Running with baby – how I won time back

As probably all new parents have discovered, car ride and hum of a busy road during stroll are the most effective natural sedatives for babies. Going for a walk is of course vital, as they need to get some fresh air, also it calms them down and usually sends of to sleep fairly quickly. And for that reason walk is a must in our case, as Joseph sleeps longer than 20 minutes only outside. Noise of the road and rocking of the pram carries him off right into Morpheus arms in no time. The problem is that being out for 2 hours would be a pleasure in May, but in January it can become a real torture, especially that you have to repeat it every day. Rain, snow, frozen hands, wind pushing me with such force I almost fly away with pram and with my inside out umbrella. No thank you, I think I’ll pass. Well, sorry but you can’t. At first I tried to escape from this dounting walk duty and I’d been hiding in a shopping centres, but deception was uncovered immediately, and my son was signalling with high notes screams he won’t be fooled like that and no way he’ll sleep anymore. When I almost resigned myself to those depressing autumn / winter walks, I had a stroke of genius one day. I bought a running stroller – I’ve been running for years and really missed it after I had Joseph, so I decided to try how it would be to run together.

I’ve got bugaboo cameleon, so just bought bugaboo running chassis, which is compatible with bugaboo seats. I’ve not tried any other running stroller but I think this one is great. It’s very stable, glides on the surface, feels more like flying rather than running (on a good day, when I’m not dead tired 🙂 ) the wheels are like bike’s wheels and, if pumped well (pump is included), cushion most of the bumps, but still you need to remember to choose a route with a good even surface so that baby is comfortable during ride. Another similarity with bikes is horiontal hand brake, located just under the handle, which is very easy to pull when you need to stop suddenly. There is also regular brake, like in all pushchairs. To make ride more secure we can use wrist strap (which are standard feature in all bugaboos), to make sure pushchair won’t roll away if we accidentally let go of it. Only thing you need that isn’t included are adapters, which allow you to fix the seat in and change position from sitting to lying down, when your little one is sleepeng, and from back to front facing, if he decides it’s time for a bit of sightseeing 🙂

Before you start running just remember about couple of things. The wheels in bugaboo runner (and other runners as well) won’t turn, they’re not manouverable and can only go straight, that’s why you are able to keep straight line while running. If you want to turn you need to press the handle down and lift the pushchair, that’s why it’s best to find route that goes straight, because stopping all the time to turn is really annoying and makes you loose your pace. I always aim to go for a run when Joseph is tired, fed and ready for nap, if he has too much energy he might be rebellious and not happy with being strapped in a pushchair for long. It’s best not to go too far at first, to see how your baby reacts and also how you find it, because there is a difference between running solo and having to push big stroller with a couple of kilograms load in it. I was afraid I won’t like not being able to move my arms, but it turned out it didn’t bother me at all, and the run feels really comfortable.

In autumn and winter you can put raincover over the pushchair so that wind doesn’t blow directly in baby’s face, I also take 2 toys and a snack for him in case he wakes up earlier (I run for 1,5 hour), additional blanket in case it was colder than I thought, and phone and water for me. You can put it all in the basket underneath, that also has elastic bands to ensure things stay in place.

What do I think about our running together after a couple of months? It was one of my best ideas ever. Since I replaced walks with running my life has completely changed (how serious that sounds:). I can carry on with my pre pregnancy hobby while looking at the baby at the same time, isn’t that just brilliant? Life with baby means that you get 1% of time for yourself out of 24 hours, so since I started running with my son I feel as if I got a gift of time, which is absolutely priceless to me. It is a blessing for my head, wind refreshes my mind, I breath deeply, the whirlwind of my thoughts is going away and they all find their place, like neatly folded clothes in a wardrobe. Despite sleep deprivation and tiredness I come back home after run full of energy, high on endorphines, with newly found strength to face washing machine, mount everest of dirty dishes, vacuum cleaner and other domestic monsters 🙂 We run almost every day, it’s our special time when we both get what we want. Joseph falls asleep at once and I just run, I do what I love, I am myself.

December

How having second baby had taken me by surprise

My baby boy is almost 10 months old. I know how cliche it is and that every mum in the world says that, but I really can’t believe how fasts it all had gone by, and that this little person is the same one I brought home from the hospital, he’s changes so much I wouldn’t recognised him from his first photos. I want to go back to the beginning, to those first, beautiful but also incredibly hard months and reflect on how this new reality had  hit us and how we survived. I hope that my experience will help other new parents out there, and that you find something you can relate to in this post.

