September 2016 | Modern Mummy

Friday, 30 September 2016

Ready for Autumn with Polarn O.Pyret



I love the change in the seasons and my favourite time of year has to be September/October, as we move from summer into autumn. As much as I love the summer sun, I definitely prefer the crisp cool air and changing colours of autumn - and it's definitely my favourite season, style wise - for both me and the kids.

I always get super excited about picking out new winter boots for myself, but the kids get excited about choosing their new wellies! This year, I'm rather impressed with their choices, I must say.

I'm not really a fan of 'character' fashion. I don't like heavily branded stuff, or messy prints. My favourite patterns are florals and stripes. Everyone knows I'm mad about colour - so when it comes to choosing accessories for myself, I tend to keep things quite simple. And it looks as if I'm rubbing off on the girls as this year they chose these gorgeous Polarn O.Pyret X KAVAT collab wellies which I definitely approve of!

Last weekend we went apple pressing, puddle splashing and den building at Swan Barn Farm - and it was the perfect opportunity to put the them through their paces!

Designed in association with Kavat, a Swedish shoe brand, these limited edition kids' wellies from Polarn O.Pyret really are top of the range. They're made from recycled PVC free rubber, have super strong soles with good grips and they come with a machine washable removable wool lining for extra warmth when the temperature drops. The girls have described them as being 'like wearing your slippers, but you can stomp in the mud in them' which apparently makes them ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT.




We sized up, as I always do with wellies, so that they last the full year and the girls wore them for six hours on their first outing, with no complaints whatsoever. I usually find that cheaper supermarket wellies need a bit of a breaking in period but that definitely wasn't the case with these.


They're available in red and blue (our school colours, which is handy!), cost £30.00 a pair, and are available on the Polarn O.Pyret website here. We were sent ours in exchange for this honest review.


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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Partying with #PuppyInMyPocket


Yesterday we took part in the UKMumsTV Puppy in my Pocket Twitter Party, which meant the girls got to invite some of their friends round for a real life party, and the good folk of Twitter got to join in online too!

We were sent all the bits and pieces needed to host the perfect do; games, prizes, party bags, CAKE, toys and blind bags, all Puppy in my Pocket themed, of course, which made the girls' days - as Puppy in my Pocket blind bags are the pocket money toy du jour right now.




We kick started our afternoon with a few games of 'snap' and 'pairs', before stopping for pizza and veggies. Then we had fun colouring and doing word searches before moving onto the important bit.... playing with the toys! We had been sent the Puppy Play Park and Pretty Pet Palace (as well as lots of blind bags which, along with the rest of the population under the age of 8, our party goers LOVED). Both the park and the palace are lots of fun and, although pretty large toys, they fold away so are easy to store (mega mum points). They come with two exclusive puppies to add to your collection too!



All too quickly it was time to go home, but we sent our guests off with a party bag jam packed full of goodies and a cupcake to keep them happy. And the girls were extra happy as they got to carry on playing with their new favourite toys!

The whole range of Puppy (and Kitty!) in my Pocket toys are brilliant - and available from Flair Plc here. If you love Puppy in my Pocket, you'll also love their new animated bite-size video series which is coming to YouTube in October! We can't wait.xo

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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Silent Pool Gin Cocktails with 31Dover.com


Eating locally produced food is something I'm rather passionate about, but drinking locally produced tipples (aside from beer!) was not something I'd really considered until recently, when I discovered Silent Pool gin. Their distillery is a mere fifteen miles away from my house!

I'm turning into a bit of a gin connoisseur in my old age and definitely have my favourites; Silent Pool is currently top of the tops. It's produced on the Albury Estate in the Surrey Hills and contains 24 botanicals including chamomile and local honey as well as the clear, cool spring water of the Silent Pool itself.

When I was sent my first bottle to try (thanks, 31Dover.com!) I wanted to stick to the local theme and bought some mixers from my local farm shop to drink it with.

Of course, I'm a g+t girl at heart, so my very first taste was with some Fever Tree tonic water - but then I moved onto what I have named Sparkling Apple + Pear Gin Fizz, and they were even better!


