Sunday, 31 March 2019

Dear Mama, On Your First Mothers Day!

Dear Mama,

Let's get one thing straight we all know I'm not a genius so clearly I have got Mummy to write this but I am 100% involved. I am helping edit, giving my input and suggestions and most importantly sharing my love....and drool, but mainly my love.

Happy Mothers Day Mama!

Since I arrived you have been the highlight of my everyday, well almost everyday - there was that day you tried to give me chicken casserole with kale in and we fell out, but actually earlier in that day we were besties - so let me say everyday!

You held me first, kissed me first, changed my first nappy and my first outfit - well supervised it - and since then you have been amazing. You have always been there for me, no matter how hard I am crying or how tough I am being I know you will always be there with a wonderful hug, great advice and a calm way to deal with things.

Because of you I have tried so many different foods and found out that like you I LOVE avocado and all things Mexican. Because of you I have traveled to plenty of places in the UK and even New York.  We all know left to Mummy the trips wouldn't have been organised or planned anywhere near as well.

You are full of ideas and always quick to research and look into how to make things better for me. While Mummy is panicking you are calmly getting on with things. When Mummy is stressed and blaming herself you look for solutions and then go and give her a hug to make it all better.

I mean remember Mummy trying to give me medicine....what a novice! You were/are a pro. That's you in my eyes Mama - you are a pro! A pro cook, a pro swaddler, a pro rocker, pro at taking care at me and a pro team mate to Mummy. You make a great double act.

And you work so hard for us all - Bisbee says I can't forget her - you have a tough job and they ask a lot of you but you are still full of smiles and hugs when you get in. In fact the moment Bisbee and I hear the front door we get excited and we can't contain our excitement when you walk in. It's like Christmas everyday. I used to let Bisbee get all the fuss first but now I want in on the action - hug time!!!!

Mummy wants you to know that we think ourselves very lucky to have you. While she was busy growing me I know you were amazing - in fact I know she wrote this post about how amazing you were! You were always singing to me and I think it's why I love you singing to me now.

In fact bedtime with you is the best, as is swimming with you, playing with you, making lots of noises with you, riding in the car with you next to me making funny faces, cheering Mummy on at netball with you, going on holiday with you and actually just spending time with you. I love it and I love you! Lots!

I can't wait to celebrate all the holidays with you, to dress up in silly costumes with you and to take so many more photos with you. I mean you already have me well trained with the camera and light :)

I really loved our trip to London too, just you and I on the train and the tube to go and see Mummy at work - do you remember that?! Sorry I cried so much on the tube but the trip was really worth it. We got to see London Christmas lights and everything! I mean look how happy I was:

I love you Mama, so, so, so much. You are my favourite Mama and always will be.
Happy First Mothers Day!

All my love

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Baby Blogging - 10 More Things I Never Knew Before Becoming A Mum!

Back in October when Annabelle was a mere 3 month old I wrote a post about the 10 things I had learnt since becoming a Mum. The post is here.

Things have changed a LOT since then and as we approach Annabelle turning 9 months I thought I would write a follow up post as there have been a bunch more things I have now found out!

Also quick update on the last post, Annabelle's liver function is now normal so no more blood tests or meds (yay)!

So without further ado here are the 10 more things I never knew before becoming a Mum of a now crawling, almost walking 9 month old:

1) As soon as they learn to roll NOTHING is safe. Well nothing at ground level, nothing they can reach, leaving them on a bed, the dog, your phone. It's amazing you think 'how far can they get with a roll' - the answer is WAY further than you think and way quicker!

2) Weaning is gross. Okay so food is fun until they are one but OMG I did not know I was such a clean freak. Honestly the whole 'don't clean them up as they eat' thing is awful. With stuff spewing out the sides of their mouth, their grubby fingers touching everything, the outfit they are wearing becoming covered even though you have put them in a full bib. I have to suppress my need to tidy as we go so, so often. Thankfully Laura is more easy going so finds it fun to feed Annabelle but I never knew it would be a thing I hated.

3) On a similar note - Messy Play! Who came up with that concept? They sell it as 'good for development' and an 'opportunity to expose them to different textures' for me they might as well have entitled it 'nightmare'. We have only been to two classes and at my first one I went with a friend and her baby. We both approached the class the same - cautiously.