I remember myself sitting at work, pregnant and dreaming about upcoming maternity leave, I honestly thought I would have all the time in the world, which I was so lacking working full time, to finally do all the stuff that I wanted and planned for years but never actually had these extra hours to dedicate fully to my hobbies. I was smiling imagining myself in the kitchen cooking delicious meals, exercising, reading and everything else from my ever so long wish list. So I remember myself from that couple of months ago and I am laughing out loud. How naive one can be is beyond comprehension. If I was having a baby for a first time I could be forgiven this ridiculous utopic visions, but really, second time round? I can’t just believe how stupid I was. In my fantasy maternity dream my baby was sitting in a bouncer playing and cheerfully babbling for hours and I was making sashimi maks and California rolls (I love sushi) right after I’d put Ferrero Rocher cake in the oven (which I added to notes on my phone as ‘to do’ in 2012). When he gets bored with bouncer I’ll put him on playmat, surely he’ll like pulling all those tigers and monkeys by the tails. And when he gets tired with all that playing it’s time for a nap, let’s say 2 hours. Or more, babies need a lot of sleep. To say that this vision was a bit different from reality will be a massive understatement. Let’s just say this: as of yet there was no homemade sushi, hardly ever there was even any dinner made by me. Little munchkin took away every moment of my day, I could only manage to brush my teeth, wash my creased face or take a shower (total luxury) at 12 pm, when he was napping. Always in a hurry, always longing for these couple of extra minutes. To my unpleasent surprise and disappointment there was no time to make omlettes for breakfast, with finely chopped onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese, just how I love it. Instead I had couple of toasts with jam or nutella, which I hardly ever had before. And so there I was, high from massive palm oil and sugar injection and generous caffeine portion from a coffee that was never drank in one go and always reheated countless times (if I was lucky enough to find my cup I’d abandoned suddenly somewhere in the house). Also breastfeeding brought a wave of chocolate cravings strong as hurricane against which I was powerless. I was always quite serious sugar addict, but the amount I was allowing myself after giving birth was nothing but obscene. It was impossible to resist. Once I saw chocolate I was like an animal following its instinct – I would kill to have it (well almost). So yeah, chocolate for breakfast was a new thing, I was biting it as if it was sandwich. Then after a while I had ice cream, snickers and so on, I was topping up my sugar levels all day long. I felt terrible about it, and I sort of managed to control it a bit after couple of weeks. I guess it was tiredness, sleep deprivation, stress and increased demand for calories that made me eat week’s worth of sweet supply in one day, with a ferociousness of a bear that woken up mad hungry after winter sleep.

So I was a bit dumbstruck with this new reality and my jaws (and mood) were dropping lower and lower at this total, lawless robbery of my time, and I was laughing at my idyllic visions. For some irrational reasons I thought that because my first baby was high maintainace screamer, now it’s karma time and I’ll have quiet little angel. “Boys are lovely” everyone around was telling me. Well karma is a bitch and the first 3 months were a hard test for us. Joseph had colics and troubles with digesting lactose and was vomitting a lot. I know it’s very common, but I wasn’t coping well with it, however stupid it sounds – I didn’t prepare mentally for it. I also didn’t want time to pass by in a blur, where days are impossible to tell apart, but it was hard to avoid in among repetitive cries, feeds, carrying, an hour of putting to sleep and singing lullabies for a 15 minutes nap 🙂 Joseph also preferred sleeping on people rather than anywhere else, so I found myself confined to the sofa with this little coala clinging onto my chest pretty much all day long.

I was immersing myself in a warm wave this tiny body oozed, I could look at his face, trying to figure out what it all is in a series of heartmelting pouts, for hours. I sniffed his neck and wanted to eat him like some kind of vampire mother, honestly where are all these weird urges from?

7, 9, 10 am, 3, 5pm… wait, what? Where the whole day had gone? Time was always racing like mad, but this was just unbelievable, I could swear it was a trick or something. As another day slipped through my fingers I felt frustrated that I’ve done practically nothing, house was a dump, nothing edible in the fridge, mount everest of washing to do, mind and body neglected. Month after Joseph was born we moved to the new house and we didn’t even have beds or furniture, so first few months was a constant obstacle course around the house in a desperate attempt to find things in boxes covering literally every square cm of the house. I really don’t do well in such disorganised space, it increases cortisol and adrenaline in my blood to a dangerous levels, so I wanted to finish everything off asap, which of course wasn’t doable with a newborn needing me 24/7 (life hack: don’t ever move house and have a baby at the same time:)

So for first 3 months I was bathing myself in a coktail of tenderness and anger, peace and guilt about doing nothing (especially not having time for my older daughter), of all day long cuddles, cueings and kisses and a desperate need to be alone. I never would have thought I can experience such ambivalent feelings all at the same time!

And so it turned out they were telling the truth in women magazines, and those first months really are tough, especially if there is no family to help out, like in our case. Grandma who can take baby for a long walk is absolutely priceless!

I know it’s easier said than done, but try to find some time just for yourself, do stuff you enjoyed before baby, read a book or watch few minutes of box set you were looking forward to (few minutes was all we managed until we’d fallen asleep). Those little me moments can really reset your mind and charge your batteries. If you think you can’t do it anymore, pop in to your friend for a cuppa, maybe in the evening when baby sleeps, it helps to put things back into right proportions. Talking about nothing and change of surroundings is so mentally refreshing. I used to sneak out to my friend M, who lives nearby, I was taking Joseph sometimes and to my surprise he let me live and wasn’t crying at all. He was just looking around with mouth open, curious about new place and faces. M was laughing that he’s got enough of us, that’s why he screams at home 🙂

I remember when I first went for a swim, which I used to do regularly before. So after those weeks of being mostly at home, sleep deprivation and being high with the new baby pheromones, on a cold November night I sat in a warm, dim lighted sauna and then in the jacuzzi, it felt so surreal, I thought I was dreaming. I was shocked that world hasn’t stopped and it’s only me who got out and now live in some different dimension.

