Tag Archives: sandals

Best buys for a family summer

IMG_2784Sitting on the beach yesterday, I realised just what a grumpy bastard I am. I think it may be a legacy of working in my parents’ cafe from the age of seven, where I was forced to interact with members of the public (who could be delightful or incredibly awful and I found the whole experience mostly stressful, just never knowing if a psychopath was going to walk in). Or it may be because I am a curious mixture of highly sociable or hermit. But I find situations where I am surrounded by lots of random people hard going. Especially if I am trapped in a sitting situation.

So any sort of theatre, cinema, play experience is not as enjoyable for me as it might be for others. And the beach. I’d enjoy the beach – I adore the seaside – if I could be suspended in some sort of pod, unseen but all seeing. With a supply of water, a toilet and some food. My partner said I should get a beach hut but a) I don’t have a spare £100K and b) that wouldn’t do it as beach huts are on the promenade usually and you get people walking by and looking in. Just the thought of it makes me want to dig myself a cave.

I love the beach in winter, where you can’t really sit but you have to walk and there is no-one about. My idea of heaven is the beach at Orfordness where you are surrounded by unexploded bombs and access is strictly limited.

It is surely no surprise that I chose a career as a writer.  I can’t think of a more antisocial, keeping people at arm’s length job.

This UV tent is as close to a pod as I can get. No-one looks inside. I can experience the wilds of the sea whilst feeling entirely cocooned. I can keep an eye on my children (luckily my partner is not like me and actually plays with them on the beach and *sharp intake of breath* goes into the sea). As long as all my things are in the tent, and I have a good view of my children, I am blissfully happy. It’s a best buy. It costs £65 on the site I link to in my original blog post, but if you do a search for ‘The Shelta UV Protector’ you can find it at other places too. I got mine from Little Explorers but it doesn’t seem to do it anymore, at the time of writing Amazon did it from Safetots for £40.

If you haven’t yet got your Sun San sandals then what is wrong with you? Get some. We spent all day on the beach in ours yesterday and my children paddled in the sea and by the time we got home they looked like new. If you are a regular follower of this blog however, you’d have got yours in April before they largely sold out…

Rather than fighting your children to get sun lotion put on them, don’t forget about UV suits. You can get these almost anywhere (put UV sunsuits into Google). Ours are a mixture of Ozone by Sposh (more on this make in a minute) and John Lewis own make (whose designs this year are really annoying, either pink and ‘girly’ or skulls and supposedly aimed at boys, last year I got a really cool red and grey one for my eldest). Do buy a good make though as the fabric should be properly UV50 SPF. But with a UV suit (I recommend a one piece over a two piece)  most of your child is covered and they can swim and play without you fretting that they need a top up of sun lotion every five minutes.

Now, hats. Many years ago, I picked up three floppy sun hats by Sposh Ozone at Romaine’s Junior Style Sales. What you get at these sales is very hit and miss of course, and I can’t say I saw those hats again at subsequent sales. But at that time, I picked up three hats for a £1 each. They proved to be some of the best things I ever bought for my children. These hats are floppy, have fitted from when my eldest was two to still fitting her perfectly now at aged nine, they give UV protection, wash well, fold up quite small and seem to stay on in all but really high winds. I was never able to find them again until recently when a friend saw a picture of my two girls and asked where their hats were from so I searched again and found them here. (This is the same site I link to for the UV tent, because the place I got mine from – Little Explorers  – doesn’t do the UV Shelter anymore. This site, Sunproof, also does UV suits if you can’t be bothered to look far, but you can get UV suits from most places so shop around.)

At a really good price of a penny under a fiver, postage included (they come in the red that I’ve linked to but also blue). Most other places sell them for £14 odd.

I just stocked up on four more. I really recommend these hats, they are brilliant and look great. I realise that the size we have is large which says fits from 7-14. But we have them and they are interchangeable for my four year old and my nine year old (they are cotton Lycra so slightly stretchy). But buy whatever size you think suits you.

