Remaking Memories

800px-Justice_in_concertWhen Husband and I met, I was 21 and he was 26, and it was fair to say we’d both done some living before we became a couple. He’d lived all over the place, both in the UK and abroad and we’d both had long term relationships with other people, both of which had ended pretty badly in their own ways. We were pragmatic enough to know that we’d seen things and been places without each other and we’ve shared memories freely without it causing issues between us.

The other day, we were in the car on the way home from the farmers market and a song came on Spotify from a band we both love, who I’d been to see with someone from my past and it got me thinking. I think back to that gig with fondness (for the band) and complete and utter CRINGE for who I saw them with. I wish I could replace the memory with something that meant something to me, other than regret. I want to be able to think about seeing them in concert without having a whole bunch of other nastiness surfacing at the same time, but that seems almost impossible.

As I mentioned, Husband lived abroad for a spell, in the Alsace region of France and talks often of his time there; the locals who were baffled by the crazy English boy going jogging in the snow, the laid-back lifestyle and wonderful sense of community whereby villagers would open up their houses and invite anyone in for coffee and cakes. It sounds amazing, yet in the past when Husband had talked about us visiting together, I’ve felt really weird, like I’d be smack bang in the middle of memories of his ex girlfriend. However, the band epiphany has made me realise that it’s not about what we did before we met, or who we did those things with, it’s about sharing experiences with each other and using past experiences to enhance our lives together.

Now, instead of thinking about his ex being with him in France, I think about how happy that place made him and how much it means to him, which makes me think I’d love to visit. Instead of feeling rueful about having seen a band I love with someone I have horrible memories of, I think about replacing those memories and how much fun Husband and I would have if we saw that band together. We’ve even talked about taking Sausage to see them too, which would repair my rubbish memories one hundred-fold.

I’m not talking about rehashing the entire 21 years before we met, that would be impossible, not to mention something I’d really NOT want to do, and I know re-doing things won’t actually erase old memories but it would mean that I could share experiences with people I love and effectively reclaim old events for myself. Does that make any sense at all?!

What do  you think? Do you avoid doing things or going places you’ve been with an ex or do you see it all as a wealth of experience to be shared with the one you love?

Let me know!

They Grow So Fast #PowerOfSoft

Having a six year old and a seven month old in the house really brings certain things into sharp focus. Having BB made Sausage seem suddenly so grown up and independant – on the one hand, I’ve got a daughter who needs me to fulfil her every need and on the other I’ve got a daughter who wants to tie her own shoelaces and ever so occasionally treats me to her own unique brand of sass! BB is just starting to get her teeth while Sausage is just starting to lose hers and the juxtaposition is all too stark a reminder of just how quickly they grow.

It only seems like yesterday that Husband and I were umming and ahhing over whether Sausage needed to go to nursery and now she’s in Year 2 and schooling me on the Great Fire of London! I’m not wishing to go back to when she was small as I’ve enjoyed every stage of her development, but I wish I could just slow it all down for a while.

Fairy has produced a beautiful (if a little tear-jerking!) video reminding us that our kids grow all too fast and that they’ll never be as soft again as they are right at this moment and I challenge you to watch it without getting even the tiniest lump in your throat:

Husband and I have so many wonderful memories already, accumulated in the six short years since Sausage was born and we can often be found, after the girls are asleep, looking through the thousands of photos we have on our hard-drives. It’s hard to believe that the baby in her incubator, covered in tubes and wires, has grown up to be the clever, strong-willed little lady that she is today or that six whole years have passed since then, or even that we’ve managed to make another stubborn baby girl in that time!

 And yet, when I think about everything that we have done in that time, it makes me excited about what’s in store for us over the next few years. I’m not sure we’ll be making any more little people in that time but we’re finally finding our feet as a family of four rather than a family of three and there’s so much fun to be had for all of us! BB said her first word today, or at least a very close approximation of ‘Mum’, and her big sister was right next to her cheering her on. They absolutely adore each other and I cannot wait to see their relationship bloom as they get older.

So, you see, as much as I scares the life out of me when I think about how quickly time has passed, it doesn’t have to be all bad, especially if you think about what the future has in store…but I’ll still give both girls an extra squeeze before bed tonight.

