Family Fun: Buggy Walks & Buggy Talks.

Soakin' up that london sun

Soakin’ up that london sun

Family Fun with: Buggy Walks & Buggy Talks….

Its fantastic when the weekend arrives & we get to spend some quality ‚Äòfamily‚Äô time together. Deciding what to do however is a fraught with much um-ing and ahr-ing.¬† Ultimately for us, the weather will have a major impact on our final choice of activity! We‚Äôre a very ‚Äòoutdoorsy‚Äô family, & whenever we have the opportunity to ‚Äòpound the streets‚Äô with Bear in his buggy, this comes up trumps. Located on the outskirts of London, we are perfectly positioned for town or country walks, today‚Äôs choice: a town walk. Out of the front door & over to Petts Wood for Brunch. Once we arrived Bear promptly evacuated his buggy for the more appealing prospect of Garden games with Nana & Granddad! & Our choice of buggy? The ‘Phil & Teds Dot’. Choosing the right buggy can be a tiresome task, & this is how we eventually settled with ours:

When we were purchasing our buggy & Bear was just a mere bump, I must have read every article possible on travel & buggy ‚Äòsystems‚Äô. Jeez, Is there a lot to take in! Given our passion for the outdoors, we decided pretty early on that a ‚Äò3 wheel‚Äô sports design would suffice for us. We opted for the Britax B-smart¬†travel system, with the isofix car seat + base. As a new parent this was very simple to use & easy for us get to grips with. Sadly though, as my little munchkin grew, became more alert & upright (like the modern day man!) I noticed he wasn‚Äôt at all comfortable in the seat of the B-smart. It appeared the seat needed to incline further & to compensate for the lack of this he had to pull himself forward. I‚Äôm not sure if this was a one off faulty buggy or an overall issue with this particular design. Panic started to ensue within me! I adored the robustness of the B-Smart & i felt assured using a brand such as ‘Britax’. Having already spent the time researching & splashing out a fair amount of cash, what would i do now that it appeared ‘not fit’ ? Paying that kind of large sum again¬†wouldn’t be possible.

I contacted Britax (their customer service was pretty good) & because the purchased was made through Mothercare, they directed me back to a store for help. Off I trotted down there. Slightly apprehensive, I demonstrated to the manager what was wrong, & he totally agreed. I received such good customer service; my mind was instantly put at ease. Luckily, because the buggy was within it‚Äôs guarantee & deemed ‚Äòfaulty‚Äô, I was able to exchange it. Hesitant to go for the same design again, incase the issue would reoccur, I exchange for a different make & model. Electing this time for the Phil & Teds Dot¬†. It‚Äôs just slightly smaller than the original Phil & Teds (read all about it here). What a great decision! We‚Äôve had it for 1 & ¬Ω years now, & I have no complaints. The fantabulous thing about this design is that it‚Äôs a ‚Äòfully adaptable‚Äô stroller for 2 children. Of course, I‚Äôm not trying to drop any¬†subtle not so subtle hints’ to my darling hubbie (would I?), but it makes a great choice for the possibility of siblings!

Phil & Teds dot. Look- the child who 'never sleeps' sleeps!! That's gotta be a good stroller!!

Phil & Teds dot. Look- the child who ‘never sleeps’ sleeps!! That’s gotta be a good stroller!!

Mummy push...bear push!

Bear push….mummy push!

I use ours with a Bowron¬†stroller lambskin fleece & I‚Äôd highly recommend the benefit of these: it’ll stop bubba from getting all sweaty betty in hot weather but keeps them snug as a bug in the winter. On our trips to sunnier climes, it has been a godsend-keeping bear from over heating.

Omnomnom... Ice cream & lambskin keeping bear cool

Omnomnom… Ice cream & lambskin keeping bear cool

For our ‘world’ travels, I did purchase a ‘umbrella’ stroller: the Maclaren Techno XT . It may sound extravagant to have bought a ‘holiday’ buggy, but hear me out; I think this is well founded. I picked mine up on eBay, second hand for £70 & being a well-made Maclaren it was in such good condition. It’s travelled around the globe with us, has been man handled by countless ground staff & momentarily lost on the tarmac at Miami airport, fortunately to be found again (looking a little soggy) & It’s still going strong! Now, I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t fancy putting a £300 buggy like my precious ‘dot’ though all of that? I appreciate which one would dent the wallet more, if it had to be replaced!

