Exploring Stories With Pizza Express And Puffin Books

If a poll was taken with my family on which was their favourite restaurant I know that Pizza Express would win hands down!

The children love the delicious food that is served quickly to quash those all to familiar ‘I’m starving’ moans and as a parent I love the family friendly vibe that you get in each and every restaurant. The hustle and bustle means I don’t feel I need to be continually asking the kids to be quiet and with the great activities that are always on offer there is actually not much chance for fidgety bums and fingers to get restless.

It was in fact an exciting new activity pack and competition that Puffin Books have created for Pizza Express that saw us making our way to one of their Brighton branches last week.

We were taken to our seats by our super friendly waiter that handed the children their activities packs and they got started on them straight away. The Story Explorers Adventure Journal was full to the brim with activities and games inspired by different books and it really got the children’s creative juices flowing.

After trying to create their own Grey Huffley from their favourite series – Diary Of A Wimpy Kid they feasted on a starter of dough balls and vegetable crudités while I indulged in some delicately battered calamari that I had to keep Izzy away from!

Actually if you are a fans of Diary Of The Wimpy Kid too then there is a brilliant competition you can enter where you can design your own book cover and submit it online for your chance to win a family portrait down for you by Jeff Kinney, the author of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid himself.

As we waited on our mains we were treated to a visit from caricaturist Sean Savage who created a fantastic portrait of us all. The kids absolutely loved it and found the size of my teeth hilarious!

With our special memento safely tucked away we ate a delicious selection of pizza and pasta that didn’t fail to disappoint.

Aside from being so family friendly another highlight of Pizza Express for us is the way they cater for Frankie and his multiple allergies. The kids menu can be adapted perfectly which always makes him feel inclusive rather than having to have something completely different which can happen in so many other restaurants.

We had a quick break between courses where it was Izzy’s job to make up the chatter boxes that came in the activity packs. These are always a hit with us and they played for ages asking each other questions to unveil the final answer.

A meal out isn’t complete without desert and at Pizza Express you really are spoilt for choice. The children dived into ice cream sundaes and brownies whilst I went for the mini biscoff cheesecake dolcetti which I told myself was a lighter option!

Full to the brim and bursting with ideas on stories they were going to create and illustrate when they got home really meant that Pizza Express has been a feast for our minds as well as our bellies and we highly reccomend a trip there soon so you don’t miss out on all the fun!

*Collaborated post

Sweets Galore For Barratt’s 170th Birthday

My hands firmly clasped around a small, white ruffled paper bag full of my favourite sweets that had taken so much time and deliberation to choose is one of my fondest memories of our family holidays to Devon as a child.

My sister and I would be taken to the local sweet shop to pick our goodies for the long journey ahead where we would enjoy singing along in car whilst sucking on sour sherbet lemons, winding lengths of liqurique round our fingers and more often then not get in trouble for covering ourselves and the car in sherbet from our favourite Sherbet Fountains.

To so many people sweets are a huge part of their childhood memories and one taste can see them transported back to a special time and place that creates such a warm feeling of nostalgia.

I know this is very true to me and something my own parents have talked about over the years, fondly recalling sweets that are no longer available and the stories that come along with them.

The other week I was lucky enough to attend a golden ticket event hosted by Barratt – the brand behind so many of our much loved and fondly remembered sweets. Barratt have been out of the lime light for the past few years but have made a very welcome return with their patented classics such as Black Jacks and Fruit Salads and some great new products that I’m sure will have the power to conger up those same memories in my own children.

After a sweet themed cocktail…or two! we were given the opportunity to make our very own Dolly Mixtures with the help of a expert in this field who was probably shuddering at our feeble attempts.

With the help of the gorgeous Rosie from Mummy and Boo we managed to create a pretty good raspberry flavoured Dolly Mixture with a lovely pretty marbled effect; and for someone who isn’t a big fan of Dolly Mixtures I have to say our efforts weren’t to bad at all.

After all our hard work we settled down to a talk from the very knowledgeable food historian – Seren Charrington-hollins. I was astounded at how long ago the love affair with all things sweet started and was very surprised to how that chewing gum was intact founded in Greece, I would definitely have had my money on America for that one.

Below I have left some more information of the fascinating history of sweets and I hope this has all got you thinking about your childhood favourites as I would love to hear your stories.

*collaborated post

Knoppers Treat Snack:Review

Chocolate is by far my biggest vice. I can walk on by a packet of crisps and pretty easily pass up the offer of a glass of wine, but when it comes to chocolate, especially that of the nutty variety I can very rarely hold back!