In my case it was resuming phisical activity, especially running, which I love and did regularly before and during pregnancy, that helped me to find myself again and keep it all together. I bought running stroller and am so happy with it; I can continue my hobby even though I have a baby 🙂 I think it’s incredibly important to have something that is only yours, that reconnect you with your old self and makes you feel happy and fulfilled, somewhere where you’re not only mum, but a person with dreams and needs that are cherished and met. I’m 100x better mum when I come back to my kids from ‘me zone’ 🙂

Also it’s important to realise there are going to be unproductive, lazy days, when you can really achieve nothing more than lying on the sofa and wishing you could just bury yourself in bed and not come out for the next month. That’s ok. That’s what those first weeks are all about, giving all the time to your baby and your body to recover. Especially very active women, whose calendar was fully packed, need to prepare mentally for this scenario, or it might be a bit of a shock to their system. That was exactly my case, instead of embracing I was fighting it all, because I wanted to do hundreds other things as well and all it can cause is frustration and feeling down. Turn on baby mode, doing nothing is ok, throw the guilt out of the window, just relax, rest and enjoy your new baby. Now I know it’s the only way 🙂

As for the colics and tummy problems – doctors assured us it usually goes away after first 3 months, and much to our relief that’s exactly what happened. Babies need this time to develop their digestive system, enzyms and microflora. I’ve tried colief drops and gaviscon powder dissolvable in water, but impossibility of giving medicine to a breastfed newborn is a whole separate topic, at least mine wouldn’t accept any other thing than breast and any other taste than milk in is mouth. You can only imagine how much of my sweat and nerves these fruitless attempts took. I know that baby crying in pain and turning beetroot purple is a heartbreaking image, but you need to be patient, remember it happens to majority of babies and it will pass. I was so overwhelmed by these constant screams I was hearing baby cries all the time, everywhere, even in a complete silence, and I was running upstairs to check on Joseph, cause I was sure I heard him:). If there is one thing that helps, it’s white noises. Lots of them is available on apps or you tube, I also have whisbear (a humming teddy bear), but I like the apps more as there is more to choose from, like rain, river, hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, old car – whole package of amazing soundtracks 🙂 Or just try to put the baby near tumble dryer – ours loved it:)

It’s June and summer is so gorgeous this year. I thought it will never come. I am looking at the sun and think about the difficult beginnings, when during long, dark, wet and gloomy autumn months I was too exhausted to appreciate wonderfullness of what we’ve been experiencing. My baby is turning into a boy, his once bald head is now covered in spiky blond hair that makes smile everyone who sees him. He loves birds, adores his big sister, laughs at her funny faces, waves, screams and giggles at the same time, as if he wanted to show off all skills he mastered at once, repeats what we say, wants to walk and run all day long despite not knowig how yet, but using me as supporting machine. Soon he’ll let go of me and one day he’ll leave to start his own life, and I’ll be standing and watching him walk away. But until this moment we’ve got many years to go. In those years my ‘to do’ and ‘books to read’ list will get a mile long, I won’t make ferrero rocher cake, I won’t climb Machu Picchu and won’t see Angkor Wat and Tanah Lot as soon as I would like. I won’t watch the movie, I won’t wear make up, I won’t go to hairdresser whenever I want, I won’t stay in bed whole morning and drink coffee that wasn’t reheated at least 5 times. But for all this time I won’t be doing these things, in every passing minute that they won’t be happening, I will have you. And for all these infectious laughs, heartmelts, kisses and cuddles, giggles, amazement at everything you do, and pride and fulfillment that comes with raising a whole new wonderful human being, I put my pleasures on hold. Now we’re just going to be together because it’s your time. Our time.

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Quick and easy Malteasers cake

It’s my daughter’s favourite cake. She wanted it for her birthday twice in a row, and 2 days ago asked if we could make it for her choir concert. It’s simplified version of classic malteasers cake. The only thing that requires couple of minutes work here is the sponge cake, which I realise is simple, common and most of you probably have their own way of doing it, but will share my recipe anyway, as it always comes out really good. Chocolate cream here is just the best I’ve ever tasted, and it only consists of nutella and mascarpone mixed together. It’s divine yet so simple that even child can do it, which is a real bonus, as it’s one less thing for you to do 🙂 The fact that after the concert it disappeared in 5 minutes, first out of all other bakes, and that malteasers was the most frequently used word among young choir members and guests this evening, is probably the best possible recommendation for this cake 🙂

Ingredients for the cake:

5 eggs

1/2 cup of sugar

3/4 cup of flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

For the filling:

2 x 250g of mascarpone

5 – 6 spoons of nutella

You will also need 4 x 100g boxes of malteasers

Method:

Separate eggs whites from yolks and beat the whites until set and stiff, still beating, add sugar in couple of portions, then egg yolks. Sieve the flour and baking powder in, (also in a few portions), and using spatula mix in delicately. It’s important to do it slowly and gently, otherwise the batter will loose its fluffiness and lightness. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes in 170℃ (temperature with fan). Allow it to cool and then cut into 2 layers (if you want higher cake you can bake another sponge and make more layers, you will need proportionally more ingredients for the filling). Now delegate some responsibilities and get your child to have some fun with the filling. Get them to spread it on one layer with a spatula, and put the other one on top, then spread it all over the cake and stick malteasers in. Like I said, quick and super easy, and with a wow factor as well 🙂

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Guinness cake

Nigella Lawson, whose recipe for this cake I am following, writes that it is magnificent in its damp blackness. Nigella’s descriptions are so mouthwatering as if delicious sweet syrup was slowly dripping from her words. Sophisticated language is very adequate here as this cake truly is a piece of poetry. It looks like famous Irish stout, I think the world cup is a perfect time to make it, as beer and football are a match made in heaven and the amount of sugar in this cake will sweeten bitter taste of every missed goal 🙂

I was rather suspicious of it at first, as always when the ingredients wouldn’t be my obvious choice for a cake (like i. e. carrots or beetroots), but in this case sugar evens out bitterness of Guinness, and the beer really deepens dark colour of the batter, also giving a note of intrigue and richness to its taste. It happens a lot in our house that some cakes are gone from the tray before they had a chance to cool off, like apple pie or some lighter sponge cakes with fruits. This one is heavier and more filling so it’s best to enjoy it in smaller portions. It’s chocolatey delicious and looks divine with frothy white cream on top.

