Monday, 13 May 2019

Travel: Exploring New York!

Our first family trip abroad was to New York in February. We flew from Birmingham, UK to meet Laura's parents in the city that never sleeps and it was AMAZING! Annabelle was just over 7 months old.

We shared this post earlier in the year on our family Must See List but we thought we would share a video we recorded while there.

The video is here.

We also shared a post on Essentials of travelling with a baby here.

Our highlights in New York included:
  • Top of the Rock
  • Brooklyn Bridge / Dumbo
  • The High Line
  • Stardust Diner / Times Square 
  • And tons more!
And here's a few of our picture highlights, there are some in the video too :)

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Travel: 8 Reasons To Visit Bergen, Norway!

When we visited Oslo in 2017 we had an amazing trip. You can read all about it here. From the scenery to the people, from the food to the history Norway has plenty to offer. Having explored the biggest city last time we wanted to try something different this time and headed to the gateway of the fjords - Bergen!


Honestly our trip had so many highlights that we highly recommend visiting Bergen. We arrived on Friday evening having flown Birmingham to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Bergen on KLM (highly recommend this airline unlike Brussels Air). Each flight was just over an hour. We had 3 days exploring the city and flew back Tuesday afternoon. It was a perfect amount of time and even though the weather was changeable we had plenty of time to see everything we wanted.

Bergen is a UNESCO world heritage city and European city of culture - check out Visit Bergen here.

 1) Everything is beautiful. The surrounding scenery is spectacular, the houses nestled into the mountains by the port are adorable and the area is so clean and well laid out. When you arrive (depending on the time of year) at the lake in the centre you are greeted with beautiful blossom trees and the largest tulips in every colour. It's like a painting of spring.

2) It's SO family friendly. There was so many families everywhere we went and with Norway encouraging Dads to take parental leave you were just as likely to see a group of Dads with buggies as you were Mums. We were always acknowledged as Mum's wherever we went and even found an entire LGBT artwork store!

At the airport there were free buggies to use to move around, there were children's play areas that were free to use (although we are noticing more and more airports doing this now) and when we boarded our bus to the centre there were child seats available. All of these things were amazing as we only travelled with our baby carrier.

3) Bryggen - the old wharf area of Bergen stands on the port side and is a reminder of the trade significance of the area back as far as the 14th century. The wooden buildings have created passageways in a higgley-piggelty way making it interesting to wander around. Most of the buildings are now shops, cafes or art galleries and worth checking out. We spent over an hour seeing what was on offer before enjoying a snack in a cafe.

4) The Floibanen Funicular - this railway takes you to the top of Mount Floyen in 6 minutes and is 125 NOK (£12.50) per person for a return. The views all the way up are magnificent and when you reach the top it is breathtaking. From the station there are a number of hikes based on how far you want to go. We walked to a lake that took half an hour for the round trip. We also explored the troll garden, met some goats and checked out the play area. There were also free, and very clean, facilities to use - always a plus when you have been getting in the steps!

5) Try the food, it's delicious! Norway does love it's meat and fish so it made sense to try what was on offer. With the fish market on the port you can smell and taste the fish as soon as you arrive. The stalls are generous with samples and after tasting a variety including whale and the freshest salmon we'd ever had we had to make choices to take back to our Airbnb.

At dinner we tried reindeer sausage that was delicious - very meaty! Fish cakes that looked like hockey pucks but were delicious and meatballs the size of our hands. Everything we got was so fresh, everywhere we went.

We also did the Norwegian thing of having a daily hotdog and ate way too many bollen (bread products) of different types - with cinnamon, with icing, with coconut, with icing and cinnamon, with custard, with custard and cinnamon - okay you get the idea. They were so good we couldn't resist!

