Planet Hollywood London Before having children, eating out in nice restaurants was a regular occurrence. For Hubby’s thirtieth birthday, which was six days after Polly’s first, we went to The Ivy and were in for a massive shock. It would seem that dining with a small child in tow was a very different experience to the ones we had become accustomed to. We’ve still eaten out a fair bit over the years with the children, but now choose where to go based on reviews of kids menu and entertainment. So you can imagine our delight when Planet Hollywood London invited us for lunch.

Why? Because they’ve been voted Bookatable’s Best Child Friendly London Restaurant for the third year in a row. We had our meal on Andy’s 38th birthday, and here are our thoughts.

Planet Hollywood London is not your average themed restaurant  

Usually when hearing the words themed and restaurant, my mind starts conjuring up images of tacky fancy dress joints and un-instagrammable fodder. I was surprised in the nicest way when I discovered the incredible food on offer.

There are a ridiculous amount of delicious dishes to choose from, and a wide range of cuisines. You’d be hard pressed to not find something to eat. They cover everything from sharing platters and American fare to burgers and grills; pizza and pasta; fajitas; noodles and salads. There is an extensive gluten free menu, and Donald Russell supply their beef.

For those not in the know, Donald Russell are an online craft butcher, whose meat is traditionally matured and grass fed. They’ve held a Royal Warrant since 1984, so they’re clearly doing something right. Quality ingredients like this are everything, and just in case you were wondering, my chuck eye did not disappoint (more on that later).

Planet Hollywood London

I imagine one of the main reasons Planet Hollywood London gets the thumbs up for family friendliness is due to their entertainment. There are huge screens all around the restaurant, and you can ask for messages to be displayed for your loved ones. They can be anything you like, and ours revolved around Hubby’s birthday. The screens flip between cartoons, movies, music and these personalised messages, which is lots of fun.

There is tons of original memorabilia to check out, including outfits and props from iconic movies. Clara and Freddy were delighted to see a Power Ranger’s costume as we walked in, as it’s their current favourite TV show to watch. The big kid in my life was suitably impressed, especially seeing Hans Solo frozen in carbonite, and Polly was in awe of the Willy Wonka chocolate bar. I had to do a double take of the T-Birds jacket, worn by John Travolta himself when he played Danny in Grease (my fave film growing up). We were also thrilled to see a storm trooper wandering around.

In addition they have colouring for the children and a fab game for the adults where you have to guess the film star based on a photo from their younger days. Some look exactly the same as they do now, others were trickier to figure out. There really is plenty to keep you and the little ones busy throughout your meal, so much so for us that we stayed almost three hours. I could have quite easily set up camp and stayed all afternoon. In another life I would have hung around drinking cocktails.

Planet Hollywood London

What we ate at Planet Hollywood London

Regular readers will know we eat mostly paleo as a family, but I’m happy to be flexible when we’re dining out and gave the children free rein over the kids menu. Polly had spaghetti and meatballs, which she loved and Clara had hot dog and chips, which she polished off with gusto. Our little fussy eater Freddy just had chips, which is better than eating nothing, right? Meal times can be fraught, especially when we’re out, but they were so mesmerised by the big screens that we had zero fighting. Possibly a first in our family! They all enjoyed their ice cream sundaes afterwards, but that was never going to not be the case.

Portion sizes are very generous, and excellent value at £9.50 which includes a main, dessert and unlimited soft drink. The staff are all great with the wee ones too, which can make or break a lunch like this. There’s nothing worse than being made to feel like your children are not welcome.

Hubby and I shared some popcorn shrimp to start, and both had surf and turf for mains with medium rare chuck eye. He had his as it was on the menu – with a trio of fries, buttered green beans and a grilled tomato. I had mine from the gluten free menu, served with salad instead of chips. The steak was cooked to perfection, juicy and succulent with just the right amount of marbling. I’ve salivated over the memory of it many times these last two weeks.