Ingredients for the cake

250 ml of Guinness

250 g of unsalted butter

5 g cocoa powder

400 g of caster sugar

142 ml of sour cream

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

275 g of plain flour

2½ teaspoons of bicarbonate soda

For the Topping

300 g cream cheese
150 grams icing sugar
125 ml of whipping cream

Method

Pour Guinness into a saucepan, add butter and heat it up until it’s melted, add cocoa and sugar and mix it in. Lightly beat sour cream with eggs and vanilla extract and pour into your brown, beery mixture. Final ingredients are flour and soda, and once you stir it in, pour the cake batter into greased and lined tray and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (175 °C without fan, 160 °C with fan). Allow it to cool off completely as it’s rather moist. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over icing sugar and beat to combine. Spread it over the cake shaping creamy peaks and hills.

And voila, it’s ready, cheers 🙂

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Arłamów – one of a kind place in Bieszczady mountains in Poland

I grew up in Sanok, small city in the south of Poland, not far form one of the coolest places in Poland – Bieszczady mountains. The most popular polish destinations among foreign tourists are cities like Cracow, Warsaw, Gdansk, and Bieszczady are less known than for example Zakopane and Tatra mountains, but they have some huge advantages: they’re less touristy and commercialised, there are no crowds on routes (which sometimes happens in Tatra, especially in the peak season) and they have this remarkable hippie sort of vibe which makes them so special and sentimental to Polish people, like a keepsake of their youth. For a long time accommodation options here were quite basic, either family run B&Bs, or small hotels, it almost became tradition that there were no luxury resorts and posh 5 stars hotels here, because the spirit of these mountains is all about going back to basics and being close to nature.

As teenagers we used to hitchhike there with tent, sleeping bags and with just little money and we had the best time ever, hiking and going to festivals and listening to our favourite bands. Lack of hot water or decent facilities couldn’t bother us less, one could always have a bath in the river. Young and free, this is pretty much how we spent every summer 🙂 So this is a place of a special significance to me, brings back lots of happy memories. Because of my experiences of camping style accommodation and limited washing options, Bieszczady and luxury sounded to me like the opposites, until I came to Arłamów Hotel. I must admit that the place is exceptional; located on the hill overlooking valleys covered in forests, it also has unique history and the views are just breathtaking, just look:

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Arłamów is a recreational and sport focused hotel so I would be perfect place for you if you like sport and want to get some rest. Rooms are big and comfortable, I particularly lile rich and soft carpets, honestly, when your foot touches such carpet it’s hard not to feel like VIP 🙂 There is also proffesional 3 levels spa & wellness with 14 treatment rooms. There isn’t any route to the mountains starting here, so if you want to hike you need to go to different village, which is big disadvantage. I can’t think of anything better than jumping to jaccuzzi and sauna after whole day of hiking – the dream 🙂 If you’re looking for options to get positively knackered, besides hiking, there is still a lot on offer. So we have indoor pool, kids pool and outdoor thermal pool, fotball, volleyball and basketball pitch, golf, you can also play badminton, squash, tennis, do some climbing on a 19m high wall, go to professional gym, horseride or blow off some steam on shooting range. Lots of ways to get sporty as you can see, and afterwards you can relax your painful muscles in the sauna (many different types), steam room or jaccuzzi. Thermal pool has water temperature of 36 C, and though I haven’t been in winter, I think it must be awesome to sit in a warm pool sourrounded by snow.

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Outside we also have jaccuzzi, and if you follow down the path to the right you’ll see reindeers having a snooze in the meadow. Just pure bliss for eyes and soul and you can enjoy it in a peace and quiet because off spring can go to kids club, which is very good and entertaining and has soft play as well, so I think children up to about 6 year old will have fun in here. As for other attractions for kids there is also art & crafts room, multimedia room, swimming lessons, you can hire bikes here, or have a blast on the trampoline at the outdoor playground (I certainly had!). So as you can see there is plenty of things to do and you can easily fill in the day with activities, even if it’s raining. You can also have a dip in heated pool at night, watching stars on the black sky and feeling rain drops gently falling on your back while your body is still pleasantly warm is a sensual experience I highly recommend 🙂 And the mountains in the morning after rain look just spectacular, as if they’re breathing.

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The hotel complex consists of two main parts: Hotel Arłamów and The Residence. The latter was a secret location of the government in communism times, the highest officials of other countries were invited here too, to debate, party and hunt. Famous polish leader of ‘Solidarity’, Lech Wałęsa, who eventually brought the communism in Poland down, was being detained here.

Also to Arłamów complex belong two villas, which are located 12 km away – Trójca and Gruszowa. Trójca consists of 4 villas with absolutly gorgeous highland style interiors and wooden ornaments made by best carpenters of the region. Gruszowa’s interior is a bit more modern.

