A family trip to Banham Zoo

Last Saturday lunchtime my sister sent a message asking if we were free that night or Sunday. Her and her boyfriend hired a car for the weekend and wondered if they could come and stay. Of course, the answer was yes. I said I’d find us something to do on Sunday and we decided on Banham Zoo. John and I don’t drive so getting places like this is normally impossible for us.

Banham Zoo is about an hour away from where we live so the drive there wasn’t too bad at all. Erin isn’t really used to being in a car seat but she did amazingly well and even had a little nap before we got there. We visited on a pretty dreary Sunday so when we arrived the zoo was pretty quiet. Tickets aren’t overly expensive at £15.95 (includes donation) for adults under 3s are free. (Prices correct until March 31st 2017) The zoo opens at 9:30 every day except Christmas Day but closing times vary depending on the season.

Banham Zoo

Now, looking at the map, Banham Zoo isn’t the biggest in the world but that’s a good thing in my eyes. Erin is only 1 so she doesn’t have the concentration for somewhere like London Zoo yet. As you can see from the picture above, we started having fun as soon as we got to the zoo. These picture props are all over the zoo!

For a smaller zoo, there is a surprisingly good selection of animals to see. Each section we visited was really interesting and most of the animals were out! I thought a lot of them would hide away because it was miserable but I guess they didn’t care. Each of the enclosures looked to be really well thought out and plenty big enough for the animals which is so important.

We managed to get to see one talk during our visit and that was about the giraffes, John’s favourite animals. Erin was AMAZED by them. We got her out of the pushchair so she could see better and she kept trying to get closer to them.

Our absolute favourite part of the zoo was the Farm Barn. This area had sheep, donkeys, rats, rabbits, goats, llamas and pigs. There is a strange gate system to get into the area and this meant goats escaping everywhere. There are warnings but we were not quick enough. Trying to herd them back together was hilarious but my sister got butted a few times in the process. Here, you could buy food for the goats and llamas which is what made them all a bit crazy.

We also learned that Erin could apparently talk to goats. Every time they made their little noises, she would do it straight back. Clever girl!

I won’t go into detail about every animal but here are some extra pictures.

In the middle of our visit we went to the Parrot Pavilion cafe for lunch. It was actually the only place open for food. There are a few outdoor stalls but I guess they’re only open during the main season. The menu is pretty much what you’d expect from a place like this. Most of the food is already cooked and served as you ask for it.

Children can choose from 5 cold items or a hot meal (fish fingers, sausage, veg bites, jacket potato or pasta) with a drink and dessert for £5.95.

Adult meals vary but there are options like fish finger sandwiches, chicken curry, beef lasagne, beef chilli and pasta (roughly £5-£7 a meal) or sandwiches are also available. Now, you’ll notice something missing here. There are no vegetarian or vegan options apart from a jacket potato or a portion of chips. There is a gluten free menu but nothing on there is vegan. You also have to wait 15 minutes for anything from this menu to be cooked. This obviously means that you cannot eat at the same time as the rest of the group.

The food, honestly, was terrible. We paid about £20 for a chicken curry, chips and beans and a children’s fish fingers. My sister had a fish finger sandwich, her boyfriend a curry and a drink for about the same price. My sister could not even eat her food. The chips were so greasy and the fish fingers were black inside. Having worked in a similar kind of place (soft play) I know that you don’t have to use the absolute cheapest of ingredients to make money, especially when you get as much footfall as you do in a zoo. Erin, who normally loves fish finger and chips wouldn’t eat hers either and she’s not that fussy.

If we were to have another visit here, there is not a chance that I would eat here again.

We were at the zoo for about 4 and a half hours so the entrance fee was well worth the visit. We all had an amazing day and even Erin stayed awake the whole time. I’m sure we had more fun that she did!

A family trip to Norwich

John and I don’t go out very often. Money is pretty tight now that I earn less a month than when I was on maternity leave and we don’t often have much ‘free’ time. However, I recently got my last pay from my old job and thought we should treat ourselves. We headed into Norwich yesterday and spent the whole day together as a family.

Going into Norwich means getting the train. Erin seems to LOVE the train. She was so excited by everything passing us by and also being able to see our reflections in the window.

