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NEW HOME SHOPPING WITH US *

Monday, 29 October 2018

Honestly, I thought I knew of all of the shopping centres, parks and outlets in Glasgow and the surrounding areas so when I was invited along to The Centre, Livingston I was surprised I hadn't been before then! It was a miserable Saturday morning, but one of those days where all you want to do is get up, grab breakfast and quickly get out the door. That's exactly what we did, blaring 'The Greatest Showman' soundtrack the whole car journey - yes, we are that family you see at the traffic lights belting out our best!

This is a total 'mum comment' but my initial thought when we arrived was ah - plenty of parking. Great! I know it's so basic but with the two kids I want to be able to get parked easily and know I won't struggle to juggle all the bags back, that's one of those things that can make or break a day out.



When we walked through the centre I couldn't get over the size of it. It has all my favourite shops all under one roof - H&M, River Island, Next, Topshop, PRIMARK (eeeeek!) but we will get to all of those in a second! We headed to the information desk that was impressively manned by 2 lovely members of staff, happy to point people in the right direction or lend a hand. Kids being kids, Charlie was just having one of those mornings where he didn't know if he was hungry, tired or just a bit bored so when we found out there were little car trolleys available for rental it really made a difference. We parked & locked up our pram and swapped it for 2 cars, one pink with flowers on and the other red and sporty - much to the kids delight! Now we were now ready to have a wander.



The Centre prides itself in it's ShopEatPlay message, reminding families that's it's the ideal place to take children as an all day experience, fulfilling all your needs in one visit, under one roof. You know you just get a vibe walking around somewhere for the first time? I could feel a real sense of warmth and happy atmosphere when we were finding our bearings. Keeping in mind this was a Saturday mid-morning, it really should have been carnage but it has to be said it was surprisingly peaceful.



With the keys being handed over to us pretty soon at this point, we were desperate to have a nosey in Debenhams especially since I spotted they had a sale on. The idea of looking at homeware for the new house is dreamy to Fraser and I, but the kids? Hmmm... I knew better than to take them there undistracted unless I wanted a bill for damages in the store ha! So usually if we are out shopping for the day we like to make a bit of a fuss of the kids and let them pick a toy, particularly if it's a day like today and we are out for hours - I can understand how they could get a bit bored and I always feel all the mum guilt for dragging them about the shops. This way it's fun & exciting and lets face it, a small price to pay for a peaceful easy life! The Entertainer and Build-A-Bear where the two they debated over but with Ella's want for a new LOL Surprise doll The Entertainer toy shop tipped the scale. With one in hand and a Paw Patrol Fire Engine in the other they were delighted and Fraser and I felt smug knowing we had bagged ourselves some time to have a good look around Debenhams.

To our delight we found that most things were on sale individually and if not then it fell under the 20% off selected homeware range! I spotted an item on my wishlist for less than half price and could hardly believe my luck, a Nespresso machine for £65! I knew that had to come home with me along with a beautiful marble utensils holder from Julien MacDonald, the matching chopping board, some good quality knives and some clever JosephJoseph drawer storage. Shop one complete and we had certainly worked up an appetite!


Although the choice of eateries is vast in The Centre, being the creatures of habit that we are we decided a good Nando's was in order. Luckily its located right beside the entrance point so we didn't get soaked in the typical Scottish weather. In Nando's I had to laugh, the managers shirt was literally the EXACT same as charlie’s green and black plaid one, the only difference being that his had the Nando's logo embroidered on, he had the same hair colour and literally looked like the mini and big versions of each other. The manager thought it was funny too and soon after the kids tummies were full and ready for some play time.



The Centre is not only home to many great shops but they know how hard it can be at times to keep the kids amused (and sometimes the husbands!) Inside you'll find their incredible softplay area 'Aerial Adventures!'. Its a super futuristic space theme with dark areas of play as well as lots of ball pit, climbing frames and also a basket ball shoot game that Charlie and Ella adored. It made for a fantastic sensory experience and the age range of the kids was wonderful catering to all family types. Fraser & I were able to grab a coffee, get a plan of action into place for afterwards at the same time as catching a breather and letting the kids tire themselves out.


For older children or as kindly displayed by the big kid that is my husband, you can take advantage of the HiClimb - a vertical assault course 12m above the ground, HiFall - a 12m free fall set to make your adrenaline pump, and HiRide - a 20minute Aerial adventure course, zipline and obstacles 13m in the air. Both Fraser and I agreed that it would be a brilliant laugh to do this with friends or even as part of a works christmas night out coming soon! 






