Getting Organised for the New School Year

I don’t know about you, but September always seems to be a time when I vow to get organised for the year and autumn always leaves me feeling super inspired about how to do it. I don’t know if it’s an overflow from when I was at school and September meant a new academic year but I love the process of getting everything in order, especially ahead of the busy winter months where the whole family seems to have something going on.

One thing I’ve promised myself is a new family planner board like these ones from Teacher Boards:

white board pin boards

There are loads of brilliant methods of setting up a whiteboard and I’ve already been scouring Pinterest for ideas of how to do ours. A mixed board with half whiteboard and half cork would be perfect for us as it would allow me to pin all school letters, hospital letters and club letters to one side whilst using the white side to write reminders and make notes.

Sausage is going into Year 4 this year which means a more intense homework schedule as well as the fact that we’re planning to get her an 11+ tutor in readiness for next year, so setting up her own dedicated section of the board like this one below would also really help us to help her keep on top of things:

homework

I also love the idea of having a dedicated whiteboard to allow me to make meal plans and store recipes in the kitchen. It would give the whole family a clear view of what’s going to be happening with meals and would also allow me to make a shopping list for the week so that I stop overspending on groceries we don’t need!

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Do you have a whiteboard or a chalkboard in your house? Do you have a hard and fast system which works really well for your family? I’d love to see your examples and get advice from any pros on how you make it all work!

 

Strada – A Date Night Gem

It’s not often that Husband and I go out for dinner, just the two of us…in fact, I’m struggling to think of a single time it’s happened since Sausage was born, so when Strada asked if the two of us would like to come along for dinner, I got very excited! Our nearest Strada is at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock and it’s right next to the lake, so it was the perfect setting for a relaxed evening meal.

We were given the choice of where to sit and although it was the hottest day of the year so far, we chose to sit inside – the outside area was already filling up when we arrived a few minutes before 6pm and by the time we left it was absolutely heaving, whilst inside was almost empty, so we definitely chose well. We got situated and were brought our drinks plus a jug of water for the table, which was much appreciated in the heat.

I wasn’t drinking alcohol because a) I was driving and b) I’m on strong antibiotics for the hideous tooth situation so I opted for a San Pellegrino Limonata, which is basically the most refreshing thing on the planet. Husband had a glass of Primitivo, a full-bodied red (which I said smelled like Christmas in a glass!) and although it was on the pricey side, Husband was impressed enough to be looking it up on the internet on the way home to see where he could get a full bottle for me to try when I’m able again.

So, onto the food!

Because Strada is Italian, I wanted to go for things which I felt were quintessentially Italian, so for starter I opted for the bresaola while Husband went for the antipasti, both of which were incredible. The beef carpacchio part of my bresaola was so, so tender and flavourful and the combination of parmesan, rocket and balsamic reduction were to die for. Husband’s antipasti (which I may have sampled…!) was just perfect; little nibbles of different flavour and textures, cured meats combined with the freshest pesto and mozzarella – I almost wish I’d opted for the same.

Strada - Starters

For our mains, we both decided that we were in the mood for seafood after such a meat-based starter so Husband had the sea bass while I had the seafood risotto. I’m going to make a confession here; I’ve never actually tried sea bass before…until now. The fish was served with thyme roasted fennel and herby potatoes and was a perfect choice for a hot evening as it was light and summery but full of flavour. The bass was served ‘canoed’, which meant that it’s gutted but left on the head, so there were still a lot of bones in it, which made it a little bit of a faff to eat, but Husband didn’t mind; it’s just worth bearing in mind if you aren’t a fan of bones.

Strada - Mains

Seafood risotto is one of my favourite dishes and it’s not something I’ve ever been brave enough to cook myself so it’s always a treat when I have it in a restaurant, but it does mean I’m quite fussy about it. Strada’s seafood risotto was really top notch. The risotto itself was creamy and absolutely packed with tiger prawns, mussels and squid and had the slightest kick from a hint of chilli, a very welcome element to cut through the creaminess a little. The seafood was all very well cooked (I’m often a bit wary of squid as it can be rubbery, but this wasn’t rubbery in the slightest) and the fresh parmesan which was grated over the top at the table added a lovely edge to the overall flavour.