We started at the play-dough section - Annabelle ate it, moved to the wet paper pool - Annabelle ate that stuff too, and ended at the paint. I tried to remain calm and focus on doing something creative but Annabelle was more interested in eating it! By the end she was covered, I was covered and Annabelle kindly decorated her friend.

Messy play is essentially life now. If I forget to move the dog water bowl we have our own splash pool. Annabelle eating and drink (as mentioned in point 2) is every texture you could want. In the garden Annabelle likes to pick up grass and mud and as for the rest of the house she's found brushes, cotton wool, wires, sponges, she can turn on plugs and my phone so has lights on demand - I mean you name it, we've got it, so yay for having a sensory house :), intentional or not.

4) Trash is toys! I was ready to spend a fortune on the latest toys, and kindly we have been gifted some all singing, all dancing toys that entertain Annabelle, but really it's the simple things. Bottles = hours of entertainment. Yogurt pots are fun. Tin foil is highly entertaining. Put rice in a bottle and instant rattle. Mixing bowls are great hats and for hiding things in. We have spent very little on actual toys.

Also charity shops are worth using as it means you can change up the toys on offer, or in my case raid my parents garage / loft for old childhood toys. I mean my Mum saved quite a few of the basic toys and Annabelle LOVES them. I have never played with cups, balls and hoops so much in my life. It's amazing how creative you can be with a small selection.

As per point 3 you really can find so many things in your house that if you supervise you can use as toys. Wooden spoon and bowl = drum kit. Tins from the cupboard + cardboard box = shopping trolley. Big cardboard box (thanks Dyson) anything you want it to be, we made it into a boat!

5) Your (our) house is dirtier than you realise. Okay so cleaning 'thoroughly' isn't easy with a baby of any age but a moving baby will find dirt quicker than you can. We have wooden floors downstairs and our girl has a strange ability to find a pile of dust even if we vacuumed the night before (although side note we have just got a new Dyson and it's amazing and we now vacuum all the time - see pic below). Her little hands fit in gaps we never knew existed and her constant need to be on the floor means we have seen more of under our sofa than ever before.

As well as finding dirt Annabelle is also making it. A quick play in the garden means mud and grass finding their way in. Crawling into the kitchen will mean the dog bowls are emptied (unless I am quick enough to get them, which I am learning to do). For some reason Annabelle must also taste everything - the door (window smudges are no joke), the high-chair legs - now constantly wiped down. Oh and the pulling up, that brings it's own fun. Nothing can be near the edge of anything otherwise it's in for it. There have been so many spills. I just don't learn quick enough - who knew!

6) Sleep training is interesting. I never knew how much babies actually slept. I think I have referenced this in other posts but 9 months in I am still surprised. Annabelle is now sleeping for 12 hours at night and for two hour long naps in the day. We were scared to sleep train her as we thought that she wouldn't accept not being fed at night and because leaving her to fall asleep on her own seemed a big ask. But so far she has accepted both with limited drama. There has been the odd occasion where she has cried when put down but she settles herself. In fact I think it was that stopped her sleeping all night not the other way around. Long may it continue!

7) You realise why you have all 4 limbs and you suddenly become more coordinated than ever before. I never thought of myself as uncoordinated but I have also never really tested that theory. Now my coordination is on point though. Holding a moving baby, while packing the car - easy. Holding open a door with one foot, while putting on a coat, carrying a back pack and holding a baby - I have found it can be done.

8) Babies are stronger than you think and more determined than you are. I never really thought that Annabelle would be able to over power me but with a combination of strong kicking legs, strong flailing arms and a wriggle that would put a worm to shame this kid can move and make her hard to hold on to. And when she really does not want to do something it is almost impossible to force her. When it comes to the buggy I have to force her legs to bend and that's not easy. The high chair can require two of us and the car seat on a bad day would be hilarious if we didn't need to get somewhere. I mean she is SO strong and I really can't bend her.

She may look innocent!

