Our first week in America!

To quote Adele, hello from the otherside! We’ve been here a week now and are nicely settled into our house in Sonoma so I thought I’d do a bit of an update as to what we got up to over the past week. (You can also watch my weekly vlog if you’d prefer to see it in video form!)

Hux was an absolute angel on the flight. I was a bit worried about taking an active 2-year-old on an 11 hour plane journey but he did really well. He fell asleep literally the second the plane took off and slept for about 2 hours. Once he woke up he was so well behaved (thanks iPad!) and the only time he cried was when we came to land because I think his ears were hurting him. So all in all, it was a win!

We spent the first 3 days in San Francisco which was a bit crazy and busy due to the SuperBowl which happened on Sunday. It was the 50th one and security was nuts in the city. We had to walk through body scanners and everything just to get to the Ferry Building! Our first meal is always at Gotts Roadside. It’s one of my favourite places to eat in the city and one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. The garlic fries are insane.

Ferry Building SuperBowl50 San Francisco

Bay Bridge at dusk San Francisco

Jetlagged Hux

The next morning we woke up at 2am (thanks jet lag!) and lazed around until about 5am when Hux started getting restless so we walked to Bob’s Donuts which is possibly the best place ever. It’s open 24 hours and they make the softest, most incredible doughnuts – and it’s SO CHEAP. It’s not at all fancy and we love it so much.

Bob's Donuts San Francisco

Hux eating Bob's Donuts

After that we did a bit of shopping in downtown and Nick bought me a new North Face down jacket for my birthday. Then we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf (which we hate but we wanted to visit the Patagonia store there) before going to the Exploratorium as it just so happened to be their quarterly free entrance day. The Exploratorium was AMAZING! So much better than I was expecting. It’s a bit like the Science Museum in London but everything is hands-on so it would keep kids entertained for HOURS. Hux was probably a bit little but he had fun running around. If you had kids that are like 8+ they would have a blast. From there we walked to Nick’s happy place, Red’s Java House. We turned up at like 4.02pm and they shut at 4pm in the winter but luckily the guy took pity on us and let us in for a beer and a cup of tea!

San Francisco Exploratorium

Red's Java House San Francisco

On Wednesday we basically spent the whole day at Dolores Park as the weather was beautiful and obviously visited Tartine. I know I say this about everything, but you really can’t miss Tartine if you visit San Francisco. It’s so perfect.

Dolores Park San Francisco

Quiche at Tartine San Francisco

Tartine San Francisco

Hux

The Style Box Dolores Park

On Thursday we went to Outer Sunset to visit Mollusk Surf Shop before hanging out on Ocean Beach and watching the enormous waves crashing onto the beach. Then we drove to the Warming Hut so that Huxley could get a proper look at the Golden Gate Bridge. We also spotted Miss Universe having her photo taken while we were there!

San Francisco Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Hux at GGB

After that we drove to Moraga as we were staying with Nick’s friends for a few nights. It was super beautiful and we had a great time, although I didn’t really take any photos while we were there. On Friday they took us to Tilden Park which is a big mountain with incredible views of San Francisco (seriously though, it’s now my life goal to buy one of the houses on the side of the mountain with that view!). It also has a pretty lake, a farm and rather randomly, a carousel.

View of San Francisco from Tilden Park

Carousel at Tilden Park California

Saturday morning we got up and went to Walnut Creek as my iPhone needed upgrading so that we could use the American sim cards we’d bought. I needed a new one anyway and am due an upgrade in June but it’s nice to have it a bit early! Then we just made our way to Sonoma and got settled in our new house (for the month!) before heading to Safeway to buy lots of yummy food (read: mainly avocados).

On Sunday a friend of ours invited us to his house to watch the Superbowl. He’s really into barbecue, which is how him & Nick met and he made some amazing food. We didn’t watch any football but Hux had a great time running around the pool and throwing a ball in and getting it out with the net!

Now I’m just settling in to life in Sonoma. I’ll admit I haven’t found it easy the past few days. Don’t get me wrong, Sonoma is gorgeous and there’s tons to do here in the way of beautiful hikes and the weather has been incredible but Huxley has been a total pain. He’s probably just missing home and is a bit confused but he’s just been in one of those moods where he won’t listen to what I’m saying, he won’t do anything I ask him to and all he wants to do it sit around watching TV and eating junk food. He fell asleep at 5pm today though (hence how I finally have the time to write a blog post!) so maybe he’s just exhausted. Who knows?!