Both thrilled after their fun time in the softplay area, the kids were tired out and Charlie decided to go for a nap. This gave us a lovely chance to spend some time with Ella who has been so excited about moving house for the same reason as myself ... for the BATH! We made our way to Lush & Ella picked out a few delicious bath bombs for herself, and of course I couldn't resist one either! It was a little milestone for Ella going in and picking her own things, like a big girl! 



Since we had our essentials for the home, some nice bath bits, it only felt right to head to Primark and pick up some pjs, bedding and socks too! I was amazed that The Centre actually had a Primark! It's a nice one too, well laid out and has 3 floor levels! We managed to pick up some pjs and a dressing gown too!


I have to say, we were more than impressed with the centre itself, the staff we met were all wonderful and you can really tell they're adding more value to the shopping experience especially to cater to families. Its design is beautiful, spacious and modern as you can see from the photos and we can't wait to head back soon to see the Christmas decorations as they're going up next week! So exciting!

Thank you so much to The Centre Livingston for having us, we thoroughly enjoyed our day. You can expect to see us more often. If you fancy taking a trip there for yourself I've left a link to the website here www.thecentrelivingston.com and directions below to get there.

*sponsored by The Centre Livingston

MAKING THE MOST OF THE EVERY DAY ERRANDS WITH FORD ECOSPORT*

Saturday, 10 March 2018
I'm sure every parent can relate, sometimes getting out the door can be immensely challenging. Add another child and a dog to the equation - it can be a bit of a juggle. I often worry about having the work/life/family balance right. My to-do list is as big and chaotic as my laundry pile and I feel like the kids grow a month older every hour. Okay, slight over-exaggeration but I want to spend as much time as I possibly can playing and connecting with them while they are still pre-school age. I find the best way to make the hours in the day work for us is to make the most of the everyday chores and errands and inject a little bit of adventure where we can. This keeps the mum guilt at bay but also keeps life ticking over in order. Pretty much a win-win.

Due to our location, anything we do usually involves a car trip - whether it be the nursery run, grocery shop or even a walk with the dog. We rely on the convenience of our own transport to get the job done (& in all honesty if we didn't then I do NOT know how we would cope!). I've documented a few days in our life to show you that we are, like most, a very normal family doing regular things but always trying to make it the most fun & educational for the kids. 

Before I jump in, I want to thank Ford for collaborating with us on this post and lending us the lovely EcoSport Family car to use this week as we share our day-to-day with you. 

NURSERY TIME

Fraser works shifts and my Mum is part-time, so where I can I like to take Ella to nursery on her own - just the two of us while Charlie is being watched. She thinks this is great, a real treat that it's her time. Our day usually always begins with a mad dash out the door - why is five minutes in the morning less time than five minutes the night before?! We have a laugh about her 'spinny' car seat and pretend she's on 'The Voice'. I have a playlist of all of Ella's favourite songs, and believe me, it's longer than playlists of my own! Once I've connected the phone to the car and get our music on it's time to sing our way to Nursery - yes, we are that family. The ones you see at the traffic lights belting out their best. It's great fun and keeps her entertained on boring trips plus I adore listening to her little voice attempting to hit the high notes, it makes me melt!


Pick up time is always lovely. There's really nothing nicer than when that classroom door opens and they run into your arms. Once we have shoes & jacket on, we usually count our steps, hop, skip or stomp our way back to the car which is another task - find where Mummy parked the car. It was a little trickier than usual as we are using the Ford EcoSport this week but she still managed to find it!


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MAKING THE MOST OF THE LIGHTER NIGHTS

Now that we are approaching Spring and the nights are becoming lighter, we are trying to make the most of the evenings when Fraser comes home from work.




We tend to go a little road trip to take Lola out her interesting walks and are fortunate that we have some stunning places within a drive's reach. We love discovering new places and we vowed at the beginning of the year that we would spend more time discovering Scotland. Most of the trips require a bit of planning, organisation and in most cases time so the longer distance discoveries usually have to wait till the weekend. Until then, we tend to make our way to country parks locally or in this case we set off up the Campsie Hills just in time to watch the sunset. 


As a rule of thumb, family plans never go as intended - demonstrated beautifully by Ella who decided to opt out of the walk and napped instead. Not ones to be deterred by a minor change we parked up and had more of a stationary experience - ha! Lucky for us, Charlie can't yet walk so he was happy to bird watch from the comfort of my arm by the car. 


Lola also came out to stretch her legs for a while although to be fair I think she enjoyed the spacious car boot more! I love the way the door opens and closes in the EcoSport. I usually get the fear of bumping Lola's head as I close our own but this way is so much better. The rear window is low enough for her to do her nosey as we travel and she's also a part of the chat as she can see over the back seats.



When the sun set it was bitter cold, I've never been more grateful for a heated seat! We gave my Mum a call on the handsfree to instruct her to get the kettle on as we went to defrost and eat their biscuits for a visit. 




