0

Nonnas Restaurant – Woburn Sands

It’s my husband’s birthday so as a treat we decided to try brunch at Nonnas; in their new outdoor area which includes a garden bar. It looked beautiful and so inviting; like an English country garden in full bloom. The outdoor area has now tripled in size (however, they no longer have any on-site parking) and they have a mix of booth-type seating, and tables in the sun and under a canopy; so an array of choices.

We were seated and then asked to order at the garden bar. They have quite a large breakfast menu but to the disappointment of my husband and children, they only serve sourdough bread/toast across all their dishes. I love sourdough, but it is an acquired taste. I think they should include regular bread on their menu, at least for children.

That being said, what arrived for us all looked magnificent, a real work of art. I ordered the poached eggs, bacon and brie on sourdough toast. I’ve never though of that combination, but it tasted delicious. The only downside was that the poached eggs were not runny (even though I asked for it). Hubby ordered green eggs and ham, the kids had yoghurt and cheese on toast.

I really enjoyed my breakfast; and the atmosphere was so relaxing, I felt like I was on holiday. The kids found a way to entertain themselves, playing with their ice-cubes. My 4 year old said look mummy I have made a ka-bob (out of her ice cubes).

On display at the garden bar were the most sumptuous-looking doughnuts. Now, I am not a big fan of doughnuts, but they had four different flavours on display and none of us were able to resist. Between the four of us we tried all four flavours: jam, chocolate, passion-fruit and cream and lotus biscoff. They were utterly devine; so good we took some home for later. In fact I think we spent half of the bill on doughnuts!

Nonnas has always been a favourite for dinner, but now with their new outdoor area and quicker serving times, it has now become one of my favourite breakfast/brunch places. The kids loved it too, and they can be moany about going out for meals. So win-win. I cannot wait to go back.

You can book a table using their online booking system. Post code: MK17 8SY. They have no on-site parking, so I have always found a space on Hardwick Road, there are no double yellow lines so it is okay to park there, if you can find a spot. There is also the square by the town council and the library on the high street as alternatives.

4

My Top 10 Summer Reading List (TBR)

I’m joining in the Top Ten Tuesday linky about the 10 books on my to be read (TBR) list for this summer. It is a great opportunity to look at the bookshelf and assess what’s been there too long, and what I am eager to read this summer.

On my audible list I have recently downloaded the following:

  1. Still Alice by Lisa Genova – I love her books, although they can be terribly sad and depressing. I particularly enjoyed reading and re-reading “Inside the O’Brien’s” about Huntingtons disease, and “Every Note Played” about ALS was good but I found it depressing. I have already seen the movie of Still Alice (brilliant), so I am sure the book will be even better.
  2. Losing my virginity by Richard Branson – kinda old and random huh? Well I read Alan Sugar’s autobiography in the last lockdown and couldn’t put it down; I do enjoy biographies and particularly love reading about interesting jobs; e.g. like Farming (The Yorkshire Shepherdess).
  3. Room by Emma Donoghue – I’ve seen the movie so I know how disturbing this book will be; which is possibly why I have put it off; but its been on my list for awhile now.

Physical books on my bookshelf to be read:

4. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – it seems like everyone has read this book, to where it is almost a classic now. I haven’t watched the TV show yet either, but am eager to watch that too. Another disturbing but dytopian novel this one.

5. Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer – I was a big Twilight fan 10 years ago (Team Edward), so I was pleased that Stephanie finally decided to finish this book. After someone leaked the first few chapters online she swore she would never finish it, but hurrah – Twilight from Edward’s point of view.

6. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – This was a present and had been recommended a few times, so I am looking forward to trying this.

7. 15 minute parenting 8-12 year olds – This was recommended by a fellow blogger; I have just started it and already it has some great tips for interacting with grumpy tweens and playing and reading with them; helping with bullies etc.

8. My Sister’s keeper – Jodi Picoult – I’ve read a lot of her books, most of them were brilliant. I particularly loved “Small Great Things” and “The Pact” and “Lone Wolf”, though I couldn’t get into “Spark of Light” her newer book.