Some exciting news!

If you watch my weekly vlogs, you’ll probably already know that we’re about to go to California for 10 weeks. It’s all very exciting but has also been quite stressful due to how short-notice it’s all been. We’re leaving in two weeks time and only got our accommodation booked last night! In fact, we’ve only actually found somewhere to stay for February so far! We’ve still got nowhere to stay for the whole of March yet! I can tell from the reactions of most of my family that they think we’re a little nuts. If you’ve known Nick or I for any length of time, you’ll know it’s almost impossible to have a conversation with either of us without San Francisco or California being mentioned at some point. It’s always been a bit of a pipe dream to live out there so it’s nice to almost make that dream a reality!

So, here’s the plan. We’re going to be staying in San Francisco for a couple of days and then we’re going to stay with Nick’s friend in Moraga (just outside of Berkeley) for a few nights before settling down in a 2-bedroom AirBnB apartment in Sonoma for the month of February. After that, who knows?!? We’ll still be staying somewhere in wine country for March but it could be Napa or Santa Rosa or Sonoma again, we’re just going to play it by ear and see what happens. Then, on April 1st, we’ll either be driving North to Portland, Oregon for 10 days or South to Los Angeles before flying home on the 11th. Nick has even talked about driving across Nevada and Idaho to Montana but when I asked him what he wanted to see/do in Montana, he couldn’t really give me an answer so I’m not sure that will happen – but I’ve just typed Montana into Pinterest and I might be easily persuaded! Yellowstone National Park is even closer than Montana and I’d totally be up for that!

I have to admit that I’m a little bit nervous about how I’m going to find day-to-day living there as I’ll be on my own with Huxley a lot of the time, with no nursery to give me a break and no relatives or friends to go and see to break up the day. I’ve spent ages scouring Facebook for local mommy groups and have scouted out where the library is and I’m going to try and make a little map of the local neighbourhood parks I can walk to as I won’t have the car every day. As silly as this sounds, I have to admit that I’m pretty worried about my teeth as everyone out there has a Hollywood smile, if I could afford some major dentist* work beforehand then I would definitely do it! I have a feeling they’ll probably guess that I’m British before I even speak!

I have to admit that I’m pretty excited about leaving England for the whole of February. I really hate February! I’m not good with the cold. But, before you get jealous about the California weather, although it’s about 15 degrees, it’s also been raining for a LONG time so I won’t be sunning myself by the pool or anything like that!

I’m super excited to be able to properly explore such a gorgeous area of Northern California. I’ve been googling all the different hikes and trails you can do and I can’t wait to visit Muir Woods as it’s been on my bucket list for years. We’ll also hopefully visit Yosemite again (see my previous post with 5 month old Huxley!) and make trips to Lake Tahoe and other surrounding areas.

If you’re not sure what wine country looks like, check out Rosie Londoner‘s INCREDIBLE photos from her recent trip, as well as Julia from Gal Meets Glam‘s blog as she lives in San Francisco so goes out to wine country all the time and takes the most beautiful photos.

Napa California

(Photo via The Londoner)

napa valley

(Photo via Gal Meets Glam)

So yeah, my Instagram feed will hopefully be filled with gorgeous sunny shots of vineyards, giant redwoods and lots of milkshakes, pie and burgers! Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep updated with my adventures weekly!

*This post contains a paid-for link

Home vs Adventure

adventure quote

These days it feels like you can’t swing a cat without hitting an inspirational quote about travel and adventure. We live in a funny time, where everyone’s Instagram feels like a constant competition to out-exotic each other. If you’re not hiking up a mountain, trekking through a jungle or frolicking in a far-off ocean then the world isn’t interested. At least, that’s how it feels to me.

Although I’m totally for great, big adventures that open your mind and expand your horizons (insert other cliches here), today I’d like to talk in defence for the homebodies among us.

There is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with feeling happiest snuggled on the sofa in your pyjamas, clutching a mug of hot chocolate and watching a movie. I feel like if you were to admit this in public these days you’d be met with a few funny looks. We need to all chill out a little bit trying to out-adventure each other and try and find joy in the little everyday adventures that we can have. Whether that’s starting a new job, moving house or even just stomping around the forest, we all adventure in different ways.

