A Walk By The River

On Friday, I had plans for a walk with some friends. As it was raining, I asked if we would just go to a cafe instead. But apparently, British and Scottish people don't mind walking in the rain. They obviously did not grow up in California during the drought. And they obviously do not have frizzy hair issues. But, I'm a trouper, so off for a walk we went.

Luckily the rain went on hiatus for the first half of our walk. We started at Richmond Park, walked along the river, and stopped for a mooch about and a cake at Petersham Nurseries. We then headed back during a light drizzle before the rain properly returned. I enjoyed the walk, the lovely scenery and catching up with my friends. I will try and go for more regular walks in the park and along the river. Even in the rain.

A Walk By The River A Walk By The River A Walk By The River A Walk By The River





January Fitness Roundup

You may remember that last year, beginning in March, I attempted to get Fit By 40. Well, alas, I did not manage to rid myself of the three stone (42 pounds) of baby weight but did lose half of it by my 40th birthday in August. Sadly, I put on one stone (14 pounds) in the autumn. *sigh* This is the third autumn in a row that I've gained a stone. I think part of the problem is with my low Vitamin D levels. I get so tired in the autumn, as it gets harder and harder (to impossible) to make vitamin D from the sun, and I turn to sweets and chocolate for energy. But with January, I am feeling hopeful for spring. So now I am back on my quest to get lose weight and get healthy.

Thinking Slimmer - I am tired of restricting my diet from carbs and sugar. It just makes me binge on those items later. So I have signed up to the Slimpod Gold programme. Husband and I have been listening to the recording before we go to sleep (though I often fall asleep while listening). It is supposed to retrain the way you think about food. You should feel more confident about the weight-loss process and not beat yourself up if you ever have a sneaky chocolate bar. I will devote an entire post to it next month, once I have used it for a full four weeks (I am on a 12-week programme).

The Feelgood Plan - Since I am trying to live a healthier life, I have been reading this book for tips on eating and fitness. I want to do things that help me feel and look better in the long-term, rather than just in the short-term. Not that I'm 40, I have to think about continued good health rather than just losing some weight. The book is written by Dalton Wong, a top personal trainer, and Kate Faithfull-Williams, a health and lifestyle journalist. Both have year of experience and believe in focusing on well-being rather than weight. There are no foods which they've made off-limit, which means you can occasionally have chocolate or wine and not feel like a villain.

January Fitness Roundup

Cho-yung Tea - I've started drinking this detox green tea twice a day as it is supposed to help boost your metabolism. Along with a healthy diet and exercise, this should help burn more calories. It's sweeter than my normal green tea, but as I love green tea anyway it hasn't been too tough adding this tea to my daily routine.

January Fitness Roundup


I was given the above items for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.





Our Aldi Shopping Challenge

How much do you spend on your weekly food shop? Do you have a budget? When we were a family of three, and I worked part-time, I did not even think about what we spent on groceries. I just ordered from Ocado and that was that. Now that there are four of us, with only one income, I have to stick to a budget. I normally spend about £125 each week feeding our family of four. I've been trying to get this number down, but it is so tough. And we eat so much.

So, when Aldi asked me to take part in their shopping challenge, I was a bit nervous. It is one thing to reduce your weekly spend on groceries - but by £55?! There is an Aldi near my house which I go to once a week or once every other week. Husband loves their lager, and I normally buy their brown bread, tortillas, free-range chicken and eggs, and fruit. I also go to Aldi specially for their pull-ups as they are a bargain at £2.99 for 18 (although Dubz is potty-trained, he sleeps in pull-ups). But I've never tried buying all our food from Aldi.

During my week, I did one big shop for £50 and a smaller shop for £19.60. I try and cook from scratch (though you will always find fish fingers and chips in my freezer). I buy a whole chicken once a week as we normally get two or three meals out of it. I also tried Aldi's own brand of English Muffins. Once a week I make the kids some English Muffin Pizzas (muffin grilled with tomato sauce, cheese and vegetables) - they love it and it is such a cheap meal. Their Norpak tasted just like Lurpak. And the brioche buns made our burger night even tastier.

I was also pleased at how inexpensive the sausage, bacon, garlic bread and dried pasta were, as these are all things we love. I even bought their random brand of mayonnaise and it was surprisingly good. Aldi doesn't just have its own brand. I did notice that there were some big name brands, including Coke and Marmite. They didn't have organic milk, but they do offer regular milk and filtered milk (and soy milk). For some reason, Husband loves filtered milk so he was happy that I was unable to buy the organic stuff.

I am pleased that we were up to the Aldi challenge. But I do have to note that I had to spend an extra £2.70 buying two cartons of Lactofree milk (both Dubz and I are lactose intolerant). And I would have blown the budget if I had needed to buy laundry liquitabs and dishwasher tablets (they had been bought the week before). I do plan to try out the Aldi dishwasher tablets when we run out of the expensive brand I normally buy.