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We had a fair bit of shopping to do in Norwich. I had a £20 gift card for Boots so I picked up 2 new cups for Erin to try, some food and some baby grows. We then headed to intu Chapelfield for lunch. John was much better than me and had something from a noodle bar while I tucked into a McDonalds. Erin tried to steal my burger but she had to make do with a jam sandwich. After lunch Erin had her very first go on a ride and she enjoyed it so much. I am so glad we got to do this as a family.

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Family

After lunch was more shopping and upgrading my phone. I was so set on FINALLY getting an iPhone but the cost stopped me. I managed to get a Huawei P9 and a tablet for the same price as an iPhone 6S. Maybe in 2 years I’ll get one! This took such a long time but Erin was so good and only started to get a bit annoyed half way through. John took her for a walk and was fine again after that.

One of the things I really wanted to get from the city was an amazing unicorn dress from Zara. It was a bargain at only £9.99 and I picked up some other bits too. I also got a few bits from H&M. Erin is all set for winter now and she’s going to look awesome!

Zara Kids

H&M

We also took a quick trip to the Disney Store where Erin made a new friend who we just had to bring home!! John and I also got a couple of treats from Krispy Kreme for us as well!

Olaf

Krispy Kreme

Poor Erin had a nap in the morning until 8:30 but then she didn’t sleep again until 4pm! Whenever we go into the city she always struggles to nap because there’s so much going on and so much to see!

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I had such a nice day with John and Erin. I wish we could have family days more often but this day will carry me through for a while!

A trip home to Grimsby!

This past weekend John, Erin and I took a trip back home to Grimsby for a couple of days, along with my sister Natalie and her boyfriend Chris. John and I haven’t been back since Christmas 2013 and Erin had never been before!

Natalie and Chris (who drove) hired a car and drove up from London to pick us up on the way. It was absolute hell! It took us forever to get to King’s Lynn where we stopped at Wetherspoons for lunch. Erin had her very first meal of her own. Unfortunately, she was more interested in everything else that was going on.

Natalie and Chris left their house before 8am and we didn’t arrive in Grimsby until about 7pm. If I thought it was a long day, I can only imagine how they felt. Erin would normally have been in bed at about 630 but she was so excited to see my mum that we let her stay up late, which NEVER happens.

On Saturday morning me, John and Erin went for breakfast with my sister which was lovely. Erin had a stack of American style pancakes to herself and LOVED them! She’s a bit of a fan of getting her own meals while we’re out now. After that we went to see my dad and step-mum and their dogs Leo and Scout. We also managed to see my step-sister and her boyfriend for a little while and also my step-brother’s 1 month old daughter! Saturday evening was much more chilled out with some quality time for Erin with her Grandma!

On Sunday we had booked a meal at Millfields Hotel for all of us and also my Nanna and Aunt. There will be a full review to come over the weekend but it was super disappointing for various reasons. However, it was lovely to see family and for Erin to finally get to meet them! The rest of the day was really chilled out and was spent with a lot of playing with Erin!

Monday morning and time to leave came around far too fast. It honestly felt like a bit of a whirlwind trip. I wanted to see Jenny from Accidental Hipster Mum but I knew I wouldn’t have had time. I never thought I would ever find another blogger from Grimsby so I’m quite sad I haven’t been able to meet her. Next time I go home it’s a must! It took us a long time to get back home, leaving at about 8:30 and getting in at 1:30. We were all exhausted but it’s also nice to get back to normality as well.

This was Erin’s first really long trip away from home and it wasn’t too bad. I think we could have done with maybe a few more stops in the car just to break it up for her but otherwise, she was so good! Now to plan another trip!

Dog, babies and beaches!

Since moving to Norfolk something I haven’t taken advantage of is the beautiful coast. Part of the problem is that John and I don’t drive so some of the beaches are hard to get to.

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Yesterday we headed to a beach in Overstrand with some of the family. John’s brother and his girlfriend came round for a bit first with their gorgeous dog Roxy! Ever since we got Jackson I wanted him and Roxy to be friends but this is the first time they’ve met! Roxy followed him around while Jackson ran away as much as he could to stop Roxy from stealing his ball!

