Happy Hour At Ping Pong

[PRESS VISIT] This summer was all about making up for the lost time of lockdown and trying to fit in as much fun as we could. A lot of our time was spent with us being tourists in our own city and exploring parts of London we haven’t been too – and this included a new resturant for us – Ping Pong.

Ping Ping offers delicious Dim Sum and carefully crafted cocktails at a whole host of different locations across London. We were visiting the Tate Modern so decided on the South Bank branch for our visit and were welcomed with a smile and shown to our table.

There are no menus per se, instead you have a list of all the foods and drinks avaliable and then us it as a tick sheet for the items you want. I had completely over ordered to begin with but the friendly waiter was on hand to help me rejig a few things and we were then good to go.

We were there for Ping Pong’s happy hour which runs from 3-6pm Monday to Friday and offers a huge range of their Dim Sum and cocktails for half the price.

There really was something to please everyone and the boys loved the opportunity to sample things they haven’t tried before…and of course it would have been rude not to have tried a cocktail or two!

The soft and delicate prawn and chive dumplings were to die for, as were the turmeric and Chinese vegetable dumplings. The children worked their way through plate fulls of crispy duck spring rolls and enjoyed popping edamame beans covered in celery salt. We washed all this down with lychee and iced teas for the boys and Ping Pong signature cocktails for me.

We couldn’t have faulted our first trip at all. Helpful staff, beautiful surroundings and fabuolous food and drink in a relaxed atmosphere…what more could you want!

Not A Holiday Without A Trip To Hever Castle

I actually can’t remember when we last had a hoilday without a trip to Hever Castle. Our love for it never falters and I would find it hard to tell you what season there I love the most…well actually that’s a little lie as it has to be Christmas. With that said though whatever time of year you visit you are in for a treat and for us the other day was no different.

As I’m sure you have noticed the weather this summer hasn’t exactly been the best, but there is always something to see and do at Hever. We headed straight for the playground as this is always one of the boys favourite areas. Frankie is reaching the age where is sometimes gets a little bored of playgrounds now, but we spent a huge amount of time in here with the boys playing chase and making new friends in a huge game of hide and seek.

Next up we plotted up by the water to feed the ducks and have something delicious from the BBQ. Hever is perfect for picnicing and we normally do a mixtutre of both. Taking snacks and drinks to keep us going and then treating ourselves to something nice – which always includes an ice-cream!

We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the children were keen to stay outside, but it is definetly a must if you are planning a visit. Instead we ignored the weather and went straight to the water maze. For me this is such a pretty feature to the already stunning grounds, and something I have never seen anywhere else quite like it.

There are still covid restrictions on this attraction, but the queue was short and we still had a heap of fun.

We sadly missed the times for the falconary exebitions that run twice a day, but we spent the rest of the day enjoying all the little hidden walks around the grounds whilst the boys tried to spot as many naked statues as they could – something else they never seem to get bored off and mananged to meet one of the birds of prey on our way round.

We had yet another fantastic day and can’t wait until our next trip.

Mama Shelter:The Kidzcation

Stepping out of the cab with the blistering sun burning down on us, we could have easily been on an LA strip and not in the centre on Hackney when we arrived at Mama Shelter.

The grand, black building and striking canopies gave the hotel that immediate ‘wow’ factor, which also fills me with dread when it comes to travelling with kids! Little did I know though my worries were soon to be quashed.

We made our way past young couples sipping cocktails in the sun and entered the entrance hall where we were greeted with a ecletic mix of clashing, colourful prints and luxurious fabrics that were a feast for the eyes; but I think the game changer for us all was the arcade game sitting right by the reception; which imedietly put my mind at ease about the children being there and gave them something to do whilst I checked in, in peace.

I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome. I was told everything I needed to know and the children were asked what they were looking forward to during thier stay.

