Kippers Snowy Day

Based on the award winning book by Mick Inkpen – the MAC are hosting a beautiful adaptation of this children’s classic over the festive period this year. Bought to life by The Slot Machine Theatre this is a unique style of puppetry theatre which is a perfect introduction for little ones to live performance.

We were kindly invited to attend a performance this weekend and share our experience and what a wonderful time we had. Arlo is two and a half and at this age their attention span is fairly limited so attending a theatre performance is something you think on paper would not be suitable for a child – however he was mesmerised from start to finish. Fifty minutes was the perfect show length for us.

I had ordered the book from Amazon prior to the performance and we have been reading the book at bedtime to get Arlo used to the characters and the story before our outing on a suitably blustery Saturday evening. I also took along a scarf – many children attended our evening performance in onesies and PJ’s and there was a distinct buzz of excitement in the atmosphere before the show.

We arrived early and managed to find a parking spot quite close by and also had a browse at some craft stalls in the atrium, before heading to the bar area to enjoy a drink and a snack together before the show. The atmosphere was festive throughout the centre with various events taking place and beautiful warmly lit Christmas Tree and decorations on display.

The route to the theatre through the atrium was decorated with paw print stickers on the floor which was extremely fun for all of the little ones to follow and stomp along to and we took photos in the cut outs too.

The corridor outside the theatre was decorated with the most wonderful murals and illustrations from the book, Children were oooing and aaahhing at the characters and Arlo loved the little Robin most of all.

The tannoy announced the opening of the doors to the theatre and we found our way to our comfy seats fairly quickly. The stage was set – a mysterious huge white square raised in one corner and this helped set the scene through the performance, becoming the “Big Hill.”

The tone was calm and soft throughout the show, which suited the story perfectly.The actors bought the puppets to life with songs and excellent voices which suited the characters perfectly. The songs were brand new and perfect for the performance, and Kipper had some wonderful dance moves too!

It’s fascinating to see children react to live theatre, with so many special effects on screens these days you wonder if visual concepts on stage will work or if they will say “it’s a puppet” – during the show I took a moment to look around the theatre and saw so many engaged little faces during the snow storm.

There were jokes for all ages, and audience participation when deciding how to decorate the top of the Christmas tree – for me however the best bit was seeing Arlo on the edge of his seat when one of his favourite characters was lost in the snow storm, and how relieved he was when they were found.

I really enjoyed the projected visuals of the snow angels – I can’t wait for a snow day so that we can get out and about to make these just like Kipper…. but I know I’ll probably end up falling over like Tiger!

The performance was 50 minutes long which was perfect for us, and as Kipper curled up in his bed at the end of the show we felt relaxed and ready to head home for a hot chocolate before bedtime and Arlo has been insistent on wearing his scarf since we saw the show.

Kippers Snowy Day is showing at the Mac Theatre until 31at December. Click the link to purchase tickets.

Our tickets were kindly gifted to us, however all opinions expressed in this review are my own.

All aboard the Severn Valley Railway Santa Special

We had the most magical day aboard the Santa Special at the Severn Valley Railway, there’s simply no better way to meet Santa in the Midlands!

We booked our tickets months ago because these are usually a sell out and opted to book a table for four of us. Myself, Arlo, Nanny and Grandad. There are also compartments available for families for up to six people – babies can sit on laps but they don’t receive a gift from Santa. Steam trains alone are magical – but at Christmas it’s like being on The Hogwarts Express in a Harry Potter movie!

Our heritage steam train was specially decorated with beautiful bunting throughout and each carriage was named for one of Santa’s Reindeers, and was ready and waiting at the platform for a prompt departure. The station was just as spectacular too.

We chose to arrive almost an hour early to ensure that we could get a parking space – it’s £4 for the day to park at the station. A brass band was playing, a miniature railway was running around a glorious tree and there so many wonderful original features around the station to look all beautifully decorated for Christmas.

We browsed the gift shop, bought some traditional sweets for the journey and soaked up the buzzing atmosphere, and to make sure boarding was efficient, an MC announced four families names at a time to call them to board the train. We had just enough time to test out Santa’s sleigh to make sure the cushions are comfy enough for the big man himself.

