We're Jamie and Tom - also known as Daddy and Dad, blogging gay dads of two boys via adoption. Our aim is to enlight prospective adopters about the adoption process, in particular the stuff that happens after the kids are placed with their adoptive parents (or ‘move in’ as our boys affectionately call it).
We're proud East Midlanders (that's a region in the middle of England, for our American friends). However we find ourselves in London a lot, particularly with Tom's work as the
snake oil salesman from Pete's Dragon (he's actually the account director for a tech firm but it needed swishing up a bit) and of course our extremely important Daddy & Dad business trips with the kids.
Central London's only 55 minutes on the train from our home town. But its diverse landscape is totally different from ours and we adore its architectural extremes, transport system and parks.
One part of London that leaves us in architectural awe is Canary Wharf. Manhattan's underrated little brother. We usually speed through the middle of Canary Wharf while pretending to drive the DLR to Greenwich; glaring up at the top of the enormous buildings and counting the helicopters as we rush by. But before now we haven't actually stopped to explore.
Last Saturday Lyall and Ritchie were attending the press launch of an ingenious laser tag toy in an underground bunker just along the river from Canary Wharf. More about that next week, by the way. To make a weekend of it we looked for somewhere among the skyscrapers to stay overnight, so we could get a feel for what it might be like to live in the big city.
We've spoken before about our issues with hotels' 'family rooms' because we can never be quite sure what kind of sardine like arrangement they'll expect us to attempt to sleep in. So, this time we looked for alternative accommodation with two bedrooms and extra facilities.
Citybase apartments are promoting stylish serviced apartments within one of Canary Wharf's superstructures so we thought we'd try out a two bedroom apartment. Citybase suggested their 'Native Apartments' right in the centre of Canary Wharf, within a high-rise residential district called Millharbour.
On Saturday after the boys' toy launch in Greenwich, rather than suffer a boiling hot DLR train, we walked along the riverside from the Thames Barrier all the way along to Canary Wharf. It was an easy two hour's walk, except Daddy decided to wear his flip flops which meant stopping at a riverside London boozer for a feet break half way. Honestly you've never seen such filthy feet as Daddy's flip-flop London feet.
As we approached the Native Apartments we were totally dazzled by the size of the skyscraper (we love skyscrapers - can you tell? 😜). We all daddled with excitement about the prospect of staying over in one of the tallest, most imposing modern buildings we've ever seen... it is ENORMOUS! Take a look here - it's the building straight ahead on Streetview: https://goo.gl/maps/CSmMcwQguEo
Up on the 18th Floor, we were allocated a corner apartment with two balconies. "That's the new naughty corners sorted then!", was my first thought (Daddy speaking).
The apartment was big - well, huge compare with a family hotel room. It had a large open plan living and kitchen area with balconies off each side, a big modern family bathroom with hotel style toiletries, two comfy double bedrooms, one with an ensuite. It was immaculate; if only our house was this stylish!
Here's a slideshow of some apartment pics!
We all agreed the apartment's crowning glory was the 'big balcony'; the full width of the apartment and decked with chunky wooden flooring. Lyall and Rich spent hours sitting on the balcony floor, spotting aeroplanes, DLR trains and boats and waving at people on the ground.
Also the balcony made a great place to eat dinner (takeaway chicken) in our pants, as you'll see here! 👇🏻
Check out the view from the big balcony!
The weather was hot and sunny so in the evening before our takeaway dinner we wandered around Canary Wharf to find a pub and an ice cream.
As we looked around Canary Wharf, we realised despite the enormity of everything, Canary Wharf is actually a peaceful, well kept place. It's dotted with fountains, planters and clean pavements (something Tom and I like to judge a new place on). The roads were very quiet. I expect it's bustling during the week but at weekends it's a very pleasant place with a similar vibe (for lack of a better word - can't believe I said vibe) to Geneva or Zurich - two of our favourite cities.