The same can be said for all of my children so I would say we are all pretty knowledgable about the subject. So when we were asked to try out Knoppers(I can’t help but giggle at the name) it wasn’t an offer to be passed up.

Knoppers are squares of crispy baked wafers held together with milky hazelnut wafers and topped with a chocolate coating.

The best way for me to describe the snack is a deconstructed Ferrero Rocce. It is literally all the mouthwatering components of a Ferrero Roche and formed into a handy square that makes the perfect snack for in between meal times.

The creamy, nutty layers work perfectly with the crisp wafer and is set off wonderfully with the extra chocolate layer…I mean you really can’t ever have to much chocolate can you!

We have been enjoying these treats at home with a glass of milk and on the go as they are so easy to slip inside a handbag which allows you to satisfy the moans of the little ones hunger pangs with ease.

At only 50p per snack they are super affordable and can be picked up at a whole host of convinenece and impulse stores nationwide, so keep your eye out for them and let me know what you think.

* Collaborated post.

MUTU System 12 Weeks On

After the birth of each of my first three children I seemed to manage to get back into shape within a relatively short space of time. I don’t know if this was my youth giving me more of a zest to get back to my pre-baby self, the boundless energy I seemed to have or just luck but it was never really to much of an issue.

Yes my body had changed in countless ways but I could deal with this and my body confidence(whilst clothed) wasn’t to much of an issue for me.

Along came number four and this is where things took a change in the way I felt about my body and how my body was now dealing with multiple pregnancies. If I’m honest the fact I was breast feeding a baby with multiple allergies and an impending wedding the weight loss and diet side of things were pretty on point but my pelvic floor was really feeling the strain from so many pregnancies and vaginal births and I suffered terribly with vaginal prolapse that I managed to improve a little myself before I fell pregnant for the fifth time.

Age was now not on my side, struggling to find a work life balance with caring for five children, weight gain and a completely shot pelvic floor left me in a place I wasn’t happy with and if I’m honest its taken me four years and the kick up the bottom I needed to get me back on track.

I had gone from a hugly active job as a personal trainer to writing my blog which I never imagined would be a completly new career path for me. All my time, love and passion were being ploughed into this new project and any form of exercise had taken a nose dive. This added to events with free flowing food and drink I knew something was going to have to give.

After going along to the Embrace Workshop with the owner of the MUTU System – Wendy Powell she opened my eyes to the way I looked at myself and was just the stepping stone I needed to get things back on track and my body feeling better both inside and out.

The MUTU Systems main aims are to strengthen your core and pelvic floor, heal your diastasis recti, lose weight and eat well.

The program consists of 12 modules with exercises lasting only 20 minutes or less. The programs can be downloaded to any device which makes it easy to keep up the program whenever and wherever you are.

As well as the exercise program there is an easy to follow food guide that promotes healthy eating rather than unrealistic, restrictive diets.

The plan offers realistic goals and allows the flexibility to fit around everyone. My plan still has a couple of weeks to go as I had a bit of a blip over christmas so stay tuned to see my final results…if I pluck up the courage to post them!

I am already reaping the benefits with a significant weigh loss, flatter tum and most importantly for me, less leakage. If you want to give this plan a try for yourselves then click HERE and use the discount code EMBRACE15 for your 15% discount.

*Collaborated post

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Four

This weeks ‘celebrating the small things’ is a little self indulgent as I’m unusually pleased with what I have achieved. I’m usually full of self doubt and always see the negatives in what I do which is really counter productive and something I want to try to improve so here it goes:

Happy In My Work- I recently restarted teaching my ladies fitness kickboxing classes which I have found a whole new love for. Teaching was always a huge passion for me but the more children I had the trickier it became to fit this kind of work in and sadly it stopped a few years ago.
Thankfully the New Year has bought with it some lovely faces both old and new that have made my job an absolute pleasure once again.

Weight Loss Going Well – A New Year, restarting my classes and a big hit of self motivation has seen me finally losing some weight.
I wrote a post a while ago on how the past few years have seen me gaining a lot of weigh which has really bought me down and I’m so pleased that over the past few weeks I have seen some changes for the good.
I’ve banished the scales as these are always a source of disappointment for me and have simply used how I look and real as motivation to keep me going.

Looking Back – Last week the lovely Carrisa over at Little Likely Lads tagged me in a post on Insta Stories that needed me to scroll back through my hundreds of photos on Instagram to find my first ever post.
Of course this task had me stopping and looking over all the photos through the years and made me love this social media platform even more.
Moments captured in pictures are hugely important to me and Instagram allows me to see a whole host of my favourite moments in seconds.