Eat Like a Horse at The Hungry Horse!

A couple of weeks ago, we were lucky enough to be invited along to The Travellers Joy in Rayleigh, our local Hungry Horse restaurant to sample their fayre and we took my lovely mother-in-law with us again so that I could offer the opinions of three generations of Crammond. We visited on a Monday afternoon and was surprised by just how lively the atmosphere was inside and were warmly greeted before being seated in a circular booth, which was perfect for fitting all of us in, as well as the buggy.

For starters, Sausage and I decided to share a plate of nachos, which were loaded with cheese, guacamole, salsa and jalapenos. There was also the option to add beef chilli, but we decided to keep it light. There was plenty to go around and the four of us all ended up tucking into the nachos! Husband went for the Chicken New Yorker Batons, which consisted of chicken, BBQ sauce, cheese and bacon inside filo pastry, served with a BBQ dip and were a very light choice, perfect if you have a smaller appetite. MIL decided to leave the starter and go straight for the mains as she’s got a fairly small appetite…which was about to be seriously tested!

For our main courses, Husband went for a fully loaded burrito which comes as a 12″ flour tortilla with Mexican rice, peppers & onions. Packed with shredded iceberg lettuce, grated cheese, salsa, sour cream and jalapeños, you can also choose from BBQ pulled pork, spicy chicken, rump steak or smoky bean chilli if you want a veggy option. Husband went for the pulled pork and was presented with a meal which would probably have fed two people adequately! Sausage opted for the kids meal which has a whole load of options to choose from, meaning they don’t have to end up with the usual nuggets and chips (although that’s exactly what she chose!), and Sausage was most impressed to find that they served authentic Heinz Alphabetti Spaghetti as a side option!

MIL chose the cheese, onion and potato pie which was served with chips, peas and gravy and was more like an enormous pastie than a pie, but she absolutely loved it and despite her best efforts to clear her plate, MIL was ultimately defeated by the huge Hungry Horse portions! I opted for the 14oz rump steak which was served chips, onion rings, buttered whole green beans, a flat mushroom and a grilled tomato. I ordered my steak rare, as I usually do – I’m pretty fussy about steak and find that it can be really hit and miss in the UK; usually, if you order rare you end up with something that’s medium rare and if you actually order medium rare, it turns up almost cremated. I was massively impressed when my huge slab of steak turned up properly rare! It was cooked to perfection and well seasoned, and the side dishes were excellent – some of the best chips I’ve had in ages!

By now, Husband and MIL were well and truly stuffed, but Sausage and I soldiered on (mostly because we’d caught sight of the very enticing dessert cabinet!) and ordered a slice of the Mars Attacks gateaux to share. The piece of cake that turned up was mind-bogglingly huge and could easily have fed all four of us! In fact, despite our best efforts, Sausage and I fell at the final hurdle and had to admit defeat halfway through our afters.

We were all really impressed with the food at the Hungry Horse and were aware, as we were ordering, that everything on the menu seemed to be pretty good value. However, I’ve just added up how much our meal would have cost, minus drinks, and I’m blown away to discover that the whole lot would have cost just under £38! That’s starters for three, mains for four and dessert for two, and all of our portions were really large. In fact, I was so surprised by the cost that I went back and added it up twice, just to be sure.

I can wholeheartedly recommend Hungry Horse and especially the Travellers Joy in Rayleigh, for the atmosphere, friendliness, excellent food, huge portions and brilliant value for money and am really pleased to know that there’s somewhere local we can go for a nice family meal which won’t cost the earth…and that gateaux alone makes it well worth a return visit!

Go HERE to find your nearest Hungry Horse.

Disney on Ice – 100 Years of Magic

Hey…you! Yeah, YOU! Can I tell you a secret? Do you promise not to spill the beans to Sausage?

I know it’s a bit early to be using the ‘C’ word, but ours is going to be getting off to a very special start this year. You see, we’ve been invited by Disney to attend Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic at the O2 Arena on Christmas Eve! Sure, going into London on the afternoon before Christmas Day might seem bonkers to some, but we’re keeping it all a surprise for Sausage, right up until the moment we get there and we’re hoping that it’ll be an amazing way to kick off the festive season.

