Thursday, 31 December 2015

Blogging round up........or lack thereof.....

I've been so slack at blogging this year it's been unbelievable. Mainly due to all of my available time being sucked up by university and work. Instead of a 'look at what I've already told you about' round up this is more of a 'look at what I didn't get around to blogging about in 2015!! Happy New Year :)

Seeing in the new year with two of my favourite girls


February saw me on a date night with the Leicester Riders!


 In March I finally got my 2014 Christmas present which was a trip to the Northampton Shoe Museum and the most FANTASTIC gig I've ever been to with the Quireboys.


April saw my lovely Nat's hen do and us staying in the most amazing house:



May found us in Cornwall for the first time:


June found us back at the seaside but this time in Norfolk:


This is getting silly now but July also found me at the beach.....


erm.......and August:


In September we fancied a bit of a change so went to the Lakes instead......


October was immense and not only did we go to the City of Love but my Chick also got to hang out at the most magical place on earth for Halloween:


December was long and busy but I'm sure you can guess where we ended it.....


All the best for an amazing 2016. Much love x

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Review - Griff House Beefeater Nuneaton


As you know I'm a big fan of receiving emails that offer us a review experience as a family, so when I was asked if I fancied a visit to Griff House Beefeater in Nuneaton I thought why the hell not.

They explained that they'd had a makeover and so were looking for bloggers to check it out. In all honesty I was expecting it to be very much a 'chain restaurant' feel with 1970's decor and awful patterned carpets but actually it was really cool and funky! I do apologise now for the fact that there are very few photos but a) I was having too much of a good time and b) It was packed and you look a bit deranged taking pictures of random furnishings on a busy Friday night even for a blogger :)

We were greeted by a very lovely lady who saw us to our chairs and then our 'host' for the evening who looked after us was called Sarah. She was awesome and really looked after us well. I thought maybe it was because I was there to do a review but actually from observation everyone got the friendly treatment which can be surprisingly unusual in the service industries of the UK.


Totally loving the sign made out of astroturf!!

There was humming and hawing over what to pick from the menu:


Me and JoJo decided to save ourselves for pudding but the man had a camembert starter which was lovely and just the perfect size. Apparently the onion marmalade that came with it was 'fantastic'!:


Chick also had a nachos starter, followed by a pizza and desert which also included a drink from the kids menu. The 3 courses and the drink were a total of £5.99 with several options at each course level which I thought was a bargain quite frankly. Portion sizes were good too and she was stuffed when she finished it!!

Us adults had a variety of mains with me and the man opting for various burgers and JoJo going for the Chilli Con Carne:



My burger was immense. It was juicy, the sauce was lovely and the seasoned fries just rounded it off nicely. JoJo also loved the chilli. Her only complaint was that there wasn't enough of it and she could have eaten more!

For dessert we decided to go all out. Chick had a build your own dessert which came with marshmallows, chocolate brownies, ice cream and chocolate sauce:


We all agreed that the desserts were fab and thought that the ice cream was incredible. It was vanilla but made with proper vanilla pod and seeds rather than shop bought and seemed luxurious. These were the other desserts:


One huge chocolate sundae and a melt in the middle chocolate pudding. What a lovely end to a fabulous meal.

We really enjoyed our evening at Beefeater, the decor was funky and modern:


The food was good and it was decent value for money. For 2 starters, 4 mains, 4 desserts and plenty of drinks the bill came to £73 which I felt was pretty reasonable. I'm sure we'll be back again :)

 Disclosure: Beefeater gave us £50 worth of vouchers towards our meal however we were free to pick and choose our reservation slot and whatever we wanted from the menu. All thoughts, views and pictures are mine!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Wild Swimming

Many, many moons ago, when I was several years younger and several (lots of) pounds lighter, all of my lucky stars aligned and I was fortunate enough to work out in California for a couple of years. During my first Summer I was offered a chance to train as a lifeguard. As this involved lots of swimming, sunshine and loveliness I jumped at the chance and said yes.

Being a lilly white English girl and only ever having swum in the pool or at a push in the Ocean, nothing could have ever prepared me for my first lifeguard training session which was in a lake. I can hear you thinking 'well, that doesn't sound too bad'! Oh my bloggy friends it was bloody awful! I can still conjure up that feeling of panic swimming through the clear waters when I first noticed the frog spawn, then the reeds, then the frogs and most hideous of all my lovelies...... the snakes!! URGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have an absolute lifelong phobia of snakes. I cannot even look at them on the TV or at pictures in a book without freaking out. However after my initial session, I somehow managed to put all of those creepy things out of my head, swim in a lake all Summer and pass my qualification. I even returned for a second year:



Fast forward a number of years and my memories of California and swimming in Lakes have a very rose tinted hue. 