Andy had sticky toffee pudding for dessert. The staff decorated it with a sparkler and sang him Happy Birthday as they brought it out. We had seen them do it for another table earlier on, but it was still a lovely surprise. I hadn’t asked them to do Planet Hollywood Londonthis, and thought it was a really nice touch. I had a bite, and it was very yummy, but I’m definitely over non-paleo sweet things. I appreciate I’m the exception not the norm in this respect, and if sweets are your thing you’ll love the dessert menu. It has all the classics some with a modern twist. You’ll find white chocolate bread pudding, Toblerone cheesecake, good old fashioned coke floats and more.

They even have a giant brownie sundae called the Big Boy, which is served in an oversized martini glass and is meant to be shared between the whole table.

Apparently their hand-dipped milkshakes are amazing, and they are currently serving Super Nova Shakes, which sound epic. Check out this video if you’re interested.

Where could Planet Hollywood London have improved things? 

No restaurant is perfect, and improvements can always be made. If I could have a direct word with the management, I would urge them to redecorate the toilets. They were very clean, had brand new Dyson hand dryers and non-touch soap dispensers. However, the seats were a bit wonky and the tiles were in need of re-grouting (or better still replacing).

It’s also worth mentioning that they do not have a coffee machine, and only offer standard filtered coffee and tea. This did come as a shock, because I’m so used to all restaurants offering a range of artisan coffees. To be completely honest though, I didn’t need to be putting anything else in my belly, it was more than full.

Planet Hollywood LondonWe were looked after so well and I wondered if we were being given special treatment, so had a stealthy look around a few times to see if the other patrons were also getting great service, and they certainly seemed to be. The staff weren’t only competent, they were happy, which is always a good sign.

Hubby said it was his best birthday since having kids, and the children have been asking when we can go back on a daily basis. All in all it’s a huge thumbs up for us!

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**disclaimer: we were invited to Planet Hollywood London for a complimentary meal, in exchange for this honest review. For my full disclosure policy, please click here.**

bemorewitwitwooWhy we should all #BeMoreWitWitWoo

On Monday 16th July 2018, the UK parent blogging community lost one of it’s original members. The vivacious, kind and witty force of nature, Kate Sutton. Although it’s been under the saddest circumstances, it’s been exceptionally heartwarming to see bloggers united in their adoration for this wonderful woman. Kate touched so many lives.

Whether you were super close to her or only knew her through her social channels, it would have been impossible to find a bad word to say about her. This isn’t a dead person being martyred here. This is what genuinely happens when a person who is loved so much passes away too soon. Please check out the GoFundMe campaign to help her boys, Ben and Dexter.

Kate was the queen of positive body image, so Tanya who blogs at Mummy Barrow thought it would be a great tribute for us bloggers to get in our swimsuits and post a photo on Instagram. The response was incredible. Women of all ages, shapes and sizes coming together, no matter how scared they were of baring their bodies for the world to see. Us mama’s (and I’m all too aware the dada’s too) often have major hang ups about our bodies. Yesterday, the message was clear: LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF and we should all #bemorewitwitwoo (obvs!) Head over to Instagram and check out all the awesome posts on the hashtag.

Trouble is, body confidence doesn’t just appear overnight. Many people posted inspirational photos and words, but how many of us will actually wear that damn bikini all summer?

How negative body image starts 

I’m going to be totally honest here with my words. They are not intended to fat shame or make anyone else feel bad. This is my story, and I suggest in the kindest possible way, if it’s a trigger for you, then you skip the rest of this piece.

I grew up in a family where people hated themselves. My mother was diagnosed morbidly obese before the term was widely known. She was extremely vocal about despising the way she looked. She went on countless fad diets over the years, and never managed to stick to any of them for longer than a month. The half brother and sister I grew up with were overweight as kids, and copped a lot of teasing for it during the school years. Particularly as we moved around as much as we did, and just being new was enough reason for us to be bullied. My half sister was incredibly damaged by the time she left school. My half brother was sectioned for the first time shortly before his twenty first birthday.