Sun-San Sandals

Navy Salt Water Originals

Really, for quite a long time now, I’ve been looking for “Jesus sandals” that were popular in my youth. I couldn’t think of a more perfect sandal for a small child.

But they were nowhere to be seen. The closest I ever got were Birkenstocks, but, in truth, I was tiring of the overly large foot print.

Then, quite by chance, @sunsansandals started following me (@AnnalisaB) on Twitter and there they were. My perfect child-hood sandals: Sun-San. Which I hadn’t imagined at all. (And the style I remembered is called Surfer, shown in red below.)

They were American, but date back to the 1940’s. They came to the UK last year and they’ve become, I hate to say this, the sandal du jour for children. I don’t mind this since they are

a) incredibly practical – they can withstand salt water and can be washed in the washing machine
b) sensible – I’m not a Lilli Kelli kinda mum
c) gorgeous looking in that understated way – I’m not insane
d) proper sandals, therefore not cheap (average price: £34) but comparable with StartRite or Birkenstocks.

(Otherwise I just hate following trends, I am so contrary.)

Although I wanted to get both my children a pair – how cute would a three year old look in the Surfer style in red or tan? – in reality the youngest has some already that are perfectly okay and I can’t justify spending £70 on two pairs of sandals.

But I did want to get my eldest some, since she needed something for the summer anyway (and Birkies, what she usually wears, cost the same). Today we found ourselves in Liberty with her Godmother who, so so kindly, bought her a pair. We got the Saltwater Original, which weren’t the actual Jesus sandal I had planned on getting for her. But I left it between my daughter and her Godmother. Some transactions a mother shouldn’t interfere with.

Side view, you can just see the fringes of my mother’s incredibly ornate carpet
You can find stockists here. Although I’d personally advise trying them on in person first if possible: we tried them on in white first and they were huge, same size in navy fitted perfectly; otherwise pretty true to size I’d say. They range in price from £34-£40 and come in six designs/twelve colours, sizes 0-adult 3.
Apparently they are way cheaper in the States so if you know someone who lives there or are going there, that may be a way to save some pennies!Update: I couldn’t resist and bought my youngest a pair too. I don’t regret it, they are gorgeous and make me happy every time I see them.

I love these sandals so much I want to eat them.
An update in late August 2012. Well Sun San has now launched its own online shop, which should help with the stock situation. I relented and bought myself a pair, in silver (£55 which included p&p). Me and my girls have worn almost nothing else but our Sun San sandals all summer and I cannot tell you how brilliant I think these sandals are. We have gone in the sea with them, gone surfing wearing them, built sandcastles and they look like new.
Weirdly, also, considering I find really flat shoes hard to wear all day, my feet don’t hurt (anymore than they would anyway walking all day) in these. I get asked about them all the time and my friend Wendy bought seven pairs (or thereabouts) the moment the shop went live.
You do need to buy them so they are slightly tight I think. I’m a true 37 which is a 4.5 UK and I was unsure whether to get a 5 or 6 in Sun San. When I first tried on the 5 they felt too tight – as in not wide enough (obviously the length has to be right, they don’t get longer!) I also tried the 6 and they felt really comfy from the off. But instinct told me the 5 would stretch and they did. Plus once you get them wet – and I recommend you do – and they dry on you, they’ll be no more rubby bits. I never once have had to wear any sort of plasters with these.
Is it clear how much I love them? And just so you’re absolutely sure no-one is telling me to say this let me assure you that I have accepted no freebies or discounts in relation to these sandals *
The sandals after surfing
My sandals.
A family of Sun San sandals. Now we just need a men’s version.
* Well, this is no longer true. The UK distributor gave me a pair for free as a thank you (she had tried to give me a free pair in the spring and I said no) and I’m afraid, this time, I said yes thank you. Because I’m greedy, and a little bit broke after all the shopping I’ve done.