Thursday 29 June 2017

#MerryMorrisons17 - Festive frivolity in June with Morrisons...

Yesterday saw me head to the Big Smoke for a day of PR events, work meetings and appointments. It was a busy day running up and down the Piccadilly line but I do love me a work day in London. There's nothing like the odd day of grown up duties without the babies in tow. I left the house at 9:20am and walked back in at 8:20pm feeling great but completely shattered...I'd walked flippin' miles! 

My first stop was to attend the #MerryMorrisons17 Christmas Preview Press Day on Victoria Embankment near Covent Garden - you'll remember I attended last year too and I was excited to see what goodies Morrisons have heading our way for this year's Festive season. 

Set up as a market street, the event was full-to-bursting with glorious market stalls glimmering and overflowing with festive bounty eyes didn't know where to look first! 

Merry Morrisons 2017 Christmas Preview Press Day
Merry Morrisons 2017 Christmas Preview Press Day
The first stall to catch my eye was the gorgeous flower market; they've some truly stunning bouquets this year full of traditional reds, greens, golds and silver, frosted berries and glitter leaves, holly and wreaths - they've gone all out traditional in this years offerings. 

Merry Morrisons 2017 Christmas Preview Press Day
Floral offerings at this years preview
Next I meandered round the food stalls - trying tempting little tasters of many of the festive foods on offer. One thing I will say is you'll never come away from a Morrisons PR event hungry - boy do they look after you! With a warm spiced apple hot toddy in hand, being idly stirred with a cinnamon stick releasing its heady spiced aroma, I munched my way through the afternoon feeling stupidly festive and excited for what's to come later this year. 

Here's a selection of my top picks for this Christmas... 

The Best Stuffing Cracker
The Best Stuffing Cracker - because what's left to add to your Christmas dinner table...pastry of course!! A delicious hand-folded puff pastry cracker for the Christmas table - stuffed with spiced British pork, festive fruits and nuts, and topped with cranberries and a poppy seed sprinkle.

In-Store produced Giant Christmas Pudding Cookie
In-Store produced Giant Christmas Pudding Cookie - prepared by their Cake Shop experts this cookie is the size of 12 standard cookies! 

The Best Pedro Ximénez Sherry and Pear Christmas Pudding -  A gold-lustred rich fruit pudding packed with juicy vine fruits and laced with cider, The Best Pedro Ximénez Sherry and brandy, with a hidden molten centre of quince and pear sauce. 

Adorable Snowman Cake - sure to put a smile on everyone's face this Christmas! 

Decorate Your Own Gingerbread House Kit
Decorate Your Own Gingerbread House Kit - Everything you need to make a deluxe gingerbread house, including easy-to-assemble pre-baked gingerbread pieces, icing and candy. 

The Best Apricot & Cranberry Topped Pork Pie
The Best Apricot & Cranberry Topped Pork Pie - £13. What a centrepiece for your Boxing Day buffet table - Seasoned British pork layered with creamy Brussels pâté and encased in a rich hot water crust pastry. Hand-finished with apricots, cranberries and a festive cranberry & port jelly. 

The Best Festive Pork Pie
The Best Festive Pork Pie £15 - another centrepiece winner - select cuts of British pork mixed with smoked bacon, chestnuts and thyme are hand-layered with British turkey in a hot water crust pastry. Hand-finished with festive cranberry and port jelly and a gold pastry crown.  

Snowman cookies - my kids will go MAD for these at Christmas! 
As always I was absolutely besotted with the clothing ranges from Nutmeg. Last Christmas I dressed the whole family head-to-toe in Nutmeg for Christmas, and it looks as if this year will be no exception - my absolute favourite being this adorable fox outfit for Connie - SWOON!

Fox Jumper £8 Pleated Skirt £5 available in sizes newborn up to 24 months. 
Another favourite of mine from this years showcase was this adorable "Mini-Me" range of Christmas jumpers available in adult and children sizes so you can match your little ones over the festive period - amazing! 

Adult jumpers £12, children's jumpers £10. 