I didn’t write a ‘Year in Review’ post this year because I was in a pretty bad place happiness-wise around New Year and I felt like I hadn’t done anything in 2015 and that it had been a bit of a flop. But last night, I was laid awake in bed thinking about all the incredible things we’ve achieved in the past year. We moved out of our flat, into Nick’s parents for 3 months and started a COMPLETE renovation of our house. We’re not talking about a lick of paint here and there, we’re talking about knocking down walls and re-plastering. The whole shebang. The fact that we completed an entire renovation of a 3 bedroom house, while Nick was working full-time for the most part, getting up at 6am to work on the house, doing his writing during his lunch breaks, then leaving work and going straight back to the house to work until 10pm or later, and as a couple, we’ve earned more money than we’ve ever earned in the past year AND we’ve managed to raise a happy, healthy, content, polite, beautiful little boy at the same time is mind-blowing when I look back on it. So although we didn’t go on any exciting holidays, in some ways, we had a much bigger adventure than we realised.

adventure quote

If you’ve been watching my weekly vlogs, you’ll know that we’re on the brink of our own big adventure for this year. We’re potentially moving to America for 2 months (and possibly indefinitely). The first two weeks of January have been a complete panic and a total rollercoaster of emotions as we try to decide what’s best for our little family. The fact that we’d have to leave at the end of January hasn’t given us a lot of time to think about it so it definitely feels very spontaneous and is a little bit scary – everything these adventure quotes have you believe means it’s the right thing to do (do one thing a day that scares you – life begins at the end of your comfort zone etc). But what if it’s not?

One of the things I’ve realised is how at home I feel in our new house. We moved back to the town that I grew up in and at the time I was really anxious that it would make me feel inadequate and that I’d feel like I’d taken a step back in life. But in reality, what I feel is extremely grounded. I hadn’t realised how much comfort I take from being in such familiar surroundings. It definitely helps that where I live is completely beautiful and surrounded by forest but I just feel like I’m in the right place right now.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post or what the end ‘message’ is, but what I’m basically trying to say is that life is an adventure, whether you stay in your home town your whole life or whether you visit all the countries in the world. Ignore the stupid Pinterest quotes if they make you feel inadequate.

 

Things to do in Bournemouth – with kids!

Travelodge recently got in touch and asked if I’d like to put together a bucket list of things to do in Bournemouth for 2016. I thought I’d put a bit of a twist on it and write one for kids. So apologies to my regular blog readers while I go a bit mummy-blogger on you for the day.

2016 is all about the staycation and Travelodge make it a very affordable option – especially if petrol is going to stay at 99p a litre! They’ve got a couple of hotels in the Bournemouth area including one a stone’s throw from the ocean.

So, here’s my top 5 things to do in Bournemouth (& the surrounding area) with kids:

 

1. The beach!

This one is pretty obvious but the beach provides hours of endless, free fun. Building sandcastles, searching for pretty shells, burying family members, splashing in the waves, chasing the ice-cream boat along the shore. If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds and hustle and bustle of Bournemouth’s main beach, try Branksome Chine, Alum Chine or Southbourne beach instead. Mudeford & Highcliffe are also lovely (but a bit further away).

(See some of my beach adventures here, here & here)

Hux at the beach

2. Moors Valley

Moors Valley is a huge country park situated about 20 minutes drive from Bournemouth. It’s basically one massive playground in the middle of the forest and it’s absolutely fantastic. We go all the time, all year round, whatever the weather! There’s a visitor centre with a gift shop and a cafe, toilets, a big play area, a play area for smaller children, a train you can ride around the park on and a play trail around the forest. Trust me when I say that you will all be well and truly worn out by the end of the day!