Spiced Apple And Blackcurrant Cupcakes With Fruit Shoot

During the summer I was challenged by Fruit Shoot to get out and about andtake part in some foraging with the little ones.

It was a great way to get the kids active and let them see how readily available fresh food packed with goodness really is.

Fruit Shoot has really taken this on board when creating their juices which are packed with real fruit, no flavours, no colouring and plenty of added vitamins.

They are really passionate about getting kids to eat well and with this in mind they created a fantastic hamper full of goodies to grow, bake and create lots of tasty, fruity recipes at home which they kingly sent to me.

The recipe that really stood out for me was the spiced apple and blackcurrant cupcakes that was devised by recipe creator-Holly Bell.

The one minor problem that we had was that there was a distinct lack of blackcurrants here so we had a little change around and substituted them for blackberries instead which worked pretty well.

Oscar had a great time getting his hands dirty and cooking up a storm.

I love getting the little ones involved in the whole process of cooking and with the addition of the blackberries it was the perfect time to recall our foraging trip.

If you fancy having a go yourself then I have left the recipe for you below, I would love to see how you get on.

Spiced Apple And Berry Cupcakes

  • 175ml oil
  • 180g muscavado sugar
  • 170g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 160g grated apple
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 150g of backcurrants or blackberries

Preheat the oven to 180C/has mark 4 and line a 12 hope cupcake tin with large cupcake or muffin cases.

Once the oven has preheated mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until there aren’t any lumps or traces of egg yolk visible. Pay particular attention to the sugar as it can sit in lumps.

Stir through the berries carefully, spoon into cases evenly and bake for 20-25 mins until well risen and a toothpick comes out of the middle of the cupcake clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Opening My Eyes To Organic Living With Arla Foods

How long does it take you to get your weekly shop?

If you are anything like me my list varies very little from week to week and it’s just a grab and go, to get in and out as quickly as possible with items such as bread, eggs and milk being staples that I probably haven’t changed in years.

I’m sure that many of you are with me on this, and it wasn’t until I visited Cockhaise Farm in Sussex last week, really shifted my thoughts on the way I shop and opened my eyes up to organic, free range products.

Arriving to this beautiful farm and sitting sipping coffee on the patio could have transported you into a scene from the ‘Darling Buds Of May’ which always seemed like such an idyllic way to bring up a family although in reality I know that a farmers life is a tough one and I was here to learn exactly what goes into our everyday milk that most of us doesn’t give a second thought when buying.

Dan talked us thorough how he came to become an organic dairy farmer and his passion for his product and his herd was clear to see from the very first moment.
Dan’s dairy farm is very much a family business and the love for their animals really made it feel as if they were part of the family too.

This farm follows the ruling of organic farming by making the welfare of the animals and the environment a top priority, not using any artificial additives, preservatives or GM ingredients and fewer pesticides.

Instead the cows are allowed to graze freely as much as possible in fields full of chemical free, clover rich fields.

We got the chance to see how happy they were by going to visit the fields that honed the most adorable calves…I’m not sure what they made of a group of bloggers armed with cameras and phones galore!

From the young and happy calves we made our way to see a field full of pregnant cows and got to experience first-hand the first few fumbling steps of a calf that has literally just been born.

I was chatting to Dan’s father at the time who is also a retired organic dairy farmer who said that the birth of a calf is always special no matter how many time you experience it.

From here we made our way into the milking sheds that weren’t operational at the time but it was still amazing to see.

We had now been shown the milking process from the very beginning and it was now time to see how the beautiful product could be used and we were treated to a cookery demonstration from Ben a local chef who’s passion for organic products was just as great as Dan’s.

The demonstration was all set up in a barn with a fabulous hay barrel backdrop where Matt worked his magic on showing us how to create a Sussex smokey scotch egg that had an alternative filling of mashed potato and smoked haddock rather than the usual sausage meat, and a delectable vanilla creme brûlée that I could have sampled more than one of!

If you like the sound of these delicious recipes I have left them below for you to try yourself at home.

From the vibrancy of the colours of the egg yolks to the rich creaminess of the milk it is without a doubt there are not only benefits to the way organic food is produced but it also comes through in the product itself tenfold.

