A bit about me….

My name is Faith. I’ve just turned 30 (gulp) and I live in Hillsborough with my husband Peter and our three year old son, Alfred. We decided to take the leap and go for baby number two – first month and Lucy happened. Our little princess is due on the 24th April 2018 and we cannot wait (and are slightly terrified) to complete our family. 

I was born and raised in Sheffield and I couldn’t be happier to still be here. I’ve tried moving to London and Birmingham but the rolling hills of the steel city have always called me home. I love everything about Sheffield. The people, the pride, the community spirit, the easy distance to the beautiful peaks and, most importantly, the Henderson’s Relish.

I started working in hospitality part time when I was 15. I started in agency work and since then have done pretty much everything. I worked in a sports club and became a bar supervisor at 17.  I worked for a catering agency in London during my brief hiatus down South and whilst there worked at huge, out-of-this-world events (damn you silver service, I will never stop cringing at dropping gravy all down a woman’s white designer dress). I’ve working in bars and nightclubs. I worked as a cupcake shop supervisor. I was assistant manager at a restaurant on Ecclesall Road. I was a manager for a restaurant in Dore. I worked for a local brewery at two of their sites, helping to develop them and I am now working for a rather lovely tea company for whom I have just helped to open their first restaurant and bar (yes there will be a very biased blog post about them at some point). 

One thing I have always tried to do is work for independent businesses. Sheffield is absolutely bursting at the seams with them and I try to eat and drink in them as much as possible. I will mainly (although not exclusively) be reviewing independents on here.

Well that’s a bit about me. I’m really looking forward to having something to focus on during my maternity leave (down time is not something I am great at) and of course I mainly want the excuse to eat out all the time and do some cheeky day drinking (which let’s face it is one of the best parts of maternity leave).

Follow me on:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/foodiewithsmalls/

Instagram @foodiewithsmalls

 

First review to follow soon will be… Cubanas Tapas Bar in Leopold Square.

 

Clam & Cork

So, it’s been a while since I have posted. In my defence I did give birth to a new small 4 weeks ago. Lucy has slotted right in to our family and we are so happy to have her. So far I’m finding it a lot less stressful the second time around and after having a toddler I wonder why I found having a baby so hard. I am definitely intending on making the most of the immobile baby stage this time around, especially on the days my overly mobile son is at nursery.

On Friday my friend and I decided to go on a ladies lunch to the much anticipated Clam & Cork in Doncaster. If you haven’t heard of the Clam & Cork, it’s the new venture from Michael Price who also runs The Gourmet Dining Room from his home. This supper club is so popular that as soon as the dates are released you have to call up for a table and they are issued on a first-come-first-served basis. When people that haven’t been hear that I spend all morning on the phone, trying hundreds of times to get through for a table at someone’s house in Doncaster, they look at me like I have lost my mind, I can assure you that if you went you would feel differently. I have only been fortunate enough to get a table once but as you can see from the pictures below it is an incredible experience. Anyway I digress.

My friend and I hopped on Lucy’s first ever train to Doncaster and walked to the fish market where the Clam & Cork is located. The weather was warm but not too sunny (a perk when you have a small baby and no shade) so we decided to sit on one of the outside tables. There is also seating around the fish bar, where you can sit and watch your food being freshly prepared using the fish picked straight from the market.

We sat down and the waitress came straight over to ask us for drinks. We ordered our wine and sat back to relax and enjoy it. It’s a very different kind of environment to dine in as it’s in the middle of a very busy market (it was half term when we visited so possibly more busy than normal). It was really enjoyable though, fantastic for people watching and the smell of the fish coming from the market as well as the warmth and bustle made it feel almost like we were on holiday. I believe the outside tables were a pretty new edition and I definitely think they need some signs on the table saying they are for Clam & Cork customers only. There was a slightly bizarre mixture of people drinking champagne, prosecco and wine while eating their beautifully put together food and other customers chowing down on fish and chips from the local chippy, salads from the sandwich shop and drinking slushes from a nearby stand. The poor waitress had to keep coming out and asking people to make way for paying customers.

I believe the menu changes quite often based on what is available. When we attended there was a menu chalked up on a board outside and our attention was also drawn to a board inside with a couple of daily specials.

After some deliberation I chose the Prawns Pil Pil to start and the Monk Fish Burger for main. Due to the nature of the kitchen when you order the food is just brought out as and when it’s ready. Because of this I would suggest ordering your small plates first and then ordering mains once they arrive. Either way all the food came out really quickly to say we could see it all being prepared from scratch right behind us. My prawns were plump, fresh and really full of flavour. My monk fish burger was honestly out of this world. It was served in a really fresh brioche bun with two different homemade sauces and coleslaw in the bread as well as the delicious monk wish in a kind of southern fried batter.

