29.10.14

Zizzi Autumn Menu #zizzigoodtimes

One thing I love about blogging, and I know I've mentioned this so many times before, is the friendships it has brought me. And yes, Hayley in particular. (sorry not sorry for mentioning you). In the past year we've made the most of seeing each other when we can, although it is slightly tricky being 120 miles apart.
We planned to go to Blogcamp together and to make the most of a child-free girls night. After discovering that there was a Zizzi Restaurant in Birmingham, within walking distance of the conference venue, we knew exactly what we wanted to do.

We were checking out the new Autumn Menu and usually when I go to an Italian restaurant I would sit and umm and ahhh for quite a while as I struggle to decided what to have from a menu where actually I want everything. We decided to have a go at....sharing.
We ordered 4 dishes from the new menu and then had a plate each so we could try everything.
Because we would be sharing we decided against having a starter, which was a big decision in itself as there are so many items we would want to choose from there.

 

Our Choices 

Wild Boar Ragu Pappardelle
Rich wild boar ragu with red wine, garlic & tomatoes, pappardelle pasta & Grana Padano.

Warm Duck & Pomegranate Salad
Pulled confit duck, pomegranate, beetroot, butternut squash & long stem broccoli with mixed leaves, balsamic dressing & dough sticks. Vegetarian? Swap the duck for aubergine!

Classic Caprina (We ordered this Rustica)
Goats’ cheese, pepperonata, spring onions, roquito pepper pearls & baby watercress.

Rustica Pulled Pork Rosmarino
Pulled pork on a cheese base of Fior di Latte mozzarella, Grana Padano & rosemary. Topped with crispy prosciutto shards, roast squash & baby watercress. Served with apple sauce on the side.

Oh my, where do I start? When there is pizza or pasta on offer I wouldn't choose a salad, however I was really intrigued by the Warm Duck and Pomegranate Salad on offer. I think the advantage of sharing meals is that it would encourage me to order a salad so it's not a complete carb-fest.
I have to say, after seeing the portion size, and the vegetables in the salad I would definitely recommend this and would order it again. 
I am a fan of duck so did enjoy this salad, however I felt there was something missing in form of a dressing, it needed a little something extra to make it perfect...although something that isn't the obvious hoi sin or plum sauce.

The Wild Boar Ragu had all three of us groaning. My goodness, I'm not sure how to put it in words. Not only was it full of flavour but it tasted so fresh. And don't be put off by it being Wild Boar, only in the past year have I been more adventurous when it comes to food and meat in particular and I am so glad about that as maybe in the past I would have avoided pasta like this. 

Without fail everytime I go to Zizzi I have to have a pizza. Back in Spring when we visited the Norwich Zizzi and tried out the Spring menu I absolutely loved the rustica bistecca formaggi  [thinly sliced steak on a cheese base of gorgonzola, gruyère and pecorino. With slow roasted tomatoes, rocket, mozzarella and grana padano] so I was excited by the Rustica Pulled Pork Rosmarin.
This was, as we expected, amazing. Although, we were too busy eating the pizza that we forgot about the apple sauce that came with it until my last slice. It seemed odd to have apple sauce with a pizza, and I wasn't sure that it would work but it really did and was a great addition.
As with the steak pizza back on the spring menu the pulled pork pizza also came on a cheese base and this is something that would put me off, however I think with a tomato base this pizza may not have worked so well.
My favourite thing about this pizza was the roast squash topping. I felt this worked really well and isn't something I have seen on a pizza before.

Although I am not a vegetarian I did look at the dishes available to those who are and it wouldn't disappoint. Zizzi has a great variety in it's menu in that not only are there dishes that cater for vegetarians, they also give suggestions of changes on some of the meat dishes so that it would be suitable for a vegetarian. For example, on the duck and pomegranate salad they suggest substituting the duck for aubergine.
We ordered the Classic Caprina, although opted to have it rustica so it has a bigger base (more food!). This is another aspect of the menu that I really like, the option to have your pizza either classic or for small extra charge you can have it rustica.
I am a big lover of goats cheese, in fact it seems to be a tradition that when I eat pizza with Hayley that it has to have a goats cheese topping.
My husband is very much "I am a man, I need meat" so this isn't a pizza I could usually see us ordering and sharing, however, I think even the biggest meat fan would love this.
The extra special wow factor with this pizza is the roquito pepper pearls. Oh, hello there small pearls of utter deliciousness. Because of the pearls being quite spicy I wouldn't be able to eat a whole pizza like this, however as a sharing pizza it is ideal. I did add some of the apple sauce from the pulled pork pizza to this and it worked equally as well.

