First things first, I am not a medical professional. Anything but. What I am though is a mother navigating the parental minefield who, a little confused following some recent GP advice, a little reluctant to administer more ‘stuff’, took to my little corner of the internet, to the ‘instamum’ community, to do what I desperately wanted to do: just hear from another mama or two. View Post
We try to fill our home with as much ‘healthy’ food as possible but, when bringing up kids (and as adults, living on little sleep, and just generally being only human and therefore having a penchant for carbs and sugar..), inevitably there are sweet treats lurking in our cupboards. Breakfast is a tricky one though; for me it’s the most important meal of the day not necessarily nutritionally but almost mentally – what you put in your mouth first thing in the morning can dictate how you feed yourself, and your general headspace therefore, for the whole rest of the day. But then again, you – or your kids – don’t always feel like chowing down a spinach smoothie first thing in the morning…
Which is sort of what this recipe is about. Jack absolutely loves cheerios – but I’m well aware that they contain sugars which I’d rather he didn’t eat. So this breakfast is a compromise – he can eat his cheerios, and have fun dunking them in the milky yogurt, but he also enjoys the chia which despite their teeny tiny size, are amazingly packed full of nutrition and are a great source of fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids.
WHAT YOU NEED:
A generous handful of chia seeds
Half a bowl of milk (though it really depends how milky you like the oats – add more milk for a more ‘cereal’ like experience, more chia seeds and oats for a more solid consistency. You’ll see what I mean once you try it…)
A cup of oats
A few tablespoons of yoghurt
A dash of cinnamon and vanilla essence
A selection of fruit
An ‘unhealthy’ topping (we use cheerios – Cinnamon Grahams are next up…)
The night before the morning you plan to eat this, you will need to carve yourself out literally 30 seconds to prepare the below. And it’ll be the best spent time of your day, I am telling you.
Grab a bowl, and fill it three quarters way to the top with a milk of your choice (I use almond, dairy-free milk but any milk will do. I want to try it with coconut milk) Add the oats, cinnamon, and vanilla essence. Then grab a generous handful of chia seeds, and mix everything together. Cover with some clingfilm, place in the fridge to soak (you can also leave to soak for a few hours but it always seems to taste better when left to soak overnight).
Best served with a load of fresh fruit, of course that generous sprinkling of an ‘unhealthy’ something and a big smile (and cup of coffee for mama!)
Give it a go and let me know how you get on.
The only rule is that there are no rules. On a good day, Jack watches no TV, he naps for 2 hours, Sonny gurgles with joy, we venture out somewhere fun, Jack eats all his meals, the boys splash and have fun together in the bath and Sonny goes down to sleep for the evening. On a bad day, Jack watches hours of Paw Patrol, Sonny is restless, I’m shattered, I have no imagination (on the games / food front) we don’t leave the house (let alone get dressed!), Jack refuses to eat much resulting in what we call a ‘bath time dinner’ (cleaning baked beans stuck to the side of the tub isn’t so much fun at the end of the day) and I shove Sonny in Sam’s face the minute he walks through the door.
As with everything in life, there are good days and there are bad days. You just have to do what you can to minimise the bad ones whilst remembering that there will almost always be a moment (or two) in the day when the wheels do definitely fall off; for us this is usually when we’re about to go out the house and is a sign that we need to get out ASAP or if both boys suddenly get very tired and need a nap.
I’ll let the video do the talking – I’m quite proud of this one mainly just because I think it’s a real representation of our days together and so I think it’s one that I’ll treasure for years to come.
How do you spend days with your little ones? Are you out and about or more of a home bod?
Fed up with baby washes that are either full of toxins OR cost the earth, and now with two boys to bath at the end of the day, I’ve decided to try my hand at making some bath washes for Jack and Sonny. View Post
If you’re looking for Manhattan sophistication without the business of a city, with a large dose of breathtaking scenery, then Upstate New York is your answer. The area, which surrounds New York City and extends all the way to Canada, is dotted with hundreds of beautiful small towns which take you right back to nature, are gorgeously quaint and yet are totally chic and effortlessly ‘cool’ due to the epic shops and eateries that populate them (or at least the ones we visited). Forget the Hamptons, some of the spots we saw look like something you’d find in small French villages, or in a painting (indeed the area was historically a haven for artists fleeing the city for some inspiration and respite in the 1800s). Below I’m outlining our itinerary, which was just a handful of towns – there are so many to pick from so I’d recommend you do a bit of research ahead of time to decide if it’s nature, food or shopping you’re after. Also we hired a car after staying the weekend in Brooklyn but it’s worth noting that you can also access many of these places by train.