The food here is really yummy, there a 3 restaurants and you have the chance to try traditional polish dishes such as pierogi (dumplings with potato and white cheese filling), rosół (chicken broth), borsch (beetroot soup), or my most favourite thing in the world – potato pancakes with sour cream – food doesn’t get any better than that 🙂 Evening meals are really nice and usually there is different theme each time, so you can try traditional cuisine of other countries.

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Arłamów earned some good PR in a recent years thanks to polish national football team, who come here to train, btw they were here until couple of days ago to prepare for the world cup. As for price per night – it’s around 100£ for double room with breakfast, sometimes more. Definitely the most pricey spot in Bieszczady, but it’s worth coming even just for the view. And definitely place for you if you’re looking for an ultimate luxury experience. So when you’re in Poland give Bieszczady a go and pop in to Arłamów and you won’t be disappointed!

Dominican Republic with baby – how to go and not loose your mind

Haven’t you sometimes heard comments like this when going away: why drag baby along on a such a long journey, he’ll be exhausted and won’t remember a thing anyway. Of course he won’t remember a thing and he doesn’t care whether it’s an inflatable mini pool in the garden or Caribbean sea he is splashing in, but I thing we need to consider the needs of all family members and if only we are being careful and prepare well, I don’t see why not to travel with little one and fulfill the dreams of parents and older siblings. Even if he gets a bit tired the world won’t end, and if the trip makes mum happy, surely he will benefit from that as well, right? But before you go, it’s important to keep in mind a couple of things, and realise that unfortunately it’s not going to be easy. I hope that the list below will help you decide whether traveling far away with baby is something you want to do or not, and if so, to better prepare for it.

Flight

8 hours in a very confined space with a baby can scare off even a daredevil. Occasional or in worse cases constant scream, throwing off food trays and spilling drinks, pulling passengers in front of you by the hair, peeking and throwing things at passengers at the back, your limbs numb form holding sleeping baby and back hurting from bending down in search of dummy dropped for a 100th time – if you haven’t got goose bumps when you read this that means you can go ahead and buy the tickets 🙂 Just to touch a bit on practical info; there is an 10$ fee on arrival and 20$ on departure, so it’s best to have some dollars (accepted currency is American dollar or Dominican peso) with you. We always use cards everywhere and practically never exchange any money in advance. To our unpleasant surprise it turned out  there is no cash machine at Punta Cana airport and the only option to get some cash was to go with border agency officer to the back room for a half an hour and buy some dollars from them at crazy rate. After this hugely overpaid transaction we will always have some cash with us – lesson learned. We wasted a lot of time, and que was mega long but we’ve asked to be allowed on the fast track, because we were with a baby, and from that moment things went quite smoothly.

 Everyday rhythm disruption and jet lag

The routine is a holy grail of parenting and stepping away from it equals unleashing plagues and disasters which devastating results will be very hard to contain. Understandably parents don’t want to condemn themselves to such grim fate, so they guard the routine as their greatest treasure and make sure nothing spoils meticulously planned baby day. Well I must confess I dared to cross the line and desecrated the routine, and paid for it dearly with a couple of nightmarish days, both after the beginning as well as the end of holiday. So we found ourselves in the time zone, where life goes 5 hours backwards, but little Joseph, completely oblivious to this fact, was starting his days at 2 am, and after we came back he had been refusing to go to sleep earlier than midnight for the first couple of days. Speaking of jet lag in general I can say from my experience, there is no point to forcefully fight it, just give the body these necessary couple of days to adjust, yes, we will be dead tired, but our bodies will eventually shift to new time, in grown ups as well as in babies case. But be aware that if you decide to meddle with well established baby rhythm, he will be tired and probably crying, whinging and screaming at times and you will need to listen to all this and deal with it 🙂

Different microflora and health risks

It seems a bit easier if baby is still only on the breast or formula, or eats ready made purees from  jars, the contact with bacteria from food and water is limited (use only bottled water to prepare meals for your baby). But the little one of course puts everything he sees and can reach straight into his mouth, so you can’t really prevent this contact at all. And so it happened that Joseph contracted coxsackievirus probably from the swimming pool (I’ve never even heard this strange name before, but as we found out it’s very common childhood virus in i.e. USA, Canada, and also in Dominican Republic). Generally it’s not dangerous, usually in first 2 days baby has fever and then spots appear, similar as in chicken pox. Fortunately in our case it was quick and mild, but as soon as Joseph was fine, Lily got ear infection, so our main attraction in the first week were visits to the hospital, finalised with a 1000£ bill, just for 2 standard visits to get prescriptions for antibiotics, ear drops and fever reducing suppositories. Just to put it into perspective, it’s an equivalent of 10 months worth of average Dominican wage. Prices for tourists in private hospitals are absolutely insane, so good travel insurance is and absolute must. We had to pay with our own money, after we get back and provide all the necessary papers and make a claim, we’ll get the money back. That’s the way it works so it’s important to put some money aside for these kind of emergency situations (remember to keep all the receipts, even from taxi drivers, to get back all the money you spent).

