Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Free Days Out in Shropshire

Those of you that have followed the blog for a while may know that Joe's family live in Shropshire. It is just under a 2 hour drive from us but we are up there quite frequently so have visited a few places nearby. I wanted to let you know some of our favourite places to go while we are there all of which are free visit! 

Telford Town Park and Walled Garden

We first discovered the town park while Joe and I were on a weekend away without the kids. It is relatively new when you consider Joe hadn't been to Telford since he lived at home 10 years ago. The park is so big with a children's play area complete with sand pit and water play, heritage trail, nature trail, adventure golf and Sky Reach which is similar to Go Ape. My favourite part though is the walled garden, it is beautiful. The Chelsea Gardens were designed for the Chelsea Flower Show and are now open to the public. The Japanese inspired water garden was lovely and they had a memorial tree with leaves for loved ones.

The town park is just outside of the main shopping centre and a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic while the kids run some energy off. The nature reserve is meant to be really good so perhaps we will venture further next time we visit.

Shrewsbury Town Centre

We attended a wedding a few years ago and on the day after we stopped in Shrewsbury for an explore. Joe grew up here so it wasn't new to him but I thought it was a lovely historic town. The Market Hall is a great place to check out local produce and the museum often has free entry for heritage days. 

There are lots of charity shops to mooch around and a lovely not for profit coffee shop in the Baptist Church called Palmer's which does delicious cakes!

Bishops Castle

We went for a weekend away with Joe's family recently. It wasn't far from home for them because Joe's Nana was with us but about an hour from Joe's family home is Bishops Castle. A tiny quaint town in the middle of the Shropshire countryside not far from Ludlow. We had rented out a big house for the weekend and I was amazed at how beautiful the surroundings were. 

Just down the road from our house was the high street with a Town Hall full of historical artifacts and information about the local area, cute artisan bakeries, quirky holistic stores and charity shops. It is a really nice place to get away from it all, a retreat in the middle of England. 

There are plenty of nature walks you can take from the area and there is even glamping pods on a site nearby, ideal for a cheap getaway.

Montgomery Castle

While at Bishops Castle we were looking for places to visit and Montgomery Castle came up on my Google search. About 15 minutes from our 'holiday home' through winding roads and farm land is the beautiful town of Montgomery. It actually falls into Wales as the border is so close and you drive in and out of Wales on the trip there. The little town is really pretty and as you drive through the town square, up a really steep hill (I drove that day!) and round the bend there is a free car park. 

Just a short stroll along the hillside stands the ruins of Montgomery Castle. It has stood there since the 11th Century but lots of the walls are still in tact. There is a dried out moat all the way round and the older kids/grown ups enjoyed rolling down the hills at the side while the Mum's watched on with our hearts in our throats! 

I am sure there are lots of places we are yet to discover in Shropshire, there is always something to do in the area and we haven't even been to RAF Cosford near Wolverhampton yet which has been on our list for years! If you are happy to spend some money on a day out then Joe's family recommended Fordhall Farm as a fun day out too.

Are you local to Shropshire? Where else should we visit?

Monday, 10 June 2019

Chocolate and Raspberry Oat Cookies - Low Syn Slimming World Recipe

These oat cookies are quickly becoming my favourite breakfast. They feel like a treat but are Slimming World friendly and contain oats which are full of fibre and anti-oxidants. The raspberries add some natural sweetness but I particularly like adding the chocolate chips to make them feel like proper cookies. 

I adapted the recipe from this Basement Bakehouse one but there are lots of variations. I have tried them with dried apricots and raisins which are lovely but you can avoid the syns by using fresh fruit and the cooked apricots are totally delicious. 

These cookies use your Healthy Extra B choice with the oats and can also be tweaked to suit SP days by using Quark in place of the natural yogurt. Raspberries are speed but should technically be syned if being cooked. I didn't syn mine as they are such a small amount that I would have eaten anyway but it is recommended to protect your weight loss if eating them regularly. 

You will want to preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a tray with baking paper to prevent sticking, the cookies will be quite soft when they come out. 

To make the cookies I weigh out 40g of oats, mine are just the cheap Aldi ones. Pop them in a bowl with 1 egg, a tablespoon of natural yogurt (I used the Muller Greek Style Natural Yogurt) a teaspoon of sweetener, a few drops of vanilla essence and 10g of milk chocolate chips (3 syns). Mix these ingredients together completely before adding in 6-8 raspberries which have been chopped in half to make them go further. Gently combine so as not to break the raspberries. 

