Wednesday 30 July 2014

11 Tips for Moving House with a Toddler

Two months ago (has it really been that long?!), after many months of painstaking negotiations, we eventually moved house. We said goodbye to our first family home, and moved a whole five minutes down the road. We moved while my parents were away, so we didn’t have any help in terms of packing up, but we hired removal men to make moving day easier. Unpacking is still a working progress though, I’m afraid, but we’re getting there. Anyway, we survived, and Ebony seemed to be right at home in her new house, so I wanted to share some tips about to move home with a toddler:

1. Keep stress levels to a minimum
I’ll hold my hands up here and say that we weren’t particularly good at this one. During the (many, many) months of trying to buy the house we now live in, signing papers and dealing with mortgages, we were stressed. Do whatever you can to try and keep stress levels at a minimum, so that there isn’t an unpleasant atmosphere looming in your home.

2. Prepare early
Our house buying process was quite drawn out, but I’d started packing up odd boxes soon after we sold our house. We knew we’d be moving at some point, so it seemed sensible to start packing things we rarely used into boxes. This made it all seemed more manageable, and much less time consuming, in the weeks before the move. Trying to do it all in one go is inevitably going to lead to a meltdown as your toddler battles for your attention.

3. Prepare your child
Shortly after we sold our house, I stumbled across the Usbourne First Experiences book ‘Moving House’ in my local charity shop for the bargain price of 10p. You can buy it for £3.59 from Amazon here. It’s not the most riveting book to read, but it helped Ebony to understand what moving house meant. We read the book regularly whilst we were waiting to move, and I discussed the idea of moving house with her a lot. She always seems quite excited about the new house, thanks to the lure of the play room.

4. Pack toddler items last
Ebony wasn’t at all bothered when I started packing away her clothes, but she wasn’t overly pleased to see her ‘favourite’ (read: unplayed with for months on end) toys going into boxes. I left this packing until the last minute, because I didn’t want the house move to become something that prevented her from having her favourite (read: dusty and completely unloved) things. I also packed her things separately and made sure the boxes were clearly labelled (this may be how most people pack their entire house, but our stuff sort of just got haphazardly jammed into boxes and covered in packing tape).

5. Take favourite toys with you
Instead of leaving Ebony’s stuff for the removal men, I made sure I took a box of her favourite toys with us in the car during the move. This meant that as soon as we arrived at the new house, we had access to all of her favourite things. I’m glad we did this because the removal men piled all of our boxes into an impenetrable tower in the corner of a room and it took me weeks to get through them all.

6. Keep your toddler with you on the day
This one might be a bit controversial, because I think most people take the view that it’s easier to move house with the toddler safely out of the way. We had various offers from friends and family who said they could entertain Ebony for a few hours while the move was underway, but I thought she would find it easier to witness the move. Far from feeling traumatised by seeing the removal men carry out our sofas, she seemed excited to be involved in the process. She helped me with the last minute tidy up, and then accompanied me to the new house. We arrived before the removal men, allowing us to explore the house so she could get accustomed to her new surroundings.

7. Go for an explore
Once the removal men arrived with all of the furniture, we decided to get out of their way. If you have moved to a new area, this would be a great time to check out the local park, or just have a nosy around the neighbourhood. We didn’t move far so we decided to head out and explore the garden instead. The garden was one of the lures of the new house for me. Our old garden was overlooked and never felt that private, but our new garden is totally enclosed and feels incredibly private. The house had been empty for about six months, so when we moved in the garden was completely overgrown. It was lovely to spend the afternoon exploring our new sun-drenched garden, whilst Ebony made use of the toys (trampoline, see saw and playhouse) left behind by the previous owners.

8. Use distraction
Moving always takes longer than anticipated, so to avoid having a fed up toddler on your hands, have some distraction tricks up your sleeve. I bought a slide from eBay for £11, and kept it hidden in the shed until moving day. When we arrived at the new house, Ebony was thrilled to see the slide, though it was somewhat overshadowed by the trampoline, and spent ages happily playing in the garden whilst the removal men finished unloading.

9. Unpack their room first
Make sure you have all of their things to hand, so that you can get their bed for the night set up before bedtime. Have their favourite bedding, cuddly toys and pyjamas to hand so that bedtime feels as normal as possible. We were still co-sleeping at the time, so I just made sure our bed was set up and made in good time.

10. Stick to routine
Routine helps toddlers to feel safe, and while we don’t have a strict routine, bedtime was between 6 and 7 when we moved. I made sure Ebony was fed, bathed and in pyjamas at the usual time, and she fell asleep with no trouble at 6pm, completely exhausted after a busy day.

