a microwave and DVD player. We made full use of the space – Jack slept in the room at the top of the house which with its low double bed was perfect and Sonny was in the single bedroom next door to us (although unfortunately he was a little poorly during the night and slept AWFULLY which was a shame given how comfortable his room was). Indeed, it’s the perfect size for a family with two or more children. The owner also provided us with a travel cot and a high chair and a stairgate was available on request too (the stairs are quite steep so you might want to keep little ones safely enclosed).

That evening after eeking out the last moments of that unforgettable sunset, we bathed the kids and took a drive to Margate (about 30 minutes away) to sample some of the restaurants in the area. Super reasonably priced, right on the seafront and serving up some of the best pizza we’ve ever had, Great British Pizza Co is a must for any pizza fans. Or really any food fans. Apart from my hair setting on fire (see my vlog for more), it was the perfect first evening. Margate is undergoing a real renaissance – a Turner Contemporary gallery opened not long ago – and it is full of trendy eateries and cool bars and shops. Whilst Whitstable is quaint and everything about it is quality, Margate is a bit more hipster and cutting edge. In fact, it has acquired the nickname “Shoreditch on Sea” and I can see why. And as much as I’d have loved to have checked out Morgan’s bar next door, we are finally facing the fact that going out for cocktails with an 8 month old and toddler just ain’t really the done thing. But we’d be back in Margate soon enough…

We spent the next day wandering around Whitstable which is brimming with lovely coffee shops and restaurants, as well as decent supermarkets and pharmacies. And fish and chip shops – so many epic fish and chips shops. It basically has everything you need. Highlights for us were the cafe Tea and Times where they have a big rail of magazines, delicious home made cakes and super friendly staff. This is a must for anyone who enjoys a good read with their cuppa (I’m looking at you people without minis) plus they have children’s magazines too so we were able to entertain Jack with a new Paw Patrol magazine for at least 8 minutes whilst we enjoyed some apple cake.Whitstable Produce store is a great place to pick up some delicious provisions (they also do super yummy sausage rolls and coffee!) if you’re cooking at home and Samphire is an all round absolute winner for food and ambience.

Back in Margate, go to Roost for super yummy chicken and chips and great kids meals (it’s right on the seafront so also a great place to watch the world go by) and if Indian food is your thing, I’ve also heard Ambrette is something special. Always one to spend as much time as possible by the sea, I was keen to do some more beach frolicking. In fact, Kent holds a special place in our hearts as it’s where we came on our babymoon when I was pregnant with Jack. I take my beaches seriously and I’d done a fair bit of research in to sandy one in the area and Botany Bay seemed by far the best option. Flanked by beautiful white cliffs, it is enclosed and small and beautiful. It was so special going back there with both children and we had a lovely time kicking about a football and just hanging out on the beach. It was quiet due to the cold weather but I imagine in the Summer it is packed, especially as the sea is flagged as being safe for swimming in. That said, there is something kinda nice about a beach in the Winter…

There was just about time to scoot to the Turner gallery which actually had some family fun on as well as a free exhibition before we dashed home to make it back before the hugest storm hit. That evening we stayed firmly indoors, put the kids to bed, got some take away Fish n chips in and watched a movie. Perfection. 

Our stay at Salt Marsh Cottage was brief but wonderful and I know we’ll be back. I’d love to return in the Summer and spend more time exploring the town and the coastline. In terms of other things to do whilst in Whitstable, the website Things to do in Whitstable has you covered. A big thanks to Places to stay in Whitstable who put us up for the weekend and if you want to check out their selection of Whitstable holiday cottages or book the actual cottage we stayed in (which honestly I cannot recommend highly enough) you can find it here.

Finally you can watch a little vlog of our time here.

Thanks for reading as ever. Have you been to Kent? Or have you got any other UK gems you can share with me? I always love getting recommendations of where to next visit….

Big love and have a beautiful day,

Emma xxx

 

Hanging out in Hoi An

And so it was that with absolutely zero idea of the time let alone the day, and a “night” that consisted mainly of Paw Patrol on a loop and ritz crackers we found ourselves waking up at 5.30am (only we would fly half way across the world and then have to set an alarm to get us and the kids out of bed at some unearthly hour), grabbing pastries, coffee and bananas (thank the Lord for bananas) and piling onto a buggy cart and heading back to Kuala Lumpur airport. I don’t remember anything of the flight but it felt great to land somewhere new and not have fitting two kids car seats be our first experience of a new country (we have lost hours of our lives trying to fit these things with grumpy looking staff just looking on). Instead we were greeted by a smiling man and led to our car which we all promptly collapsed in to, soaking up the air conditioning whilst Jack immediately noticed the bobbing Buddha’s head on the dashboard, before all the boys passed out for the rest of the journey.