Spoon the mixture onto the baking paper in four disks, the mixture will be quite wet and won't really change shape in the oven so make them the size you want. Pop in the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until nicely golden brown. 

Allow them to cool slightly before removing from the tray and they will firm up a little. Enjoy with a hot cuppa! 

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

A Short Stop in Saint Tropez

During our first day on board the Riviera we were in Saint Tropez. I didn't quite know what to expect as nobody I know has really been but we didn't want to spend the whole day on the ship so got the tender boat over to the mainland  and went for an explore. 

That morning we had requested room service for breakfast. There were cereals and pastries but we were a little disappointed with them. Mostly because it was pre-made pastries and packet cereal. We discovered the next morning that breakfast in the restaurant was so much better and didn't order breakfast to our room again. Anyway with very little in our stomachs we made our way to the tender which was essentially the ships lifeboats that ferried people between the ship and harbour which was a few minutes ride away. 

These tender boats were light and got thrown around quite a bit in the water. We got on quite early and had to wait 15 minutes for the boat to fill before we could leave. During that time however we were sat with no air circulating, nearly 100 people bobbing around on the ocean. I went green. All I could think was do not be sick in front of all of these people! There was nowhere to be sick either and it wasn't until our final day I discovered there were sick bags on the back of the chairs! 

Anyway eventually the boat got moving and over to Saint Tropez. It took me a good 30 minutes to stop feeling sick but we wandered into town to explore. Next came the hardest bit. Now I speak basic GCSE French, Joe speaks about 5 phrases and for some reason every word of French left my brain the second we got off the ship...

Some areas of France can be quite helpful, they have English alongside French on maps and road signs. Not in Saint Tropez. Every written word was French and that was where we came unstuck. We wandered towards the market in search of some food. Chips...we found chips! The man in the food truck didn't speak a word of English but we managed to order Deux Petite Frites, Diet Cola et Fanta Citron. Ahh Lemon Fanta how I missed you! 

We took a walk through some lanes with boutiques on either side, they were beautiful and a buzz with tourists. Heading back to the harbour we ate our chips and decided to find a public toilet. We found one and it was 50c per person, the woman at the desk was really blunt with us when we didn't have the correct change but took our 10 Euros and changed it up. Toilets done we headed of to explore some more and felt a bit lost, not being able to read the map or properly ask for directions was difficult. We took a walk around the harbour and saw some amazing yachts. It was our first glimpse at how the other half live. It was fun spotting the British ones and seeing the variety of different styles. There was a jet black one which was beautiful and some older ones with wooden detailing that had been looked after so well. Always a bit awkward staring at someone else's home from home when they are sat enjoying a drink on the deck but I am sure they are used to it. 

Next we headed back to the market, I love a good foreign market and wanted to see what local produce was on offer. Both of us were a bit too nervous to approach the stall holders, not being able to speak the language in a place where they seem a bit reluctant to help us was biting us in the butt again. We walked around for a bit longer admiring the stalls from afar, particularly the florists with stunning peonies and the sweet stall with huge fruit shaped marshmallows, then headed back to the port to spend the afternoon back on the ship. 

We made the sensible decision to wait off the tender boat on the way back until it was just about to leave, something a few ladies did on the way out and it saved that time bobbing around waiting to be sick. The boat wasn't full on the way back and I sat near the door facing the horizon. The combination of a cool breeze and being able to see what was going on outside helped a lot and we were back on the ship in no time with the full colour in my cheeks.

Back on board we went to the Terrace restaurant which was buffet style. The food choice was enormous and we couldn't resist a slice of pizza along with some fresh salad options. There was such a wide range to choose from and all so delicious, we sat and ate while we watched yachts going past. 

That evening we met up with Joe's colleague I mentioned in the previous post and his wife. We went for dinner which was lovely then had a few drinks in the bar before heading to bed. A nice slow start to the break but much needed after the travelling the day before. Next stop was back to Monaco for a day on board networking and our Gala Night at Salles des Etoiles.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Taking Care Of Garden Birds - Nature Activities

A great activity to do with the kids is making lard balls to feed the birds and welcome them into your garden. I call them Lard balls as it sounds better than Fat Balls (giggles) but you may have heard them called Fat Cakes too...its all the same thing really.

Lards balls are super easy to make and are a great way of combining messy play and educating children about wildlife. We like to discuss what birds we can find in our gardens and there are so many amazing resources online including activity sheets and bird identification sheets. I particularly like the RSPB website for these. 