A few weeks ago at a local lake I saw a sign for open water swimming and with my 40 before 40 list in mind decided to have a chat with the gent about it. He assured me that everyone swims in wetsuits and that there are no snakes in the Lakes in Leicestershire, so I thought why the hell not after all the frog spawn and snakes seem so long ago. After much hassle trying to find a fat enough wetsuit and thanks to the amazing team at Two Bare Feet, it was time for my first swim:


Yes, I know I look particularly hot!

So trying very hard to be mentally strong, I put all thoughts of creepy crawlies in the water out of my head (made my brother come with me to hold my hand and do up the wetsuit!!) and away I went.


Man alive it is so liberating to be swimming in a lake again. It's normally chilly (read; bloody freezing) but as I start to lose the worries of the day, warm up from swimming and start to appreciate being in the great outdoors and notice nature, there really isn't a better feeling. The lake that I swim in is actually mainly used by Triatheletes in training and they've all been super lovely although I'm sure they must think me odd when they see me waddle by in my wetsuit!! 

Last weekend we decided to have one last camping trip and head up to the Lake District. Bizarrely there was a distance swimming competition at Lake Coniston so we spent several lovely hours on the dock in the sunshine watching all of the swimmers come in:


Maybe something to train for next time?? More pictures to come from the Lakes possibly along with a story about swimming with fish and swans *shudders*

Monday, 3 August 2015

A fun filled family day out at Conkers


In the heart of the national Forest, which we are lucky enough to live on the fringes of, is the most fun outdoor place called Conkers. For some reason I've never been before although Chick has visited on school trips and with other families. When we were invited for a blogger day out I thought that Chick and her friends might like it f they could get over being cool for a day but didn't for a second think that I would have the most awesome day too!

Conkers is built on the site of two old mining areas and has 120 acres of maturing woodlands with lakes, high and low ropes, outdoor pursuits and an 18 stage assault course challenge. There are also several indoor areas with over 100 interactive activities which we will need to go back to visit as we missed most of them this time around!



There was a pretty cool start to the day as the first face I saw was Cass and we were long overdue a catch up :) The first organised activity was orienteering which was a great way for us to cover a lot of the site in a short period of time:


The letters that we gathered formed a clue for us to take to the next couple of activities which were shelter and fire building as well as marshmallow toasting:


The shelter building didn't seem to pose too much of a problem but the fire building was a different matter!! There had been torrential rain the day before so every twig and log that we could lay our hands on was wet. We (I say we but I mean the man and the kids!!) managed to get the fire going, with the girls doing a sterling job with the flint and steel but couldn't keep it going. With some help from a friendly ranger, we stripped the damp edges off of the twigs to get to the dry core and then we had a raging fire as you can see in the picture.  Roasting marshmallows on our own built fire was just the icing on the cake. Conkers run the bushcraft sessions twice a week, you do need to pre-book but it's included in the normal admission price.

It made me realise how much I miss camp and that although we try to head outdoors quite a lot, the girls haven't had that much time to 'rough' it in the great outdoors. My idea of camping involves lots of warm clothing and blankets rather than roughing it so this is a good way for the kids to have these experiences!

The next activity I really wasn't sure about....... The barefoot trail. I hate being barefoot and even make sure I wear shoes in the garden or putting the washing out. However, so as not to be shamed in front of everyone else that was doing it I thought I would give it a shot:


It was in equal parts fun and painful. The plain water troughs like this one, I could cope with even though the water was on the chilly side. The one with pebbles in was horrifically painful and the final one had some weird tree mulch in it that squidged through the toes. I may also have walked around the pit filled with clay as it looked very slippy and I have been known to be slightly accident prone!!! My favourite was definitely the mud. It was warm, squidgy and very soft on the feet even f it took me two days to get it all off afterwards :)


The girls giggled and squealed their way around and funnily enough didn't appear to find it anywhere near as painful as I did. I was't sure how 'cool' the girls would think the whole experience would be as they are 12 and 13 but actually they are desperate to go back and do all of the high and low ropes and all of the other stuff that we missed.

Next we had a ride on a train which took us to lunch and to the most amazing cake:


After lunch we were free to do as we wanted so the girls played on the huge adventure playground and the man and I did some serious walking through the woodland. We are definitely planning a return visit in the very near future!