I was as skinny as a rake growing up. I was an ill child, which started as infant reflux and led to major stomach surgery at five years old. I went from throwing up after every meal to not physically being able to vomit. Most food caused me pain. I hated eating. I was tube fed at points. I have a scar that starts under my breasts and stops at my belly button. I used to look in the mirror and see the most ugly, grotesque reflection staring back. It also didn’t help that I was sexually abused from the ages of eight to ten. My mental health problems started before my earliest childhood memories.

bemorewitwitwooCreating lasting healthy habits   

After leaving home at fifteen I drank and partied myself into oblivion, then ate cheap junk food. I’m talking McD’s for breakfast, stodgy for lunch and 99p microwave meals for dinner. Not surprisingly I piled on the weight. I began to hate myself, just like my mother hated herself.

I’d like to state for the record that I truly applaud anyone who feels comfortable in their own skin, despite their size. I’m not saying that we need to weigh X stone to be happy. I, however, am just over five foot one and my body simply cannot cope with being more than a size ten. I felt sluggish all the time. My face looked like it belonged to someone else. My mood was super low. For me, being healthy means eating well and exercising. I was not doing either of these things and subsequently in a perpetual cycle of feeling like crap. I did not like what I saw in the mirror.

So I changed it, through sheer hard work and determination. I learnt to cook and started properly utilising the gym membership I’d been paying for but not getting my money’s worth from. It was a slow burner, but it was an approach that has led to life long healthy habits being formed. I absolutely loved Kate’s piece about quitting slimming world, and learning to enjoy healthy food and exercise instead. Reminded me a lot of myself back in the early naughties. Essentially give up the yoyo dieting, go back to basics and you’ll see immediate results.

The long road to loving ourselves   

bemorewitwitwooIn order to love ourselves, and for it to last longer than one Instagram post, we have to be able to look in the mirror and like what we see. This goes way deeper than being a size whatever. It’s about owning our choices in life, and not allowing them to make us miserable. Believe me, even when we’re in the depths of despair, there are always choices to be made. The consequences will either enhance our wellbeing or destroy it further. It’s all very well and good having a “fuck it, I’m eating the cake” attitude. Providing of course that eating the cake doesn’t make you feel like shit afterwards.

My issues aren’t with food, they’re with booze. Last October I gave up drinking, and lasted three moths. When I come off the wagon as it were, I didn’t beat myself into the ground. I’d come to the stone cold sober conclusion that I was searching for happiness in all the wrong places. I thought my drinking was the root cause of so many of my problems in life, but giving up the booze did not help me solve them. Regular yoga, diffusing essential oils and eating clean does much more for my wellbeing than not drinking.

Again, this isn’t to say others don’t feel immense benefits from being sober. Abstinence is the only way for many. Short term abstinence has been vital for me several times now over the last decade. Moderation has always been my downfall, but I’m getting better at it and am determined to nail it over the next few years.

How to adopt a positive body image  

bemorewitwitwooThe advice to eat wholesome natural food, not drink too much and regularly exercise is beyond basic. It’s not sexy, and well, it doesn’t sell diet books does it? It bloody works though, and I defy anyone to tell me they don’t feel better within themselves after making changes in this direction.

I’ve said so many times that top of my list as a mum is giving my kids a childhood they don’t have to recover from. It starts with ensuring I’m making good decisions and owning the consequences, come what may. Not giving them even more things to agonise over than they’re already going to have during the usual process of morphing from child to adult.

My body isn’t perfect, not by a long stretch. I’ve joked before about liposuction for my thighs and butt. Hubby used to say he’d buy me some new boobs for my fortieth birthday (he isn’t going to, don’t worry). I’ve cried over not fitting into previously loved clothes. However, regardless of how I feel about my body, I would never ever say any of it in front of my kids. The easiest way to being body confident is by growing up around body confident adults. When children see their grown ups being happy with the way they look, they’ll have no hang ups over the way they do. I’ve seen it in many of my friends, and although there will always be a few exceptions to the rule, it’s definitely the stance I’ll continue to take.

