Thursday, 14 December 2017

Mummy Diaries | Meeting Father Christmas at Centre: MK

Monday 4 December 2017

As a child, is there anything more exciting at Christmas than meeting Father Christmas? We saw him at many a school bazaar, shopping precinct (back when it was Chapel High, not the Baytree Centre!) and even on a steam train at Colne Valley Railway... my, that man gets around! Anyway, it wasn’t me that was seeing him this time around; it was Alfie’s first visit – yes, even at 11 weeks old! We’d been to Centre: MK the past few Mondays and it was something we were always going to do, even if he didn’t understand it or get as involved as the other children.

The ticket was £8.50 – a lot more expensive than the couple of pounds my parents paid when I was a child. It was cheaper in November, but the price is also increasing throughout December, up until Christmas Eve – the last day to visit. I think then, it reaches about £10. It wasn’t just a quick visit into Santa’s Grotto though; this was the North Pole experience!

Our tickets were for 2:40pm and we made our way to the ‘North Pole’ with a group of other children and their mummys and daddys. We took our seats on a bench and met a lovely elf called Twinkle Toes, along with her chubby sidekick, Bauble. She told us about the reindeers and the newest addition, baby Norbert, who we eventually met – after luring him out of his home with a rendition of Jingle Bells. Unfortunately, Norbert was just a puppet and not a real deer, as I was expecting. After stroking his shiny hoofs and seeing his antlers light up, it was time to exchange our bells for bags and it was time to make reindeer food – ready to sprinkle on the lawn, mantelpiece or hearth, ready for Santa and the reindeers’ arrival on Christmas Eve. And then it was time to meet the man himself...
Like I say, Alfie had no idea what was going on, but was such a good boy and didn’t cry. We told Father Christmas that Alfie has been very well behaved for the 11 weeks he’s been in our lives and Santa agreed, he deserved a present this year. We then had this lovely photo taken... I say lovely, look at Alfie’s face! And look at the unfortunate positioning of my hand. Still, it’s a nice memory of Alfie’s first Christmas and will be something I put in his treasure box to look back on.

We also paid an additional £2 each to ride the Christmas train and did this after visiting the grotto. I enjoyed it, but think the price should have been included in the original ticket – you only go round once and you’re not on the train for any more than five minutes.

It’s all worth checking out if you’re at Centre: MK. The whole experience is situated by John Lewis. There’s a giant snow globe to have your photo taken in too, along with some little stalls selling cheese, candy floss and other delights.

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

This Week for Dinner #1

Another new series I have wanted to introduce since we moved and now I’m getting quite a back log! As I mentioned in a previous post, when I was pregnant, I became such a lazy cook, more often than not, relying on mum to cook for us. But, as avid readers of my blog and social channels will know, I’m a massive foodie and love cooking... hell, I’d even say I was good at it!

Now I’m at home full-time with Alfie and Ashley works long hours, it’s down to me to ensure dinner is on the table. We always eat fresh, too – something I think is very important. There is rarely processed food in the house and long may that continue! I love to keep it simple and will often use a maximum of five ingredients, before adding seasonings, marinades and other cupboard staples.

If you’d like me to post any of these recipes, please let me know in the comments, or let me know on social – as always, my links are at the end of this post.
Soy & honey chicken rainbow stir fry
Chicken – whole wheat noodles – sugar snaps – peppers – spring onions
Salmon parcels with paprika potatoes & green veg
Salmon fillet – potato – sugar snaps – tenderstem broccoli – spinach
Pork fillet fried rice
Pork fillet – brown rice – carrot – peppers – tenderstem broccoli
Creamy chicken with vegetables
Chicken – cream – mushrooms – spinach – sugar snaps

What do you think of this new series?

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Mummy Diaries | Fun at Thrift Farm

Sunday 26 November 2017

Growing up, I loved going to the farm – I even had my 5th birthday party at Old MacDonald’s Farm in Brentwood. As soon as I knew there were a couple of open farms nearby to our new house, I knew I’d be visiting them as soon as possible – and most likely, regularly. The closest is Thrift Farm, so the three of us (it was a Sunday!) went for a super cute family outing!

First things first, we have loyalty cards! Admission is £5 for adults (£4 when it’s off-peak) and Alfie gets in for free (I think you don’t pay anything until two years old), so very reasonable, I think. We said we’d never visited before and after a quick safety briefing and a handful of leaflets, received our loyalty cards, with stamp number one. On visit six, we will receive a free meal in the Food4Thought cafe – so well worth it! I would also like to mention that Thrift Farm are all for helping the community and equal opportunities, so offer work-based support to those with learning disabilities and mental health issues. Whether they’re working in the cafe, in the gift shop, or out on the farm, it’s a fantastic opportunity and something equally rewarding for employee and employer!