Ingredients.
Silent Pool gin
Wobblegate Splash apple and pear juice (from Bolney in West Sussex)
South Downs sparkling water (from a well just outside Chichester)
An apple (to garnish)

As is always the case with my cocktail recipes, the measurements are entirely up to you, but I opted for 50ml of gin, 150ml of juice and 100ml of sparkling water in a large jam jar.




Thanks to 31DOVER for sending me a bottle of Silent Pool gin. Don't forget you can still get 10% off your order using the promotional code 31DKATY at the checkout (valid once per customer).

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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Apple Pressing at Swan Barn Farm


It's official..... Autumn is here!

Today we visited Swan Barn Farm, an absolutely beautiful National Trust site (that just so happens to be a five minute walk from our house) for their annual apple pressing day. It's a brilliant event and it's totally free; the only condition is that if you want to take some juice home with you, you have to take your own apples to press!

But they aren't essential, and in actual fact you can help the National Trust by using their apples (which come from the orchards surrounding the farm). They're pre-picked but still need chopping, plus you get to have a go at using the heritage scratter and press, and to taste the (pressed) fruits of your labour. Then the apple juice that's leftover is fermented to become cider which is sold on behalf of the National Trust - so it's win-win for everyone. Good, eh?

So how does one press apples the old fashioned way, I hear you ask?

Well.

First up there's a whole lot of chopping to do....


I'm talking serious amounts of chopping. This was literally 1/100th of will have been done over the course of the day:


Then the chopped apples go through the scratter - twice. Two people have to turn wheels by hand while a third pushes all the apples through with a stick, turning it into pulp.


The pulp then goes into the press and is turned into lovely, thick, fresh, cloudy apple juice!


The whole process was hard work, so the picnic I had packed went down a treat. We feasted on five rounds of sandwiches between us, and drank our home made apple juice!


And then we got to enjoy the farm and explore the surrounding ancient woodland for the rest of the afternoon. There are Belted Galloway cattle and Jacob sheep to say hello to, as well as plenty of streams to splash in and dens just waiting to be built in the woods!

If you're ever passing through Haslemere, we'd wholeheartedly recommend paying Swan Barn Farm a visit - it's just behind the high street so parking is easy and it's the perfect spot for a picnic.




The girls are wearing:
Jumper dress + tights combos c/o Nutmeg (we LOVE Nutmeg 
clothes and these sets are only £12 which is amazing)
Wool lined wellies in red and navy, £30 c/o Polarn O. Pyret 

PS apple picking is the first thing ticked off our autumn bucket list this year! Yay!
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Friday, 23 September 2016

Spiced Rum Hot Toddies



I'm on day nine of a cold. I don't usually get ill so it has kind of knocked me for six a little. I've spent the last week coughing and spluttering and snivelling and generally feeling sorry for myself but now I'm also getting a bit annoyed and just want to start feeling human again!

So desperate times call for desperate measures, and in this case I'm specifically talking about measures of my favourite rum, Dark Matter, and drinking it in the afternoon.

Dark Matter is a spiced rum with a difference; it hails from Aberdeen in Scotland, rather than the Caribbean! It really does have a unique kick (that'd be the fresh ginger, green peppercorns and allspice berries) and it tastes equally good over ice, mixed with coke or ginger beer - or with a few additional spices and hot water, which is the recipe I'm going to share with you today.

Everyone knows a hot toddy is the best cure for a common cold. The honey soothes, the steam and cinnamon both act as decongestants, the lemon gives a great flavour (and a teeny tiny boost of vitamin C) and the booze in it helps you to relax. So if the drop in temperature has left you feeling a little poorly, and you're over eighteen of course, give this little beauty a try. Even if it doesn't cure you entirely, it'll leave you feeling much better in the short term, I promise.



Ingredients
Dark Matter spiced rum
Honey
Lemon
Cinnamon stick
Hot water


Instructions
Boil your kettle and let the water cool for a couple of minutes.
Add the honey and lemon juice to your glass or mug. I've not used any measurements here because it really is all down to personal taste. I had one teaspoon of honey and the juice of half a lemon.
Add a splash of hot water and mix.
Add the rum - again it's up to you how much you pour; I went for a very respectable 25ml measure, although if I didn't have to do the school run later I might have been a little more generous ;)
Top up with hot water, stir using a cinnamon stick and add a slice of lemon for decoration.
Drink, enjoy and feel better!