I’ve ummed and ahhed over hitting publish on this, for fear of backlash or my words being misconstrued. If this week has taught me nothing, it’s that life is too damn short to worry over things that might not even happen.

#BeMoreWitWitWoo

Eleanor OliphantI gobbled up the first ten chapters of my latest read, the bestselling sensation Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It truly is a marvellous book in many ways, exploring society on a level that fiction rarely does. Debut author Gail Honeyman should be incredibly proud of herself for this stunning piece of writing.

It’s no exaggeration to say I struggled through the next twenty chapters. Not because the story was rubbish all of a sudden, far from it. I just couldn’t (and still can’t!) get my head around how anyone would find it funny. The word is used in four of the six quotes on the covers, and most people I know who have personally recommended the book have also said how “hilarious” it is.

So I did the only sensible thing I could think of, and stayed up well past bedtime last night to polish off the last ten chapters. Here are my thoughts, I will do my best not to spoil it for those who’ve not read it.

Eleanor Oliphant is absolutely not fine!

Eleanor Oliphant is thirty years old and has had the same low paying job in an SME since graduating university. She is very socially awkward, and often misreads (or simply doesn’t understand) what is going on around her. She lives alone, and as a rule does not speak to another human between getting home from work on Friday to returning on Monday. She is incredibly intelligent and well read, and does not wallow in self-pity. She eats the same food every day, and drinks two bottles of vodka per week.

Fairly early on we start uncovering Eleanor’s horrendous childhood, and how she partially grew up in care. The full horrors are thankfully never graphically described, and credit to Gail Honeyman, because I for one can’t stomach graphic details. You have to read the entire book to discover Eleanor’s full back story, but the snippets we are given throughout give us enough information to go on. It’s clear that Eleanor is deeply troubled, not to mention phenomenally lonely, and drinks vodka to numb her pain.

Shortly after the story begins, Eleanor strikes up an unlikely friendship, her first proper friend. Someone who isn’t going to screw her over and has her back. Their relationship is genuine and heartwarming, and proves that kindness can be found everywhere when we open our eyes to it.

Is Eleanor Oliphant a female Adrian Mole? 

Eleanor OliphantIn many ways I liken Eleanor to a female Adrian Mole, who I hero worshipped when I was a kid. He provided the backdrop to my own less than perfect childhood, and I absolutely loved all of the late Sue Townsend’s books. Part of me wants to read them again, because I’m almost convinced I will feel the same way about Adrian as I now do about Eleanor.

I see a lot of my daughter Polly’s struggles in Eleanor and am convinced she is on the spectrum. You’ll only get as far as “Is Eleanor Ol….” before Google assumes you want to know if she is autistic. I fear that many of those who are finding Eleanor funny are actually laughing at her, not with her. Perhaps this is just me being overly sensitive due to my own circumstances?

Either way, it’s the reason I struggled through half the book. Eleanor’s awkwardness is cringe worthy at points. She misinterprets many situations, and takes things literally, just like Polly does. Unlike my girl, Eleanor has no-one to bounce her ideas off, and help decode this confusing world.

Eleanor drowns her sorrows in the classic way, and drinks down her tricky feelings. I’ve known so many people over the years who will discuss the minutiae of nothing, yet are completely incapable of processing even slightly uncomfortable emotions. This is a serious problem that rarely gets discussed.

Are mental health problems inescapable when you suffered a traumatic childhood?  

I’ve never encountered a single person who had a traumatic childhood and did not encounter ill mental health at some point as an adult. Anxiety and depression are rife among my own friends, even those who have had extensive therapy and great careers. I honestly don’t know what I’d have done throughout my lowest lows had it not been for my friends. I still have moments of feeling incredibly lonely, and I am blessed with hundreds of friends all over the world. I cannot imagine a life without friendships.