Anyway, let’s talk animals! While Alfie slept in the car driving there and continued to doze in his buggy, I was SO excited! Like I said, I love farms and farm animals... not as much as the zoo, mind, but I’ll be taking him there in the summer! As we went from the car park to the gift shop/entrance, we saw pigs: very muddy pigs that were enjoying wallowing in the dirt and grunted with glee. There were also donkeys (Alfie wasn’t interested in those), the cutest Shetland ponies and a couple of sheep. He woke up for the geese – and there were plenty of them – along with chickens, swans, ducks and other fowl. The ones with the ‘cool haircuts’ were my favourites. See what I mean?

We weren’t able to walk everywhere, as some of the tracks were quite narrow and others, boggy – so not totally buggy-friendly. To be honest, I would be inclined to carry Alfie round next time, or we will have to get him some reins, once he starts walking! We did manage to see most of the animals – a reasonable feat considering the weather. He was obviously too little for the play area and I don’t think all the areas were open, either. Like I say, we’ll return.

We must have spent over an hour at the farm, as it was quite cold and luckily, as we were leaving, Alfie was getting hungry (often the way!). Thrift Farm is currently only open at weekends and this will continue until February 4th. However, the cafe is still open during the week – I’m not sure if the hours are restricted, though. I won’t be going back until the New Year, but once it’s open again during the week, I will aim to visit at least once a month – it was a lovely little trip out.

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Instagram #21

Micky Flanagan at the O2 – Lunch at Perrywood Garden Centre – Selfie, ft. the Snapchat filter that I wish was permanently on me – Joe’s chicken pie... lush – Alfie meets his great nanny Vera for the first time – Alfie being cute for nanny Rose – Lunch at Wagamama – The view from Willow Lake – Pumpkin patch at Cressing Barns – Alfie is winter ready – Scones at Merrymeade Tea Rooms – World Prematurity Day

It’s been a while since I did a life update and so much has happened – including the house move. This post will feature Essex and Milton Keynes, so let’s go back to the middle of October.

Ashley and I went to see Micky Flanagan at the O2. He’d wanted to go for ages and I never managed to get tickets. Luckily, more London dates were announced and I snapped up the tickets as soon as they went on sale. I bought them before I knew I was pregnant and if Alfie had been on time, he’d only been a week old and I probably wouldn’t have gone. As it was, we were still in Essex so we left him with my mum for the evening and ‘out out’ we went! It was such a good night, I’d never seen Micky before live and he was hilarious... it was also nice to have a glass (or two!) of wine.

When I was still in Essex, I met up with my work bestie Poppy and her mum for lunch. We went to Perrywood Garden Centre, near Tiptree – and it was so lush. We all had a ploughman’s board, followed by coffee and cake and it was just good to catch up – and for Mumma T to meet Alfie for the first time. I wish we had spent more time at the garden centre, the Christmas shop looked amazing!

The following week, my auntie came to stay with us for a few days and mum planned lots of trips out. On the Monday, we went to Lakeside for a girly shop and lunch – at Wagamama, of course (read: Girly Lunch at Wagamama, Intu Lakeside). We also spent an afternoon at Cressing Barns, which is well worth a visit if you’ve not been before (read: Autumn Afternoon at Cressing Barns).

And then I moved counties and into our first family home and life got busy... well busier! My mummy diaries series will hopefully keep you up to date with the adventures that Alfie and I (and Ashley when he’s not working) get up to. As I mentioned on my New House, New Town post, there’s a lovely lake on the estate, perfect for walks – although it’s way too cold at the moment! It will also be so nice when Alfie is a bit bigger and running about on the mound.

Finally, three weeks ago, I was back in Essex as Alfie had his eight-week check-up and vaccinations. It was a good opportunity to see mum and as you may know, we went for afternoon tea at Merrymeade House in Brentwood (read: Afternoon Tea at Merrymeade House), which was nice. Just a heads up to mummas expecting these jabs, your baby will be inconsolable for a few hours... Alfie was on Calpol for a day and then antibiotics for three (clearing up a chest infection), but his thighs were also swollen for a couple of days. He has his 12-week boosters soon... eek!

So like I say, very busy! But hopefully the new angle on my blog will make interesting reading. I would love to start doing outfit posts, so please let me know if that’s something you’d like to see.

What have you been up to lately?