We soon arrived at our hotel, the beautiful Hoi An Ancient House resort* and were taken to our room. The first thing I noticed and loved was the outdoors shower – my absolute dream. The hard marble-like floor, not so much. Jack has just transitioned to a bed at home so he was sleeping in beds/ sofa beds on this trip and luckily a friend tipped me off about Shrunks inflatable bed rail which has been invaluable. The grounds of the hotel are stunning and we spent a gorgeous few hours hanging out (I hesitate to use the word ‘relaxing’ because whenever there is a toddler involved and he is awake, things are never truly 100% relaxing). That said, we are fortunate in that Jack is extremely content playing alone, especially if he has a few of his wooden trains which thankfully we brought along.

A bath and sugary coffee later, that evening we somehow found ourselves and our 2858 other items (we have since realised the importance of a GOOD and LARGE day bag) hauling ourselves onto the hotel shuttle to go and explore the old town of Hoi An. I’m not sure what we expected but what we were hit with far exceeded any pre conceived ideas. There was the most amazing atmosphere; a maze of narrow, bustling lanes with hand made lanterns of every colour strung up across the roads with tailors shops, restaurants and street food stalls spilling out. The roads mainly all converged at the main Thu Bon river packed with people and children selling lanterns to people to set afloat with wishes. To say Hoi An has charm is an understatement; I was walking around with my jaw wide open most of the evening. The main goal of the whole night though? To avoid getting lost and to make it back to the meeting point to catch the shuttle back. As luck / horrific  jetlag would have it, both boys fell fast asleep (Jack in the buggy and Sonny in the carrier on Sam) and with no time to mess around once we realised dinner might be kid-free, we dived into Mango Mango across the bridge which was delicious. (I’ve also heard great things about Morning Glory – the queue was too long though and the priority here was peaceful dining not necessary high dining). There was just time for a quick browse in the shops and coffee at Hoi An Roastery before the boys woke in time for some dinner (care of Ellas pouches) and a shuttle ride home. Several hours of bed jumping later, we all finally fell asleep….

The next day, eager to see the sea as soon as possible and never really that good at sitting still for long, we headed to An Bang beach in the afternoon where we mainly hung out in the huge sofa beds at the very chilled out Soul Kitchen and ate noodles and let the boys sleep more before going for wander in the back streets. That night, there was only one way to spend the evening; room service, dressing gowns and a big glass of wine.

The following day we had one of the few things that we had planned pre arriving in Asia; a cookery class at Gioan Cookery School. As is often the way with us, we say yes and worry about ‘how’ later; in this case, about 60 seconds before we walked into the class. And so it was that we found ourselves in the middle of a bustling food market with a baby hanging off me, Sam wheeling another, having herbs and spices and amazing coloured and shaped fruits thrust in our faces by women with not a huge amount of teeth, and a super sweet Vietnamese teacher who I was sharing birth stories with within 5 minutes of meeting. Back at the cookery school, thanks to plastic tricycles and children- loving Vietnamese – we seemed to somehow be taught and just about make a four course meal from scratch: the most delicious spring rolls, veggie pho, aubergine clay pot and lemongrass chicken. All the while with the most animated friendly teacher who kept calling Sam ‘daddy boy’ and singing Beatles songs as she twirled brandishing some chopsticks and a huge knife. It was an unforgettable morning.

After the class, doggy bags in hand, we took a stroll to the old town to see it by day. Vietnam is famed for its coffee, and Hoi An did not disappoint. We crossed the Japanese bridge and found ourselves at Reaching Out Tea House –  a social enterprise cafe run by speech and hearing impaired individuals where the coffee and snacks are amazing, only whispering is permitted and there is a paper based ordering system. Literally, it wa the perfect place for a slightly frazzled couple, sleeping toddler and baby (being cared for by friendly staff) looking for a peaceful place to while away the afternoon. The coffee was strong and the home made coconut biscuits bang on. We left feeling rested, arriving back at the hotel for a “quiet” night in feasting on left overs and a cheeky Diet Coke from the mini fridge. Eatery wise, I’d also heard good things about The Field but unfortunately it was closed when we were there.

Our final morning was spent scoffing passion fruit and pastries before jumping on bikes and cycling out into the countryside. To clarify, Sam was carrying Sonny in the connecta baby carrier with Jack sat in a little seat at the back – given I could hardly reach the pedals there was no way I was risking anyone else’s’ life. That said – and there’s been a few – it was one of those experiences where I spent most of it looking anywhere other than at Sam and the kids for the entirety of the time. Put it this way, I’m not sure it would have passed UK road safety standards. Mini heart palpitations aside, exploring the dusty back roads and idyllic fishing villages was potentially my favourite part of our whole time in Hoi An.  Jack and I got a ride on a buffalo and I watched/hovered over whilst he ran around the villages darting in and out the brightly coloured houses on stilts. The kind of places where washing strung up looks pretty. We managed to stay on land and upright and make it back to our hotel before heading to the airport for the next chapter of our travels. We had a seamless flight to Siem Reap with Vietnam Airlines but once we arrived to Cambodia we had to endure an extremely long wait for our visa. All I’ll say is thank the lord for the hordes of Korean and Chinese tourists who took it upon themselves to entertain / help me carry / play racing cars / photograph the kids so that whilst Sam was dealing with the mammoth three hour visa situation, I was somehow jugging the kids. We didn’t end up getting out of the airport until around 8pm but our night was only just getting started…Thanks for reading this far….more coming soon!