Strada - Dessert

Dessert was an absolute delight. I opted for the tiramisu because I’m a bit of a fan of anything coffee flavoured while Husband opted for the golden polenta cake. My tiramisu was exactly as you’d expect it to be; sweet and soft with a strong coffee flavour, the perfect end to the meal for me. Husband’s polenta cake was probably the exact opposite of my dessert in many ways; grainy and textured rather than soft and creamy, zesty and spiced opposite my rich and velvety, however we both agreed that it was one of the nicest desserts we’ve ever tasted, and promptly came home to find a recipe so that we can try making it at home!

In terms of the bill, by my calculations it would have come to £67.60, which included three courses each, Husband’s large glass of wine, my two soft drinks and a bowl of marinated olives for the table, which I really don’t think is too bad at all. There is also a “Classics” menu which offers 2 courses for £10.95 or three courses for £13.95 every single day between 12pm and 7pm, which means that you could effectively have a three course meal for two for under £30.

The thing I liked about Strada is that their menu isn’t ridiculously massive, but each dish they do, they seem to do VERY well. I also like the fact that they have dishes which are very traditionally Italian, but they also do dishes like burgers and plainer pizzas, so dining with a fussy eater needn’t be a worry. The one and only area where I would mark them down SLIGHTLY was the cost of drinks – Husband’s glass of wine was £8.15, which is a little steep in my opinion, but we often find the alcohol to be higher priced in chain restaurants, so I guess it’s to be expected. Other than this minor thing, we had a really lovely evening; the staff were incredibly polite and friendly, stopping by to offer their suggestions while we were perusing the menu, the setting was really pleasant and the food was enough to make Husband say “we’re definitely coming back here again!”.

Thanks to Strada for having us – we’ll be back soon!

Busting Pregnancy Myths

SpatonePregnancy can be an absolute minefield of “advice” coming from a multitude of different sources. If it’s not your Mum, your mother-in-law, your Nan, sisters, friends or extended relatives sharing their collected wisdom about what your pregnancy should be like, it’s random old ladies in the supermarket stopping you to tell you what they did “in their day”! Sometimes, anecdotal advice can be the best thing in the world and there were a few things that my mother in law and sister in law told me when I was carrying Sausage that I still pass on to others because the advice was so sound. However, sometimes, it can all seem a bit much when you’re hearing different things from every person you speak to.

The awesome people at Nelsons, makers of iron supplement Spatone, have been speaking to proper midwives in an effort to bust some of the biggest pregnancy myths around, and we thought we’d share some of them with you:

Myth #1: How you are ‘carrying’ the baby can tell you the sex.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The shape and height of your bump is determined by your muscle tone, uterine tone, and the position the baby is in, not by the sex. The only way to know is via an ultrasound scan or amniocentesis and even then it is not always possible to be completely sure.

Myth #2: You shouldn’t drink coffee while pregnant.

You don’t need to give up caffeine entirely, the current advice for is to limit yourself to (ACOG 2010, FSA 2008, Jahanfar and Jaafar 2013) 200mg of caffeine a day – this equates to drinking approximately two mugs of tea, two mugs of instant coffee or one mug of filer coffee a day (or five cans of coke!). If your habit exceeds these amounts try a de-caf version in the afternoons, it may help you sleep better too!

Myth #3: Heartburn means baby has lots of hair

Heartburn is a common discomfort during pregnancy because your stomach is pushed higher by the growing baby. It is no way an accurate predictor of baby being born with a full head of hair. Lots of women who experience heartburn give birth to bald babies!

Myth #4: You shouldn’t eat smoked salmon when pregnant

Pregnant women can eat smoked fish and not advised to avoid it currently. Fish is good for mothers-to-be because it is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, as well as essential omega-3 fatty acids like DHA. There are some types of fish you should limit to 2 portions a week, this includes oily fish like salmon. There are also fish you should completely avoid like swordfish. The NHS website provides a full ist.

Myth #5: You are eating for two

In the first six months of pregnancy our energy needs do not increase. The average woman of normal weight pre-pregnancy only needs about 200 extra calories per day in her third trimester to promote her baby’s growth. That’s roughly the number of calories in a piece of buttered toast and a banana. Gaining too much weight can result in gestational diabetes and a struggle to lose the weight post birth so think twice before eating a double helping of dessert!