None of us has ever been to Disney on Ice before, so it’s going to be an awesome experience and it sounds like we’ve chosen a great year to go: “Join the celebration as 65 of Disney’s unforgettable characters from 18 beloved stories come to life in Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic! You’ll be captivated by the one and only Mickey Mouse, the irresistible Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio and all the Disney Princesses. Be thrilled by exciting moments from The Lion King; Mulan; and Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Toy Story films; in a skating spectacular filled with magical Disney moments you’ll remember forever as Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic!

The costumes look phenomenal – I can’t believe how they’ve managed to make a skating human look so much like a swimming Nemo and I’m even more excited about seeing what it looks like in the flesh! There are so many Disney characters who we adore, brought to life on the ice and I just know Sausage is going to be blown away.

Disney on Ice

If I’m honest, I think I’m just as excited as Sausage would be about our trip and the fact that we’re going on Christmas Eve just makes it all the more magical. The show will be travelling around the country and if you click on the link above, you can find tickets for a performance near you. We may even see you there!

EasyJet and A Matter of Human Decency

There’s a few things I can almost guarantee when I see my friend Kelly popping up on my Facebook feed. Firstly, she always looks stunning. Secondly, she always looks happy. Lastly, she’s usually with her friend Oli. Their Facebook banter never fails to amuse me and they say those hideously insulting things to each other that you could only ever say to a friend who you absolutely adore. Kelly and I went to senior school together and she’s one of the nicest people you could hope to meet and Oli means the absolute world to her.

Kelly and Oli

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, last week, Kelly told me that her beloved friend has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lymphoma and is currently undergoing treatment at University College Hospital London. Obviously, she’s devastated and her main concern is to see her friend well again, but she’s also on a bit of a mission at the moment. You see, Oli was due to go on holiday tomorrow and has his flights booked with Easy Jet, but the company has refused to refund him because it ‘goes against their policy’. The best they can offer him is a re-booking at a later date, and they’re failing to see the absolute ridiculousness of asking a cancer patient to know when they’re going to be well enough to go on holiday again.

To be honest, I’m sick of these companies and their ‘policies’.

EasyJet is less than 20 years old, having been founded in 1995 by the infamous Stelios and as of last year generated revenue of almost 4 and a half billion pounds and a net profit of £478 million. Pounds out of the pockets of normal, hard-working people like Oli who don’t want to pay through the nose for their holidays and in doing so have made Stelios a very, very wealthy man. Real people with real lives and real illnesses, who’ve made EasyJet what it is today.

If this was a matter of someone having a cold, or simply changing their minds, I could understand EasyJet standing fast over their decision to keep Oli’s money and I realise that in legal terms, once a purchase is made a customer has agreed to the companies terms and conditions, but what would it take to just employ a bit of common decency for a passenger, someone who SHOULD be a valued customer, in what’s probably the worst few months of his life?

But, what do EasyJet care? This is just more money in their pockets and another person screwed over. There are millions more passengers just waiting to hop on their planes because their prices are relatively low, but I guarantee you that the £500 that Oli paid for his flight is worth a hell of a lot more to him than it is to a multi-billion pound company.

I for one am disgusted and won’t be travelling by EasyJet in the future, and I hope my friends and readers also think long and hard before paying money to a company which is willing to be so heartless. I’ve never met Oli, but I want to take this opportunity to send him love and well-wishes and best of luck with his treatment, and I really hope that EasyJet think again about their unwillingness to help a poorly young man.

(If you want to find Oli on Twitter, his handle is @oliverdickson. I’m sure he’d be really grateful for some support and RT’s of his tweets to EasyJet)

H&M and the Slightly Scary Baby T-Shirt

Before I begin, I should give you some background – BB is currently teething, which means that at any time, she can be found soaked to the navel in dribble, even when she’s wearing a bib. While the weather was super warm, I tended to let her roll around in just a nappy while we’re at home, but now that the temperature has dropped, I’ve been putting clothes on her during the day. Recently, we took a trip to H&M, one of my favourite places to buy basics for the girls (I’ve written about their summer dresses for girls here before) and I picked up a cute little 2-pack of t-shirts for the baby. One was plain, in a baby pink colour, and the other was a lovely deep pink floral print.hmprod