Our stay was going to see us experience Mama Shelter’s ‘Kidzcation’ which means that when you book one room you get one half price which is interconecting if avaliable so the family are all still together.

Our rooms consisted of a double bed and two singles which worked perfectly for us. There was plenty of room to move around and all the little essentials you need such as an area to make drinks and gorgous own brand bathroom goodies.

Screen addict Frankie homed straight in on the TV and was over the moon with the huge array of free movies on offer…I think he would have been happy to stay there all weekend. Another lovely little extra were the sweets on the kids beds and the super cute Looney Tunes masks that the boys kept on for the majority of their stay .

All settled in we made our way down to dinner. The restaurant was buzzing and had a fantastic atmosphere. There was a heated debate over who was sitting on the sofa which resulted in a full on meltdown from Oscar. Normally this would make for a fraught evening, but thanks to our wonderful waiter the crisis was divered and his kinds words telling me what a fab job I was doing with the kids meant so much!

We feasted on the best burgers I have ever tasted and finshed off with a variety of puddings from cookies and milk to brulee’d pain perdu.

The children’s menu mirrored that of the adults which is always somthing I like, instead of the usual beige offerings. Mine all wolfed down their meals and I had the chance to sit and enjoy a G&T in peace while the boys played on the super cool football table.

A check out time of 12pm meant that we could have a really lazy morning which is always welcome when you have numerous little ones to get ready. A few coffees, a bit of TV watching and a long relaxing shower later we went to fill our bellies once more. Children under 12 eat free for breakfast and they get to choose from the main menu which has a great variety. We are definitely a pancake loving family and couldn’t turn down the fluffy panckes dripping with syrup and covered in crispy bacon.

Full to the brim the boys made full use of the arcade machines before we headed to the karaoke room. Tucked away at the bottom of the hotel are two karaoke rooms where Oscar was in his element. The disco lighting and iPads to select your favourite tunes were a fantastic addition to an already wonderful stay.

If you are looking for a stay that caters perfectly for the kids whilst still giving the parents something special then Mama Shleter is the place to be!

Slow Cooking With Homepride

[AD] Cooking for a large family with varying ages can be a challenge to say the least. There are always likes and dislikes, someone is hungry when someone else isn’t or there is a last minute friend turning up that needs feeding.

All of these issues with the need of serving them something nutritious as well as tasty can be mind blowing at times, but this is where my slow cooker is my saviour.

I bought my first slow cooker back before I can even remember now, after getting fed up with serving up a plate of beige food when I was pushed for time after the kids swimming lessons. We would get in late, they would be ravenous and I just reached for nuggets and chips or pizza as they were the quickest and easiest option. 

The more children I had and the more after school clubs that were happening, the more I was reaching for freezer food and I knew this wasn’t good for any of us.

The slow cooker came on the scene and I marveled at how I could prepare a whole range of meals that were healthy and filling in the morning, and this would be ready to eat as soon as we got in at night.

My narrow minded thoughts of them only being used to cook stews were quashed and over the years the different meals I have prepared have been so vast. The only thing that sometimes holds me up is having a bare cupboard as some recipes require a fair few ingredients and this is why I have been so pleased to discover the Homepride Slow Cooker range.

Homepride slow cooker sauces are concentrated sauces that once added to a few simple ingredients creates a perfectly slow cooked meal packed with flavour in three simple steps.

For me the sauces are perfect for those times when you are in a real rush as all the flavour is packed into this handy little pouch for you which is so convenient when you are pushed for time…or inspiration.

Big families also come with big food bills and these Homepride sauces are extremely budget friendly as there is no need for a high list of ingredients which you can find with some recipes.

As I said earlier, another hurdle I face with my gang is needing to please everyone’s tastes which is no mean feat! The Homepride sauces offer chilli con carne, chicken curry, beef and ale and BBQ pulled pork. My mini critics are a hard bunch to please but I can honestly say each recipe was a winner.