Resisting the Ergobaby confinement

9) It is so quiet when Annabelle napping. Like obviously it was quiet before Annabelle but I never noticed how quiet. It's like eerily quiet and after a time I really start to miss her. I never considered that I would miss her or that I would find the quiet odd. It's amazing how things change when you become a Mum. I have also learnt that silence when she is a awake is 100% of the time a BAD thing! There will be mischief happening - how do they know to be quiet?!

10) That I had forgotten how to play, or be silly on demand. I know that sounds odd. Laura and I aren't exactly the most grown up grown ups but it's not until you are faced with a baby on the floor that you realise how long it is since you just sat and played. How long ago you built a tower just to knock it down and laugh. How to find it funny when you roll a ball and hit something or how to make a game out of clapping objects. Now when we see other people, who aren't around a lot of kids, we see how far we have come. While they stand back and are unsure we hit the deck and start with noises, the building or any show that will entertain.

We will do anything for a smile, including sitting and making funny faces for hours, blowing raspberries or doing dance routines to nursery rhymes. I will dance around the kitchen with vigor just to get a giggle and I am a peek-a-boo pro.

I actually love what being a Mum has done to me, to us. We laugh a lot more. We laugh at simple things than were never a thing before. We spend time being silly and it makes our days happier. Our little girl has changed so much for us and we are loving it!

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Review: Family Friendly Mini Break in Newquay, Cornwall!

Where do I start this post? Sitting here, reflecting on an amazing weekend, I am not sure which of our highlights to start with! Our visit to Cornwall was our first UK mini break as a family of three and thanks to Love Newquay, we had a weekend to remember celebrating 10 years of being together!

Leaving on Friday afternoon we drove the 240 miles from our home in Birmingham to Newquay in the northwest of Cornwall. It took a little over 4 hours with a stop in Exeter for fish and (cheesy) chips. Thankfully we had timed our departure for an Annabelle nap and she slept for almost two hours meaning we only had to entertain her for part of the journey.

We arrived at the Sands Resort and Spa at 7.30pm and were checked into our two room suite quickly and efficiently, which was much appreciated as Annabelle was getting tired again. The staff could not have been more helpful. One of the staff quickly set up a travel cot in case we wanted Annabelle in the room with us then left us to settle in. Reading through the guest info we were impressed at how much the hotel offered for families, including a baby listening service!

After a great night sleep we woke up refreshed, enjoyed a full English breakfast and got ready to enjoy exploring what Newquay had to offer as a family. If you haven't already, check out our Instagram highlight reel for photos and videos of the trip, you'll find us at @sarahpluslaura - and so to our highlights in no particular order:

Sands Resort Moroc Spa / Creche
Onsite at the Sands Resort and Spa there is a Moroccan themed spa, details can be found here, but in summary it is a beautiful space split in two parts. One half has a cedar hot tub and barrel heat room, the other is a relaxing lounge where you get to enjoy Moroccan mint tea, cakes and a glass of bubbly! We were able to enjoy the experience while Annabelle was looked after by the OfSted approved creche upstairs. While nervous to leave her at first, we were reassured by the wall to wall toys available and the lovely ladies who greeted us, wrapped Annabelle in a hug and told us they would come to get us if we were needed.

The ladies at the Spa also reassured us that they would get us if Annabelle needed us so we should go and relax. Relax is exactly what we did, it was a 90 minute experience and leaving we felt refreshed and rejuvenated. We were fortunate that the other couple sharing the experience had a 2 year old and 9 month old, also in the creche, so we shared experiences and advice and came out feeling like we had also gained some really valuable insights.

We were so relaxed that when we got back to our room, the 3 of us had a family nap!

Blue Reef Aquarium
Located on Towan beach is Newquay's aquarium. If it's not quite 'beach' weather then the aquarium is where you should head. We weren't sure how Annabelle would react as it was the first 'attraction' that we had ever taken her to but she loved it. From the moment we walked in she was mesmerised and happy chatting to the animals. At certain points she was reaching out to touch the fish and 'swimming' (kicking) along with them, it made our hearts happy. Our favourite part was the talk at the final tank with a giant turtle. As Laura and I listened to the talk, Annabelle was chatting to the turtle as it circled around, surfacing and occasionally waving!

The aquarium was fairly small and we were done within an hour. If Annabelle had been older we would have stopped to read more signs but we thought it best to keep moving and we left with lovely memories and counted the visit as a great success.