Mini Me Christmas Jumpers range from Nutmeg at Morrisons
Mini Me Christmas Jumpers range from Nutmeg at Morrisons

Mini Me Christmas Jumpers range from Nutmeg at Morrisons
Mini Me Christmas Jumpers range from Nutmeg at Morrisons
Finally, I couldn't do a Christmas round-up without including a Christmas card, and this Season's Tweetings card was by far my favourite - you all know I have such a thing about little birds, and who doesn't love a robin with a button or pompom belly?? Adorable. 

Season's Tweetings Robin card from Morrisons.
Season's Tweetings Robin card from Morrisons.
I think you'll agree we've got some tasty treats awaiting us this Christmas thanks to the Morrisons team, who have absolutely nailed a fuss-free, traditional but affordable Christmas offering this year. 

Christmas Tree Crumpets
Christmas Tree Crumpets for breakfast this morning courtesy of my #MerryMorrisons17 goody bag! 
Naturally, today the kids and I started our day with Christmas Tree shaped crumpets (from my #MerryMorrisons17 goody bag yesterday) smothered in The Best Raspberry Conserve which is TO DIE FOR. Bert thought a Christmas breakfast in June was HILARIOUS and I had all the mum points for producing a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Gingerbread biscuit as his mid morning snack too! Thanks Morrisons. :-)

What's your favourite festive food? What do you look forward to eating most each Christmas?

Mrs B


Tuesday 20 June 2017

Getting Ready for Starting School with Petit Fernand *REVIEW & GIVEAWAY*

As the summer term begins, and we start counting down the weeks until the summer holidays, parents everywhere will be thinking about purchasing next year's school uniform, shoes, pencil cases and other school essentials. I cannot BELIEVE my baby boy is starting full time school in September (reception class) and so he needs the whole nine yards when it comes to school uniform this year. 

Not only did purchasing the school uniform almost bankrupt me, but it also meant I had to face the dreaded task of labelling everything once again!

I absolutely loathe those boring, thankless tasks and last year I spent what felt like hours sewing on individual name labels to Bert's pre-school uniform. And when the first one started fraying after just a couple of washes I vowed I'd never do it again! *sigh*

As a busy mum of two, who is also trying to run her own business from home, I'm a HUGE fan of anything that can help to simplify my life & reduce my already heavy workload. I have much better things to do with my time (playing with the kids, working, housework, washing...!) and I'd rather not spend ages labelling Bert's uniform for September. 

So, this year I was on the lookout for an alternative to having to hand sew each name label in, and I came across the amazing Petit Fernand who sell personalised stick on clothing labels! The adhesive label takes about 2 seconds to stick on the washing instructions or brand tag and best of all it is washing machine and tumble dryer resistant! Meaning that you can wash and dry your child's uniform to your hearts content and it will still stay labelled. FAB-U-LOUS. 

I was sent 50 stick-on clothing labels (RRP £12.00) and 20 stick-on shoe labels (RRP £12.00) which should definitely keep us going for the next school year, and honestly, it's only taken me five minutes to label 15+ items - amazing! What a time saver. What a game changer. 
Petit Fernand stick on clothing labels review from Mrs Bishop

The labels are super customisable with over 30 different background colours/designs to choose from, 11 font choices, and over 100 image/logo choices to ensure your stickers are perfectly suited to your little one's tastes. Bert's favourite colour is yellow and he's still dinosaurs mad, so it made sense for me to go with those options. 
Petit Fernand stick on clothing labels review from Mrs Bishop
They come in a little booklet/envelope and the only instructions is to peel off and stick on to the garment care label then wait 24 hours before you wear or wash the clothes, simple! 

Petit Fernand stick on clothing labels review from Mrs Bishop

I'm happy to report that I've tested some of the labels on Bert's current school uniform and after 6+ washes and tumble drys the labels are showing no signs of budging so I'm confident they'll do the trick nicely. 
Petit Fernand stick on clothing labels review from Mrs Bishop
I'm absolutely thrilled with the discovery of Petit Fernand and all their genius products - they even sell sticky school name tags perfect for water bottles, pencil cases, school books etc, personalised jam jar stickers or baby food labels and even personalised lunch boxes and water bottles - they've got all your back to school needs covered.

