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Jamie’s Italian – Family Review

I have to admit that I haven’t been to Jamie’s Italian for a couple of years, mostly because I, stupidly, thought they didn’t have a kids menu, how wrong I was!

This was our first restaurant experience as a family of four, and it was such a lovely treat to get out of the house (which we have been cooped up in since my daughter’s birth). 10 day old Savannah happily slept through the entire experience, but not because she was bored by the food or the atmosphere!

baby girl sleeping

We decided to try out the super lunch deal, which is £10.95 for 2 courses or £12.95 for 3 courses, which is super reasonable considering we spent far more than that in a department store restaurant (a couple of weeks ago for far less interesting food). Plus they serve the “lunch” menu and pricing all the way from 12-6pm and in August the kids menu is absolutely free, which considering how great the kids menu was, I could not have been more impressed.

So let’s start with the kids menu; now being completely honest, I made a big faux-pas by letting my 4 year old choose something I knew he would never eat – why did I do that? Because I have a newborn and all the sleep deprivation that comes along with that! I wish that I had encouraged him to choose the hamburgers, because they looked so great (on the other table), and I know he would have eaten them, but never mind.

Nate ordered the “Jamie’s Proper Picnic Box” which consisted of a chicken wrap, a salad, some vegetable crisps and an apple. My 4 year old does not have a sophisticated palette enough to cope with a chicken wrap, though I wish he did, so he left that, but he did eat most of the salad, a few crisps and the apple. It was such a shame because it looked amazing, and the presentation was clever, with a real lunch box and pieces of comic book paper added a cute touch.

jamie's proper lunch box

The whole kids menu was amazing, from a parent’s point of view, it is the kind of food you want your children to eat, rather than the traditional fish fingers/pizza/chicken nuggets and chips that most restaurants offer. I think when Nate is a few years older he will really appreciate this rather mature menu.

For dessert Nate had the chocolate brownie and icecream, which I had the adult version of, and we can both categorically say it was sublime, though Nate can say this most confidently as he ate about a third of mine in addition to his own! This was my 4 year old’s assessment of the brownie:

It tasted like a chocolate sandwich and was my favouritist I have ever had.

4 year old eating brownieepic brownie

I have two suggestions for improvements to the kids menu though:

  1. Add some starters, they didn’t have any, and my son had to wait while we ate our starters – and no, kids are not patient!
  2. Include a couple of options for the younger audience that are smaller, cheaper and accessible to the fussy toddler/pre-schooler market. I am sure Jamie’s Italian could do a clever healthy twist on a pizza or some sausages, let’s face it, what toddler doesn’t love pizza? In terms of the pricing, it was free this time, but I would not have been happy to pay £6.50 for a meal for my 4 year old, at lunch time, mostly because (like this time) you never know if it will be eaten or not.

Super Lunch Menu

My husband and I both chose the Truffle Pasta for our starter – can anyone tell me if there is anything in this world more delicious than black truffles? No? I didn’t think so.  And as my husband said, it is not often that you find truffles on the menu of a high-street chain restaurant, it is a little touch of elegance. It was very simple, literally just the pasta and the truffles in butter, but wow what an impact. The only downside for me was that it was slightly more al dente than I prefer, but I tend to overcook my pasta so that is just personal preference really.

truffle tagliatelle pasta

My husband had the chicken club for his main meal, he said that it was succulent, the brioche bun was a nice touch. It was a big burger but didn’t come with any chips however he suggested chips were not necessary. Personally, if I had ordered the burger, I would have been disappointed that it did not come with chips, but I am a bit of a piggy!

gennaro's chicken club

The one disappointment for my husband, and his pet peeve whenever we eat out is that they ran out of the dessert he really wanted, so he ended up with just ice-cream. However, it was honeycomb ice-cream with cherry topping and it was gorgeous, simple and he loved it, he said it was special to be able to share with our son.

The prices were really good for the food you get and we cannot wait to go back as there were loads on the menu we wanted to try. The waitresses at the Milton Keynes restaurant cared, knew their stuff,  and they  even knocked up truffle chips for us, which is no longer on the menu. We will definitely be going back again, and soon.

*Our meals were provided for free for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts and images are my own, we genuinely loved it.

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Water Wars at Hatton Adventure World

Recently we were invited to one of our favourite places for a family day out, Hatton Adventure World we went three times last year and was very happy to return to test their new water attractions – Water Wars and Water Battles.

We went not knowing what to expect, so we took a change clothes and a towel for our son, just in case. In the end we didn’t need it, but my husband did, and was not so happy to have gotten wet.