Vanilla Creme Brûlée

• 200ml Double Cream
• 100ml Arla Organic Free Range Milk
• 4 egg yolks
• 50g sugar
• 1 vanilla pod

  1. Preheat the water bath to 80C or if using the oven 140C/120 Fan.
  2. Warm the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar together in a small saucepan to 60C.
  3. In a large bowl wish together the egg yolks and sugar until thoroughly combined.
  4. Slowly whisk the warm cream and milk into the egg mixture.
  5. Pour into individual shallow jars and screw on the lids very tightly.
  6. Place the jars in the water bath to cook for 60 mins then remove from the water with tongs and cool on ice.
  7. Alternatively place in oven for 20-22 mins until just set.
  8. Once set sprinkle the surface with sugar and brûlée with a blowtorch.Allow the sugar to set for 5 mins before serving.

Sussex Smokey Scotch Eggs

• 4 medium organic eggs
• 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus oil for deep frying
• Salt and pepper for seasoning
• 1 pint Arla Organic Free Range Milk
• 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
• 250g natural smoked haddock
• 1 bay leaf
• 200g potatoes for mashing
• 1 bunch of finely chopped dill
• 119g High Weald smoked cheddar chopped or grated
• 1 banana shallot
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1/2 leek
• 1 stick of celery
• 1/2 carrot
• 3oz butter
• 3oz plain flour
• 330g flour
• 1 organic medium egg
• 200ml Arla Organic Free Range Milk
• 300g or packet of breadcrumbs

1.Boil seasoned water and then add the eggs, turn down to a simmer for 5 mins for a soft boiled egg, chill in cold water and put aside.

2.Add the smoked haddock, nutmeg and bay leaf to the milk and place in a water bath for 25 mins at 45C – if not using a water bath place the ingredients in a saucepan and dinner for 5 mins.

3.Remove haddock and save both for later

4. Peel and chop 200g of potato and boil for 15-20 mins, once cooked gently mash.

5.Meanwhile finely dice shallots, garlic, leek, celery and carrot. Sauté in oil for 10-15 mins, season to taste.

6.Boil seasoned water and then add the eggs, turn down to a simmer for 5 mins for a soft boiled egg, chill in cold water and put aside.

7.Add the smoked haddock, nutmeg and bay leaf to the milk and place in a water bath for 25 mins at 45C – if not using a water bath place the ingredients in a saucepan and dinner for 5 mins.

8. Remove haddock and save both later.

9.Peel and chop 200g of potato and boil for 15-20 mins, once cooked gently mash.

10.Meanwhile finely dice shallots, garlic, leek, celery and carrot. Sauté in oil for 10-15 mins, season to taste.

11.Peel the boiled eggs and dust in seasoned flour.

12.When the casing mixture is cool delete the into 4 portions and wrap around wash egg enclosing it completely. Chill for at least one hour to ensure it keeps its shape.

13.In the meantime prepare your station to breadcrumb the eggs.

14.You will need three shallow trays, one for the seasoned flour, one for the beaten egg and one for the breadcrumbs.

15.Firstly take the encased eggs one. Y one and put into the seasoned flour, making sure it is well coated.

16.Shake off any access flour and pass the food into the beaten egg, again making sure it is well coated.

17.Shake off any access and finally pass the food into the breadcrumbs again making sure it’s well coated.

18.Tap the food firmly to ensure the breadcrumbs are well attached and remove the crumbs into a clean plate or tray.

19.Now deep fry the completed eggs at 160C until golden brown.

*collaborated post

Mini Ninja At Yo Sushi – Boxpark

I am very lucky that all of my children bar one are open to try pretty much any food that they are introduced to.

This has opened them up to experiencing a wide variety of different cuisines with sushi coming pretty high up on their list of loves.

Trying to make it for ourselves though is something even I haven’t attempted so when we were asked along to Yo Sushi at Boxpark, Croydon I was as excited as the children!

On a Tuesday and Wednesday at 11am during the summer holidays Yo Sushi is running their Mini Ninja Sushi making masterclass aimed at children aged 5-12.

Being as unorganised as always I hadn’t looked at the recommended age range and in fact went along with Oscar(3) and Frankie(5) and Izzy(11).

Our super friendly Sushi maestro sat the children down and got them kitted out in their hats and gloves in preparation to get creating.

They were all given instructions sheets on how to make Maki, Salmon Nigi and Crab Handrolls.

These weren’t neeeded as the children were shown step by step how to make each piece and there was plenty of hands on help if neeeded.

Usually the attention span of my children is limited to cupcakes but amazingly they sat through the whole hour without a fidget or a moan.

Once their boxes were filled with yummy sushi made by their own fair hands there was a quick game of who could move the edamame beans the quickest which was great to burn off a bit of energy.

At the end of the session they were awarded a certificate for all their hard word and given a bag to take home their sushi and the rolling mats they used so they could have a go again at home.