Overall, I am pleased  with the quality of the food and drinks from Aldi. I will be trying to buy most of my groceries there rather than going to three different supermarkets. What do you think? Are you impressed that I managed to keep to the £70 budget? Or are you already a grocery-saving expert? I'd love to hear any tips you might have. And please watch my vlog below for more on how we got on with our challenge.

Our Aldi Shopping Challenge Our Aldi Shopping Challenge IMG_3330 Our Aldi Shopping Challenge Our Aldi Shopping Challenge Our Aldi Shopping Challenge Our Aldi Shopping Challenge




Six Years Ago

Today the kids asked to see some old photos, from when they were 'little'. Here is Moozles when she is about 21 months old, back when she was an only child. I can't believe that this was six years ago. This was her normal expression when I took photos. I hardly have any photos of Moozles smiling. Just always looking a bit surprised, as if she was minding her own business and I had popped out of a bush like some paparazzi. Haha

Moozles used to constantly paint and draw, and we went through a huge amount of paper when she was a toddler. She still draws a bit, but nowadays prefers to read. She is turning into such a big girl, which is lovely, but I do miss that toddler girl with the crazy curls who spent every moment by my side.

Six Years Ago Six Years Ago


Running in Lavender


London For $150

London is known for all its wonderful attractions and sights, beautiful buildings and fabulous restaurants. But it is also known to be an expensive city, to live in and to visit. But how much do you think you need for a fun, and busy day out? Armed with $150, which converted into £116.52 that day), last weekend Husband and I set out to see how much fun our $150 could buy.

First stop - Selfridges department store on Oxford Street. Oxford Street offers the best of shopping in London. Selfridges is a beautiful place to shop, and has a lovely food hall to boot. But you don't need to spend a thing. Just enjoy some window shopping. On the fourth floor, they have a Travelex desk. We picked up a Travelex Multi-Currency Cash Passport card. Basically you can order online (which is cheaper than doing it in the store), and get a debit card for the country that you're in. It's the modern-day traveller's cheques. There's a pin and you feel secure if you lose it. Also, you can put a certain amount of money on the card, which would be great when you're budgeting.

Second stop - after a morning working up an appetite wandering/shopping along Oxford Street, Chinatown is a great place to go next. You could take a bus or else walk (it takes about 20 minutes from Selfridges). There are over 80 restaurants to choose from. On our last visit, we went to Plum Valley for dim sum. It is a busy restaurant, and we were lucky to get a table at 2pm. But we had a lovely lunch, and only spent £26.

Third stop - The National Gallery is a great place to go to after lunch in Chinatown. It's only a 10-minute walk from Chinatown to Trafalgar Square. And after some touristy photos in the square, you can go inside The National Gallery for some culture. Inside, you will see paintings by well known artists such as Monet, van Gogh, Michelangelo and Vermeer. Like many museums in London, it is free to enter, though there are some special exhibits which you must pay for admittance.

Fourth stop - Leicester Square is our next stop. You will be feeling pretty tired after walking all over The National Gallery. But just walk about towards Chinatown and in less than 10 minutes you will be at a big screen cinema. You can sit down and relax, and watch a movie (or film, as the British say). Tickets will cost about £12.50 for one adult.

Fifth stop - Dinner time! After the cinema, you can walk to Soho (about 10 minutes) for dinner. Soho has loads of fab restaurants and bars. I had been dying to try Burger & Lobster for ages (there is one on Dean Street). There is no menu - just a choice between a burger, lobster or a lobster roll (each £20). Husband doesn't like seafood so he had the burger. I adore lobster, so that's what I had. And it was delicious so I will be definitely going back. With our mains and an alcoholic drink each, our bill came to £65.81. Then it was 10.30pm, and Husband and I started feeling tired (because we're middle-aged parents and we live in a perpetual state of fatigue), so we hopped on the tube home.

In the end, we spent £116.81 for our day out (which is about $150). If I included our travel on the tube, it would have added an extra £10. I am pleased that we were up to this Travelex challenge. We could of course have done a few more free attractions. Then again we could have spent more money. That's the beauty of London. You can really have a great day, no matter what your budget.

London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150London For $150 London For $150 London For $150 London For $150


Travel Monkey
We were given a Travelex card for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.





A Sickly Week

It's been a funny old week. I spent Tuesday bursting with pride at how resilient Dubz has been with the various problems he has had with asthma and glue ear. He had two appointments on Tuesday and did not complain that in the space of an hour (in two different locations), he had a prescription review (with a new nasal spray that he does not like), a hearing test and a post-op with the ENT Consultant.

Then on Friday morning, an hour after dropping Dubz off at pre-school I got a call. He was listless and complained of a headache. By the time we got home, he had a fever of 40.6C. I took him to the GP that afternoon but they could not figure out what was the matter. He's on antibiotics, and hopefully the fever will soon be gone. He's already feeling better, but not quite back to his usual self. Here's hoping that next week is filled with more fun, and less doctor visits, for my darling boy.