Thanks to 31DOVER for sending me a bottle of Dark Matter just when I needed it ;) You can buy a bottle yourself here for £33.95. You can also get 10% off your order at 31DOVER.com using the promotional code 31DKATY at checkout. This is only valid once per customer. 
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Monday, 19 September 2016

House Tour: My Workspace

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias 


When it comes to my home, my tastes are a little eclectic. I am a lover of colour, and a lover of things, and I am also very keen to recycle old, unwanted items which means I have plenty of vintage mixed in with new stuff and little knick knacks that I've come across at junk and charity shops and antique fairs. Each room is more than a little bit mis-matched but I think the overall vibe is a happy one, and my house is certainly and loved and lived in.

I've wanted to write a series of house tour posts on my blog for a while now (especially seeing as things have fiiiiiiinally started coming together!) so I thought I'd kick start proceedings by showing you my brand new workspace.

My house is teeny tiny, and although I have longed for an actual studio/office all of my own for FOREVER it just isn't going to happen. I've always worked on the kitchen table which been fine - there's certainly plenty of space - but having to set it up with all my bits and pieces and pack it all away again once I've finished working has always driven me mad.

So I decided to create a little working nook!

As I said, my house is tiny. We have no spare rooms and, in fact, hardly any spare floor space - so 'little' was the operative word when using my imagination and designing the space. I had the choice of either putting the nook in my bedroom or in the living room and I decided to go with the latter as the room is brighter and I could position my desk under the window.

Another important factor when thinking about the furniture I needed was that everything had to be movable. I like to switch the layout of our living room around quite a lot, and Christmas is one particular time, when the sofas get shifted about to make way for our tree.

Lastly, my budget (or lack of) needed to be taken into consideration. I didn't want to spend a fortune... but that didn't mean I had to buy cheap rubbish or stuff I don't like!

With all that in the forefront of my mind, it was time to hit the shops.


My first port of call whenever I need furniture is our local junk shop, Cooper Brothers of Hindhead. They'd probably kill me if they knew I referred to them as a junk shop but one man's junk is another man's treasure, and Cooper Brothers is a genuine treasure trove - I always always always come away with something when I visit!


I looked at some beautiful little old writing bureaus, but they were very solid and heavy and would have been difficult to move around by myself. Then I spotted this little oak side table right at the back of the shop. It was solid but small - perfect for a laptop - and only £10! I didn't even haggle... it came straight home to live with me.

That was the main part of the workspace purchased but, of course, you need storage units and desk organisation too and there's only one place to go for all of that...


Our closest IKEA is down in Southampton so a visit makes up an entire day trip for us. I went with a shopping list but, as is always the way when anyone goes shopping at IKEA, I came home with so much more (and a belly full of meatballs!).


I managed to pick up a cute (bright orange!) mesh stool from the outdoor department and a little filing cabinet on wheels for less than £35 (as well as lots of picture frames, kitchen utensils, cacti etc etc etc which doubled my total bill, but hey ho).

And just like that, we had everything we needed and were off home to get flat pack unpacking.

When I work, I mix analogue with digital. I keep a bullet journal for everything blog related. I love lists, and crossing things off lists, and find that the actual physical act of writing things down really helps me to process and remember stuff, plus I like being able to look at weeks/months/years at a glance. Using the bullet journal system is really flexible - I can design each page however I like - and it is also a bit of a creative outlet for me; I like to doodle and stick things in ;)

But, of course, I'm a blogger and a writer and I would be nowhere without my Mac. Other desk essentials (for me) are:

A tin for my receipts. I'm a bit old fashioned and put all my expenses in the pot, then at month end I go through them and add them to my (modern) spreadsheet.
A penpot, but no ordinary  penpot - mine is a Victorian Keiller & Sons marmalade jar from Sunbury antiques market.
Filing cabinet. With lots of drawers to hide the mess ;)
Plants! Because every desk needs a little bit of pretty!