Lard balls are particularly good to make in the autumn and winter months to fatten the birds up ready for the cold weather when there are less worms and grubs for them to enjoy. 

How to make Lard Balls

Take a couple of blocks of lard, we got supermarket own brand which is really cheap. 

Squish it in a bowl with your hands (messy!) until soft and then sprinkle in some bird seed. This can be brought in most garden centres or we got ours from a bargain shop for £1 a bag.

Combine the seeds and the lard making sure to add plenty of the yummy seeds and shape into balls. 

Allow these to set in the fridge over night and there you have it! 

A few more things you can do to welcome birds into your garden are to install a bird house, this can be decorated or there are some really fancy ones you can get. Bird baths are a great place for them to have a splash around in the summer months. Seed eating birds will need the water to help wash down the seeds. They will begin to see your garden with its bath as part of their routine returning frequently and little splashy birds are so fun to watch. 

You can also get special electrical alarms that will keep cats and other predators away. They will cost some money but are worth considering if you really want to build a sanctuary for the birds. 

Another great activity I found online was to build your own birds nest. Super cute if you have smaller children - Thank you Mother Natured for this one! 

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Our First Impressions of Cruise Life - Oceania Riviera

Wow, what an amazing trip that was! One of those once in a lifetime things that now feels like a bit of a dream. I have been going on about it on my Instagram if you want to see more of a day by day breakdown (click here) but I thought I would give you a little update on the trip here before I go into more detail in upcoming posts. 

Oceania Riviera Cruise Ship On The SeaWe were sent on the trip by Joe's company following a fantastic financial year, the top 8% of the company attended. Joe had achieved over his target and was allowed to bring me along for the ride. We managed to get Joe's parents to have the children, it did mean taking Ted out of school for 4 days but they were really understanding given the circumstances. A trip we really couldn't turn down. 

The trip itself was a cruise around the French and Italian Riviera, starting in Nice and ending in Rome. 5 days all inclusive on board stopping at a new destination each day. Fine dining, excursions and alcohol included, the latter was taken full advantage of as you can imagine! 

We flew from Heathrow on the Friday afternoon after fuelling up on Giraffe grub for lunch. Joe has sinus issues and I am not the best flier so nerves were quite high. The flight to Nice went really smoothly though, I caught up on some episodes of Umbrella Academy (must watch show BTW) and enjoyed a nice brew and biscuits before landing in France. 

Upon landing we were greeted by one of the Club reps for our trip, collected our luggage and joined another couple from America in a taxi to the port in Monaco. With Joe's company being international we met so many people from across the world, most of which Joe had never met before. It was a bit strange at first but we soon settled into the groove of talking to complete strangers. Getting to know new people was fun. 

Anyway, we got to the port and the ship was anchored. It was huge. Way bigger than I had imagined. The Riviera has 16 decks, 11 of them guest decks. It has a swimming pool, spa, sports deck, library, boutiques, culinary centre, nightclub, martini bar, theatre and several restaurants. Literally everything you could ever want in a holiday all in one place and all of the highest standards. The staff were impeccable, super friendly and helpful. The ship was spotless, they even cleaned the windows in the time we were there which must have been a whole days job for several people! 



Martini's Bar and Grand Piano

Library with Joe looking well educated!

When we arrived we were greeted and checked in, our room was on the 8th deck which was the smaller cabins but they were nicer than most hotels we have stayed in. The bed was such high quality, more comfortable than our bed at home and given how long it took us to find the right mattress for us that is saying something! Egyptian cotton bedding, Bvlgari toiletries, robes and slippers all in the room as standard and room service included just a phone call away. Ultimate luxury. 

Oceania Club Room 8043BInside Our Cabin 8043B

Inside Our Cabin 8043B
View from Our Cabin 8043B
We felt a bit out of place the first night, we weren't used to people calling us sir and madam or pulling our chairs out at dinner. We weren't prepared for 5 members of staff to wait on us at dinner or offer to carry our plates back to the table at breakfast. All out of our comfort zone but on the first night we bumped into Joe's work colleague whom I have met once before. He introduced us to his wife and the next day some more people. Those people made our holiday. They welcomed us into their group and we would not have had the same trip without them. Eventually our nerves settled and we got used to being waited on hand and foot...a luxury we certainly missed when we got home! 