*we were fortunate to receive some nice Press perks during our stay.

 

17 learnings about travelling with two kids under 3

Half way through our South East Asia trip with the two sproglets in tow, from the bleary eyed tiredness to the tears of pure joy, I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt so far along this journey.

1. Getting enough sleep – adults and kids – is EVERYTHING. Absolutely everything. Equally, overtiredness is the enemy.  It is the difference between tantruming toddlers and bickering adults; it is the difference between a broken nights sleep and a beautiful 8 hours.

2. By extension, we all seem to have mastered the art of sleeping when and where we can. On a tuk tuk, a boat, on a makeshift bed in the middle of a fishing village….getting that shut eye is becoming easier and easier (except at night when kids are actually supposed to sleep…)

3. Traveling to Asia means bedtime for Jack (Sonny has settled well into the new time zone) is super late. He doesn’t stop bounding about til about midnight which is exhausting for us and is sort of turning me into an alcoholic (a glass of wine or Angkor beer helps ease the jumping)

4. If the two kids nap at the same time, this is literally the absolute f*cking holy grail. It’s happened to us, twice, both times for about ten minutes and I was so excited I didn’t know what to do with myself. I went to the toilet in peace and it was amazing.

5. When travelling with two small kids they have to share everything – nappies, toys, bottles, clothes…heck, I’ve even considered putting Jacks shorts on. Washing clothes and buying things is a lot of effort.

6. Cambodians / Vietnamese love kids – especially women but men as well. They’ll often offer to take Sonny from us or sometimes just take him… I particularly appreciate how adept they are at putting on baby carriers – they always help. But yes, if you’re clingy with your kids, don’t come to Asia; if you appreciate all the help you can get (our camp), it’s great. Seriously, these kids are on a lot of camera phones..

7. Everything becomes a toy (especially on a plane) and yes, I’ve been known to give Sonny a shoe to play with…

8. You will get to know your kids better than ever before; you’ll learn the exact moment they need to go to sleep before melt downs occur; the foods that will win them round; the precise face or words that will make them laugh then and there.

9. Get a big breakfast down yourselves and your kids – it’s hard to find the right time/ place / to feed everyone during day. It’s also easy to forget to…

10. When you get to a new place, unless its just a one night stop over as we had in Kuala Lumpur, unpack your bags. A not so messy room as opposed to a ransacked looking room will make all the difference when you get back from a meal out and just want to find toddler’s toothbrush and get everyone to bed asap.

11. Prioritise the practical stuff – then embrace it. The other day we were down to one nappy just because we’d been putting off a trip to the supermarket. In actual fact, supermarkets in foreign places are kinda fun. Just don’t get me started on their baby food or my experience trying to find sanitary towels.

12. The learning curve – on everything – is steep. And it’s exhausting. And it’s very, very beautiful.

13. Bananas are everything when traveling: zero prep, with a skin so zero dirt, high energy, cheap and healthy.

14. The jury’s still out as to whether sand is a good or bad thing; perfect terrain for wobbly sitting babies and energetic fall-prone toddlers but obviously it gets absolutely friggin’ everywhere, mainly in Sonny’s mouth and Jack’s crotch.

15. Airport travel is actually the easy part – it’s the whiling away time by the sea that can be toughest. Rushing around on a tuk tuk at least keeps everyone entertained as opposed to attempting to lounge around like all those childless people do.

16. Don’t stress about kids eating well; there’s enough to worry about. Pasta, rice, ice cream… whatever works.

17. Never before will you experience so many highs and so many lows; such a huge range of emotions; such intensely happt smiles that make your face hurt and sighs so deep you want to throw the towel in and come home.

We’ve just arrived at a ridiculously beautiful island called Koh Rung so I’m off to cchase after a toddler and find some bananas. I’ll  be doing another post soon about all the essentials and the dudd items we brought away with us…