(Catch my Moors Valley adventures here, herehere & here!)
Moors Valley

3. RockReef climbing centre

This one really is the beating heart of Bournemouth, situated at the end of Bournemouth Pier. It’s quite a new addition, and as quaint and sweet as the old theatre was, I think it’s a big improvement on what was there before! RockReef has several activities inside it including climbing walls, caves and a highline course but most excitingly, it also has a huge zip line that goes from the end of the pier straight on to Bournemouth beach. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out RockReef when it first opened and I had SO MUCH FUN. Unfortunately it was winter so I didn’t get a chance to go on the zip line but it looks pretty cool!

rock_reef_51

(image stolen from Louise)

4. The Quomps splash park

The Quomps splash park is actually in Christchurch which is about a 15 minute drive away from Bournemouth but it’s well worth the drive if it’s a hot, sunny day. The splash park is a fenced-in area with water jets that squirt out of the floor. It’s SO much fun. We usually end up having to drag Huxley away kicking and screaming because he loves it so much that he just won’t leave. (If you’d prefer to stay in central Bournemouth, they actually have something very similar to this by the pier now)

 

Things to do in Bournemouth with kids

 

5. Bournemouth Air Festival

The Bournemouth Air Festival takes place every year in August, the weekend before the Bank Holiday. It’s always a jam-packed affair and the whole town transforms into a busy, bustling metropolis as hundreds and thousands of tourists descend onto the beach and surrounding areas to catch a glimpse of the action. While I usually try and avoid the crowds as much as possible for events like this, the Air Festival is one that I definitely make an exception for. It’s so exciting to find a little patch on the beach to claim as your own and settle down for the day with ever-changing constant entertainment without having to move a muscle! The kids can run off and play in the sea or make friends with kids in the neighbouring camps and build sandcastles and it’s such a joy to see their little faces as the Red Arrows shoot across the sky.

(See a previous post on the Bournemouth Air Festival here)

Airshow

(Image via here)

If you’re planning a staycation to Bournemouth this year and need some help with planning, please give me a shout! I’d be more than happy to help!

Car review: Peugeot 2008

Time for something a little different on the blog today. You may have seen on my social media accounts that I was sent a Peugeot 2008 Crossover for a week a little while ago. Peugeot kindly leant me the car with a full tank of petrol and all they asked for in return was an honest review of how I thought the car fit in with my active family lifestyle. The model I was sent was a Peugeot 2008 FELINE BlueHDi 120 in Amber Red with ‘Calima’ Ambience Panama trim with 17″ Eridan alloy wheels and a Cielo panoramic glass roof. This particular model retails at £20,045 (as of December 2015).

Peugeot 2008 car review 2015

So here goes…

This review is going to start with all the great things that I loved about the car and then continue to the things that I didn’t like quite so much. Each section is clearly marked with headlines so you can scan/skim through them if you like.

I also made a video review as I know some people would prefer to watch rather than read. This fits the same format, with all the things I liked about the car in the first half of the video and the things I didn’t like so much in the second half.

Things I liked about the Peugeot 2008

 

Automatic wing mirrors

The automatic wing mirrors are a great feature. The wing mirrors automatically fold in towards the car when you lock it. This gives you great peace of mind that they’re not going to get knocked/scuffed once you’ve parked your car.  It also allows you to see at a quick glance whether or not you’ve remembered to lock your car!

Automatic windscreen wipers

This was probably my favourite feature of all! I get unreasonably stressed out when the speed of my windscreen wipers isn’t in sync with the speed of the rain meaning that the wipers squeak really loudly every time they go. It really grinds my gears as Peter Griffin would say. The automatic windscreen wipers completely eliminate this problem as the sensor only activates them when there’s a reasonable amount of rain happening. It also means that you don’t have to remember to keep switching them on and off every 5 minutes if the rain is intermittent. It’s super easy to switch on and off too with a quick flick of a switch.

High off the ground

I really liked the fact that the Peugeot 2008 was slightly higher off the ground than my current car. This is particularly beneficial if you’ve got children and have to bend down to get them in and out of the car all the time. It makes it much easier on your back!

Handfree mobile connectivity

I thought the handsfree mobile connectivity worked really well. The speakers were nice and loud so I never struggled to hear what was being said and I didn’t have to shout to make myself heard to the person on the other end of the phone. Saying that, the system was totally flawless (see further down)

Nice to look at!

Obviously everyone wants to drive a nice-looking car. We can’t pretend that appearances aren’t important here! With it’s snazzy red paintwork and shiny, sparkly chrome features, this car is very easy on the eyes!

