Top Spots for NI Tots – Transport Museum

top spots

A lovely baby and/or toddler day out is the Transport Museum at Cultra, about 20 minutes out of Belfast heading towards Bangor. It’s on the same site as the Folk Park but with two slightly snotty kids in tow we opted for the indoor transport museum. It would have been much better value to visit both in one day but the Wee-est Green Folk just don’t have the stamina! We paid £9 per adult, under 4’s go free.

PicMonkey Collage 8

Plenty of parking (on a midweek, term time morning at opening time!) onsite so it’s very accessible – we didn’t encounter a step all morning! It’s also right beside Cultra station if you fancy public transport. Inside, Berkeley Bear is on hand to guide you through he exhibitions but, lets face it, if you have a toddler he will be leading the way! The vast dome shaped exhibition is every toddler’s dream and well set up to let them loose quite safely (mind the gap in a few places!) Full of giant steam trains some of which you can climb aboard and pretend to drive. The biggest steam engine built in Ireland is an impressive piece of engineering. Our toddler appreciated it’s big wheels but for him the railbus was the outright winner!

There is a cafe on this floor. It wasn’t open when we were there and to be honest Mr Picky is only currently happy with a very specific cheesy sandwich anyway. Bringing our own packed lunch is also good bribery for getting him back to the car – carrot  cheesy sandwich on a stick!! Personally, I would have loved a cup of coffee and a scone!

I’m sure the Titanic exhibition is great but I’m afraid our toddler careered through it in search of the next ramp to run down. We hurtled into the bus section. You can feel old remembering when you used to ride one of the buses only decommissioned in 1994! If, like us, you are currently in potty training mode this is a good place for a toilet stop! To fid the toilets proceed passed the horse drawn ice cream van, right beside the big yellow removal lorry. Again, you can briefly reminisce that when we were wee there were loads of red telephone boxes on the streets.

The ground floor is a collection of cars ranging from vintage to relatively modern. Of course the locally built De Lorean sits pride of place beside it’s timeline charting it’s rise to fame and fall from grace!

At this point we abandoned our trip. One sleepy baby was running out of rice cakes and a hungry toddler was getting fractious. We headed back to the car. If your children are still fully fuelled there is an aviation building on down the lane. We’ve been there before and it’s fantastic. Well worth a visit to see all the planes and sit up in a cockpit.

Safe to say we had a lovely morning. Mr Picky enjoyed his cheesy sandwich on the way home, read his take-home Berkeley Bear book and fell fast asleep shorty afterwards….perfect:-)

 

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Sharing: An art or a science?

WP_20160224_001I have a 2.5 year old and an almost one year old. The littlest one loves her older brother but the feeling really isn’t really reciprocated! He likes her in theory but in practice it’s a very different matter. I often look on jealously at other people’s toddlers being so loving and gentle to their baby siblings. But, I console myself that I’m watching the one’s who have left the house! I hold onto the hope that there are lots of other Mummy’s stuck at home, lying across the living floor to create a Mummy wall, between a besotted crawler and a toddler yelling “IT’S MINES!!!”Please tell me it’s not just me!

First off, I have a feeling I’ll have to re-adjust my expectations. Word has it, kids don’t really understand the concept of sharing until nearer 3 – that’s just developmentally the way it is😦 Call me impatient but if you’ve found a way to speed up the process PLEASE share it with me! In the meantime here’s what the web is advising:

  1. Re-brand sharing as “Taking Turns”
  2. Try not going bonkers when your toddler yells “I don’t want to share” for the millionth time. Positive reinforcement is the way to go.WP_20151216_009(1)
  3. Don’t force them to share too much or it might teach them more about resentment than generosity.
  4. Hide away extra special toys if there’s a play date. Sharing less prized possessions is a better entry level.Set up activities which lend themselves to parallel play – blocks, sandpit etc.
  5. Distraction, distraction, distraction.
  6. Lead by example.
  7. Don’t worry….you’re 2 year old is acting like a 2 year old.

Any other Mummy walls out there? Any veteran Mummy’s with tips? Is buying two of everything the only way to cope……?

 

How to Turn Your Dog Poo Green

WP_20151018_006 1So, here I am banging on about “Going Green” but I haven’t even giving the carbon pawprint of my furry friend a second thought. Apparently owning a dog is similar to owning having a child in terms of waste produced (I personally don’t think the similarities end there!) so I guess it’s time to audit the pooch! First on the agenda is poo…

Poo is a daily reality of all dog owners. We’re forever scooping the poop and most of us are bagging it and binning it. But all those little “poo bags” go straight to landfill, and it’s filling up fast. Poo is a problem. It carries bugs – Toxocara parasite and E.coli bacteria are the most well known but there are all kinds of bacteria, fungi and viruses in that little pile and it has to go somewhere…

Biodegradable Poo Bags

A quick google search finds all is not equal in the world of bio-degradation! But, all in all I find  BioBags to be the degradation winner and they can be purchased in both the UK and US. However, rumour has it, even these little corn bags find it hard to degrade in landfill conditions!