If you are thinking of going with young children, do it, but maybe do it on a Thursday as they do cheaper entry for an adult and toddler throughout March. Or check their website for their latest deals!

Newquay Town
It's always exciting getting to explore somewhere new, I (Sarah) had visited Newquay many, many, many years ago on an 18 - 30's holiday and admittedly didn't remember much except the beaches (and bars) but this was Laura's first time. We had attempted to wander around on Saturday but the rain and gusty wind had us retreating into Wax, a quirky restaurant in a converted bank - complete with a safe! The food was reasonably priced and tasty although service could have been quicker, it's something we are acutely aware of now we have Annabelle, there is only so long we can entertain her when sat in a restaurant!

After refueling we did venture down the high street and discover plenty of cake shops and pasty stores mixed in with your regular high street stores. We lost ourselves in the arcades, tourist shops and made a final stop for cakeaway before heading back to the hotel.

When the weather brightened up we strolled back and enjoyed pasties from the award winning, aptly named: The Cornish Bakery - I opted for the traditional pasty and Laura went for a leek, cheese and potato. They were super flavourful and warming. Oh, and make sure to try their white hot chocolate - so, so, so good!

The Beaches
Newquay has so many beaches on offer it was hard to pick which ones we wanted to check out! Our first choice was Porth Beach as it was 10 minutes walk from the hotel. We made our way along the cliff edge and the views were breathtaking! Annabelle spent the walk napping and Laura spent the walk taking SO many photos :)

When we arrived on the beach we made our way towards the sea to give Annabelle her first beach experience. She loved that there were so many dogs running around (next time we are taking Bisbee for sure) and we loved that even though there were plenty of people on the beach there was enough space for us to set out our blanket. We did get caught out by the tide coming in FAST though and we had to quickly grab our stuff and run up the beach - an entertaining sight I'm sure!

While down at Porth Beach make sure to check out Roos Beach Shop for cute clothes and accessories - oh and to top up your water bottle! There is also a cute cafe, perfect for getting out of the wind!

We also liked Towan beach, this is located at the bottom of town centre and a perfect spot to enjoy the haul of goodies purchased in the local shops.

Sands Hotel Facilities
As mentioned this was our first 'family' mini break and we had never thought about staying anywhere family friendly - usually having kids running around is not our ideal. However, what the Sands does really well is jam pack the hotel with things to do that are either kid friendly or adult only so you can still choose. For example, our anniversary meal was spent in the adult only dining area overlooking the bay and enjoying the atmosphere - we used the baby listening service for Annabelle so were able to relax and enjoy instead of entertaining her.

In the swimming pool there is a splash zone for the smaller kids and then a main pool. We used both but only moved to the main pool when it cleared out. It was amazing, we had the whole thing to ourselves and even better we could take photos with Annabelle (something that we had missed out on at our local pool).

The hotel also has plenty of outdoor space so the children that were there were well distributed. In fact, it was only at breakfast that we noticed there were quite a few children staying. Indoors, there s a games room and soft play area, not to mention the creche. Outdoors there is a basketball court, tennis court, playground, and another pool. It is so well set up!

As well as the facilities, the staff were fantastic. In terms of customer experience this has to be one of the best - think USA style hospitality! - nothing was too much trouble, they were ready to answer questions any time of the day, to reassure us and to cover things we hadn't even thought of - including providing buckets and spades, oh and buggies should you need to borrow one. The staff definitely made the experience - we even got an anniversary card from them!

We can't wait to visit Newquay again (check out Love Newquay Facebook page here for latest updates on the area). Not only is the location stunning, but there is so much to do. Driving back, we listed our highlights, as we always do after holidays, it was amazing how many we had to choose from as we had only been away a weekend.

As Annabelle grows we are sure she'll love the walks and beaches as much as we do and this trip reminded us just how wonderful this country is if you just head out and explore.

Thanks again, Love Newquay!

Disclaimer: We were invited by Love Newquay and provided with a 2 night hotel stay at the Sands Resort and Spa, the 90 minute Moroc Spa experience, 3 tickets to the Blue Reef Aquarium and complimentary pasties from The Cornwall Bakery; however all views, experiences and photos shared in this blog are our own. 