6) Take a fjord tour. We did a day tour on Hardangerfjord to Rosendal. It involved taking a 2 hour cruise through majestic mountains, past fjord-side villages and arriving at the picturesque Rosendal town, where we spent 3 and 1/2 hours. From the time you dock until the time you leave it's like stepping into a fairy-tale. Going in May the lambs were springing around, the flowers were blooming and the river gushed from the snow topped mountains. We followed one of those rivers to an amazing waterfall and loved every step.

7) The streets. There aren't many cities where it's fun to get lost, but Bergen is somewhere getting lost means finding new things. The back streets run up the mountain and you pop up overlooking roofs the higher you go. There is no right or wrong way to turn as every street has a different bar, restaurant, cafe or art gallery to check out.

8) The art work. It's everywhere. If you like sculptures you wouldn't be disappointed, they appear everywhere. If you like graffiti there is plenty to check out. If you like paintings you could spend all day enjoying local artists work and never get bored and if you like trolls - well they are everywhere!

We will definitely be heading back to Norway!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Baby Blogging: Back To Work!

Our new normal is up and running. I am well and truly back to work and our routine is in place. The only thing we are struggling with is having enough hours in a day, what's new eh?!

As you may have seen I went back to work in April and my first week was not as expected, details are here.

Since that first week I have settled into a routine of working from home or heading to London, Manchester and wherever my team require me. It feels weird. It feels like I never left. I have found my rhythm quicker than I expected. There is still plenty to catch up on but it's coming back to me.

Making our time together count
What I have found surprising is the speed of which my maternity cover (contracted for a year June - June) has disappeared. Within 3 days everything was being escalated back to me and other than a few calls the handover I expected has never come. I have been a little taken back by that as it has meant that I have had a lot of groundwork to do myself. Ah well.

Being busy at work has actually been great. I have very little downtime to wonder about Annabelle. In the moments that I do, and she's at nursery, I log on and am able to reassure myself that she is okay. I miss her though. That phrase about your heart being in two places at once after you have a baby is true. It's strange but I all I really want to do is hug her, all day, everyday. I know in reality that hug is with a wriggly little girl who can't wait to get down to play with toys or anything else in the room, but it's a nice thought.

That smile!

I console myself with the fact that if I was with her I would be playing with her just like the people taking care of her. I do nothing special in that sense so I know she's not missing out.

In fact my main challenge is not the work/life balance right now it's getting enough time with Annabelle while she is awake. After nursery she is tired, she will either come home and nap - usually 4.15 - 5pm or she will be grisly until bed making it hard to really spend time with her. The nap works well if it happens on time as I finish work and join Annabelle and Laura at 5.30pm.

Morning crew
BUT life isn't always that easy and doesn't always go to plan.

My trains often run delayed from London and instead of a 6pm arrival, I get in at 6.10pm. No biggy except my connecting train is at 6.10 or 6.25. If I get the 6.10 I am at our local station by 6.30 and home by 6.45 and half an hour with Annabelle. If I get the 6.25, I get in at 6.45 and home at 7. I literally just get to feed Annabelle and we have no time together.

Or, in the case of last night, Annabelle fights her nap until 5pm, then falls asleep until 6pm only for me to leave for netball at 6.30pm and return to put her to bed. Not ideal knowing I would be in London today and as usual my train is running 10 mins delayed.

Sneaking in a nap
Our girl loves her routine and her bed and while they are both great things it does leave very, very limited time for me to see her. That is hard, really hard.

When I am working from home I try to spend every minute with her until she leaves for nursery and I take a short lunch so I can grab some time with her as soon as she gets in. I try to make her laugh, get her to smile, get her to know that even though our time together is now so short it's good time. That I love her and that her happiness is my priority. I just hope she doesn't miss me like I miss her.

Nursery is doing what we hoped. Annabelle is now chatty, vocal and more confident. There are different numbers of children each day and they have different activities to do. Annabelle's favourite is being outside in the garden. Her eating has improved and while their are some tears on drop-off they are over quickly (Laura is the hero that handles that). She now takes her bottle and has two naps - all signs that she is comfortable there.