My lot however couldn’t wait to get home to eat so we sat for a while eating there creations whilst I sampled some delightful pork buns that I will certainly be returning again for.

There is still time to get you litttle ones booked in at several different locations around the country and it has certainly come highly recommended from us!
 *Collaborated post 

The Polish Bakery:Review

There was a big knock at the the other day which lead to a cheery man at  clutching a bag of goodies from The Polish Bakery.

I have to admit I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to Polish cuisine so I wasn’t to sure what to expect in my parcel.

The Polish Bakery has been running since 2003 and produces handmade bread, buns, rolls, cake, doughnuts and even birthday cakes with authentic recipes and ingredients directly from Poland.

My parcel included a loaf of their premium white bread, rye bread with prunes and a delicious cheesecake.

Frankie who has multiple allergies was over the moon that he could eat the rye bread and claimed the whole loaf to himself!

It was a perfect combination of ingredients and the juiciness of the prunes added a really good soft  texture to a drier style of bread.

The premium bread was beautifully soft and kept for much longer than most fresh breads.

I saved the best for last with the delectable cheesecake. There was in fact a bit of an argument over the last slice!

The cheesecake looked more like a tiramisu and was a delicious creamy cake with a delicate chocolate taste.

I didn’t imagine their products to be that different to the style in British bakeries but I was very pleasantly surprised and will certainly be going back for more!
*collaborated post

Jamie’s Italian Guilford:Review

I am a little ashamed to say that even though I have been a huge fan of Jamie Oliver since his ‘Naked Chef’ days I have never set foot in to one of his restaurants.

His immense passion for food and will to share this with every walk of life is one of the things I love about him and I know this love and passion will be passed into all his restaurants.

We were recently asked to go along to Jamie’s Guilford branchto see what we though which was a very exciting prospect for me.

A short drive into Guilford lead us to a quirky shaped building that homed Jamie’s Italian.

We were shown upstairs to our table in the brightly coloured restaurant that had had an industrial feel softened by glimpses of rustic Italy.

We had the youngest two with us which is always a challenge when eating out as their attention span leaves a lot to be desired.

Luckily as soon as we were seated the boys were given activity sheets and fantastic viewfinders that they could chose their meal from…these were a hit with the big kids too!

The children’s menu was a great mix of the usual suspects mixed with dishes such as fish stew and gnocchi which is really refreshing to see as not all children like a plate of beige food for every meal!

Oscar went for the baby beefburger which was served with a portion of sweet potato fries and a delicious salad.

Frankie had a bit of a harder time in choosing as his multiple allergies were a little hard to cater for, but our waitress worked round them and was able to alter the happy chicken lollipops that were also served with sweet potato fries and much to Frankie’s excitement a salad in a jar that he could shake himself to cover with dressing.

 

They still had plenty of room for pudding and Frankie was extremely happy with his strawberry and mango lollipop whist Oscar went for the more indulgent warm chocolate brownie that much to his delight was topped with popcorn.

 

Darren and I went for the Super Lunch which is a great value set menu where you can chose from a good variety of dishes and have either two or three courses.

The greediness in me went for the three courses while Darren only opted for two.

Pate is on of my favourites but I can be a little fussy with it. I wasn’t disappointed and the creamy chicken liver pate that covered the crispy bruschetta and made for the perfect combination.

I’m not normally a burger fan but the Gennaro’s Chicken Club caught my eye and I was really glad I went for it.

The soft brioche roll was filled with succulent chicken, crispy pancetta, spicy mayo, rocket and juicy tomato.

If you are a follower of my blog and have read my restaurant reviews you will know that my husband is a creature of habit and calamari and steak are choices pretty much every time we dine out.

Jamie’s Italian had a little twist on the usual calamari and was instead a selection of battered fish and squid that have been coated in a delicately spiced fennel flour and served with a sharp garlic and lemon aioli.

The steak was a little different too as it had first been marinated then served with a garlic butter, crispy fries and a beautiful purple slaw that set off the meal wonderfully.

The children full and happily playing I endulged in Jamie’s favourite lemon polenta cake which was served with cream and a fruit coulis.

The texture the polenta gave the cake was a good change to a traditional sponge style recipe but I could have done with a little bit more of a lemony kick.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our first experience of Jamie’s Italian from the warm welcome to the delicious food.

I think the real pull for me though was the attention to the children’s menu that was not only vast and full of variety but allowed the children to get hands on with their choices and preparation of the meal which I always find is key to encouraging them to eat and try new things.

If you have been inspired to try Jamie’s Italian out for yourself then from now until the 31st August one child eat free with every paying adult so it’s the perfect time to try it out.