The first time BB wore her patterned t-shirt, and soaked it in the inevitable gallon of dribble, I noticed once I took it off of her that the vest she had on underneath was tinged pink from the dye of her H&M t-shirt, so when it came to washing the item I made sure I kept it to one side and hand-washed it rather than chucking it in the machine and risking everything else turning pink. Boy am I glad I did…

I must say, I was shocked at the amount of dye which came out of the shirt while I was handwashing it, and even with about a dozen rinses under clean running water, the water was still coming out pink. I didn’t think much about this beyond the inconvenience of having to handwash the garment every time BB uses it, but Husband (and later my BFF when I shared the pic above in Instagram) commented that this seems a little irresponsible on a garment for an infant. What would BB have been swallowing if she’d done what she OFTEN does and chewed or sucked the sleeve or neck of her t-shirt? I know dyes aren’t toxic if they’re against the skin, but the baby could genuinely have ended up with a belly full of it, and goodness only knows how I would have reacted if that colour had come out of the other end of her once it passed through her system.

I’m aware that certain garments are overdyed to maintain a decent depth of colour through repeated wear and wash, but I’m really disappointed that H&M did this on a t-shirt intended for wear by a 2-4 month old, and given the company’s efforts toward ethical trading, sustainability and conscientious fashion, this seems potentially dangerous and on a lesser note, fairly wasteful.

I’m really hoping that someone who works for H&M reads this post and comments, so if you have a contact there please do share it with them, or if not, please tweet the post to their Twitter account as I’d really like a response.

What would you think if this was a garment you’d put on your baby?

 

Breastfeeding in Public – What’s Your Opinion?

Just recently, MyVoucherCodes.co.uk conducted a survey about breastfeeding in public and the results were picked up by the Daily Mail, who ran an article about it yesterday. I was actually surprised to read, considering all of the negative stories that we hear about breastfeeding, that almost 70% of British people feel that women should be able to breastfeed anywhere in public, even bars and restaurants. It’s really heartening to read that it’s now becoming a social norm rather than some sort of stigmatised or shameful act and despite not being a breastfeeder myself, I’m thrilled that my best friend or family or daughters will be able to nourish their babies whenever they need to.

Last week, a story went viral about a family who changed a dirty nappy at the table of a restaurant, rather than retreating to a bathroom and whilst I was absolutely disgusted at the thought of being subjected to this as a neighbouring diner, it did make me think of all the times that breastfeeding mothers have been told that they should be sitting in a toilet to feed. How is feeding your child in a place intended for ablutions any less disgusting than changing a nappy next someone who’s eating? Poop and food don’t mix, from either side of the spectrum and I hope people think about this a little more before asking breastfeeding mothers to make this sacrifice.

I can’t help but wonder if the current slew of celebrity breastfeeding selfies are helping to normalise the process. In the past few months, we’ve seen supermodels and actresses taking breastfeeding selfies and tweeting or Instagramming them, showing that breastfeeding is a normal, beautiful act and that even on women who are lusted after by millions, breasts needn’t be sexualised permanently.

breastfeeding celebs

As a bottle-feeder by choice, I’ve been frowned upon and lambasted by heathcare professionsals and other mothers, and I’ve been known to use the phrase ‘breastapo’ on more than one occasion, but I think there’s a huge difference between women who proudly feed and aren’t afraid to be part of the movement which is normalising public feeding and people who feel the need to bully bottle-feeders for their choices. Whilst breastfeeding isn’t for me (and it’s a choice over which I agonised and have many deep-seated reasons for making), I can see the true beauty of breastfeeding and the closeness shared between mother and baby.

One of my favourite tweeters is Lucy Aitken-Read. You might know of her because of the no-poo revolution which has been taking off (and has also been featured in the national press), but she’s a prolific blogger at Lulastic and the hippyshake and Wonderthrift and often shares the most incredible shots of herself feeding her daughters. She shows that you don’t have to be a celebrity with a million stylists and hairdressers to show the beauty of breastfeeding, and in fact she looks MORE beautiful for the ease and naturalness which exudes from her shots.