Even supposedly “biodegradable” items don’t really bio-degrade in low oxygen landfill conditions.

So with this in mind, if you have plastic bags which are going to landfill anyway then reusing them one last time for dog poo may not be such a sin? Personally, I’ve been using the plastic wrapper from loaves of bread. In our house these would have ended up in the bin anyway! Of course if you’ve achieved a zero waste house then (well done) this won’t seem like a sensible option at all.

There is no green option for putting poo in the bin.

Flushable Poo Bags

My first reaction was “no way” but I’ve researched it and, yes, flushing dog poo down the toilet does seem like a pretty green option. Water companies don’t seem to have any problem with dog poo entering the water treatment plant.

Of course we’re still talking about using bags but these little bags break down in water as you flush. I guess it might be risky on a long walk on a wet day! If you have a big dog there might be a risk of blockages but generally that doesn’t seem to be problem. The bags are made from polyvinyl alcohol which apparently degrades and doesn’t have any negative effect on the environment but presumably there’s oil involved in the manufacturing process so they can’t really be entirely green!

The ultimate option in flushable poo seems to be to install the DoggyBog straight into your waste pipe outside. This avoids the problem of traipsing into your bathroom with your poo bag and does sound convenient. If you’re scooping poop in your garden then you can avoid bags altogether!

Wormeries

If you are so inclined you can embrace a dog poo wormery. But, the bugs remain and the end product can’t be used on your veggies or, in my opinion, anywhere children are likely to be playing. There are various wormeries on the market e.g. Earth Essentials, Original Organics. I’ve never used one so can’t review them. There are very hit and miss reports on the web but if you have a use for the end product, have time to do your research and maintain it properly then there’s no reason why not.

Remember a wormery is for life, not just for Christmas – it’s made of plastic!

Composting

Composting has similar drawbacks to wormeries (minus the worms!) in terms of the end product still containing harmful nasties. You can’t just add the poo to your usual compost bin either but it’s not hard to set up a dog poo composter if you have a garden. To be fair it’s not really composting- more like a septic tank. It’s essentially a bucket sunk into the ground and once you add an activator/digester the poo breaks down and leaches into the nearby soil. Be careful where you site the bucket!

A budget composter doesn’t have a huge set up cost and web reviews seem quite good but it is made of plastic:-( The need for an activator is  a bit of an eco-worry -the little plastic bags of bright blue chemical don’t look very natural to me!

A better, albeit more costly option, might be the Doggy Dooley. They even have a steel version and their digester powder is a “non-toxic, harmless mixture of natural bacteria and enzyme cultures”….it’s not blue! Overall, this looks like a pretty good option!

Conclusion

There’s no perfect option. Scooping poo into a bin doesn’t seem to ever be an eco-friendly option no matter what fancy biodegradable bags you use. Wormeries are fine but I get the impression they are more prone to failure. I’m most impressed by the DoggyBog and Doggy Dooley. I’d love to hear from anyone using these options. I wonder if there’s potential for them to be used in kennels and vet clinics?

Hemp for the Eco-Newbie

WP_20160215_003 4Hemp and it’s iconic leaf shape have socially gotten themselves a bad name. People immediately think Cannabis and Marijuana BUT legitimate, UK Home Licensed, Hemp contains very little of the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol so no one’s getting high! (Try telling that to my firewall – researching this on-line is proving difficult!)

Interestingly France is the current main producer of Hemp worldwide closely followed by China. If air miles are your green worry them check your Hemp sources!

Hemp is a fast growing, bushy herb which grows without the need for fertilisers or pesticides. It’s also one of those super carbon dioxide absorbers. It’s adaptable to many climates and is grown in the UK  – albeit very small scale at present! That means there is a real possibility of home grown textiles. However,  at that point you must decide your own ethical priorities – while it might be greener to “grow our own” that’s not helping those in the developing world desperate to make a living by exporting bamboo and cotton to us!

WP_20160219_003Hemp has a long history in being used for rope and paper. The process in making Hemp into paper is less environmentally damaging than using wood.

For textiles, Hemp is reportedly stronger and more absorbent than cotton and it is incredibly durable. Modern processing has made it soft enough to be used for clothing (it is said to get softer as you wear it!) and it’s resistant to UV light and mould. It’ll be just as happy whether you’re in rainy Northern Ireland or in sunny Australia. If there is any doubt in the ethical credentials of this material just check out THTC, one of the UK’s most ethical menswear brands.

Hemp has a wide range of diverse uses e.g. soap , health food (it’s high in omega fatty acids), skincare, animal bedding. In fact, The Hemp Shop claims Hemp has 25,000 everyday uses so I’ll not attempt to list them here! It’s safe to say there’s a lot of potential in this bushy herb. We’ve been using Simply Soaps hair and body soap for a while now and love it! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a bar of soap for both hair and body…thank you Hemp!