Wandering alongside the marina, we came across a lovely All Bar One restaurant with a terrace so we sat for an hour and proverbially ticked ice cream and beer off our to-do list. Yum.
Here's some pics of our wander and icecreams.
Back at our skyscraper, we discovered there's a secret rooftop garden up on the 15th floor, in between two skyscrapers. It's a pretty space with plants, trees and flowers and another fantastic view. Lyall and Rich sat and chatted for half an hour in the roof garden (without a single poke or punch, I might add - that's unheard of).
In the evening, the boys watched a movie on the telly while Tom and I enjoyed a glass of champagne together on the big balcony; a private moment we wouldn't get in a hotel with the kids.
Once Sherlock Gnomes had finished (surprisingly excellent film) the boys had a nice deep bath and went off to bed - in Lyall's own words "This is like the big double bed at Grandma and Grandpa's house" clearly getting the thumbs up!
After a lovely 9am lie in we had oven-baked pastries for breakfast - not strictly Slimming World friendly for Daddy but we were on holiday (any excuse!).
We felt a little guilty because the oven looked as though it had never been used before! We didn't make a mess - we promise!
In essence, I think we've stumbled onto the ultimate alternative to pokey hotel rooms. Citybase apartments are a little more expensive than a hotel (two bedroom apartments start at around £175) but the location, extra space, the two bedrooms, the kitchen, the privacy and the view are, well, AMAZING for a family with kids.
Coming up next week... Lyall and Rich's LazerMAD experience!! You'll love this one!
Here at Daddy & Dad we supplement our adoption content by collaborating with family-friendly brands and businesses. We were lucky enough to receive the accomodation featured on this blog post for free in return for an impartial review on our blog. We'd like to say a huge thank you to Grace from Silverdoor and Freya from Citybase who assisted us with our stay. Thanks - Jamie & Tom Xx
When Lyall and Rich moved in four years ago, there was one hugely influential hobby that arrived with them... football! It was apparent right from day one that Lyall and Rich, but particularly Lyall were football crazy. Tom and I were catapulted from zero interest in football to no less than fourteen footballs in our garage, overnight.
You might have sensed that Tom and I are not mad about football ourselves. But, we decided right from the start we would wholeheartedly embrace the boys' insatiable fascination by finding them each a decent international football team to support. When researching possible teams, we felt it best the teams should be based somewhere sunny, preferably on the south coast of Spain, France or southern Italy, somewhere we could potentially reach via cheap flights, somewhere with tasty wine and rooftop pools. You get the idea (any excuse for a city break). We settled on Madrid for Richard and Barcelona for Lyall. We'd happily escort the boys to either of those cities for a weekend if needed, as a last resort. 😜
Fast forward a few years and Lyall is now an established Barcelona supporter with all the associated football fan stuff - the kit, scarf, boots, posters calendar, books and FC Barcelona are his favourite team on FIFA too.
You can only imagine Lyall's amazement when, one morning last week a parcel arrived from FC Barcelona addressed to him.
Lyall wandered around the house for a little while with the parcel under his arm, looking a little bewildered...
"Have you ever spoken to somebody from FC Barcelona?"
"Actually, yeah - I emailed their manager last week to let them know what a promising defender you are. Why?"
"They've sent me something!!"
Lyall was skipping on the spot now, looking very excited.
"Let's get it open, then!"
Inside Lyall's parcel was the most beautiful personalised book from My Magic Story - 'Lyall and The Magic of FC Barcelona'. The expression on Lyall's face was beyond wonderful. He couldn't believe it. (Of course I had to pretend to know absolutely nothing about the book myself!)
As far as Lyall was concerned, the book had been especially produced by FC Barcelona for him. Inside the front cover was a prologue:
"Lyall... FC Barcelona welcome you to an awesome adventure at Camp Nou Stadium!
Your Daddy and Dad informed us that you're a very talented defender. Keep practising and maybe someday you'll be a pro footballer too!"
The story follows a cute little cartoon version of Lyall as he makes a magical, dreamy journey from his bedroom in the UK to Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, meeting all his favourite celebrity players and seeing some familiar sights along the way.