The issue was choosing which sides to have, but because the recipes are so quick and easy to prepare I didn’t mind adding a few different side dishes to please everyone.

The beef and ale worked perfectly served with a creamy mash that I had made in advance, and for my potato fearing kids, chunks of fresh bread worked well. The pulled pork was the perfect after school meal as it could be piled inside floury baps with a big green salad.

The favourite for us though was the chilli con carne. I can never get the combination of spices right and the Homepride sauce gave me a rich sauce with just the right amount of spice.

Head over to my highlights on Instagram to see a step by step guide of how I made it and please let me know what you think if you give it a try.

Something For All:Christmas Gift Guide

[GIFTED] Last year I decided to mix things up a little and instead of making lots of separate gift guides I did one guide that included a little something for everyone, as let’s face it we don’t all fit into the same box do we!

I hope you manage to find something that takes your fancy here as let’s face it we all need a little cheering up this year don’t we.

Something For Our Tummies:

Chocolate Hamper – The ‘sweet dreams’ hamper from Willie’s Cacao is a chocoholics dream with this stinking g hamper full of goodies from gooey hazelnut spread, indulgent hot chocolate, tasty chocolate bars and much more!

Sparkling Kefir Water – I for one have been a lot more conscious of my health this year and have been looking for ways to enjoy things that are good for you but don’t compromise on taste, and this is exactly what you get from Agua De Madre low alcohol sparkling water that comes in three different flavours; making it a great alternative from the usual Christmas indulgences.

Pizza Making Kits – Gifts don’t always have to come in the form of a present under the tree and I personally prefer something a little more interactive, which is exactly what you get with the brilliant pizza making kits from Birtellis who deliver gorgeous stone baked pizza delivery lots directly to your door.

You can pick from a whole host of different toppings that are great fun to make as a family and sit down and enjoy in front of a movie or two!

Things For Teens:

PMS Gift Box – I put this one here for teens as I think it’s going to make the perfect gift for my teen daughter, but I know there are so many ladies out there that would love this gift box. Our Remedy have put together a whole range of gift boxes full of goodies such as their Our Remedy CBD oil, organic sanitary pads and tampons, vegan chocolates and lots more.

Smartphone Projector – Another one here that’s definitely not just for teens is the smartphone projector. This projector allows you to simply pop your phone inside the cardboard projector and let your favourite film fill your wall!

Cards Against Humanity – Now this game has been a huge hit in our family for many years now, but it has caused problems as for obvious reasons the younger ones haven’t been able to join in. The new Cards Against Humanity edition is a much fun as the iconic original game with a huge 600 cards you need to give it a try!

Car Lovers:

Carfume – Gone are the days of having a garish cardboard smelly tree hanging from your rear view mirror as you can now make your car small gorgeous in style with the Carfume Deluxe Edition that gives off the scent of some of your favourite scents in this sleek and stylish design.

Green Fingers:

Living Plant Food – Indoor plants are becoming more and more popular and this gorgeous looking indoor plant care set will help you look after your plant babies in style.

Feel Good Gifts:

Happy Kids Affirmation Cards – It can sometimes be a challenge for children to open up and talk about their feelings so things like these gorgeously illustrated affirmation cards are a great way to increase confidence and build a positive attitude.

Box Of Favours – Sometimes giving someone your time is far more important than a physical gift and this is exactly what you get with this Box Of Favours there are a deli of cards that offer simple things like a cup of tea or breakfast in bed which can mean so much.

All The Toys:

Teething Toy – Teething can cause such a problem for babies as well as parents so giving them something like the Matchstick Monkey to sooth their gums would make for a brilliant present!

Colouring:

Stib Colouring – I love anything that allows little ones to get creative and what’s more with these Stib colouring pencils you get to read a positive word that is embossed on the pencils every time you pick one up!

Stomp Rocket No batteries, no fuel and the ability to shoot 400ft in the air within minutes! Now what’s not to love about the Stomp Rocket!