9. Failosophy by Elizabeth Day – One of close friend bought me this, I dipped in and looks really interesting, so I am sure I will enjoy it. I am intrigued by the stories of famous/important people who have failed and what they learned from it. Elizabeth also has a popular podcast.

10. Fighting the Banana Wars (and other FairTrade battles) by Harriet Lamb – hubby bought this for me for Christmas; I skimmed and realised it will be tough to read. People are really treated badly by big corporations; it reminded me of “Erin Brockovich” and “Dark Waters” both great movies about how companies are killing people with their mis-handling of chemicals.

4

Book review (and TV): The Yorkshire Shepherdess and Our Yorkshire Farm

I thought I was the only one fascinated by farming; but now that Jeremy Clarkson is in on the game (Clarkson’s Farm: so funny by the way) it seems that there really are other people reading and watching these things.

I first came across Amanda Owen’s book series “The Yorkshire Sheppherdess” after I read “The shepherd’s life” by James Rebanks (another great book). I enjoyed James’s book about farming life, but I loved Amanda’s stories even more; I think because she has 9 children. My nan had 14 children, so I am always fascinated by other big families.

If you love to read about alternative ways of living and working these are a great series of books.

The Yorkshire Shepherdess is her autobiogrpahy; so this is the best book to start with. It documents her life from a small child in Hudderfield, her short-lived modelling career, to her first shepherdess roles, meeting her husband and giving birth to her 9 children. She lives on Ravenseat Farm in the Yorkshire Dales, in the middle of nowhere, and has the most extra-ordinarily painless and quick births – enough to make the rest of us mothers jealous, particularly the birth of Clemmy – by the fire, all on her own! Who births their own baby?!

I love the way she brings up her children (except for letting them drink Coffee!), the way they all know how to birth a lamb from such a young age and can do so much around the farm.

I love the amazing outdoorsy things the kids get to do – swimming in their own lakes, sledding, quad-biking, horse-riding, picnics on the moors, hide and seek in the barns and more. Its like an adverture holiday but its every day. And they have very little screen time.

Though it all fascinates me, I wouldn’t want to actually do it – like walk a lot, and farm and walk a lot more and work from dusk to dawn and never ever have a holiday or even a day off – they even work on Christmas day! It’s not for me but I do love to watch them do it; and I am grateful that they do.

Amanda Owen has three further books: Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess and A year in the life of the yorkshire sheppherdess and a new mini book: Tales of the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Great books.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that she also has a popular TV show on Channel 5: Our Yorkshire Farm. A friend of mine (Em) told me about it after I had read all of her books – I was so thrilled to see the family I had been reading about. And the newest season has 20 episodes, so it can’t just be me watching! I am particularly fond of Clemmy, proabably because she reminds me so much of my 4 year old daughter.

My favourite episode is when a bunch of sheep get into the yard and house; and Clemmy cleverly devises a plan to convince the sheep to move back into the field, all on her own – it’s amazing! I was also intrigued to see how they handled (are handling) Covid, isolation, home-schooling etc.

Is anyone else fascinated by Our Yorkshire Farm or The Yorkshire Shepherdess?

0

Whittlebury Hall Spa and Stay Review (during Covid)

My lovely husband and mum bought me a night away at the lovely Whittlebury Hall, for my birthday (November 2020). Of course we were in lockdown 2.0 so I was not able to partake in my present; so it was moved to Christmas – nope we were in Level 4 so it was moved again to Mothers Day – na ah – lockdown 3.0. So I finally got to enjoy my night away in June – only 7 months after I should have had it!

On my way over to Whittlebury, I drove past the Super Sausage Cafe and decided to indulge in one of their all day breakfasts, it was delicious.

On arrival at Whittlebury Hall, I was directed to the spa reception. In terms of Covid measures to keep us safe, they had temperature monitoring machines, hand sanitisers, and we all had to wear facemasks when not in a treatment or in the heat and ice area. I have been here for a spa day pre-Covid, so it was a little strange to have a timetable and not be able to glide through your spa day, however, a spa day is better than no spa day. In my mind there is nothing better; it is my ultimate day and will always be my choice of present. I was handed an itinerary which began with my treatment, the one that was included in my spa package. I was told I could choose 2x 15 minute treatments from a list of 4. I chose the head massage and the foot massage.