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Mummy Diaries | Exploring Rushmere Country Park

Rushmere Country Park, Milton Keynes. Park, Mummy Diaries, Day Out
Rushmere Country Park, Milton Keynes. Park, Mummy Diaries, Day Out
Rushmere Country Park, Milton Keynes. Park, Mummy Diaries, Day Out
Friday 17 November 2017

I am so thankful for the Seesaw app – Ashley recommended it – which tells you about classes, things to do and what’s on in your area. You can filter by interests, your child(ren)’s age(s) and whether you want the search to include adult-only events. Thanks to the app, I found out there was a country park just a few miles down the road.

Now I made a big mistake the first time I planned on visiting. The app said the park was free – well duh, it’s a park – but there is a £3 charge for car parking. You pay on the exit, but the machine only accepts coins and the exact change. I, of course, didn’t have the correct money, so turned around in the entrance, drove home and sulked. This time was a lot more successful... I made it in!

Anyone that knows me will know my sense of direction is truly terrible and if I’m totally honest, large open parks fill me with dread. I’m the sort of person to lose my car in Tesco car park, so not only do I worry I won’t find my car, I also worry I won’t even make it back to the car park! I had a quick look at the map by the entrance and noticed a number of trails... unfortunately, they meant nothing to me! There are routes for dogs, for cyclists, for walkers of all abilities; plays areas for children; a heronry (perfect in spring); a visitor centre and a cafe. I’ll definitely return because I didn’t really explore very much – but it means I need to bring Ash with me... there’s no chance of us getting lost then!

I was in fact really fortunate, because I managed to do a small loop without getting lost or panicking. It was a total fluke, mind, I didn’t know which signs to read or follow. It was only about a kilometre so I did it twice, before admitting defeat – it was too cold for both Alfie and I and the terrain wasn’t the best. There were some paths along the way, but also lots of uneven mud and piles of autumn leaves.

I personally love going for walks at this time of year: the bare trees, different coloured leaves, crisp air – providing I’m wrapped up warm. With the park practically on our doorstep, if I’m ever at a loose end, I know I’ve got somewhere I can come to... even if it’s only for an hour!

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Mummy Diaries | Afternoon Tea at Merrymeade House

Tuesday 14 November 2017

I was back in Essex as Alfie had his eight-week check-up and immunisations and wasn’t yet registered with a doctor here (truly traumatic btw mummas, but he also had a slight chest infection, which was horrible to see). It was a good opportunity to see mum as Tuesdays are notoriously a busy day for Ashley and I didn’t fancy spending the day alone. I mentioned about doing something or going somewhere for lunch and mum suggested Merrymeade House, which used to be a college and where she lived. These days the rooms can be hired for events, conferences and the like – but there’s also a tearoom!

It’s a shame there wasn’t much else to do, as it would have been lovely to go for a walk. The scenery was lovely, especially at this time of year. We did walk along the dirt track to where mum used to live, which is now a nursery, but that was it.

The tearoom was inside the house and although small and cosy, has been decorated so nicely – think neutral colours with a slight vintage feel. They’d also been decorated for the festive season and there were items to buy, including house decs and tealight holders. We sat in the window, meaning there was room for Alfie in his car seat – I propped it up on a chair. There would have been no room for his buggy, so mummas, leave those in the car – there isn’t that much space between the tables or to manoeuvre.

You have to go up to order and pay before you leave but your food and drink is brought to the table. There are light bites like sandwiches and homemade soup, as well as more substantial fare including jacket potatoes. But we were there for afternoon tea (standard) – mum’s treat!
First up, look at that china – I loved it! When our tea was brought over, the waitress said she had tried to match the cups and saucers but I quite liked the mismatched sets, which added charm to the tearoom. There was a choice of tea on offer and we went for breakfast tea – traditional. We had a selection of sandwiches (not too sure if we were meant to choose our fillings), which consisted of ham salad, brie & cranberry and smoked salmon & cream cheese. There were nine finger sandwiches in total, so one-and-a-half of each filling and all were tasty.
The scones weren’t homemade, so Merrymeade lose points for that, but they were still enjoyable – made better with the lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam we had. And to the cakes... well we could choose two varieties of cake, from a choice of about seven. Mum chose fruit cake over coffee & walnut, because let’s be honest, it goes with tea better. The slices were packed full of currants and cherries so it was a good choice. I picked the peanut butter & banana loaf cake with peanut butter frosting, following a recommendation from our waitress – she mentioned it was homemade, too. Banana and peanut butter is a winning combination in my eyes and as it was the crunchy variety that was used, it added a bit of texture to the soft sponge.