Myth #6 Lying or sleeping on your back will hurt the baby

While you won’t harm your baby if you lie on your back for short periods of time, lying on your back after 16 weeks can be uncomfortable. After 16 weeks it can make you feel faint as the baby presses on major blood vessels. Sleeping on your side might be more comfortable and as your bump gets heavier you might find it better to prop yourself up with pillows so you are almost sitting.

Myth #7: Guinness is a good source of iron

Mums and nans are forever telling us about the daily dose of stout they consumed during pregnancy because it is a good source of iron and a lot of people still believe this old wives tale. In fact Guinness and similar stouts contains no more iron than standard beer and you would need to drink a whopping 35 pints to get your daily intake of iron. But more importantly pregnant women should avoid alcohol altogether as not only does it carry an increased risk of miscarriage but may be harmful for the unborn baby.

Guinness in pregnancy

If your doctor or healthcare practitioner says you may need to supplement your diet with iron, why not try a sachet or two of Spatone, which contains iron rich water sourced from the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia National Park. The iron naturally present in Spatone can help top up your iron levels whilst causing fewer of the unpleasant side effects often experienced with conventional iron food supplements. Generally, iron is a very difficult mineral for the body to absorb. However, the iron naturally present in Spatone has been shown to be easily absorbed, with an average of 40% bioavailability, compared to 5- 20% from food and other iron food supplements#. Always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements if you are pregnant.

Spatone is available from Boots priced at £11.49 for 28 sachets (4 weeks supply) and Spatone Apple is priced at £12.49 for 28 sachets.

For more info visit www.spatone.com

Is it Time for an Intersex Olympics?

Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

(I apologise in advance if I use any incorrect terminology, my aim here is not to offend anyone, only to start a conversation)

If you’ve been anywhere near the news in the past few days, you can’t fail to have missed the furore surrounding South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya and the questions over her gender. In case you have missed it, here’s a TL:DR of the situation: Caster, born in 1991, won a gold medal in Rio in the womens’ Olympics, however there have been complaints from other athletes because she has high levels of testosterone, which they claim gives her an advantage.

Caster Semenya

When I first started reading about this, I came across an article where they said that it had become common practice for Semenya to go into the bathrooms before a race to show one of her competitors her genitals to “prove” her femininity, which sounds absolutely appalling and like a gross invasion of her privacy and I was genuinely shocked to read that she had to go to such lengths to confirm her eligibility to race.

However, the controversy takes a slightly different slant when you consider her internal physiology. You see, according to official reports, Semenya has high levels of testosterone which is produced by internal testes and she also lacks a uterus and ovaries. The officials who deal with eligibility to race have stated that there’s insignificant evidence to suggest that testosterone gives her a significant advantage over the other athletes, however, several other athletes with the same physical attributes as Semenya took steps to change this, as reported in the New York Times:

At the London Olympics, four female athletes, all 18 to 21 years old and from rural areas of developing countries, were flagged for high levels of natural testosterone. Each of them subsequently had surgery to remove internal testes, which produce testosterone, as well as procedures that were not required for resuming competition: feminizing vaginoplasty, estrogen replacement therapy and a reduction in the size of the clitoris.

One could argue that many athletes have physical attributes which make them “unusual” in the grand scheme of things, but which give them an advantage when it comes to sporting prowess. Take Miguel Indurain, for instance. He’s a Spanish cyclist who won FIVE consecutive Tour de France in the early to mid-Nineties and is considered cycling royalty to this day. However, he has a huge physical advantage; his blood took almost double the oxygen of a normal person and his cardiac output was 50 litres a minute; a fit amateur cyclist’s is about 25 litres. No-one suggested that his physiology was an unfair advantage, just a happy anomaly which, ultimately, made him a legend.

So, if the issue isn’t physiological, then is it a gender issue? Well, Semenya identifies as a woman and has spent her entire life living as a woman; from what I can gather there’s never been any suggestion in her life of any sort of gender dysphoria or questions over how she identifies, which makes it clear cut, right? Maybe not.

Fallon Fox Tamikka Brents

Fallon Fox in white, before her fight with Tamikka Brents (pink bottoms)

Another similar case in sport was that of MMA fighter Fallon Fox. Featherweight champion Fallon underwent gender reassignment surgery back in 2006 and entered the MMA as a female fighter. Not only has she had her male reproductive organs removed but she has been on hormone therapy for many years, however she’s faced massive opposition and controversy within the MMA community because people feel that her physicality gives her an advantage, not least of all when she fought Tamikka Brents, and “Brents suffered a concussion, an orbital bone fracture, and seven staples to the head. After her loss, Brents took to social media to convey her thoughts on the experience of fighting Fox: “I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right,” she stated. “Her grip was different, I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch…””

Fox argues that her hormone therapy probably means that she actually has LESS testosterone than her competitors, but this doesn’t alter the fact that testosterone played a part on how she developed physically in the first place, until her reassignment surgery.

