What To Do with All this Space?

Michelle —  October 30, 2012 — 4 Comments

We arrived in Auckland, New Zealand five weeks ago. Auckland for James is a return to the country where he was born. I was born in England but I also return as this is where I grow up from a teenager to an adult. Max has been here before as a vistor but he returns as a citizen.

For those you who have moved and lived in different countries you will understand that there is a period of settling in time. For me settling in is a strange concept. When do you feel settled? What is it that makes us feel settled? Is it when you feel that you are home? Or is when you stop feeling like a tourist? I mean do you have to feel like you are home to feel settled?

New Zealand is a special place for us. There is space here. Space to move at your own pace. Space to breath in clean air. Space to realise your dreams and grasp opportunities. When I used to live here I found this difficult. Space is hard to deal with when you don’t know who you are and what you want.

London was comforting. You are one of the many trying to make something of themselves. This used to be exhilarating. You have to yell very loud in London to be heard. There is no echo but this became tiresome. I will always love London. It shaped me and it shaped James. We are bigger and stronger because we lived there. Max was born there and it will always be part of him.

For now I am enjoying the space. To me the echo here is the sound of opportunity. You don’t have to yell very loud to he heard.

One of our favorite places to enjoy the space here is the beach. Here’s why:


Max & Michelle at Piha beach


James & Max at Long Bay

Max & James beach

Max & James at Piha beach


Apartment in Kuala Lumpur from Airbnb

Airbnb is a great resource for families to find suitable and unique accommodation for a reasonable price. Rather than booking expensive hotels larger apartments and houses are available to rent directly from the owner. It also enables you to ‘live like a local’ which is important for us when traveling.

Roberto and Alice own the apartment we stayed in during our visit to Kuala Lumpur. The attention they have paid to the guests needs is amazing. We arrived on a late flight and after a 60 minute taxi journey (RM 120) we arrived to find fresh fruit, milk, eggs and other food that you appreciate when arriving in a new city. All the bedrooms are furnished to a high standard with quality beds and sheets. Apparently Roberto’s Italian heritage means only the best sheets will do!

A cot was ready for Max and he settled straight into his sleep routine so a good nights sleep was had by the whole family.

The large living area has plenty of space with a dining area and entertainment system with satellite TV.

The compound is peaceful, safe and has all the amenities such as pool, gym and restaurant. It is a 5 minute walk to lots of other restaurants, shops and the LRT (Light Rail Transport).

We sat down with Roberto and Alice to talk through why they chose Airbnb and their philosophy is setting up the apartment for a great family holiday.

The apartment can be viewed on Airbnb here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/259120


Adventurous Family Eating in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia is a diverse, dynamic and intense city. The cultural diversity of this city will leave a lasting impression on us and so will the incredible selection of food. If you love food then you have to visit. Malay, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Middle Eastern and Western food is all on offer. We are half way through our stay here and have sampled at least one dish from each apart from Korean. This is on our list to try before we leave.

We all love trying different food, Max included. He will pretty much give anything a go. Since weaning Max at 4 months old we have consistently encouraged him to try at least one mouthful of his meal. If he spits it back out and refuses to eat any more then that is fine. We just try again a few weeks later. Max is now approaching 18 months old and loves food full of flavour. He can handle and enjoys quite a lot of spice in his food too.

Max Menu

Max choosing his next meal

Noodles and Rice

Max trying some rather spicy rice

We are staying in the outskirts of the city. In the evenings we head out to one of the local restaurants. There are about 20 all on our door step. We are on a budget for this trip but are able to afford to eat like kings. $15 / RM45 gets you plenty of food for a family of three including mineral water. If you order drinks other than water you are looking at about $19 / RM55 for a family of three. Apart from some rather bland fried fish rolls we had at lunch today all the food has been full of flavour.

Breakdown of the average cost of a meal per person:

          • Main meal: $3.20 / RM10 – $5 / RM15
          • Mineral water: $0.3 / RM1 – $0.5 / RM1.5
          • Juices, smoothies, yogurt drinks: $2 / RM6 – $2.6 / RM8
          • Soft drinks, coffees, teas: $1 / RM3 – $1.6 – RM5
local KL meal

Another yummy local meal consumed

We went up the Menara Tower on our second day here and had lunch in the Rainforest Cafe beforehand. The food was beautifully presented but the taste was only ok. The meal was also 50% more expensive than those had at our locals.