It was bliss, pure bliss. First the masseur rubbed my whole body with aromatherapy oils and then the head and foot massage. She was a bit over-zealous with the foot massage; it actually hurt, so I had to ask her to calm down, but she took it in stride and it was delightful. With spas being closed due to Covid for 17 months; this really was a treat.

After my massage I was taken back out into the waiting area, to await the use of the heat and ice experience. This was the part I was disappointed with because: a) waiting around and b) I was not taken to a calm, quiet area to come down after my massage.

The heat and ice area was good; although a little limited compared to the Aqua Sana at CentreParcs (my spa of choice). However it has improved since the last time; it had heated seats, a couple of foot spas, several saunas, several steam rooms and a big hot-tub like pool in the centre. It was very slippery; so I had to go back for my sandals. I particularly miss steam rooms; I find them so relaxing and also beneficial in the winter time when you have the common cold.

After the heat and ice experience it was lunch time. Normally you get a huge buffet to choose from; but buffets are not Covid-safe so they took a pre-order from me a few days ago; and though I did not like any of the salads on the menu; they were super accommodating and allowed me a soup instead. The soup was nice; but the warm bread rolls they provided were even better (the butter was rock solid – pet peeve). The tables were spread far apart and they had several sittings to allow sanitising in between and less crowding.

After my blissful spa morning, I wandered into the hotel (attached to the spa) to enquire if my room was ready. It was not. They do not allow access to rooms until 4pm – 4pm!!! Personally, I think that is too late, particularly if you are only staying for 1 night. My husband basically paid for a 19 hour room rental, rather than a 1 night (24 hour stay). Oh well, we cannot have everything in this world.

I waited in the lounge for my room to become available. The lounge is particularly lovely. I have stayed at Whittlebury Hall many times over the years; and the lounge remains my favourite place. They have huge sofas – tonnes of them, and an open fire, they serve afternoon tea and they used to have board games in there – though I didn’t see any during this visit – please bring back the board games! I love to sit lay on the sofas and read; and today was no different. I ordered a pot of tea and kicked back whilst reading an enthralling book about a doctor working during the pandemic: “Duty of Care – one NHS doctor’s story of the Covid-19 crisis” by Dominic Pimenta. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far I have not been able to put it down.

The hotel room was pleasing and comfortable. It had a double bed, a TV with freeview, tea and coffee facilities and some nice biscuits (they were all wrapped in cellophone so that it was Covid safe, an ironing board, cupboard, a desk, safe and a large bathroom with 2 sinks, and a shower over bath. It also had a fridge, which I was pleased about as I drink a lot of water. One of my pet peeves is not having access to cold water when I travel. They also provide fans in the rooms that don’t have air conditioning, it was so warm, I really appreciated that.

For my evening meal in the main restaurant I had a lovely steak and roasted carrots, and though there was no jus or flavouring on the steak, it was delicious just the same. The cheese plate for dessert was a treat; it had a lovely mix of fruit (even fresh figs) and delicious cheeses with a generous portion of chutney.

The breakfast in the morning was a let down. It was buffet style still but the staff choose your food for you. It was not good quality, and I couldn’t find a single runny egg. I had to wait a long time for the waitress to bring my tea and toast, and I gave up waiting for the juice I ordered.

Overall I had a very lovely stay; and though the hotel could do with some refurbishment; it was still relaxing and just what I needed after the last year or so.

0

Travel: Brockenhurst – The Buttery

I recently took my mum away for a little getaway to the New Forest; as she had never been there. I was hoping she would see the famous ponies – but it seems that even the ponies are on lockdown! We didn’t see a single pony this time. However, we did see some roaming cows which was pretty cool.

The best bit of our trip was our little foray over to Brockenhurst. I have to say that Lyndhurst appears to have deterioated some since I visited in 2014, I don’t know if Covid has led to most of the lovely shops in Lyndhurst closing down; but the last time I visited it was so pretty and they had lovely boutique shops that they no longer have. Plus the old hotel at the end of the high street really detracts from its beauty.

