National Tea Day

Did you know that today was National Tea Day? I didn’t until just recently and neither did my sister Natalie, who is pretty addicted to tea. Today she’s guest posting for me about why she loves tea!

National Tea Day

Today is National Tea Day, which I didn’t know existed, but being British it makes perfect sense; shouldn’t this be a National holiday?? The British are famously a nation of tea lovers, however to most people this is milky ‘builders tea’ which has a large sugar to tea ratio. I’ve never been a fan. In fact, I never used to like tea at all. I can remember trying my first cup of herbal tea at college where i was studying holistic therapies with a group of middle age fruity tea lovers. Going for a cup of tea on our breaks meant going for a fruit infusion which I knew wasn’t popular or common due to the servers offering milk and biscuits with the fruit tea, neither of which were necessary or complimentary. How I have gone from there, to hoarding tea like there is a nationwide shortage of it is a mystery to me. I think that the growing popularity of fruit and green teas has meant that these days there is something for everyone, and the availability of this in most cafes and restaurants means that you can easily avoid coffee without having to resort to a sugary cold drink. There is a huge selection at supermarkets along with a small amount of great speciality shops. Not only has the availability of flavours expanded, but so has the trend for stylish tea wear; from cast iron tea sets, to antique tea sets.

At present I have enough tea to last me a few years. This doesn’t mean that i will stop buying tea for the next few years, I have a collection that I steadily add to because I cannot stop myself from buying tea of unusual and interesting flavours. Don’t get me wrong, I love the basics. I mostly drink flavoured green teas from Twinings – they’re an institution, you can’t go wrong with them. But I also have a collection of loose teas that I try to drink less frequently; they’re more expensive than tea bags and require more effort to diffuse before drinking. I’m particularly a fan of T2, a speciality tea store company with a few stores in England. I visit the shop on Tottenham Court Road in central London and rarely leave without buying at least one tea. Their tea comes in bright square containers and they sell a massive range of flavours. They sell a good range of traditional tastes, including high end green teas which come at an extra cost but they also sell some fun desert flavours – their caramel tea is simply delicious. Also in London is Postcard Tea which is a tiny shop you can find on Dering Street in Mayfair, not far from Oxford Circus. They only sell tea from farmers with very small plantations, so the tea is fairly rare. Of the tea I’ve bought the taste is incredibly delicate and unusual. I try to add to my collection when I travel too, tea tends to be the main thing I bring back from holidays these days. My favourite acquisitions so far has been coconut black tea from the Caribbean and a small pot of loose tea I bought from Angelina which I bought when i visited Versailles during a recent trip to Paris.

Although drinking tea is done daily and usually without much thought, I think it is worth considering taking the time to at least once go for afternoon tea, an activity which I feel is becoming more popular. It’s worth finding somewhere that has a good selection of teas on offer so that you can pair your meal with a variety of blends to accompany your cakes and finger sandwiches. Okay, so this meal isn’t all about the tea, but I think there’s something about finger sandwiches and miniature cakes being paired with teas, that are brewed in beautiful tea pots, which is worth experiencing.

Are you a tea drinker? If you are, what is your favourite?

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Last minute getaway to Cambridge

John and I were supposed to go to Cambridge for a weekend for my birthday/ Mother’s Day but it never happened due to illness. I managed to get a rare Saturday night off work though last minute so we decided to go away quite last minute.

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Travel

Silly me didn’t think about checking trains before booking a hotel. It turned out that we happened to go on the one weekend where there was bus replacements part way, making our journey about 40 minutes longer than it should have been. Erin actually was quite good the whole way there but she did want to run around quite a lot! Train travel with a toddler is certainly interesting (post to come soon!)

Accommodation

I booked us in at the ibis Cambridge Central on the recommendation from my sister. The hotel is right next to the train station but a good 15-20 minute walk away from the city center. I’ll be writing a full review soon but we really enjoyed our stay and will be back next time we’re in Cambridge!

Day one

We arrived in Cambridge at about 9:30am so we had the full day ahead of us. As we couldn’t check in to the hotel until 2pm (found out after that we could have stored bags there) we didn’t want to do too much. We headed into the city center and just explored pretty much. We loved walking around the market and listening to music being played. We also took in a lot of the beautiful buildings and history. We were also quite lucky in that we got to see a bit of a graduation happening at King’s College.

Erin got quite grumpy about 2pm so we decided to let her have a run around in a park and then head back to the hotel for a bit of a rest. We all had a much needed catnap before heading out for some more fun.