It’s a heartbreaking prospect to think children who go through such trauma, then slip through the cracks in a largely uncaring society. They get no support as adults, and with government cuts getting more brutal each year, things will only get worse as time goes on. The sheer volume of vulnerable young adults who end up being groomed, or enter into violent relationships is absolutely shocking.

Does Eleanor get a happy ending?  

You’ll have to read the book yourself to discover the answer. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if you do! Tweet me @mummytries 

 

If, like me, you are incapable of not breaking your phone, then you need to read on my friends. I have broken no less than three phones in the last year. THREE! My inability to have a piece of tech for longer than a week without an issue is becoming the unfunniest running joke in my house. Of course my husband thinks it’s hilarious. After I dropped the second phone in four months down the loo recently, I started thinking about little rules I could create for myself to stop this from ever happening again.

breaking your phoneI am far from being alone when it comes to phone breaking 

I had genuinely started thinking I was cursed and or on a par with most reality TV “stars” in the stooopid department. Turns out many of the parents I know have broken their phones in weird and wonderful ways. So, I thought I’d bring you a little list of all the things you should not do if you want your phone to last the duration of it’s contract. I’ve had a bit of help from my blogging friends, and have linked back to their blogs with their comments. Do check them out if you’re in need of reading material, they’re a marvellous bunch.

Here are my top three rules, which I’ll be living by, come hook or by crook!

  1. Never take it to the toilet.
  2. Never keep it in your back pocket.
  3. Never let your kids look at it, let alone touch the thing!

Stop breaking your phone with these top tips (in no particular order)

breaking your phoneAmy from Amy Treasure Blog sagely warns “do not keep it in your bra.”

Donna from What the Redhead Saidadvises “not to put it in the front pocket of your dungarees if you might need the toilet. I have dropped mine so many times like that as I always forget it’s there.” (feeling your pain, Donna!)

Both Emma of Free From Farmhouse and Midge of The Peachick’s Bakery both say “don’t put it on the roof of the car while getting the kids in and then drive off.”

Victoria of VeViVo’s says “don’t put it on the edge of the bath, unless you are willing for it to go for a swim.”

Kate, the Gluten Free Alchemist says “never get it out whilst carrying two bags and walking down stairs, unless you want a smashed screen and destroyed touch passcode connector! Also, in the eventuality of submerging in water, ALWAYS put it in a tub of rice and ALWAYS remember not to cook the rice afterwards!” (Yikkkkes!)

Mel from Le Coin de Mel says “don’t put it in the front pocket of your hoodie.”

Chrissie from The Muddled Manuscript says “never try to protect it by putting it in your hoody pocket then leaning over to bathe your children…”

Emma from Writing Life As It Is simply advises to “never leave it behind!”

Mandi from Big Family Organised Chaos warns to “never stand up with headphones attached to your phone and then stare as the phone smashes to the floor!”

Lisa from That British Betty says “don’t use it as a music device when cooking – it *may* end up in the boiling pan of rice!”

Sara from Mum Turned Mom specifies “don’t jump up and down on the ‘shaky bridge’ in Cork!”

Hayley from Miss Many Pennies says “never put it loose in your bag and forget to zip it up.”

Becky from Mommy and Rory says “never leave it where you friends Labrador can reach it!”

breaking your phoneNatalie from Plutonium Sox says to “buy a case before the phone arrives. I had three days without a case between getting the phone and getting the case. Smashed the back of it on day two!”

Jodie at Maidenhead Mum says “never leave it on the bed as you’re changing the duvet cover as it might get mixed up with it and end up in the washing machine. On a 1600 spin cycle. And you might not realise for 40 mins! R.I.P iPhone!”

Leigh from Dad Geek has some great advice. “Modern batteries operate best if you DON’T let them run out completely. Keep your phone charged at 15% upwards and it helps to increase how long you’ll get the most battery life out of your phone.”

Rebecca from My Girls and Me says “buy glass screen protectors, because they’ll break before your actual screen does!”