Brockenhurst, on the other hand, is just as beautiful as I remember it. The only downside is the lack of ponies. We didn’t stay long as it is very small; but we did stay for lunch and boy am I glad we did. We tried “The Buttery” even though there was a fairly long wait to get in (about 20 minutes). There was nothing particularly memorable about the decor, the service was slow (which they did warn us about) but they had the most most-watering, most unforgettable carrot cake I have ever had in my life. And I was completely unprepared.

I ordered chilli and chips, a pot of tea and a carrot cake. Whilst waiting for my my chips to cool down, I thought, I’ll just taste the carrot cake (mum had popped off to use the facilities). When mum got back she found me in a trance.

“What’s wrong” she said

“What?” I said in somewhat of a daze

“What’s wrong?” she repeated. I brought myself slowly back to Earth and said:

“Try………..this………….carrot cake…………..now (just a small bit though.)”

My mum tried a small bit of the carrot cake and swooned.

I then took another bite and was making noises akin to “When Harry Met Sally”. I had to stop.

I reluctantly decided I should eat my chips before I indulged in my dessert; but I kept a close eye on it the whole time and then when I had eaten enough chips to not cause offence to the kitchen I inhaled the carrot cake and promptly bought another slice for later. Mum also bought a slice, and she is diabetic, so she has to closely monitor her sugar levels. Though she said she would gladly endure a diabetic coma to eat the entire carrot cake.

I wish I could describe the taste; it was moist and it was creamy but it really was beyond description.

The weird thing is that neither of us really like carrot cakes, usually. But this was another level. So if you are ever in the area, in the New Forest; run right now and enjoy this marvel.

1

Super Sausage Cafe – Review

I am a big foodie; I love food, though I am fussy too, so fussy in fact that I am well known for my fussiness amongst my friends and family. I have eaten out at Michelin star restaurants and the local cafe and I do like all types. I particularly love going out for breakfast; it feels like such a treat. However; I am somewhat disconcerted by the new trendy “boutique” cafes – you know the type that do things like avocado and chia seeds on sourdough toast and sencha tea. I actually love sourdough toast, but I could definitely leave all the rest.

So it is refreshing to eat at a cafe that keeps it simple. I love a simple traditional english breakfast; and that is what they do best at the Super Sausage, in every variation and every size with chips or hash browns, simple tea (no leaves or pots) and it was cooked perfectly and delicious. Plus they serve breakfast all day – bonus!

Inside it is decorated as one would expect from an english cafe, but it has the addition of a couple of booths and outside seating (picnic tables). Though the view of the A5 has much to be desired. One does not come here for the view.

super sausage cafe menu

It is not the best place to go if you are keen on social distancing as the tables (inside) are tightly compacted together; you have to brush past people to get in/out to use the facilities.

Even with these minor drawbacks, it is well worth the drive (just outside of Milton Keynes) is the perfect low-cost greasy spoon cafe; perfect after a hangover; or for me, the perfect stopover on the way to Whittlebury Hall (where I was having a spa day).

The Super Sausage cafe is on the A5 in Potterspury towards Towcester, postcode: NN12 7QD. They have on site parking and toilets.

0

Frosts Igloo (Eating out but in)

Now that the country has gotten through three lockdowns – yes 3 lockdowns in one year, it seems that companies are having to become more creative to keep afloat. I had been hearing about pods popping up in local pubs and restaurants. Frosts (our local and favourite garden centre) has a fantastic restaurant and cafe; they do some of the best cakes and afternoon tea around (their brownie is special but I digress).

Not only do Frosts do these outdoor pods, but theirs are called (and look like) Igloos and they are transparent; which on the cold but sunny day was lovely. When we visited Frosts in April, the current Government rules were that we were allowed to eat and drink outside but not inside (great idea in the coldest April we ever had, it was snowing the week before). So going out for breakfast with my family in the snow and -2 Degree weather was not at all appealing – even though I had not eaten out since October 2020, but I was desperate to leave the house (those 4 walls I have been staring at during lockdown 3.0 for the last 4 months) and see my family (again who I had not seen in person for 4 months), so we booked an Igloo at Frosts during their opening weekend and had a lovely breakfast both outdoors and indoors.