A 10 minute walk from the hotel is a little leisure park with some restaurants, cinema and bowling alley. Although I used to be the manager of a bowling alley it has been years since we went. Erin was very unsure about bowling but she did like sitting on the motorbike games in the arcades! For dinner we went to Bella Italia (again, review coming soon). It’s always a safe bet for us because we all like the food there!

We got back to the hotel about 7pm and we were all exhausted. John and Erin were both snoring away by about 8pm and I even had an early night myself.

Day two

Day 2 started at 6:30am with us all being well rested. We’d paid for breakfast at the hotel because I knew Erin would want food straight away. I was so impressed! All you can eat breakfast is always good but this one I really enjoyed.

Sundays are a bit hard when you’re away in the UK because nothing is really open until 10am. We took this opportunity to walk around the streets of Cambridge before going to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Entrance was £5 each for me and John but Erin was free. There was a cute Easter Lindt bunny trail for us to follow too which got Erin some free chocolate at the end. The gardens were gorgeous and we were lucky to go on such a sunny day.

We didn’t have much time for anything else after the gardens so we headed to Wetherspoons for lunch where I, stupidly, ordered breakfast again forgetting about my food earlier! Getting home at a decent time meant leaving at 2pm. I didn’t actually mind this too much though as we were all exhausted! The bus replacement from Cambridge to Ely was horrible though. It was a ‘proper’ bus and not a coach and there was not enough room for people and their luggage. Erin did not want to sit down but there was no room for her to move so she clambered around on me and John. Thankfully, the people sat behind us helped to keep her entertained. I may have cried if it wasn’t for them.

Would i go again?

Absolutely! I loved our little getaway to Cambridge. John and I both loved it, Erin just liked staying in a hotel and eating loads of breakfast. I’d love to go back and see more of the university and colleges and get a few more activities in.

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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!

2017 family goals

2017 family goals

Last week I posted about my goals for the blog in 2017. Today I’m talking about my family goals. I think that there is a lot I would like us to achieve this year so this list will be quite varied.

family goals

Family days out – We didn’t do nearly enough of this in 2016. Funds are always quite tight seeing as I only work part time now so we have to be quite careful. John also works a lot of 6 day weeks so sometimes we only get a Sunday together. Even if it’s a walk to the local park, that will do for me!

Sell, sell, sell – I have been selling on my local Facebook sites for quite some time now. (I have a post coming up about this) Sometimes I do okay and other times are pretty awful and I can’t shift anything. I have a spare bedroom full of Erin’s old clothes and other bits and pieces that I need to get rid of. We’re not having any more children so there’s no need to keep much.

Donate to charity – This one really ties in with the previous goal. Sometimes, some items don’t sell no matter how much you try. I have a box of stuff that has been sat there for months. I am going to give things like this one more chance and if I can’t sell them, I’ll donate them!

House and home – We haven’t been able to do much to the house in the last year as we were busy with Erin! This year I would love to get a couple of things done. We have a big list of things that need doing and something from this list would be great:

Central heating

New front door

Fix guttering above the front door

Get blinds put up in Erin’s bedroom and spare bedroom – Our windows are stupid sizes so normal shop bought blinds don’t fit. I’m too scared to cut one down myself.

Shelves in Erin’s bedroom and living room – One alcove in her room is wasted space right now but we need custom made shelves due to the size

Paint the living room – I used to smoke and a muddy dog does not do anything for white walls! We need the room freshening up!

Fix coving in living room – this fell down months ago and we have a big hole in the ceiling now!

Home office – I desperately need some office space so this is high up on my list. A desk is a must!

Holiday – I have put my holiday requests in at work for the year March ’17 to March ’18 (that’s when our year runs). As soon as they are confirmed, which should be soon, I want to book us a family holiday. Our first family holiday. We’re not going far, only to Center Parcs but we’ve never been before and don’t want to go abroad yet. It will also be a getaway for our 4th anniversary in September.

London trips – My sister and her boyfriend live in London, as does John’s Dad’s family. We don’t get to go nearly enough because of the days I work and the cost more than anything. This year though we have at least 2 trips planned and both for a couple of days. Again, I need to wait for confirmation of my holiday dates and work and then we can get the first trip in April all booked!

I feel like this is actually quite a lot to achieve this year. I know we won’t get everything done but I really want to try to do as much as possible. Do you have any personal goals?

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)!