I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon – it made a change to go somewhere different and somewhere I’d not even heard of before. It was also good to spend some time with mum, although I still see her regularly, and for her to see Alfie. I’d definitely return for a mid-morning coffee and cake catch up, or even a bite to eat.

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Mummy Diaries | Autumn Afternoon at Cressing Barns

Cressing Barns, Essex, Day Out, Mummy Dairies, PBloggers, LBloggers
Cressing Barns, Essex, Day Out, Mummy Dairies, PBloggers, LBloggers
Cressing Barns, Essex, Day Out, Mummy Dairies, PBloggers, LBloggers
Wednesday 1 November 2017

I don’t know about you, but I really take where I live for granted. Not so much at the moment, but when I was back living at home mum’s. The village was is beautiful, surrounded by country parks, plenty of places to visit by car and not too far from the seaside. I knew when I moved, I would miss it and wish I’d spent more time outdoors. Which is why I really enjoyed an afternoon at Cressing Barns so much.

Cressing is just north of Witham, northwest of Tiptree and is a historical site, home to three old barns (previously used for barley, wheat and malt), as well as a lovely walled garden and tearoom. The barns can be hired for events, including weddings and craft fairs, but it’s a lovely place to stop by and have a look around – especially if you’re heading to the tearooms (worth the visit alone!).

There’s plenty to see – although not all completely buggy friendly – with smaller buildings to go inside, as well as the barns themselves. Mum did have to wait outside with Alfie a couple of times as I explored. Walking around the gardens were fine though, there’s plenty of space and while the terrain isn’t completely level as you walk around, it was never a problem.
Cressing Barns, Essex, Day Out, Mummy Dairies, PBloggers, LBloggers
Cressing Barns, Essex, Day Out, Mummy Dairies, PBloggers, LBloggers
The gardens were really beautiful and although they’d be better in full bloom, the pumpkin patch gave me all the autumn/Halloween feels! Isn’t it cute? The smells were lovely as we walked, with flowers, fruits and herbs grown everywhere – and even better, everything was labelled! You could also buy small potted plants or packets of seeds for a minimal fee. We didn’t buy any, though.
Cressing Barns, Essex, Day Out, Mummy Dairies, PBloggers, LBloggers
Cressing Barns, Essex, Day Out, Mummy Dairies, PBloggers, LBloggers
And to the tearoom, which even contained products by Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree to purchase. My mum and auntie shared the afternoon tea for two: a selection of sandwiches (they chose brie and coronation turkey, both on granary bread) with a pot of hot gooseberry chutney, scones with clotted cream and Tiptree strawberry preserve and a selection of four cakes/pastries. It looked lovely. The brie was thick cut and there was even a small salad amongst the sandwiches. I helped them out with the cakes, having a piece of red velvet, as well as half a scone. Of course, I had a ploughman’s: slices of ham, turkey, cheddar and brie, with a large salad, apple slices, homemade creamy coleslaw and a fresh cottage loaf roll. In my Tiptree jar was a gorgeous onion chutney – perfect for accompanying the cheese. This was probably one of the best ploughman’s I’d ever had and I even managed to eat it all.

I would definitely return for afternoon tea and another look around, probably in the spring. While the weather was perfect for the time of year – sunny, but crisp – it would be good to see the garden in full bloom. I imagine weddings in the warmer months are particularly beautiful, especially with all the wonderful backdrops... if any of my friends are getting married soon?

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Girly Lunch at Wagamama, Intu Lakeside

Dining, Essex, Review, Wagamama,Intu Lakeside
Dining, Essex, Review, Wagamama,Intu Lakeside
A few weeks ago (well the week before we moved), mum, my auntie, Alfie and I went to Lakeside. There were a few shops my auntie wanted to go to while she was over here and I was obviously in need of baby and house bits – it certainly was a successful day! Whenever we go to Lakeside, we always go to Wagamama for lunch – the last time, I was pregnant so was restricted on what I could eat. It’s fair to say I was looking forward to it... even with a hungry and grumpy munchkin in tow.

Upon arrival, we had to wait for a table, not usually something you have to do at Wagamama, but because the waitress was clearing a table big enough for us and the buggy. Most pushchairs and prams were parked up at the entrance, but there was no way I was leaving mine there, especially with our shopping so far! It was fine though – we waited no longer than five minutes and we had plenty of space, with a bench to ourselves. I’m used to sharing tables with strangers at Wagas, so it’s always a bonus when you get a bit of lunchtime privacy!