Spacious boot

With a child, a big boot is essential. We’re always cramming tons of stuff from pushchairs, to trikes, to wellies, to shopping bags, to boxes of nappies and everything in between into our boot. I was surprised to find on my first outing that I managed to fit TWO pushchairs in the boot! (A big iCandy one and a smaller flip-up one). I also liked that the boot was totally flat so you could sit on it to put your wellies on or use it as an emergency changing table (!) The only downside for me was that the responsiveness of the boot-release button was a bit slow which would be really frustrating if you were carrying heavy shopping or desperately holding on to your toddler who was trying to run into oncoming traffic!

Well-designed centre console

I thought the centre console of the Peugeot 2008 was really well designed. The layout of the computer system/stereo and the heating controls were really well planned. The buttons for the air-con temperature control were really nice and easy to use while driving without having to look down. It had plenty of places to store all your stuff. The only improvement that could be made would be possibly moving the USB port into the glove box as the cables kind of get in the way of the cup holders.

Peugeot 2008 chrome gearstick

Good acceleration

This car goes from 0-62 in 9.6 seconds, which doesn’t mean a great deal to me written down but I do know that it goes A LOT faster than my current car (a 2008 Toyota Auris).  In normal people terms, when you put your foot down, it GOES!

Very economical

Due to the BlueHDi Diesel engine in this car, the fuel consumption is extremely good. I drove just over 300 miles in a week and only less than 3/4 of a tank of fuel. The brochure tells me that you can get as much as 78.5 mpg (miles per gallon) but the in-car system said 55.3 mpg while I had it which is probably due to all the short drives and nipping around town that I did but if you were to go on a long journey at a consistent speed, you’d be able to get it much higher than that. This also means that you don’t have to pay car tax! Hoorah!

Automatic headlights

Again, another automatic feature that just makes driving the car so much simpler. Switching my lights on is something I often forget to do, especially if I’ve been parked in a bright car park. Unlike the automatic windscreen wipers, which you have to switch on every time you get in the car, this feature can stay enabled permanently so you literally never have to think about switching your lights on again! A great safety feature if you’re a forgetful Susan like I am! They’re sensor activated too so they’ll come on even if it’s daytime but it’s just really gloomy.

Panoramic sunroof

This one doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to the car as a driver but it does make the experience much nicer for the passengers! Obviously it lets a lot of daylight into the car which is always nice and makes the car feel much bigger and brighter. As a child I would spend hours looking out the windows at the trees and stars and I’d have loved gazing out of a huge panoramic window like this!

Mini dashboard screen

Sorry, I’m not sure what the technical name of this bit is! I’m talking about the little computer screen above the steering wheel. I thought this was a really nice feature. Although you’ve got a speedometer on the right, I found it really helpful to see my speed in numerical figures in front of me. The screen also shows you directions and instructions when the SatNav is switched on, while also still displaying your speed in between the SatNav instructions.

In car dashboard Peugeot 2008

Quiet engine

This car is super quiet when you turn the ignition on. I was going to write ‘it’s really quiet for a Diesel’ but actually it’s really quiet for a car in general – it’s much quieter than my current petrol-run car! This means that you can hear the radio better, you can hear the mobile phone through the speakers really well and generally improves the in-car experience as it’s not noisy like the inside of an aeroplane when you’re going at high speed.

Easy-to-use SatNav system

I’ve used a couple of SatNav systems in my time and I found this one really easy to use. The best thing is that you can override the ‘postcode’ input by just typing in the name of the town. It also gives you the option to choose the fastest route or the shortest route.

Steering wheel stereo controls

I really liked the steering wheel controls. My current car has buttons which can be a bit labour intensive to push when you’re driving along but the Peugeot 2008 had little wheels that you can just flick up and down with your thumbs. I found this much easier to use, if a little slow to respond when changing tracks on an iPod.

Easy on-screen music navigation

I liked that you could click on the album or artist that you were listening to and easily switch track or album from the on-screen computer. It’s probably not something I would use all the time but it was a nice little extra. The only downside to this system is that you can’t use the controls on your iPod to change the artist or access a playlist while it’s plugged in.

 

Things I didn’t like about the Peugeot 2008

 

Not very big inside

For a Crossover vehicle, I didn’t think the Peugeot 2008 felt very big inside. To me, the roof felt quite low and enclosed. In this particular model, this was helped by the addition of the panoramic sunroof window but I think if you didn’t have that, it might feel quite squished, especially if you’re taller than my 5’4″ self! In terms of leg room though, there seemed to be plenty.