Happy Anniversary to my husband

Happy 3rd Anniversary Husband. Where has the time gone!?

anniversary

3 years ago today we were are that beautiful house in Florida getting married. All we cared about was each other, the sun shining down on us and me wearing sandals under my wedding dress! Then you locked us out of our hotel room and I stood there sweltering in my dress. I was less than impressed but quickly forgave you. I had just married you after all!

I don’t think either of us would have imagined being where we are now, on our 3 year anniversary.  We’ve bought our own house and we have a beautiful 9 month old daughter, both challenges in their own right.

I know I can be a nightmare to live with sometimes. I get stroppy and stressed out easily and yes, I take it out on you when I shouldn’t. You’re my rock though and are always there for me, no matter what. I’m sorry I make life difficult sometimes but I know you love me anyway. I think you just find it funny now when I get angry about kitchen cupboards being left open. In fact, you probably do it on purpose!

I can’t wait to see what the next 3 years bring us… definitely not a new house or baby though! Let’s think of something exciting!

The sacrifices we make

My mum came to stay recently and we got to talking about the classes that Erin attends during the week. A friend had asked how we manage to afford so many classes. As a mum themselves, she knows they don’t come cheap!

Sacrifices

Currently, Erin goes to four different baby classes each week. These are as follows:

Monday – Swimming (£91 a term; about 12 weeks)

Tuesday – Baby Yoga (£30 for 6 weeks)

Wednesday – Music in Motion (£40 for 12 weeks)

Friday – Baby Sensory (£70 for 10 weeks)

For roughly 12 weeks of everything that comes to a massive £261! Now, as we have just finished the summer holidays most of this has had to be paid within a week or two of each other. That’s a massive dent in the finances when only one of us is working and the other gets crappy maternity leave pay.

Now, before anyone thinks so, I am not in any way complaining about spending this money on Erin. 

What this post is about really is the thing we give up as parents to give our children the best starts in life. As a premature baby, Erin had a bit of catching up to do. Health visitors said she would be behind with the ‘normal’ milestones. So, what I did was put Erin into as many classes to help her development as possible. Now at nearly 9 months old Erin is not behind in any way whatsoever. She’s a bit short but I don’t think that’s ever going to change!

Since Erin was born I haven’t had my nails done (although I have just won to get them done). I have had my hair cut once and my mum paid for that as a birthday present back in March. Any clothes I have bought for myself have been in a sale. I’ve had 3 times out on my own; 2 were blogging events. John and I haven’t been out for a meal together since Erin was born. I do, however, go for lunch a couple of times with some friends which costs me a whopping £6 for a panini, chips and a drink.

It’s not just me that makes sacrifices though. John definitely goes without too. Jackson too actually come to think of it. He hasn’t had nearly as many good treats since Erin was born although that’s probably not a bad thing.

Now, I have to think that John and I going out for a meal in the city, costing £15 for the train and then £25+ for a meal could go on much more important things. That’s a whole payment for Music in Motion. It’s nearly half of a term of swimming lessons. Obviously when you think that a nice meal that costs the same as 6 swimming lessons, it can change your mind really easily.

I would give up every single one of these things over and over again for Erin. Going out now and again would be wonderful but seeing how well Erin is doing means absolutely everything to me.

Time without Daddy

Last week John’s Nan passed away and this meant he had to go to Ireland for her funeral. He went Friday lunchtime and won’t be back until nearly midnight tonight so pretty much four and a half days. This has been Erin’s longest time without Daddy.

The first couple of days were not so bad. My mum was visiting anyway so I had some help which was fantastic. However, when it came to bedtime Erin struggled without John. He does bath and bed most days and the first night she really struggled to get to sleep. Sunday night was horrendous. After 11 times of going up to her I gave up and brought her downstairs. She went to sleep fine as long as I was holding her. The minute I put her down the screaming happened.

Time without Daddy

On Saturday John phoned and wanted to speak to Erin on the phone. Massive mistake. She turned her head to the phone, looking all excited at hearing her Daddy’s voice. She tried to find him. When she realised he wasn’t there she was so upset which then made me upset. I was a crying mess. No more phone calls!

Not only was this the first time Erin and John had been away from each other for a longish period of time but John and I are very rarely apart for more than a day. Since we’ve been married I think the longest is two nights.  I hated every minute of it. 

I know that John has hated being away just as much. If I let him, I think John would wake Erin up at midnight when he gets home. He’ll just have to settle for me instead I think.

What’s the longest you and your children have been apart? How did you cope if it was for quite some time?