As seafood was out of the question last time (read: Back for buns and my Wagamama fix at Intu Lakeside), I was excited to be having my all-time favourite Wagas dish: a side of Chilli Squid. It was definitely worth waiting nine months for! The coating was crisp, the squid itself wasn’t rubbery and the chilli was just enough – the seasoning wasn’t as spicy as I had remembered. Of course, we also shared a side of Bang Bang Cauliflower – a regular occurrence since it joined the menu last November (read: New Dishes Galore at Wagamama, Intu Lakeside). My auntie enjoyed it too. In fact we all said we weren’t fans of cauliflower and would only eat it when covered in cheese sauce. But when it’s cooked and flavoured this well, wow!
Dining, Essex, Review, Wagamama,Intu Lakeside
I always used to order the Seafood Coconut Broth, which has now discontinued *sad face*. So when I saw a Seafood Ramen, I just had to go for that instead. Sea bream, shell-on prawns and breaded tilapia on a bed of ramen noodles in a vegetable broth, garnished with pea shoots, wakame and samphire – what’s not to like? Well truth be told, I was quite disappointed. The portion size was huge, with far too much for me – especially after demolishing those sides. The sea bream and prawns were really good; I just wasn’t a fan of the coated tilapia, as of course it was soggy from sitting in the broth. The coconut broth was so flavoursome, but this was rather bland and needed some chilli or something to give it a bit of oomph! I had high hopes following the previous seafood broth, so was underwhelmed... don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but not to the extent I’d have it again.
Dining, Essex, Review, Wagamama,Intu Lakeside
Dining, Essex, Review, Wagamama,Intu Lakeside
My mum and auntie ordered from the Omakase section of the menu: Sticky Pork Belly (with grilled miso aubergine and white rice) for my auntie and Tonkatsu (a pork katsu curry with white rice and mixed salad leaves) for mum. I got such food envy when I saw my auntie’s dish arrive. It was something I was tempted by and when it arrived, it was presented well and looked and smelt so tasty. The two dishes took a little longer to arrive, but as a seasoned Waga-goer, I’m used to either starting first, or snacking on sides while waiting for my main dish to arrive. It was the former this time and my meal came while I was feeding and changing Alfie. It was still piping hot once I’d finished and returned to the bench!

As always, the service was very good and the food, hot and fresh. I can’t believe that once again I didn’t have room for dessert – someone find me a better dessert than Mix It Up Mochi!

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

New House, New Town

Okay, so I find myself apologising again, even though there is nothing to be sorry about. Yep, I’ve been MIA again! My last blogging absence was because I was pregnant and then our little boy arrived in the world. This time, it’s also good news – I am a homeowner! Ashley and I (and Alfie, of course) moved in on November 3rd and are finally getting settled. There’s a lot that needs doing to make this house our home but we are getting there – we even fitted curtains in our bedroom this week! A new house means a new location... I am no longer in Essex!

It’s strange. When I left for Uni (albeit, nearby in Hertfordshire), I couldn’t wait to ‘move out’ and leave Essex. I wasn’t leaving many friends or anything behind and I really didn’t enjoy home life. Since graduating and returning home in 2011, I’ve been looking forward to this day. But when the day finally arrived and I was packing up my bedroom and other belongings (still not fully complete, btw... I have way too much stuff!), I was hit by sadness and a wealth of memories. Not only was I saying goodbye to my home of 22 years, but more importantly, I was leaving my incredible mumma, who’s now on her own. I always knew I would leave Essex when it came to Ashley and I moving in together, but we obviously didn’t anticipate it being so soon.

So now I’m living in Milton Keynes, in a lovely soon-to-be-perfect house. I’m very much enjoying the mum life and being with my two boys. The estate is ideal for taking Alfie out for walks in his buggy, with a lake and park nearby. I’m still looking for things to do and see in the area, as well as classes/meets to attend. I really am on my own, so need to spend time with other mums and make friends. We have met a couple of our neighbours already, though.

I’ve learned a lot already: how to defrost a freezer, how the washing machine works and what an electric oven is all about. And do you know what I love? Cooking every evening! I have always loved cooking, but during my pregnancy and while I was at home, I relied on mum far too much and became lazy. I love having dinner ready every evening when Ash gets home from work. I don’t even mind the constant cleaning that’s been needed. I love being a stay at home mum.

I guess that makes me a Beds/Bucks blogger now... do any of you read this or follow me on Twitter and can you recommend anything to do with a two-month-old? Mummy bloggers, make yourselves known. You can follow/tweet me: @Luuuce_x.

Love, Lucy xx