The story itself is quite an easy read for a nine year old bookworm like Lyall, but it's interesting and absorbing enough to capture his imagination. As you can see from our pics, it's beautifully illustrated. Lyall is 100% convinced that he is the star of the book!
To personalise a book at My Magic Story, you simply select a book and enter your child's gender and name. Then you select, from a range of cute little cartoon avatars, the character that most closely represents your child.
If your little'un isn't a Barcelona fan, there is also an equally captivating adventure about Liverpool FC, a selection of personalised books about the meaning of your child's name and books for the rest of the family too.
Speaking of which, here's a delighted Grandma Jenny and Grandpa Mark showing off their personalised books that we sent to them as a thank you prezzy after they looked after the boys for a weekend.
Here at Daddy & Dad we supplement our adoption content by collaborating with family-friendly brands and businesses. We were lucky enough to receive the items featured on this blog post for free in return for a mention on our blog. Just a quick note to say an enormous gracias to My Magic Story for providing Lyall's FC Barcelona book and Grandma and Grandpa's personalised books. We couldn't recommend them enough.
Phewee - it's a tad warm isn't it? Here in the UK we've enjoyed an unusually hot June. Us Brits love warm weather, don't we? However, British people aren't really prepared for any extended period of sunshine.
British houses and apartments generally don't have air conditioning so our homes are boiling; open a window and you're hit with a barrage of hot air and pollen. We're in a constant paradox about whether or not it's too hot for a cup of tea and our Summer wardrobe is usually vacuum bagged up in the loft when the sunshine hits.
Anyway, one thing we do well in the UK (in my opinion, at least) is the garden. Our garden is modest, but well maintained; a large round lawn surrounded by shrubs, herbs, an impressive acer tree and a picnic table.
As soon as there's a whiff of sunlight Tom and I will be found in the garden, parasol and deckchairs out, shorts on, cold beer in hand and the boys will be squabbling in their swimming trunks with water pistols and tennis balls all over the lawn. It's excellent.
Anyway, in a much needed break from relentless water fights, last night we unpacked our latest game from The Board Game Club, Dixit. Here's how we got on!
Dixit is a beautifully designed take on 'call my bluff', in which players are tasked to guess the storyteller's card based on a tenuous clue.
What's in the box?
Inside the box is a large square playing board with a sunken 'pond' in the middle, where you'll find two decks of beautifully illustrated picture cards, six wooden rabbit playing pieces, a grid of sturdy cardboard number pieces and an instructions sheet.
Everything in the box is slightly oversized, as though it's been zoomed in a little giving it a robust but fairytale, Alice in Wonderland kind of feel. Very clever.
Richard got to work, popping out the number pieces from their grid.
How does it work?
To get started, each player chooses a rabbit and places it on the starting place on the box/board.
Each player receives six picture cards and three number pieces each, 1, 2 and 3 (assuming there are three players).
Players keep their picture cards to themselves.
Player one (deemed the 'storyteller') starts by selecting one of his/her cards and provides the other players with a tenuous clue. The images on the cards are quite dreamy and unique, for instance they might feature an octopus busting through a page in a book, or a birdcage with a person inside, or a man in a top hat walking up stairs towards a black door. The clue can be anything; a word, a song, an action, sound, film title, colour, place... anything.
The clue is given, the card is placed face down in the middle and then the other players select one of their cards to play - placing their card upside down in the middle too. The aim is for each player to guess which card belongs to the storyteller, while luring the other players into selecting their card.
So, players choose an image that relates tenuously to the storyteller's clue.
Then, the storyteller mixes up the three placed cards and then puts them face-up on the table,
naming them 1, 2 and 3.
Using their number pieces, the players vote on which card belongs to the storyteller.