Limited sightseeing and number of excursions

Most of the tour operators won’t have anything against traveling with babies, they are even allowed on Saona island tour, which involves speedboats, catamarans and spending the whole day in full sun. Considering the above, and also reviews saying that this trip although wonderful for grown ups is a real torture for babies we decided to split. One of us stayed at the hotel with Joseph and the other went with Lily. And this kind of excursion model we have implemented for the whole holiday, and anyway we did that before and it works really well for us. Those on the trip can relax and make the most of it, the baby is having a good time as well and can have a nap in a pleasantly cool room whenever he wants. Besides if I took him for that trip I’m afraid I might have needed the therapy after, so really splitting and taking turns in exploring is a win win 🙂

What to take

Apart from obvious things like summer clothes, sun hats and swimming costumes (preferably with long sleeves and UV filters) also might come handy:

  1. Mosquito repellent (must contain deet, otherwise is not effective), in the evening there were quite many of them
  2. Bites and itching relief product, i.e. hydrocortisone or antihistamine cream
  3. Calpol or ibuprofen based syrup
  4. Mosquito net for the buggy – useful for evening strolls
  5. Sunshade for the buggy, whether it’s umbrella, parasol, or other sunshade you like (and let me know which one it is because I haven’t found anything that works so far!)
  6. Silicone or other easy to wash bib
  7. Baby food, if it’s something you normally feed your baby; bear in mind that regular city shops and supermarkets are far away from the resorts and hotels in Punta Cana, and anyway the choice of baby food might be limited (we only found one kind of chicken meal, and that’s what Joseph had been eating for 2 weeks), and there was only pinapple puree available in the hotel shop, and it had sugar in its content, so the bottom line is: just take what your baby likes from home, sachets are better option then jars because they are much lighter. Pretty much everything else from nappies, wet wipes, sun creams, medicines, even antibiotics you can buy in the hotel shop.

I didn’t use my baby carrier once, it was so hot that baby stuck to my body and being warmed up by the carrier’s fabrics would most likely boil in no time. Also almost all Joseph’s clothes came back untouched, as he was wearing just nappy for most of the holiday 🙂 I should have taken just a few of his t shirts, would definitely saved some space in our luggage, which we never, just never have enough, no matter how many suitcases we take 🙂

So how exactly is it possible not to loose your mind given all the above? Well first of all you need to think thoroughly about all those aspects, because they are real, and there is a fair chance they will happen. You need to mentally prepare yourself for the hardship and if this scenario is too scary, it’s best to go somewhere closer, after all you can fly far away a bit later, the world will wait 🙂 By all means I didn’t want to discourage anyone from traveling wit baby, as I do it myself, just wanted to give you the honest picture and describe what it’s really like. No, it wasn’t easy, but despite all the minuses it didn’t put me off from traveling with my baby, and I think it’s really worth it. You just need to be well organised and prepared, and if you just follow your intuition and use common sense I’m sure everything will be just fine 🙂

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turquoise therapy 🙂

Things to do in Dominican Republic

I always type this phrase in google, before deciding where to go and buying tickets. ‘Things to do’ or more like ‘many things to do’ is a major factor for me when choosing a destination. I don’t like doing nothing, I want to make the most of every single day, see everything I can, get so tired, that water running down my back from the shower would feel like an ultimate luxury. Whenever I go I want to see all the natural wonders, mountains, jungles, waterfalls and ruins, but most importantly to learn about people and their everyday life, the problems they are facing, and the culture and history that make them proud. This kind of experience means so much to me, much more than lying on the beach or even visiting museums.

When I was going to Dominican Republic I planned to plop myself on the beach for 2 weeks convinced that there was nothing to see (as if lying down and resting was possible with and 7 month old 🙂 I was even kind of happy that there was nothing to see, at least I wouldn’t regret missing out on something cool because I couldn’t have gone there with a baby. It turned out much to my surprise, that in a fat hotel folder full of trashy and made up excursions (like boogies adventures, where literally every hole in your head is filled with sand and dust and noise of the engine is drilling your brain through, or horse riding into the sea – tourist attraction in Jamaica, for real) it is actually possible to find some interesting things as well. If not full excursion – on some occasions I didn’t like all the points in itinerary – then at least ideas and hints where to go and what’s interesting.

Saona Island

Paradise island, where ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ where filmed, Dominican Republic top attraction, excursions are being sold on every corner. I wanted to avoid crowds, I didn’t want to feel like cattle hurried from place to place and actually be able to find a little bit of sand and water to myself (I’ve read many reviews like that), that’s why I’ve done more research and found Seavis Tours – top class local tour operator. Very professional, reply to emails immediately, they are No 1 in Punta Cana and specialise in all about nature eco tours. Small groups, no mass tourism and personal attention is what makes Seavis excursions so different from any other. Their Saona Crusoe VIP tour was voted best of all Saona excursion on tripadvisor. Highlights include visiting small fishing village – Mano Juan, the only village on the island, with characteristic colourful beach huts, and turtle sanctuary, where you have a chance to hold baby turtles. There is also stop in piscina natural, that is natural pool – a shallow place on the ocean far from the shore, where you can see starfish (remember not to take them out for photo, as they are like fish and cannot breath outside water. What’s more, this excursion has 3 beaches in itinerary (standard tours have 1) among which is Canto de la Playa, considered the most beautiful on Saona.

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Adult: 95$, child: 43$, for more info go to: https://www.seavisbayahibe.com/Saona_e.htm

Whale watching in Samana Bay

If only I was in Dominican Republic between January and March, when this trip runs, I would definitely go, and also with Seavis tours. It must be absolutely awesome! There are approximately 300 whales coming into Samana Bay every day during mating season, so it’s almost impossible not to see one. Seavis guides for this tour are well trained and know how to ensure safety both people’s and whales’.

Adult: 145$, child<12: 99$, children under 4 not allowed.