Skateboard – Now skateboards have been on Santa lists for longer than I can remember and this Tony Hawkes board is perfect for those that are just starting out and wanting to practice their skills!

National Geographic Toys – Frankie is a huge fan of National Geographic and for me anything that gets kids engaged in something fun as well as educational is a win in my books! They have a great range of kits from shark tooth kits, to real bug kits and more!

Coding Toy – Coding is definitely a skill our littles ones need to learn as early as possible now and the amazing Botley is a fantastic way to help kids learn.

Botley is a coding robot that offers 100% screen free learning and allows children to build on their problem solving and critical thinking skills by taking part in a whole host of activities and challenges.

Getting Crafty – I love a toy you can make and keep and this is exactly what you get with the Fuzzikins Ice Cream Van Bag using the washable pens you can decorate the van and all it’s accessories which can then be taken anywhere with you.

Peppa Pig – Peppa Pig is loved by everyone and I have always been impressed with the amazing toys they come out with; and I’ve not been disappointed with the brilliant grow and play pots.

They allow children to learn about growing and nurturing alongside their favourite Peppa characters.

Subway Surfers – The Subway Surfer game is a huge hit with my youngest two so I know that the Spray Crew and Shorties collectibles would make for the perfect stocking fillers.

Pen To Paper:

Dairy Diary – I’m sure I’m not alone in having a pretty empty diary last year, so this year it would be lovely to receive a diary like this beautiful dairy diary to fill with hopes and plans for the year ahead.

This diary also gives you lots of recipes and tips for the home and garden.

Cookbook – Lots more people are choosing to opt for a vegetarian or vegan diet, or at least have a few meat free days, so the Zest For Life cookbook is a great way to find some super tasty recipes.

Something To Wear:

Leggings – Leggings have been a wardrobe staple this year and they won’t be going anywhere fast! I’ve been wearing them to workout as well and leisure wear and Love Legging is the place to go for all your legging needs. They have a huge range and my favourites have been their Energise Leggings for training and their high waisted Everyday Leggings for wearing anytime at all!

Something Special –

Last year I featured a gorgeous necklace from I Love Rachel and this year she has come up with another beautiful piece in this copper necklace with a mint green enamel disc…it’s the little touches of a chocolate surprise in the gift box that mean so much too!

A Little Glow:

Candle – You can’t go wrong with a candle as a present, but these candles from Kindred Fires are something a little special as they smell incredible and offer a personalisation service to make it your very own!

Something For The Garden:

Bird Feeder – We’ve been spending a lot more time outside this year and have really appreciated everything it offers, especially all the nature we need to look after.

This gorgeous Henry Bell Bulrush Feeder with its bulrush is a beautiful addition to the garden.

Last but not last is a bit of a funny one, but something my husband would love me to have…an anti snore ring.

This ring is worn an hour before bed and during the night to stop storing by using pressure points.

I know the gift of a good nights sleep would be the perfect gift for a lot of people!

Top Quality Meat Straight To Your Door With Meatpac

Lockdown had seen a whole host of new changes to people’s lives and I would say that how we shop would definitely be one of them.

We saw panic buying with the supermarkets being ransacked, to people not wanting to leave their homes and frantically trying to book home delivery slots that were like gold dust. A lot of us also turned to local small businesses that really came to the help of so many in this time of need – one of these was Kenneth Bashford who formed Meatpac which is a home delivery service, providing quality meats at reasonable prices.

They supply a huge range of different packages from family to granny, breakfast to BBQ, roasting to steak and many more so there really is something for everyone.

The other week I received the family pack that was delivered straight to my door with a smile and before I had even looked in the bag I was hit with the gorgeous smell of herbs that had been added to the pack which was a lovely touch.

We are a larger than average family and I was thinking this pack would probably be on the small size for us but I was shocked at how much there was…definitely value for money and a great variety.