Once our plates were empty, we just about resisted licking them clean, it was time for dessert.

We decided to have our own desserts although wanting to try out the new Pomegranate Sorbet we ordered that to share.

Our Choices 

Pomegranate Sorbet
Smooth & creamy, made with sweet, Mediterranean pomegranate.

Lemon Meringue Sundae [Donna]
Gavin placed each of the cocktails in front of us and I couldn't help but squeal and praise him for placing the Biano Italiano in front of me. I love a glass of Baileys at the end of a meal, and usually choose this over a coffee.
It was deeeeelicious. 
Donna was given the Mixed Berry Cooler which was, as expected, fruity and refreshing.
Hayley had the Winterberry Prosecco, which we couldn't find on the menu and were then told it's actually part of the Christmas cocktail menu....a great excuse to go back at Christmas time I'd say!

I couldn't fault our meal at Zizzi at the Mailbox in Birmingham whatsoever. The service was fantastic, and I do feel I should point out that this wasn't because we were there to review. We looked around at other tables watched the staff secret-detective-stylee and they were so attentive and everyone looked pleased not only with their meals but with the service they received too.
We do have to give a special mention to Gavin who was so fantastic. He was really passionate about the menu and the meals he was serving us...and got the cocktails spot on.

Not only is Zizzi perfect for a family meal out, but also for an evening with the girls. 
And you know what, sharing food isn't so bad after all!


Zizzi Vegetarian Pizza
Zizzi Wild Boar Pasta
Zizzi Autumn Menu

Thank you Zizzi for providing us with amazing food and amazing service in exchange for this review.
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27.10.14

The Scrambled Egg

It's only in the past year or so that I've really started to eat eggs. Before, I only really liked them pickled (come on, I'm not the only pickled egg lover am I??) and only really cooked them as part of a fried breakfast, or if I was making my husband an egg mayo sandwich (which I tend to avoid as the smell lingers for so long!).

Since my "lifestyle change" and introducing healthier foods into my diet (note to self, get back on that) eggs have been quite popular and I've surprised myself by actually enjoying finding different ways of cooking them and making meals with them.

My favourites egg recipes being the banana pancakes and sweet potato pancakes, and the scrambled egg.
Up until recently I wasn't a fan of scrambled eggs. I didn't see the appeal, and in all honesty I found the flavour too much.  I don't like a intense egg flavour and instead like it to be a bit more mild, and after experimenting I found the perfect solution.

Rather than whisking those bad boy eggs up with butter, I simply replace the butter with creme fraiche. Not only is this a healthier way to make scrambled eggs, but it also gives them a lighter, fluffy, creamy flavour.


Since discovering how nice scrambled eggs can be I've been experimenting with different scrambled egg recipes, stepping away from the standard 'egg on toast' or 'English breakfast' set up.

How do you like yours?
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24.10.14

A Smooth Sea

Being a parent is hard sometimes isn't it?
I'm sure we all have those moments when we think we are not really cut out for this role, closely followed by the realisation that there is NOTHING we can do about it now, it is far too late and we have to "man up" and take charge.

Children have a lot more power than I thought, at least mine do anyway. It might just be the emotional side to it. Maybe I'm too soft, or trying to be too much of a friend. Or maybe I'm just not good at it.

Before having children I had this airy fairy view of it. Everything would be perfect, they would be well behaved when shopping and eating out. They would have masses of respect for me, and would always do as they are told.
Sometimes it feels the complete opposite.

During bad moments I tend to think "that's it, I'm a bad mum. Why did I think I could do this? I clearly can't". I question everything I do and everything I've ever done.
I wonder if I made the wrong choices right at the beginning, from day one.

I question whether or not I should we should have had two children. Maybe I was only cut out to have one?