The well travelled stroller..Maclaren techno XT

The well travelled stroller..Maclaren techno XT

A good buggy/ system can set you back a small fortune. But if you invest wisely, they can last you for years. My best tips are:

  • Buy from a retailer where you can return to store: I know there are heaps of great deals online, but there really is nothing quiet like the reassurance & convenience of being able to visit a store in the instance of any faults-as per my experience
  • Price match. Nearly all stores price match. Find your products with corresponding prices & present them to the shop. That way you can get Internet best prices in your local store. Mothercare¬†, Kiddicare¬†& John Lewis¬†(to name a few) all engage in price matching. & Remember, if you don‚Äôt ask, you don‚Äôt get.
  • Try before you buy. Kiddicare Lakeside has a huge area for ‚Äòtest driving‚Äô strollers. & The best bit? No ‚ÄòLearner plates‚Äô required-even if you are a novice! Baby shows are also handy for this.
  • Buy what is best suited for you. Don‚Äôt be influenced by celebs: what they use more than likely has been ‚Äògifted‚Äô as a form of PR. So don‚Äôt believe the hype.
  • Less is, well, less. Space is key, so buy according to your available space & weight tolerances‚Ķ. These pieces of equipment can weigh as much as a small army tank. Great at toning your arms, but also great at ‚Äòputting your back out‚Äô! Check the dimensions will fit in your car, or how suitable they‚Äôll be on public transport.
  • Research. Narrow down your choices & check the reviews. You‚Äôll find these splashed all around the Internet (Which? are always great at unbiased opinions).
  • Check your home contents insurance. In fact, at the same time have a look at what other ‚Äòbaby‚Äô equipment might be covered. Children are an expensive hobby!

As I write this London basking in some unseasonably warm sun & we have been taking full advantage of every ray: We dusted off the cobwebs on ‘dot’, pumped up her tyres & I’ve been let loose on those pavements again! Watch out pedestrians…….we’re going a’ cruising’ & “I’m rollin’ with ma homie’!

Family Fever
I’ve linked this with My family Fever: go check out the other tried & tested reviews this week!

An afternoon stroll…. Dulwich Park

After what feels like an entire season dedicated to rain, we were rewarded with relatively pleasant weather on Saturday..can i get a ‘hooray’?. All be it a lil‚Äô nippy, it was dry! & The glorious winter sun made the occasional appearance *round of applause please*

Donning our warmish attire, we all bundled into the car & headed out to make the most of the afternoon. We popped over to Dulwich park, where Bear thoroughly enjoyed running in & out of the shrubbery with Daddy not far behind…

Watch out Dulwich park...wild child on the prowl

Watch out Dulwich park…wild child on the prowl

Bear engaged in one of his favorite skyward-bound activities-plane spotting .…

"pooh, plane!!"

“oooh, plane!!”

The dulwich park wildlife...

The dulwich park wildlife…

 

After a burst of energetic enthusiasm, it was time to ward off a chill by seeking a warm drink & a nibble from the village shops.

taking in the views On the way to the village

taking in the views On the way to the village

 

We stumbled upon Gail’s artisan Bakery. It was bursting at the seam with villagers & that’s sure to be a good sign so we dived in.

Little village bakery...

Little village bakery…

They had a nice selection of drinks, pastry goodies & a couple of gluten free choices. We were Happy campers! I had a tasty Green Tea & gluten free coconut macaroon, Bear & Daddy shared a couple of cookies‚Ķ…Someone likes chocolate

'Chocolate chops!!!'

‘Chocolate chops!!!’

Walking back from the village we took a little detour through Dulwich picture gallery.

Dulwich picture gallery

Dulwich picture gallery

The architecture, style & design of this place are very pleasing on the eye. Investigating it further will have to wait for another time as a little someone had a chocolate-induced-sugar-rush on the horizon & frankly a gallery is no place for this melt down to take place!

Dulwich day out I do love visiting this village; it has such a friendly feel. You feel welcomed & as if you’re part of the community, not something that you’d usually expect in a ‘London’ suburb. & Is it just me, or do you find the sun always shines in Dulwich?

It’ll probably be another year now until we visit again; we really should visit more often. If any of you have a ‘secret gems’ hidden away in Dulwich Village be sure to share them with me & it’ll give me the oomph to get back there sooner to investigate……

IKEA ‘Be brave, not Beige’

The looming clouds above the IKEA chimneys reflected the mood of most shoppers inside!