It’s all such a grey area. Traditionally speaking, men and women have never competed against one another because of the clear physical differences, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no middle ground. Obviously, it’s rare to see a woman who’s the size of say, Mike Tyson, with the same bone structure and heavy musculature, but there are plenty of female fighters who probably make Conor McGregor look like a leprechaun with his featherweight frame. But does size equal strength? No, definitely not.

All of this is leading to a point…honestly!

While I’m not suggesting that being intersex or hormonally different is a disability (quite the opposite, in fact), is it time that we offered an Olympics for competitors where gender isn’t clear-cut, in the same way that we have a Paralympics for differently abled athletes? This way there can’t be any suggestion that they’re somehow exploiting a physical advantage. Issues of gender have become far less taboo in recent years, allowing people to live exactly as they wish to without the previous levels of prejudice, which is great, although there is still a long way to go. Should be we accommodating people for whom gender/sex isn’t black and white? A ‘third-sex’ Olympics? It would certainly level the playing field, but is it getting into dangerous levels of classification and potential prejudice from different angles? Is submitting to hormone tests before being allowed to enter a step too far, or is it no different to submitting to a drugs test to ensure that performance-enhancing drugs aren’t used? Is it all just sour grapes from the losing athletes?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, so please do leave me a comment below!

Saving Money at the End of the Holidays

cheap holiday activitesI don’t know about you but we’ve got to that point in the holidays where activities which are free or cheap are extremely appealing! Sausage is pretty much the least demanding kid on the planet but we’ve done our best to make sure she’s done at least a couple of activities each week in the holidays and it’s all adding up. I’ve been thinking about ways to save some money in the last few weeks of summer and thought I’d share ideas with you here:

Check Your Points

If you use loyalty cards for supermarkets and other shops, you’ll often find that these points can be used to “buy” vouchers which gain you free entry tickets to various attractions. If you haven’t recently checked your points balance, now would be a good time as you could be sitting on a goldmine!

Save Money on Other Purchases

If you can’t directly save money on the days out, you can save money in other areas. Sites like Every Day is Black Friday basically scour the net for the item you’re planning to buy and comes back with the cheapest price possible, telling you if it’s been reduced anywhere in the recent past. It’s a great way to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible on whatever you want to buy.

Do Something Free

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but there are SO many free activities that you can do which the kids will probably love just as much as they love the expensive trips. Picnics, foraging for blackberries, beach combing, nature photography walks, discovering new playgrounds, Pokemon hunting are all free to do and will give you hours of fun in the outdoors.

Take Your Own Food

If you are visiting somewhere which will cost you a bit to get into, DO take a picnic with you, even if it means borrowing a cool box from a generous friend or relative. Food once you get inside an attraction is usually RIDICULOUSLY expensive, almost always of very little nutritional value and we’ve felt like many a day trip has been marred by being forced to spend £7.50 on what amounts to a large cup of sugar syrup and a floppy hotdog which probably cost 20p to make.

Check for Cheaper Fuel

If you’re driving somewhere for a day out and need to stick fuel in your car beforehand, check a website called petrolprices.com – it will allow you to enter your postcode and will tell you where the cheapest fuel is in your vicinity. There’s even an app for your phone which will help you to keep fuel costs down on the go.

Do you have any good tips? I’d love to hear them, leave me a comment below.

The Dulux Kids’ Bedroom Project

One thing that Husband and I are really adamant about is that kids should be allowed to have opinions and preferences, and should be given the time and space to express themselves exactly as they’d like to. A few weeks ago, Sausage made a passing comment about how cool it would be if she was allowed to have pink hair and after a little bit of discussion between Husband and I we told her that we had no major objections…and then this happened:

Pink Hair, Don't Care!

It’s a dip-dye which means that it’s easy enough to trim the bottom few inches of her hair off once she’s back to the daily grind, and it’s made her feel really special and grown-up, being allowed to have such wacky hair!