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PARENTING RULE #268 : MAKE EVERYTHING THEIR IDEA

My three pieces of parenting advice are this :
  • Coffee
  • The art of distraction 
  • Involvement 
On that last point, this is the ONLY way I can get the food shopping done successfully (with a touch of the first and second points thrown in for good measure!) 




Her favourite thing to do in the supermarket is select nuts from the pick & mix station and use the scoops to fill her little bag. Of course, her snack of choice are the roasted almonds... The most expensive ones in the section so we pay the price for the good behaviour - a chocolate surprise egg now seems more appealing... and cheaper! In-between Ella's snack picking I frantically throw all the essentials we need into the basket, avoid the sweetie aisle and then we head to the check out. 




For us, having a big family car boot is an absolute must. If not for the dog, pram or sleepover trips to Nana's where they practically pack their entire rooms - then definitely for the food shopping. We did a relatively small shop dash today but believe me, if you watch my grocery hauls over on my channel then you know that my usual kitchen filler is plentiful! The average car would undoubtedly have shopping bag passengers on the seat no doubt setting off the seat belt alarm the entire way home which isn't annoying at all... but thankfully no issues with that here.


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CHAT WITHOUT 'KIDTERUPTION'

Everyone laughs because the thing I look forward to most when I'm having a break from Mum duties - whether it be a night out or something as simple as a child-free dentist appointment - is the conversations I can have start to finish without 'kidteruption' as I call it. Fraser & I barely get a chance to catch up with each other without having to meet the demands of our little loves mid-conversation, anyone else?! Some of the stories I want to tell him literally only last a minute real time but add 2 kiddies to the mix and I'm pretty sure I have been trying to tell that same story for over a week. That being said, we usually find the best way to get a good chat is to go a drive for coffee. OH YEAH! Living that wild parenting life! But seriously, those kids just love the sound of the car engine, the warmth of the heating and being cosy in their seats. This combo on an afternoon is sure to knock them for six making it the perfect time for Fraser and I to grab a hot one and have a gab. It seems the only shots we have these days are the extra espressos in our lattes but we wouldn't change a thing!


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It's funny, we don't necessarily DO anything out of the ordinary - but I love how we make the ordinary something fun to do. The kids are our constant entertainment turning even the most normal of jobs into a story to be retold at the next family get-together. I think it's as simple as this. Having the ability to move and change the scenery for a while adds a freshness to the day/week/month but making sure we can do it altogether is what counts. It's so important to us to grow together, our dog included because we are a family. The five of us. And it's the most regular of things like a family car trip where we can go and enjoy new experiences together that our children will cherish as a memory. 'I had the best time playing my tablet all day long when I was 6' said no kid ever. Go adventure!

This is a paid partnership with Ford. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

7 DAY FOOD DIARY FOR MY FUSSY EATER*

Sunday, 21 January 2018
From the moment you even think about the 'weaning' your baby you instantly worry about the possibility of having a fussy eater. I know I did anyway. 

Being a particularly fussy eater myself growing up, I dreaded my children would be the same. However I seemed to have struck lucky with Ella since she would pretty much eat anything and everything in sight with no complaints. People would remark on how wonderful she was with her meals and that for such a small child her adventures with food and taste were almost limitless. Although I was always immensely proud of her progress, part of me always knew that this was just the honeymoon period. As an Aunt to older children, I remember that they always seem to go through a fussy stage - or rather realise that they can say the word 'no' and use it as and when they please. More notably at the dinner table - a favourite.

With Ella turning 3 this Summer we are in prime 'Fussy Eating' territory meaning we were ultimately in the best position to put her to the Annabel Karmel 7 Days of Meals challenge. 

Annabel Karmel has developed a range of healthy and nutritious chilled toddler meals that are not only balanced and delicious but they contain at least one of your child's 5-a-day. Each meal is free from artificial preservatives and have also received an added seal of approval from leading nutritionist and dietician Sarah Almond Bushell.

The meals are super conveniently made in the microwave, meaning that even on the busiest of days your kids will still get the best out of meal times. Healthy meals made with convenience usually suggests a sizeable price tag so I before I show you our weekly food diary & thoughts I wanted to let you know that the meals are on promotion just now in tesco for just £2 (CLICK HERE)! They're suitable for freezing too so stock up!


MONDAY

We have a routine in place where Ella stays overnight with her Grandparents every Sunday until dinner time on the Monday evening. Where I can I like to try and lighten the load for them & leave her with a meal for them to easily prepare for her so they can have optimum time playing and spending time together. I sent over the Mild Chicken Tikka with Rice which was a complete hit. In my Mum's words 'she scoffed the lot'. 