No mobile connection confirmation

One of the things that bugged me most about the in-car mobile connectivity was that it never told you whether or not your phone was connected. This can be especially confusing if there are two of you in the car as there was no way of knowing who’s phone was connected without delving into the system to find out. Just a simple icon, or voice notification when you started the engine would have been great.

Can’t connect more than one phone at a time

Another downfall of this system is that you can only connect one mobile phone at a time. My husband and I only have one car so we are often in the car at the same time. Combined with the issue above where it didn’t tell you clearly who’s phone was connected, I think this would really bug me after a while. It does state in the handbook that you can connect more than one phone at a time but it depends on what handset you’re using. My husband & I both have iPhone 5s’s which is quite a common handset and not overly outdated compared to the age of the car so I was surprised that our phones weren’t one of the models that allowed multi-handset connectivity.

I don’t like the chrome!

This one is more of a personal preference but I really didn’t get on with the chrome gearstick! I didn’t realise that I actually drive along holding onto the gearstick quite often and because it’s winter it was FREEZING! I’d imagine you get the opposite problem in the summer with it being red hot if left in the sun which would be even worse! So I definitely wouldn’t ever choose to have a chrome gearstick! I also wasn’t a particular fan of the chrome pedals. For the most part, they were fine, but when I wore Converse, I found that my shoes would slip off the clutch scarily often which made me panic and was difficult to remedy without stopping the car!

Suspension wasn’t as good as expected

To be honest, the suspension really wasn’t as good as I was expecting. We live on an unmade road with LOADS of potholes and the main catalyst for us buying a new car would be to find one that handled the bumps much better. I’ve driven down our road in several cars over the time that I’ve lived here and some of these have handled the unevenness much better so I was disappointed as I thought that the suspension on a Crossover vehicle would be much better than my current car.

 

So, that wraps up my review of the Peugeot 2008 Crossover. All in all, I had a great time driving it and it was definitely a BIG improvement on my current car. Even my two-year-old son kept saying it was better and is still going on about the red car even though we gave it back a week ago. There were only a few small niggly bits that let this car down but I think that the good definitely outweighs the bad – particularly the money you would save on fuel consumption and tax due to it being so economical.

Thank you very much Peugeot for letting me borrow the car!

A blustery walk at Lulworth Cove

Last week, while we still had the Peugeot 2008  to review with it’s free tank of fuel, we thought we’d make the most of it by driving to Lulworth Cove. Lulworth Cove isn’t a million miles away from us but it is a good hour drive so it’s not somewhere that we really go to – but we definitely should.

The walk down to Lulworth Cove

House at Lulworth Cove

(Hello dream house!)

I haven’t been for years, not since school I don’t think, and I’d completely forgotten how beautiful it is. The day we’d chosen to go was overcast, grey and windy as hell. (If you’ve seen my weekly vlog you’ll have heard the wind!) To be honest, I kind of like it like that. It feels much more adventurous and exciting!

Lifestyle blogger Dorset

It’s funny because if you were to describe Lulworth Cove to someone, it doesn’t sound all that great (although it is part of the UNESCO Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site). It’s basically a small bay with nothing else there but the sea. But, when you stand there, looking out over the water, an immense feeling of calm washes over you, even when the waves are crashing on the rocks in front of you. It just feels intensely peaceful. The water on that day was an incredible dull shade of mint green and there was a single boat bobbing fiercely on the waves as they came to their end on the stoney shore.

I’m sure it’s beautiful in the summer when the bright blue sky turns the water a million shades of ocean but on that day, the flat, grey-white sky and calming mint-green water just felt right.

Lulworth Cove Jurassic Coast Dorset

After standing and staring at the ocean for what felt like an eternity, we decided to stomp up the side of the cliff for a better view and to see the waves crashing on Stair Hole. Unfortunately I still couldn’t fit the whole of the cove into one picture but trust me, there’s hundreds around the internet if you want a better look!

Boat at Lulworth Cove Dorset

The Boat Shed Cafe Lulworth Cove

Collecting seaweed at Lulworth Cove

Stair Hole is a much smaller cove than Lulworth but has a rock formation with lots of small caves and it’s mesmerising to stand and watch the waves swirling and swelling around the rocks before finally crashing through the caves with explosive force.