11. Unpack slowly
Moving house is a major life event for you, so imagine how it feels for your toddler! Being a toddler is hard enough as it is, without these huge changes, so expect at least a few difficulties in the weeks following the move. Chances are your toddler has been feeling a little left out of late, with all the packing and organising you’ve been doing, so now is the time to spend some quality time with your child. It doesn’t matter if some of your boxes stay packed a little longer than you’d like, or if you haven’t quite sorted out the spare bedroom, what matters is that your child feels safe and happy in their new home.

Have I missed anything off this list?

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Monday 28 July 2014

Gelaaato Di Marco & The Elusive Vegan Ice Cream Cone

We went to Spain last month for a family holiday (you can see more photos from our holiday here). One of the highlights was a day trip to Barcelona. I’d visited Barcelona for a few days with friends when I was a student, but Laurie hadn’t been before. We met up with my parents in Barcelona, it was the first time we’d seen them in months as they’d been busy traveling around Spain and Portugal in their motorhome.

When we were arranging the trip, I asked my dad to look online to see if he could find details of a vegan ice cream place in Barcelona. We didn’t have internet access on holiday, and I didn’t want it - it’s so nice having a break from the stresses of work-related emails for a while. My dad later told me he thought it was a ridiculous thing to Google, and was sure it wouldn’t find anything useful. But it did!

We got the bus to Barcelona and met my parents near the bus stop. They were so excited to see Ebony, it took a while for them to notice me and Laurie! We made our way towards the Cathedral, and tried to decide whether to go in or not. Our bus had taken a while, and Ebony had been so good, that we sort of felt she deserved some fun, and probably wouldn’t have wanted to walk calmly round a cathedral. So, after a quick run around in the open space in front of the Cathedral, we set off in search of vegan ice cream.

A short walk around the busy, narrow streets led us to our destination - Gelaaato Di Marco. According to the internet, it was a gelato shop that had a few vegan options (they also had gluten free cones) available, but you can never be too sure how reliable the internet is. We left Ebony outside with my parents, because I thought it would be too awful for her to see ice cream and then not be able to have one if they didn’t have any vegan ones on sale. But they did! And they had a ‘Friend to the Animals’ award on the wall, which I thought was pretty awesome.

They had four different vegan ice cream flavours to choose from - one made from coconut, and a couple from rice milk. They had chocolate, coconut, vanilla and cinnamon ice cream. We got Ebony a small cone of the coconut ice cream because she coconut is one of her favourite foods. I had two scoops; one coconut and one chocolate, and Laurie decided to have vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon. The ice cream was so good. I spent the rest of the holiday arguing with myself about whether it was worth going all the way back to Barcelona just to get another ice cream (it was, but we didn’t).

When we left the shop, Ebony looked excited to see a vegan ice cream headed her way. One of the perils of a vegan childhood is that she hasn’t yet cottoned on to how fast ice cream melts. There was a lot of mess, quite a bit of stickiness and a few spills, and it was wonderful.

I finally have the photograph of the messy-mouthed ice cream-wielding child to add to my collection.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Living Arrows 29/52

The weather has been so wonderful all week, and the builders are finally gone, so we've spent most of the week in the garden. The paddling pool has been full all week, with the slide leading into it, and that has kept Ebony entertained for hours on end. We've had picnics, barbecues, and invited friends round to play in the garden.

It was Laurie's birthday on Wednesday, so while he was busy at work, we used baking a cake as a nice excuse to escape the heat for a short while. We made a raspberry cake and it was absolutely delicious. We followed a recipe from Sweet Vegan (you can buy it here). We've so far tried the brownies and the raspberry cake, and both have been amazing. 

I think Ebony managed to consume her weight in sugar whilst we baked the cake, and then again by the time all the cake had gone (we had our last slices this afternoon). 
living arrows
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Thursday 17 July 2014

Living Arrows 27/52 & 28/52

I'm not very good at getting these things done on time, am I? The past couple of weeks have been filled with snotty noses, sleepless nights and clinginess. The top photo was taken in our garden on a beautiful summer day. Our house is covered in scaffolding, and we've had workmen around for weeks, so our use of the garden has been limited. After the workmen left, we went out in the garden for some fresh air (read: in a desperate yet futile attempt to tire Ebony out before bed).