So, where do you stand on the debate? Are you happy to see women feeding in public or do you think it’s something which should be kept behind closed doors? Are you a breastfeeder and if so, do you feed happily in public and have you ever received criticism for doing so? I’d love to hear some first hand experiences from my readers, so do leave me a comment below.

Zizzi Ristorante Review #ZizziBambini

zizzi-roundelLast week we were invited along to our local Zizzi, a restaurant which serves a selection of traditional and contemporary Italian food and we decided to take my mother-in-law along too, so that we could see what 3 generations of Crammond thought of the food. We actually chose to visit the branch at Bluewater Shopping Centre, which is slightly farther afield for us, but we love Bluewater and combined it with a trip to the Lego shop so that Sausage could spend all of our money her birthday money.

The restaurant is located in The Village, a section of the mall filled with eateries which backs onto the lake, giving a gorgeous view whilst dining and we were seated right by the huge patio doors. The decor of the place was fresh and eclectic and I spent an inordinate amount of time lusting after their furnishings and fixtures. As soon as we were seated we were given our menus and had our drinks order taken, and we were given plenty of time to decide what we were eating (which was probably longer than usual as we’re 3 indecisive adults – Sausage put us to shame by knowing what she wanted right away!).

Zizzi Decor

For starters, Husband and I shared a plate of antipasti, which consisted of garlic breadsticks, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, olives and a selection of meats, all of which tasted fresh and delicious – so much so that we went to the supermarket the next day and attempted to recreate the dish ourselves. My mother-in-law went for the garlic bread, which was a huge flat-bread style dish and tasted wonderful. The kids meal offered a selection of crudités and breadsticks which Sausage enjoyed in between colouring in her menu with the crayons she was supplied with.

For our mains, I went for the Cicchetti platter, a dish which can be eaten as a sharing plate for a starter or for one as a main and consisted of risotto balls (which literally melted in the mouth and were packed full of tender rice and melted cheese), chicken and pepper skewers, oven baked king prawn skewers, mini calzone with spicy n’duja sausage and a tomato and bufala mozzarella salad with a chunky peperonata dip. I’m a lady with a big appetite, but even I had to admit defeat as there was just SO much food on the plate.

Husband had the seafood risotto, which he felt was a little hit and miss – the risotto was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of bite, the seafood tasted fresh and even reinvigorated his enjoyment of squid (something he’s had bad experiences with in the past due to it being overcooked) but the flavour was a little overwhelmed by the amount of heat. He’s by no means a chilli-wuss, and can eat far hotter food than I, but he felt that the delicateness of the seafood was drowned out by the over-spicing of the dish. However, he did enjoy it and was complimentary overall.

Mother in Law went for the Pollo Prosciutto, or chicken and ham to you and I, and really enjoyed it. The chicken and prosciutto were perfectly cooked (chicken breast has the tendency to be slightly dry but this was juicy and tender) and the potatoes and green beans were a perfect accompaniment along with the white wine sauce.

Sausage’s main was obviously the show-stopper of the day, as she was able to actually construct her own pizza from the Zizzi Bambini menu. Presented with a cooked cheese and tomato pizza, she was able to use ham, tomatoes and olives to make the pizza to her  own specifications, and I have to say, it was both beautiful and delicious!

Zizzi Food

By this point, Husband was well and truly beaten, but us girls ploughed on with dessert, with Sausage going for the Zizzi Bambini Cones, a super-cute dish consisting of two scoops of ice cream, topped with mini cones and chocolate sprinkles. MIL had a simple bowl of vanilla ice-cream, and despite being beaten by my mains, I was a naughty girl and had a chocolate and banana calzone, an interesting invention which is new and exclusive to Zizzi and consisted of sweet dough wrapped around sweetly caramelised bananas and melted chocolate. I’m not sure I have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to explain you you just how delicious it was, but be assured, I was very impressed.

All in all, we were blown away by the quality of both food and service at Zizzi. The staff were very accommodating of us with our buggy, gave us just the right amount of attention, serving us quickly and chatting politely without making us feel like we were being hovered over or rushed and the food really exceeded our expectations. We’ll definitely be returning to Zizzi in the future as it’s the perfect place to take a family for a special lunch or dinner and we felt totally relaxed in our surroundings.