By the same token, we think that kids should have a say in their surroundings too. I’m not talking about letting them choose the wallpaper for the living room, but their own bedroms should be a place where they feel a bit of ownership, which is why I love the new project by Dulux, getting kids involved in the design on of their rooms. The Dulux Kids’ Bedroom Summer Holiday Workbook is a downloadable .pdf which allows kids to gather and record their colour preferences, inspirations and input into the design of their own rooms, so that Mum and Dad can create a space which the kids feel truly connected to.

Dulux Kids Workbook

Dulux have conducted a load of research which shows that kids really value being part of the decorating process:

An overwhelming majority of kids (92%) would spend more time playing in their room and doing their homework if they have a say in how it’s decorated.

Research commissioned by leading paint brand Dulux found a whopping number of children value being part of the decorating process, with the majority saying it was the second most important thing they had ever done – even more important to them than their first day at school or losing their first tooth.

The study of 2,000 families shows that children also found decorating with their parents a really positive experience, with 65 per cent saying they felt happy and 58 per cent excited at the prospect of helping mum and dad.

Additionally, parents commented that decorating together helped to increase their child’s sense of ownership, pride and opportunity for creative expression. Some parents said it even ensured rooms were tidier, because they wanted to show it off to their friends and family.

Surprisingly, however, whilst an indisputable 92 per cent of parents believe that decorating their child’s room is important, the study found that only a QUARTER of parents actually consulted their kids or involved them in the process.

Dulux offers a whole range of paints which are perfect for decorating a kids’ room – Dulux’s Endurance+ range is the perfect paint for a kid’s bedroom makeover – it’s 20 times stronger than normal emulsion, so when you’re tackling sticky fingers and mucky paws it’s a great solution, allowing you to wipe away the stain and not the paint underneath, meaning your walls stay as fresh as the day you painted them!

We’ll definitely be using the Dulux workbook when we get around to decorating the girls’ room and I can’t wait to see what crazy ideas they come up with. They’re sharing a room at the moment but have very distinct little personalities, so there’s a good chance we’ll end up with a room completely split down the middle, with one colour on one side and a completely different colour on the other! We’ll be sure to share the results with you when it happens.

For more info on Dulux and their ranges, you can tweet them on Twitter using their handle, @DuluxUK plus the hashtag #KidsBedroom

Win a Miffy bundle of toys to celebrate the UK Premiere of Miffy the Movie on Tiny Pop this Saturday #MiffyTheMovie

MiffyThe Kids channel TINY POP (Freeview 126, Sky 617, Virgin 737, and Freesat 605) is premiering a brand new movie this Saturday as part of their weekly film stunt – TINY POPCORN.

Join Miffy and her friends Melanie, Grunty and her dog Snuffy as they embark on another great adventure in the UK Premiere of MIFFY THE MOVIE. Make sure to join the fun as Miffy and her crew of loveable animal pals work together on a treasure hunt through the zoo, this Saturday at 4:00pm and Sunday at 9:00am.

Miffy

To celebrate the release we have a bundle of goodies from Miffy and TINY POP to give away to you all.

The winner will receive one of the below:

  • 1x Miffy tote bag
  • 1x Miffy’s birthday book
  • 1x Miffy and Melanie book
  • 1x Tiny Pop tote bag
  • 1x Tiny Pop felt tip colouring pen set
  • 1x Tiny Pop bookmark

For your chance to win a TINY POP goody bag simply complete the widget below – Please don’t forget to tune in with your little munchkins and enjoy the movie!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This competition closes on 18th August, so don’t waste any time and get entering.

 

Review: Simply Be Women’s Clothing

For me, clothes fall into categories; things you need and things you want. Just recently, having found myself down a dress size, a lot of stuff has ended up in the need column because lots of my old clothes are now a little big. I’m not a natural shopper for SO many reasons; I don’t really like actually being in shops because I just get more and more disheartened when I can’t find anything I like and I never seem to be able to find anything I like when I’m under pressure so shopping from home is far easier for me.

