Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Iceland with a Toddler

(NB: This is a long post so if you're not interested in Iceland, look away now!)
This time last week we were enjoying our last day in Reykjavik. We were heading home after a delicious meal of lamb steaks and salty, crispy fries at the lovely restaurant Snaps (they do a mean brunch too), hoping in vain that we might finally bump into Bjork, and snuggling down for a last evening of reading and gin drinking at our apartment.

It was Mr B's work which took us to Iceland. He was travelling there to research the folk stories and songs, so we decided to fly out and meet him once the research was done. After our snowy start in the UK, we arrived in Reykjavik for a five night stay and had a marvellous time in this wonderfully child friendly and cool country. So just in case you're thinking of heading there in the future, here are some of our top tips for visiting with a little one in tow.
Keeping the Price Down
Iceland isn't a cheap getaway destination but it doesn't need to be as expensive as people make out. The main reason it can get pricey is because alcohol and eating out are both very expensive, and also the shops in Reykjavik are so blooming cool that you need a will of iron to resist blowing out the credit card on gorgeous knits, rucksacks and suede boots (we loved the shops Geysir and Hrim where we could have gone mad). To combat all of this, we rented a little apartment in the centre of Reykjavik from which we could explore and cook. The apartment had one bedroom with a sofa bed so was perfect for the three of us and worked out cheaper than two adults staying in the nearest hostel. Mr Biddle bought a bottle of gin at the airport so we avoided any drinking out. We hired a car so that we didn't need to pay expensive taxi charges to and from the airport or the huge costs for taking the sightseeing coaches (plus these would have been a nightmare with a toddler in tow). And flights from Heathrow were barely more expensive than the budget airlines (who now stingily charge for infants on laps).

The Cold
Iceland was about as cold as the frosty UK whilst we were there, the biting winds being the most chilly part but we experienced lovely blue skies and crisp icy days. So we just packed our winter weather gear - big puffa jackets, walking boots, woolly hats and gloves. Plus I got B some knitted girls leggings from Primark for £2 a pop to act as long johns under his trousers (see below). If we had visited in the summer, our apartment would have cost three times as much.
The Dark
Iceland keeps the same times as the UK which is another major advantage of travelling with a little one - no changing of clocks or routines. It doesn't get light until between 10am & 11am which was fine for enjoying lazy holiday mornings, and it goes dark about the same time it does here in the UK.
As well as pottering round (and drooling in) the shops and super cool coffee houses of Reykjavik, we would highly recommend the following:

Reykjavik Zoo - more of a petting farm really but we loved seeing the Icelandic Horses, the Seals and the Reindeer.
Thingvellir National Park - A really incredible spot where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurpoe meet, and where the first Icelandic parliament was founded.
Geysir & Gullfoss - It's rather remarkable to see hot water shooting out of the ground every few minutes, and Gullfoss Waterfalls are staggeringly beautiful.
We attempted to go swimming which is what all young families do in Iceland but when we tried to go on the last day, the pool we had chosen was annoyingly closed so we headed to the lovely Open Air Museum instead. We also noticed too late that there is family theatre on every Saturday and Sunday at the National Theatre so it's definitely worth checking out what's on there.

Iceland really is a beautiful place and we would highly recommend it as a destination - family in tow or not. I'll long remember the twinkling of fairy lights in the windows across the city, and the vast landscapes which start Sigur Ros playing a soundtrack in your head!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Flying with a Toddler

Whilst the UK had a field day in the snow, Family Biddle jetted off for some winter sun in Iceland. Yes, the temperatures were actually higher in Reykjavik - who would have guessed that when we booked our flights. I'll do a proper post on the marvellous time we had with some top tips in case you fancy a visit in the future. But to kick us off, I thought I'd share a couple of (not very revolutionary) little discoveries about flying and travelling with a toddler.
I had to fly solo on the way there as Mr B was already in Reykjavik for work, and I thought I had it all planned and sorted. As we were flying from Heathrow (Bristol don't fly to Reykjavik), we stayed overnight with friends near Reading in the hope that B wouldn't fall asleep in the car on the way to the airport. Our flight was scheduled for 1pm so I planned to pretty much starve him until we got on the plane and then give him his lunch once we were in the air, thus killing some time before hopefully getting him off to sleep. All was going well with this plan until we woke up to snow. Lots of it. So we headed off early, driving very slowly, and reached Heathrow in plenty of time. As we watched the boards our flight time got later and later, and we were hugely lucky that it wasn't cancelled as so many other flights were. We pottered round the airport, bought a new book (What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson which is fantastic), watched the snow and the planes, ate our lunch, and B charmed many fellow passengers by playing peekaboo. After sitting still on a grounded plane for an hour and a half, we finally lifted into the air three and a half hours late, at which point B passed out in my arms and slept for the majority of the three hour flight. What a star.
So the lesson to self here is ... you can plan all you like but sometimes you have to chuck them out of the window and go with the flow.
I packed B his own little rucksack which contained the following items, all of which proved useful for the journey and the holiday.