Having looked at Bamboo, Organic Cotton and now Hemp I think they’ve all got their virtues as well as some limitations. Along the way I’ve learnt never to take eco-credentials at face value and that some companies will happily “greenwash” to increase sales. However, there are some fantastic businesses out there who really are making an effort not leave a dirty great carbon footprint on the  earth. If you’re looking for eco-friendly clothes in the UK check out Braintree and People Tree.  Braintree’s website also has a nice little summary of other  lesser known “moral fibres” if you are interested. If you’re shopping for something else I’d suggest running it past Ethical Consumer to see how your purchases check out!

Thanks for reading, happy shopping!

Other sources:
https://www.edenproject.com/learn/for-everyone/plant-profiles/hemp
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp#United_Kingdom

 

Why a fast labour is not necessarily “lucky”!

WP_20150315_002 2Both of my childbirth experiences have been short and snappy and I am blessed with 2 beautiful (not that I’m biased!), happy (if a toddler if ever truly happy!) children. All be it one decided to show up 6 weeks prematurely but that’s another story! However, I want to share a little of my journey to dispel the myth that fast labours are somehow lucky. I’m not trying to score points – there’s no competition- but next time you meet someone who’s had a baby in less than 2 hours maybe you’ll understand why she doesn’t necessarily feel very lucky. Here’s why…

Time?

There isn’t any! You ring the hospital and they say take a bath and stay at home – you’ve only just started. Little do they (or you) know that everything is about to go from nought to sixty in 10 minutes. Before you know it you’re desperately trying to get to the hospital wishing your car did nought to sixty just as quickly.

Birth Plan?

It has probably flown out of the car window as your partner ran that red light. You arrive at the hospital and no-one’s ready. They might have a bed, they might not. They weren’t expecting you so soon. You’ve sent labour ward into a scramble. You attempt to get yourself undressed in the seconds between contractions.

Pain?

Obviously there’s pain! But it’s far too late for pain relief which is unfortunate because your  getting to experience what should be 12 hours of pain in less than 2! There’s no time for your body to adapt or find a coping mechanism. If you wanted a natural birth then you’ve got your wish but there won’t be “Sounds of the Ocean” playing softly in the background and the ship has long sailed on all those yoga moves you’ve been practising for weeks.

Support?

Your partner will have no idea what’s going on. There’s too much chaos for anyone to explain. You won’t have the faintest idea who all the faces are. No chance of learning any names during this birthing experience.

After?

Baby is probably fine although a little more stressed than average. You, on the other hand, are much more likely to have tears which need stitching. There’s no time for things to stretch gradually if you know what I mean! In my experience it feels like you’ve been hit by  bus and are completely in shock – shaking like a leaf and totally confused. Then someone hands you a baby! That “special moment” doesn’t seem quite as special as other Mummy’s make out. You feel a little cheated by the fast labour, almost like you’d missed out on a rite of passage.

So there you have it. Childbirth is the most deeply personal thing a woman will experience and everyone’s journey is completely different. You might have had a fast birth and feel incredibly lucky?! Anyway, I hope these few thoughts give a little insight. Time certainly helps the memories of childbirth fade but if you meet a Mummy, especially in the early days after a fast labour, all I ask is that you maybe think twice before saying, “You’re so lucky!”

 

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Organic Cotton for the Eco-newbie

Is it just me who has no idea what cotton is let alone organic cotton?

Here’s the basic facts to mull over…

  • It’s a flowering plant (imagine candy floss on branches!) mainly found in the tropics and subtropics  and in those countries it’sWP_20160215_003 4 big big business. Maybe it’s just me but in the UK we just don’t notice.
  • It’s claim to fame include being hypo-allergenic, soft, super absorbent and breathable.
  • BUT cotton’s got itself a really bad name in terms of it’s thirst for fertiliser, need for pesticides, chemical heavy manufacturing process and most importantly horrific human exploitation. It’s safe to say cotton has very (very) bad history.

But all is not equal in the world of cotton…cotton can be harvested another way…did someone say organic!!

  • Organic Cotton is natural, renewable and biodegradable – all the things that make an eco Mummy smile!
  • The organic version avoids all those nasty chemicals which is great for the workers, the environment and the end wearer. Buying Fairtrade ensures the workers get a fair deal. Show your support at Cottonedon– a great website for all your cotton questions.
  • BUT (there’s always a but!) just because something says it’s organic cotton is doesn’t mean it’s 100% organic and may be combined with non organic stuff or have met some nasty chemicals along its way from the field to your wardrobe. You need to look out for either the GOTS or the Soil Association symbol to ensure the whole process has been organic.

Overall, cotton has enormous eco potential but as with everything in life you need to check your sources.

Sources:

https://www.edenproject.com/learn/for-everyone/plant-profiles/cotton
http://www.soilassociation.org/whatisorganic/organictextiles/organiccotton
http://www.cottons.com.au/info/about/whycotton.php