Saturday, 16 March 2019

10 Years Together!

10 years ago this beautiful American girl came into my life and I didn't know then but she would change everything!

I was in awe, I was amazed, scared, impressed, confused, smitten all at the same time. And before long I knew I was infatuated. After infatuation came love and after love came more love, and more love until I realised I couldn't be without her. The love I felt made every minute apart feel like a waste and every second together feel like the best. 

Her strength, courage, patience, perseverance, ability to plan, her expectations they are everything that has made our life what it is. I am beyond grateful that the life she planned is beyond my wildest dreams.

It is because of her that we are who we are and have what we have. 

Laura I love you, I loved you then, I love you now and I will always love you.

Our all about our post can be found here!

Our seven year together post is here!

And our love story is here!

We may be 10 years in but honestly we are just getting started!

I read this post from Twitter the other day and agree that to make things work you HAVE to be team mates. It really is that simple - here is the Twitter thread! 

We are celebrating down in Cornwall thanks to Love Newquay, a new location for us and great place to have our next adventure!

Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

5 Essentials For Travelling With A Baby!

Travelling abroad with a baby was an all new experience for us. We had made quite a few long car journeys but this time, heading to New York, involved flying! In fact it involved two flights to get there and two to get back. The first flight was a quick 45 minute flight from Birmingham to Dublin but the second flight was 7 hours Dublin to New York (our must do list for the city is here).

Before Annabelle arrived we travelled a lot and shared our top 10 tips here and shared a round up of our trips across Europe, the USA and Oz here.

It was fitting then, as with most things in the modern world, that we Googled for advice on how we should handle the flight and found more than a few blogs sharing their advice. It's amazing what a valuable resource blogs can be when preparing for the unknown!

The blogs we found seemed to fall into two categories though 1) baby slept the entire flight or 2) child needed games/toys for entertainment. We knew Annabelle at 7 and a half months didn't fit into either category. There is no way she would sleep 7 hours especially as we were travelling in the day and while toys entertain her there is no way we are at game level.

We did take the advice of booking a morning flight and that served us well. Having to wake Annabelle up at 5am to get to the airport and checked in for our 8am flight meant she was dozing and easy going all morning - great news as we carted our excessive baggage to check in and then made a drama of security with the amount of stuff with had in the nappy bag!

*Take advantage of the free luggage allowance you get with a baby, not only did Annabelle get her own case we also got to take a travel cot and buggy/stroller at no cost (we checked our travel cot and buggy and used the Ergobaby carrier in the airport).*

We spent a week in New York and as it was February it was freezing most days (thankfully extra luggage had meant extra coats) but here are the other essentials we found extra useful for the journey and exploring New York.

1) Our 360 Ergobaby - this carrier has been SO useful since we got it. Honestly travelling and exploring would have been so much harder without it. At the airport I strapped Annabelle in leaving me hands free to help carry hand luggage and eat and drink. It also meant Annabelle could see what was going on without us having to hold the squirmer.

Out and about in New York we used it every day. Being able to have Annabelle facing out meant she was interacting with the world and the squeals and giggles showed she was loving it. Her happy legs kicking around as we admired stunning views or because someone waved back to her on the subway will be memories we'll treasure. Then when it came to sleeping we switch her around and she would nap while we continued walking around. Ideal!

As not all subway stations had lifts or ramps the buggy would have been an issue, with the baby carrier we just continued regardless of the amount of stairs. One thing I was surprised about was the fact that we walked over 60 miles on the trip, most with Annabelle in the Ergobaby, and my back didn't hurt once.

2) Zip Us In panel - it's an extender panel that is zipped into a coat so that you can expand it over your baby bump or in our case our baby in her carrier. We initially saw this product on Instagram and thought it would be worth a try. We were right, it was. For us we found it useful in two ways: 1) We could zip it over Annabelle when she was facing out and save putting her in a bulky coat as my body heat kept her warm and 2) it really helped Annabelle sleep when facing in. As the panel is black I would zip it all the way up to make it dark and within minutes Annabelle would be dozing regardless of what was going on around. It also kept her protected from the elements and able to snooze as long as she wanted.