Thanks for reading – Emma xxx

24 hours in Malaysia and a Magical Moment
I-don’t-know-how-many but I think about 2 days in, “hold my finger” and “close your eyes” are the two phrases I’ve probably uttered the most so far. The former because there never quite seems enough hands to hold bags and buggy and small people and the five trains your toddler must travel with (the small wooden magnetic ones which he attaches together than walks along with them hanging vertically ás they dangle off each other; a recipe for loss / upset but makes him happy all the meanwhile so, #itsallgood) and the latter because sleep – heck, even closing your eyes, for the little ones and for us adults, is the number one priority. It is the difference between toddler melt downs and pointless adult bickering; the difference between achey adult knees and overtired children’s bloodshot watery eyes. Even as I write this I have one eye half closed.
We left our home at 3pm on Tuesday and I could not have been more excited to close the door on the weetabix encrusted highchair and load of laundry stuffed behind the cupboard door. Piling into our car having finally realised that the best way to get our bags and us to an airport is just to drive there ourselves. There’s been too many moody taxi drivers, hassle with car seats and frazzled public transport journeys to go any other way. It’s kind of annoying that holidays abroad often start with airports because, much like shopping centres, kids seem to really hate them. Just as Jack was mid meltdown (and we bumped into some of my colleagues –  great timing), Sam made a discovery that turned our lives (in that moment of course – when travelling, you really can only be in that very precise moment) upside down: Heathrow has soft play. Next door to a Pret. Now I am not a fan of soft play but in this scenario, it was slap bang amazing. The next thirty minutes were pretty magical (cannot believe our first magic moment on this trip was soft play but hey).
The plane journey – all 12 and a half hours of it – was, overall, mixed. Jack ate and slept, Sonny ate and slept and cried and ate and slept and cried and cried and cried and…. you get the picture. The British Airways staff were brilliant (free Ella’s pouches? Yes please) but it’s true to say, Sonny is not a fan of their bassinet. We made it to Kuala Lumpur and the rest is a bit of a blur but next thing, we were on a golf buggy, Jack is laughing his heart out and we’re whizzing along a glass corridor to our airport hotel. The next 12 hours were just what we needed; the boys cooled off by the pool, we took a long bubble bath and we tucked into a buffet dinner which INCLUDED SUSHI 🙌🙌🙌
We managed to keep the kids up and all flopped into bed before the inevitable middle of the night jet lag hit us. Cue a 2am Thomas the tank Engine session before we all finally fell back into a slumber just in time for our alarm clocks to go off, a mad scramble to pack everything up (how can we make so much mess in so short a time and why do dummies just disappear?) and swing by the breakfast buffet / surreptitiously nick a few things (thank gosh for continental breakfasts because noodles and congee do not transfer so well)
Bring on three nights in one place, Vietnamese coffee, seeing the sea and a cookery course. I’ll keep you posted.

Why We’re Ditching Date Nights

“So, do you and Sam go out a lot then?” has to be one of the questions I most dread as a parent. Not because I don’t want to be spending time with my darling OH, but because we are quite simply *rubbish* at making it happen. Whilst I’ve never really cared about being judged as a mum, suddenly I feel as if my relationship is being put under (a probably fairly grubby, if it’s in our household) microscope. “We make sure we go out every Saturday night for a really nice dinner either with friends or alone so we stay close as a couple and have a social life” one colleague proudly once told me. I think the furrows in my forehead grew significantly deeper that day.

I suppose because we have a fairly relaxed approach to parenthood, it seems to just happen that our kids are around a lot and as a result, Sam and I don’t really get much ‘us’ time. Months go by and we’ve not stepped foot out the front door just the two of us without clinging on to a child (and accompanying 18365929 other items.) 99% of the places we go, we just seem to just take the kids along too – on a holiday to celebrate our anniversary, traveling, to a festival… You name it, the monkies are there. To give you an idea, we spent New Years eve drinking champagne (us), in onesies (them), dancing (all) at home, with the kids.

But there’s more reasons why our nights out are few and far between; there is the dreaded issue of finding a babysitter (we have one lady we know who babysits but well, turns out she has a life and isn’t always available), the *right* one at that (OK, so she – because they usually are – can put a toddler to sleep but can they bath a baby?), the cost (a night out is expensive and clock watching ain’t that sexy) and not to mention the actual content of the date (I seem to want to try a gazillion different restaurants the rest of the year but when that one time comes to choosing for that all important date night out, your mind goes blank). All in all, it’s an added pressure that seems just well, easier to shy away from than embrace.

Back when there was just two of us…

Recently though, we’re trying to shake things up on this front. Not because we ‘need’ to but because ya know what, we WANT to. Two kids in, nearly three years of having this monumental responsibility of solely caring for two human beings, we want some time off. Kids, we’ve got news for you: we’re outta here (for a limited time period only – say 3 hours every week?)

Although I hate the word, it seems apt here because to achieve this result, I’ve come to realise there is a set of behaviours that is going to help us reclaim some parental – one buggy-free step at a time -freedom. So, here’s how we’re doing it:

