BACKPACKING AROUND SOUTH AFRICA WITH A BABY

My husband Sam and I did a lot of travelling in our twenties and neither of us saw it as something we necessarily needed to give up once Jack came along. Exploring the world, meeting people from different cultures, hiking (and getting lost) through forests and up mountains, lying in hammocks, trying new foods were all experiences that made us who we are and ones that we wanted to continue to build on. It’s just that this time we would have a third team member: our baby.

“Ah South Africa – no time difference so that’s perfect!” friends with babies exclaimed when we told them we were going there. To be honest it hadn’t even occurred to us. A good friend was getting married in South Africa which we seized as an opportunity to start embarking on some proper travelling just the three of us. And with Jack approaching 1 and a free flight under his belt, we felt he was old enough (and innoculated enough) to get his teeth into some travelling. Suffice to say it was by far the happiest trip we have ever had and one that we will forever remember.  Jack’s squeals as he sat in the jeep in the game reserve, bobbing up and down on Sam’s knee whilst the wind rippled through his curls, is a scene I will never forget.

When it came to packing, I tried to take the bare essentials. I took only a few nappies (I quickly reasoned with myself that babies in foreign countries wear nappies too), a few emergency baby food jars, a huge bag of toys, sunhat, sunscreen. The two most useful items we brought along though were a fabric highchair in the photo at the bottom and a snoozeshade – mainly for when we took Jack out at night so that he could get some shut eye in the buggy whilst we enjoyed a glass of riesling.

There was really nothing we couldn’t get out there – in fact, call me a geek but I find visiting foreign supermarkets a fun pastime. Accommodation wise, we stayed in a combination of hotels, hostels, cabins and air b n bs. My preference were the small b n bs, who were relaxed about having a young child crawl around and personable enough to have time to coo over him and bring him a little foreign treat.

The best thing about travelling with a baby? Everyone is so darn nice to you. Oh, and you have an excuse to politely move away from the guy around the campfire who is playing ‘Imagine’ badly on his sitar. So if you and / or your partner have ever been travelling, and you have a baby in tow, I massively encourage you to dust off those backpacks and get out there – this time as a family – and I promise you, your adventures will get even better.

Here’s a video I made from our time there – take a look:

DIY Hand Sanitizer.

I’ve always been interested in anything home made from food to crafts to fashion and so the idea of making my own beauty and cleaning products has always massively appealed to me, and no more so now that I have become a mama. I love the idea of making something from scratch, and knowing exactly what goes into it which makes the consumption of whatever that thing is all the more satisfying. Since having Jack, that part of me has been switched on even more and I’ve become hyper aware of what we create and what we consume. I’m definitely no purist but I want to do the best job I can at getting the right stuff in to this brand new body of his. The same applies for cosmetics. And even though I haven’t found the time to make my own baby wipes, I do find it hard to bring myself round to the fact that I use something to clean my babe’s bottom that removes tar from car wheels

Jack helping create .

So when I heard about a workshop all about making your own beauty products which happened to include some baby products, I knew I needed to be there. It was a brilliant few hours and I learnt not only about the rubbish that goes into many of our manufactured products that we see on the shelves – companies tend to use ingredients that are cheap and make products last a long time – but also how much of a laugh and easy making beauty products from scratch can be.

Once you have the ingredients, which despite being an initial lay out (best to buy in bulk on Amazon – this makes the whole process far cheaper than their natural “organic” – which we learnt are often not so “organic” – counterparts.) And just like cooking, you can make huge vats of the stuff and have a lot of fun experimenting. Lastly, the products also make amazing gifts…

What you will need:

35ml aloe vera gel – full of vitamin E 6 teaspoons
7ml witch hazel – 1 teaspoon – anti bacterial
3.5ml apricot kernel oil  – makes also less telly – ½ tsp – great massage oil
10 drops tee tree essential oil – amazing anti viral, anti bacterial and anti fungal addition to skincare. Add to your creams but go easy, it’s strong stuff.

Add it all to a clean empty bottle and shake really well – and that’s it!

Date night with a baby.

Everyone always talks about the importance of date night with your partner once you have a baby. And this is definitely true: there is something wonderful about cavorting around the streets, hand in hand, without a buggy or changing bag weighing you down.

However, the importance of getting out of the house, with your little one and as a family is, in my opinion, just as important. Not just because it eliminates the washing up and highchair scrubbing but also because it allows you to step outside the everyday and take a moment to enjoy being a family in public and to reconnect.

So even though date night with Jack doesn’t ever involve gazing into each others’ eyes over a flickering candle, it feeds our soul in other ways.

Cavorting around with cider....and Jack.

Cavorting around with cider….and Jack.

Megan.

Megan and I got married to each other age 14 and have 11 children together. We have collapsed on the ground from laughing so much together. We have spent evenings putting the world to right. We do headstands together on the grass.

We leave each other long answer machine messages,  knowing that the other one will likely never even listen to our ramblings but it just seems a great outlet to laugh or vent….to ourselves.