There was no rushing and everyone got a chance to enjoy the platform and board the train comfortably. The trains themselves are beautiful and well preserved. Grandad was delighted because they were just like he remembered trains as a child, with little details such as the door handles and window slides, and all of the original fixtures and fittings were “just like they used to be when I was a child ” It was lovely for grandad to be able to share these memories with Arlo.

It was easy to find our reserved table and lovely to see a decorated biscuit and mince pies left out for us as well as a kids activity book and drink, we stashed our belongings in the overhead space, which was decorated with bunting and baubles along the entire length of the carriage and so we settled in for the journey.

Once everyone was on board we all heard bells ringing and got a glimpse of the big man himself walking along the platform to board the train accompanied by his elves and huge sacks full of toys! This little glimpse meant that all the children were reminded to be on their best behaviour.

The Railway takes you along the Severn Valley and there are some glorious views to be seen, especially on a crisp winter Morning, however the most delightful exclaims for the children came when we went past the elephant paddock at West Midlands Safari Park.

We visited the Safari Park yesterday and for some reason the stars aligned and we happened to be in the elephant paddock as the train went past which I captured on film, but today we were far to busy waving from the windows…. but you get the idea from the clip!

The Santa Special doesn’t stop on the outward journey like it does for the usual timetable however there is an opportunity to leave the train at Bewdley on specific return trains to explore the village.

We went through all of the stations slowly enough to see all of the beautiful decorations and to be greeted by people just like in “the railway children” – we were content to watch the world go by and I packed a bag of toys to keep Arlo occupied on the journey. He was extremely well behaved and I think he has earnt his place on Santa’s “nice” list.

This is the first year Arlo has been truly aware of Santa and Christmas and so this experience was magical for him, and just fabulous for me to see it all come to life as a parent.

Throughout the journey a lovely elf popped in and out of the carriage to remind us to listen out for Santa’s bells and raise a chorus of jingle bells from all of the passengers every now and again, and we also encountered the drinks cart and enjoyed our complimentary hot chocolate (with an optional baileys tot for the adults).

A magician appeared almost out of nowhere and had us all intrigued as he managed to trick all the children by making coins appear and disappear, pencils appearing from behind ears and then turning tuppence into a pot of jam! No idea how he did that and all the grown ups were just as intrigued as the children.

Suddenly we heard a knock at the end of the carriage and the sound of bells grew louder…. Santa’s arrival was announced – he visited every group, taking the time to have a good conversation and Arlo waited patiently for his turn, leaning around the seats and waving his beloved sleigh bell for attention – and then amusing our carriage companions with his own rendition of jingle bells whilst everyone else waited patiently for their turn.

As soon as Santa arrived to greet us Arlo became overwhelmed and was a little bit shy however Santa was extremely patient and had a lovely manner, eventually finding common ground comparing their bell noises, and giving high fives before posing for pictures and then reaching into his sack to gift Arlo a beautiful leopard toy.

Santa’s assistant also gifted us some unique tree decorations as a memento of our day, and the elves who were taking the responsibility for the toy sacks were friendly and chatty as they worked their way through the carriage too – Arlo was beyond excited and overwhelmed by the whole experience.

Before we knew it we arrived back at Kidderminster – Santa was happy to pose for a selfie in front of the steam engine with all of the children waiting and the driver blew steam and the whistle much to everyone’s delight.

The smell of roasted chestnuts inside the station greeted us and we got the chance to soak up more of the festive atmosphere, check out the gift shop and meet the deputy Station Manager to give our positive feedback from our trip.

We had a wonderful morning and most certainly recommend this Santa Special to families across the West Midlands, we will be back to explore the railway and more stations in the summer!

The Indie Kids Disco

Since Arlo came along….. well even before that I haven’t really been out much, nights out don’t really appeal to me, I’m happier celebrating an early bed time with a cosy night indoors, plus as a new mum I haven’t got a stitch to wear!

I don’t know how to floss or how to dab, I’m an indie kid at heart – so imagine my delight when after our trip last week to see a theatre production of “We’re going on a bear hunt” at The Mac, they came across my blog and invited us along to experience the “indie kids disco.”