For more info head to the Petit Fernand homepage


Petit Fernand stick on clothing labels giveaway from Mrs Bishop

If you'd like to win £20 credit to spend at Petit Fernand then enter my giveaway below. 


Giveaway is for UK entrants only and ends at 11:59pm on 23rd July 2017. 

Petit Fernand Giveaway

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

I was sent the stick-on clothing and shoe labels from Petit Fernand in exchange for this honest review. 

Monday 19 June 2017

The Park Pub & Kitchen in Bedford is a 'Little Gem' *REVIEW*

The Park Pub & Kitchen Bedford logo
On Friday night Liam and I were treated to a rare date night: dinner in a beautiful local pub and restaurant just a stones throw from our home and the wonderful Bedford Park (which is my happy place!) The Park Pub & Kitchen is owned by the Little Gem group and is based on Kimbolton Road in Bedford. 

Bedfordshire Food and Drink Awards 2017 logo

This 'Little Gem' (literally) just won Bedfordshire Food and Drink Awards 'Pub of the Year 2017' category - so you can imagine how thrilled we were to be invited to dine there. 

I've been going to The Park since I moved to Bedford when I was just 18 years old - it has always been a really lovely pub & restaurant with an emphasis on great food in a relaxed, country pub atmosphere. The beautiful exterior has caught my eye since those first experiences 12 years go - I especially love it in summer with its brimming hanging baskets, and wonderful courtyard garden. 

The Park Pub & Kitchen in Bedford
The Park Pub & Kitchen in Bedford

The interior is full of beamed ceilings, large flagstone floors, fireplaces and a colour scheme that Farrow and Ball would be proud of. Everything about the interior appeals to me - much like my own home it is very shabby chic/country kitchen in style, with loads of interesting bits and pieces dotted around to look at, beautiful mismatched chunky furniture, awesome statement/feature wallpaper and fresh flowers in abundance. 

Mr and Mrs Bishop enjoy the Park Pub & Kitchen, Bedford
There is also a wonderful relaxed conservatory and garden room which are the perfect dining spots in summer, as well as cosy armchairs and little nooks by the fireplaces to warm yourself during winter. The Park also boasts private hire areas for functions suitable for anything from 30-120 people - genuinely catering for all your needs. 

Amazingly, The Park serves Breakfast (Thur-Sun), Lunch and Dinner as well as having a special Sunday Menu too! You couldn't ask for much more. Check out their menu page for more details.

I've visited the pub many times over the years - for drinks and study sessions when I was at university, for lunches and dinners with girlfriends in my twenties, and more recently lovely brunches and lunches with Liam. The only sitting I hadn't tried was dinner, so it was time to rectify that! 

Liam has eaten there with his work colleagues on a number of occasions over the past few years for Christmas celebrations and summer team building and he's always been so impressed with the food, service and atmosphere - so we were thrilled to be able to go together on Friday to check out their summer evening menu and enjoy some much needed "us time" away from Mummy and Daddy duties. 

We arrived 10 minutes late to our 8pm booking (how are we STILL late even without the kids? Ha!) but it didn't phase the staff members at all, they showed us instantly to our lovely booth table which was waiting for us. Within a few minutes we had been given menus, ice cold water (it was a very hot evening) and our very polite and happy waitress had taken our food order. 

One of my favourite things about eating out with Liam is studying the menu together - we are both big foodies - and so we get really excited to see what options are available to us. We then carefully select courses that interest or excite us. On the whole we try not to order the same courses as each other, as we like the variety of being able to taste as many courses on the menu as possible - we're good at sharing so we always let each other try each other's dishes. 