  1. We’re ditching date night – by this I mean that instead of putting pressure on ourselves to find the perfect restaurant or show, we’re opting to do uncomplicated, inexpensive things that don’t necessarily leave us hungover or sleep deprived (if Sam suggests going to the theatre, I can’t help but start to calculate potential loss of sleep hours). So for example, we went out for brunch last weekend somewhere local and just sat, sipped hot coffee and read the newspapers together. Reading a newspaper together at the weekend is something Sam and I used to love doing and which just doesn’t happen these days – but turns out, it makes the perfect ‘date’. It was simple and delicious and best of all, we were back within 3 hours and ready for the day ahead with the sprogs.
  2. We’re multitasking – by that I mean that we’re using the juggling skills we’ve honed as parents to combine loves in our lives. So for example, yoga is a huge passion of mine so we go to yoga classes together as a way to both spend some time together and also do some downward dogs. Next up, will be tennis…. Similarly, if food is your thing, why not go to an cookery class together with the other person getting to choose what they’d want to do the following term. Also, classes tend to be quite short so you can be back home before you know it – our yoga class is the perfect length at an hour so we are back home quickly but feel refreshed (and exercised) too. Becuase anyway, just because you’re together it doesn’t mean you have to actually talk to each other!
  3. We’re committing to it – by this I mean that we’re making time spent alone together a regular occurrence. So yoga happens once a week, every week, and unless something at work comes up for Sam, it is a fixture in our diary that we honour and look forward to. Similarly, if going out for a meal is your thing, put it in the diary to happen once a month. Set those dates in advance, and respect them.
  4. We’re being smart – and by that I don’t mean we’ve signed up to learn a new language. Nope, we’re just trying to use the time we do have better. We are a zero routine family you see so timings are extremely flexible and we tend to go slow on most things. So, bath and bed is a very relaxed affair but it can also be a pretty long one which isn’t conducive to catching up with each other at the end of the day. So we’re doing our best to kick start things a little earlier and make bath time and bed time shorter and faster in order to max our evenings out (and finally get through one episode of Fauda)
  5. We’re committed to finding more babysitters and not just relying on one person. Our new go to resource for this is Bubble which is simply brilliant. I’m all about the connections and recommendations through word of mouth (wasn’t Instagram invented for this?) so what I love about this app is that it finds you a babysitter that someone you know knows. So once you enter your basic requirements, it surfaces babysitters and using Facebook, shows you all the mutual connections that you have with that person. For example, I could see that one of the babysitters was actually connected to my best friend and after a quick phonecall to my friend, it turned out they worked with each other. You then select which babysitters you’d like (remember that thing about babysitters having lives too?), each person will then receive an alert and the first person to respond gets the gig. Above and beyond the personal connection, each babysitter has a review and sets their own price. Talking of price, you know that awkward thing when you come home 25 minutes before the hour is up and don’t quite know if paying your babysitter a bit less is OK? With this app you just clock in and out when you leave and come back and pay (through the app – so no awkward searching when you are slightly tipsy for a £20 note). This app works, people, it really works, and I can’t see us going back to any other service.

So those are the five ways we’re trying to get some time in our lives, just for ourselves without the minis, as much as we do love them. Having low expectations, tapping into each others’ hobbies, being speedy at home and finding an awesome babysitting app are all total game changers not to mention the actual ‘commitment’ to the goal in hand.

Do you and your partner spend time together away from the kids? And I’d love to know what you tend to get up to when you do? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Thanks as ever for reading,

Emma xxx

 

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This post is in conjunction with Bubble. To download Bubble (which I recommend you do), head over to http://joinbubble.com/download-app/

 

VEGANUARY – THE VERDICT

Instagram is a powerful place and has led me down many an interesting path from the notion of ditching hair shampoo in favour of things foraged from my kitchen to minimalism to choosing where to go travelling with my family next. It’s introduced me to women who are now good friends, and it’s given me a wealth of advice on everything from baby carriers to spiralizers.

Lately though, it’s also been a real source of inspiration and information when it comes to something pretty major: the food I put in my mouth and on our family’s plates.

It was after attending an Oatly Christmas dinner and meeting with some awesome Vegan people that I first learnt about Veganuary. Always up for a challenge and for exploring new concepts, Veganuary basically involves giving up meat, fish and dairy for the month of January. This year a record 60,000 people worldwide signed up (with over half being from the UK) and all for different reasons: the Veganuary website shared results from a survey showing that like previous years, a concern for animal welfare was the most popular reason behind people registering but that health and environmental reasons are all other motivations for choosing a vegan way of life. In fact there’s a tonne of reasons why not consuming meat, egg and dairy that I’m not going to go into (plus, I don’t want to go all preachy on you) but if you are interested, here is a fantastic article on just that. I’ll list some other material at the end of this post if you are interested to learn more….

So, the big question is, how did it go?

In a nut (walnut, pistachio, almond – I’ve never eaten so many nuts in my life) shell – pretty darn well! Whilst I made a few exceptions (I ate fish during our anniversary weekend away and had the odd piece of cake which contained eggs), I would say that I stuck to a meat and dairy free diet for 96% of the month of January

How did I feel?

Good! Energetic, light and never once (except maybe when I couldn’t eat my custard tart or have a cup of tea at a friend’s house) deprived of a food I really wanted. Cheese, for example, was surprisingly easy to live without once I discovered violife and I have heard amazing things about Sainsbury’s feta.  I’ve felt incredibly inspired in the kitchen and (I know I said I wouldn’t get preachy….) there’s no denying that I’ve felt kinda good about the fact that no animal is suffering in the process of me eating. I’ll be honest – there’s been the odd occasion where I’ve felt not 100% full (I needed more calories perhaps) and at times where I have felt a little frustrated. Read on….