I took some meat and put it straight into the freezer for later in the week and then pondered over what to do with the rest.

I decided that due to the great quality of the meat I would keep it simple and just enjoy the flavour with a mixed grill which went down very well with my lot!

The meat was flavoursome and I got no shrinkage like you do with supermarket meats.

There no better time to support local businesses and when the quality and value for money is as good as this then what can you possibly lose!

An Overnight Escape To The Hut – Deal

Lowdown has meant seeing a lot of our own four walls or taking trips to out local green spaces. I am extremely grateful that we have a lovely home and plenty of places to choose from when it comes to getting out and about, but after months of end not going to far afield and not seeing friends I was delighted when the lovely Hanna from The Savvy Mummy asked to meet up at her beautiful hut in Deal – Kent.

It’s only just over an hour from us and I was so happy to see a beautiful, smiling face greet us and the peaceful Kingsdown Holiday Park.

The park is home to a collection of stunning wooden huts, set in the middle of a beautiful green space just a stones throw away from the beach.

The park has so much to keep the children busy from mini golf to tennis, a well equipped play area to table tennis and the ability to allow you to let the kids roam free and find their own fun.

The Hut itself is a real home from home with a warm feeling as soon as you step in. The ground floor has a well equipment kitchen and a living space with a dining area which you sometimes don’t find in places such as this. There is also a good sized bathroom a double bedroom and a super cute children’s room complete with bunk beds and a disco ball light that kept the boys very amused!

My favourite part was the mezzanine floor that had bunting draped from each and every banister and had two good sized double beds. The cute triangular windows also have toy a gorgeous view of the grounds and the sea!

The Hut really is a tardis and is deceptively more spacious than than it looks. We are a big family and it could house us all with ease.

After exploring everything the park had to offer we jumped back in the car and took a short drive into Deal town centre to get some chips and have a dip in the sea before Hanna and the girls headed home.

If we had more time we could easily have made the walk into town as there is a wide a flat promenade that is perfect for the kids to scooter on and is definitely on our list for a return trip.

After a sad goodbye we headed back to the hut for the evening and the boys were eager to head out on their own around the park. This kind of thing always fills me with anxiety – not so much because I am worried about their safety as I felt completely space there, but I know how my youngest two have an extreme ability to annoy and I don’t want them to impose on others!

After a while and with regular checks from their big sister I relaxed a little and was able to have a cup of tea in peace whist they enjoyed their new found independence.

I’m not one to sit still for to long though and I was getting itchy feet, so I took Oscar on the few minute walk down to the sea front. This section of beach had a row of pretty cottages and two pubs which I have heard serve great food and have benches on the beach where people were enjoying a glass of wine whilst watching the sunset.

Me on Oscar however headed( pj’s on) down to the sea to see what we could find in the rock pools. My ever inquisitive youngest had a bit of a shock though when he got a sea urchin sucker onto his finger!

A little bit wet and weary we went back and enjoyed chocolate dipped marshmallows and got an early-ish night!

The next morning Frankie was up by the front door at the crack of dawn trying to spot his new found friends. For me lockdown has meant he has wanted to do very little aside from be stuck in front of a screen, so seeing him back to his old self and wanted to get out and about was amazing.

We brought a few of our own supplies for breakfast, but Hanna has left the kitchen well equipped with all the essential such as tea, coffee and cereal which was most unexpected and very welcome.

Toast, and a tidy up and it was time to say fair well to our over night home and head back into Deal to see what else there was to offer.

I had come across Deal Pier Kitchen whilst having a look online and had made it my mission to visit before we left.

I didn’t even realise Deal had a pier and unlike the usual fairground filled piers this was just home to the restaurant that sat right at the end.

The pier has a brutalist feel to it which I love and the restaurant has been built in keeping with this, keep the exterior dark, with plenty of glass to take in the stunning sea views.

There were lots of delicious choices on the menu, but being early we grabbed skinny fries and cake…great for the waistline!