Thanks so much to Zizzi for hosting us…we’ll be back!

A Timeline of Parenthood

There are certain aspects of parenthood which I well and truly take for granted, even down to the cows milk free formula which BB has to have because of her intolerances. It boggles my mind to  think that certain thinks have only been invented within the last 200 years. This infographic from Benenden Health shows the timeline of parenthood and really brings into sharp focus how short a time certain conveniences have been available:

The evolution of parenthood timeline

Parenthood timeline Infographic by benenden health

It’s crazy to think that it’s only been illegal to sack a woman because of pregnancy since 1975 and even crazier to discover that it’s only been possible for unmarried and gay couples to adopt since 2002.

With World Breastfeeding Week just past, the debate over whether breast is best is still raging on – if you read this blog often, you’ll probably know that I bottle fed both my girls through choice, a decision I didn’t take lightly but have been defensive about on many an occasion. According to the infographic, 1 in 5 women have suffered negativity whilst breastfeeding in public and 43% of mothers feel uncomfortable. As a bottle feeding mother, I’ve also noticed negativity – eye rolls and dirty looks as I prepare a bottle or feed the baby. Now I’m a second time Mum, the negativity rolls off of me easily as I care not what others think and realise that criticism from people who don’t know really means nothing.

What, if anything, do you find most surprising about the infographic and which invention or innovation are you most grateful for? I have to say, though I’m very grateful for the formula milk, strollers and baby bottles, I’m most grateful for the c-sections, through which both of my girls have been safely delivered. Sausage was born via emergency c-section and if the surgeon hadn’t managed to get her out in under one minute, I seriously dread to think what might have happened. BB was lucky to have had a rather more relaxed birth by elective, but I’m glad I didn’t have to go through the induction process as she had to be born 4 weeks early.

Parenthood is a seriously wonderful thing and the early days are magical times, but I hate to think what life was like before all of the historical events on the infographic!

Weekend Wanderings: Prague

praguewithbabyIf you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a list in your head of places you’d like to one day visit and for me, Prague is pretty close to the top of that list. Prague is full of tourist attractions and ‘must-see’ buildings, and although a long holiday to a city might not be everyone’s cup of tea, short breaks in Prague are perfect for families, and there’s a lot of activities for kids to enjoy in the Czech Capital:

Black Light Theatre and National Marionette

Prague has a long history of marionette shows and the Black Light Theatre and National Marionette are a great place to see this tradition in all its glory. The shows are all about the visuals and even really small kids can enjoy them because of the lights and movement.

Funicular Railway & Petrin Observation Tower

The Funicular railway runs all the way up to the top of Petrin Hill and is enough of an attraction by itself but once you reach the top, you’re treated to incredible views from the Petrin Observation Tower, as well as  a hall of mirrors, an observatory, a church and a rose garden to explore. All of the attractions are open year-round and are just as fun in winter as during the warmer months.

Axa Swimming Pool

The Axa swimming pool is considered the best pool in the city, measuring 25m in length and open all year round. The pool is heated so little ones won’t feel the chill and best of all, the pool also has saunas and massage tables for mums and dads to enjoy while the kids are entertaining themselves!

Museum of Communism

If you’ve got slightly older kids or just like to teach your little ones as you go, the Museum of Communism is a great place to take them to explain what the Czech Republic was like under Soviet rule. The place gives a well-balanced look at communism, showing both the negative aspects such as the poverty and oppression, but also highlights some of the positive aspects, such as the increased sense of community amongst citizens of the former Czechoslovakia.

DinoPark

DinoPark is a fun-filled amusement park with a dinosaur theme and is filled with life-sized replicas of the ancient lizards. Amazingly, the park is also home to the one of the oldest living plants on the planet, the Wollemi pine which has been dated back 175 million years!

Prague may have a reputation of being a place for boozy stag dos and hen parties, but it’s actually a beautiful place with a rich history and would be an excellent place for a family weekend break. Of course, it’d also be great for a stay without the kids, but that won’t be happening for at least another 18 years, so it’s good to know that there’ll be plenty to do if we ever make it there as a family!