The menu was fabulous - it's not often I'm stuck choosing between dishes on each course - usually there's one standout dish I think I'd like to try and then one comfort-food dish that is a safe option, and I have to choose between the two - but it was a struggle with this lovely menu to know what to pick, there was honestly 3-4 dishes for each course that I could have happily chosen. There was a clear emphasis on fresh, local produce (which always reassures me that it is going to be a good eat) and I always enjoy a menu more when it is seasonal. There's just something about knowing that you'll be eating fresh, of the season, local produce - it's the best!

After much deliberation I opted for:

STARTER: Cod cheek scampi with potato crisps, pea veloute & tartare salsa. 

MAIN COURSE: Slow-braised lamb shoulder with minted spinach, butternut squash & rosemary jus. 

DESSERT: Warm almond, pistachio & lemon loaf with white chocolate ice-cream. 
and Liam chose...

STARTER: Chilli & maple glazed pork belly, celeriac croquette & fennel salad

MAIN COURSE: Pan-roasted chicken supreme, sweetcorn, chilli & pea risotto with Mrs Middleton’s cold-pressed lemon oil.

DESSERT: Sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce & vanilla ice cream.

We also ordered a side dish to share with our main course of smoked bacon, cabbage, leeks & peas. 

To finish we both enjoyed an Americano coffee, with a little cheeky square of brownie on the side - delicious! 

I'll share with you the pictures I took of each course and then talk you through what we thought.

Saying that, the pictures really do most of the talking...

Cod cheek scampi with potato crisps, pea veloute & tartare salsa
My starter: cod cheek scampi with potato crisps, pea veloute & tartare salsa. 
Firstly, the stunning plate and presentation was what caught my eye on this starter - what an absolutely beautifully presented dish it was! The taste didn't disappoint either - think posh fish and chips; with a tangy tartare salsa, sweet pea veloute and texture added from the crunchy potato crisps and cod cheek scampi. The cod was moist and sweet, and the whole thing was light and fresh - the perfect way to start a meal. 

Cod cheek scampi with potato crisps, pea veloute & tartare salsa
My starter: cod cheek scampi with potato crisps, pea veloute & tartare salsa. 

My main course was to die for...the lamb melted and fell apart as you cut into it, it was honestly like butter. I loved the richness of the rosemary jus - it had strong echoes of the Sunday lunches I enjoyed growing up. I thought pairing the lamb with minted spinach and butternut squash was brilliant - adding much needed freshness to the rich meat.

Slow-braised lamb shoulder with minted spinach, butternut squash & rosemary jus.
My main course: Slow-braised lamb shoulder with minted spinach, butternut squash & rosemary jus. 

The shared side dish was the perfect amount for two - this whole bowl just screamed Christmas to me - there's something about green veggies cooked like this with delicious smoked bacon that is so festive to me. It was the ideal accompaniment to our meat dishes. 

smoked bacon, cabbage, leeks & peas
Side dish of smoked bacon, cabbage, leeks & peas

My dessert was the absolute high-point for me and that's saying something considering how much I enjoyed my starter and main course. Our lovely waitress recommended this dessert to me, saying it was her favourite and was really special and boy was she right, I'm so glad I listened to her. I can honestly say it was hands down the nicest warm sponge I've ever eaten - the almonds and pistachio added a rich nuttiness, the lemon adding zing and flavour, with a gooey, syrupy texture and pudding-y crumb, it was rich, decadent, really filling and basically all I could ever want from a dessert. The generous addition of thick, creamy lemon curd was the genuine icing on the cake - and who wouldn't love a melting scoop of white chocolate ice cream to lift a heavy (but heavenly) end to a meal?

Warm almond, pistachio & lemon loaf with white chocolate ice-cream
My dessert: Warm almond, pistachio & lemon loaf with white chocolate ice-cream

I loved the presentation of Liam's starter - it looked so pretty, well balanced and really thought about. There's nothing more disappointing than food that looks like it's been thrown at the plate - no chance of that happening here. His chilli and maple glazed pork belly was beautifully tender, uber rich from the fat of the pork and sweetness of the maple syrup but the chilli kick really helped to cut through that richness. The croquette added texture and a creamy celeriac flavour, and he said the dressed fennel salad was amazing. We laughed at how exciting salads can be if you make a little effort and think outside the box slightly - it doesn't just have to be the (very English) lettuce, cucumber and tomato. 