The looming clouds above the IKEA chimneys reflected the mood of most shoppers inside!

If you’re crazy enough (like we were this weekend) to enter the manic world of off-the-shelf & mass-produced Swedish Design, in my book that counts as brave! When our house was but a mere shell, & more welcoming to the builders than any other civilisation (apart from the gigantic spider that refused to stay in the garden). This place became our regular late night haunt. Don’t say we didn’t know how to live! You would have found us there at least once a week pacing the self service isles, hunting down that one last component needed to complete a whole (as opposed to half) piece of furniture. Which for some reason & still remains unanswered to me, seems to be located in a black hole?

This was of course before little Bear entered our world, & trips to Ikea now have to be arranged around a time that lord snotface finds convenient.

On this occasion, it happened to be on a Saturday afternoon. Bad luck to us. It was heaving! Alas, the joke is on you, God’s of Saturday shopping! & You can’t scare me Ikea! For I (like a superhero), have the ability to recall your store layout! Ha! No dilly-dallying, and meandering through the winding walk paths. Nope, nadda this old carry on. Straight to the kids department, using the short cut. Grabbing the items I had pre assigned to our shopping list in my ‘memory bank’, whilst at the same time swerving like a rally driver to avoid an unprecedented amount of trolleys’. I think my shop was complete within 10 minutes (does that mean I should add ‘professional shopper’ to my CV?).

Inspiration for my budding Artiste!

Inspiration for my budding Artiste!

Like nearly all little boys, mine is obsessed with cars/ trains/ tractors. Car mat is a must. & he's in to 'snap snaps' in a BIG way...

Like nearly all little boys, mine is obsessed with cars/ trains/ tractors. Car mat is a must. & he’s in to ‘snap snaps’ in a BIG way…

But whoa there, wait a minute! I got a little ahead of myself, and it slipped my mind about the small detail of having to queue to pay for said items. Big mistake. The scene awaiting us as we approached the till area can be described best as a massive swarm of wasps. & I don’t like wasps. So how was this for a bit of ‘off the cuff’ ingenious thinking (in my humble opinion)? With Bear acting up, I took the executive decision that I could best entertain him and divert his attention by heading off on a walking adventure, whilst M stayed to wait out the marathon queue & pay (he he he)!

Shelf searching, manic queuing & crowds aside, you’ve gotta love a bit of Ikea. Our home reads like a page out of one of their catalogues. I’d say 80% of our purchases from there are decent quality & reasonably priced goods, which are great value for money. Bear’s nursery is kitted out head to toe in Ikea & it’s had dozens of compliments (even from friends who have spent a small fortune on their own bubba’s nursery). & Quite honestly, babies/ toddlers/ children are an expensive hobby, so where you can save a couple of ££’s without having to compromise on style, safety & quality it seems frivolous to me not to take advantage & ‘be Swedish’ as they say!

Lord of the manor's boudoir

Lord of the manor’s boudoir

The range that we have-looks tons more expensive than it is.

The range that we have-looks tons more expensive than it is.

A wise word or warning: the market hall. This welcoming area is sure to capture your imagination & convince you that just must have that candle, or glass vase. Don’t be sucked in, stay strong and don’t deviate from your list! Unless of course that’s what you’re there for (after all, we made all or wedding center pieces using ikea glass wear & candles).

As long as you enter the store fully prepared for a bit of chaos, & the idea of self-assembly isn’t too intimidating, Ikea needn’t be scary! Now, if I could just fine where I left that allen key…….

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese New Year….London 2014 Year of the Horse

 

 

Sweet dreams are made of these
I love The Chinese New year celebrations. Having spent my childhood growing up in South East Asia, the memories that are evoked by this colourful celebration are a pure joy to me. The loud steel drums, the noise of fire crackers, dancing dragons and spinning Lions all produce a grin on my face comparable to that of a cheshire cat! Oh, & if anyone is generous enough to present a red envelope that’s a wonderful treat! I remember that if we were lucky enough to be travelling through Singapore around the same time as the festivities, it was an absolute delight. ¬†That being said, the London CNY celebrations are apparently the biggest outside of Asia.