I was really impressed by the portion size and the amount of chicken in the meal. It was reassuring to know that she is getting enough protein in her diet as it can sometimes be a struggle to have her try some meat. 

We often have curries at home and Ella is usually fairly curious to try some but the outcome is more often than not that it's 'too bicey' (spicy) for her so I'll be repurchasing these for those occasions when we are having a curry at home or maybe a takeaway so she doesn't feel left out.

TUESDAY



I knew tonight's dinner would be somewhat challenging. Ella is going through a fussy phase at the moment with mashed potato which is crazy because at one point it was all she would ask for! With confidence from the success of the previous meal, I delved in and tried her with Annabel's Tasty Chicken & Potato Pie and in all honestly she initially wouldn't entertain it whatsoever. 


Thinking it had been a complete flop I decided to give it to Charlie instead as he turns one in a couple of weeks, making the meals suitable for him too which is great! Low and behold as soon as little brother was tucking into her dinner she developed an appetite and gave it a good go. When kids are being fussy I think it's always important to be patient and understanding. Sometimes it's just down to personal preference and sometimes it's a battle of wills but I do tend to re-try the things she refuses on another day/week/month so she can have another go.



WEDNESDAY



Ella has always been much more interested in fish than meat/poultry which I found bizarre! I'm not sure if it's because it doesn't require as much effort and maybe by dinner time she just wants something easy to eat so I knew she would enjoy the Scrummy Fish Pie. Today we were really busy, it was one of those days where one minute it was breakfast time, I blinked, then it was dinner all of a sudden so I was thankful that the chilled meals take just over 2 minutes to make in the microwave. Charlie had the same meal too and they both devoured it, I think they'd challenged each other to a race that I wasn't aware of!!

THURSDAY

We had friends over for dinner tonight which usually spells disaster for Ella's meal time as she's either practically cartwheeling round the living room in a bid to show off or she's playing with their little boy and our house turns into a toy shop! To put it simply, eating her dinner isn't exactly top of her to-do list. 

That being said, she did give her Tomato & Marscapone pasta a good shot. I think it was more a case of 'If I eat this quickly, I get to go back & play again' and that's what she did. From a Mummy's perspective I was delighted as there are hidden veggies in there & she was none the wiser - that's definitely a WIN in my book!

FRIDAY

Is it bad that I had MAJOR food envy with Ella's Lovely Beef Lasagne tonight? I'd have been quite happy if she refused it because my meal would have been sorted... no such luck - she loved it. 


For us, this was a bit of a breakthrough. We have been really struggling to get her to eat pasta after going through a rocky patch. We managed to get her to go back to eating pasta shapes but sheets? They were a big No-No. I remember one day she literally made herself sick from being so repulsed by the lasagne I had given her. It's not the ragu that's the issue it's the large pieces of pasta she can't stand so when she contently tucked into her meal I was scared to even commend her as I didn't want to break her concentration. She told us it was yummy when she finished and we applauded her amazing efforts. That is definitely one for the repurchase list!


SATURDAY

If you follow me over on instagram (HERE) then you'll probably already know how much of a huge meatball fan Miss Ella is. Not only does she snack on them and have them as part of a meal but she also makes them in her play dough kitchen so they absolutely hold a dear place in her heart! We had one of those kind of Saturdays where Lunch and Dinner kind of merged into the one thing so I bulked out the Tomato and Marcapone pasta with the Mighty Meaty Bites which are already a firm favourite here. 




These ones are made with pork, beef, apple and seasoned with thyme, garlic and black pepper but there's also a Chicken bites option too.



The great thing about the pasta dishes is that the sauce is lovely & thick so she could manage to eat relatively neatly without dripping it everywhere. It also gave her a great dip for the meatballs too.

SUNDAY

We had plans to go out with friends for dinner on Sunday so both Ella & Charlie has some Chicken Bites along with crackers and some grapes, picnic style for their lunch. I love making them their own little mini buffet on a plate with lots of selection. The Chicken Bites are so soft making them a great option for Charlie and only take 40 seconds in the microwave to heat up so it's the quickest lunch ever. They would also make for a perfect sandwich filler if you slice them up or a great addition to any kind of pasta dish. Clean plates all round!




We have always been massive fans of Annabel Karmel - from the cookbooks with great advice to the much-loved snacks that keep my kids quiet while I run a much needed errand. I went into this challenge and knew without doubt that I wouldn't be disappointed. AK is a brand we have trusted right from the beginning of our parenthood journey and as they kids grow up I love that the options available to them are growing too. 


You can shop the range at Tesco here : www.tesco.com or in your local store where the meals will be reduced to £2 until the end of January.

I'd love to know your experiences, leave a comment below or follow me on instagram @mamareidwrites to get involved with the conversation!


*sponsored by Annabel Karmel















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