My bullet journal is a Leuchtturm1917 squared notebook 

Desk: £10, Cooper Brothers of Hindhead // Celebratory Coronation Foxes Glacier Mint tin (used for expenses): £1.50, Junk + Disorderly, Haslemere // Keiller & Sons marmalade jar penpot: £2 // The Master Plan Diary (used for non-blogging stuff), £17.50 //  Helmer filing cabinet (also available in black and white): £25, IKEA // Västerön stool: £7, IKEA

So there you have it. My little workspace. I must say, since I've had a designated writing area I've found myself feeling so much more motivated, which is very handy when you're self employed! I love the bits I picked out and having everything to hand; the light here is beautiful and it's a real pleasure sitting at the window watching the world go by 

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Sunday, 18 September 2016

We're having a #PuppyInMyPocket Party + You're Invited



The girls are big Puppy in my Pocket fans so we are thrilled to announce that we will be co-hosting the upcoming UKMumsTV Puppy in my Pocket twitter party!

We've been sent lots of goodies including everything we need to host a real life party, and you'll be able to join in by following the hashtag over on Twitter. Right now the girls are in their element as they have been sent the brand new Puppy Play Park and a Pretty Pet Palace to play with - plus we've been given party bags, crafts, games and prizes for our guests!

And you needn't go home empty handed either as @UKMumsTV have prizes for some of you!

To join in the fun and games online, simply follow me and @UKMumsTV over on Twitter and use the #PuppyInMyPocket hashtag when you tweet, and you could win!

See you over on Twitter on Wednesday 28th September from 1pm till 3pm! xo

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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Cheese, Bacon + Spinach Puff Pastry Tartlets: A Recipe (!)


Yep, you heard that right. A RECIPE! Mama's been baking. And fear not, we are all still alive!

Last month, the lovely folk at Applewood asked us to be a part of their #AddApplewood campaign and sent us a hamper of their delicious smoked cheddar, along with everything we needed to get creative in the kitchen.... so creative we got. Well, as creative as you can be when you are not a natural born cook anyway.

I am reluctantly dairy free but the kiddos LOVE cheese.... and bacon..... and pastry..... so I decided to whip up a super easy after school snack that I have imaginatively called 'cheese, bacon + spinach puff pastry tartlets'. (I added the spinach because I'm a really good mother and I always insist on at least the TINIEST bit of something green being added to every savoury meal).

When I say this is super easy, I'm really not kidding.

The prep took 5 minutes and it took around 15 in the oven. I whipped them up as an after school snack for the girls (picture me at the school gates, all smug and flashing my HOME MADE PASTRIES at the yummy mummies ;)) but they'd be perfect as a light meal for the whole family, and could be served with new potatoes and a little salad too.

Ingredients.
Ready rolled puff pastry
Applewood smoked cheese slices
Bacon, cut into strips and fried
Spinach
A beaten egg for glazing



Instructions.
Line baking tray with baking parchment.
Unroll your puff pastry.
Use a pastry cutter to cut out shapes.
Lay on baking tray.
Glaze.
Place a couple of spinach leaves on each.
Add Applewood (I used the pre sliced cheese and went on to cut each slice into four).
Decorate with bacon.
Cook as per the instructions on the puff pastry (15 mins in my case).


Et voila!

Of course, when I talk about how incompetent I am in the kitchen, I'm really not exaggerating. Even when cooking this all the cheese and bacon slid off the tartlets and had to be scraped back on.... But I speak the truth when I say they were blinking delicious, and all six were hoovered up by the girls in about 3 seconds flat. I had to watch the pastry flake and the cheese ooze and oh.my.god it was torture!


Thanks to Applewood for encouraging me to get my bake on. I secretly quite enjoyed it ;)
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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Summer Sixteen ♥


It's September..... yesterday the girls went back to school and nursery..... I've started wearing black tights and boots..... That means summer is over, right?

Autumn is my favourite time of year so I'm not going to be sad about having to say goodbye to the long, warm (ish) days (although I was sad to leave the kiddos at the school date yesterday and again this morning). But as much as I'm looking forward to the pumpkin spiced lattes, and woolly hats, and strategically placing conkers all over the cottage to try and keep house spiders away, I thought it would be nice to look back at everything we got up to in the holidays!

We kick started our six weeks off in style, at an advanced screening of Swallows and Amazons at Picturehouse Central. We love getting the train up to London, and having an early morning wander around Piccadilly Circus and theatre land was as much of a treat as the film itself.

