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We appreciate that travel is a no go in times of Covid and this post is not shared to encourage travel. Purely to share an experience that we look back on fondly.

I read yesterday that it was Blue Monday. The most depressing day of the year. Although the day was named by travel agents to encourage people to think of travel. It wasn’t so blue for us. We couldn’t book travel but we could enjoy our travels from the past.

What a year it’s been. We are so glad to be getting into the Christmas spirit nice and early. There is something about twinkling Christmas lights and colourful decorations that bring a smile. It is also wonderful to have a toddler who is big into everything Christmas. Since December the 1st Annabelle has insisted on wearing Christmas themed clothes and her new BFF is the Nutcracker!

One big adjustment this year has been the move to online shopping. Okay it’s not new but when we are looking for gifts we like to wander the shops to find something different. It’s not the same online, you have to have more of an idea of what you are looking for.

So if you, like us, are looking for inspiration for something a bit different here are a few suggestions from us:

Adults:

Mapiful: Do you have a special place or significant location? Then Mapiful would make a great gift. Essentially this is customisable wall art. You can pick any location, choose your map style and colour and add a personal phrase to add your own touch. We debated between Garden Valley, Idaho where we got married – but it was a just a blank map (it’s was in the middle of nowhere). Sydney where we lived for a year, but in all honesty we didn’t want to look at it everyday wishing to return. Birmingham, our home, was a close second choice but as it is ever changing we wanted to wait for the significant changes to finish. And so our top choice was London. It’s where we met. Where we fell in love and where we lived for 5 years. Plus it’s iconic.

Final date to order from Mapiful is December 15th!

Razor: Okay this may sound like a strange one but we have recently tried razors from Estrid and they are so good. Here’s the thing, they are vegan razors! Designed to be kind and gentle to your body – seriously no nicks with these razors – and the planet. This is a gift for someone you care about and who has a social conscience and it’s only £7.95 for the starter kit.

It’s vegan as it uses natural ingredients like aloe vera instead of animal substances in the soothing strips. Buying one even helps make a difference. For every purchase they donate a portion to Kvinna till Kvinna, Medica Mondiale or the Fawcett Society. These organisations all work to support women and gender equality around the world, click the links to find out more.

Available in a range of colours you can pick Blush, Lemonade, Peach, Space or Cloud. I went with Space as I like purple and Laura went for Blush as she likes pink, they look super cute hanging in the bathroom together!

You can read more about the razors and the Estrid mission here.

Tiny Tot Tribe: Our personal go to for comfy jumpers. At some points this year I have managed a whole week of outfits with jumpers from Tiny Tot Tribe. They have tons of designs and lots of clothing options. Whether you want something cute or you want to match with your kids you should check out this small business. Oh and use Annabelle10 for a discount!

Children:

Puzzles: Annabelle has loved puzzles for months. Not only do they hold her attention but she seems to enjoy the satisfaction of completing them quickly. We rarely check the age suggestions on the boxes and instead go for designs we know she will like.

Our latest addition has been a stunning Finding Nemo 24 piece puzzle. The reason it makes the suggestion list isn’t just the design though, it’s because it’s two-sided and the back allows you to colour it in. Not only do you get the puzzle to complete but it becomes an art project too. Annabelle loved it. Available from ToysandBearsonline this would make a great gift for a toddler or younger child and it’s currently on at a discounted price of £6.39.

In fact check out the online store for a huge variety of toys and games. There are lots of great puzzles and educational toys available for all ages.

Books: As well as puzzles, Annabelle’s big love is books. We read 3 or 4 stories every night and we are often asked to read stories during the day. During quiet time we often hear Annabelle reading the books to herself or to her dolls and it never fails to make us smile.

We have found that raiding our childhood books hasn’t been a good idea. Heteronormative families are the only ones represented. The grammar can be terrible. The stories just plain weird. And there are no POC represented.  It has led us to seek out stories that show a different view of the world for Annabelle. Our two favourite books right now are:

Whose In My Family. This book covers every type of family situation there is and tells a story that Annabelle loves. She finds herself represented in the pages and it gives us an opportunity to discuss why being different is a good thing.

For a similar reason the other book we are enjoying is Big Splash Circus. The story is about finding your own special talent and not comparing yourself to others. It is also about having a go and trying new things. As the book is filled with vibrant colours and different characters it is easy to communicate the messages in a way that Annabelle enjoys.

Elf Cards: If you want a game that children and adults can enjoy then this is it. A modern take on snap this card set allows you to make up your own games. We play snap with the pictures but you can also do it with colours or with designs. Annabelle will happily play snap with us and it’s a game where my competitiveness is aloud 🙂

Dogs:

Bandana’s are our latest favourite for Bisbee. There isn’t a season that doesn’t need a bandana. Now Bisbee is getting more walks (thanks lockdown) it makes sense that she always looks good. Her Christmas one is from Jeliandmac the bandana is only £5.50  and is double sided. We also love SewBlueShop they are super cute designs that work on all collars and each bandana is £4.40.