After some dog introductions, we took them to the beach. This was the first time both Jackson and Erin had been to the beach. John is a bit of a worrier when it comes to taking Jackson somewhere new because he is a bit of a terror. He also sometimes doesn’t listen to us when he should. When we opened the boot of the car, Jackson made a run for it down the slope… and Roxy followed! Luckily, after a little chase, we did get them back and on leads quickly.

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Windy!!

It was a bit windy at the beach!

The beach was really quiet and we were able to let the dogs off their leads safely, without the risk of them running off to other dogs or children. Jackson loved it! He was so happy running around after his ball, with Roxy not far behind him. He also discovered sea water which he thought tasted lovely!

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Erin wasn’t really too bothered about the beach to be honest. She’s been poorly and was tired. We had to carry her too and didn’t take anything to sit on. Unfortunately, she didn’t really get to do much at the beach

. She was quite happy watching the dogs run around though. I am excited to take her to the beach properly next summer though when she can really play.

Hopefully, by then, we can get Jackson bus trained so we can take advantage of some of the other beautiful beaches in Norfolk.

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It was so nice to have Erin’s Auntie and Uncle round and to go to the beach for a bit with the dogs! Hopefully this is something we can do more often. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it (and Jackson was worn out)!

Family Friendly Norfolk: Harriet’s Cafe Tearooms

This Family Friendly Norfolk post is all about Harriet’s Cafe Tearooms in Norwich.

Family Friendly Norfolk

On 8th July, while my mum was here to stay for the week, my sister came up from London for the day. We all love afternoon tea and had walked by this place the last time we were all together. We’d made the plan in advance to see what this place was like. I called in advance the day before to book a table, letting them know at the time that we would have a pram with us.

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Our table was booked for 12:30 but we arrived a bit early but this wasn’t a problem at all. We were greeted with a warm smile at the door. After mentioning our booking we were shown to a table at the back of the room. Now, at the time, this felt like we were being shoved out of the way. However, we really weren’t. Another party came in with two prams and sat near us. The back area has a lot more space for prams so I guess more comfortable for everyone.

I was absolutely amazed to be sat next to a piano player. My mum plays piano so she was happy and the setting was absolutely wonderful. Who would complain at afternoon tea with real piano music being played. The cafe decor matched the feeling from the piano player. The whole place is beautifully decorated and even before ordering anything, I was enjoying myself.

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All three of us chose to order the Special Afternoon Tea, priced at £19.95 each. This consists of any tea or coffee, smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese and ham sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, miniature patisseries and handmade macaroons. When Erin is older I will definitely be getting her a child’s afternoon tea. I think it’s amazing that Harriet’s do something like this. I haven’t seen it anywhere before. Other children’s meals are offered too at really reasonable prices (£2.35 and up).

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We asked for a couple of alterations on the sandwiches due to dietary requirements (and me being picky). My sister is the tea drinker of the family and she was really excited about the options available. To start with she had Rose Chocolate Tisane and later had Russian Caravan. My mum had coffee while I had orange juice because I don’t drink hot drinks. Nothing was too much trouble!

Our visit to Harriet’s was Erin’s first time in a high chair that wasn’t her own. She is small for her age still and doesn’t actually fit in generic high chairs. I had to pad her into one with blankets etc. I had with me but this isn’t the fault of Harriet’s. I was glad that Erin was happy enough sitting in the chair so she could have her own lunch at the same time.

Our afternoon tea was amazing and by far the best I have had so far. As three of us were eating everything came out on two sets of tiered plates and it looked so nice. We all commented immediately on the cakes and how good they looked. Honestly, everything tasted amazing. We all struggled to finish everything but we did, slowly. You get so much for your money with this afternoon tea and I was thoroughly impressed.

Erin managed to try some herself, as she was pretty desperate to when sat on my lap for a bit. She’s in that place now where she wants to try everything and scone with jam was her pick for the day!

My only real negative about our visit to Harriet’s was the facilities for Erin. At the back of where we were sat was the toilets, one male and one female. There was no accessible toilet and there was no baby changing. I thought I might have been missing something but there was no where else these could have been. While the ladies toilets are probably the most beautiful I have seen, I wasn’t happy about changing Erin on the floor. Luckily, I had a portable mat with me but it is not comfortable or easy. I also felt like I was in the way of other people coming in.