Once the votes are in (I found it helped to accompany the votes with a Eurovision-style commentary, much to the boys' bewilderment), points are dished out to the players:
If all the players guess correctly, they receive three points each, storyteller gets nothingIf all the players guess incorrectly, the storyteller receives three points, other players nothingIf some players guess correctly, correct guesses and the storyteller get two points
The gameplay was taking a little long to begin with so we decided to inflate the points on some rounds, to speed things up a little!
As players earn points, their little wooden rabbit moves around the box/board.
Here's Lyall (looking very hot and sweaty) moving his little white rabbit along.
How do you win?
The winner is the first player to reach 30. Of course Lyall won the first round, but we were only just getting familiar with the voting strategies and tenuous clues so we went for another round!
Dad – n/a Daddy – 10/10 Lyall – 10/10 Richard – 10/10
It's durable, oversized, immaculately illustrated, easy to store, innovative - ten out of ten!
Dad – n/a Daddy – 8/10 Lyall – 10/10 Richard – 9/10
We couldn't fault the game-play. The only thing we couldn't quite work out was why the voting pieces needed numbers on when they were placed on the card you're voting for. I'm sure that'll become apparent as we practise more.
Value for money
Dad – n/a Daddy – 7/10 Lyall – 8/10 Richard – 810
We love these kind of games with wooden pieces and durable cards. £25 seems spot on for Dixit.
We'll return to Dixit over and over again. It's beautifully designed, the illustrations are complex enough to allow for infinite clues. It's good value for money and it encourages Lyall and Rich to think. Fantastic!
By the way, Dixit was provided free of charge by the Asmodee Blogger Board Game Club in return for our impartial, candid review.
(Daddy speaking) I can't quite believe this headline myself... last weekend I was lucky enough to represent Daddy & Dad at the 2018 Blogosphere Magazine awards in London's Shoreditch.
The whole evening was magical. Plus I became probably the first ever nominee for a national award who didn't realise they were nominated until literally the five nominees were read out! Doh! Quite a shock/surprise - I'm not the best public speaker (last time I won an award I was probably the most nervous I'd ever been) so naturally my heart rate tripled at the prospect of having to make an impromptu speech in front of 200 esteemed celebrity influencers, but I felt very proud of myself and completely bewildered!
Unfortunately I didn't actually win the award which recognised the best Blogosphere Networker, however it's incredible to have been considered out of 10,000 shortlisted bloggers. I was secretly quite relieved at being able to clap along without making a public nuisance of myself on the stage!
As a stay-at-home dad and a casual freelance writer, I don't often get an opportunity to dress up. Last time I attended an awards ceremony I didn't dress appropriately and then went on to win! So naturally I panicked a little when I was invited by the Editor of Blogosphere Magazine to attend the formal event.
Sifting through my wardrobe, my options were limited to shorts and a tshirt or a full-on wedding suit which I wore three years ago when I was three stone heavier.
When I arrived at the exclusive Tab Venue (having walked around the block a couple of times thanks to Google Maps sending me in circles around the building) my first job was to walk along the red carpet, stopping for photos along the way. This was my first ever red carpet experience, nay the first time I've ever seen a red carpet in real life! Here's the resulting pic. I think I did Daddy & Dad proud.
My red carpet buddies were these three lovely London bloggers! We chatted throughout the evening about parenting, PR work and blogging. Marvellous ladies.
The awards and meal
The styling of the awards venue and in particular the setting of the dining tables was beautiful. Upturned flower pots topped with a wooden shelf (totally inspired) made a very useful centrepiece, providing ample space for a plant and room for the green veg and potatoes during the meal.
I joined a table with a really cool couple, Siobhan and James from a stylish fashion blog called Just A Uniform
and a marvellous group of ladies, one of whom was also up for the same award as me (not realising I was nominated too I was clapping along for her!).
The meal was a chicken pie with tasty vegetables and then fondants for dessert. Delicious. Cold white wine and enormous gin and tonics were also served - obviously I took full advantage of the gin bar!
It was a very special evening that I'll remember for ever.