Light-up collar sadly a lot of Bisbee’s walks are after it gets dark so we have invested in a great light up collar. Click the link to check our one out. It is great as you can cut it to size so it works for any dog. It also has a number of settings from flashing to bright. Best of all it is rechargeable so you don’t have to worry about batteries!

We hope whatever your Christmas plans are looking like that you have a wonderful time and let us know if you take up any of our suggestions!

Disclaimer: we were kindly gifted the items from Mapiful, Estrid Razors, ToysandBearsOnline and The Big Splash Circus Book for review. Having used the products ourselves the comments above are all our own and we received no payment in exchange for the reviews. 

When we were invited to try Bubble Tea at Birmingham’s new Bubbleology we jumped at the opportunity. Neither of us had ever tried Bubble Tea so we had no idea what to expect. Turns out we aren’t the only ones. When we asked on Instagram Stories 54% of people hadn’t tried Bubble Tea.

Bubbleology Birmingham is located on the top of the Bull Ring shopping centre, opposite Victoria Secrets. The store is kitted out with a bar area and seating. Although the seating has been closed during Covid restrictions. Walking in the menu is on display by the counter allowing you to make your choice while you queue.

There are a few things in life that you can guarantee but when visiting Wales we find three things to be always be true. You will have stunning views just about everywhere you go. Secondly it will rain. Thirdly you will have an amazing time even if you just go for the day.

We don’t have a favourite part of Wales. It changes every time we visit. But we are fast discovering that areas surrounding Snowdonia National Park are well worth the visit. Our latest trip was to Harlech. Situated on the coast this place offers a beautiful beach, a castle with stunning views and a great base to explore.

Just a quick life update from us. We are two days away from the end of our TWW and have been throwing ourselves into anything to distract us. That has included a trip to Wales, which we’ll share in a post shortly! All out latest going on’s are on our Instagram Stories if you want to keep up!

It was also a nice surprise to receive a nomination for Teletext Holiday’s ‘Best Travel With Kids’ Blog. it’s an area we want to focus on more within the blog and the nomination is nice confirmation that we are going in the right direction.

If Covid hadn’t hit we had big plans but we are hoping that at least some of them will be repeatable in the future.

If you to want read more about the other nominations check out Teletext Holidays site here.

It feels weird writing this post. It seems like we have been talking about Baby Smith Number Two for so long. In fact at times the preparation to get to this day had seemed overwhelming. For those of you following along you may have read the posts, if not here’s a quick breakdown of the journey so far:

  • Laura needed to get to a BMI of 35 to be able to try at the clinic we used to have Annabelle
  • We initially planned to try in May 2020 but Covid!
  • This time around it was meant to be Laura’s egg we were using – until we found out she was almost infertile
  • We decided to try Laura carrying my embryo in a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)
  • Laura lost 70 lbs to reach her BMI in time for us to have an appointment as soon as clinics reopened
  • Laura’s first womb check showed the lining is at 8.7cm but we can’t do the transfer till it was 9cm – second appointment needed
  • Laura’s womb responds to medicine and gets to 9cm
  • We found out that the clinic would start to let partners into the operation theatre mid-August
  • Our transfer day is the 25th of August – I can be there!

And so TRANSFER DAY!

If Covid-19 has taught us anything it is to appreciate where we live, even more. This year we have been to see the lavender in The Cotswolds, the sunflowers at our local farm and the Confetti Fields in Wkye Manor in Worcestershire. It turns out flowers fields have a few benefits as days out with a toddler. Firstly they are wide open spaces, perfect for running around. Secondly they have beautiful flowers which mean you can distract a toddler with pretty colours. Thirdly they tend me cheap and have space for a picnic so it’s a cost effective day out.

The Confetti Fields started in 1997 and grow flowers that become natural, biodegradable confetti that can be used at celebrations – especially weddings! Our trip was on a hot August day as the fields opened later this year than usual. Our first visit was in 2018, two days before Annabelle was born.

Life with a toddler is never dull. That is in part because they are full of energy. Part because the energy required to keep up with them means you never sit still. We find that we are best with Annabelle when we have a plan. That’s not to say every minute is planned for but that we have a general plan.

Annabelle normally naps for an hour and half – two hours at lunchtime. That means our plans have to be morning plans or afternoon plans. Usually they end up being afternoon plans as neither of us are great at getting moving 🙂

As lockdown restrictions are being eased we are trying to take advance of getting out and about more. With the weather looking okay we decided to check out Balsall Heath City Farm. You can check out their website here.

The farm opened in 1980 as an inner city oasis to give children access to animals they might not otherwise get to see. There are over 50 animals on the farm, a great vegetable patch and plenty of other things to see.