One of the things I miss most about living in the UK is that I miss the wonderful 4th of July celebrations in the USA. You get a day off to spend with your friends and/or family, eat BBQ and other delicious food and then finish the day with fireworks. I have only been to one expat BBQ in 15 years, and it is really tough to celebrate the day when it isn't often on a weekend. But this year, Jackson + Rye invited me and some friends to celebrate the 4th of July.
I grabbed my two favourite American expat friends (strangely, I know quite a few expats in my neighbourhood), and off to lunch we went. We would have loved to have our 4th of July meal on the actual fourth of July, but it was Sports Day, so we had our celebration on the fifth of July. Besides the joy of a mid-week meal, it was lovely going out for cocktails and great food with wonderful girlfriends.
Oh, I do like to be beside the riverside. And if I can be sitting by the river, enjoying some delicious food, then even better. My new favourite riverside restaurant in Kingston-upon-Thames is Jackson & Rye. And I don't just like the location. The food is pretty damn tasty too.
As an American expat, I am always keen to try a restaurant that claims to serve American fare. But normally I'm left with overpriced burgers or non-fluffy pancakes. You can't imagine how a disappointing pancake can ruin my day. That is obviously a personality flaw. But rather than seek counselling, I've decided to just focus on finding better restaurants. Jackson & Rye definitely fits the bill.
My family and I love eating out. And the only thing better than going to a restaurant is going to a new restaurant. So we were quite excited to visit Poor Boys this weekend. Tucked along the side of the market, Poor Boys serves New Orleans street food to the people of Kingston-upon-Thames. Kingston is already known for its extensive array of dining (and shopping) venues, but I was thrilled to find out that there was a great new independent restaurant in my town.
Our first impression of Poor Boys was fab. There was a southern/bayou decor with Dixieland and country music playing. Dubz particularly enjoyed Dolly Parton and spent most of the meal dancing in his chair (like mother, like son). Rather than traditional colouring, the kids received mini backboards and chalk to keep themselves entertained. Moozles and Dubz spent ages drawing animals and then we moved on to the classic game of 'hangman'. It's such a relief when children are catered for, beyond food.
My children love Chessington World of Adventures. Moozles goes on the big, scary rides (with her daddy), and Dubz and I go on the gentler rides. The amusement park is about 20 minutes, in the car, from our house so we visit several times a year. Last year, I bought an Adult & Pre-schooler Annual Pass for Dubz and me. And I thought I would let you know if I found it to be good value.
First of all, the annual pass is for adults and children up to, and including, the age of five. At £60 for the pass, you would need to visit three times to break even (the one-day entry cost for a parent and pre-schooler is £21). But the pass gets you a 20% off discount off food and the gift shop, which is great. Even if you bring a packed lunch, you might still be tempted with donuts, ice cream or a cuddly toy. It helps having that extra little discount.
A 13-year wedding anniversary isn't that exciting. But then again, shouldn't every year of marital happiness be celebrated excitedly?! Our anniversary is actually tomorrow, but as it's a Sunday on a bank holiday weekend, we thought we'd celebrate it mid-week (for babysitting purposes). So on Wednesday we went to Richmond-upon-Thames to have dinner at the newly-opened Ivy Cafe.
Many people will have heard of The Ivy. They are known for their great food, but also as a hotspot for celebrities. They have recently started opening some smaller cafes in greater London so that us suburbanites can have a taste of the high life. But don't let the term 'cafe' fool you, this is a properly cool and elegant restaurant.
Forget about winter coming, the dinosaurs are coming. And they will be coming all around the UK. At Easter, we saw the first stop of the Jurassic Kingdom UK tour, at Osterley Park in London. The tour will be heading to Birmingham, Manchester, Blackpool, Glasgow, Newcastle and Leeds. But I wanted to let you know if the tour is worth your visit.
First of all, you may remember that Dubz was obsessed with dinosaurs when he was two and three. He now has other interests but is still keen on dinosaurs. My daughter was not interested in going, not at all. But she actually enjoyed the visit. The exhibit has over 30 animatronic dinosaurs in an open-air setting. It feels like you are seeing the dinosaurs in their natural habitat.
Who doesn't love to party?! And partying while getting to sit on comfy sofas? Even better. Last month I dragged a couple of my mummy friends to Habitat's Couchella festival. And though we were the only ones there in their 40s, we sure had a blast. You can replicate our festival fun at home.
It doesn't matter if you're stuck in the UK and not at the coolest festival in California. Habitat has launched their digital festival so that you can party from the comfort of your home. That means that the drinks will be free-flowing, there won't be queues for the loos, and you get the best seat in the house (hooray for your sofa!).
Regular readers will know that Moozles and I often have mummy-daughter days. She has always needed a little bit of extra time with me. But then, don't all children benefit from one-on-one time with a parent? Moozles has been having some friendship issues at school recently and has been feeling quite down about it. I had planned to have a special day, but then the lovely people from Travelodge invited my family for a #LiteracyLegacy visit to London. So I thought that a mummy-daughter weekend would be just the thing to cheer up Moozles. So off to central London we went for a short break.
First stop was to check-in to the hotel and drop off our bags. Then we went to Leicester Square for our Harry Potter walking tour (one of many free walking tours offered by Strawberry Tours). London has a rich history of authors, as well as being the subject and backdrop of many a book. The Harry Potter tour was an example of the literacy legacy of London. The tour was due to last 2 1/2 hours but my girl got side-tracked by Hardy's Sweet Shop after an hour and a half, and we ran off for some jelly beans. Then we went back to Leicester Square to watch Beauty & The Beast (we both loved it).
My family and I love a fun day out, and if there are animals - even better. At the beginning of the Easter break, we visited Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire to check out the animals and to see the new penguin exhibit. The biggest kid of our family, Husband, is crazy for penguins, and was especially excited for our visit. We were even blessed with a warm and sunny day.
Our first stop were the big cats. We were impressed that we found white lions, tigers, leopards and cheetahs. And most of them were lazing about, sleeping in the sun. What a tough life. In fact, many of the animals we encountered were napping. I don't blame them. It is tough staying awake when you're sunbathing.
The children are at their grandparents' house, which means that Husband and I are free to enjoy London as we want to. We have been sleeping in, taking long walks and enjoying meals out without packing colouring books. Yesterday, we had the most delicious lunch, and I had to tell you about it. We went to Chi Kitchen, and I have to share all the delectable dishes we ate.
First of all, Chi Kitchen is a pan-Asian restaurant. This means that it serves a few different cuisines - Japanese, Malaysian, Korean and Chinese. To me, this is Heaven. It means I can eat loads of different things that I love. I started off with the spider soft-shell crab sushi roll. It arrived on a steaming plate, which was very theatrical. Then Husband and I had dim sum. I had prawn and he had the beef Wagyu. These items are perfect for sharing, but sadly my husband does not like fish or seafood (crazy, I know).