Huxley’s 3rd birthday

Huxley turned 3 on Friday. I’m a little shell-shocked by it all to be honest. I know it’s such a cliche parenting thing to say, but I really don’t know where the time has gone! His birthday was pretty low-key this year due to the fact that I’m huge and can’t go far – can I just say how nervous I was all day about going into labour!? (For Huxley’s first birthday we went to Weymouth Sealife Centre, for his second birthday we went to Marwell Zoo).

This year we decided to take him to the cinema in the morning as Cineworld are currently running a promotion to support Children in Need where every day this half term, the tickets are £2 each and you can see Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory or Ice Age: Collision Course. Hux has only been to the cinema twice (and not since February) so it was still a really big, exciting novelty for him. I showed him all the trailers for the movies the night before and he chose Ice Age (much to mine & Nick’s despair!). Sadly, we were the only people in the cinema which is a real shame as it was for a good cause but I suppose half-term hadn’t really kicked in on Friday.

After the cinema we went to Toys’R’us as he had a voucher to spend and we got him a Schleich whale, a Schleich Anhanguera (which is a flying dinosaur – I had to Google it!) and an Elsa doll. After that it was definitely time to eat! I was starving!

Harvester had recently contacted me and asked if I’d like to review their newly refurbished branch in Poole. Never one to turn down free food, I jumped at the chance and they kindly sent us £50 to spend on some lunch. It was really smart in Harvester and I was impressed at how modern it looked, while still retaining a cosy, family-friendly pub feel. It was filled with little cosy nooks and inviting looking fireplaces as well as having practical plus-points like a bottle-warming area for parents with babies.

Harvester Parkstone Poole

harvester seahorse refurbishment dorset

family friendly harvester seahorse poole

harvester seahorse alder hills poole dorset

Obviously one of the best things about Harvester is the unlimited salad bar and I wasted no time stocking up on crunchy croutons and creamy potato salad. Nick & I both ordered the same thing, the Harvester ’83 combo which comes with fries, gravy, corn on the cob, half a rotisserie chicken and a half rack of ribs. Deeeeelish. The kids meals are £5.99 for a main with 2 sides, a drink & a dessert. Hux had a swirly sausage with peas and chips but he’d gorged on popcorn at the cinema so didn’t eat all that much of it. He didn’t even seem that excited at the prospect of ice-cream so we could tell he was full and tired!

Harvester seahorse alder hills poole

schleich toys

family-at-harvester

harvester unlimited salad

Nick skipped dessert while I went for coconut panna cotta with mango coulis. I’m usually a chocolate person but there’s just something about coconut that wins every time. Nick was pretty impressed with the beer offering though and opted for a pint of Brewdog in place of dessert. The total bill came to £41.51 for a beer (£4.55), two adult main courses (£25.98), a kids meal (£5.99) and a dessert (£4.99) so it was pretty budget friendly!

harvester 83 chicken ribs combo

harvester 83 combo poole

coconut panna cotta with mango coulis at harvester

After a quick whizz around the toy sale at the huge Sainsburys next door, it was time to head for the beach. Hux was adamant about going in the sea and it didn’t seem to bother him at all that it was freezing cold. He really, really loves the sea and I think he’d have spent all day chasing the waves back and forth but it was already gone 3pm by the time we got there so we only stayed about half an hour.

alum chine beach october

alum chine bournemouth october in the sea

autumn on the beach bournemouth

alum chine beach bournemouth dorset

We finished the day off at Nick’s mum’s house where he played with his cousins – I have no idea how he managed to stay awake the whole time. He didn’t even fall asleep in the car on the way home! Needless to say he was pretty grumpy for the next day or two from being so tired!

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.

Firepit s’mores

I cannot tell you how long I have dreamed of being able to sit in my own garden and make s’mores! I know it sounds really silly but having a little fire burning and crackling away in front of you while you watch the sky change from blue to pink to lavender is one of life’s biggest pleasures and one of my favourite winter outdoor activities. We weren’t allowed barbecues or anything on our balcony in the flat and dragging a barbecue or firepit down to the beach always seemed far too much effort so to be able to do this right outside my back door is total bliss.