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Harriet’s not only serve afternoon tea but they have a regular menu as well. We saw some meals come out and they looked so good. Next time (there’s definitely a next time) I will struggle to decide what to order!

On the way out we stopped to look at the teas, cakes and macaroons available to buy separately. My sister, who cannot come to Norwich without buying tea, did so.

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Harriet’s was so close to being very family friendly. Had there been baby changing facilities, it would have been the perfect day out for me.

Harriet’s Cafe Tearooms can be found at 38 London Road, Norwich, 01603 614848. 

Grandma’s Visit

Last week we had a visit from Erin’s Grandma.

I’m originally from Grimsby, where my mum still lives. She doesn’t drive so it takes her about 6 hours and a pretty expensive train ticket (there are never any cheap advance tickets) to get to us. It doesn’t matter though. On nearly every one of her weeks off from work she comes down to see us and to spend some time with Erin.

We had such a fun week and did some really exciting things with Erin.

Tuesday didn’t quite go to plan as Erin has been teething so we didn’t go to Baby Yoga like we normally would have. We went for a bit of a look around town and to a local cafe for lunch though.

On Wednesday we met John and took Erin to the zoo for the first time. She was still grumpy because of her teeth but she was very interested in the crocodiles!

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Thursday we had a bit more of a chilled out day.

Friday we went into Norwich and met my sister who came up from London. Erin was so excited to see her Auntie Natalie. She’s her favourite teether at the moment! We went to a wonderful place called Harriet’s Tea Rooms for afternoon tea which was amazing (review later this month).

Mum went home on Saturday evening but we did manage to go to a local summer fair  in the morning. Unfortunately it chucked it down and we couldn’t stay long. We did manage to look at a few of the stall and I got to hold a real owl. I’m terrified of anything with a beak so it was a pretty big deal for me. I also picked up a couple of things for Erin’s bedroom from some craft stalls!

Owls

We’ve all loved having my mum to stay for the week. I love that Erin got to spend some quality time with her. She has really enjoyed getting used to the feel of her two new teeth by chomping on mum’s hands, tops, hair… anything she can reach really.

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It’s really important for me that mum and Erin get this time together when she does come to stay. Living so far away means that mum doesn’t get to see Erin as much as she would like, and she’s her only granddaughter. Erin absolutely adores her grandma and seeing the smiles she gave her was amazing.

We already can’t wait for the next visit.

The Husband Files: Erin’s zoo adventure

Yesterday we took Erin on a zoo adventure.

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Due to my work schedule I don’t get to go on fun days out with Erin so I was really excited. I was able to take a half day off from work to go and meet Lyndsey, Erin and Lyndsey’s mum at Amazona Zoo in Cromer. It’s only a mile away from where I work so I was able to get there quite quickly!

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Erin has never been to a zoo before now so we weren’t sure if she would even like it. However, although Amazona Zoo is not the biggest there are some cool animals for a 6 month old to look at. To begin with, Erin wasn’t interested in animals as she just wanted to stare at trees! She seems to like the greenness.

Erin is teething at the moment and also the time we arrived at the zoo was her lunch time so she wasn’t best pleased.  Luckily we were all hungry so as soon as we arrived we headed to the cafe for lunch. Erin had a pre-prepared two course baby meal. Lyndsey’s mum had a cheeseburger. The food for the adults was great and the portions were very generous for the price. For three adult meals and a drink each it only cost £16.50.

Unfortunately, Erin is very predictable and we knew it was only a matter of time before she was snoring away.

It then became a bit of a case of speed zoo to try to show her as many of the animals as possible. She saw ducks, flamingos, warthogs, monkeys, spiders, snakes, and a few birds and others I can’t remember.

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She wasn’t all that interested until she saw the crocodiles, which she was fascinated by. That is my girl – interested in the nice, gentle creatures. Honestly, who likes crocodiles over everything else?!

Once Erin was asleep we went round the rest of the zoo and saw some pumas, cheetahs and parrots. Erin eventually woke up while we were in the gift shop, smiling away having slept through her first trip to the zoo.

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Lyndsey’s mum was extremely generous and bought us yearly passes as a gift. At least now we can take her back when she’s a bit more alert and will enjoy it more. Hopefully she can stay awake next time.