And so it was one morning, with a tummy full of pancakes and too many mugs of strong coffee, that we headed North on Route 32…
Our first stop was Woodstock which, before I go on, must get one thing out the way: Woodstock is not where the famed festival took place. (It actually happened down the road in a place called Bethel – head to the Bethel Woods Centre for Arts to see the original site). That said, the town carries over a truly arty spirit with a good dose of tie-dye wearing folk and bearded hitchikers to give you a good feel of the energy of the festival. We stayed at Hotel Dylan which had super stylishy decked out rooms, a small but perfect little pool and a bonfire at night which was fun to sit around with some of the other guests (even if we did slightly cramp their style with a 3 month old babe in arms) That said, we can’t quite put our finger on it but we found the vibe a little sterile and the continental breakfast they put on during the weekend was really poor. The hotel is a short drive into Woodstock town which made it quiet but bear in mind that you’d need to have a car or take a taxi to get into the centre.
Food wise, Shindig provided some of the tastiest food we ate our whole trip – serious comfort food made from organic, seasonal ingredients which meant that our order of just a burger and grain salad tasted outrageously delicious. Another favourite of ours was Garden Cafe which is a must for any vegan – there is a gorgeous, spacious garden and bar which was divine for basking in the sun. The staff are also lovely and there is a really lovely laid back vibe in this spot. For something entirely relaxed, one evening we tried Tinker Taco Lab , a cute taco joint with seating outdoors and a simple menu of tacos and tamales. Just remember to order enough – they are super delicious but the portions aren’t huge (or expensive) so be generous with your ordering. And don’t forget to try one of their delicious margharitas from the bar (though you’ll probably want to drink yours on site – as opposed to taking it away which is what we had to do once we realised that we should probably put our toddler to bed circa 10pm) Oh and ice cream at Jane’s Icecream is a must – the cinnamon crumb cake is other worldy good. I had to share mine with Jack, which I didn’t appreciate (neither of us did)
There is so much to do in Woodstock from art galleries to hikes to shopping. Highlights for us included an afternoon at the beautiful Big Deep watering hole and a morning spent meandering around the shops. Simply wander up the main drag and you cannot fail to be pulled into one of the many interiors, food or clothes stores. Woodstock General Store sells the cutest backpacks and candles I think I’ve ever laid eyes on, I wanted every single cushion at Shop Little House whilst The Golden Notebook is full of unique kids books and accessories: a “Goodbye Moon” tote bag anyone? Yes please. You can also do stunning hikes all around the area and the town itself, nestled at the base of Overlook Mountain, is a great place to do some hiking. We*attempted* the two-and-a-half-mile trek up (and I mean up it – it is entirely uphill) Overlook – there are apparently amazing views of the Catskills and Hudson valley but I say *attempted* as we had to give up half way up; we (well, I) had been a little too ambitious and the upper lip sweating and ergo wriggling had become a bit much. We probably should have opted for the more suitable Kaaterskill Falls hike….#ihateitwhenthehusbandisright.
Next up on our Upstate travels was the town of Hudson. With hundreds of historic buildings of every architectural style you could imagine and a plethora of classy restaurants, antique shops, art galleries and cool boutiques and located just by the Hudson River, for me Hudson felt like the epitome of all I’ve learnt Upstate New York to be; that is, an urban gem set in Nature with a huge amount of charm. Hudson is very easily accessible via train on the Amtrak so there is no need to rent a car, and the town itself is totally walkable – basically everything you need is centred around Warren Street. We stayed at the wonderful WM Farmer and Sons Boarding and Barroom which for so many reasons I can not recommend highly enough. It is perfect for families in that our room (we stayed in the Ann Marie Suite) also had a kitchenette and a living room which gave us plenty of space to spread out and really feel at home. The bathroom had a beautiful clawfoot tub which I won’t lie, I pretty much jumped straight in to as soon as we arrived, and the accompanying gorgeous toiletries didn’t go amiss either. Indeed, the attention to detail at WM Farmer and Sons is pretty spectacular; from freshly ground coffee and biscotti left in the kitchen to the fact that each room is decorated slightly differently (ours had a huge splendid vintage American flag hanging high above the bed), the thought and care that has gone into creating each space is evident. The fact that our room was right above not only a super cute coffee shop serving up amazing coffee and freshly baked muffins in the mornings, but also one of the best restaurants in town was another huge bonus. It meant that with some help from the iSitter app, we were able to leave Jack sleeping in his cot upstairs whilst we wined and dined downstairs. Do not miss the heirloom tomato salad – sounds simple but those tomatoes will stay with me forever. I’d also like to give a special shout out to their staff who were some of the friendliest folk that we encountered during our whole trip Upstate (we spent one early evening hanging out with the owner and their kid at the local playground and drinking cocktails together).