Just recently, I’ve been trying to find a pair of well-fitting sports leggings to wear when I exercise and it’s been tougher than you’d think, probably because I’m a bit fussy. I can’t stand it when leggings aren’t elasticated enough to stay up properly when you’re moving around or when they get baggy knees after a few hours. I also, compared to the rest of my body, don’t have massive legs, so lots of brands come up okay on the waist but baggy in the legs – not a good look! A while ago, Simply Be asked if I’d like to try a pair of their leggings and also choose a few other bits from their range, and obviously I said yes! If you’ve seen my Instagram this week, you’ll have seen a few of the garments I chose:

Simply Be Ripped Skinny Jeans

Simply Be Light Grey Split Back Top

I also chose a shirt and some basic vests:

 

Weirdly, I haven’t got a picture of me in the shirt…I say “weirdly” because I’ve basically worn it to death since I’ve had it! Husband and I went to London last Friday to see one of our favourite comedians, Bill Burr, at the Hammersmith Apollo and the ripped jeans and t-shirt were the perfect outfit; comfy enough to sit in for a couple of ours (plus 4 hours driving and the stress of car trouble, but that’s another story!) but the little details like the ripped effect on the jeans that the split back on the t-shirt made it feel a little bit more than just a jeans and t-shirt.

Miraculously, the leggings are also a really good fit. They stay up without needing to be constantly hauled up at the waist and I wore them all day long without ending up with baggy knees, which is basically all of my boxes ticked!

I’m really impressed with the quality, sizing and also the prices of Simply Be clothing; all of these bits came to £92, which I don’t think is bad at all for 5 tops and two pairs of bottoms. I’d definitely recommend Simply Be if you’re looking for a good shopping experience from the comfort of your own home, high quality clothing at decent prices and some really pretty choices.

Our First Wagamama Experience

WagamamaOne thing that we love to do as a family is eat out, especially at places we’ve never tried before, so when Wagamama offered us the chance to go along and try their menu, we were really excited. Despite the fact that we’re all Japanophiles, with a shared love of their food and culture, we’ve never been to Wagamama before so yesterday was a whole new experience for us.

As soon as we walked in, the thing which struck me was the actual style of dining; the tables were set up into long rows of benches, rather than isolated little islands in the dining area which is the usual English way. It was different in a “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” kinda way, but something which I really loved.

We’d checked out the menu online before visiting and the girls knew what they wanted, but Husband and I ummed and ahhed for a while because everything on the menu looked so tasty. We were given plenty of time to decide and Husband ordered a rather exotic looking juice in the meantime. (Kale, apple, lime and pear, in case you’re wondering and it just tasted so GREEN!).

In the end, the girls chose a mini chicken yaki soba and a mini chicken cha han, both of which were really tasty. One of the things I really liked was that each dish was made of super fresh ingredients and were bought out to us as soon as they were ready, meaning no-ones meal was left to sit under lights while we waited for the rest. I also loved the kids chopsticks that we were given which kind of slot together and made it loads easier for the girls to use.

Husband and I ended up opting for the shirodashi ramen (him) which was slow-cooked pork belly, marinated in bulgogi sauce in a noodle and reduced chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg while I went for the Wagamama ramen which was grilled chicken, barbecued pork, prawns, chikuwa and mussels in a miso, ginger and chicken noodle soup. topped with half a tea-stained egg, menma and spring onions.

I’m not going to lie; I think mine was genuinely one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten. The noodles were tender and the broth was fairly simple but the pork belly was unbelievably tasty and the mussels were like little bombs of flavour throughout the dish. I’ve never had wakame before and actually thought it was squid while I was eating it, but it’s kind of like a Japanese equivalent of a crabstick, but formed around bamboo…apparently! Husband really enjoyed his too; his broth was spicier than mine with a really rich, warming flavour and the slow-cooked pork was, again, super tender and flavourful.

I think the thing that we liked the most about our Wagamama experience, although it’s hard to narrow down because it was a delight from beginning to end, was just the fact that it was something different. Don’t get me wrong, we love a burger and all of the “usual” choices in family-oriented restaurants, but it was SO nice to consider different flavours, textures and ingredients, especially for exposing the girls to new things. It was also a lot healthier than your average restaurant lunch; my Wagamama ramen totalled about 700 calories for the whole bowl, and given how full I was I thought that was pretty reasonable. In fact, we were all too stuffed for dessert but next time we go to Wagamama (and there WILL be a next time!), that banana katsu is MINE!