  • Favourite snacks, food, milk and a sports bottle of water - weirdly he loves playing with and drinking from the tops on these bottles.
  • Books - I chose smaller lighter ones
  • Child friendly headphones (I bought these Groov-e ones) to plug into my iPhone and did a couple of test runs with him before we left home so he'd get used to wearing them.
  • Little toy cars
  • Finger Puppets (Ikea do awesome ones)
  • A small bag filled with enough Duplo bricks to build a tower. They're not very heavy and he was in tower building heaven for a lot of the trip.
  • His favourite cuddly toys - Owly, Bun and Quack Quack.
Along with these, I also went with a fully charged iPhone filled with distractions. I downloaded some episodes of his favourite TV show from iTunes (Something Special which cost £4.99 for eight episodes). I have a number of baby friendly apps on there which he loves (I'll do a separate post about these another time). And the plane had Pingu on the in-flight entertainment so he watched some of that too.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

One Year

This week marks a year since we moved into our house - the house we'll probably call our home for a very long time indeed. How time flies.

January 2012:
January 2013:
I think it was Jeanette Winterson who once said that a house is a home when every object inside can tell a story. Well we have a lot of objects and they can definitely all tell a story. Whilst playing with B this morning, with the winter sun streaming through the windows (Note to self - we need to find a window cleaner), I took a few snaps of little spots in our house which make me sure it's a home.

I always like to have fresh flowers in the house. At the moment we have the first of the Spring daffodils, and roses bought for me by Mr B as a welcome home treat.

Try as I might, I can never keep our kitchen window sill free of stuff. And even though we have two fantastic DAB radios elsewhere in the house, the one that is on most frequently (usually on R4) is the old analogue, grease stained one in the kitchen.

 A sure sign of homeliness - photos on the fridge.

 I love the stained glass in our Edwardian front door.

When we first came to view this house, as I walked through the door I could instantly imagine our muddy wellies and winter coats hung behind the front door. And here they are.

A room of one's own - by no means finished and full of clutter, but I love my desk, built by Mr B's fair hands. Just need to get round to painting it. And covering the rocking chair. And building built in shelves. And making a blind. And a million other things ...

B's shoes on the stairs, my sister's art on the wall (drawn when she was 18) and fairy lights twisting round the banisters. We like fairy lights. A lot.

Home made cushions in Mr B's music room where B likes to play his 'tar'.

One of our first bits of decorating, the green wall behind our bed. The bedside table was a £5 bargain from the second hand furniture store in Clevedon. And piles of books and magazines ready to be read - one day.

A box full of clothes aged 2-3yrs, bought in sales and charity shops, waiting patiently for the boy to grow large enough to wear them.

Me and my boy having fun on the stairs.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Handmade Christmas

Now the presents have been unwrapped, the gift paper has been recycled and the tree is in the process of being stripped bare, I can share with you the little bit of crafting I did for some of our gifts to family. During this last year it has been tricky to try and fit in much time with my trusty old sewing machine. She's not a priority when work and family life come first. But I ran up some cushions which are my sewing staple and I can create pretty swiftly.

I dabbled with some more unusual shapes than my usual squares for my Goddaughter and her Brother, making her a star from vintage embroidered tablecloths and him a cloud from pretty blue linen with appliqued butterflies on.
My Brother-in-law and his wife have recently moved house so I made a couple of cushions for their new abode out of more vintage table linen and this fab Kokka fabric from The Makery Emporium.
And finally, my Father-in-law loves boats and has a little one of his own so I hope these miniature square cushions look lovely on board. The anchor print fabric also came from The Makery Emporium.