Water Wars

The water wars game is only run a couple of times throughout the day, so make sure you find out the timing so you don’t miss it. I have to admit that I was disappointed it wasn’t running all day, but once my son had a chance to play I didn’t mind anymore.

Water Wars is a big inflatable contraption where 4 teams of 4 people fire water balloons at each other using a big catapult. There is quite a lot of protection from the bunkers so you don’t get excessively wet, but wet enough for it to be fun.

water wars at hatton park

My son and husband teamed up with another father and son, who were very nice and they had great fun. Both young boys had trouble firing the water balloons at first so they kept bouncing back into their bunker and getting themselves wet, which they all found hilarious. I was sat on a bench right nearby and hearing my little boy laugh his little heart out – well there is nothing better than that -so I deem that a success!

water wars

I was impressed by the staff members who ran the attraction, they made it very fair, ensuring each team had a go each at firing before it was go, go, go. Since 16 people get to play all at once the queue was not too long, and they had benches all around for people watching to sit on – which as a heavily pregnant lady I really appreciated!

Water Battles

Unfortunately this activity needs a lot of work, especially if younger children are able to play it. In theory it looks and could be a lot of fun, the idea is to grab a water gun and run around hiding behind the defences shooting people at random.

water battles game

The problems we encountered were as follows:

  1. There were two types of water gun, there were about 3 of the easy type and about 10 of the harder type. The harder pump type water guns could not be used by my 4 year old, who is very strong. They were too stiff, and since there were only three of the easier guns he never really got a chance to shoot and was upset.
  2. The bales of hay for hiding behind and climbing on were mostly too big for younger children, but more importantly were wrapped in some sort of cellophane which became very hot in the sun.
  3. There was no supervision or attendants on this feature, which would have been helpful and would have ensured a fair distribution of the guns.

Aside from the few issues above they still enjoyed it, though my husband less so as he got very wet trying to protect our 4 year old who didn’t have a gun. The water wars, was definitely our favourite of the two, and if they make some tweaks, water battles could be great too.

Of course, Hatton is not just about water wars, there are so many things to do here, I could not even begin to list them. But I did try in my previous post “22 things I love about Hatton Adventure World“.

goat crossing a bridge

My son got such a kick out of watching the goat climb up and over the bridge!

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Mums don’t have to be girly (to raise a girl) – I hope

I was so excited when I found out I was having a girl, but I have to admit, I am not a girly girl, like at all. Sometimes I wonder if I really am a girl, but I think the fact that I am pregnant is proof positive that I am.

When I was growing up, I had a brother and lots of male cousins, so I climbed trees, played football and basketball, watched wrestling (go Hulk Hogan!), I collected football stickers and had memorised the name of every premier league football ground.

lady dangling off of grand canyon

Now that I am an adult let me count the ways where I don’t feel like I’m like other women:

  1. I don’t like wine
  2. I don’t love shopping
  3. I don’t decorate or know how to
  4. I don’t garden and cannot even keep a plant alive
  5. I am not good at cleaning and definitely don’t enjoy it
  6. I rarely iron anything (not because I am scruffy but because I buy things that don’t need ironing)
  7. I don’t sew, crotchet or knit (though I don’t necessarily dislike them)
  8. I cannot bake (which is probably a good thing for my waist-line)
  9. I love action/super-hero and horror movies
  10. I love playing computer games

So my daughter is about to come into a very male-orientated family, with not just a daddy and a big brother but a mother who is a tom-boy at heart. I wonder how she will cope, and us for that matter? Maybe she will influence me and bring out my feminine side?

What I do know though is that, I may not be girly, but I am still a mummy, and I absolutely love being one, so I am thoroughly looking forward to taking on the new role of a mummy to a daughter. Not long to go now…

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How my 4 year is coping with baby news

I have to say that this time round, the first things I thought of when I found out I was pregnant, was: how will my son cope with the news? Will he be happy? Does he want a sibling? Will he be jealous?

Even though he had randomly said he would like a brother on occasion, I didn’t know if he meant it, or if he would even really understand.

I was surprised and delighted by his reaction when we gave him the news, but also at his constant and continued enthusiasm. I thought he would have grown bored of waiting by now, but every day he continues to talk to the baby and about the baby (or my bump), I think it is constantly on his mind, which I find very surprising.

4 year old kissing baby bump

His enthusiasm has been a delight, here are a few examples of what he has done or said recently:

“Baby, look at me, now this is how you brush your teeth” (He then brushed his teeth in front of my bump).

“Mummy move the blanket off your tummy, the baby can’t see the movie”.

“Mummy make sure you eat lots of carrots so that the baby can see in your tummy.”