Then there was the one and only Camp Bestival, the highlight of our summer every.single.year. Where we got to hang out with our favourite friends, dance to awesome music, eat incredible food, drink gin for breakfast and forget about wearing shoes and brushing our hair.

After our four day stint at Camp Bestival, the girls and I stayed on in Dorset and had a Great British holiday in Weymouth with my parents, my sister and my nephews. We played on the beach and in the arcades, visited farms and lighthouses and had a marvellous time in the process.

Then it was back home and back to reality for me, as I headed back to work after a fortnight off, and the girls went on holiday with their Dad for five days. I spent three of them clearing the garden with my Dad ready for the ex-battery hens we plan to adopt later this month!

Once the girls were back and we'd spent a few lazy days at home, we were off on the road again - this time to Wales, with a trip to The Royal Mint as the star attraction. We also got more beach time in Barry, and spent some time with my lovely auntie and uncle too.





We spent the bank holiday weekend at Victorious Festival in Portsmouth, with more music and dancing and bare feet and glitter, and then had one last road trip to Norfolk to see Ruth and the gang. While we were there we reviewed Ed's and spent an afternoon at BeWILDerwood but the highlight for me was definitely the day spent at Cromer. What a gorgeous beach.

Before we knew it we were back at home, buying uniform and stationery, and trying to get back into a regular sleep pattern. And now here we are! Two days into a new school year.

Time to start ticking things off the Autumn bucket list!

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Are you paying too much for your utilities? #ChallengeYourBills!



Towards the end of the summer holidays Contact Numbers UK challenged me to reduce my household bills. Now I'm always up for a challenge, and if it means I'm going to reduce my monthly outgoings in the process then that's even better!

I only have the standard utilities at home; gas, electricity, water and landline/broadband. My monthly repayments for the first three have always been very reasonable, but my BT bill has been a bone of contention for quite some time; I just needed a kick up the bum to do something about it.

I've been with BT for my entire adult life and, bearing in mind I moved out at 18, that's a long old time. Like the majority of the population (I would imagine) I've just stuck with them for ease, and for fear of a switch going wrong. I have always had a landline and broadband with them and more recently I have also paid extra for anytime calls and for calls to 0845 numbers but still my bills have been creeping up and up over the past few months.

I used a comparison website to look up my other options and was genuinely really surprised to see so many providers out there. I was a bit wary of going for a company I'd not heard of before but I ended up finding a very good deal with Sky.

My current bills were in excess of £60 a month but I managed to get exactly the same deal (including the anytime calls) for £27.40 - so less than half the price! I also only had to sign up for a year, when my broadband deal with BT had been for two.

I telephoned BT to advise them of my findings and see if they wanted to keep their customer of 19 years but was told they couldn't match Sky's offer. They did offer me a £15 reduction on my monthly package, but I would have been daft to accept that when the new one was a further £15 a month cheaper. They also warned me (unnecessarily sternly, in my opinion) that the new service wouldn't be nearly as good as theirs.

I went ahead with the switch anyway and I am so glad that I did. I received my new hardware from Sky via post, so I didn't have to wait in for an engineer, and there was hardly any disruption to my service; I was without the internet for about two hours and that was it. And to think I'd put off changing providers for so long for these two daft reasons!

Here are a few other tips from Contact Numbers UK for challenging your bills, should you want to:

Research other deals - use those comparison websites that are advertised everywhere! They do all the maths for you and are really simple to use.

Know your worth - if you're a longstanding and reliable customer, companies won't want to lose you (unless they're BT ;)). Use your loyalty for financial gain - and make sure you've done your research before you speak to anyone.

Time it right - month end, or the end of the financial quarter, is a good time to negotiate! If a sales person hasn't met their target they will work harder to sign you up.

Don't beat around the bush - if you're considering leaving, say so at the outset. You'll be put straight through to the disconnections team, who usually have stronger deal-making powers. If

Don't be afraid to say no - this was where I went wrong with BT over the past decade! Stay strong if you're offered a price that isn't low enough and don't sign up to added extras.