What’s hard about it?

There’s no denying that being vegan is more effort one way or another. As a meat-eater, it was super easy to just pop a piece of chicken in the oven, some rice and veg and you have a delicious, nutritious meal in moments. A vegan meal, in contrast, *tends* to have more components and at the end of the day, post bath-time and high-chair scrubbing, I didn’t always have the energy. That said, there are more and more vegan ready made meals ranging from Linda McCartney to newer and really delicious brands which I did rely on sometimes. The hardest thing by far about being vegan though is eating out / at other peoples’ houses. I had to go to a party where it was a buffet style dinner; I literally had to pick the crusts off a quiche and eat chips (I survived, somehow…;) Fast forward 20 years and I’m sure this will have changed, but for now, being a vegan can be surprisingly anti social.

Is vegan food actually nice?

Nice? It’s DELICIOUS! I can honestly say that I’ve eaten so well and cooked some seriously yummy food. Yes, tofu is a tricky one to make taste good and I have mixed feelings about vegan eggs but boy, is vegan food good. And with cookbooks and blogs such as Isa Does It, Minimlist Baker and Healthy Living James, and restaurants such as Tibits, Mildreds and Manna, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating well as a vegan (so long as you seek it out….)

How did my family take it?

Sam is very open-minded when it comes to veganism and for the most part, enjoyed everything I made (he is a big fan of kale..!) At this stage though, he and the kids remain omnivores though we have an agreement that I won’t be making any meat meals for me and Sam, and I’m trying to cut down for the kids.

So, what about the kids and veganism?

My main priority is that the children have a healthy diet and certainly being vegan, they would meet their full ‘5 a day’ guidelines. Indeed, there are plenty of children on a non vegan diet eating very unhealthily. My concern is more around them getting enough calories, protein and vitamins and whilst my kids aren’t particuarly fussy, they’re very much accustomed to eggs, tuna and bolognese. That doesn’t mean that this won’t change and we have had fun making recipes together from this absolutely gorgeous vegan kids cookbook. In all honesty, I would love for them to be vegan but for now, I’m still yet to be persuaded to transition their diets too. Again, it also goes back to the added effort. Call me a lazy mama but I’m not sure I currently have the headspace or the time. I’d love to for the next one though…

But how do you get enough protein?

This is an extremely common question posted to vegans, and it is an issue – although to be honest, I think it’s an issue for me whether I eat meat or not. There are times when I have eaten a slice of processed meat telling myself I am getting some protein when in reality I know that the amount of real protein something like that contains is minimal. To give you an idea, a beef burger contains 20g of protein and a veggie burger contains around 13g. This is an excellent leaflet offering advice on getting enough protein but it can be as simple as adding a handful of cashew nuts to your meal, some pulses to a pasta sauce or some tofu to a dish of vegetables. A food called seitan is by far the best intake of protein – this stir fry is pretty delicious. In addition I’ve also been taking a b12 vitamin – the one vitamin that vegans miss out on and which we need to protect our nervous system.

What’s the plan going forward?

First and foremost, I don’t want to put any labels (or pressure) on myself. Sincerely though, I can’t see myself eating meat again as I truly am horrified by what I have seen and read. In addition, I have absolutely loved eating a vegetable based diet. I am still undecided about fish – especially as I know that the fish industry are the worst ‘offenders’. Avoiding dairy is a real conundrum though because here’s the thing; at home, it’s not hard as there are so many delicious dairy free alternatives but eating out at either a non vegan friend’s house or at a non – vegan restaurant – is a real struggle and maybe this sounds lame, but it does mean missing out on quite simply, some lovely things in life. So essentially, watch this space. I’ll be documenting thoughts over on Instagram (the original reason I started all this anyway!) and I’m sure writing more on the issue.

For now, thanks so much for reading this and if veganism is something you are interested, or even intrigued by, Food MattersCowspiracy, this and this YouTube video all moved me along this journey. I also till want to watch Earthlings and Forks over Knives and I’ve just ordered Eating Animals which I cannot wait to read.

Take lots of care and leave me a comment telling me what you think of the veganism; is it the way forward or is it just an unnecessarily complicated way of life?

Emma xx

 

 

 

10 Things I’ve Learnt Through Motherhood

Over two and a half years into the parenting job (I used to call it parenting “gig” but this ain’t no pop-in-pop-out-gig. This is full on, full time working on life as my friend @mother_pukka calls it). Before I became a mother, I was clueless – purposely so. I knew there were a million different books out there but I deliberately didn’t want to consume too much information or be swayed in a certain ‘mothering direction’. I steered clear of all the vast realms of literature out there instead opting to watch the lovely Hannah Maggs’ vlogs which I used to do with my laptop propped up on the side of the bath tub every Sunday evening (oh those were the days…). I wanted to go into motherhood open – minded and see naturally the sort of mother that I would become. I had no idea if I’d enjoy it, resent it, be bored stiff by it… I was totally open to all these possibilities.