Michelle’s Laksa from the Rainforest Cafe, Menara Tower


James’ fried chicken and rice from the Rainforest Cafe, Menara Tower

Chicken, Egg, Rice Pattaya

Michelle’s Nasi Goreng Pattaya – One of our family favorites from a local restaurant

Malaysia is by majority a Muslim country so by default restaurants do not serve alcohol. What they do serve is a wide selection of hot and cold teas and coffees. Freshly squeezed juices, smoothies and yoghurt drinks are also in abundance. James and I tried bubble drinks for the first time. James’ was a strawberry smoothie and mine an iced cappuccino. Both included bubbles but also small chewy tapioca balls called pearls which you suck up using an extra wide straw. They were pretty good. Being mainly water, red wine and coffee drinkers I don’t think we will be getting any more. If you are into frappuccinos then I think you will enjoy these.

Apple, Yoghurt

Max drinking a freshly squeezed apple juice and Michelle a yoghurt drink

Pearls in iced Cappuccino

Michelle trying a bubble cappuccino

Then there’s the western food. Sometimes you just feel like a chocolate milkshake or a vanilla sundae. No problem in Kuala Lumpur.

western food

James and Max tucking into some western food

If we come back to Kuala Lumpur we will stick to eating in local restaurants. The food tastes better and is cheaper. I think we will be back as this is a city for foodies.

Who’s been to Kuala Lumpur? Did you have the same food experiences? Any restaurants you would recommend?

malaysia airlines infants

Airlines for Families: Malaysia Airlines

The search for the perfect family airline can be a challenge. The nature of airports and flying these days means your experience will always have an element of stress, how much is the question.

Our experience with long haul flights is considerable considering we have family in both the UK and New Zealand. We have flown with Max on Air New Zealand previously and it was a good experience mainly let down by a leg with Air Canada which reinforced my dislike for North American carriers for any type of flight.

This time we chose Malaysia Airlines for the flight from London to Auckland via Kuala Lumpur.

Tickets and Baggage

The Infant fare for children under 2 is 10% of the Adult fare. Our tickets were £1600 to Auckland for the 3 of us which was considerable cheaper than the competition such as Air New Zealand, Singapore, Emirates and Cathay Pacific. Baggage allowance for Infant fares on Malaysia aren’t quite as good as the competition with a 10kg limit plus one other item such as pushchair, carseat etc. This gave us a total baggage limit of 50kgs + carseat. With two suitcases, pushchair and carseat we were slightly concerned but nothing some considerate packing can’t fix.

At the Airport

At Heathrow our bags were checked into the desk with every bag weighed. We knew we were over weight but hoped that there would be some flexibility. Thankfully there was with only a question raised about our bulging backpacks. After an explanation that involved the words ‘please’ and ‘emigrating’ we were cleared.

We were informed the flight was full so no chance of an extra seat to stretch out or settle Max to sleep on.

On this flight Malaysia Airlines boarded families ahead of all other passengers including first and business. We were allowed to take the stroller all the way to the plane where it was handed to ground staff.

On the plane

The first pleasant surprise was the allocation of a bulkhead seat. We hadn’t anticipated or requested this as we assumed he was over the weight and size limits for a basinet based on our previous flights. The thought of not having to hold him for 12 hours cheered us right up. The crew came and provided us with a child belt and explained the safety procedures. They provided us with a selection of baby food that they would heat up on request.

The departure time of the flight was 10pm to give Max the best chance of sleeping. We try to catch evening flights for these reasons and as an added bonus they are often slightly cheaper. True to form he was asleep on my shoulder before the plane had taken off.

After take off the basinet was fitted and Max was transfered in. It did provide some amusement to the other passengers and crew as the photographic evidence shows he wasn’t a perfect fit….



Despite this he slept well for half the flight.

The service and attention of the staff on Malaysia Airlines was excellent. We were regularly offered drinks and service was always with a smile.

Ourselves and the other passengers with children were served both meals before the other passengers to enable us to look after Max. This small detail is very helpful but is surprisingly irregular on previous flights.