Nate: “I want to buy a Batman lunch box for my brother, one for home and one for nursery”

Me: “But what if its a sister?”

Nate: “Then she can have a Batgirl lunch box”

Then we had our 20 week scan, Nate came along as he was so excited to find out if he had a brother. When we told him he has a sister, I could not believe how gracious he was, and how his clever little brain reacted:

Me: So how do you feel about having a sister?

Nate: It’s okay mummy, I didn’t really want a brother, I just wanted my sister to have a brother!

You know, sometimes I look at him and think, you’re not 4 – you’re 14!

I hope that his enthusiasm continues after the baby is born, though I am sure it will be a shock for him how much of mummy’s time is taken up with the baby. Hopefully he will not get too jealous.

According to my mum, when I was 3 and my brother came along, I tried to flush him down the toilet, that’s how jealous I was! So yes I am a tiny little bit worried that Nate will be like me.

Does anyone have any sibling jealousy stories or to be more positive stories of siblings who instantly bonded?

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Early Pregnancy

Early pregnancy is a mix of excitement, coping with various symptoms such as soreness, tiredness and if you are unlucky sickness and vomiting. The hardest thing about early pregnancy though is the waiting. I truly believe that time goes slower during the first trimester than any other time in life, including waiting for paint to dry. It is excruciatingly slow if you decide not to share the news with everyone, and you feel like you are bursting to tell everyone, what a secret it is to keep!

12 week scan image

I particularly found it hard to keep the secret from my son, but I had to protect him, as I have miscarried in the past and didn’t want to confuse him or upset it with that.

It’s amazing how much more I have been worrying about this time, well maybe not more worries, but different worries.

First pregnancy worries included:

  1. Labour arghhhh!!!
  2. Money
  3. No me time
  4. How to take care of a baby
  5. Sleep deprivation

This time round these are my current worries:

  1. Money (again)
  2. Will Nate accept the baby and not be too jealous?
  3. What if the baby wakes Nate up too much?
  4. Migraines 🙁
  5. Will my relationship with Nate change?

I’m now in my 16th week of pregnancy and have finally started to get my energy back. For the last 3 months I have had no evenings because I have been sleeping, which is part of the reason for the blog hiatus (sorry). It is so much harder second time round. Not only am I working full-time but I also have a child to take care of (and a husband, though I had that last time) which gives so much less time, and it is harder to crash. But I am still excited about extending our family, and giving my son the gift of a sibling and hopefully a life-long friend. At least I hope he sees it that way. 

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5 Things Breastfeeding Taught me about Motherhood

Life is super crazy busy and tricky for me at present so I am sharing a post from the lovely Charlene who has written this guest post especially for my readers. I hope you enjoy it.

Charlene is a support worker and blogs over at The Moderate Mum. She lives in Brighton with her husband Graham and their son Roscoe. In 2016 Charlene will be embarking on Mission Acceptance, a year of learning to live with herself. If you would like to follow her mission or join in with the weekly challenges you can sign for updates here.

mum and baby at the beach

A confession – I didn’t really like the concept of breastfeeding. I tried to remain open to the idea when I was pregnant but every time I considered it an image of a dairy cow involuntarily popped into my mind. The reality wasn’t much better, it wasn’t that I experienced any embarrassment or discomfort, it was just a bit…blah. I remember a friend explaining how magical the process was; that after a few minutes nursing a comforting calm would envelope her and she would enter a semi meditative state. I found no such bliss. Most of the time it pretty much felt like I was alone, in the dark, watching bad infomercials – as indeed I was.

I’m not saying this to turn anyone off the idea of breastfeeding, it kept my beautiful boy healthy which was reason enough for me, and whilst the experience of breastfeeding wasn’t much to write home about the process taught me more about motherhood than I could ever have imagined.

1. Trust yourself. It’s nearly impossible to know how much milk your child is getting when you’re breastfeeding. For anyone that’s a bit of a control freak (and if you’re not one parenthood will turn you into one) this can be terrifying. There’s very little you can do to except believe in yourself and your infant to muddle through it. This is the case with many aspects of motherhood, when all’s said and done no matter how many books you read or opinions you take, you have to get on with what feels right.

2. Push through. My son was a sleeper when he was a wee one (not so much now sadly). Whilst these long stretches of shut eye were great for catching up on my box sets they lead to the excruciating experience of blocked milk ducts. When your milk ducts are blocked your breasts become incredibly swollen and painful, think PMS on steroids; the last thing you want is to have anything near them but the best thing to do is continue breastfeeding.  That’s how it is with scores of parenting experiences – the broken sleep and the torture that is colic – you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it. And the sooner you face up to that reality the easier it becomes.