Dinner the first night was lovely, we both chose Steak and Chips and enjoyed it while looking out at Monaco harbour. It was breathtaking. That night we took a walk around the ship getting our bearings. It took the whole trip for us to get to grips with the layout as it was just so big. Overlooking Monaco at night with the beautiful lights I felt so lucky to be where we were and proud of Joe for his hard work and ambition that has gotten him where he is today. 

panoramic picture of monaco harbour at night time

I have some posts coming up about each of our day trips, what I wore each day, food on and off board and maybe a few extra ones if I can squeeze them in. I would love to know if you have been on a cruise before and what you think of them. 

Would you do one again? 

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

5 Delicious Slimming World Breakfast Ideas

When I feel like I am losing my way a bit with Slimming World I focus on what I know works. You should always start the day on a good breakfast, it gets your metabolism going and done right can stave off hunger until lunch time! 

These are my favourite go to breakfasts that are easy and delicious. 


These super tasty waffles don't even feel like they are 'diet' food. They are really easy to make and my kids like them as well. I follow this Slimming Eats recipe as it has very few ingredients and usually items we have in the house. I am all about ease when it comes to recipes, the quicker I can throw something together on a busy morning the better. 

This recipe uses your Healthy B of porridge although I actually save time blending my oats by using ReadyBrek. A slimming 'Mum Hack' right there!

I add different Skinny Syrups depending on what I fancy that day and top them with fruit and fat free greek yogurt. The Aldi greek yogurt is really nice and is a lot cheaper than the Fage branded one I used to get. 

A few ideas for flavours for you: Sliced Banana and Choc Shot, Vanilla Skinny Syrup (in the batter), Mixed Berries and Vanilla Muller Light, Almond Extract (in batter) Cherries and Cherry Bakewell Muller Light. So many different combinations you can do! 

Sweet Omelette's

These might sound a bit strange but are actually really nice and don't require a HexB so you can save it for later. Great on a day when you know you will want a sandwich for lunch or a burger bun with dinner. 

I take 2/3 eggs depending on how hungry I am and a tablespoon of sweetener (this should be syned at 1/2 syn per tablespoon) whisk them together. I then treat this mix like I would a crepe and cook in a saucepan on a low heat in a thin layer until golden brown on both sides. It can take a while to get used to them not being 'pancakes' but with toppings these are actually quite nice. 

I top mine with lemon and sugar/sweetener, golden syrup or honey (syn accordingly) and my new favourite a teaspoon of lemon curd heated in the microwave and drizzled over - YUM! 

(I use Aldi Grandessa Lemon Curd for 0.5 syns per level tsp)

Yogurt and Granola

This one is easily the quickest breakfast but is so scrummy. I take a few dollops of fat free greek yogurt, top it with fruit and scatter over my HexB allowance of Lizi's Low Sugar Granola (30g). If I am feeling particularly luxurious I may drizzle over some honey or lemon curd as mentioned above. This breakfast really feels healthy and the granola is great for a low sugar alternative. 

Savoury Breakfast Muffins

These are a recipe I came up with recently and are lovely for a weekend brekkie. Take a slice of wholemeal bread (half hexB) and roll it flat with a rolling pin. Cut into 4 strips and place two crossed in a Frylight sprayed muffin tray hole (are they called holes?!).

Next I do the same with a slice of ham laying the slices into the tray to fill the gaps left by the bread. You want these to act as little cups for your egg. Finally crack in an egg into the cups and sprinkle on some black pepper. 

Bake in an oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes or until the egg is cooked and the bread is golden on the edges. I have mine with a bit of ketchup. The bread goes nice and crunchy and if timed right you can get a runny yolk in the egg...I am yet to master that though! 

Smoked Salmon, Poached Eggs and Spinach

The final one is one of my all time favourites. I adore smoked salmon and eggs, they are such a great combination and the spinach is speedy for weight loss boosting and all that jazz. Simply poach the eggs, I won't teach you how to do that there are so many tutorials online if you don't know how. Add the spinach into the poaching water after the eggs are done and wilt it quickly before draining. Pop the spinach and eggs on a plate with a few slices of smoked salmon, I like the peppered salmon from Aldi but any brand will do. This can also be served with toast for a more filling breakfast but is really nice on its own. 

There you have it, my 5 fave breakfasts on Slimming World. I wrote a post a while ago with more recipes you might want to check out. Let me know if you are following the plan and what your favourite breakfasts are in the comments and you can also follow me on Instagram where I share all of my meal ideas on the daily.