3) Good size nappy bag - okay this may be obvious for everyday life but for travelling we found it essential. We still use the bag we got initially (details can be found here), it's big enough to carry everything changing related and more. We found the insulated pockets useful to keep the food pouches we had chilled and all the extra pockets great for putting things like teething gel - just in case. We managed to fit in Annabelle's sleeping bag which was useful as it helped her sleep on the flight and it still had space for us to pack a couple of toys that came in handy.

Our nappy bag essentials:

  • Nappies
  • Wipes (essential for cleaning up everything, including anything chew-able such as tray tables, TV screens, seat arms, toys that hit the floor)
  • Nappy cream
  • Changing mat - we have one that folds up super small and makes changing her anywhere possible. It's also easy to wipe clean!
  • Nappy bags/sacks - great for wrapping up dirty clothes / nappies / cutlery
  • Change of clothes
  • At least one toy that can be chewed - teething is great right?!
  • Mobile charger bank (can't have a phone dying and missing out on pics)
  • Zip Us In Panel

*Entertaining a 7 month was easier than expected, the big win = a plastic water bottle! No kidding! For an hour or so on the flight Annabelle was amused by the water in it, then chewing the lid, shaking it, bopping our heads with it, taking of the label. Honestly it was best toy we had! And it worked whenever we had a bottle out and about*

4) Snacks - baby and mummy friendly. Quite a few of the blogs recommended taking snacks and we are glad we took a selection. Firstly they were a great distraction on the plane or if I wasn't in a position to breastfeed immediately when we were out. I wouldn't advice the food pouches unless your kid is a super neat and tidy eater. Annabelle likes to decorate herself and anything nearby in them. The crisps range from Ella's Kitchen went down very well though, and with minimal mess.

The mummy friendly part is just to keep energy up. On the first day we were mid way through Central Park, had walked 5 miles and I'd fed Annabelle twice and I realised I was feeling lightheaded. Turns out I had forgotten to keep my energy up, easy to do when there is so much going on!

5) Preparation - okay so it's less of a thing but it's still essential. We faced an expected challenge by not being able to check in online due to travelling with an infant. We found out on check in it was because they don't make the bulk seats available online and people with babies often prefer the bulk head seats as they come with a bassinet. For all future flights (well until Annabelle outgrows it) we will do the same. We were lucky enough to have the only baby on the flights so there was no challenge for the seats but good to know in future it's first come first served.

The bulkhead seats gave us extra floor space so we could put her down and play and the bassinet was a great place for her to sleep and watch people go by. One of the highlights of the flight to New York was Annabelle napping away while we had our in-flight meal and watched a film.

Also take advantage of the early boarding so you can claim your overhead storage. We didn't do this on the first long haul flight and found it annoying that we had to go three rows back and to keep getting things out as there is no where to put your bags in the bulkhead seats.

For our own peace of mind we also made little gift bags with a note in the hope that if Annabelle did kick off they would be a little more forgiving.

We were more lax on preparing our days and what we were doing and decided what to do based on the weather. However we made sure the nappy bag was prepared for the whole day.

Thankfully Annabelle was amazing for the entire trip, we had one day where she slept later than usual but we let t happen. We also let the nap schedule slip and let her nap when she needed. We also didn't push her in the evenings, opting for early-ish dinners or taking stuff back to the Airbnb.

So after initially fearing the travel experience I can honestly say I can't wait to go again! Bring on Norway.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Family Travel: New York Must Do List!

Our New York Must Do List!

Our first trip to New York was just over 7 years ago and while we loved the visit we left thinking it was just another big city. This time we were meeting family and taking Annabelle who was almost 8 months. We knew the trip would be different but we didn't expect to come away LOVING New York as much as we did.

Our past trip roundup can be found here.

We arrived on a Saturday evening and left on a Saturday evening so had 6 full days to maximise our trip and we did just that. By the end we had walked over 60 miles, seen most of Trip Advisors Top 10 things to do and discovered new places we never knew existed! Oh and most of it was with bright blue skies until our last two days when we got snow, Annabelle's first experience of it. It was an amazing trip packed with memories of a lifetime.

Can you spot the Statue of Liberty!