3. It gets better. At first breastfeeding was awkward and really, really slow. I needed to position myself with about four pillows to do it comfortably and spent hours trying to get the angle of my little guys head exactly right in order to get the elusive perfect latch. Then one day I realised, we were doing it without even thinking about it. I fed Roscoe in pubs, in parks, on trains and on planes. I fed him as I walked round doing my weekly shop. One Saturday we spent viewing new flats and I fed him all day without the estate agent even noticing.  That’s how it is with babies, things that filled you with apprehension become second nature in a few months or years. I sometimes think of those early days of breastfeeding when I’m battling with tooth brushing.

4. Stop and sit. Breastfeeding forces you to be present for your child at three hourly intervals or hourly intervals or in fact whenever they like because it’s hard to plan these things. I found this invaluable, I couldn’t delay or delegate it. I couldn’t force him into a schedule, I just had to be his mother whenever he needed me to be. I try to remember this when he wants me to do yet another round of ‘Row Your Boat’ or when he’s struggling to fall asleep. Sometimes my boy just needs me when he needs me and it’s okay to stop everything and be there when I can.

5. Nothing lasts forever. Even though I started this post saying I didn’t really care for breastfeeding. I sometimes see someone nursing and feel a pang of envy. Never has my body seemed more marvellous and perhaps never will I be able to offer my son something so exclusively. I see this in many other things, days in the park or afternoon naps together. One day they may all be memories and no matter how small or challenging they seem, I’ll miss them when they’re gone.

You can follow Moderate Mum on Twitter, Instagram and on Facebook.

Do you have any breastfeeding or even bottle-feeding tips?

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Treetops Bed and Breakfast in Fort William

I cannot tell you how happy we were with our choice of bed and breakfast in Fort William. So I just had to review them because it was fabulous and you all need to know. I researched where to stay using Tripadvisor and their reviews were so exceptional, and the views looked spectacular, so we went for it and boy I am glad we did.

Treetops Bed and Breakfast is just outside of Fort William in a place called Banavie. It is high up on a hill so you are looking down on Fort William with an excellent prospect of the Mountains. And not just any mountains, but Ben Nevis!

view of ben nevis from bed and breakfast

We arrived after a long journey, as I am sure everyone does in the Highlands, to the friendly and welcoming JJ, the owner. He showed us to our room and announced that we had been upgraded to the best room in the place, and wow what a room. We stayed in the Great Glen room, which had the addition of a Balcony overlooking Ben Nevis. I have to say, that Balcony made me so happy, I could have just sat our there all day reading and staring at the mountains.

JJ then presented us with a warm pot of tea and homemade Scottish Shortbread, what a delight after 5 hours of driving. Not only that, he booked us dinner at the best restaurant in town, called the Ben Nevis Inn, what service! We did enjoy dinner there, but after spending 2 days in the Lake District the food was somewhat of a disappointment. It was perfectly nice, of course, just not exceptional. The atmosphere was very good, friendly service but served family-style (meaning that you just sit on a long bench with other people, not something I am used to though it was nice to experience something different.

In the morning we experienced the breakfast and I was blown away. The breakfast JJ served up was probably the biggest and best breakfast I have ever encountered in any hotel or B&B, there were so many options and each one was sublime:

  • A huge bowl full of fresh chopped fruit and a bowl of yoghurt
  • Juices and Cereals
  • A freshly handmade smoothie (I’m not the biggest fan of smoothie’s usually but it was delicious)
  • Toast
  • Home-made scottish porridge (absolutely enticing and my favourite part of the meal)
  • Choice of hot meal e.g. full scottish breakfast, salmon bagels, kippers etc.

That is a lot of food to eat for breakfast, we literally didn’t eat again until dinner, it was so filling, but I couldn’t say no to any of the course, they were too irrisistible.

homemade smoothie granola and yoghurthome-made scottish porridgescottish breakfast highlands

On our first day, the hubby decided to climb Ben Nevis, you know for fun, like you do. Well he never intended to climb the whole thing (because it takes on average 6 hours in total, depending on your fitness levels), but just wanted to see what the views would be like up there. So he got about half way and found a loch, actually on the mountain – who knew?!

loch on top of ben nevis

I spent a lazy morning recuperating from the long journey, reading out on the balcony, watching the clouds pass over Ben Nevis. It couldn’t have been more relaxing.

ben nevis images

The room was large and decorated beautifully with gorgeous little touches such as coasters of scottie dogs, beautiful lamps and Harris Tweed cushion covers. The bathroom was immense, had a bidet and a spa bath. We had an absolutely fabulous time.

harris tweed cusion covers