Two children in, a tonne of highs, some real lows, proper sobbing sessions into my pillow at times and feeling like I’m living in some sort of dream world at other times, I’ve learnt more on this job than any other I’ve ever had. And loved it more that I could have ever imagined.

So if you are a new mum to be who like me is not to into the idea of reading realms of books/ haven’t found the time / are just generally feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all (it happens!), IT’S OK – you will learn on the job. But in case you’re interested, here are some unofficial things – and I’m not talking what to pack in your hospital bag – that I’ve learnt along the way:

1. Whilst I’m not into scaremongering, there is no denying that giving birth and bringing a whole new person into the world is a BIG DEAL – mentally, physically, emotionally, the LOT – and you may well feel all sorts of emotions in the weeks and months following the event. No one told me I wouldn’t be able to sit down for two weeks after having a baby?! No one told my friend she’d essentially be incontinent for a month afterwards?!) Crazy stuff happens, hormones are flying and sleep deprivation is kicking in so please do bear in mind that those first months are some of the most surreal, highest, lowest and yet no one seems to talk about them. (NB I felt a whole world better after my second child)

2. Giving birth is a serious business and looking back, I think I was a little naive first time round with Jack. I though that my pain threshold was high and that women all over the world were doing it so it really *can’t* be that bad. We did NCT classes, and I did the odd yoga class but I didn’t really think about my birth too much. Don’t get me wrong; having no expectations is a good thing but I wish I had known that preparation can be key. Second time round, my birth was as wonderful as I could have hoped for and I really believe that is because I prepared the sh*t out of it. From music to mantras, I thought about all the details. Hypnobirthing  was massive for me, for example. You can read all about what I did here.

3. One of the absolute biggest learnings I’ve had since being a mum and especially since number two is that everything is genuinely a PHASE, it really is. This can obviously work in your favour (sleeping through the night – wahoo!) or not (obsession with taking trousers off in public places – embarrassing), but I really advise you to as best as you can to take things in your stride. Not easy, I know, especially when in the throes of sleeplessness. Sleep, food, language, crawling, breastfeeding, biting; nothing is fixed, everything is fluid, nothing is predictable. And all those books that talk about leaps and behaviour etc? Well, I’ll be honest; it feels like every week there’s a new leap so I find it pointless to try to predict or explain these things.

4. The love that you feel for your baby is OUT OF THIS world. Like ridiculously so. And the best part of all? It grows every. friggin’. day.

5. If you’re in a relationship, don’t be surprised or crucially, don’t take it too seriously if you find yourselves bickering more than you used to pre-baby. It seems strange doesn’t it? You have your bundle of joy and yet somehow you seem to be getting on each others nerves? It’s not strange. It’s called sleep deprivation and crazy hormones having a party in your body. Also – see point 3 – this applies to you guys too.

6. Learn how to grow that skin of yours real thick. You will have learnt this whilst pregnant anyway with strangers / colleagues / family members continually assessing and speculating on the size of your bump / your due date / how much or little heartburn you’ve had in the last 24 hours. And once the baby is out, be ready for a deluge of opinions on everything from breastfeeding to bathing so develop a thick skin and smile.

7. Go to sleep early – you need to have as much patience, kindness and energy as possible! I’m not going to tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps because every parent knows the impossibility of that. Instead I recommend giving that Netflix session a miss – and I know it’s hard because once babe is sleeping all you will want to do at the end of the day is flop on the sofa with chocolate and tea / wine and finally relax – but I have learnt the hard way that getting enough sleep is a non negotiable. Also tiredness accumulates so even if one day you feel OK, fast forward a day or two and exhaustion might start to kick in.

8. You will change as a person. Sitting in on a Saturday night eating peanut butter out of the jar with / without a mini next to you will become your idea of the perfect evening. Likewise, the word ‘clubbing’ (think your childless friend’s hen do) will seem both terrifying and equally something out of your wildest dreams. In addition to this, there’s no doubt that your daily life and interests change and you therefore connect with different people – I’ve met so many incredible women from the online motherhood community for example who I’ve bonded deeply with over a love for life’s minutiae like humungous mugs of coffee and small humming bears amongst other things (thank you @heyitsromeca…

9. You won’t change as a person (a blatant contradiction to point 7 but hear me out…) Since we were the first (by years) out of our friends to have children we either had to muck in with others or face being left totally friendless whilst everyone else was still hanging out at festivals or actually leaving the house on weekends. We do a lot of traveling as a family because we don’t want to give up those passions of ours pre kids and I’m so glad that we ‘hold’ on to some of us – you have to make an effort but it’s worth it and avoids any possible feelings of resentment you may harbour if suddenly life changes once kids come on the scene and you have to let go of the things that make you ‘you.’So my advice is also to go, get out there, explore and experience everything you can with your little one(s) in tow.