A Sickly Week



Mr Popper's Penguins

Last weekend I took the kids to watch Mr Popper's Penguins at The Rose Theatre Kingston. My in-laws had been babysitting the previous day so I invited them along and we made it into a family day out. I am always so proud to take guests to the Rose Theatre. It is a lovely theatre with great productions. Kingston is so lucky to have such a gem.

The live show of Mr Popper's Penguins is based on a novel (I haven't seen the film so not sure if it is based on the same novel - I assume so). Mr Popper is a painter/decorator who has a nice but boring life. He dreams of exploring Antarctica and seeing polar bears and penguins. Then one day a real-life penguin arrives at his door. We see how his and Mrs Popper's lives change as they start taking care of a penguin (and then many penguins). So, there weren't real penguins. But puppet penguins controlled by the actors. Still cute, and probably more easily controlled than real penguins. Probably.

Both of my children (aged three and seven) loved the show. They enjoyed the singing, and the various moments of hilarity (there were several laugh-out-loud moments). And since the show only lasted 55 minutes, the kids did not have the chance to get fidgety or bored. If this show comes to a theatre near you, take your little one. And if you're near Kingston, go check out the family shows at the Rose - they always have such wonderful productions.

Mr Popper's Penguins Mr Popper's Penguins


* Photo credit - Helen Murray

We were given a family ticket by The Rose Theatre for the purpose of a review (I paid for an extra ticket). All opinions expressed are entirely my own.





I was reading Not Knowing The Colour of Your Wife's Underwear Could Get You Deported today in the Huffington Post. Apparently, quite a few immigrants are being detained due to them possibly marrying for convenience (i.e. a passport). Some of the people getting caught out don't seem to know their wife's bra size, or the colour of her underpants or her National Insurance number. Wait, what? Are those the important things that tell you if someone has truly married for love?

What colour are YOUR partner's underpants?

According to this test, Husband and I have been in a sham marriage for almost 12 years. If you called Husband right now, he would not know any of those things. And chances are, he would additionally not know my clothing size, the colour of my toothbrush or what jewellery I wear on a daily basis. And while I probably know some of these things, it just does not matter.

I moved to London almost 14 years ago on a working holidaymaker visa. This gave me two years to work, but it also gave my then boyfriend/now-husband and me time to figure out whether our long-distane relationship would work in real life. A year later we bought our first flat and got engaged. We married on the last day of April, the day my visa expired. It could not be helped. It was the only available Friday at our wedding venue before June (and all the Saturdays were booked). I remember going to the British Consulate in Vienna after our marriage. They took me into a room by myself. An interviewer asked me questions behind a glass door. They were trying to prove whether our marriage was for love or convenience.

Before the interview, Husband and I had practiced answering the questions they might ask. What side of the bed does he sleep on? What was the name of the hospital where he was born? What was the name of his primary school? Though we had known each other for four years before our marriage, we were worried that there were some information we did not know about one another. We did not want to be caught out, especially as we desperately wanted to stay together. I got most of the questions right. To this day, I can never remember the name of Husband's diploma from law school.

But we passed the test. I think mostly because we had bought a flat together, and the interviewer was shocked at what we paid for it (Vienna house prices aren't like London). And if you're willing to spend a lot of money on a crappy one-bedroom flat in Walthamstow rather than living in sunny California, then you must be in love.




There is just something about London. And nothing illustrated that like the recent Lumiere Festival. From the 14th-17th January 2015, London's West End and King's Cross were lit up by magical art displays in the evenings. We went on Saturday the 16th, and walked from Oxford Circus to Leicester Square, through Regent Street (though my photos begin at Leicester Square and go through Regent Street). I thought I would share some of the photos. Some of the exhibits did not photograph well (I used my iPhone 6), but here are the displays that give you a feeling of Lumiere.

Lumiere Lumiere Lumiere Lumiere Lumiere Lumiere Lumiere



Tea for Two at Harrods

For Christmas, Husband was given a voucher for a cream tea for two at Harrod's. But since The Georgian Restaurant was booked up during all the Saturdays in January, Husband kindly gave me the voucher so that I could take a friend. So today, one of my mummy friends and I went for an early tea while the kids were at school. If you've never been to The Georgian before, it's a beautiful restaurant. And there is an enclosed terrace on the side which feels quite relaxed while still elegant.

I have previously had the afternoon tea at The Georgian. For £39 you will be served tea, sandwiches, cakes, scones and a trifle. But on this occasion we had the cream tea, which is quite economical, considering the opulent surroundings. For £15, you can have tea and four small scones. The scones were delicious. And as it was lunchtime, we also ordered the Truffle & Parmesan Fries. My friend is partial to the combination of truffle and parmesan (she regularly has it on her popcorn) and adored the fries.

I would definitely recommend an afternoon or cream tea from Harrods (depending on how much you feel like spending). A lovely atmosphere for tea for two, or three or four.

IMG_9977 Tea for Two at Harrods Tea for Two at Harrods Tea for Two at Harrods Tea for Two at Harrods