Chilli & maple glazed pork belly, celeriac croquette & fennel salad
Liam's starter: Chilli & maple glazed pork belly, celeriac croquette & fennel salad

Liam's highlight course was his main - I got to try a few mouthfuls too and can corroberate that it was absolutely stunning. The stand-out part was the risotto, with its expected rich and creamy texture, comforting traditional risotto flavours and then an unexpected (but brilliant) sweetness from the sweetcorn and then chilli heat after you've swallowed it. Neither Liam or I had ever tasted a spicy risotto before and we really loved it. The chicken was cooked to perfection on the bone, and the sharp lemon oil finished the dish perfectly - each item on the plate was absolutely necessary and wonderful in its own right. 

Pan-roasted chicken supreme, sweetcorn, chilli & pea risotto with Mrs Middleton’s cold-pressed lemon oil.
Pan-roasted chicken supreme, sweetcorn, chilli & pea risotto with Mrs Middleton’s cold-pressed lemon oil.

The only slight disappointment in terms of menu choices came from Liam's dessert choice of Sticky Toffee Pudding - it is hands down Liam's favourite dessert, and so when it's on a menu it's usually a done deal that he will have it. That does mean that he's eaten rather a lot of sticky toffee puds in his time, some of which have been absolutely incredible, so perhaps he is a harsh critic...

He said he couldn't fault the overall flavour of the dessert-  the toffee sauce and ice cream were both great, but unfortunately the sponge cake itself was a bit of a let down as it was slightly rubbery in texture and a bit tough. That being said, he ate all of it, the texture being the only criticism. Perhaps he was unlucky and just got the last slice in the dish?

Sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce & vanilla ice cream.
Sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce & vanilla ice cream.

We rounded off our lovely meal with two huge vats of Americano coffee (the coffee at The Park is lovely - so worth popping in even for just coffee and a sneaky dessert!) and we enjoyed putting the world to rights, having a giggle together and inevitably talking about the children (why do you miss them an hour after you leave them despite feeling in massive need of a break? Ha!)

Coffee for two at The Park Pub & Kitchen, Bedford
Coffee for two at The Park Pub & Kitchen, Bedford

As well as the food being of a really high standard, we cannot fault the service we were shown on Friday night - friendly, smiley, attentive staff who seemed genuinely happy to serve you, to provide opinions and advice, and ensure we had plenty to drink while we waited in between courses. None of the wait times were too long at all and all of our food and drinks orders were taken without a pen/pad and all correctly delivered to our table to the right person -it's details like that which make all the difference for me.

Based on our experience on Friday night as well as the copious other successful visits over the years, we will absolutely be heading back to The Park again very soon. We often recommend it to local friends and family as the perfect relaxed dining spot in Bedford, and our experience on Friday night only backs up our previous high opinion of the place. 

For more about The Park Pub & Kitchen head to their website or follow them on Twitter for updates directly from the pub and kitchen - @parkpubkitchen.

**Liam and I were gifted the above meal at The Park Pub and Kitchen in return for our honest review.**

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Connie's First Birthday with supplies from Party Pieces *REVIEW*

HOW ON EARTH is my baby girl one?

Where did that year go?

On Friday we celebrated Connie's first birthday with a lovely chilled family day which included a morning of swimming at our local beach pool, followed by lunch at Pizza Express and we spent the afternoon in the garden letting Connie loose on a giant chocolate birthday cake for her first ever Cake Smash! 

It was such a fun day. And I think if these pictures are anything to go by then it's safe to say Connie enjoyed herself too! 

Connie Bishop Cake Smash

Connie Bishop Cake Smash
Chubby baby fingers! 

Connie Bishop Cake Smash
Connie enjoying her cake smash! 

We wanted to mark the occasion by spending a special day with all of our friends and family too, so we planned a massive picnic in our local park for the Sunday after her birthday and invited everyone to bring along a picnic and join us for the afternoon. 