Official pictures by http://johnnassari.co.uk/
Find our exclusive interview in the latest Blogosphere Magazine, available from large WHSmiths and Smiths News stores across the country. Full list of stockists here.
Tom and I have a very exciting announcement to make!
To celebrate father's day this weekend, we've teamed up with our fellow bloggers and vloggers to stand in #solidaritea with dads who do a FANTASTIC job raising their kids, not just on father's day but every day of the year.
(Daddy speaking) It's widely established (that's one of my posh copywriter intros, btw) that I love a pampering. By pampering I usually mean a nice bath. When I get an elusive moment to myself I like to pour a glass of french red wine and run a nice deep bath with a generous helping of lavender muscle soak and sink in. If I'm lucky I'll manage to avoid the battery powered plastic shark on my way in.
I usually manage to exhale for at least 90 seconds before I'm intruded on by a nine year old who's desperate for a poo and a chat about something riveting like the whereabouts of his old shin pads or best friend Alfie's latest invite to a party at the football stadium.
So, there I am, lying in a bath, holding my nose in one hand and my wine in the other with a flannel covering my modesty while an oblivious Lyall sits on the loo about a foot from my face, chatting away.
Thinking about it, I didn't really used to have baths very often before the kids were placed with us; if only I could pop back in time and have a nice long uninterrupted bath!
Anyway, as usual that was a digression from the topic of today's blog update which is actually rather exciting. I was invited to Everyman Barbers to mingle with the city's lifestyle and grooming journos at the launch of brand new male pampering brand - The Modern Gentleman.
When we adopted the boys, we decided that we won't depend on babysitters but rather take the boys with us, wherever we're going. Lyall was at a kids' party and Dad away with work so this was an excellent opportunity for me and Richard to enjoy some one-to-one school night fun.
Best outfits on and hair brushed (Richard's hair, not mine, obv), selfies in the bathroom mirror and a spritz of aftershave (right into Richard's eyes, a scream, a cuddle and back to normal) and we set off on our bikes toward the city centre, smelling overwhelmingly of Joop Go.
The event was hosted by lifestyle mag DLUXE Magazine and PR agency called FU Media. On arrival the lovely PR people made Richard and I feel very welcome - as usual at this kind of thing I was the only guest with a kid in tow, which is actually quite a good point of conversation when you're on a mingle mission like me! It turned out that the PR company also produce a magazine that Tom and I used to read when were were in our trendy-twenties, SIXTY9° magazine. I always remember buying the most expensive Levis denim jacket I've ever bought after seeing a hunky model in SIXTY9° modelling it (Tom naturally went bananas when he found out how much I'd spent, bearing in mind I was a £4/hr temp in 2002!).
Anyway, Richard enjoyed a very snazzy new haircut, wash, dry and style courtesy of possibly the best hairdresser we'd ever met, Sam. Richard's hair, as mentioned in our previous cheese slices blog post usually falls into a simple side parting, a bit like a cute little WW1 soldier. With the opportunity of a restyle with a top stylist, we decided we'd keep the length on top and aim to grow out the front into a kind of bushy american fringey instaboy. This is the first installment of two trips to see Sam; each time we expect to see Richard's hair become deliberately less controlled looking!
Meanwhile, I chatted away to the lovely PR people from the local brewery, Everards. They had three or four different local summery pale ales to sample - delicious. It turns out that the team at Everards are relocating to a landmark new brewery next year, complete with parkland, seating areas and a visitor centre... just a stone's throw from our house! Needless-to-say, watch this space for a review when that opens!
Rajvee and Danny, the founders of The Modern Gentleman launched their new service with a fantastic speech and a toast with bubbly. Their online store brings together a collection of sophisticated male grooming products, specialising in hair, beard grooming, facial and even a beautiful vintage looking toothpaste which caught my eye (not having a need for anything hair or beard!).
We left the event looking, smelling and feeling as fresh as a daisy. To break the long cycle home, Richard and I popped into my friend James' beautiful bistro The Laundry Bar for a break and to reflect over the fantastic evening we'd had.