Chinese new year. London parade 2014

Chinese new year. London parade 2014

Since my little bear was born, I’ve yearned to attend the London parade & share with him this cultural delight. It’s taken us 2 years to get there! In the past we’d been plagued with bad weather. & quite frankly we’ve had to prepare ourselves for a London excursion with our mini explorer. ¬†He’s like a Duracell bunny. Non stop. Like he has ants in his pants. & trying to time the trip around his much needed nap (which if he misses out on trust me, you ought to run for the hills before all hell breaks loose!), it just all seemed too much hassle. Not this year! We took the plunge & boy I’m glad we did. With London basking in some overdue winter sunshine, it was beautiful (all be it very fresh!).

St. martin in the fields basking in the morning sunshine. The parade started from here

St. martin in the fields basking in the morning sunshine. The parade started from here.

I can safely say that my boy bear is now wholeheartedly obsessed with Trains & I think I may have found his kryptonite. He actually sat still for the entire journey! In total awe. Amazing. As for the parade? Well, he had far more important things to investigate. Charging up & down St. Martin’s Place & checking out the church. He was however very happy to see a super sized rubber duck in the parade!

A rubber duck in the Chinese new year London parade?

A rubber duck in the Chinese new year London parade? Far left in this pic are ma’boys- Daddy bear in a yellow jacket & boy bear up on his sholders for a good view!

Chinese New Year is one of China’s oldest festivals chock-full of ancient traditions & interesting history. & one that I find fascinating to expand my knowledge of. For a couple of minutes on Sunday I felt as though if I shut my eyes, I had returned to the balmy climes of South East Asia.¬†Don’t get me wrong the¬†London parade can’t compare to the celebrations over in Asia, but until the day when I can return there & celebrate in style, it was a reasonable substitute & I would happily visit again.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Oh & yes. I attempted some gluten free Chinese food. Tasted good-looked awful! I tried sesame prawn toast. I used genius bread, & made a paste out of:

  • prawns
  • kikkoman tamari soy sauce (GF)
  • olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • & a small piece of ginger

I mixed this all in a blender & then spread the paste onto the bread, covered the pasted area in sesame seeds & then fried in a pan with some olive oil. I think next time I will oven cook them, for 20 mins or so to make them more crispy. Please forgive the picture it’s a terrible quality & not very pretty prawn toast!

Gluten free sesame prawn toast

Gluten free sesame prawn toast. Yummy!

With these, we had Cook GF Thai red chicken Curry & Szechuan Chicken, & some jasmine rice. A satisfying Gluten free Chinese Meal.

May the Horse bring you good fortune for 2014!

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free Christmas Dinner….recreated for January

If you had asked me ten years ago about all the gluten free products available, I’d have said ‘avoid them like the plague!’. They were rotten, bland tasting pieces of what can only be described as cardboard. For those of us, who for medical reasons have to follow a gluten free diet it was one thing. But you most certainly, unequivocally, would not have endorsed these products to friends on a ‘normal’ diet (i use the term ‘normal’ very loosely!). By golly, how thing have changed! So much so, that I introduced some dear friends of ours into my world of a Gluten free Christmas dinner this weekend…..

Despite the Yorkshire puss looking incredibly sorry for themselves, & my lack of photography skills-this is Super tasty!

Despite the Yorkshire puds looking incredibly sorry for themselves, & my lack of photography skills-this is Super tasty!

I can hear your thoughts….’ Christmas Dinner? It’s January?!’. That’s right, Christmas Dinner- recreated in January. So let me explain the reasoning behind this & you’ll see I’m not totally bonkers. (1) Being the busy mummy that I am, when I made Christmas dinner back in December, ¬†I totally forgot to take pictures and share all my secrets with you (2) My lovely gal pal ‘K’ had a reasonably unpleasant Festive period. So we thought ‘Hey, lets recreate Christmas one day in January?!’¬†Furthermore, ‘Christmas Dinner’ sounds heaps more glamorous than ‘Sunday dinner’.

So Christmas music playing, novelty place mats set, mini christmas tree out & crackers ready to pull? Lets jump in! Here is a list of the yummy gluten free products that I used & also have the seal of approval from non Coeliac’s alike!