Stair Hole Dorset

Looking out to sea

Unfortunately we didn’t make it to Durdle Door which is just over the hill as the walk there is a bit of a monster and Huxley was already pretty worn out by this point. Also, if memory serves me, the path down to Durdle Door is a bit treacherous, I seem to remember sitting on my bum and sliding down sections of it. Not exactly ideal with a toddler!

Steak & Chips at Beefeater Grill, Christchurch

Last week I had an email asking me if I’d like to try the newly refurbished and updated Beefeater Grill in Somerford, Christchurch. I was kindly offered £50 to spend but I knew that Huxley & I would barely make a dent in that so I invited my sister along as I know she appreciates a good pig-out as much as I do!

Our visit started out a bit shakily as Huxley had just had a major tantrum that involved him rolling around the floor in mud and trying to punch me in the face and my sister had just had someone drive up the back of her. Needless to say we both required a bit of chill time and a good scoff.

I have to admit that I hadn’t been to this particular Beefeater Grill before it had been renovated so I can’t compare it to what it was like before but I can tell you that it is absolutely beautiful now. It’s also MASSIVE inside. The waiters/waitresses must burn a lot of calories running around that place!

Hello Beefeater Grill Somerford Dorset

Beefeater Somerford Christchurch

As you walk in, you’re greeted by a big wall with a sign that looks like it’s made from grass that says ‘hello’. It feels very modern and trendy, almost like a digital agency rather than a chain restaurant/pub. The sign also clearly marks that the restaurant section is on the left-hand side and the bar is on the right. Brilliant. There’s also a podium with menus so you know that you’re meant to wait there to be greeted and seated. I hate places that are unclear on this and you end up standing in the doorway not sure whether you should sit down or not so full marks to Beefeater for this.

The decor has touches of an American diner to it with big, inviting, cosy-looking booths for the whole family in a trendy mustard yellow and grey palette. The walls are adorned with quirky artwork like box frames with toy cows inside and historical pieces like a set of plates that were designed by an artist for Beefeater back in the Seventies.

Beefeater Grill refurbishment Christchurch Dorset

Christchurch Beefeater

Cow Meat Parts Diagram

Beefeater Somerford Refurbishment

Beefeater Cow Plates

Open Till The Cows Come Home

The atmosphere was so chilled out. The music was at the perfect volume: loud enough to hear but not so loud that you have to shout over it and at a level that if Huxley was to start playing up, I wouldn’t have felt that everyone was going to turn around and look at me for breaking the silence (I hate those places!). There was plenty of space for me to walk around trying to get baby Ben to sleep in his pushchair without disturbing anyone or getting funny looks. It was a really genuinely relaxing experience.

We took a seat and our waitress took our order, understanding that Huxley’s meal needed to be bought out with our starters to avoid World War 3. We both chose from the Festive Menu as there were set meal prices that made it better value. I had prawn cocktail followed by Sirloin steak with (unlimited!!) triple-cooked chips and my sister chose crispy mushrooms, roast turkey and a chocolate melt-in-the-middle pudding.

Steak & Chips at Beefeater Grill

Festive Menu roast turkey dinner at Beefeater Christchurch

Unlimited triple-cooked chips at Beefeater Grill

Melting chocolate pudding at Beefeater Grill

The food was great. The kids meal also comes as a ‘set-menu’ deal and is really good value. He had cod bites with chips & peas followed by ice-cream and cookies which was £5.49 and he scoffed the whole lot! Can I also just take a moment to mention how AWESOME I think their online menu is? It has a filter function that allows you to select different tick-boxes so you can easily highlight the courses and the vegan, vegetarian, nut-free and gluten-free options. Absolute genius.

Beefeater Children's Menu

Beefeater Children's Cod bites meal

Huxley Beefeater

Our bill came to £44.98 which included a bottomless Pepsi, a £2 surcharge for an upgraded steak, an extra steak sauce and a Costa Caramel Latte. Bargain.

*This review was in collaboration with Frank PR who provided me with a £50 gift voucher to spend in return for a review. All opinions are my own and I would not have written about my experience if I hadn’t genuinely enjoyed it.