This is the perfect place to come with a pram as there is plenty of space and you can’t get in anyone’s way. Because of the nature of the venue there are no facilities so if you have a weaned child expect them to be sat on your knee. I would also recommend changing them before lunch. The tables are very public so if you are a nervous breast feeder you might not like feeding here. Luckily I am not as Lucy decided she wanted to feed for the entire time we were there! This venue would be great for quite well behaved children who aren’t likely to run off. There are simple dishes on the menu, such as fish and chips which kids would enjoy. I also think inquisitive children who are interested in cooking and food in general (which Alfred is, thanks Shane the Chef) they would really enjoy watching the chefs choosing the fish and preparing the food.

The bill came to £80 in total which for 2 bottles of wine and two courses of very high quality food each for 3 people seemed very very reasonable (don’t worry I didn’t partake in both bottles of wine (unfortunately)). When we had paid the bill and were leaving I really liked that every member of staff said goodbye and thank you, from the owner, to the chefs and waitress.

I would highly recommend popping over to Doncaster and giving this place a go for lunch. It’s only just starting out but I believe they have plans to expand and include more seating in the near future. While you are there (especially if you are child free) if you fancy visiting a few other venues for a cheeky day drink my lovely friend, from Doncaster, has recommended you visit the following bars; Relish, The Rum Rooms and The Market Place Ale House.

I am hoping to see really great things from this business in the future, I think it has the potential to be huge!

KerbEdge Sheffield – One to watch

I haven’t really seen anything much about Kerbedge on social, however a friend of ours went and, come on, it’s a burger restaurant so when Alfred said he wanted burgers for tea this week we decided to give it a go. Kerbedge is in West One in town on the site which used to house Anchorage (very briefly Hope and Anchor also). Now I must say I used to LOVE Anchorage (when it first opened and before it got absolutely terrible) so I was looking forward to seeing what they had done with the place.

When we arrived about 5.30pm the place was completely empty. We got a really warm welcome from the two men working and told they didn’t have any bookings till later and to sit where we wanted. Alfred changed his mind twice about which table we wanted but they didn’t seem to mind. While we were in there a steady trickle of people came in. The downstairs doesn’t look overly different with just a few cosmetic changes. It didn’t look like they were using the upstairs yet but I asked if I could have a sneaky look and really liked it – it’s filled with lots of big comfy booths and lots of cool touches.

The menus were out on the tables and I was excited to order. I asked about a children’s menu for Alfred and they said they didn’t have one at present but that he could choose anything off the menu and they would do a child’s size version of it. I was actually really pleased about this. I love it when the children get to choose from all the same dishes as the adults and the restaurant doesn’t just assume kids all like very bland food. However when the bill came at the end we got changed the same for Alfred’s burger as my father-in-law who chose the same thing so I just think this perhaps hasn’t been fully thought through yet.

I ordered the Kerbedge Burger which is a beef burger with cheese, bacon, smoky mayo, red onion relish and gherkins served in a brioche bun. It. Was. Amazing. Like genuinely delicious, I enjoyed every single bite. The bun was moist and fresh and the burger was slightly rare and juicy. It was a delight. My husband had the same burger. My father-in-law chose the old American which was similar to the Kerbedge sans bacon and with American mustard and my mother-in-law chose the ‘firebird’ chicken burger (which was absolutely massive). Between us we also shared two types of the topped chips, the ‘Dirk’ and the ‘Beery’, halloumi fries and the street slaw. I was really disappointed that they had run out of the frickles (fried pickles) because I was really looking forward to trying those but maybe next time. One of my absolute favourite things about the side dishes is the way they cut the chips. They are cut like little boats with a dip in the middle, I have never seen chips cut like this but they were perfect for dipping and to collect the cheese sauce. They were really delicious, I thought it was nice seeing fatter chips with burgers too rather than fries as I always think they go cold too quickly. The street slaw was such a great addition to our table. It was made using pickled veggies rather than being in a creamy traditional coleslaw sauce. The halloumi fries were chunky with a really good spicy sauce drizzled on top. My favourite topped chips were the ‘Dirk’ which were topped with ham hock, cheese sauce and another sweeter sauce which is made using Jack Daniels and Pepsi. They were epic. When we were paying at the end I noticed they had a Sheffield special chips on with cheese, Hendos and gravy. I wished I had noticed it on the way in because let’s face it I would definitely have given them a try. We ordered the larger version on the ‘Beery’ chips and it was absolutely massive. Next time I think I would go for the smaller one, I felt bad we wasted so much. Over all for 5 burgers 3 small sides, 1 massive side, 4.5 pints of (very nice) lager and a white wine spritzer the bill came to around £75 which I thought was pretty reasonable.

Facilities-wise for families it’s currently pretty limited. They don’t yet have highchairs; there is no baby change in the gents or ladies (I didn’t see the disabled so there might be one in there). I did question our server on this and he said they still have quite a few finishing touches to make before their official launch in two weeks. Let’s hope that highchairs are one of them. To be fair I’ll change the baby on the floor if the burgers stay that tasty. Note to Kerbedge if you are planning on putting baby changes in the toilets please don’t only put them in the ladies. That is my all-time biggest changing-related pet hate.