The activity de rigeur here in Hudson is simply just strolling up and down Warren street popping in and out of all the stores and eateries. Do not miss Relish where all we ordered was an egg and kale sandwich and some oatmeal but I cannot stress to you how delicious and fresh both were. For picnic provisions, head to Talbott & Arding (or just pick up a gorgeous bunch of sunflowers like I did!), try Moto Coffee Machine for motorbikes to entertain Jack and baked goods and strong coffee for parents and Food Studio which gives local food a Vietnamese twist is supposed to be amazing. Also don’t miss Grazin’ for their burgers and Bonfiglio and Bread for out of this world delicious sandwiches.
We spent the final part of our roadtrip in the small sleepy towns of Callicoon and North Branch where we enjoyed some unforgettably slow and wonderful days. We may well have just passed these towns by had we not had the opportunity to stay at the small and perfectly formed North Branch Inn and Nine River Road – two of the most beautiful hotels we may in fact ever stay in! Both hotels, together with The Arnold House, are owned by a husband and wife team and together with a super friendly but discreet team of staff, really make you feel like you’re staying at a friend’s house rather than a hotel – in all the right ways.
Totally unpretentious, but super comfortable. Think plates of chocolate cookies left out for you (not to mention the huge vat of sherry), postcards ready to send home, boardgames, Malin and Goetz bath products, firepits, rocking chairs that you cannot resist flopping down in, crisp cotton sheets, antique lamps, libraries, to name just a few of the details that these beautiful places offer up. Oh and the beds. I cannot describe the magnitude of the beds. (For anyone that knows the chain, the hotels reminded me a lot of the Soho House hotels) Finally, a big highlight is the two-lane wooden bowling alley (seriously old school – it dates back to the early 1900s!) at North Branch Inn – Jack was beside himself with excitement and spent a good hour (could have spent longer) pushing balls up and down the lane whilst staff looked on amused (and totally cool with it!).
As I said, these towns are sleepy so the emphasis when you are staying at these hotels is to take it easy, enjoy a coffee in the hammock and soak up the beautiful countryside that surrounds you- both properties are located besides water. You won’t want to rush anywhere. When we did venture out, we spent one blissful afternoon lazing by Crystal Lake (there is a 1.3 mile circular around it which sounded gorgeous but we were having a rather dreamy time in the water so didn’t want to move. If you do go, remember to check for tics afterwards).
If you have kids definitely check outApple Pond Farm – it’s very rural and rustic so phone them first to check that they are around – but it’s a wonderful, fully organic working farm and they run tours and workshops and you can even stay overnight on site. It’s also a renewable energy Education centre, if that’s your thing.
Food wise, a stay at North Branch inn includes breakfast – all locally sourced – as there is an excellent on site restaurant where I’d highly recommend eating. The menu is limited, but superbly fresh. One evening I had a delicious piece of trout that I won’t forget in a hurry. Otherwise, these towns are small so there’s not much choice but we ate a full organic and delicious breakfast of challah, toast and eggs with the brightest yellow yolks at Adella Dori on Lower main street and I’d definitely recommend Peppino’s for pizza, salad and decent glass of red wine (the pizza was so good, and so big, that we had to leave with a little doggy bag)
Finally, you won’t want to miss Main Street Farm in the nearby town of Livingstone Manor – it is one of the most rad delis I’ve ever visited with the most gorgeous local seasonal organic vegetables, cheeses, meats, and general groceries not to mention amazing pancake mix and maple syrup (“tree juice” they call it) which we couldn’t resist getting to take home with us. Other local activities which you might want to try your hand at include fly fishing, golf, local breweries, hiking, horseriding – there’s even an alpaca farm in the area where you can visit baby animals and stock up on warm socks.
It’s a truly special part of the world. I only wish we could have stayed longer.
So if there is one piece of advice I’d like to leave you with, it’s this: there is definitely more to New York than just flat whites and skyscrapers. I would highly recommend taking a short drive or train ride from the concrete jungle to visit some of these spots, or just spend the day – there’s a whole state to explore full of unassuming, unhurried but beautiful nature, amazing seasonal-focused food and wildly good indie boutique shopping. You’ll find a much slower pace of life, and I promise you you’ll feel all the better for it. Have you visited Upstate New York? Would you like to? Or are you just a New York person through and through? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or drop me a line.