UK blogger Autumn hot chocolate in the garden

The lovely people at Ocean Finance* recently sent me this firepit as part of their #AutumnGarden campaign and they also kindly sent me some money to spend to make my garden even cosier. I knew immediately that I was going to buy some outdoor fairy lights for our apple tree. I browsed the local garden centres for a while but finally found my dream set on Cox & Cox. I wanted the big bulb kind like they have in America, not the tiny twinkly fairy lights we usually get over here and these fit the bill perfectly.

Fire & festoon lights

If you haven’t heard of s’mores before then you haven’t lived! They are an American thing which I don’t think you can accurately recreate over here in the UK (correct me if I’m wrong!). They are traditionally made by toasting a marshmallow over a fire and then squishing the melted marshmallow with a chunk of chocolate between two graham crackers. Despite how much time I’ve spent in America, I haven’t actually ever had a graham cracker but I’ve been told that the closest UK equivalent is a digestive. So, for a UK cheat’s version of s’mores I used chocolate digestives.

Firepit s'mores outdoor winter activitiesGarden firepit and fairylightsBack garden firepit smoresToasting marshmallows over the fire

One of the great side effects of eating s’mores is that it makes you look super attractive…

AttractiveOutdoor fairy lights from Cox and CoxAutumn garden firepit smoresAutumn garden firepit smores UKWinter outdoor activitiesIf you haven’t watched my latest weekly vlog, you might not have seen my new fringe! I was pretty scared about getting it cut in as it adds so much extra work in the mornings. It’s been very strange getting used to it but I think I’m getting there!

*This is a collaborative post

Sunday lunch at Smokehouse, Chiswick

I was doing so well at blogging more frequently until Nick went and broke his stupid leg and now somehow a whole week has passed as I’ve been so busy!

On top of the broken-leg-thing, both Nick & I suddenly seem to have a lot more work coming in, which obviously, as freelancers, is brilliant news but it does mean that somedays I feel like I’m losing my marbles a little bit!

Nick’s writing an article for a national paper which meant that we had to make quite a last minute trip up to Chiswick for lunch this weekend. I don’t often drive two hours specifically to go to lunch somewhere but I have to admit that on this occasion, it was totally worth it.

We left Huxley with Grandma and hopped in the car to Smokehouse. When we arrived we were given a lovely table on the terrace overlooking the garden in the beautiful sunshine. As we were sat there in the unusual quiet and calm, we realised this was probably the first meal out we’d had alone together since Huxley was born! We’ve been out to the cinema and stuff on our own a couple of times but not out to dinner. So we made the most of it and ended up staying 3 hours!

Smokehouse is awesome because Neil Rankin (the brains behind it) trained with America’s best BBQ pit masters (which as I’m sure you know is right up our street after our big American roadtrip!) before becoming head chef at Pitt Cue Co. But, the food at Smokehouse has an interesting twist. Instead of being a bog-standard BBQ joint offering pulled pork and ribs, he incorporates his more traditionally-trained chef background so the menu consists of smoked goat tacos, smoked duck breast with kimchi and even smoked strawberries.

Goat tacos at Smokehouse ChiswickSmoked lamb shoulder Sunday roast at Smokehouse ChiswickSmokehouse Chiswick

The rest of the weekend consisted of me getting up stupidly early to go to the Next sale for the first time in my life. I won’t be doing it again! I got there at 6.30am-ish and it was insane! It was so busy, there was hardly anything left on the racks and the queue went around the shop floor several times with people carrying several bin bags worth of stuff! I was in the shop for about 3 minutes before I had to leave and I drove straight to the forest so Hux & I could get some fresh air! As it was still really early in the morning it was super quiet and we saw loads of wildlife. You can see the pictures over on my Instagram account.

It’s not all bad though, to drown my missed-sale sorrows I managed to pick up some bargains online from Esprit*. How did I not know they did kids clothes?!? Please may I also have everything from their boho range? This dress is actual perfection. If I thought I could get away with wearing a white dress with a toddler in tow then I would be all over it!

On Saturday night our friends Lauren & Ben came over for dinner with our goddaughter Lexi. It was really nice to see them and have a proper catch up. Also, when did Huxley get so damn grown up?!? Lexi is exactly a year older than Huxley and they look the same size in this picture!!