Izzy was desperate to have mooch around the shops, I was not so much so with all the COVID regulations in place, but we window shopped and Deal had a good variety of your usual suspects as well as some pretty homeware and gifts shops in a pretty lame type setting.

I really felt we made the most of an overnight stay and packed in as much as we could with The Hut being the perfect place for us to do this.

The location was perfect to relax in and just let kids be kids and it allows you to do as little or as much as you want.

We had a wonderful stay and hope to be back very soon!

The Light Bar:From Brunch To Cocktails

[GIFTED] Nestled away just on the outskirts of Coulsdon town centre is The Light Bar – a cafe by day and bar by night.

I had passed by so many times since it’s recent opening and never had a chance to stop until the other day when I popped along for breakfast with a friend.

The decor is cool and edgy and something a little different to what you usually find in Coulsdon which makes for a very refreshing change.

We were greeted with a warm smile and given a menu to peruse. Breakfast was well catered for and you could have something as simple as a pastry to a full English breakfast, tasty treats on sourdough bread, gorgeous bagels and lots more.

For those of you that have followed me for a while will know I have a bit of a thing for pancakes and The Light Bar didn’t disappoint. The fluffy and light pancakes were served with yogurt and berries and I could have easily gone back for more; whilst my friend opted for the avocado on sourdough which was presented beautifully and I was told it tasted as good as it looked!

We sat for a while chatting over great coffee and taking a look at everything else they had to offer, and there really is a vast choice of things to do.

The Light Bar has an equally good lunch menu and I think aside from the quality of the food what really stood out for me was the great prices, which isn’t always easy to find these days.

They run special events such as afternoon teas and bottomless brunches(which we are already planning on coming back for).

In the evenings they offer a huge range of cocktails, a resident DJ on a Saturday night and even the option of private hire and I can assure you it would be the perfect venue for a party.

I was super impressed with my first visit and will certainly be back very soon…probably to try out that bottomless brunch!

Strapping Myself To The Wagon In 2020

This picture has been doing the rounds since May 2018. It was the last time I finally felt like I was getting things back on track, but sadly despite several failed attempts the gap I had created in my jeans is now well and truly full again, as is the disappointment in myself.

My life used to revolve around the gym and healthy eating. For me this was always a priority, nothing else would get in the way of it and if I’m honest with myself it was obsessional, unhealthy, made me ill and in turn made my family suffer because of it.

The cycle of super strict eating, fad diets, over exercising followed by overeating and doing nothing have since filled the years resulting in beating myself up and living with the huge sense of failure.

I have let any kind of self care go and my hair and skin have both suffered terribly because of this, so this is something I have been looking to change and have found some of the best hair products for women from Lilyhair.

As with every New Year I have filled myself with hope and a new found motivation has been fuelled with the hopes that this year things will finally change for the better and I will find a happy medium when it comes to health and well-being.

For the past few years it hasn’t just been the weight gain that has impacted my life, it’s been the implementations of this that are really showing.

I am run down the majority of the time, continual headaches and migraines that I know are linked to my bad diet, dull and dry skin that I’ve never had before and the inability to exercise like I used to.

All of these things have been staring me in the face for so long but I have been choosing to overlook them and hope they just go away which I know is not going to happen unless I change my lifestyle.

Above all of this though I want to to be a better role model to my children. I don’t want them to think that the perfect body is the only way to true happiness but I do want them to understand that we are blessed to be given the bodies we have and we should do our best to look after them, feed them, nourish them and not abuse them like I have been doing for way too long now!

2019 – Our Year In Pictures

I have been reflecting on the past year and kicking myself for not doing as much as I should, achieving as many goals as I wanted and generally beating myself up which isn’t a good thing at all.

After flicking through my camera roll I had a word with myself and realised that I am eternally grateful for my happy and healthy family and all the things we have accomplished in 2019 and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 brings us.