We did a similar thing for Bert's first birthday and it works really well - people can drop in and out as it suits them, it keeps costs low as everyone brings their own food, and weather permitting of course, it can make for a wonderful afternoon. 

We held our picnic at the beautiful Priory Country Park in Bedford and thankfully we got a lovely warm (but windy!) day. 

Personalised birthday banner
Personalised vinyl banner from Party Pieces
We decided to set up a gazebo in the park with some decorations to jazz things up a bit (and make us easy to spot!) and we placed a large table inside the gazebo to house Connie's birthday cake and some sweet treats for our guests to enjoy.

The lovely people over at Party Pieces very kindly sent us some fabulous party supplies and decorations from their Teletubbies range (Connie's fave!) as well as an amazing Number 1 Piñata and sweeties to use on the day.

They also sent us a fabulous re-usable personalised party banner in yellow polka-dot that reads 'Happy Birthday Connie' - we have the same one for Albert in Blue and we use it every single year for his birthday. These banners are absolutely brilliant quality and are amazing value for money at just £9.99 each. They also have four eyelet holes - perfect for stringing it up again and again.  Our bright yellow beacon was the perfect way for our guests to spot us in the busy country park. 

Foil Teletubbies 'Happy Birthday' banners
Foil Teletubbies "Happy Birthday" Banners ran around the inside of the gazebo

Setting up Connie's Birthday Picnic
Setting up for Connie's First Birthday Picnic
Teletubbies table cover
Party Pieces sent us a Teletubbies table cover to use on the food table. 

We decided to have a piñata instead of party bags - I find party bags can be so costly and mostly full of plastic rubbish and sweets that are a choking hazard - so I liked the idea of instead providing a game that all the kids could join in with, and win small bags of Haribo sweets to take home with them afterwards. 

First Birthday Piñata
A very full piñata waiting to be hung from the gazebo

We gave the toddlers who were too small to take part in the piñata a Teletubbies mask and Teletubbies phone to take home as a little gift, these went down really well. 

Teletubbies masks and phone
Teletubbies masks and a Tubbie Phone all ready for the kids to enjoy (we also bought frisbies and other outdoor games to help keep them amused)
Connie in Teletubbies mask
Connie loved her Teletubbies masks! 

Toddler in Teletubbies mask
The masks and phones went down well with the little ones
Teletubbies masks fun!
Even the bigger kids loved the masks - I think this is my favourite photo from the day - Bert and his cousin Paris (aka Dipsy!)

As well as party supplies like plates, cups and banners, Party Pieces also sell a fabulous range of sweets - they kindly sent us 1kg of their jelly beans as well as 1kg of their mini dots for the picnic. We placed these in bowls and dotted them around the gazebo and picnic blankets for everyone to enjoy. 

*Cue adult sweetie hysteria - they were very popular! Ha!*

Party Pieces sweets and Teletubbies napkins

Party Pieces sweets

We also provided our guests with other treats such as cookies, crisps and of course, a giant birthday cake for our baby girl. 

Giant chocolate Costco Birthday cake
Giant Chocolate Birthday cake for our little lady! 

The highlight for me was watching all the kids delight in hitting the piñata with the stick (while blindfolded) in the hope that their whack would be the one to cause the sweetie avalanche! 

I was so impressed with the piñata - it was the first time I'd ever seen or used one in real life: it was brilliant fun, and robust enough to withstand a good 40+ whacks before the sweeties fell. 

Bert doing the Piñata
Bert concentrating on getting that prize! 
Bert doing the Piñata
You can do it Bertster!  
First Birthday Piñata
Even the birthday girl had a go (with Mummy's help!)
After the piñata we lit the candle on Connie's cake and all sang "Happy Birthday To You" while she smiled and squealed with delight. 

I think Bert's face in this picture perfectly sums up what a happy day it was. 

Thank you to everyone who came along and helped to make Connie's first birthday one to remember. 

Happy Bert at Connie's Birthday Picnic
A very happy Bert enjoying his sisters party picnic! 

We were sent a selection of party supplies from Party Pieces in exchange for this honest review.