On arrival at Kuala Lumpur buggies and pushchairs were delivered to the plane. Always a bonus over walking all the way to the baggage collection with a child in your arms plus bags.

Overall a very positive experience flying as a family with Malaysia Airlines.

Whats your experience on long haul flights with kids?


lebanese food

Family Holiday Eating – Routine vs Local

Family holidays are precious. They bring together moments of pure happiness and bliss. There is plenty of time to relax and try new things. Food brings families closer and excites the adventurous.

Max Uncle J

Max with his Uncle J

Max James

James and Max waiting for dinner

We love food. The problem we face while on holiday is combining our way of eating with our love of experiencing new things. We try to avoid eating gluten as much as possible as we believe that over consumption causes a multitude of health issues and, personally doesn’t make us feel good. Although sometimes we do indulge when the family experience is more important than what ‘should’ be consumed . When in France the explorers in us couldn’t resist trying the yummy bread, croque monsieurs, croissants, macarons and the pain au raisins, ohhh the pain au raisins.

croque monsieur

Max devouring a croque monsieur


This is yummy

Before traveling to France Max mainly ate in a highchair positioned away from the dinning table. When we asked for a highchair in France two chairs were stacked on top of each other! So Max sat on the chairs and joined us at the table. At 17 months old we thought he was too young to be able to do this. How wrong were we. It was wonderful having Max at the table with us and experiencing three gastronomes munching together. This is definitely the way forward for us.

Day to day routine works but sometimes you have to let lose and indulge. We sure did!

Does anyone have any family foodie experiences they want share? We would love to hear about them.


child in a suitcase

Minimalist Travel Packing for Kids

Traveling with children can be stressful. Airports, planes, prams, seats and heavy bags. All too often we end up using a fraction of what we actually take with us.

On our current trip to Antibes we have made a conscious effort to cut everything down to the core essentials.

So, can we fit everything a family of three needs for a week into a normal sized suitcase?

kids travel packing toiletries

We choose items that can be used by all of us or most of us. Choosing travel sizes where possible reduces space and you can take them as cabin baggage if you need to re-organise. Swimming nappies and four regular nappies are enough to get us there. SPF 50 and 15 sunscreen can be used by all of us. Max has his own body wash and toothpaste. The basic medical kit contains plasters, antiseptic and bandages.

childrens travel packing toys

Max’s obsession with cars continues so they are essential items. Unfortunately one of them has gone over the side of the balcony on day 3…

Puzzles and books go can lay flat so are easy to fit into any bag or backpack.

travel packing cubes

Everything is distributed into Packeze packing cubes. These are excellent for maximising space, keeping organised and protecting from spills or liquids. They are available in a range of sizes. We have the large and medium versions.

kids travel packing clothes

Going to a warm climate or traveling in summer definitely has its benefits in cutting down on bulky clothing.

childrens travel packing suitcase

Combined with our clothes the suitcase is full but not rammed.

kids travel packing scalesMission accomplished. One kilo over the weight limit. Some quick book swapping at the airport due to Easyjet’s inflexible weight limits and we were off.

Max Asleep


How Much Sleep Does Your Baby Really Need?

How often should my baby nap and how long for? Is my baby getting enough sleep at night? These are the questions that race through our mind during those first few months. These questions are often answered with “all babies are different”. That is true but we all need something to go on.

Babies have the ability to start sleeping through the night at different ages. The best thing you can do is support your baby in this by helping him to learn how to self-settle and by making sure that he has had enough to eat during the day.

Babies need a lot of sleep. As they get older they need less in a 24-hour period and are able to sleep longer in one go at night. The younger a baby is the more frequently they need to be fed as they have very small stomachs. As babies grow up the size of their stomachs increase so they can take more in at each feed. As their stomachs get bigger they can go for longer between feeds.

Below are two tables that provide the information you need.

Table 1 shows how often the average baby needs to be fed in 24 hours at certain ages. Table 2 shows the amount of sleep an average baby needs in 24 hours at certain ages.

Number of feeds in 24 hours

Total sleep for a baby

How much sleep and how many feeds is your baby getting? Does this match the information in the table?