I called my sister and said “what are you doing this Saturday with the babies, would you like to come and meet us maybe?” – The two hour event was taking place mid afternoon and so we all put on our classics for a little dance!

This is quite a novel concept…. I’ve taken Arlo along to quite a few parties but none with indie music before…… it’s usually baby shark and cheesy party tunes on repeat which is a bit boring for all the adults – there’s only so many times you can get enthusiastic about the Cha Cha Slide.

So…. what is it? Basically the Indie Kids Disco crew clear one of the event halls / theatres at the MAC and set it up to look like a night club, there’s a DJ playing all the indie classics for two whole hours, with lights, smoke and confetti cannons too!

What more could you possibly need when you have a dance floor and an eclectic mix of classics like Pulp, Blur, The Smiths and even David Bowie plus House of Pain to jump around to?

Well….. the cutest thing is they set up a little tuck shop for the kids to look just like a bar with fruit shoots and snacks for the kids which was awesome for the older ones to spend pocket money.

Then there were a load of craft activities – we decorated and made our own guitars, tambourines and pasta shakers with some help from a friendly team of people and even got the opportunity to test out a drum kit too.

The DJ initiated some party games with Sweets and chocolate incentives and my favourite bit of the whole event was getting a much needed break to sit down and sway along to James – re-living my festival days and sharing this music with the kids was such a lovely experience.

I didn’t think the kids would appreciate the music quite so much but they seemed to love it, I am going to dig out my first generation iPod and my old “getting ready” playlist to share with Arlo on our car journeys.

Lincoln – (aged 5) said his favourite bit was making his own tambourine. Logan aged 7 enjoyed learning to play a rhythm on the drums the most, Paloma (aged 3) enjoyed dancing along whilst Arlo who is 2 loved tearing around the dance floor and popping the balloons.

If you’re a parent from Birmingham who spent their younger years in Snobs, or Ramshackle then you absolutely NEED to take your kids along to this event. It broke my heart when the doors to Snobs closed, but this afternoon I was transported right back there!

Ideally this event is aimed at children over 4 (it is loud and dark) however Arlo and Paloma thoroughly enjoyed themselves once they gained their confidence in this new environment. Keep an eye out on The Mac website for future family friendly event listings and get your tickets online.

Tickets to the Indie kids disco today were £7 – Arlo and I were kindly gifted ours in exchange for this blog post.

As I have mentioned before the Mac/ Cannon Hill Park does charge a small fee for car parking, however this is for four hours so you have time to stroll around the park and use the cafe facilities at the centre too.

Hopefully we’ll see you at the next disco!

We’re going on a bear hunt – theatre performance at The Mac

This morning we woke up at a ridiculous hour (even earlier than usual) because of the clocks going backwards. Despite my best efforts to stay in bed for a lovely Sunday lie in – it wasn’t going to happen.

By 9am we had had breakfast with dinosaurs, done lots of stickers and stamping and we had read “we’re going on a bear hunt” a dozen times – with lots of songs and actions.

At some point in my sleepy haze I remembered that a flyer had popped through the letter box about a theatre production at The MAC – and so I checked ticket availability online, packed up our bags and we decided to go on a real bear hunt.

Parking for the Mac is plentiful, it’s the same car park for Cannon Hill Park, and is neighbouring the old Nature Centre. I use the parking app’s and there’s a reasonable charge of £2.81 for four hours.

We arrived early, purchased our tickets from the reception/shop area and had time for a second breakfast in the cafe. It was packed but we managed to place our order efficiently, find a table and our food was served in ten minutes – we munched our toast before we heard the sound system give a five minute warning for performance time.

We clambered up the stairs and into the Foyle theatre which is a lovely small theatre with padded bench style seats which were surprisingly comfortable. The seating was unallocated but despite being second row from the back, as it’s such an intimate space this wasn’t an issue. You don’t need to rush to get a good seat and then keep a child occupied for a long time, unless of course you’re in a large group and wish to sit together.

The lights dimmed, and four actors marched in to the room chanting the familiar “we’re going on a bear hunt” rhythm and as soon as they did Arlo was transfixed.