Our bill, for 2 adult mains, 2 kids meals, 1 adult fresh juice, 2 kids fresh apple juices (and I’m not exaggerating when I say this – it was the freshest apple juice I’ve ever tasted…it was literally like someone had crushed an apple into a glass) and a Coke Zero for me came to £37, which I have to say is really reasonable. I certainly don’t begrudge a lunch bill like that when it’s being spent on huge portions of fresh, super nutritious food which is cooked to order.

I think I could quite comfortably say that Wagamama is now a favourite eatery for all of us in the Mum’s the Word house and somewhere which will definitely be on our must-visit list for our next shopping trip. Thanks to Wagamama for having us and for converting us to their way of eating.

Family Lunch at TGI Fridays (review)

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Last week we were invited along to TGI Fridays to sample their food and get involved with their summer kids challenge, where they can complete three activities for a free ice cream sundae, as well as being in with the chance to win a family holiday. As we’ve done in the past, we took my lovely MIL with us to give us her opinion on the food, so that you get a well rounded from from a two years old up to a…person who’s a bit older than two (it’s rude to divulge a lady’s age, after all!).

We planned our lunch around a trip to Ikea because the restaurant is right by our nearest store, but we were done with our shopping an hour earlier than planned. However, a quick call to the restaurant and they were more than happy to accommodate us earlier than our original booking, which was a lovely bit of positive customer service. As we were seated, the girls were presented with an activity pack and they also had someone making balloon animals, which delighted my two no end.

The Food

We took a little while to choose as there was so many tasty looking dishes on the menu. In the end, we all shared a starter of potato skins loaded with cheese and pulled pork, then for our mains both girls went for a hotdog and chips from the kids menu, MIL had a Classic American burger, Husband had the chicken and shrimp with with creamy mash and seasonal veg, and I had the FRIDAYS® RIBS in BBQ sauce with a skewer of spicy grilled shrimp.

We all really enjoyed the starter; the pulled pork was really tasty with the accompanying sour cream and one large serving was enough to allow us all to have a taste without ending up too full before our meals. The girls hotdog and chips were actually HUGE portions; there are two kids menus to choose from, one for smaller peeps and one for the bigger kids. The hotdogs came from the bigger menu and although we knew it would be way too much food for Burrito Baby, she had her heart set on having a hotdog. They were really tasty and well cooked, and both girls really enjoyed them.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a bit of a greedy so-and-so and often have eyes too big for my belly, and when we eat I often go for the biggest meal on the menu. I erred on the side of caution on this day and went for the half rack of ribs instead of the full rack and I’m SO glad that I did! Along with the fries, onion rings and prawn skewer it was MORE than enough food for me, even with my huge appetite. The ribs were incredibly tender and the meat melted away from the bones, while the accompanying fries were probably some of the best I’ve ever tasted, with perfect seasoning.

Husband, on the other hand, wasn’t massively impressed with his food. He said that his chicken was moist and well cooked but was a tiny portion and the shrimp were okay but the sauce was basically just sugar syrup. He did say that the mash was tasty but the veg wasn’t to his taste – his “seasonal” veg was basically pan fried broccoli and bell peppers, which seemed a slightly incongruous addition to the meal.

The real winner of the day was MIL; she chose the Classic American because she wanted something quite simple but she actually described it as “probably the best burger I’ve ever eaten”. She had the same well-seasoned fries as me and thoroughly enjoyed her meal. I’ll be honest, by the time we’d finished our starter and main we were all FAR too stuffed for afters so the girls didn’t manage to enter the challenge, but it’s a great idea for kids, especially to get them active after consuming a huge meal!

The Bill

One things which I felt was a slight downer was the cost of drinks; Husband had a pint of Samuel Adams and it was £5.28 per pint; obviously it was early in the day so we weren’t there for a boozy experience, but it would have seriously bumped the bill up of we’d both been out for an evening. As it stood, a shared starter, two kids meals, three adult meals, a pint and a half of Samuel Adams plus a Coke Zero for me and a mini milkshake for the girls and our bill came to £79 – definitely not the most expensive meal  but more than the average we’d usually spend on a casual lunch.

In terms of the actual service we received, I genuinely can’t fault it. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, our food order was taken and served promptly, our table cleared straight away and we didn’t have to do advanced semaphore to the waiting staff in order to signal for our bill! All in all, we had a great lunch, the food was mostly brilliant and everyone had a nice time. It’s probably a bit too expensive to be a regular place for us to visit, but it’s perfect for a treat or special occasion.

Thanks for having us, TGI Fridays!