Conkers is part of the 'Stay, Play, Explore' group which includes accommodation, breakfast and entrance to 3 out of 4 of fab attractions in Leicestershire including Conkers and the Space Centre from £129. For more information please click here.

Conkers were kind enough to invite all 5 of us to be their guests for the day and included all of the activities and lunch however all words, pictures and thoughts are my own.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

40 things to do before you're 40: Number 1 - Eat fish n chips on a pier

So some people around here may have just turned 39 and since then several people have asked me what I doing for the big 4-0. My dream (if I can afford it) is to go back to my life in California for a visit and to catch up with all my fabulous friends over there.

Now 40 is a big ol' number and to take away some of the freaking out, I've decided I may as well go big. Having already run a marathon and never planning on doing anything so ridiculous again, I turned to Dr.Google for inspiration and came across '40 things to do before you're 40'! Obviously being well travelled and immensely cool *ahem* I've already done a few of the things suggested but tasked myself with the idea of coming up with my own list. 

As I don't have oodles of money it hasn't got loads of far flung places on it or crazy ideas or anything unachievable, just some books I haven't read and probably should have, some films I haven't seen and again probably should have and some cool stuff that I've always fancied doing. I've decided not to give you the full list straight away but to try and blog about them as I tick them off.

Soooo to get started and not in any particular order, the first item that I've managed to complete was eating fish 'n' chips on the pier. This may sound easy and if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you will probably know that we head to the beach at every opportunity and also eat fish n chips quite regularly but the usual seaside places that are close to us don't have piers. In the essence of going big (and seeing my brand new nephew) then why not head to a beach almost as far South as possible and go to Brighton which is exactly what happened yesterday, the sun even shone for me :)




Number one: ticked off!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

........in Tintagel, Cornwall

Tintagel is a tiny town on the coast of Cornwall and is supposedly the seat of King Arthur's Castle. Unfortunately we arrived too late to make it to the Castle and back (for someone so tall, I walk surprisingly slowly!!) but it looks amazing!

We decided that we would stay and potter around the village as rumour had it that there was a lovely fudge shop and oh my was there ever! It's called Granny Wobbly's Fudge Pantry and they have all kinds of beautiful, sugary flavours. If you time it right, you can also see the fudge being made and they also have very yummy testers:


As a simple country girl I stuck to plain old vanilla and it is the most gorgeous creamy, treacly fudge I've ever eaten. Unfortunately for me they also deliver slices of gorgeousness by post!!!

One of the best presents I received last year, was a 12 month membership to the National Trust and I know that we used the cost of the membership within about a month of having it. One of my favourite things about it is being able to explore places that I either wouldn't normally think about or might think is too pricey. A good example of this is the Old Post Office in Tintagel. It's a 14th Century Yeoman's farmhouse with a very wibbly roof:



They have the cutest little cottage garden at the rear of the property where I spotted these real unusual flowers that look like they are made of linen:


If ever you are in the area, I would say that Tintagel is well worth a visit if only for the fudge alone!

Our favourite hidden eating spots in London

There are many restaurants serving traditional English cuisine in London. In fact, English cuisine is a mix of various national cuisines. That is why it is absolutely normal to try Turkish, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Greek cuisine in London. As for me, the most reasonable prices can be found in Arab cafes and bars.

In general, you can find interesting places to eat in any area of ​​London. Due to the fact that I’m still a student, we ate mainly in the areas near the student living London. So let’s start with the most inexpensive hidden eating spots in London.

There are many decent cafes scattered across London such as EAT, Pizza Hut and Pret-A-Manger. I can safely advise them in terms of price. If you don’t mind Asian cuisine and are not afraid of food experiments, go to Soho where you can find a range of inexpensive restaurants including Thai and Chinese. As for Chinese cuisine, I advise Young Cheng in Soho. It has a simple scheme to attract customers: the buffet is located at the entrance so that you can see from the street what you get for the quoted price. You can take rice with seafood, shrimps and various vegetables. So if you want to have a square meal, come here or visit one of the neighboring Chinese bars with a similar system.

Another branch is Indian cuisine. We often go to Chambeli restaurant (close to Holborn tube station). As a result, I would call this taste the “taste of homemade food”. The food is very spicy because of sauces and spices, but quite tasty. So all in all I can recommend this restaurant to visit.

Of course, London is full of Italian restaurants and cafes. We have been in many of them. The most common is the Strada. The quality of food is quite decent, the prices are quite affordable. We had a chance to dine at Strada right next to the City Hall. We can also advise Ciao Bella near Russell Square. It's very popular mostly among local residents.