Thanks so much for reading as ever,
So many people scared us before having Sonny about how we would cope with two. “Say goodbye to *any* free time you have” was one particular phrase we heard a lot. Lines like that one, as well as the sleepless night, mess and bickering that having a new baby inevitably involves made us both begin to feel anxious in the weeks leading up to Sonny’s due date. Not ideal when you’re waddling around 40 weeks pregnant and running after a toddler… View Post
To some people, it may seem bizarre that we spent a weekend in New York and didn’t step foot into Manhattan. But to me and my brood (husband, three month old and two year old), it was the perfect way to enjoy the vibrancy and excitement of New York without getting caught up in the fast paced, relentlessness of a city. Instead, we opted to spend our time solely in Brooklyn which for those that don’t know the area, is one of New York’s five boroughs and is a melting pot of different communities and cultures with a healthy dose of hipster thrown in. In the last years it has undergone rapid gentrification and now the streets, particularly in Williamsburg, are lined with quirky cafes, clothes, interior shops and more.
We only had three nights there before heading Upstate so we crammed a lot in. Here’s my top picks which are a combination of things we did and things we-would-have-done-had-we-had-more-money-more time-and-less-kids (Thanks also to some further inspiration from my friend, Sophie – @sophiesoso) :
Brooklyn is renowned for extortionately high rental prices (average rent prices are $3000 per month) which the hotel rates reflect. People rave about the Wythe hotel (as well as the cocktails you can get at the rooftop Ides bar there) and I’ve also heard good things about Box House Hotel in Greenpoint which offers apartment style accommodation with a small kitchen and living room. Box House also have a shuttle service to take guests anywhere within a mile of the hotel – ie. they’ll drop you anywhere in Williamsburg or Greenpoint – which is great for transporting little ones / huge amounts of shopping / getting yourself back to your bed after one too many. We opted for an air b n b apartment in Williamsburg close to Bedford Avenue – a mile long stretch of road between McCarren Park and the Williamsburg bridge which is “where it’s at” (interestingly, there is huge controversy at the recent arrival of an Apple store…). This had the huge advantage that we could walk everywhere which meant we didn’t have to waste money on cabs or the subway, and we got to know the area pretty well by the end of our stay.
Wow, where do I begin? The restaurant scene in Brooklyn, particularly in Williamsburg, is electric and the ingredients are amazing. Brunch is the big thing in New York – though only on weekends – but that’s not to say that you can’t get wonderful breakfast or lunch every other day of the week. Go to Egg for simple fare in a minimalist vibe, the ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter at Five Leaves are ridiculous (I literally could hardly speak as I was eating them out of pure wonder that something could taste that good) – not to mention the Moroccan Scramble with merguez sausage and chickpeas. Dinner one evening was a Moroccan affair with friends at Mogador and whilst the kids slept beside us in the buggy / car seat, we enjoyed a wonderful glass of wine and delicious plates of salmon and cous cous. The restaurant was buzzing though apparently brunch there is something special. Another evening we enjoyed some sneaky cocktails at Diviera whilst they whisked up a meat pasta for Jack and Sam eyed up the table tennis table. The crowds at all of these places were ridiculously trendy – safe to say, we decidedly brought the vibe down a notch on the cool stakes with two kids hanging off us (sorry guys). Also don’t forget to check our Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea Food market on Saturday and Sundays (all day) on the Williamsburg waterfront which, with over 100 food stalls, is an absolute foodies heaven where you can find anything from churros to chicken wings – it’s totally buzzing (though maybe not ideal with two starving kids – queues can be quite long) Finally, don’t underestimate how good fast food is over there; we had an epic burger and chips at Shake Shack (now in the UK too!) and a plethora of amazing take away pizza places; one of these bad boys saved our jet lagged bellies circa 1am on our first night. We got ours from Best Pizza – it was epic – but I’ve heard good things about Antonio’s too.
No trip to New York would be complete without a visit to the waterfront to see the beautiful skyline. Dumbo, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is an excellent place to while away a day, especially with kids. Not only does it have a plethora of cool outdoor spaces overlooking the water, it also has a carousel for the little ones to ride on and you can catch the ferry back which is always a bit of an adventure for kids and adults alike. Also this Dumbo guide seems excellent to me. Sam is a big tennis fan so one of our days was also spent at the US Open which I have to say was awesome – if you can get to a sports match or manage to see a show whilst you are in New York, I’d massively recommend it. That place does live events so well.