Be polite - remember! The person you are speaking to is a human being and just doing their job. Be nice; aggression won't get you anywhere.

If necessary, leave - sometimes you won't get a better deal and you just have to say goodbye!

image credit: A Cornish Mum - thank you!


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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Victorious Festival 2016


Today I'm talking about the one and only Victorious Fest over on Style Me Sunday! Head on over to read all about it xoxo
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Friday, 2 September 2016

Ed's Easy Diner, Norwich: A Review


When I was growing up, one of my favourite places to hang out was Ed's Diner on the Kings Road in Chelsea. My friends and I would go in for a milkshake and some wet fries every weekend; we loved the vintage American vibe and you got a lot of milkshake and fries for your Saturday job money, plus their famous jukeboxes played all our favourite 50s and 60s tunes!

But then the parade of shops that 'our' Ed's Diner was a part of was demolished and the restaurant was no more and, although other Ed's opened in different areas of London, I never actually visited any of them; I just didn't think they'd be the same. Then I grew up and eventually left London altogether and, if I'm honest, I didn't hear anything of my old favourite haunt until last week, when the girls and I were invited to sample the menu at the Ed's Diner in Norwich! As we were in town visiting the RocknRoller Baby family, we took them up on their offer and, after a long day at the beach, six of us piled in for a much wanted feast on our way home.

Although this particular restaurant is in a modern shopping centre, that retro vibe was still very much present and I had all sorts of flashbacks walking in there for the first time in over a decade!



With the same vintage decor, and jukeboxes in every booth (which were still only 20p a song!) I remembered exactly why I had loved the place so much in my youth, and straight away the girls seemed to love it too.



We sat down in our booth and were handed our menus. The kids also got a brilliant kids pack, which I have to comment on as it was, without doubt, the best and most up-to-date kids pack we've ever been given at a restaurant. Everyone was given a little Ed's bag which contained the usual puzzles and crayons, but also a Photo Booth frame and props to take silly photos. Everyone loved them and they helped to successfully keep the children entertained long after our meals had come out too.

We kick started our Ed's experience with Nutella milkshakes (for the kids) and bottles of Sam Adams for me and Ruth, plus some Mac n Cheese bites and mozzarella sticks for the littlies to nibble on while we looked over the menus.

Ed's is a little more expensive than your average UK burger joint, but the quality of the food is exceptional - and the staff in the Norwich restaurant were brilliant too. In my usual forgetful style, I omitted to mention my dairy intolerance before we went but Annie, our server, was very knowledgeable about all the ingredients and was able to help me pick a suitable meal. I went for the chilli dog but in a gluten free bun (they come in a brioche bun as standard which contains milk). I also had chips and onion rings as part of the Ed's Plate meal deal and, again, substituted the coleslaw (which contained dairy) to the jalapeño jelly, which was SO GOOD!

Daisy and Evie ordered the junior cheeseburger and puppy dog (mini hot dog) and both went down a treat. Everybody was very excited by the smiley faces in the tomato sauce!




I wasn't quick enough in getting any photos of the girls' desserts.... Daisy ordered an adults portion of the waffle s'more with Nutella and ice cream (like she hadn't had enough Nutella already ;)) and Evie (surprisingly!) went for the healthier option of a fruit ice lolly. Ruth's kids had pancakes which were absolutely huge! Desserts aren't part of the kids meal deal at Ed's but for £5.95 you do get a main, side and a drink and pudding is only an addition £1.95.

Unfortunately there weren't any dairy free options on the adults dessert menu, although I was offered a fruit lolly from the kids menu - but I was so full after that chilli dog that I was more than happy with an espresso!


I loved dining at Ed's again and was so glad to be able to take the girls to a restaurant that played such a memorable part of my own childhood. We ended up being there for two and a half hours and probably would have stayed longer if we weren't conscious of it being the littlies bedtime (and hometime for the all lovely staff!)

We left laden with balloons and with bellies full of delicious American food - and with plans of what to order next time we visit (which will definitely be soon!) We need to work our way through the menu!

Thanks so much to Ed's Diner for inviting us down, and special thanks to Annie, our server, for her dairy free knowledge and for being so good with the children!


We were given a complimentary meal in exchange for this honest review. All words are honest and images are my own.
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