8 Tools to Help your Baby Sleep

Michelle —  August 29, 2012 — 1 Comment

Quick fix sleep aids such as pacifiers do not help your child long term as they form dependencies that cannot continue into adulthood. Please go to our post Avoid Quick Fix Sleep Aids -They Will Not Help Your Baby in the Future  to find out more.

There are tools you can use that support sleep and help you create an environment that is calm and secure for your baby. These 8 tools are: a bedtime ritual, a bedtime story, swaddling, thumb sucking, cuddling, night lights, black out blinds and thermometers.

One: Bedtime Ritual

Some sort of bedtime ritual is a very good idea. However, you must follow the same process every night. Consistency will help your baby understand that this is the time to wind down and go to sleep. Before you get going with this think about the fact that you will be doing this for many years to come. I recommend making the ritual as simple as possible and not including any quick fix sleep aids. More more info on quick fix sleep aids read our post Avoid Quick Fix Sleep Aids – They Will Not Help Your Baby in the Future. By keeping it simple it can be done anywhere or by anyone. So when you want to leave your baby with his grandparents or a babysitter they can easily follow the ritual. By not using quick fix sleep aids your baby will learn to self-comfort and soothe himself to sleep. Playing music to your baby, singing and reading to him are all lovely things to do and are very important for his development and creating a bond. I recommend doing these activities during the day and following a simple ritual at bedtime. This could start with a bath or a wash, and then some quiet time followed by a breastfeed or formula feed, then quiet time in the room that your baby is sleeping in. Before you take your baby into the room make sure that the curtains are drawn and the bedding is organised in a way that you can put your baby to bed with minimal fuss. Once your baby is in bed do or say the same thing every night. A kiss and saying something simple like “good night darling” or “sweet dreams” is a good way of doing this.

Max Bath

Bath Time for Max

Two: Bedtime Story

If you would like to include a bedtime story as part of your baby’s bedtime ritual then you could read to your baby during quiet time before he goes to bed. Just make sure that you don’t read your baby to sleep.

Three: Swaddling

Most newborns like to be swaddled and some babies still like to sleep like this at two months old and beyond.  There is an advantage to swaddling your baby when he is under three months old. Until this age babies have no control over their arms and legs. They jerk involuntarily and this can disturb and wake them. If your baby doesn’t like to be swaddled then don’t force it. As your baby gets older he will choose not to be swaddled, as he will want to be able to move freely. Baby sleeping bags are a good option once your baby has given up swaddling. Babies can start rolling over from three months old so a sleeping bag will keep him nice and warm, as it will move with him. Baby sleeping bags are available in different togs (thicknesses) and you should layer your baby’s clothing under the sleeping bag in accordance to the temperature of the room your baby is sleeping in. Read our post How to Keep your Baby Warm at Night for more information on baby sleeping bags.

Max Swaddle

Max swaddled at 1 week old

Four: Thumb Sucking

Your baby’s thumb is a sleep aid that is permanently attached to your baby. Sucking comforts babies and most won’t get enough comfort from just breastfeeding or bottle-feeding alone. A thumb is not going to get lost in the middle of the night like a pacifier can. As long as your child gives up thumb sucking before any permanent teeth appear then it wont cause damage to his jaw or teeth.

Five: Cuddling

There is nothing wrong in giving your baby a little cuddle before putting him to bed. Just don’t cuddle him to sleep. Cuddling your baby makes him feel loved and protected. So include a cuddle during quiet time before he goes to bed or give him a quick one before you put him into his cot. Babies are used to being carried and held so he won’t rely on this to go to sleep. It will just make you both feel good.

Six: Night Lights

Night lights should only be used so that you can see what you are doing while you tend to your baby. It is much better to turn a nightlight on to feed your baby or change his diaper at night than use a main light. It is much less intrusive and provides a calmer night-time environment. Babies do not need nightlights as sleep aids as they are not scared of the dark. We are not born with a fear of the dark. This fear can develop as your child grows up due to picking up on negative association with darkness.