Do you still think that you won’t be able to find some interesting places to eat in London? I hope that our personal overview of hidden eating spots has changed your opinion about London as the most expensive city in the world!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Adventures of an English Mum in........ Padstow, Cornwall

I like to think that I'm a well travelled kind of gal but then when I realise that I've never even been to Cornwall it makes me laugh at myself and think, maybe not! We're very lucky that the Man's family have a caravan in the lovely village of Coombe Martin in Devon, so on the last bank holiday when we were there, we decided to day trip to Cornwall so that I could see what I'd been missing out on.......oh my goodness, it was so lovely. How I've never been there is beyond me!

First stop on our list was the very lovely Padstow. Driving down from the top of the hill and passing all of the regular houses it just looks like another seaside town but when you come down towards the hair pin bend, you start to get a bit more of the flavour of the village. We parked in a rather scary car park right alongside the harbour where you could see right across the beach and down through the Estuary, toward the sea:


I love being beside the sea, I think it's a throwback to living next to the sea when I was growing up. There's just something so calming about it and it seems to put things into perspective for me, probably the vastness of it making me feel smaller and putting my worries into insignificance! 

Anyways I also love to sit and watch how the other half live, some lovely boats to sit and dream about going on for an adventure. It always makes me wonder at the stories of the boat owners. Where have these people travelled from and what is their story? One lovely boat was all the way from America, not sure I'm brave enough for that sailing adventure!


Obviously this is also one of the best places for people watching and munching on amazing fish & chips. I wonder why they always taste so much better by the sea? Yum!


We happened to be in Padstow on Mayday weekend and they had one of the coolest maypoles I think I've ever seen. It was just so colourful and vibrant and my photo really doesn't do it any justice:


I think one of my favourite things about Padstow was meandering around all of the little crooked streets and passages in the sunshine, looking at shops with very beautiful clothes, pottering in many lovely art galleries, glimpsing the sea every so often and oh my goodness the food. I very stupidly missed out on getting a traditional Cornish pasty but I made up for it at Stein's Patisserie. I was totally drawn in by the window display:


As well as these HUGE meringues (which we managed to split between four of us) they also sold the best tasting scones I've ever eaten outside of The Ritz! I may have also consumed a couple of very dainty macarons and cornish clotted ice cream! Yes, I did come back from the day about 5lb heavier as we also bought some fudge to take home with us!!

Padstow was such a lovely vibrant place but with a very family feel. The Adventures of an English Mum family will definitely be back for a return visit!


Monday, 18 May 2015

3D Chocolate Tree


So y'all know that I'm a big fan of companies emailing me to ask if I want to try out their products but I'm an even bigger fan when those products potentially involve chocolate or cake!! When the lovely folk from www.meincupcake.de gave me free pick from their website, I was in my element!!

I would suggest that the only downside (if I had to find one) for this review would be that the website is ever so slightly clunky and that on some of the products there wasn't a size, for instance, on one of the rolling pins which makes it difficult to know if it's suitable for your needs or not. Some of the descriptions could also be slightly more detailed as I couldn't decide if the item I ordered came with a stand or not so ordered a second one unnecessarily.

That said there was a selection of choice and it took me ages to decide on which items I might like. As it was ever so slightly different, I chose a 3D tree mould which you can use for chocolate or biscuits (or both). The finished product looked amazing....at least in my opinion :)


The mould is a pretty straightforward piece of kit:


I'm pretty sure this is still one of my favourite things to do even as an adult:


At this point it would've been useful to have a proper chocolate thermometer so that the chocolate could've been tempered instead of us trying to guess at the right temperature.....but that's my lack or organisation rather than a fault of the company. It would've also been less messy to have a proper funnel for the chocolate but it worked ok as The Man is quite talented and obviously you can eat the mess anyway:


Once this had chilled then started the fun job of construction. Again this was slightly messier than it needed to be but only because we hadn't tempered the chocolate as above:



I have to say that I think this is where the product came into its own. There was no problem at all getting the chocolate out of the moulds, which I was actually expecting to be really tricky, and each piece had its own tiny number so that you didn't have to figure out the size of each piece and where it needed to go. 

I really like that this product is ever so slightly different and a bit quirky, I think that we'll be using this to impress all of our guests for the next year at least. I'm very much looking forward to trying the biscuit tree next!!


As stated this product was sent to me by the lovely folk at www.meincupcake.de I chose the product from a lovely selection of goods on the website and all thoughts and opinions are my own.