Hux-&-Lexi

*This post contains a collaborative link

#OOTD

Oasis boyfriend tshirt, River Island ripped boyfriend jeans, Sam Edelment Gigi Sandals

T-shirt – Oasis | Jeans – River Island (from eBay) | Shoes: Sam Edelman (similar)

Last night we went to Eight Arch Brewing Company in Wimborne. On Friday nights, Matt from Doodle Bug Food parks up in his van and cooks pulled pork and the like. It’s an awesome place to hang out.

Eight Arch Brewery Wimborne DorsetThe Doodle Bug pulled pork bun Wimborne Dorset

Banana cake recipe

Yes, I do mean banana cake, not banana bread. I’ve lost count of how many banana bread recipes I’ve tried over the years, only to be disappointed with the outcome of a dry, tasteless loaf.

My mum has never made banana bread. She’s always made banana cake. She makes it Victoria Sponge-style with buttercream in the middle and it’s always amazing. So I finally asked her for her recipe. I have no idea where she got this recipe from originally but she’s been making it like this for years so I doubt she’d remember if I asked her.

Banana cake recipeSometimes I find the addition of buttercream makes this cake a bit too sweet but I’ve used this recipe several times in lots of different sized and shaped tins and it’s been perfect every time (obviously adjusting the cooking time).

Mum splits the mixture into two round cake tins and bakes it for 20-30 minutes at gas mark 4. For this recipe, I’ve used a loaf tin. Like I said, it doesn’t really matter which tin you use as long as you adjust the cooking time accordingly. You’ll need much longer with a loaf tin because the heat has to reach the middle but if you just keep checking on it and sticking a knife in the middle of it, once the knife comes out clean, you’ll be fine to take it out. In the mean time, if the top is getting too brown, just cover it with tin foil and pop it back in.

Banana cake recipe

You will need:

Banana cake ingredients

Cowboy bowl: Cath Kidston | Gruffalo bowl: c/o Flamingo Gifts | Hungry Caterpillar bowl: JoJo Maman Bebe

– 4oz (approx 113g) unsalted butter

– 4oz (approx 113g) sugar (I’ve used caster but might play around with other sugars next time)

–  7oz (approx 198g) self-raising flour

– 2 level teaspoons of baking powder

– 1 egg

– 2 tablespoons of milk

– 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

– 2 really ripe bananas (the riper they are, the sweeter they are)

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy

Banana cake recipe step 1

2. Add the egg and mix

Banana cake recipe step 2

3. Add the self-raising flour, baking powder, milk & bicarbonate of soda

Banana cake recipe step 34. Mash the bananas with a fork in a bowl

Mashed banana

5. Add the bananas to the rest of the ingredients and mix

Banana cake recipe step 5

6. Line a loaf tin (which I only just learnt how to do properly after years of baking thanks to this video!) and add the mixture

Banana cake recipe step 6

7. I have to admit that I didn’t keep track of the actual time it was in the oven but that’s probably for the best as everyone’s oven is different and will cook at different times. I left it in for 20 minutes and then checked on it but it was still wobbly so I gave it another 10 minutes but the knife came out with cake mix on it. It was getting a bit too brown on top by this point so I stuck some tin foil over the top of it and checked on it every 5 minutes after that until the knife came out clean. So it was probably around 40-45 minutes in total.

Banana cake on Gruffalo plate with Gruffalo fork from Flamingo Gifts

Gruffalo plate: c/o Flamingo Gifts | Gruffalo cutlery: c/o Flamingo Gifts

It smelt so good when it came out that I totally forgot to take a picture of it cooked whole as I was so eager to get a slice out of it! Once you’ve eaten as much as you want, if there’s any left, make sure you stick it in a tin to keep it nice. I can’t really advise on how long it will last in the tin as it never makes it past 2 days in my house!

Magpie Beasties cake tins from Flamingo Gifts

Magpie cake tins: c/o Flamingo Gifts

Tea & cake at Betty’s Tearooms, Harrogate

When we first decided to go to Harrogate one of the things I was most excited about was having tea and cake at national institution, Bettys. As it happened, our hotel was so close that we could see it out of our window. There was a permanent queue out the door.