Yes, I love travelling with my husband and kids but unfortunately the one front they massively disappoint on is shopping. We spent an afternoon wandering around the streets of Williamsburg with me darting in and out of as many shops as I could – here’s what I gleaned: Go to Catbird for everything from candles to jewellery (their tagline is “the Brooklyn mecca for all things sparkly and exciting” – need I say more?), Avigail Adams for gorgeous greek goddess headbands and bracelets, Soap Cherie for every natural bath product imaginable, Sprout Home for succulents, terrariums and macrame galore and Mociun for bright gemstones, ceramics and many more beautiful boho goods. I managed to sneak in a wander around Artists and Fleas, the designer and vintage market (open all day Saturday and Sunday – combine with a visit to Smorgasburg as they are opposite each other ) in a huge warehouse and a must for any trend-spotters, artists or designers. Or if you just like beautiful things at affordable prices; I came out with a gorgeous vegan lip gloss which I was pretty happy with.
Below are a few snaps from our time in Brooklyn – what an awesome corner of New York and the perfect way to start our America adventures…
Thanks for reading and as ever, please do leave me a comment with any tips you’ve got for Brooklyn or for the rest of New York. Or just to say hello – I love hearing from yas.
I’ve made a discovery, and I need to tell everyone about it. It’s a simple, solid, reasonably priced piece of female KIT and it actually works wonders.
It’s a hairbrush. A boar bristle hairbrush.
A what? Read on…
So what is this?
It’s just a hairbrush – but the bristles, instead of being synthetic, are made from boar’s hair and the handle is made from wood. There are many different kinds; from the Mason Pearson being the best quality (the price says it all) to the humble Spornette which is the one I have. Boar bristle hairbrushes used to be very common in Victorian times (you’ve probably seen those pictures of the upper class women sitting at their dressing tables brushing their hair for hours…they’d have been using a boar bristle brush) but their usage died out in more recent times with the advent of so many hair products.
How does it work?
The brush works by redistributing the natural oils that your hair produces moving them from the roots to the tips of the hair. In other words, instead of keeping all the oils at the top (hence why hair often gets greasy at the crown of your head) it gets that grease to a good home.
What are the benefits?
For me there are two main benefits: firstly, using this brush has made my hair so much shinier and silkier thanks to all the natural oils running through my locks. It has seriously improved the condition of my hair so much so that people comment on how glossy my hair is now (I NEVER used to get that…’greasy’ not ‘glossy’ was the most commonly used adjective to describe my hair amongst my friends!) Secondly, and as a result of the first point, it means I have to wash my hair so much less (I used to wash my hair 2/3 times a week; I am now down to once a week) which for me is a winner not only because it saves mama over here time but also because it means I can avoid putting any nasties on my hair that shampoos inevitably contains (I haven’t mustered up the energy to make my own hair products yet).
There are several other advantages of getting hold of a boar bristle brush for yourself:
* I find that my hair definitely grows faster with it – when you brush, you are stimulating (gently) the roots on your scalp helping make more blood to flow to your hair follicles!
* Brushing is actually a really relaxing ritual (see below for how).
* If you are prone to dry hair or dry ends then again, the oil distribution is awesome at enhancing your hair’s moisture.
* Forget using hair straighteners, brushing with the boar bristle brush genuinely makes my hair much straighter. (I’m not sure how well the brush would work on curly hair – I have read that it is better for use on straight or wavy hair).
* If you are after extra volume, then the backcombing part of the brushing will give you tonnes of this.
But HOW does it work?
There is a “method”? (sounds cryptic) but it really is super simple. Every evening I brush my hair through with my normal hairbrush to get the tangles out. Then with my spornette I slowly brush from roots to tips around the crown of my head. Then I tip my head upside and do the same to the underside of my hair. I do this all slowly and quite methodically to catch every part of my hair but it literally takes 2 minutes and is really therapeutic.
And that’s it! I’m all about boar bristle brushes making a come back given all the benefits… Seriously, with one of these babies, you might as well ditch half your hair products…
I hope you found this post useful and might be persuaded to bag yourself a brush.*
P.s To clean your brush simply pull out any hair stuck in it using the end of a comb then mix bicarbonate of soda and water together and dip the bristles into the mixture. Be careful to keep the wood out of the water and swill around a bit and then rinse under lukewarm water.
P.p.s I promise this is not an ad – I’m just a big advocate of BBB!