I won’t give you much detail about the performance itself but suffice to say it was a mesmerising show, and truly captured the spirit of the story. The puppets were beautiful and operated in a really unique style which portrayed realistic movement – if you like spoilers then you can check out the official YouTube channel – there’s no filming/photography allowed during the show.

The addition of music was lovely, and delighted Arlo, and when eventually the bear was discovered, it was fabulous to have him bought around to greet everyone in the audience with a roar.

The 45 minutes passed by quickly and I was surprised at how well behaved Arlo was during the whole performance. Being child friendly there was no problem with him loudly roaring and pointing out the different animals which appeared – in fact at a couple of stages audience participation was required and encouraged.

Little Angel Theatre productions are based in London but have various touring shows so check the website as there might be an opportunity to catch a show near you!

I now feel confident that we can go and enjoy more experiences like this together, at £13/£15 per ticket I was reluctant to book ahead originally as it’s hard to predict what kind of mood Arlo will be in, but I no longer have this qualm and am going to make sure I book dates for future events in advance as I’m sure they will sell out. I have no doubts Arlo will share my love of theatre and the performing arts in the future.

We used the changing facilities at the MAC which are always spotless before heading out to walk around the duck pond in the park as we still had plenty of time on the parking meter – and Arlo was happy to chant “we’re going on a bear hunt” and roar at some passers by with delight! Despite visiting Cannon Hill park regularly since I was a child, it always surprises me at how such a beautiful place can exist in the middle of our busy city. If you are visiting it’s a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle, and worth checking the “what’s on” guide.

To book tickets in Birmingham click here

The big mummy blog share – guest feature

As part of The Big Mummy Blog Share this week I am featuring a fellow mummy blogger!

Meet Charlotte Stein from Team Stein Blog. She is a mummy blogger from York.

How many children do you have?

4 – Finlay, Daisy, Teddy and Florence.

Did you write a birth plan?

I only wrote a birth plan for my first birth and I was pretty much happy to try anything and everything. I the first of my group of friends to have a baby and so wasn’t very clued up on births, so went with the advice of the midwives. My 3 other births were all planned c-sections upon advice from the consultants.

Baby Bump

What type of birth did you plan/envision?

I loved watching on Sky TV births at birthing centres, they always looked pretty calm and the staff so supportive. Although I’m glad I didn’t go down this route with my first as I needed an emergency C-Section.

Did you have a natural birth or caesarean section?

One emergency Cesarean and three planned cesareans.

Did you have any pain relief?

Yes, plenty! I was in natural labour for 18 hours with my first baby Finlay and was on gas and air until I was 6cm dilated. I was then given an epidural in case I needed surgery as they were anticipating a c-section as they predicted he was a large baby

(He was 10lb 3 oz). I also asked for plenty of top-ups in pain relief in the days after my 3rd and 4th C-Sections as after my 2nd birth I learnt just how much pain you can be in when recovering from the surgery, especially after subsequent C-Sections.

Tell us a little bit about the lead up to your birth

I’m alway pretty uncomfortable on the run up to my births as I have large babies, so getting a good nights sleep isn’t easy. I always have swollen ankles and I have to turn over or get out of bed every half hour or so as my legs go dead. Then there is the nerves of knowing I’m going in for a major operation, that makes me feel anxious for mine and my babies safety. That said as soon as the relief that the operation is done and that were both fine makes all those last few weeks of constant worry and pregnancy niggles disappear.

Tell us about the moment you gave birth

Csection

My first was born after a dramatic emergency and was fighting fit and pretty angry that he had been pulled from his comfortable position. I was in shock but not aware that I was and just happy to hear him cry and know the surgery was nearly done. My second was such a pleasant planned C-Section as it was on Christmas Eve and she was born whilst Michael Buble was playing on the cd player. My third, Teddy, was born in a German hospital, so it was a little tough as there was a real lack of communication and my husband wasn’t allowed in for all of the operation so I found it a little stressful and this made me appreciate the NHS even more. Then Florence was a natural C-section, so she birthed herself with a bit of help from the consultant and so the room was in silence just watching her, I think her calm entrance to the world definitely sums up her lovely personality now.

How did you find your recovery?