Bettys Tearooms in Harrogate

When we joined the queue, we realised that it was all for afternoon tea and we only wanted tea and cake so were shown straight in. You can actually just go in the bakery and buy cakes to take away if you don’t fancy sitting down or are short for time. They’ve got some lovely bits and bobs to buy. I was quite taken with a tea caddy and mug set but at £20 and no house to put it in at the moment I decided against it.

Inside Bettys Tearooms in Harrogate

Chocolate brown bettysWe sat down and got Huxley settled in a chair with a magazine (which you can see he takes very seriously!). We ordered a pot of darjeeling tea each, a praline chocolate eclair and a frangipani slice. There was a sharp intake of breath as we heard the price…£17. But we were on holiday and it’s a special place so it was okay.

Hux

T-shirt: Curious Wolves

Praline chocolate eclair from Bettys Harrogate

Frangipani tart from Bettys Tearooms Harrogate

Pouring tea at Bettys Harrogate

UK lifestyle blogger in Howies tshirt at Bettys Harrogate

T-shirt: Howies

Nick

T-shirt: Howies

Now, I feel I have to be completely honest here. I was a bit disappointed. Maybe it’s because I’d hyped it up too much in my head or maybe I’ve just been spoilt with the bakeries in Paris and San Francisco but I just wasn’t overly impressed with anything. Don’t get me wrong, the cakes were delicious, but they weren’t the blow-my-mind delicious that I was expecting.

The tea was the main disappointment for me. I’ve had darjeeling many times before and it’s usually refreshing and light. This one tasted ‘hard’ and was extremely bitter. We’d poured it as soon as it arrived on the table so we hadn’t over-brewed it. It was so bad that I couldn’t even bring myself to finish one cup – and that never happens!

I wouldn’t say that I’ll never go to Betty’s again because I would, but I think next time I’d just buy the cake to take away and go and have a cheaper cup of tea somewhere else.

To be honest though, there’s a farm shop/deli just outside Harrogate called Fodder which did sell blow-my-mind delicious cakes. I had a millionaire’s shortbread the size of my face for £1.75 and it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. We went to Fodder a couple of times during the week we stayed and it was never a disappointment. We had an incredible sausage roll there, a cookie sandwich and a gluten-free millionaires shortbread and it was all amazing. My mum is going to Harrogate in September and I’m giving her some money with strict instructions to bring me back some more!

When we’d finished at Betty’s we thought we’d better go for a little walk. It was warm enough for me to wear my new shoes that were kindly gifted to me by Clarks. It’s strange because I’m not usually a pink person but I was oddly drawn to these. They are super comfy too.

UK blogger outside Bettys tearooms in Harrogate wearing Clarks Glove Puppet shoes in dusty pink

Scarf: Zara | Jumper: Jigsaw (in the sale!) | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: c/o Clarks

Clarks Glove Puppet shoes in Dusty Pink

Hux2

Harrogate

A birthday lunch at The Pig on the Beach

It was my birthday this week and to celebrate we went for lunch to The Pig on the Beach. We went to it’s sister-restaurant, The Pig, just before Huxley was born to celebrate our 5 year anniversary and had a wonderful time so were excited to try this one out too. We weren’t disappointed.

It was a typical January day. Freezing, windy and cold but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. The hotel itself is incredible, it looks like a haunted house. And the views, even on a grey, miserable day are absolutely stunning. I’d love to go back in the summer and sit out on the lawn with a nice, icy cold drink (and maybe a pizza from the outdoor oven).

The Pig on the Beach, Studland, Dorset

View of Bournemouth from The Pig on the Beach Studland

Chickens

The Pig on the Beach hotel restaurant Studland Dorset

The Pig on the Beach Studland Dorset

Farm land at The Pig on the Beach

Pig on the Beach Dorset

View of Old Harry Rocks from the Pig on the Beach in Dorset

Hut in the grounds of Pig on the Beach

The Style Box

British Fashion & Lifestyle Blogger

Wearing – Hat: Primark | Scarf: Zara | Jumper: Jigsaw | Jeans: Gap | Boots: UGG

Huxley – Hat: Matalan | Coat: Zara | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Zara

We got Hux some posh fish fingers and ordered ourselves the steak and chips. I thought it was the best steak I’d ever had in this country but Nick said his was over-chargrilled but he was pretty impressed with the bernaise sauce. My only complaint was that the chips were a bit too salty but other than that I was a happy sausage.