Samana

In Samana city you will visit city square, churches and other historical buildings, especially memorable are rows of multi colour houses that look like they’ve been taken out from a cartoon, or made out of blocks. Next on the plan is El Valle – paradise island, and Cayo Levantado with white powder sand and warm turquoise water (organised by tour operators in hotels).

Adult: 169$, child: 85$

Catalina island, Chavon river and Tanama jungle

Great tour for kids, organised also by Seavis tours, starts with snorkeling (or sunbathing) on beautiful Catalina, next you will board the traditional boat and cruise stream up through the gorge of Chavon river, surrounded by tropical jungle (you’ll feel like you are in Amazonia), and the last stop is Tanama, with butterfly garden, reptile house and the tropical route – educational walk with lots of info about local flora and fauna.

Adult: 105$, child: 60$

Outback safari

I’ve done this tour with Lily, booked it through the hotel (Sunwings tour operator), I chose half day option, but you could also go for a full day. I recommend this especially for kids; they can learn how coffee, tea, coconut oil are produced, see sugar cane field, go to local village and visit typical Dominican house and school. All this in just couple of hours so it’s not to tiring. It’s a valuable lesson to see how people live in this part of the world and how different the school is from their own. Starting from the fact that it costs 50$ per month and many parents simply can’t afford to send their children, even if they want to. Lily had a chance to make a donation at school, which made her really proud. Your guide will probably tell you not to give away money, toys and sweets to people. It might seem like thoroughly good, straight from the heart gesture, but when you think about it deeper, it just sends message to people that they don’t need to go to work, kids don’t need to go to school and make better future for themselves, because they can live of tourists handouts. So just not to encourage this kind of passive attitude it’s best to donate money or things directly to schools or local organisations (your guide should be able to give you more details about how to do it).

Adult: 80$, Child: 40$

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Cocoa beans
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Typical Dominican house (of a far better than average standard though)

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Villagers are waiting for gifts from tourists

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Santo Domingo

Exploring the capital and shopping is a leitmotiv of this tour, offered by majority of hotels. Santo Domingo is the oldest city in both Americas, so you have a chance to see the oldest cathedral, first paved street, hospital, university. Dose of history from colonial period will be a good exercise for intoxicated by cocktails and sun brains 🙂

Adult: 80$, Child: 40$

Pirates of the Caribbean show

Something special for children, interactive show on a pirate ship. Prepare yourselves for treasure hunt and swimming with sharks and stingrays. It’s a half day tour, very popular and with very good feedback.

Adult: 114$, Children: free

And if you are wondering how it’s possible to see anything at all with baby – post about it coming soon 🙂

Barcelona off the beaten track

Some people think it’s even greater than Paris. Decorated with out of this world Gaudi’s buildings it’s an exceptional place on the map of Europe. Pearl of Catalonia, couple of decades ago while sipping coffee in a local cafe you could rub shoulders with Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali or Joan Miro. Sun, beach, mosaics, paella and scooters are attributes of this colourful and lively city, which Zafón made centre of action of his famous book “Shadow of the wind” and Woody Allen of his romantic comedy “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona”. Have a look at my personalised and thorough guide, where apart from official tourist must see you will also find little known places, liked and recommended by Barcelonians themselves.

We were in Barcelona a couple of times, first by ourselves, then with Lily, when she was 3 years old, and last time when she was 6. When we were alone we practically walked the city from end to end, ticking off all must see things and Gaudi’s buildings marked on our map. Later on, with Lily I’ve implemented something called selective sightseeing, so I’ve marked our own attractions on the map, of which some were adult and some child oriented, just so it’s fair 🙂 During our second time, taking advantage of child being in a pushchair we visited again Parc Güell, Sagrada Familia and La Rambla. Last time  we visited couple of new places as we wanted Lily to have best time possible, and that’s what I want to share with you as it’s great option for kids, far more interesting for them than the typical sightseeing route.

Best places for kids in Barcelona

1. Aquarium

We are walking (or more like riding on the moving floor) through a big tunnel, surrounded by water, sharks and stingrays are floating over our heads –  it feels amazing, let me tell you. There is an abundance of other fish and sea creatures in other tanks, and about a million of Nemo and Dory 🙂

Tickets: Adults: 18€, Children: 5-10 years old: 13€, Children 3-4 years old: 6.5€. We were told that there are school trips coming here and children stay overnight, in their sleeping bags, watching all the giant fish gliding above them – just awesome, I’d like to stay overnight myself to experience that.

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2. Barceloneta

The beach is a perfect direction both for grown ups and for kids, that’s why we spent long hours at Barceloneta. Even though it was mid November the weather wasn’t too bad, probably around 16°C and we were warm enough in our jumpers. From April/May it’s impossible to find m2 of free space. Bear in mind it’s a public city beach and pickpocketing is very common here. When someone wants to go to the sea they walk backwards just to keep an eye on their things, which as you can imagine looks really funny especially when many people do it at the same time:) There are nudists and people trying to sell stuff, and believe me they are not easily discouraged, so if you find these things particularly annoying it’s better to find beach outside the city. Generally the further from the city, the nicer the beaches are.

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on the beach in November
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Arroz Negro y Paella in Cala Nuri restaurant – Passeig Maritim de la Barceloneta

3. Cabrera del Mar

One of the prettiest beaches outside the city,  you can get there by train from Plaza Catalunya, going in Mataro direction. Tossa del Mar is also a beach worth recommending, but it’s over an hour journey from Barcelona.