I’m not going to jazz it up. Having C-Sections is tough, although clearly not that tough as I went back for a further 3 after my first! It’s a hard few days after the birth and plenty of rest with movement added in and lots of pain relief is the best way. I shed a few tears but I have to agree with the latest NHS advice in that getting out of your bed as soon as possible makes for a better recovery. I did this with Florence my fourth and my recovery was much more improved, just make sure you move with plenty of painkillers!

c section birth

Is there anything you would do differently?

I think by my fourth I followed everything that I had learnt along the way from having the others. I think you know in your heart what is best for your baby and your body and so my advice is to go with your gut instincts. I wish I had done this more with my first and even second baby

If you would like to read more about Charlotte and her family then you can read her blog at: www.teamsteinblog.com

The Big Mummy Blog Share

Seals in the City

We were invited to a special evening at the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham to celebrate the arrival of Miley and Boo.

Miley and Boo, who each have medical conditions which will prevent them from ever surviving in the wild, have been fostered from Sea Life Centres in Hunstanton and Scarborough respectively in order to make critical space within rehabilitation hospitals for the coastal sites during their heightened “pup season”, when demand for rescues of common seals in Britain is at an all-time high.

Boo is a five year old who was rescued as a pup with lots of health problems, and despite attempts to rehabilitate, it’s best for him to be kept in the safe care of animal handlers. Miley was rescued at two days old as an abandoned pup and has an underlying thyroid condition which requires daily medication.

Together they now live in a purpose built facility in Birmingham where their presence will help educate millions of visitors about conservation of our oceans.

Their new rescue facility is awe inspiring to behold, as a visitor you get a first glimpse from a pathway through a window where you can see Miley and Boo tumbling and spinning around under water.

The sea life centre itself is designed to be a one way walk through, so before you meet the Seals there is plenty of opportunity to meet other wonders of the world beneath the sea. In fact the first animals to greet you on your visit are Pablo and his pals the Gentoo penguins.

En route there are rock pools, cat fish and sharks to meet, and my personal favourite the seahorses. We opted to head for a “behind the scenes” experience where we learnt lots about how all of the fish are fed. Very interesting for the parents and older children.

As you continue on your journey through the centre, you turn a huge corner and are greeted by a panoramic view of the seal facility, where you can really appreciate the size of the enclosure, and there’s a fabulous little tunnel to climb through for a fully submerged viewing experience – and the seals seemed to love all of the attention, interacting with us as we watched.

There’s plenty more to see and do at the Sealife centre, with the underwater shark tunnel and a 4D movie experience too so you can spend a good few hours soaking up the atmosphere and learning along the way.

The centre publishes a full schedule of feeding times to get a close up experience with informative team members happy to share lots of information.

For tickets and to find out what’s on head to the website. There are various offers including reduced price tickets for toddlers with parents, as well as themed events during the school holidays.

If you are visiting the midlands be sure to take advantage of the combination tickets with other local attractions including the Lego Land discovery centre and Warwick Castle.


The Eden Project

What a beautiful place. This is a “must do” if you’re visiting Cornwall.

It’s hard to describe what it’s all about because the experience is so breathtaking, but to put it simply it’s a huge project set up in a reclaimed China clay pit with two huge biomes (large greenhouse type domes) and surrounded by an outdoor garden interspersed with art and informative exhibitions.

This is a huge tourist attraction, with clear road signs and directions as you approach, and plenty of car parking space. Be prepared to walk, the car parks are quite a way from the main entrance and the entire place covers a huge amount of space with uphill walks so strollers are a must for little legs.

Entry fee is quite expensive but have a look on the website in advance. I visited with my partner and my parents back in September so opted for a couples membership at £80 which entitles you to bring an adult guest each. By returning again within the year the visits have cost us £10 per adult each time which is more than reasonable for a full day out.

We arrived shortly after opening at 9.30 and it was fairly quiet, there are toilet facilities at the main entrance, as well as a cafe – and don’t forget to pick up a map and check out the daily schedule – or if you want to be eco friendly then photograph the maps to save paper.

It’s difficult to miss all of the different eco-friendly messages throughout the project, from recycling, to saving water and beyond. I won’t go into detail as all of the things you learn are part of the experience, and some of the fact and figures are quite surprising.