Weekly vlog #10 – Winchester Christmas market & Lulworth Cove

The weekly vlog is now live! It’s been a pretty busy one, as I’m sure it has for everyone during the run-up to Christmas! Feeling super Christmassy and festive now! I’m not sure how much filming I’ll do next week over the Christmas period as I’m sure my family won’t appreciate having a camera in their face when they’re trying to chill out so next week’s vlog might be super short!

This week I have:

Monday – Went to the playgroup Christmas party, went to see my nan with my sister and then went to the Winchester Christmas market with Nick’s mum & dad.

Tuesday – I filmed a video reading Mog’s Christmas Calamity for Sainsbury’s, went to the shops to replace a broken Christmas present for Huxley, went to the chiropractors for the first time to sort out my stupid neck and went out with Rosie, Georgie & Olivia to Camden in Westbourne.

Wednesday – Drove to Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast in the Peugeot 2008 and watched the waves crashing on Stair Hole.

Thursday – Filmed a video review of the Peugeot 2008 (post coming soon!)

Friday – We went to see Nick’s friend Kirsty in Boscombe and then I went to the Beefeater in Somerford with my sister to check out their massive new refurbishment and stuffed my face with steak (blog post coming soon). Then we went to a friend’s house for Christmas drinks in the evening.

Saturday – I received a surprise Christmas present from the Tu team at Sainsbury’s, went to the library and the park, went to a kid’s birthday party, had some friends over and wrapped some Christmas presents, including Huxley’s new Buzz Lightyear costume!

Sunday – I went to the park with Huxley and then stopped in to see my nan. We were meant to go to the pub for a family photoshoot but that got cancelled due to the rain.

Enjoy!

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Mog’s Christmas Calamity

As part of my involvement in the Sainsbury’s Fashion Blogger Community, they recently asked me if I’d like to get involved in their Storyteller’s Campaign to raise awareness of child literacy in the UK. I was asked to film myself reading Mog’s Christmas Calamity and to upload it, so here it is!

If you haven’t seen the new Sainsbury’s Mog Christmas advert then you can watch it here. The book is available to buy at all Sainsbury’s stores or online, costing £3, with £2 going to Save the Children.

Natural Christmas Wreath from Florists Gallery

Not long now guys! Christmas is almost upon us! I’m so excited this year! I think it’s the combination of the new house, having our first ever real Christmas tree and Huxley finally understanding what’s going on that’s made me feel so festive. We were walking in Bournemouth square yesterday when Huxley spotted the mechanical Santa climbing one of the lamp posts so we told him to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas so he looked up and said ‘Woody & Buzz please’ in the softest, cutest little voice that Nick & I practically sprinted to Argos to get them for him.

Way back at the beginning of November, I was contacted by Rose Courage (which is possibly the most awesome name ever) from Florists Gallery in Bournemouth asking whether I would like a Christmas wreath to review. I literally couldn’t reply quick enough. I love wreaths. I feel like they’re the daytime equivalent of fairy lights.

Hope hydrangea orange peel natural christmas wreath dorset

Although I’m currently stuck with a rather boring white PVC front door until we can afford something a bit swankier, the novelty of actually having a proper front door and not a horrible dark wooden one at the end of a corridor in a block of flats hasn’t worn off yet!

I wasn’t really sure what to ask for when Rose asked me to describe how I’d like my Christmas wreath to look so instead I told her that I’m quite outdoorsy and liked natural, naturey things and that I was happy for her to go wild and create whatever she fancied and she did not disappoint! I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. It’s like my dream wreath!

Professional handmade Christmas wreath Bournemouth

I’ve had a go at making a christmas wreath myself previously (see my attempts from 2011 & 2012 here) so I know how much hard work goes into it. Rose doesn’t use any pre-made foam circles, it’s all totally handmade with wire which is incredible. The wreath she created is decorated with cinnamon sticks, orange slices, hydrangea, holly and wooden decorations and it smells DIVINE.

Joy cinnamon sticks orange peel christmas wreath

If you’d like to order your own wreath from Florists Gallery, you can visit their website: http://www.floristsgallery.co.uk/ or give them a call on 01202 431810. Prices start from £6 for a small hand-crafted holly wreath, the medium sized one that Rose gave me comes in at around £15 and larger 16-inch ones are between £20-£30.

Rose has kindly offered my readers 15% off all Christmas orders by quoting ‘style box’ when placing your order.

Christmas Wreath Florists Gallery Bournemouth