The bottom photo (which was actually taken earlier) was taken during the week of illness. Ebony was under the weather and had a fever and a suspicious spot which I was worried may develop into chicken pox, so we spent a couple of days at home. The second photo was taken on my phone whilst we were snuggled up under a blanket watching Homeward Bound.
living arrows

Tuesday 15 July 2014

A Family Holiday to Spain

This blog has been very quiet lately because we’re still trying to get sorted in our new house, so I’m very behind with all of my posts. Last month we went on our first ‘proper’ family holiday. We went to Brighton in a motorhome last year, and had such an amazing time, but this year we decided to go abroad.
We booked the holiday before deciding to move house, and I think if it had been the other way round we probably wouldn’t have gone abroad (especially if we’d known how much work our new house would need), but I’m glad we did because it was so lovely to get completely away from real life for a bit.
Laurie works ridiculous hours, I actually don’t understand how he manages to cram so many working hours into a single day, and has emails connected to his phone, so it sometimes (always) feel like his work is infringing on our life. The only way to get him away from emails, is to leave the country so he can’t access them. I work when Ebony is asleep, or when Laurie is home to play with her, so it feels a bit like we have very limited time to just enjoy life as a family of three.
We went to Spain for 10 days, staying in an apartment just south of Salou. Ebony was excited about going on a plane for the first time, and was wide awake the whole journey despite an early start (much to mine and Laurie’s disappointment, we were knackered). We arrived at our apartment by lunchtime, and we spent the afternoon sitting by the pool in the sunshine. Ebony was SO excited to be on holiday. She spent the first afternoon running around with a huge smile on her face. At one point it all seemed a bit much for her and she just ran over to use and shouted, “HOLIDAAAAAY!” before dashing off and going down the slide again. It was so lovely.
The nearest supermarket was well stocked with soya and almond milks, and even had some vegan margarine though we didn’t realise until the last day. The beach was a two minute walk away, and was surprisingly quiet meaning we could just let Ebony wander off and explore whilst we kept an eye on her. We spent our days making sandcastles, paddling in the sea, swimming in the pool and eating Barcelona bread. I even managed to read books - a rare luxury since having Ebony.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Review & Giveaway: Win a Selection of London Tea

I stopped drinking tea about a month ago, this is a side effect of giving up soya milk. I originally planned to give substitute the soya milk for almond or coconut milk, but after having a 48 hour headache from tea withdrawal, I didn’t really want to start drinking it again. When I say I gave up tea, I mean english breakfast tea. I’ve never really been a fan of fruit teas, having always favoured a good old fashioned brew. But the more I wrote about health for work, the more interested I became in reducing my caffeine consumption. So when the lovely people at London Tea got in touch to offer me a selection of teas to review, I was keen to give fruit teas another go. I was sent a selection of flavours including English Breakfast Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, Tropical Green Tea, Peach & Rhubarb, Pure Peppermint, Pure Rooibos, Vanilla Chai, Zingy Lemon and Ginger, Raspberry Inferno and White Tea, Pear Tatin. Between myself and my dedicated team of voluntary tea tasters, all the flavours have been sampled. My personal favourite is the Raspberry Inferno, it has such a wonderful flavour, with the Vanilla Chai coming in a close second. The teas are flavoursome and smell delicious. Unlike some other brands of herbal teas, you don’t need to leave the tea bag in very long. In fact, I tend to leave it in for only around 30 seconds and still end up with a strong flavour. All of the teas are Fairtrade Certified, something that’s been really important to me since hearing some Fairtrade farmers speak at a work event in my past life. All of the teas are also certified as vegetarian and vegan. The teas are packaged in brightly coloured boxes featuring silhouettes of iconic London landmarks. The boxes and stylish, and the individually packaged teas look great too. Mine are all stored in a huge box, and I love the variety of colours that leap out at me when I go to choose a tea. They would make a great gift for a tea lover, and there are lots of different flavours to choose from. You can buy the teas here. My favourite, the Raspberry Inferno, is currently on sale with a pack of 20 teabags costing just £1.27. Bargain. London Tea have been lovelier enough to offer readers the chance to win a selection of their teas. Two readers will each win a set of London Tea’s Everyday range including Tropical Green Tea, Peach & Rhubarb, Zingy Lemon & Ginger, Raspberry Inferno and White Tea, Pear Tatin. To enter, all you need to do is fill in the Rafflecopter below. The winner will be announced early next month. Good luck!

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Saturday 5 July 2014

Living Arrows 25/52 & 26/52

At some point, I'm going to get really good at blogging on time, but in the meantime, here is another catch up Living Arrows post. We went up to Edinburgh last weekend, Ebony was so lovely to travel with. She was easily entertained the whole way to Edinburgh, and there wasn't a tantrum in sight. When we finally arrived at our apartment, she was ready to stretch her legs. We decided to head out to The Meadows so she could have a run around, this photograph shows her peering out of our apartment window, desperate to be outside. 

After two and a half years of co-sleeping (more on that soon), Ebony's new bed arrived this week. She was so excited about having her very own bed in her very own bedroom. Here she is, all tucked in with her favourite cuddly toys, ready for her first night in her new bed. She wouldn't even let me lie next to her while she fell asleep that night (hello, empty nest syndrome). 
living arrows

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