The Hoxton Hotel, Shorditch

This weekend John and I went to London for one night to see Ed Sheeran at Wembley and needed a hotel. I always like to get a hotel that’s easy to get to and from on the tube and on lines near where ever we are going. The Hoxton, Shorditch wasn’t somewhere I had stayed before but the reviews and pictures online made me take a chance… and I’m so glad I did.

We booked through Booking.com as it gave us the option to not pay upfront. However, an attempt was made to take payment just under a week before our stay and the money was not in my bank account. I quickly called the hotel and the member of staff was so helpful and asked what day I would like the payment to be taken and assured me the booking would not be cancelled. Phew!

On arrival at The Hoxton I was a bit lost for words. As soon as I entered the hotel I thought ‘Wow, this is swanky!’ The hotel lobby has a wonderful feeling to it. It’s quite dimly lit but the atmosphere was nice. Instantly my eyes were drawn to the books. There is wire cases with books right in front of the reception desk and guests can quite clearly help themselves to one to read during their stay, whether it be in the bar or in their room.

While checking in I was once again impressed with the staff. The gentleman checking us in was happy and chatty and assured us he would sort us out with a nice room. It did make me wonder if they had rooms that weren’t nice though (although this really isn’t the case). We were told that there was free WiFi throughout the hotel and there were computers free to use next to the elevator. This was a great addition to the hotel as people often need to look up directions or be able to check emails without having to use their phones or tablets etc.

Once we got on the fourth floor where our room was located I was a little freaked out, I have to admit. The corridors have a weird sort of horror film look to them but in a really cool sort of way. Each door being lit up made it seem like there could be anything behind it.

John and I were so impressed with our room. While it wasn’t massive it had everything we could have needed. The bed was large and wonderfully dressed to match the decor. The room had a nice sized desk, television, arm chair (which I would happily have in my own home), safe, mini fridge and space to hang some clothes. The room also came with coffee and tea facilities with proper milk and a couple of water bottles which were free of charge.

hoxton hotel

Another additional feature of this hotel is that you get a really cute breakfast bag to hang outside your door. You just say whether you want 1 or 2 breakfasts and pick a time for it to be delivered. You get a banana, yoghurt and a bottle of orange juice… again, free of charge. I loved this as it was something easy to have or something quick if you need to be on to go in the morning.

The bathroom wasn’t too big but it was roomy and exceptionally clean. There were plenty of towels but we could have gotten more if we needed them. Shower gel, shampoo and conditioner are also provided which as a woman, is something I love to see. Sometimes I forget to pack things like these and it means not having to buy something extra while I’m away. The shower was powerful and to die for. After a long night at Wembley I made the most of it!

Although we didn’t eat at the hotel there is a lovely looking bar and restaurant and room service is also available until midnight.

I couldn’t have been more impressed with this hotel. Every staff member we came across was super friendly without being over the top and it really made a change compared with other hotels I have stayed in. I would easily stay here again, no matter what I was doing in London. This was one of the best hotel stays I have had in a long time.

To find out more about the hotel, the website is https://thehoxton.com/london/shoreditch/

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Theatre review: Avenue Q

Last night I went to see Avenue Q at the Norwich Playhouse with my husband, Kirsty and her husband. I have wanted to see this show for so long now but never would have picked it in London as there is always so much else to see. At £17 a ticket, this was much better priced and the theatre isn’t huge so seats are always really good.

Avenue Q follows Princeton, a new graduate trying to find his purpose in life. On his journey he meets a whole host of colourful and furry characters on Avenue Q who help him to realise what he should be doing with his life. The story is heart-warming but rude and hilarious at the same time. The songs are catchy but not for the young. This show is only for audiences of 14 and up and for good reason. Songs like The Internet is for Porn are not for everyone but I loved them!

Avenue Q has a fantastic cast of actors who are on stage with their puppets. The strange thing about this one is that you can see them operating the puppets but that doesn’t take anything away from the show, it only adds to it. Each actor really becomes the character of the puppet with their facial expressions and body language matching what is going on in the story.

While all of the cast and characters were amazing, The Bad Idea Bears were by far my favourite (played by Joseph Betts and Emma Hume). These bears are cute as hell but so, so naughty! They would get me into a lot of trouble if they were my friends, that’s for sure!

The Threshold Theatre Company’s performance of Avenue Q was nothing short of amazing.

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