  • HECK¬†Sausages.
  • MrsCrimbles¬†¬†sage & onion stuffing mix
  • Kallo Gravy granules.
  • Isabel’s Yorkshire pudding mix- 160ml milk & 2 eggs to add.
  • COOK¬†¬†Goose Fat roast potatoes, Parmesan parsnips & Heritage carrots.
  • Pancetta or Streaky bacon (for pigs in blankets)
  • Smoked Ham joint
  • Vegetables
Bloomin' HECK..these guys know how to make a good sausage!

Bloomin’ HECK..these guys know how to make a good sausage!¬†

Part of my ‘mummy mission’ is to find time saving ideas & be that as it may, for ‘pigs in blankets’ there really isn’t any alternative other than to get those hands dirty! So i got stuck in the night before. I Simply cut the sausages in half & wrapped them in pancetta/ streaky bacon. HECK do a fantastic range of GF sausages & you can use any of them for this. (Whilst on the subject of HECK, they’ve recently introduced a range of Chicken sausages: we’ve put these to the test & they are delicious). Once you’ve wrapped the little piglets in their blankeys-cover them over & return them to the fridge. When it comes to cooking these I did them at gas mark 5/6 for approx 90 mins, so they can be nice ‘n’ crispy. HECK are very reasonably priced, I get mine from that big ‘T’ supermarket for ¬£2.98 per pack. I’ve tasted plenty of GF sausages & HECK are my winners.

Cook- goose fat pots, heritage carrots & parmesan parsnips

 

I mentioned my need for finding convenient products…. god bless COOK! This company have recently had a huge expansion & I’m sure it won’t be long until you see a shop near you (i feel like my secret is out there now!). I’ve been using this company since a shop popped up near me in Petts Wood-around 10 years ago. They carry an awesome gluten free range, their products are ‘homemade’ & frozen so no worrying about sell by dates! If you’re anything like me, you’ll buy food that sits in your fridge & by the time you get to use it, a funny coloured fur has grown around the outside (eewww!)! They also sell some other great dishes straight from frozen to the oven-offering such convenience that we all desire now & then. Back to the roast….. SO i used COOK goose fat roast potatoes, Parmesan parsnips & Heritage carrots. I cooked these for longer than the suggested time, approx 40 mins/ gas mark 5 so that they had a lovely crisp to them. COOK aren’t cheap, but as long as you’re not eating 3 of their meals per day, 7 days a week I don’t think the bank manager will be on your case!

'Northern boys love gravy' (i quote my husband, who himself is quoting 'soccer am'!)

‘Northern boys love gravy’ (i quote my husband, who himself is quoting ‘soccer am’!)

For the Gravy I used KALLO- easy peasy & yummy. I followed instructions exactly (KALLO also do GF stock cubes, that are very good). The Yorkshire Puddings were ISABEL’S, I mixed these in a blender & oh me, oh my did the rise in the oven. Sadly, they deflated into what looked like pancakes once they were removed despite all my efforts of trickery! (I have had more success with these staying fluffy in the past-it must have just been one of those days!) But they tasted great all the same. For the stuffing i used MRS CRIMBLES & I followed the mixing instructions ,rolled them into balls & cooked them for 40 mins/ gas mark 5 which was 20 mins more than they suggest.

Yorkshire Puds

 

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

I chose to cook a smoked ham joint, because we aren’t massive turkey lovers. This had been cooking merrily all morning & so into the oven all the other ingredients went. I just had to take a pic of my yorkshire puds-look at the size of these bad boys….

Rise baby rise!

Pls Excuse the very bad quality of picture & my reflection!!

I cooked some greens & made the gravy whilst this was all finishing up. & as the saying goes…bob’s your uncle….

dinner served

Dinner is served! Even the my little Bear tucked in with us (that would be his drink you can see by the crackers!)

A very well received Gluten Free christmas meal. In January. But what christmas hoos-a-nanny would be complete without the (a) cheesy cracker jokes.. My favourite: What christmas carol does every parent like best? A: Silent Night 

& (b) Present time?! To be fair, it was K’s Birthday the following day-but any excuse for a present is a worthy cause if you ask me!

Daisy London Friendship Bracelets.

Daisy London Friendship Bracelets.

Ooooh look at our pretty friendship bracelets! I’m officially in love with Daisy London¬†& their chakra bracelets (But that’s another post in itself there!).

In my opinion, Gluten free products have evolved to a new level where not only can I enjoy the occasional indulgence, but I’m also confident enough to introduce them to my friends & family safe in the knowledge that a great meal will be had by all.