My favourite art installation is the giant bee – bee’s are crucial to the eco system, they pollinate flowers and over a third of our food flowers rely on this process, and our bee’s are under threat for a variety of reasons.

Outdoors, Arlo’s favourite area was the sensory garden. A walkthrough area full of herbs and aromatic plants – we spent a long time walking through, using our senses to explore with delight…. mint, lavender, wild garlic and all sorts is on display.

The clever garden design is split into zones, each reflecting a different part of the world, from allotments, to American prairies, so much thought has gone into this and it’s truly as authentic as you can get, because the team at Eden work with people from across the globe when installing…. which I’ll come onto later.

The main attractions are the biomes. You enter at the centre, between the two, where there is a huge two level atrium, with the ground floor hosting the Eden Kitchen with long wooden tables with benches which means there’s plenty of space for large families, and an amazing menu.

We watched the chef’s from above as they prepared the fresh food from early morning and after our walk through the biomes couldn’t resist the menus… jerk chicken for me (£9.50) and Arlo had marinated chicken wings, cassava fries and corn on the cob.

Kids food is very reasonably priced at £5.50 – our membership earned us a 10% discount. A lovely little touch is the provision of paper rolls at the table for cleaning sticky hands.

We decided to explore the Mediterranean biome first, which transports you right there, with all sorts of little details. The plants are of course the main feature, however the sculptures and installations add to the atmosphere, there’s also a beautiful pizza restaurant here too.

We were invited by a member of staff to join a free of charge toddler activity “music in the med” – led by a charismatic conductor. Arlo really enjoyed singing and dancing along with musical instruments in this beautiful environment, and having checked the website there seem to be frequent activities for all ages so make sure to check before you plan your visit.

The walk through the biome led us toward Australia next, and my mum having recently visited Perth was delighted because it was so similar. After talking to the team, we discovered that indeed the Eden project had worked with a team based at Kings Park, so the plants here were planted with the advice of Australians, and not only that, the art work including the totems have been created by an Aboriginal artist too, so this truly is as close as you can get to Australia without the 24 hour flight!

Before you head into the rainforest biome there’s a cloakroom, toilets and a store on the upper floor. I would advise to rehydrate and remove layers as it gets incredibly humid inside. The biome is full of wildlife, and some of the most amazing rainforest plants. One one side of the pathway you could be looking at African jungle and the other, South American plants will line the route!

The route takes you up a winding path and there are water fountains along the way. You will meet some unusual little birds, discover new fruits and then end up in the clouds, just when you think the heat is too much, there’s a lovely little cold room to pause and rehydrate – ready for the rainforest canopy.

As you climb higher there’s a waterfall, a rope bridge and cloud formations to discover before heading back down through sugar canes to discover the BaoBao shack and grab a tropical smoothie.

In this biome we also discovered how a Nigerian artist created sculptures from reclaimed wood after the fire damage to Falmouth harbour. The wood originated from Africa in the 1930’s and we learnt all about how this particular type of wood from Africa is resistant to water so is used world wide by the shipping trade, and it was lovely to find out just how much thought had gone into this installation, and this delighted my dad to learn about his Nigerian heritage.

We spent all day at the Eden project, there’s plenty more to see and do including an indoor science exhibition and an outdoor amphitheater, and even tea tasting sessions.

Arlo was exhausted by 4pm, we took the land train to the top and spent a long time browsing the gift shop and nursery before heading home. So many unusual items, ethically sourced, eco friendly and locally produced – I ended up buying some succulents and a fab bar of chocolate.

Thank you to the Eden project, we had a wonderful day and we will be back soon 🐝

Seaside town of Padstow

On our first full day in Cornwall we decided to visit Padstow, a lovely town on the North Coast of Cornwall, about ten miles drive from Newquay.

It’s a town renowned for it’s food and also for it’s fishing, and we were delighted to be there early enough to see tradesmen all delivering fresh food to the restaurants, and for bakeries and fish shops to be arranging their window displays.

We had a wander around the shops and it was wonderful to find such an eclectic mixture of stores, from some high end brands, to art studios and everything in-between, this is the place to buy gifts and keepsakes alike.