Nita from Mummy Wishes warns “to not use a selfie stick! It either pops out eventually or gets knocked by someone/something.”

Emma-Louise from Even Angels Fall warns to “never put it in your mouth whilst using a public toilet, for safe keeping, only for it to then fall in… on second thoughts, just don’t put it in your mouth full stop.”

Kelly-Anne from Mimi Rose and Me says to “never throw your phone at a wall because you think you have a spider on you, it will most likely be a loose strand of your own hair!”

If you have anything to add, tweet me @mummytries 

Wishing you the best of luck with getting to the end of your contract, without breaking your phone!  

Need a silly easy recipe for refined sugar free chutney? Look no further…

refined sugar free chutney
When I returned from a year of living in Cambodia in 2006, it was with a very heavy heart. I was down and out and ridiculously vulnerable. I worked briefly for my friend’s (now ex) husband which did not end well. Then I worked for a year for a man who was essentially the male version of Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.

Yes. He was that bad!

He’d come into the office the morning after watching The Apprentice thinking he was Lord Al. Firing people left, right and centre over the silliest things. I was one of his right hand wo/men, and stood on the correct side of him. Until I dared to disagree with him that is, then he turned on me quicker than milk left in the blazing sun. We were on a jolly up in a foreign country. It was the catalyst for my second mental breakdown, hitting rock bottom and turning my life around. I guess in a way I have a lot to thank him for.

refined sugar free chutneyYou might be wondering what all this has to do with refined sugar free chutney?

After I was eventually freed from that particular toxic environment I couldn’t face getting another job. So I set up my own business making dips and chutneys from my little kitchen in Streatham. Having recently gone refined sugar free (this was 2007) I wanted to create food that would appeal to people eating like I was. Alas, it was way ahead of it’s time, and ended up bankrupting me. You live and you learn though, and I genuinely would not change a thing.

Life lessons like that sometimes take, well, a lifetime to gather. In the year that followed they were plentiful and shaped the way I now think. Especially when it comes to money. This might sound silly to some, but if you aren’t taught financial well being at a young age it can have devastating consequences. More on that topic another time.

Just like all my other recipes, this is also low in natural sugar. Regular readers will know by now that nothing winds me up more than someone calling a recipe sugar free only for it to be loaded to the hilt with sugars and sweeteners. Most food in it’s natural state (fruit, veg, grains, nuts…) contains some form of sugar. If you aren’t adding any to your recipe you wouldn’t call it sugar free you would say no added sugar.

I’m sharing a small batch recipe here, but it lends itself marvellously to being made in a bigger batch. I once turned 200kg of onions into 500 jars for a trade show. My friend said the house smelled like pickled onion monster munch and refused to sleep on our couch in case the scent never came out of his clothes. Oh how different things are now, eleven years later with three children to keep me busy.

refined sugar free chutney

What you’ll need to make a small jar of my refined sugar free chutney

A clean 350g jar, you can sterilise it if you wish
Small lidded saucepan
Spatula
Sharp knife
Chopping board

refined sugar free chutney500g onions
1/2cup or 120ml vinegar
(I’ve used raw organic cider vinegar here but balsamic also works wonderfully)
1/4cup or 35g sugar
(I’ve used organic coconut blossom, but muscovado works great too. You could use honey, but I feel that cooking honey for this long would be a waste of all the gorgeous nutrients. You could also use maple syrup or coconut nectar)

Method

– chop your onions any way you wish and place them in your saucepan

– sprinkle over the sugar

– pour over the vinegar

– place on the highest heat for about 30 seconds, then turn down low and put the lid on your saucepan

– simmer for one hour, checking in every 10 minutes or so and stirring to ensure it’s not getting burnt

– add a small drop of water to loosen the chutney if it does start getting a little bit stuck to the pan

– allow to cool and decant into your glass jar, keep in the fridge

– wow all your friends at barbecues with your home made condiments

– this is a perfect accompaniment for burgers. Check out my trio of easy home made burgers