I was surprised when our food arrived with plastic cutlery and was about to whisper to my husband about how tacky it was when our server explained quite proudly that every single item our food had been served with was biodegradable. The cutlery is made from corn starch. I thought it was great that the staff had obviously been trained to mention this to everyone and that they seemed really keen to do so.

When we were leaving the two guys working seemed a little stressed as they were having problems taking payments using their card machine and till system. It took quite a while to sort so ourselves and another table were waiting to pay. Having recently opened my own place using the same system and experiencing similar difficulties I was very sympathetic. I did think the two staff members handled it really well and continued to be friendly, chatty and jokey. They also gave us a really genuine farewell which always makes me leave somewhere with a pleasant feeling. I also think it’s worth mentioning that Alfred was in quite a bad mood having woken up at 5.30am, decided he was far too tired to walk so had basically been dragged down the street while demanding a taxi, taken his shoes off as soon as we got inside and tried some quite elaborate ways to escape the table (we had wedged him in a booth) including climbing over my head. However the staff both carried on smiling at him and didn’t give us any irritated looks or make any attempts to rush us out. They also didn’t give me any judgey looks when I ordered a white wine spritzer which always makes me happy. Overall I was very impressed by the service.

I asked our server a bit more information about the company. They started in Hull in 2014 as a mobile food van with the aim to produce the best burgers possible. They then moved into a kitchen in Hull and have just opened the site in Sheffield with another one to follow in Darlington. I’m pleased I got to try this soft opening version on Kerbedge Sheffield and am really looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the future. I’m especially happy that when I return I will be able to try a couple of their cocktails as the menu looked really interesting, I’ll definitely be sampling the ‘Kraken me up’ and ‘Kerbedge cooler’ when I am less filled with child. I’m also looking forward to going back to try breakfast, although I believe at the moment they are only opening from 5pm. I’m expecting good things from this new venue and hope that it will be a good place to take my family once it has fully launched. I’ll definitely be revisiting so will update my information once I see what changes they make and what is on the new menu launching in a couple of weeks.

Medieval Mayhem Soft Play

This week I have decided to blog about Medieval Mayhem which is Sheffield’s newest soft play. It’s not a restaurant/cafe/pub etc but there is food so I think it counts.

I have been to a lot, and I mean A LOT, of soft plays over the last 3 1/2 Years and this one is by far the best I have ever attended. Obviously it helps that it’s brand new – everything is so sparklingly clean and fresh looking. Often soft plays can be a little dusty/snotty/grubby/ripped and leaking foam but I do think at the amount they often charge and usually with a bare minimum of staff on some of them could afford to make a few improvements and have a deep clean.

We arrived at Medieval Mayhem not long after it had opened on a Saturday morning. and sat down with plenty of free tables to choose from. There were lots of very friendly looking staff milling about who all smiled at us. There are two sections to the soft play a smaller area which is recommended for up to 4 year-olds and has a ball pool with an air blower that Alfred absolutely loved and a little light sensory area as well as lots of climbing. The larger area has several storeys to climb and lots of lovely touches including sensory areas, lights and mirrors, thrones to sit on and bridges to cross. There are three slides in the main area, a usual bumpy one, a quite steep drop slide and then a proper terrifying-looking drop slide which I told Alfred he was too young for. He loved the other two and I think he would happily have thrown himself down the third but I’m not sure my heart could have taken it (I believe this slide is only opened at certain times and is manned). The music that was playing was ‘Little Baby Bum’ (which I’m sure every parent that resorts to YouTube will be aware of) and reminded me of 5am starts. It’s perfect for kids though and made for a nice atmosphere with lots of children (and parents) singing along to certain songs. Obviously as it is an establishment aimed at families there are plenty of highchairs and baby-changing facilities. They also have a supply of items such as wipes, nappies and spare clothes which they are happy to supply to people who have forgotten items which I think is a lovely touch.

The thing that impressed me most was the food. There is loads to choose from on the menu and it’s helpfully split into ages. Alfred has a very healthy appetite so we toyed over whether to get the toddler size portion or the one for bigger children. We went for the toddler size in the end which is £3 and when it came it was absolutely huge for the price! Alfred had the homemade pizza with hand-cut chips and beans. It was absolutely delicious (he let me have a bite), the pizza was obviously freshly made with nice sharp cheddar (Alfred can’t stand the tasteless mild cheddar stuff) and ham. The chips were really yummy too.  I usually avoid eating at soft plays because, well to be honest the food is usually pretty bland, bought in and deep fried. I will definitely be eating lunch next time I go here though and am really looking forward to it (I liked the look of the burgers). I did order myself a hot chocolate with cream (which was delicious and actually hot, very rare when hot chocolate has cream), my husband had a couple of coffees which he said were good and a homemade scone with jam and butter. These were only priced at £1 so I was expecting them to be a little substandard, however it was absolutely massive, really delicious and obviously freshly made – very impressed.   On the side next to the order station was a large bowl of fruit and I overheard a lady order a banana. The team member said the fruit is free which I think is absolutely wonderful and such a great move to encourage kids to eat fruit and give them extra energy for playing.

I saw online that they do a ‘Play and Pasta’ night between 3pm and 6.30pm on a Tuesday which costs only £4.50 for 1-3 year olds or £6.95 for 4+ which I think is a fab after-school idea and will definitely be taking Alfred to it in the future. I’ll let you all know what it’s like when I have been.

The downside for me was that it was absolutely freezing. Although to be fair it was snowing outside and is a huge building so I imagine hard to heat (or perhaps they are trying to add to the authentic medieval theme?) Also if I wasn’t hugely pregnant I would probably be running around with Alfred so would appreciate the lack of heat. I’ll just make sure to bring an extra layer next time. By the time we left around 12pm it was absolutely rammed and our table was snapped up right away. We will definitely be going early again next time to get a table.

I have seen a few people complaining online about having to pay £1 per adult and I wasn’t sure how I felt about this either but after attending I am more than happy to pay it when it’s obviously being spent on food cleaners, lots of staff and trained chefs. We are looking forward to visiting again.

After thought: the maddest soft play experience I have ever had happened when we were visiting a friend in Nottingham. A little girl was stood on the top floor of the soft play and proceeded to do a massive wee all over a boy standing two storeys below her. The boy stood in shock looking absolutely stricken and the little girl burst into tears. The mother of the boy screamed and started shouting ‘she’s pissed all over him, she’s pissed on my boy’ at the top of her lungs while parents desperately grabbed their children before they ran into the wee and the older ones giggled and said ‘that lady is doing a swear’. The mother of the girl was reading a book and didn’t realise what was happening until someone tapped her on the shoulder and said ‘is that your daughter?’. The woman was obviously absolutely mortified, grabbed her daughter and ran to the bathrooms without saying a word to anyone, which only aggravated the wee-covered child’s Mum even further. The soft play had to be closed while the staff cleaned everything up (much to all the children’s disgust) and the wet boy left. The mother of the girl then came back out and let her daughter go back in with clean clothes on and went back to her book. The whole thing was incredibly surreal and I must admit a little funny (although I wouldn’t have been laughing if Alfred was covered in wee I’m sure). It was a long time before I was brave enough to send Alfred into a soft play without a nappy on after that!

Birdhouse Tea Bar and Kitchen – Sidney Street

If you want to know the absolute best place to eat in Sheffield; the place with the best food, the best staff, the best atmosphere and most importantly the best manager of all time then you need look no further than Birdhouse Tea Bar and Kitchen on Sidney Street in the City Centre. Okay, so this might be a slightly biased post. In case you haven’t worked it out, I am the manager at Birdhouse and have been since we opened almost two months ago now. I decided to do a post based on my venue so I can show how we put into practice all the things I find important as a parent who likes to eat out with her family.

I think anyone working in a restaurant/café/pub should be prepared to be hospitable to all their customers no matter their age. It’s just as important for the kids to have a good experience as it is the parents. At Birdhouse one of the main things we looked for when hiring staff was friendliness and a pleasant attitude. I like knowing that whenever parents come in, all the staff at Birdhouse will be comfortable interacting with the children, talking to them and making sure they are properly looked after. Obviously Birdhouse is breast-feeding friendly (why anywhere wouldn’t be is beyond me). I personally found it really annoying when I was ignored while breast-feeding.  I know a lot of people probably think they are being respectful but actually sometimes a baby can be feeding for quite a long time and mum can be sat getting thirsty or hungry. Any woman feeding in Birdhouse can expect to be talked to normally and served the same as any other customer. We have a lot of very broody staff members working for us so expect your tiny babies to be cooed over.

We all know that sometimes children (especially toddlers) can be a bit noisy, throw things or want to run around. This is what kids are like (unless you are super lucky and have a constantly well-behaved wonderchild) and if establishments market themselves as family friendly then they should expect this kind of behaviour (within reason, staff aren’t babysitters). All the staff at Birdhouse know the best way to deal with toddlers is to either make a joke of it, ignore it or try to distract the child by offering colouring pencils and bird pictures to colour in or a little bowl of matcha popcorn for them to snack on. The very worst response is to whisper about it and make the parents feel even more self-conscious – this would guarantee no repeat visit for me.

When it comes to a kid’s food menu variety can quite often be lacking. Although I imagine most children would like to eat something fried with chips every time they go out, not all parents are happy to regularly feed them that and, at the end of the day, variety is the spice of life. When we were coming up with the menu for Birdhouse we thought about what my son would like as well as speaking to other friends who are parents and asking them their thoughts. I’m really proud of our Little Bird menu which gives children the option of having smaller versions of the dishes their parents are eating and a few things specially created for them. My personal favourites are the Little Bird Full English, Little Bird Sheffield Rarebit, Little Bird pancakes and the Little Bird picnic which consists of lots of things to nibble on (like fruit, bread, cheese and vegetables with hummus) and is perfect for babies who are weaning or toddlers who like to graze. Some kids are really fussy and only like very specific things so at Birdhouse the chefs (two of whom are fathers themselves) are happy to adapt dishes to suit. A children’s option is also available on the pre-booked afternoon tea so slightly older children can join the adults and feel really grown up. Drinks options include Feel Good juice cartons, pink iced tea (don’t worry its caffeine-free) and babychino or hot chocolate (which we always serve at a lukewarm temperature).

With regards to facilities for children; Birdhouse has 8 highchairs (we started with 4 but quickly realised we needed more). The restaurant is laid out on two floors – on the lower level we made sure to leave plenty of space for prams to either be parked up (so the families can make their way upstairs) or be next to the downstairs tables if the little ones are sleeping. The highchairs are available on both floors. The downstairs toilet has baby-changing facilities which we placed just above the radiator so small ones don’t get cold little bums when being changed (I always remember little Alfred crying when I took his clothes off because it’s so often absolutely freezing in changing places. There is the option of plastic kid’s cutlery so that children don’t feel left out and it doesn’t matter if they get flung across the room, teaspoons are also offered to help with beans. Colouring pencils/crayons and bird pictures are available for distraction. The floors are cement or wood so messes can be easily swept up without food being smushed into carpets. When the weather warms up a little there will be outside tables and chairs in the court yard which will make the perfect place for parents to sit while their children have a little play in the sunshine. Because the courtyard is quite enclosed and away from any roads it’s the perfect place to feel safe.

Upcoming events to look out for are Kids pudding club, which will be taking place during the 6 week summer holiday and is guaranteed to go down a smash with little ones of all ages. I will also soon be launching a weekly pop up ‘Biscuit Corner’ play area for babies and small toddlers with their mums or dads. This will take place on a Tuesday morning and there will be cushions and blankets on the floor to lie little ones down, toys to play with and books to read. I can’t wait to meet everyone who will attend. Keep an eye on the Birdhouse Tea Bar and Kitchen Facebook page for these and other events. We have several baby showers and first birthday parties booked in in the not too distant future too and cannot wait to spoil all the mums to be and little ones on their special occasions. We will always go the extra mile to make sure people are made to feel extra special.

When I applied for the job at Birdhouse I was 14 weeks pregnant and I was very open and honest with Rebecca, Julie and Phil who owned the company. I think the fact that they chose to employ me based on my experience, personality and the ability to do the job rather than simply seeing me as a mum of nearly two shows just how much they value the importance of family. They realised that being a mum doesn’t make you any less ambitious and that your gender doesn’t mean you are the more nurturing parent. I know a lot of households where the mother is the main breadwinner and the father does more of the childcare. I think it’s fantastic that Dads now have the option to take part of the maternity leave. I found a year much too long last time and am excited to be going halves with Peter this time around. I love how Rebecca is so kind, when it was snowing on World Book Day this year and a lot of schools were closed I texted Rebecca in the morning saying how sad I felt for all the parents that had worked hard on the costumes and all the kids who wouldn’t get to dress up. Rebecca’s immediate response what ‘what can we do to cheer them up? Let’s offer any children who come in dressed up a free brownie’, I mean, know nice is that?

Although it’s true that I am biased, Birdhouse is exactly the sort of place I love to go with Alfred as well as a place I know I will go a lot with Lucy once she is born. I will feel comfortable feeding there, I know the staff will help me by opening the door and helping to put my pram somewhere out of the way, I know I can expect nice clean changing facilities. The food is absolutely delicious and beautifully presented, there is always plenty of cake on offer to give a much needed sugar boost. The drinks options range from much needed caffeine-filled Foundry coffee (which I know has been roasted in Sheffield especially for the venue with a lot of care), Birdhouse tea (which comes in a pot bug enough for 3 cups and has knowledgeable staff members who can recommend one to fit my mood), yummy iced teas and other delicious soft drinks (including rhubarb and apple Franklin’s which is my absolute favourite) and most importantly booze (which no one will judge me for having in the afternoon if I’ve had a hard day). I would recommend an ice cold glass of prosecco, or the rhubarb and custard gin cocktail which is delicious. For all you pregnant ladies out there we also offer non-alcoholic champagne and it actually tastes nice (it’s the only one I have found that does). I hope you all enjoy Birdhouse Tea Bar and Kitchen’s as much as I do, if you visit and want to give me any feedback I will be more than happy to accept it.

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Maternity Photoshoot – Longshawe Estate

When I was pregnant with Alfred I was astonished how quickly I put on weight. I had always worked in the hospitality industry, on my feet for 50 hours a week and walking to and from work for most of my life so always kept quite trim. Not long before I got pregnant I had started working in an office. I was picked up in the morning, driven to work, sat at a desk all day and got driven home. Having always loved food I took my pregnancy as a chance to start eating with wild abandon. Cake is everywhere in offices and Costco pizza and sweets became a daily treat.

The further along I got the bigger I got and the less like myself I felt. Although pregnancy is amazing and made me feel impressed by my body and what it could do,  it also made me feel more out of control than ever before. Being heavily pregnant at the height of summer I swelled terribly in the heat and reached the point where I only had one tent like dress that fit with a pair of flip flops. I waddled around feeling horrendous. I have basically no pictures of myself in the later stages of my first pregnancy and none I would be happy to look at.

Reflecting on this in the following years made me feel really sad. That I couldn’t have been prouder of my body and for Alfred that I didn’t have a better record of the process for him, to get out and show off. We did do a bump to baby shoot in a studio which was a groupon purchase. This consisted mainly of me and Pete feeling awkward while the photographer tried to persuade us to make heart shapes out of our hands and attempting to tie bows round my belly. Safe to say the pictures were not ones I wanted to print out and put on my wall.

This time around I was determined things would be different. To start with I am a restaurant manager again so spend a lot of time on my feet being busy. I also have a toddler which makes it a lot hard to be lazy. Don’t get me wrong,  I still manage to fit in as many naps as possible, happily let my husband wait on me hand and foot and avoid the second floor at work at all costs. I would be lying also if I said I had eaten healthily this time around but I have certainly had less time to eat quite as much and I am using lots of energy.

I think last time I didn’t realise quite how much I was getting out of my pregnancy. I knew I would get a cute little baby and that I would cuddle it and that it would be lovely and, of course, hard some times (people like to make sure you know how hard it’s going to be don’t they? And you know you are going to be tired right?).

This time, however, I know I am getting a person – a proper little individual who will have her own personality that I cannot possibly predict. She’ll make us laugh and astonish us with her imagination. She’ll be around forever, she’ll join our family and she will change it and alter the direction of our lives. Just like her brother did.

As I was going to be pregnant on my 30th birthday and couldn’t have the drunken party I had been planning I decided instead to have a maternity photoshoot as a special treat. Not one in a studio this time, but an outside one in the woods. I was pretty nervous about the whole thing but being determined to be proud of my body I began searching Pinterest for ideas and got the shoot booked in.

The person I had originally booked to do the shoot had to unfortunately cancel quite last minute through no fault of her own. Upon hearing this the lovely Liam Rimmington of In Still Motion photography (www.instillmotion.co) agreed to step in and give up  a very rare Saturday off to do the shoot.  Liam suggested going to Longshaw Estate near Padley Gorge, I haven’t really been there before but I can’t wait to go back (preferably in the summer). It’s so beautiful and has loads of great places for kids to play in tree caves and across little bridges on the brook. Just for information there is a café on the estate as well as The Fox House pub very close, which I would highly recommend (we went there for my first ever Mother’s Day and had a really great time).

When we arrived Alfred had fallen fast asleep in the car (very rare) so my husband, Pete said he would wait in there with him while we went off to get some pictures. On reflection I think this was probably better, I think I would have felt sillier if I had been in front of them. I had already had my hair and make up done by two of my lovely friends that morning so was feeling pretty glam (make up is usually something I only wear if I am going out for a special occasion or if I absolutely have to). I went into the outdoor toilets and changed into the world’s most beautiful maternity ball dress, which I had treated myself to for my husband’s works Christmas ball. I did get some very funny looks from other toilet users but most of them were very British and just avoided eye contact, one lady commented on how nice I looked which was lovely.

We walked to the first location chatting all the way with me trying not to get too muddy. Liam was really friendly and has a very calming presence it really made me feel at ease. He also walked really slowly for me despite being about 7 feet tall so I wasn’t gasping for breath by the time we arrived. Once we reached the right place I took off my coat and boots. I’m not going to lie it was freezing but I wanted to go for the mother earth look so I braved the elements and stood where I was told. If you had told me a few months ago I would be wandering around the woods in a ball gown and bare feet in February while 32 weeks pregnant I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I expected to feel really stupid but I didn’t. There were loads of people around because it was a beautiful sunny winter’s day and they all stared at me, but do you know, I didn’t care.  I smiled at them and some of them even waved, they probably all thought I was mental but it didn’t bother me at all. I knew it would be worth it.

Because we hadn’t had much notice for the shoot we hadn’t had a chance to discuss what I wanted but Liam completely got it. He told me exactly what to do with my hands and bump and where to look. He also constantly told me how nice the pictures were and how pretty I looked which really reassured me despite the fact I was sure I looked very awkward a lot of the time. After we had taken photos in three locations we walked back to the car with the intention of taking a few pictures with Alfred in them too. Unfortunately he had woken up from his nap in an incredibly bad mood and despite normally loving having his photo taken threw a bit of a wobbler about it. Despite this Liam still managed to get a couple of really cute pictures with him in really near the car. He even looks a little bit like he isn’t grumpy to the untrained eye.

I wanted to share this experience with you because it made me feel so special, pretty and confident. It gave me pride in my body and an excuse to get all dressed up. I think that the pictures speak for themselves, they are so beautifully framed and the light is caught so beautifully. I am genuinely happy with the way I look in them and most importantly I have them forever. I can’t wait to share them with Lucy when she gets older and show her how proud her mummy was to be pregnant with her. I think photos are one of lifes real treats, they can take you right back to that moment. They remind you of moments you might otherwise forget. Whether it’s a silly selfie pulling faces with your son or a piece of art created by a very talented photographer it is worth treasuring. A very wise photographer friend of mine once said people should be better at printing their pictures. They are taken for a reason and deserve to be looked at not just to sit on a memory card. That has always stuck with me, my house is covered in them (a lot of them hers) and they make me happy every day. I can’t wait to add these new ones to my collection.

Staindrop Lodge – Chapeltown

We first visited Staindrop Lodge because we were looking for a wedding venue. We wanted somewhere that we could have the ceremony and reception and, after visiting a number of places which were lovely but had very ugly carpets, (why do so many wedding venues in Sheffield have highly patterned colourful carpets? No one wants those on their pictures surely) we looked on the council website at the list of licensed venues. We saw Staindrop Lodge and, having never heard of it, had a quick look on the website and decided to visit.

When we drove into the car park our first impression was of a lovely building, bathed in sunshine (which always helps). We parked up and collected our tiny little sleeping Alfred in his car seat to go in. We walked into the bar area and I was impressed how sparklingly-clean everything was. I have literally never seen a speck of dust in that place. I would quite happily employ their cleaners any day.

I could gush all day about our wedding: the amazing service we received from the start of the process to the end, the food, the day, the hotel… but that would be quite a different blog so I will focus on the times we have eaten there as a family. (I will just very quickly say if you are looking for a night away from the kids the champagne stay-over is absolutely lovely – £150 for a night in the hotel with a bottle of champagne in your room, a three course evening meal and breakfast the next morning. I have seen pretty much all the rooms now too any they are really big and really gorgeous).

There are several areas you can eat in Staindrop – the bar area with a mix of high and low table options and a more casual, order-at-the-bar type vibe, the conservatory, which is nicest in the summer when the sun is streaming in through the many windows and the main restaurant which is on a split level. (We normally end up sitting in here because they have ceiling fans which apparently is the best thing ever as far as a toddler is concerned). There are also plenty of outdoor tables and benches which can be used in the summer.

The food menu is always changing. They print it out daily and use seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients. Some of the standout dishes I have had – roast dinners on a Sunday, spaghetti with salmon (this was properly amazing), moussaka, risotto with sea-bass and the meat pie. I would describe the food as pub classics but done really, really well and sometimes it will surprise you by being really chefy. I have honestly never had a bad meal. I cannot find anything bad to say about the food at all. The portions are always big and the prices more than reasonable. There are always plenty of kids options too. Alfred usually has the pizza (because you get a whole homemade one) or the children’s roast if it’s a Sunday.

The staff at Staindrop are always super-friendly, helpful and very efficient. To say that the majority of the staff I have seen have been very young, they always have a smile on their faces, chat away to Alfred, make sure you have everything you need and clear the table quickly when you have finished (essential to avoid noisy and messy plates being thrown to the floor incidences). They have loads of high chairs, good baby change (again very clean) and there are toilets next to the bar and the restaurant so you are never far away from one (useful for potty-training little ones). Because it’s a hotel there are loads of corridors downstairs to wander round to keep small ones entertained and there is space for them to play in the outside courtyard in the summer. (Just be aware it does have a car park right next to it so running free might not be the best idea.) They do show some sports here so the bar can get quite busy but you can always sit in the restaurant and receive table service. There is a huge car park so there is never an issue with parking.

It might seem like quite far to drive for lunch if you are on the other side of town, however there are loads of things to do close by so you can easily make a day of it. Quite often we go to Wentworth Garden Centre before or after which is just down the road and has a play area, animals, a garden centre and a really good shop full of lovely things. (It also does very, very good cake in the cafe if you have gotten peckish again). There are also lovely places to walk with beautiful scenery such as the grounds of Wortley Hall.

I want to try and think of something slightly negative to say about Staindrop to be constructive but I genuinely can’t think of anything. I just love it here. If I was going to tell them to improve on anything it would be their Instagram page. More food pictures please!

Couch Campo Lane

The first time I went to couch it was for pure convenience, my husband’s office is close to there and I had a bit of time to kill before meeting him. I decided to pop in for a coffee and some cake. The first thing I liked about it is its size. It’s absolutely huge with plenty of space for prams or for inquisitive toddlers to wander about. Even when it has been quite busy I have never not found a table. I like the variety of seat choices, some high tables, some sharing tables, loads of different comfy sofas and armchairs (although I do not condone the denim reupholstering on some of the wingback chairs). My favourite seats are the ones on the stage – they are nice and out the way and you sort of feel in the corner so you can feed comfortably or allow some Ben and Holly watching on the phone without disturbing anyone. (I believe they have WiFi to assist with this).

I really like the atmosphere in Couch. The lighting is really nice and it’s always a good temperature. The music is always really well-chosen and relaxing. The thing I like best about the atmosphere is that the customers always seem to be really jolly. I don’t know what it is about the place but it just seems to attract really nice people. I have on many occasions ended up in conversation with other patrons (usually because Alfred has decided to sit next to them or nearly knocked something off their table) and I always get loads of lovely smiles off people. Even people working alone on their laptops who you would normally expect to be irritated at being disturbed seem happy to turn and smile at Alfred toddling about. I find it very heart-warming.

One of the things I was going to rave about was the fact that they were open quite late, up till 9pm some nights and 7pm others. This was ideal for us as we could stay after work and have a glass of wine while Alfred was happily entertained with rather yummy cake and a juice. On some magical occasions he would fall asleep and we could have a proper end of day chat over our drinks but not feel bad about being in a boozer. However we popped in on Friday for a quick drink and were told the opening hours have changed. (This must be a pretty recent change as on the website it still states the opening hours as 7.30am – 7pm Monday to Thursday, 7.30am – 9 pm Friday, 9am – 9pm Saturday and 9am – 4pm Sunday) when I asked what time they were closing they said they close at 6 most nights. When we arrived at 5, however, all the cake had been put away and they were mopping round us by quarter past so they were obviously keen to get off. (I suppose it was a Friday night). When I asked for cake she seemed happy enough to go get some out for us though so Alfred wasn’t disappointed. I assume they weren’t having enough customers to justify opening so late and I know they do events some nights. (I saw a poster for a cabaret night coming up which looked pretty fun!). It does seem a shame though as there aren’t many places in town you can get a hot drink and cake after 5.

As I restaurant manager I suppose I notice the staff a lot more than other customers. My favourite type of staff are ones who are super-friendly and chatty and engage with myself and Alfred (although I know not everyone likes this service style). The staff at Couch fall into my second favourite category of doing something if you ask but studiously ignoring you the rest of the time (which let’s face it can be pretty nice if your child is being awful), If you ask them for something e.g. crayons and paper, a teaspoon because your toddler has lobbed yours on the floor, extra napkins or whatever they always seem happy to oblige and get them for you right away. They are polite, always answer any questions and never seem to mind a mess. I have no complaints about them but I have also never had a chat with one of them or have had them voluntarily go the extra mile. Having said this whenever I am leaving somewhere and Alfred has made a huge mess on the floor I always try to pick up all the bits or ask for a dustpan and brush to sweep it up if it’s super bad. Whenever I have done this at Couch they have always said ‘don’t worry we will sort it’ which is the best response.

One thing about Couch I cannot fault is the food. Everything I have eaten from has been really yummy and satisfying. As well as the usual menu they do specials so it doesn’t get boring. They only serve food till 4pm so are definitely a breakfast or lunch place. Alfred’s favourite breakfast is the porridge. You get an absolutely massive bowl with loads of Jam. I would always go for eggs Benedict or Royale. They are really good from here.

Lunch-wise I have tried the sandwiches and burgers which were both proper good. I really like the potato wedges too as a nice change from chips. The best thing I have ever eaten was Poutine, they had it on the specials but I definitely think they should make it a permanent edition. It’s basically chips with cheese and thick gravy and sometimes a bit of meat or onions etc. It is literally a comfort food dream and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I have been informed the flatbreads are also really yummy but I haven’t had one before, I’ll definitely try one next time and update you all. The brownies are always so chocolatey and amazing (I believe they are made by hashbrownies).

The milkshakes are absolutely amazing as is the Cawston Press apple and rhubarb pop (so good that I got it into my restaurant just so I could have it all the time). The wine they have is really good and I have never had a bad glass in there. They USED to do two for one on wines at certain times but that was when they opened later so I’m not 100% sure if that’s still available. They have a wide selection of beers too, some on draft and some in bottles.

Couch has really nice toilet facilities which are always lovely and clean. There is a baby change in the disabled toilet, and space for a pram in the ladies (my husband ‘can’t remember’ what the gents is like even though I think he went in there on Friday…). They have several high chairs, crayons and paper, a few books dotted about to look at and animal heads on the wall (which children seem to find hilarious). The kids menu is quite limited with a choice of chicken or sausage with wedges and beans but to be fair Alfred loves both those things so there are never any complaints from him.

I think couch is the perfect place to visit in the day either on your own with babies/kids or with a big group of friends. It’s size and the way the tables are arranged will make you feel comfortable in either circumstance. Because it’s counter service, if you have pram size children, I would recommend ordering before removing them from said pram (I have made this mistake before).