And my parents looking after her is going really well. Laura and I both look forward to Thursday's. While we enjoy checking in via video-link at nursery it's not the same as seeing Annabelle's smiley face in pictures or hearing her giggle in videos. I still wish it was me with her but if not Laura and I then my Mum's the next best thing.

Laura in the meantime continues her relentless hard work. Dropping off and picking up Annabelle. Making sure Annabelle's food is prepped, that she has a change of clothes. She entertains Annabelle until I get back, while doing what she can in the house. When we do get Annabelle to bed and I sit down it's usually 8pm. We have some time checking phones, some time planning the next day and watch a show before falling into bed.

Off to nursery

Any tips on making more of the day? Where do you find your extra time? 

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Theatre Review: Hair The Musical

We were lucky enough to be invited* to watch the musical Hair last night, which is touring the UK for its 50th Anniversary after winning the 2018 WhatsOnStage Award. We saw the show at our favourite theatre in Birmingham, The Alexandra, where the show is playing until Saturday the 4th May 2019 (so get your tickets quickly if you are in the area!).

As a huge fan of the movie version of Hair (since I was around 16!) I was so excited to finally see the stage production. The musical follows a group of politically (and sexually) active hippies in New York City, leading a Bohemian lifestyle, when one of them, Claude, gets drafted to serve in the Vietnam war. He then has to decide if he is going to dodge the draft as it isn't what he believes in, or serve his country in a war he doesn't agree with.

From the moment we sat down in the theatre, we were transported to 1967, with the music and backdrop of the hippie camp. It was truly an immersive experience - we felt throughout the first half that we had been thrown into the '60s, being introduced to the characters and learning about their stories. The psychedelic music, the fast pace at which scenes moved, and references to drugs taken made us feel, well honestly, like we were having some sort of trip ourselves!

We thought it was really interesting how they brought the subject matter up to date during the introduction by playing clips from President Trump's rallies and speeches - it really made us think about how history repeats itself and how relevant many of the issues tackled in Hair are relevant today.

I think I came at a slight disadvantage having seen and memorised so much of the film version of Hair, as it turns out that it's actually quite different from the show. For instance, in the musical, Claude is part of the band of hippies who is rebelling against his parents to live the 'free love' lifestyle. This is stark contrast to the film, where Claude arrives in New York City as a clean cut kid ready to enlist in the military. Also, one of the main characters plays a completely different role - so I think if I'd realised before or read up on the differences between the versions, I would have been able to just 'go with it' a little more. My fault! Despite this, I still found the show very enjoyable.

The second half of the show ramped it up a notch, which we didn't realise was possible, as it included a very detailed and intense hallucination Claude had on the night he had to decide whether to enlist. Possibly some of the show is slightly confusing at first watch, but the show quickly answered our questions and we were entranced. The hallucination scene was so colourful, so strange, so out there. I won't spoil the ending, but I've never seen a finale like it!

Jake Quickenden as Berger was really likeable, he captured the character very well!
Our favourite thing about the show was its cast. The singing was absolutely unreal. There were two former X Factor stars (Jake Quickenden, who plays 'Berger' and Marcus Collins, who plays 'Hud') who were great, and our favourites were Daisy Wood Davis (Hollyoaks) who plays 'Sheila', Natalie Green, who plays 'Cassie', and Aiesha Pease, who plays 'Dionne'. What vocal talents! Honestly, the show is worth seeing for the songs and singing alone.

Overall, this production of Hair is quite an experience. It is immersive, all encompassing, and quite strange, with a very talented cast and plenty of amazing and funny songs.

Hair The Musical is in Birmingham at the moment, as previously mentioned, and then will be continuing on its UK tour until August this year. Take a look at their site (HERE) for a full list of dates and links to where you can purchase tickets.

*We were gifted tickets to see Hair the Musical, however all opinions are our own.