So without further ado here is our list:
Top of the Rock
Last time we visited we were gutted that we didn't do this attraction and we were right to be gutted. You have to visit! Honestly Top of the Rock was a highlight of our trip. We timed our visit to head up at 4pm, enough time to see the view in the day but to also catch sunset. It's well worth doing it that way. If you time your ticket so you go up in the last daylight time slot you don't have to pay the extra sunset fee but you will be waiting a while at the top (it's worth it in our opinion).

From the moment you enter your senses are greeted with lights, sounds and pictures. From a film explaining the building of the 'Rock' and explaining how the Rockefeller Christmas tree gets put up to the light-show in the lift as you ascend you are entertained. By the time you step out to see the view you already feel like you know New York better.

We spent our time at the top spotted all the other sights and admiring the stunning skyline as the sunset. For us though the lights starting to twinkle as the buildings lit up was breathtaking (or maybe it was the wind :)) but seriously it was unbelievably beautiful.

Annabelle was mesmerised. From all the lights to the people wanting to talk to her to looking out at the view, she was squealing with happiness and laughing a lot. While waiting for sunset she even managed a nap in the Ergobaby as we were walking around admiring the view.

Brooklyn Bridge / DUMBO
If you haven't walked Brooklyn Bridge you need to do it at least once. On our last trip half the bridge was under construction and we had really missed out. This time with a bright day and no scaffolding and the view was amazing. The further we walked across towards Brooklyn the better the view of New York got. Taking in the financial district featuring the one world trade centre all the way up towards the Empire State building and beyond this walk gives you a great perspective of the city.

The walk itself took about an hour, Annabelle started off asleep and woke up to join us as we crossed under the impressive arches.

The reward at the end was a visit to the Brooklyn area under the bridge where you can find Julianna's pizza which tends to be queued around the corner or wander a little further for a Greek cafe where we enjoyed gyro's for a reasonable price. From there we headed to the carousel which is a must if you have young kids. For $2 per person you get to ride the carousel overlooking New York. Annabelle loved it and so did we.

Next stop was DUMBO (Downtown Under Manhattan Brooklyn Underpass) to see 'that' view and then check out the quirky stores and find Jacques Torres (have you seen 'Nailed It?!) chocolate shop for some of the most delicious cookies we've ever had!

The High Line 
Last time we visited New York this wasn't even a thing and to be honest we weren't sure it was a good idea with the freezing weather and the fact that it is meant to be a garden type of area. We were surprised though, it is worth checking out whatever the weather! We actually did the walk as dusk started and it was great. The High Line itself had a lot of dead shrubs BUT at the that time of day the views are worth the walk alone. Winding through buildings and warehouses you get a unique view of the bustling city without the crowds.

There is also plenty of artwork to see both on the High Line and on the surrounding buildings and you can 'drop down' off the High Line in different parts of the city. Although a point to note is some exits only have stairs so aren't buggy/stroller friendly!

Stardust Diner / Times Square
After a day exploring Central Park we headed towards the Times Square area and found Stardust a diner where the waiters and waitresses sing while serving you. Not like in your face but on the stage in the middle of the restaurant and we loved it. We all loved it especially Annabelle. And the food was amazing too!

After the diner Annabelle was so exhausted she slept while we wandered around Times Square taking in the sights and lights. It's amazing how we spent our new years eve sat on the floor in freezing temperatures there (our experience post is here). It has barely changed at all.

Also make sure and check out:

  • Mood Fabrics if you have ever seen Project Runway and/or love fashion and fabrics
  • The Flatiron building and 5th Avenue - there's a great Lego store there too
  • Starbucks Reserve opposite Google offices - amazing new concept store and interesting for us even though we don't like/drink coffee
  • Magnolia Bakery for Banana pudding (featured in Sex in the City)
  • Crif Hotdogs for Please Don't Tell Speakeasy (not child friendly)
  • World Trade Centre Station for amazing architecture and shopping if you don't want to go outside
  • Song de Napoli for great pizza
  • Chelsea Market for cool food places
  • The Nugget Spot for captain crunch covered nuggets
  • East Village for great street art
  • Katz Deli for Reuben sandwiches

And finally we felt that we should stop by Gay Street.....

As we had done 7 years ago: