Sleep oh precious sleep

I miss my university days when I couldn’t be bothered to go to morning lectures and instead spent the best part of the day in bed asleep. Oh for the days I could easily sleep until 1pm without even stirring beforehand. Nowadays a lie in is anytime past 7am and even if I can sleep without getting up for the Boy, I inevitably wake at 7am wide awake wondering who on earth is attending to his calls.

And as if things weren’t sleep deprived enough, pregnancy has decided to have its go and rob me of some more. I can cope with the general uncomfortableness of having a little being attached to my front but what I cannot understand is why my body insists on waking me from a deep slumber with agonising cramp? To make things worse when I shake the Man and plead with him to “push my leg, my leg” he stirs in slow motion and huffs at me for disturbing his sleep – I tell you, we had words.

Why is it that turning over in bed during pregnancy becomes a three stage process for which you need to be conscious to perform it – 1) turn onto your back taking bump with your hands as you go; 2) heave your legs over to one side one at a time and; 3) turn bump onto side ensuring it is not squashed by the rest of you. I can only imagine that mother nature knows we are going to be sleep deprived once Poppy arrives and is therefore teaching us to survive such conditions, forgetting I already have an unreliable toddler to do that for her.

To end on a positive note, my sleep has been vastly improved since delivery of my Theraline maternity pillow. Its like a large, oddly shaped sausage at about 6 foot long and fits perfectly between my legs. It takes the pressure off the bump whilst also leaving enough for me to cuddle as a replacement husband (he likes to cuddle for 2 minutes then throws me off as he is “too hot” before scooting over to his own side). It comes with a really pretty removable cover which is a very nice material and doesn’t get too hot or stuffy in bed, this is great as body temperature regulation in pregnancy is non-existant! The cover is antiallergenic, warm, breathable and can be washed at 140° – not so important now I am using it as a maternity pillow but when Poppy is born and I use it as nursing pillow this will be really useful, especially if Poppy regurgitates as much of my precious milk as the Boy did!

The filling is microbeads which mould really well to your body although the pillow does occasionally need reshuffling to ensure the beads are in the right place but its very easy to do. I use it in lots of different positions, sometimes putting it under my back if I lie on it for a bit and need some extra support. I love the versatility of this pillow. I got a really bad back when pregnant with the Boy but I didn’t have a maternity pillow then so I hope the Theraline maternity pillow will reduce my bad back pain this time, its certainly improving my sleep.

I cannot recommend this pillow enough for pregnant women or even non-pregnant people with a bad back, it is comfortable, versatile and moulds well to support problem areas. It isn’t cheap at £45 (including cover) but I think it is well worth it.

I was not paid for this review but was provided with the product free of charge. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

 

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Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Rainy day activities with a toddler

A few months ago it was one of those horrid rainy days where you don’t want to leave the house. Staying in with a toddler is challenging for us and boring for them. When I decided to stay in I googled “things to do with toddlers inside” and came up with very few results. I did find lots of craft activities but most of them were aimed at older children and not really things my Boy could get involved in as much. So if, like me, you don’t enjoy the pangs of parental guilt when you put a film on yet again then I hope these ideas help you to do something new and fun with your toddler:

  1. Fill up a washing up bowl with soapy water and get lots of different kitchen bits to play with – cups, spoons, measuring jugs etc. I put them all in the water and the Boy had to find them, then we washed them up and poured water from one container to the other. In the end he actually got in to the washing up bowl and had a fab time making a royal mess (make sure you put lots of towels down underneath the bowl)
  2. Build a fort – use cushions and blankets to build a secret fort which you and your toddler can hide in. We had great fun with a torch inside the fort turning it on and off and making funny shadows.
  3. Biscuit decorating – bake biscuits (either with your child or without, I did them without so it was quicker!) and set out lots of different bits for decorating them – we used icing for sticking stuff on, chocolate chips, hundreds and thousands, popping candy, jelly sweets and edible glitter. You could also use healthier stuff like raisins, dried fruit, chopped nuts; although they might not get involved with such gusto!                                                                                                                       
  4. Messy painting – this is a real struggle for me as I cannot stand all the mess but the great thing about doing it in your own house is that you can wear old clothes (or even just underwear) and get stuck in. Masking tape lots of art paper to the floor (it needs to be quite thick so normal paper won’t do) and use paints to decorate it. The Boy suffers from OCD so he won’t touch finger paints (“Mummy wipe, Mummy wiiiipe”) so we use brushes and pots. I use a marker to draw pictures for him to colour in, and I cannot draw so it is usually a square car with wheels or a rocket ship or stars but he is impressed.
  5. And last but probably one of the easiest and funnest that we like is taking all the cushions off the couch and the Boy hurls himself off in varying styles – jumping, rolling, falling – to land on soft cushions below and giggle like crazy

I hope this post is of use to you and your toddler and if you have fun trying any of them out please come back and let me know!

Recipe – the Best Salad in the World…. EVER

I love salad, this is all my mothers fault as she served salad up with every meal, be it an omelette, jacket potatoes or a roast dinner with gravy. She loves the stuff and has passed this on to me. On my travels to restaurants and other countries I do believe I have now perfected my basic salad recipe and thought I would share my many years salad searching experience with you. By basic salad I mean ones that are used to accompany meals and not as a main meal.

Ingredients

For a good salad there are some ingredients which are optional and some which are absolutely necessary to elevate your salad to a whole new taste dimension. If possible all ingredients should be organic and seasonal for optimal taste.

My staple ingredients are:

  • little gem or romaine lettuce leaves
  • tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • red onion or spring onion
Optional (but yummy) ingredients of which you can use some or all, are:
  • fennel
  • blanched green beans
  • slice radish
  • chicory
  • beetroot (not the pickled stuff but roasted or boiled fresh ones)
Key ingredients which will turn this into the Best Salad in the World EVER:
  • olive oil – it must be good quality, I cannot stress the importance of this enough, it is the defining ingredient. This one from Waitrose is very expensive but you only use it for salads / dipping bread / drizzling over cooked food so it will last a long time. (Tip – buy your olive oil when in Europe, it’s miles cheaper)
  • a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice or very good quality balsamic vinegar depending on your preference, I personally love lemon juice
  • a good handful of fresh herbs chopped – my favourites are parsley, mint and chives
  • sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Et voila…

 

 

 

 

Martinhal Resort, Portugal

We have just returned from two weeks at the Martinhal Resort in the Algarve. We booked this with the online travel site, Baby Friendly Boltholes having booked three previous holidays with BFB which have been fantastic. BFB is a great website and helped us immensely in making the transition from couple holidays to family holidays. The BFB website is very well laid out and each location is reviewed from a family perspective.

As usual with our holidays we had a fantastic time enjoying spending some good quality family time together and in the sunshine. Here is my detailed review of our holiday at Martinhal.

Location

Martinhal is located at the end of the world (or what was once thought to be the end of the world before America was discovered), at the South West tip of Portugal next to the town of Sagres. It is not in the hub of the touristy parts of the Algarve and so it is in a relatively unspoilt area. Many people who stayed at the resort had not hired a car so were fairly limited in where they could go however we were very pleased to have one to visit the local beaches and towns. The resort does offer everything you need so it’s easy to understand why many people don’t leave but if, like us, you like to get out and explore, a car is essential.

Accommodation

We had a garden villa which was a 5-10 minute walk from the different facilities. It was very spacious with two large bedrooms and two good sized bathrooms. The living area was open plan with a kitchen, large dining room table, comfy couches and a TV. We also had a garden area with outside seating and Fatboy beanbags. Don’t even get me started on the Fatboy beanbags – they were everywhere (around all the pools) and they were awesome. One of the best ideas a hotel has ever had!

Whilst the villa was well furnished and we were provided with all the extra bits we asked for – potty, toddler toilet seat, travel cot, stairgates – there were some design faults which didn’t make it perfect for toddlers. For example, the garden didn’t have a fence so you couldn’t leave a young child unattended, the crockery was stored in a cupboard low down and the stairs were tiled which were a bit scary if you thought of having a fall on them. These weren’t things that ruined the accommodation by any means but you do have to take care with young children.

Facilities

Martinhal is huge and has a very resort feel to it. There are four swimming pools, three restaurants, a crèche and kids club, a playground, a games room and a trampoline and sandpit and that’s not even including the huge beach! It is very well thought out with every area (pool or restaurant) having something to entertain the kids while you can relax. At Os Gambozinos (the Italian restaurant) there are play houses for young children and free bikes for older ones with a lovely large square for them to play in. At Dunas (the beachfront seafood restaurant) there is a selection of small chairs, beanbags and a giant jenga in a corner which means you can keep one eye on the little ones.