The Igloo was outdoors but since it was fully enclosed, it felt like we were indoors. They had a heater, a fridge and a blutooth speaker. It sat six people, I would like to say comfortably but it was a bit tight.

The breakfast was glorious!

First they brought us a tray of fresh fruit and danish pastries. And pots of tea (loose leaf).

Then they brought out piles of toast.

Then they brought out our cooked breakfasts (that we had to pre-order).

It was delightful; and every time we asked for more toast they brought it out.

The temperature was cold but we felt so warm and taken care of; and when the sun came out, we decided to go out into the patio area with the other customers where they had lovely and comfortable rattan seating, then we sat in the sunshine and enjoyed some more tea, the kids loved their milkshakes.

It was so good, I absolutely pray that they will be keeping these pods as UK weather is so unpredictable; it felt so special.

The only minor annoyance was booking the igloo was not easy; it can only be done over the phone, and when you ring they take your details and someone rings back, but if you miss their call and you call back, they won’t take your booking so I spent all week playing phone tag; and even though I rang them on the Monday; it took until Friday before I had to beg them to just let me book already! And by then most of the dates I wanted were fully booked. Online booking would be great.

There is a minimum spend of £75, but with the six of us it was not an issue. I think it would be difficult for 2 people to reach the minimum spend (unless you have some bubbly too). They serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.

*No one paid me to write this article, I just love Frosts.

0

Playing during lockdown

One thing that has been amazing about the lockdown, was that I have been able to spend more time with my kids; and in particular, I have been witnessing how my little girl plays. Lockdown has recently ended but it was so hard being stuck at home. Despite how difficult this has been, one of my favourite things is watching my 3 year old play.

She can play for hours (on her own), literally hours, and she talks to her toys, they talk back, she does all of their voices and she acts out little scenes with them. Her favourite toys to play with are her Ty MiniBoos. She has about 20 of them, and what they get up to is amazing.

Recently she has been incorporating crafty things into her play with them. So at first she started painting them, then one day they had a party at nursery where all the kids wore paper crowns (that they had made); so that evening she sat for over 2 hours cutting out strips of paper, getting glue and cellotape and creating little crowns for each of them – I was so amazed!

Next she decided they had work to do, so she set each of them up with a piece of paper and a pen, ready to do their school work!

The following week it was hot, so she asked if she could go in the paddling pool – we obliged and set it up for her. Instead of jumping right in, she sat for a long time ensuring that each of her MiniBoos had a swimming costume on (which she made out of celletape) before she would let them and herself into the pool.

This week, she has created tails for each of them. Again she cut out strips of paper and cellotaped the tail onto each one.

Watching her and seeing what she comes up with next is a real treat. It is funny how creative she is; she simply loves to colour, paint, use scissors and cellotape, play with stickers etc. I consider myself to be the opposite of creative – literally I feel like I do not have a creative bone in my body, so it must be from my husbands’ side of the family – either way, I love it.

3

Emberton Country Park (July 2020 Review)

I have been taking my children to Emberton since they were very little, it is such a lovely day out, and is only just outside of Milton Keynes (on the way to Olney). Set in 200 acres of unspoilt parkland, with five lakes – two large lakes (for fishing and sailing), 2 play parks, a sandpit, outdoor gym, bird hides, a cafe and a campsite – so much to do you can spend all day here.

Emberton has been reducing its restrictions based on Government guidelines, and our visit last week, felt just like old times.

If you visit in the next few months what you need to know is:

  • The cafe is only open for take-away service.
  • The campsite is open but is subject to social distancing restrictions.
  • When they reach capacity in the car park they will close the gate to new entrants (so bear that in mind if you plan to go late in the day on a sunny Saturday, for example).
  • Toilets are open
  • All play parks are open and free to use (including the outdoor gym)
  • Fishing is allowed (with permits)
  • Parking costs are £4.50 for the day (you cannot leave and come back though).
  • Opening times are 9:15-4:45pm each day currently (but best to check their Facebook page in case this changes).

We had a lovely morning, we walked round to the park in the middle, the one with the pirate ship, as that is our favourite. As soon as we put our bags down the kids ran off to play together, it was so sweet watching my son (aged 8) carefully hold the hand of my daughter (aged 3) as she climbed the steep steps up to the slides – he took great care of her all day.