10. If it’s one thing I’ve learnt through motherhood, it is genuinely is the importance of following your own instinct. There is nothing more powerful than a mama’s instinct, nothing any book can tell you or friend can advise you or teacher can teach you. So be your own teacher, and the rest will follow.

*****

So to any mothers to be out there, don’t worry too much what “theyyyyyy say” (who are they? – thank you @megmurrayjones for bringing this phrase into my life) – your own rules will always trump. And to any new mothers, what’s the one thing you wish you’d known before becoming a mother?

Thanks for reading as ever and I hope you have an amazing day,

Emma x

P.S New mamas – watch Nomadi-daddy & Tiny Mumma and Sami’s YouTube 🙂

An Irresistible Wooden Watch

Anyone that follows me on Instagram will know that I’m on a mission to declutter and #saynotostuff. I haven’t bought anything new beside things that we really need (food, toilet paper, nappies, oh and ONE set of pyjamas in the sale with a voucher I had but even that made me feel panicky) for coming up to five months. Nothing for the home, no new make up, no new clothes… Nada. Zilch. Niente. And it has felt really good.

So when a company called JORD got in touch asking if I would like to be sent a watch to review, my first thought was of course to politely decline. Not only would it go against my current mindset of not acquiring new stuff, on top of that I very rarely review products. I often get approached by brands and 95% of the time I turn things down not because I’m ungrateful to be asked (I honestly really am very grateful for these opportunities!) but most likely because I just don’t need the thing they are offering and if I did need it, I would buy it. I don’t need a baby food steamer and blender. I don’t need another highchair, or a new set of bibs. On top of all that, as a bit of a self-confessed hippy and someone who likes to keep things simple, a watch is not something I’ve ever really considered buying mainly because every style I’ve seen has either looked super techy or far too formal for me to wear on a daily basis.

But these JORD watches did immediately strike me as something a little different. Designed by a small team of two designers, aesthetically minimalist, sustainably conscious, top end quality, stunning looking and hang on, made of wood? All in all, this seemed an interesting (and lovely!) item so after a lot of uming and ahhing, I decided to #sayyestostuff. Here’s what I made of the watch, why I’ve not looked back and why I know this will be a piece of jewellery I treasure forever:

 

It’s the material that I couldn’t resist. Wood, along with wicker and bamboo, is one of my all time favourite things in the world (I famously told a guy sat next to me at a dinner party that “I really like wood”. My husband was under the table with embarrassment). So the idea of a wooden watch seemed pure perfection to me. There are various different woods to choose from, from acacia to rosewood along with a sustainability rating provided for each type of wood.

Colour wise, anything emerald sends me into a bit of a frenzy. In a good way. Sometimes I look down and realise I look a little bit like a tree, that’s how much green clothing I own. So I was pretty delighted when I saw that emerald was an option for the face of the watch. Again though they offer several different colour options including the ever popular rosegold if that is your thing. I was also slightly in love with this mint one too – it was a tough call which colour to choose. Aesthetically, I just think the watch is stunning. I wear very little jewellery so if I’m going to wear a watch, I love the idea that it serves a dual purpose of looking good too.

Simplicity in look and feel is also key for me. I didn’t want a ‘complicated’ or ‘smart’ looking watch so I opted for something from the Frankie series which actually calls out minimalism as a theme. I chose this dark sandalwood and emerald watch which I absolutely love. There are other more ‘serious’ looking watches with loads of dials etc if that is your thing though. You also have to wind the watch up on first use (you don’t need to after that) which I enjoyed doing.

The quality of these watches is evident – I know they are not on the cheap side but I assure you, the look and feel of the watch reflects this. The service is also brilliant including small touches like sending sizing over so the watch is made to fit and it arrives in a gorgeous wooden box on a little pillow.

Oh and finally, it’s of course highly practical as it tells me the time! I’m always looking for ways to reduce time spent looking at my phone meaning that using my phone to check the time is now a thing of the past and I couldn’t be happier about that.

So yes, I caved on my #saynotostuff campaign but I hope you can see why I’m feeling good about it (I’m back on it now anyway – the Oliver Bonas sale is still haunting me though…!). Finally, if you’re thinking about investing in one of these watches – and I do look at this as a true investment that will stand the test of time though they do also come with a 1 year warranty, I’ve got the opportunity to offer my readers the chance to win $100 (nearly the full cost of the watch)towards the cost of the watch. All you need to do is click on this form and enter your name and email address. Anyway, just by entering you’ll receive a $25 code (which is still pretty decent!). The competition closes on February 12th so pop over using this link and do enter (it literally takes 2 seconds).

As ever, thanks for reading and I hoe you enjoyed this post, which is a little different to normal. Let me know in the comments below.

Emma xxx

Luxury Wooden Watch