Last week, I had a night out at the Roof Garden at the John Lewis on Oxford Street in central London. I was invited to a Christmas party for bloggers, and I got to take one of my friends along too. If that wasn't enough of a treat, we were given the most amazing cocktails from Background Bars and delicious Scottish fare from Mac & Wild. We were then given ideas on how we could Make It Thoughtful this Christmas.
Christmas can be so stressful. Many children have lists of presents they want, which in a way makes life easier. But what do you get your other family and friends? People that you care about, but might not be too sure what they would like. John Lewis are encouraging shoppers to be more thoughtful when it comes to gift-giving. One way to do that is to add a bit of personalisation.
It's that time of the year, and if you have small children, then your thoughts are probably on Father Christmas. Maybe, like me, you have had a couple of bad experiences. Maybe FC was really young, or skinny, or else he looked like he was still drunk from the night before. Spare a thought for us when we had the Santa who was all three. *sob, sob* Anyway, it is such a relief when you find a good-quality Father Christmas. And it es even better when it turns into a fun family day out.
A couple of weekends ago, my family and I drove up to Willows Activity Farm for fun and Father Christmas. And we were not disappointed. First of all, there are loads of Christmassy activities. We started with the 3D Sleigh Ride film. which the kids loved. Then we went on to 'Create a Cuddle' where Moozles and Dubz each made a cuddly husky dog. Afterwards, they wrote letters to FC. Moozles is eight, so was able to write her own. Dubz needed help, but he was thrilled to be able to post the letter in the special red post box. We actually received replies from Father Christmas a week after our visit, which was a lovely touch.
Have I ever mentioned that I love the Tu clothing from Sainsbury's. It was only a few years ago when people used to make fun of mums for buying clothes from the supermarket (me included). But these days, everyone knows that the cool kids buy their food and their fashion at the same time. Even the fashionistas are heading to the grocery store for their affordable but stylish clothes. Well, I'm no fashionista but I love pretty clothes and I love a bargain. So last week I went to Sainsbury's as they were running a 25% off sale on clothes.
I was immediately drawn to their midi pleated skirts. I have tried so many on in the past eight months and have not had any luck in finding one that is flattering and comfortable. Sainsbury's had a gorgeous khaki skirt but they didn't have it in my size so I got his grey one instead. I am debating whether I should order the khaki online. The skirts are sized from size 8-22 and only costs £13.50 in the sale, which is amazing. I've added my black brogue boots from Dune to keep the skirt from looking too girly (here are this year's version of the boot).
Yes, I have been on another cooking day. Word is obviously out that my cooking skills need an update. Last week I attended an event at the HelloFresh HQ in East London, along with some other food and lifestyle bloggers/writers. We had an afternoon of cooking and eating. The latter of which happens to be something I excel in. HelloFresh made the cooking quite easy as their recipe cards are very detailed in explaining the steps to cooking each dish.
If you're not familiar with HelloFresh, they are a recipe box delivery service that offer healthy recipes made from fresh ingredients. Patrick Drake, the Head Chef and co-founder of HelloFresh, was at the event explaining how the business began in his home, in his kitchen. Now they have their own building, and an amazing kitchen where they can come up with new recipes.
I love living in London, for so many reasons. But one reason is that is makes travelling around the UK extremely easy. Although my family and I often drive to many of our British holiday destinations, we sometimes prefer the ease of the trains. I had been wanting to visit York for ages, and when I discovered that there was a direct train from London, I knew that we should head there for a mini-break.
In August, Husband and I packed the kids off to their grandparents' house and we headed to York for a mid-week break to celebrate my 41st birthday. We had a glorious time. We ate lots of lovely meals, drank plenty of delightful cocktails and saw so many beautiful sights. I thought three days would be adequate for seeing this city. But I was mistaken. Husband and I have already discussed returning to York - next time with Moozles and Dubz. There's still so much more to see. But I thought I would share my top five favourite reasons to visit York.
1. Beautiful Architecture
At the weekend, my family and I headed into central London for a Christmas party. The lovely people from Anki Overdrive wanted to share some Christmas frivolity with us. There was face/arm painting, yummy food, a DJ and a cool Santa. Best of all, there were several tracks where the little (and big) kids could race cars.
If you're not familiar with Anki Overdrive, it a racing car system like no other. The cars are actually robots who use their artificial intelligence. And they are doing more than just racing. They are battling it out to become the winner. And you help them along through an app on your smartphone. It feels like a world away from the usual toy cars that children play.
I know it's still autumn, but in the past week it has started feeling like winter. The temperatures have dropped and I'm living in knits and boots. I've had a few outings recently that I would like to look not-so-casual, and nice winter boots would be an asset. I can't always wear trainers/sneakers or Gore-Tex boots. So I was thrilled when my parcel from JD Williams arrived.
The first item were these gorgeous suede ankle boots (first three photos). They are so soft and pretty, not to mention the fact that khaki is quite big for this autumn/winter season. Although you could wear these all year long. I love the cowboy style of these boots. They would look equally nice with jeans or a dress and tights. I'm wearing them with new favourite jeans, which are from Sainsburys. I've been really impressed with the style and prices for the clothing at Sainsburys (the skirt is below from there as well).
There are definitely some perks of having both children in school. Today, for instance, when I spent the day at the Taste of London food festival with two of my mummy friends. None of us had been to Taste of London before, and all we knew was that there would be a lot of food.
We discovered that Taste of London is more than just eating lovely food. There are amazing chefs offering live demonstrations as well as cooking classes. We were lucky enough to attend the AEG Take Taste Further class with Steve Brown. Steve showed us how to make Christmas dinner in 30 minutes. While he took care of the turkey (obviously), we made cranberry sauce and sauteed carrots and parsnips. And then we did something crazy.
I used to love staying out late, dancing the night away. But then I had children. And now I rarely go to da club. I'd rather spend the evening on my sofa. But recently I have discovered a new club - da book club.
I used to be an avid reader. For years I would read three or four books each month, losing myself in thrillers, classics and contemporary fiction. Then, I had a baby. And all of a sudden it would take me a month to read one book. And even then, it was normally a baby book. And when I had another baby? There was really no time for books, not even baby books. I think I managed about six books in four years, which made me feel sad. Other mums continued to read books, why couldn't I?! But it turned out that I wasn't alone.
I am not the best cook. I make about 10 meals which I rotate over a couple of weeks (luckily Husband cooks on the weekends). I can probably cook about 20 things, but a few of them are special occasion dishes that don't get made often. I've been wanting to add to my repertoire for ages, so last week I dragged one of my friends along to a Mexican street food cooking class at The Jamie Oliver Cookery School in London.
I love Mexican food, but other than cheese quesadillas, I would never dream of trying to make any. So it was a treat to have a professional chef, the lovely Gaby, show me how to cook. I say me, but there were eight of us in the class. We cooked in groups of two, which meant that we were able to take turns with chopping, etc. I chopped my first onion, which was very exciting (it's the kind of thing that I normally make Husband do). We made a chipotle chicken, various salsas and guacamole. And if that wasn't enough, we also made our own corn tortillas.