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3. La Gava

It’s a beach close to El Prat airport, with gentle descend to the water,  it’s best to get there by car.

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5. Cosmo Caixa Science Museum

The modernistic building on top of the hill alone is very impressive and it gets even better inside. The best thing is the flooded forest –  ecosystem of Amazonia rainforest recreated on 1000 m2 space. In a massive tanks there are crocodiles, piranhas, and many more animals and jungle plants which you can watch up close. There is also geological wall with spectacular collections of real rocks representing different periods and geological structures. In another room we have big slides depicting history of evolution and  life scenes from prehistoric period. There is a planetarium and many more interactive activities, where children can experiment with physics. I highly recommend Cosmo Caixa, really cool place, and it’s only 3-4€, children under 6 free (free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month).

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elderly staff at the reception 🙂
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tanks are just jaw dropping

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6. Port Aventura

The biggest theme park in Catalonia, lots of roller coasters and a water park. It’s situated in city of Salou, south from Barcelona, you can get there by train from Passeig de Gracia, Sants Estacio or Estacio de Franca stations, and final stop will be just at the entrance to the park. It’s a 1h journey, either by train or car.

Port Aventura website: https://www.portaventuraworld.com/en

7. Illa Fantasia – aquapark

22 slides, 3 big swimming pools and large picnic area and only 15 minutes by train from Barcelona city centre (or half an hour by free shuttle bus running regularly between park and city centre). More details on the park website https://www.illafantasia.com/

If you are in Barcelona for the first time you can’t miss its most popular attractions:

Park Güell

Quintessence of Gaudi style: colours, curved lines, arches, mosaics, it’s an extraordinary place, as if you walked straight into a fairytale.

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Sagrada Familia

Started in 1882, still not finished, it took longer to build than the pyramids of Egypt, full of hidden symbols and references to nature, expected to be finished in 2026. Gaudi made sure it wasn’t taller than Parc Montjuic, he was convinced no work of human hands should be above God’s creation.

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Gaudi lovers can see more of his works in Barcelona:

Casa Battló

Casa Vicens

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Casa Mila

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La Rambla

Paradise for tourists who loves shopping and little girls who love bunnies and sparkly things. Very lively, full of souvenir shops and food stalls, you can’t stroke bunnies anymore here though, as animal trade in La Rambla has been banned.

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While at La Rambla you can pop in to La Boqueria and buy seafood for dinner (some of which is still waving its tentacles and other things at you). If you aren’t brave enough at least you can take a photo with them – looks quite cool.

Parc Montjuic

It’s worth climbing this high for such view, don’t you think?

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And to finish off – a couple of really cool places you won’t find in your guides, as it’s a secret knowledge of indigenous inhabitants (that is my sister’s and her friends’).

If it turns out that high temperature and traveling with child is a mixture that causes madness and a loss of senses, it’s a sign you need an alcoholic drink pronto, and why not in the best gin & tonic bar – Barrio Gracia, Bobby Gin.

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El Carmelo – bunkers from the civil war, located above Parc Guell, place to learn about this period of Catalonia’s history, and eat big and delicious portion of tapas in nearby restaurant Delicias.

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El Modelo – former prison, it was open to public as a museum for a couple of months, now it’s mainly space for photo shoots and making movies.

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Eat Street event in former Nau Bostik factory – takes place once a month (all year round), there are vans with food and each month it’s a different theme, i.e. breakfasts of the world, pasta, barbecue dishes, and you can enjoy all the goodies with a pint of Moritz – sponsor of this event.

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Barcelona is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable cities in Europe, don’t you think? Or maybe you can think of some other, more fascinating cities? Or maybe there are some things in Barcelona that you find particularly annoying? Being constantly approached by sellers on the beach was a hard test for my patience, also I was under impression that some nudists were walking there and back near us just to draw our attention, bear in mind it was middle of November and everyone on the beach had jumper or jacket on. Let me know if you found some other cool places in Barcelona 🙂

Exceptionally good jacket potato with tuna

What’s the fuss about most simple and common dish in the world you might say, and writing a post about it, seriously, everyone can throw potato in the oven and mix some tuna with sweetcorn and mayo. Well, I must say you are not 100% right, because as we all know devil is in the detail and whereas normal and average tuna spud is not exactly a rocket science then to make outstanding one, you need to use couple of little tricks which make really big difference. It’s great idea for quick dinner, when we don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen, it will please even the fussiest eaters. It’s one of my favourite dishes, I even didn’t disliked it when I was having it 5 days in a row during my extended stay at postnatal ward.

So here goes my special recipe with a couple of adds on:

Ingredients:

baking potatoes

tuna

(number of potatoes and tuna depends on your needs)

1 red onion

1 tin of sweetcorn

mayo

Salad mix, cherry tomatoes, cucumber

Thoroughly wash potatoes, pierce few times with fork, rub a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place them in the oven preheated to 170ºC (do not cover or wrap in foil) and bake for about 1.5 hour, leave it a bit longer if you want the skin to be well done and crispy. Drain the tuna and place it in a bowl, add sweetcorn, grate red onion on the side with smallest holes, mix it all with couple of spoons of mayo and season with salt and pepper. Place in a fridge and prepare salad.

Potato is soft and fluffy inside, olive oil and salt make skin aromatic and crispy. Finely grated red onion gives the filling a real kick and is practically undetectable and doesn’t scare kids away, which is a great bonus isn’t it?

So roll up your sleeves and get to work, hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