Seven: Blackout Blinds

A blackout blind is useful if the room your baby sleeps in is very bright during the summer months when you put your baby to bed at night. It can also block out bright light during the early hours of the morning. You do not need to use one for naps during the day unless the sunlight from outside is beaming into the room. If your baby can sleep in his pram outside during the day he can sleep in a room with the blind up. Using a blackout blind only at night will help your baby learn the difference between night-time and daytime sleep.

Eight: Thermometer

No one sleeps well if they are too hot or cold. The optimal room temperature to assist sleep is 18ºc  – 21ºc  (65ºf – 70ºf). Guidelines on reducing SIDS risks state that the room a baby is sleeping in should be 18ºc (65ºf). Having a thermometer in the room your baby is sleeping in is a very good idea. Make sure you use bedding that correlates with the temperature of the room. Layer clothing in accordance to the amount and type of bedding you use. Baby sleeping bags are a great option as they come in different togs (thicknesses). Read our post How to Keep your Baby Warm at Night for more information on baby sleeping bags.

Michelle’s book ‘Two Weeks to Sleep – A Sensible Guide for First Time Parents’ will be launched on Amazon very soon. The book sets out a step by step approach that helps you encourage your baby to learn how to self-settling. 

Enter your email address into the box below and Michelle will keep you up to date on launch progress.

How to Lose the Post Baby Belly

Michelle —  August 24, 2012 — 1 Comment

One month ago today I set myself a goal to lose weight, reduce my waist measurement and improve my posture. My goals in detail are:

Weight: 62kg (137lb)

Waist: 28″

Thighs: 20.5″

Below Bust: 30″

Arms: 10″

One month ago on 24th July my weight was 66.5kg (146.6lb) and my measurements were:

Waist: 30″

Belly: 34″

Thighs: 21″

Hips: 37″

Bust: 36″

Below Bust: 30.5″

Arms: 11″

One month later I have not quite achieved all my goals. I still have 1.4kg (3.1lb) to lose and want to take 1″ off my waist.  From a positive point of view I have lost 3.1Kg (3.1lb) in a month which I am very happy about. I have also taken 1″ off my waist, 1″ off my belly, 1″ off each thigh, 0.5″ off my hips, 0.5″ off from below my bust and 0.5″ off each arm. My posture is so much better. I feel taller! Here is my progress in detail:

Weight: 63.4kg (139.8lb)

Waist: 29″

Belly: 33″

Thighs: 20″

Hips: 36.5″

Bust: 36″

Below Bust: 30″

Arms: 10.5″

Post Baby Belly

The exercises I have been doing three times a week have made a massive difference to my belly. In the before photo you can see that due to weak core muscles my belly protrudes. I am not sticking it out in this photo, as you can see my back is flat. By strengthening my core muscles my belly is so much flatter. Go to my post ‘Michelle’s Mission to Look 19 Again’ for a breakdown on this workout. The only direct abdominal exercise I do is plank.  The workout takes 20 minutes to complete and I only do it three times a week.


Taken this morning

What Next?

I still want to lose 1.4kg (3.1lb), take 1″ off my waist and 0.5″ off each arm so I am going to continue with intermittent fasting and eat low carb food during the feeding windows. I can’t do my full workout for 10 days due to having a mole removed from my back yesterday. In two weeks time we are traveling to France, Malaysia and New Zealand and the kettle bell can’t come with me. I need a workout I can do while I travel. Anyone got any suggestions?


Quick fix sleep aids are things parents’ use or courses of actions they take that quickly help their baby go to sleep.  Quick fix sleep aids include: pacifiers, comforter toys, rocking a baby to sleep, car rides to help a baby sleep, pushing a baby in a pram to encourage sleep, feeding a baby to sleep, motorised cradles or bassinets, ambient noise machines or recordings, music and lullabies. These are all useful in the short term but they will not help your baby long term or learn how to self-settle to sleep.

Quick Fix Sleep Aids that Should be Avoided


Some studies have shown that babies who use pacifiers while sleeping have a reduced risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). I am not in a position to disagree with these studies and this is a very good reason to want to give your baby a pacifier while sleeping. There are other ways of reducing the SIDS risk that you can adopt if you haven’t already. Please go to our post on reducing the risk of SIDS for more information.