Posh fish fingers at Pig on the Beach

Fish Fingers at Pig on the Beach Dorset

Inside Pig on the Beach restaurant

View of Old Harry Rocks from Pig on the Beach restaurant

Inside Pig on the Beach restaurant Dorset

Steak and chips at The Pig On the Beach dorset

Nick BainesT-shirt – Tumbleweed Texstyles

Emma The Style Box

T-shirt – Zoe Karssen (in blue)

Huxley at the pig on the beach

Huxley eating fish fingers

Huxley

Baby-friendly recipes: Banana & oat cookies

I don’t claim to have invented this recipe, in fact I’ve seen loads of variations of it knocking around the internet recently but I can’t remember where I found this particular one. I think it was on Pinterest somewhere.

I’ve called this ‘baby-friendly’ but really it’s for quite old babies that are capable of eating well and have plenty of teeth. These cookies can be quite chewy. It’s an odd texture and it’s hard to describe unless you’ve tried one. It’s kind of rubbery? But not in a bad way.

The best thing about these cookies is that they have no added sugar, they just use the sweetness from the bananas. There are only two ingredients (or 3 if you want to be a bit naughty and add chocolate chips like I did!) and are a healthy and cheap alternative to baby snacks you buy in the shops like rusks etc.

Banana & oat cookie recipe

– 2 bananas

– 100g porridge oats

(- chocolate chips/raisins/whatever else you want to add in)

Banana and oat cookies ingredients

1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4

2. Mash the banana in a bowl

Mashed banana3. Mix banana & oats together (and add any extra bits like raisins, chocolate chips etc)

Banana & oat mix

4. Spoon mixture out onto lightly greased baking tray (don’t worry about putting them close together as these cookies don’t really expand)

No sugar banana and oat cookies

5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes

Low sugar banana and oat cookies

6. Try not to scoff the lot

 

7Bone Burger Co, Bournemouth

Last week Nick and I headed to Bournemouth’s newest burger joint, 7Bone. We’d been excited about it since we first saw the Southampton branch featured on The Restaurant Man on BBC 2 back in March.

Bournemouth seems to have had a little flurry of burger joints opening up which is good news because the town centre could really do with some better eateries than the standard fare of Prezzo & Pizza Express.

I’ve eaten a lot of burgers all round America in my time and have yet to find anything that comes close to my all-time favourite, Gotts in San Francisco.

First off I have to say that I absolutely loved the vibe in 7Bone. It’s all exposed brick and very cool looking. Just what Bournemouth needs. There’s also a speakeasy bar downstairs that Nick seemed very impressed with.

7Bone Burger Co Bournemouth We settled down at a table, gave Huxley an apple to keep him occupied and made our orders. Nick was raving about their beer offerings and kept telling me that it’s hard to find these beers outside of London. We ordered a burger each and a side of ‘dirty’ fries.

7Bone Burger Co Shuffle to Straight Time burgerShuffle to Straight Time burger

7Bone Prince Charles is Overrated burgerPrince Charles is Overrated burger

7Bone Burger Co dirty friesMy burger (the Shuffle to Straight Time) was fine but Nick’s (the Prince Charles was Overrated) was awesome. I thought there was a bit too much mustard in mine and it overpowered everything else. I don’t even know what was in Nick’s but it was delicious.

The side order of dirty fries was enormous but not really my kind of thing. Why would I want lettuce on my chips? Also, the bits of bacon on the top were chewy and made me feel a bit queasy.

7Bone dirty friesI’m not going to let my bad menu decisions put me off though and we’ll definitely be going back. They do a buttermilk fried chicken burger that I want to try and Nick wants to give some of their BBQ offerings a go. They also do a truffled mac’n’cheese which sounds pretty special.

At some point I need to squeeze in a visit to their rival around the corner, Longhorn Burgers too!

Hux2HuxWe followed our meal up with a quick stroll round Bournemouth gardens and the play park before Nick headed off to a meeting.

Bournemouth gardens play park