I remind myself constantly that there is no turning back, I can't change anything I have done. I can't go back and choose a different parenting style, I can't go back and make different choices.
I can't not have my children.
I need to learn and grow and change as we go along. I need to learn what works in terms of discipline, and what works in terms of rewards.
I need to learn how to communicate the best with my children. Sometimes, I can't help but to shout, I have exhausted all other ways of being nice and being calm. But maybe I am missing something, and the real thing is to not say "What am I doing wrong?" but to say "How can I do this right? How can I improve myself, my thinking, my actions and my behaviour to get the best out of these horrible situations?"

As with a marriage parenting is hard and need to be worked at. It's not always going to be perfect, and sometimes it would feel like the easiest thing to just walk away. To just hold your hands up and say "Hey! I'm done!". But you can't do that.
You have to instead learn, grow and move on from any moments that really tested you. You need to come out of it strong, and although learning from it, also forgetting how horrid it was and then remembering those moments that make you SO happy, and even making those happy moments as soon as you can, to block out the negative feelings and experience you just went through.

Parenting is not smooth sailing, but we can't give up. When our children are grown up, and we are grandparents we need to look back and say "My goodness, I did a good job". We won't be looking back on those bad times, instead relaying stories of embarrassment and joy to our sons future girlfriends, our future daughter-in-laws, and our grandchildren.

Maybe these hard moments and hard times are here to show me that I am a good mum, and that maybe sometimes I just need to reinforce my role in our house. Remind the children of my expectations of them and of "their place" within our family.

Parenting is hard, and life is hard.

Does anyone have an easy life? We all go through hard times, dark times, some worse than others but still, life is hard. And these things make us stronger, give us experience.
They show us what we are capable of.
Which just happens to be, an awful lot.


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14.10.14

Abandoned

You know how some people shouldn't be parents, or pet owners? The same goes for boats.
We have been boat owners since January this year. Before that, it was always a dream. One of those things you talk about, "one day we must buy a boat and take advantage of the Norfolk Broads as we live so close". But that was all it was, a dream. We didn't expect it to become a reality, at least not so soon.
So, we bought a yacht. A yacht we needed to sail...but we couldn't sail. So, we found an instructor and we learnt how to sail. And it has been wonderful.
As soon as we met our boat in the boat shed, before we owned her we straight away felt a connection to her. It's weird and it is hard to describe without sounding totally bonkers. But we didn't expect it to be such an emotional thing.
We left with doubts on whether or not we could give her the love and attention that she would need. In terms of quality she was up there with the best. She didn't need any work done other than a lick of paint to protect her when she returned to the water.
But you can't just buy a wooden yacht and not be prepared to, at some point, have to work on it. It's not as simple as
Buy a boat.
Stick it in the water.
Go.

After a week of confusion, and tears (yes, tears) we decided to see her again and this is when we knew we had to have her, for the simple fact that as the owners were talking us through certain parts of the boat we were referring to her as ours. And we were making plans. And we looked at each other and just knew.

There is a spiritual thing with boats almost. Maybe you need to be a boat owner to understand it? We don't fully understand it. But if you ever hear a sailor say that a boat talks to you then you must believe them. Because it is totally the case.
Our boat came alive as soon as she hit the water. When she was in the shed she was relaxed, asleep almost. She then was placed into the water, moored up and then....she woke up. She had this glow to her, it was like she was breathing.
Over time we have realised that it's not just about us sailing the boat, and us looking after her. She is as much a part of it as we are. She looks after us, she tells us what to do, and she looks after us.

We are completely in love with her. She really is part of the family and as much as I have written here I can't explain fully just how, alive, a wooden yacht can be. I never thought it would be such an intense feeling.
I didn't realise just how passionate I would be either. And yes, we judge other boats when we see them. You can see who clearly adores their boat and who....doesn't.

The hire yachts are loved by the owners but unfortunately, those who hire boats, don't have even an ounce of love or respect for a boat and this year we have realised that hire boats, mainly, are treated like bumper cars.

We will see boats that need a clean, that need some work done on a bigger scale, and we can't help but question why the owners don't feel it is important to keep up with the maintenance.
And then....we see boats like this one. We see it a lot and it breaks our hearts.

This sad, abandoned boat, which with the right care and attention has so much more life in it. Proof of that? It's still floating. Despite being in such a bad, unloved condition, it is still alive.
But it hurts, you can tell it is hurting, and suffering, and that it just wants someone to come along and comfort it. And to make it all ok. To let it live and to do it's job of making sailors enjoy the wonderful waters around us.