Each of the three swimming pools we used had small toddler pools (50cm depth all round) next to the main pool and two of the pools had slides and a selection of toys to play with. These pools were also heated and one of them is half inside and half out which is great for those super windy days.

The Boy went to the kids club (reluctantly) on four days for a couple of hours at a time and the staff, facilities and activities were excellent, we felt very comfortable leaving him there while we tried to play tennis (more about the wind later on!)

Everything has a very new feel to it and is in fantastic condition and the Boy loved the trampoline, the play houses, the big boat and the playground.

Food and drinks

The food in all three restaurants was good and we had no complaints about it. What really let Martinhal down on the holiday was the very poor service we received in Os Gambozinos. Whilst most of the staff were friendly, it was very slow service (e.g. waiting 20 minutes for a glass of wine and a cocktail) and when we tried to complain the response was not good. The Man and I are both very laidback and like to give the benefit of the doubt in the first instance but unfortunately, every time we went there was an issue with the service. On one occasion the wrong meal was bought to me and the waiter said “are you sure you didn’t think Tagliolini but order Linguine” which is not a response I expect when a mistake is made and certainly not what happened! (To be clear it wasn’t a wrong type of pasta, that would just be ridiculous, but seafood linguine rather than tagliolini carbonara.)

The price of the restaurants was very inconsistent with some things quite reasonable (€9 for a large pizza) and others very expensive (€7.50 for a non alcoholic cocktail – basically fruit juice). The best meal we had, which was the most expensive but in our opinion, the best value for money was in the grown ups only restaurant O Terraco.

We were spending upwards of €70 on a meal and drinks for the 3 of us which is the same price as the local Sagres restaurants so you can imagine our surprise when we ventured a bit further away to the town of Lagos and got the same amount of food and drinks for less than €40. This was our experience at most places away from Sagres and Martinhal so I think that because it is less developed prices have not been competitively bought down yet.

Other things to know about Martinhal

  • The wind was crazy – I work with wind energy projects and I can safely say that this is the windiest place I have ever visited. This means that in the day you get a lovely cool breeze and at night you do need to take jeans and a light jumper. The upside is I didn’t need to use a hairdryer when I was there as I just sat in the garden for 10 minutes and let nature sort it out. If you go away from Martinhal a bit the wind is nowhere near as strong and in our evenings in Lagos we didn’t need cardigans/jumpers. The massive number of wind turbines in the area also gave us a great car game to play with the Boy “spot the turbines” and my heart melted each time he said “Oh where the turbines gone” (yes I am a renewable energy geek.)
  • We used the babysitting facilities on two occasions. They use the staff from the resort so it is usually a familiar face which is nice and they charge €10 per hour or part thereof.

Our favourite places to visit and things to do were:

  • Lagos, in the evenings for dinner (25 mins away). There were some lovely restaurants with great fish which were very reasonably priced. We also picked up some lovely pottery souvenirs, had fantastic ice creams and watched some good (and some terrible!) street entertainers.
  • Rei das Praias restaurant (50 mins away) was possibly the best seafood restaurant I have ever eaten in. Giant prawns in olive oil and chilli and squid cooked in piri piri, garlic, wine and brandy were to die for. The beach it sits on is stunning and we spent a lovely day here.
  • Slide and Splash waterpark (50 mins away) was really fun. There were only two slides suitable for toddlers but the Boy didn’t mind and just went on them lots and lots.
  • Dolphin boat trip from Sagres harbour was fantastic – we saw about 30 dolphins swimming right next to us and the Boy was so excited. The Man and I have done a lot of boat trips on holidays and I think this was one of the best. The crew were very informative (they were marine biologists) and we were able to view the dolphins close up without feeling like we were infringing.

Conclusion

Overall Martinhal is a very good resort with all the facilities you could want for a family holiday. The location is not ideal if you want to venture to other places but this does give it a much more authentic feel, especially compared to the flashing lights of Portimao and Albufiera that seem to offer English Breakfasts and Chicken Tikka Masala’s all over the place. Apart from the service in the restaurants it is difficult to fault Martinhal it is clean, well thought out and has something for everyone.