Using a pacifier will most likely settle your baby to sleep but when it falls out of your baby’s mouth in the middle of the night guess who is getting up to put it back in? Your child can’t go on using a pacifier forever so at some stage you are going to have to wean him off it and show him how to settle himself to sleep without one.


Comforter Toys

There are sleep comforters toys that you can buy and give your baby to take to bed. It is best not to use one, as your baby will then rely on having this to go to sleep. Bedtime can then become very difficult if it gets lost and you don’t have a replacement to hand.


Babies enjoy being gently rocked as they are used to this sensation from being in the womb. This repetitive motion calms them and will often send them to sleep. It is very tempting to use this technique as it does work. The problem is that you are encouraging your baby to rely on rocking to send himself to sleep. This will end up becoming an issue, as when your baby wakes in the night he will need you to rock him back to sleep rather than drift off to sleep himself.

Car Rides

The type of car rides I am talking about are the ones where you purposely put your baby in his car seat and drive him round and round the block in some desperate attempt to get him to drift off to sleep. This technique seems to be mostly used by parents of a baby under three months old who is colicky. When your baby has been screaming for hours and hours and is in pain you are willing to do anything to help him. If the car rides get you and your baby through the colicky stage then do them. Just do them sparingly and only for this reason. Using car rides as a sleep aid just end up causing a lot of hassle. Once your baby falls asleep what do you do? Keep driving for the rest of the night? Pull up in front of your house and sleep in the car from the fear of moving him? Try to move him while asleep and then what happens if he wakes up?

Pushing a Baby to Sleep in a Pram

It is important that your baby does not become dependent on sleeping in a pram and falling asleep to the motion. Once your baby has learnt to self-settle in his crib or cot then it’s fine for him to take some naps in his pram.

Feeding to Sleep

Babies should be put to bed sleepy but still awake so that they learn to self-settle and put themselves to sleep. Feeding your baby to sleep is similar to rocking your baby to sleep. Both soothe and comfort your baby and can send him to sleep. The issue here is that when your baby wakes in the night he is going to want to be fed back to sleep. You are going to find it hard to know whether your baby has woken because he is hungry or because he wants to be comforted back to sleep.

Motorised Cradle or Bassinet

Your baby will out grow a cradle or bassinet in no time so a motorised version is the ultimate quick fix. I am sure it will work wonders for a few short weeks but then your baby will suddenly be too big for it. You will then be left desperately looking for another quick solution.

Ambient Noise Machines or Recordings

We tried playing a white noise recording over night as we thought the noisy birds outside the window were waking our son at 5am. We tried it for a couple of weeks and it made no difference. We also came to realise a few things. We had fallen for a quick fix sleep aid as neither of us wanted to get up then. He wasn’t waking because he was hungry but he wasn’t waking because of the birds. He just wanted to get up then. We decided that long term starting our day at 5am was not going to work for us as family. Also waking at 5am meant that our son had not had the 11 – 12 hours sleep he needed. So we encouraged him to sleep longer in the morning. This took several mornings and involved one of us getting up at 5am and committing to and preserving with our self-settling method. After several mornings of consistency our son started to sleep through to 7am.


Most babies love listening, relaxing and moving to music and they should be given plenty of chances to enjoy it. It can be used as part of your baby’s daytime activities.  Using music to help your baby sleep will just form a dependency and this is not a good thing to start at an early age. You have a window of opportunity while your child is young to encourage him to go to sleep on his own. So keep the music for your baby to enjoy during playtime or for chilling out to.


If you have been gifted with a singing voice then let your baby hear it. If like me you haven’t then I am sure your baby will be amused with your efforts. Just keep it for during the day when you want to engage your baby or have fun singing together. Bedtime lullabies form a sleep dependency like music but they are also hard to keep consistent. Your baby may form a dependency on a certain person’s voice and particular songs. This means that one parent will always have to put your baby to bed. It also makes things tricky if you want to leave your baby with his grandparents for example.

Michelle’s book ‘Two Weeks to Sleep – A Sensible Guide for First Time Parents’ will be launched on Amazon very soon. The book explains how you can replace quick fix sleep aids with a self-settling method and help your baby learn how to settle herself to sleep.  By doing this you are providing your child with a life long skill.

Enter your email address into the box below and Michelle will keep you up to date on launch progress.