Whenever we sail past I give it a smile, just so it knows that someone still appreciates it, and understands how it feels.

But at the moment it's abandoned, and will probably stay that way.



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6.10.14

Goodbye Summer | Houghton House

When we visited Hayley and her family she had mentioned about taking us to visit some ruins in a nearby town. I'd seen these ruins on one of Hayley's blog posts and thought it looked beautiful so was really excited to go there.

Houghton House is a Grade I listed ruined house, and English Heritage property, located near Houghton Conquest in Bedfordshire.
The house was built in approximately 1615 for the writer, translator, and literary patron Mary Sidney Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke (born 27 October 1561), but she died of smallpox on 25 September 1621, not long after its completion.
After the Countess' death, the house passed to Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin, in 1624. The Bruce family owned the house until the 2nd Earl of Ailesbury, retired to exile overseas in 1696 on account of his loyalty to King James II of England.
Thomas Bruce, 2nd Earl of Ailesbury, never returned to Houghton and so sold the house to John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford, in 1738. The 4th Duke was predeceased by his sons (the 4th Duke's son and heir, Francis Russell, Marquess of Tavistock, died when he fell from a horse whilst hunting) and therefore the house and the dukedom passed to his grandson, Francis Russell.
In 1794, Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford, stripped Houghton House of its furnishings and removed the roof. The Duke never married nor had he produced a legitimate heir. He died in 1802 by which time the house, now open to the elements, was already in decay.
Conservation work was undertaken in 2006 to help maintain safety and improve the understanding of the site. New visitor information boards were installed as a result. In 2007, a number of these have been vandalised, leaving empty boards behind.

This house is just stunning and has such a wonderful feel to it. Hayley and I talked about what it must have looked like in all it's glory and why on earth someone would want to strip it and just leave it to decay.
The views of Bedford are amazing, something I never really got to see when we lived nearby before moving back to Suffolk.
Unfortunately we were all quite hungry and hadn't taken a picnic (we so should have done!) and also it had started raining (so probably a good job we didn't rely on a picnic actually) so we left to head into Ampthill for lunch and a little walk around the shops. 

(Harry was here this day but spent most of his time under a blanket in his pushchair as he wasn't feeling great).

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5.10.14

Happy Sunday | Week Twenty Nine

Whether or not you think Sunday is the end of the week, or the beginning of a new one, I thought it would be a nice idea to look back on the week that has just past and to look at the things that have made me happy and made me smile.
I think it can be easy to look back on a hard week and miss out on those things. A week of bad weather for example can really make it seem as though the whole week was a complete fail. But it probably wasn't. We must all smile at least once a day. I know I do, even if I forget it.

Things that made me happy this week:

Leopard Shoes

Oh my, I adore leopard/animal print. I have done for YEARS. As soon as I was able to really make a decision over how I wanted my room decorated I opted for animal print. I have fluffy tiger curtains (thanks for making those mum!) a tiger print bed cover, snake print curtains (again, thanks mum) and everything accessorised with leopard, tiger, giraffe, zebra, all the animals, print.
I love the current leopard print shoe trend and after buying some from H&M and sending them back because the right one was dark and suede and the left one was a lighter more leathery fabric I then tried Dune. Oh. My. I. Love. Them.

The Bag of my Dreams

For a while now I have wanted a new bag. Something which is mine and won't be used for nappies and other boy things (thank goodness those days are over!).On Friday this beauty arrived. It's the 'Miss Chantal' bag from Clarks and I couldn't help but to choose the one with leopard print on the side.



Matchy Matchy

Sorry not sorry. Nuff said.

A Busy Month

As I turned the calender to October I was pretty surprised to be met with a month FULL of plans. It scares me a bit as there is so much going on and I'm sure I'll end up messing up and getting confused somewhere. We have some fab things planned. This weekend we are going out, child free, and staying over at my in laws whilst the boys stay at my mums by themselves for the first time. And in a couple of weeks I am spending the weekend with one of my best friends which I am super excited about.

New Hair

I went to the hairdressers this week and went for a fringe again and also went a bit shorter than before. I now have hair which is a teeny bit above my shoulder and I LOVE it.

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