Hubby and I were actually able to sit and watch them play, and also read a few chapters of our books – this is unheard of in previous years when Savannah was younger, and before Savannah when Nate didn’t have anyone to play with.

After about 80-90 minutes in that park the kids biked and we walked back towarsds the cafe for an icecream and a cup of tea, to fortify us for the outdoor gym, the sandpit and the stone pit. I forgot our bucket and spade (darn) but they had fun burying each other and digging around the dinosaur bones (pretend).

We decided to go home for lunch, though if we had chosen to stay all day, there are plenty of lovely big fields perfect for picnics, and even the socially distanced kind, and we didn’t make it over to the park that is further along – this one would have been good for Nate, as it had some large and tall climbing nets and things for older children mostly. There is also a beautiful lake in the middle and stunning walks to make a full day of it.

More information:

  • Emberton Country Park – Postcode: MK46 5FJ
  • There are two sets of toilets, including disabled facilities.
  • The summer camping season where the park is open every day runs from 1st April to 31st October (outside of this they are only open for a few hours on the weekend).
  • 5km of walks and trails
  • 5 lakes
  • 1 minute drive from the market town of Olney (where they have the best afternoon tea at “Teapots of Olney” highly recommend).
0

Film review: Just Mercy

There are some spoilers in this review.

What a movie, wow! I’m glad that they have re-released this because it passed me by somehow back in February.

I would say that this movie could be truly transformational for those people out there (and I hope there are not many) who don’t believe that #Blacklivesmatter – if there are those who mistakenly think that white and black people are treated equally, or worse still that black people do not deserve to be treated equally – they need to watch this movie because the evidence there is irrefutable.

This movie (which is based on a true story) shows just how far prejuduce is baked into a small community in Alabama, and how every level of the legal system is corrupt against blacks – right down to the friggin’ Judge – the actual judges of these towns are not even unbiased, and don’t allow a fair trial for people on Death Row no less. It is shocking that they are quite happy to sentence a man to death when they know that he didn’t commit the crime (because they coerced a false witness). Even worse, those that knew the truth and tried to do something about it were silenced.

Even the poor lawyer (who is representing inmates on death row), was treated almost inhumanely when “they” realised he was trying to save Johnny D (the man accused of murdering a white girl, played by Jamie Foxx). When he visits his client in prison, they treat him like a prisoner, again I won’t spoil it but wow it is shocking. Michael B. Jordan is amazing as this lawyer from Harvard, trying to do good, representing those who were mis-represented, those on Death Row who do not belong there. He is quiet, sensitive and his emotions are so revealing. Jamie Foxx was great too, I haven’t seen him in such a quiet, subtle role before.

Gosh this movie made me so mad, so mad, I was sitting there muttering to myself – the pure injustice is just sick. It made me cry several times. It makes me so mad at the people who could do this, not only did they ensure that he went down for a crime he didn’t commit, but they didn’t let up when the case was reopened, they were not willing to accept that anyone else did it and after it all, there was no apology (not that you can apologise for framing someone for murder and sending them to Death Row).

I’m sorry to say this because I have American friends and I loved our honeymoon over there, but America is a poor country, those in power need to take better care of their people. Healthcare is expensive, welfare is almost nonexistent, and unless you are White and Rich, no-one cares. Their quality of life is poor, they work longer hours, have the least amount of paid vacations, and maternity leave is a joke (one of the lowest in the developed countries), they are near the bottom of the happiness index, and rank 35th in the world for life expectancy and most importantly, they have Trump and they have Guns – not sure which is worse!

Finally, they have the death penalty (still), and about 10-15% of those who are executed are later found to be innocent, after it is too late…unbelievable. Not only that but they have an execution database – and you can join their mailing list – how sick is that! 22 people were executed in USA (mostly the southern states) in 2019. The good news is that the numbers are declining every year (it was 73 in 2014 and 223 in 2000), so maybe there is hope for Americans afterall.

Sorry about that rant over…

I won’t ruin the ending for you, but go and see this movie (support your local cinema and watch it there if you can), it is shocking but needs to be watched.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think?