We paused on the harbour front to gawp at some wonderful cakes, before noticing a sign for sea safari trips which caught our eye, so of course we had to book a little excursion – click here to read more about our trip.

The harbour itself was pretty quiet when we left on our boat, but we arrived back to the hustle and bustle of a busy tourist destination, we ate fish and chips overlooking the boats in the harbour before heading further along the coastline to the beaches to make the most of the glorious sunshine.

If you’re in Cornwall and have the opportunity, it’s well worth a day trip to visit this lovely little town.

Gousto – recipes delivered to your door

I work full time, and my evenings are crazy. It’s usually a mad dash for me to get to the nursery through traffic at rush hour three evenings a week. It’s a big transition going back to work after maternity leave. I’d put so much effort into baby led weaning and making sure that Arlo developed a love of food.

Arlo normally runs right at me chattering about his day with some artwork to bring home, and once we get home it’s past 6pm. He does usually have a meal at nursery around 4pm and then snacks but this little child burns so much energy dashing around that he never stops eating. By the time I’ve usually cooked dinner it’s rapidly approaching bedtime.

Before Gousto I was in a little bit of a rut. I would serve my batch cooked portions of bolognese sauce or chilli, or resort to freezer food because I’m keen to spend as much time as possible in the evenings with Arlo, and it was easy. Everything was a bit “Samey” and I often found myself having to pop into the supermarket last minute because I hadn’t remembered to pick up pasta.

This is where Gousto came in. A friend recommended them and provided me with a Discount code so my first order was £15 for four meals to serve two people. Amazing!! Now it costs me around £35 for four meals which is very reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients.

The app is simple to use, you simply choose the date for delivery and the number of people to feed and then select your meals. The options change weekly – there’s a good selection and they’re split into categories – healthy, ten min meals, classics, meat, vegetarian, gluten free etc.

Each recipe has a prep time, a use by date guide and a list of equipment and basic ingredients you might need – usually things like butter, egg, milk and flour. There’s also a nutritional guideline, if you’re counting calories. You can click to expand the description and read the recipe in more detail before you order.

Then that’s it. Once you’ve placed the order you receive an email in advance of delivery with the recipe reminders and this is when I check to make sure I have everything I might need in the cupboards, but there’s nothing else you need to do.

The time slot on delivery day is broad however this doesn’t matter because the box is well insulated. I usually arrive home to a huge box in my “safe place” – and then get really excited to unpack everything.

The cold items are in a separate bag, with reusable ice packs (I freeze these to save for lunch packs and cold compresses). Meats, cheeses, fresh herbs etc

Then these are surrounded by a layer of insulating material which is Reusable. I’m saving mine up to use in the garden when we plant our sunflower seeds.

All the veggies are loose and then there’s a little paper bag with individually wrapped “dry store” ingredients in perfect portion sizes. This for me often includes spices, marinades, honey, pastas and similar.

I absolutely love this because I used to be terrible with food waste. I would find a jar of something I bought for an experimental dish at the back of the cupboard. I’ll use one or two tea spoons, and then it will never see the light of day again. In the past I’d also mess up the balance of flavours so not bother trying again – especially with Oriental dishes – it used to be easier to order a take away than guesstimate how much a “dash” or a “pinch” is.

The box also comes with recipe cards. These are idiot proof. It’s impossible to mess this up because everything is pre portioned to be the right amount. The little packets are clearly labelled and there’s pictures for each step to show you what things should look like as you prepare and cook.

As a side note in my first box I received a Little folder to keep all of my cards which is really useful – I have actually attempted a couple of the dishes again on my own.

Some foods have longer shelf lives than others so be sure to check these before deciding which meals to cook first, and then read the cards. I’ve made things like the Shepard’s pie in advance the day before so my evenings are even less stressful, just popping the tray in the oven takes a minute.

So here we have it. I try and order things I wouldn’t usually cook at home to introduce variety and learn new techniques. I usually order at least one “ten minute meal” which again gives us extra time together in the evenings without having to sacrifice the quality of our meal.

I order the box for two people and this is usually more than enough to share with Arlo, sometimes I might add in an extra potato or serve with more veggies but the portion sizes are not stingy, and we’ve loved every meal so far, and we’ve been doing this for over a month.

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