Megan’s support to me whilst having Jack has been immense…she listens to my frustrated ramblings whilst simultaneously seeming to offer lifting advice.

Some friends move in and out of each others’ lives, and I know that Meg and I will have flux within our friendship, but we afford the relationship such respect that we will never ebb too far from each other.

And this year Meg, my sea-loving best mate, is getting married. Words cannot explain how happy I am for her that she has found her one, so this is really just a post to express that, and to thank her for being such a rock in so many shapes and forms over the years.

Easy peasy monkey cake.

I knew that I wanted to make Jack a cake for his first birthday, but having recently returned back to work I also knew that time was somewhat limited.  I hunted high and low on the internet for an easy recipe that didn’t require me buying Lakeland out / dusting off my magimix / breaking the bank on special ingredients and finally stumbled across one. It’s genuinely super easy, and I promise you, anyone can make this. I am by no means a “baker” and let’s just say, this ain’t going to pass as shop bought. But I kinda like it that way. Hope you give it a go one day 🙂

What you will need:

  • 280g butter
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 250g sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tsps of vanilla essence
  • 2 tsps of baking powder
  • Betty crocker chocolate icing
  • Better crocker vanilla icing
  • Pack of giant buttons
  • Pack of catherine wheels

Mix the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, mix, then add the vanilla essence.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder

The dream.

Just seeing a VW campervan makes me come over all funny. To me, they conjure up wind-blowing-through-your-hair freedom and open ended adventure. They take me to a place away from petty disputes over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher and instead transport me to a world where washing machines exist only in vibrant new cities or they are the breeze on a beachfront where you sit and wait on the sand for hours only to let one pair of socks dry for the next day.

I find myself day dreaming about packing up and setting off with Sam and Jack on one long road trip adventure where the resting place is unknown. Routine is my anathema; spontaneity is my life force. I get adrenaline rushes every time there is a new happy twist to the story; whether that’s something as stoopid as the bus terminating at an unexpected place and having to work out a new route home, or being gifted an extra night for free in our cabin in the woods in Austin because we made a mistake with our booking, I was 13 weeks pregnant and our Air b n b hosts were awesome.

We once hired a campervan when I was 30 weeks pregnant. We drove to Kent and spent three of the wettest, most miserable nights cooped up in the van. We ate pasta out of the saucepan, trudged to the campsite toilets in our pyjamas and wellies and used a hand towel as a doormat … but we also had three hilarious, romantic and totally random nights.

So why don’t we do it? Why don’t I just suggest to my hubby that we pack up and head off ? OK, why do I suggest it but don’t have the guts to go through with it?

The answer for me, I’ve come to realise, through the sleepless nights, Jack falling poorly, work becoming stressful, lonely mornings spent just wanting someone to have a cup of tea with, having little idea how to wean a child, inevitable bickers with my husband due to aforementioned tiredness, DOT DOT DOT, is the support. Support when you have a baby is the most precious thing in the world. (which is also why I am so disappointed that the Government are doing this.) Not new clothes for your baby, not another toy, but time, an ear and a kettle. Really instead of a campervan, I should have a big photo of my family, particularly my mum and Sam’s mum. It’s easy to take it for granted but someone to really look out for you and your other half and genuinely care when you have a baby is insanely wonderful and I feel extremely blessed to have it. Due to the fact that I only really have one close friend who has a baby, my family really became my friends and my main support network. So even though packing up and heading off is a pipe dream, I know there are a good few special things right here on my doorstep worth sticking around for. (quite literally on my doorstep as my mum lives across the road) Who is the one person you couldn’t have been without when you started out a a mum?

Jack enjoying one of his afternoon's with his grandma.

Jack enjoying one of his afternoon’s with his grandma.

My non changing changing bag.

I ummed and ahh-ed about choosing a baby changing bag for ages. I think it was because it was my first opportunity to add some of “me” into motherhood. Everything I saw around me in the shops was either covered in cupcakes or polka dots or plain and “trendy” to a degree that it looked like something my hipster friends would take to work. On top of these such extremely important stylistic issues, I suffer from back pain which isn’t ideal for lugging copious amounts around with me (read: everything you need to keep a baby alive). Moreover, I don’t even own a traditional handbag so there was little chance that as I embarked on motherhood that I would suddenly embrace normal female bag habits. The situation was calling for one thing and one thing only: a rucksack.

Why men get to wear rucksacks when women blatantly have a tonne more to carry around has always baffled me. And with motherhood looming, I decided to full on embrace geek motherhood. In the end I went for an Eastpak Aztec one which I absolutely love. It sits firmly on my back, is big enough to hold everything I need for Jack plus a few of my essentials and I think it’s pretty funky too. If someone could just invent a rucksack with compartments, I’d be sorted as my lipsticks have ended up stuck in the creases of Jack’s nappies a fair few times.

So if any pregnant ladies are reading this, embrace comfort and space, with a bit of chaos, eschew the stereotypical changing bag and get yourself a backpack.