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Birmingham

  • Pickle at the Ice Age exhibition at Botanical Gardens

    Ice Age: The Lost Kingdom at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

    I’ve a lot of love for the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. It’s such a beautiful expanse in amidst our bustling city, offering lots for little ones to explore, a brilliant park area and so much gorgeous photography opportunities. This week, we ventured down with some friends to see the new Ice Age exhibition: a trail of over 40 installations of animated life-sized beasts, including a Sabre Tooth Tiger, Mastodon and the centre piece Woolly Mammoth.

    Our Day Out

    I’d first heard about the Ice Age exhibition from a new friend at work. Our boys are both very similar in age and she had planned on going, sending me the details as she correctly guessed that it sounded up my street! A few days later, I had an email invitation to check out a preview of the attraction, and I knew just who would make for the perfect companions on our trip. read more

    Days Out, Parenting, Reviews
    / April 7, 2019
  • Press Image from Little Gift Theatre show for children a man standing in front of lots of suitcases

    Theatre Review: Little Gift – M6 Theatre at Birmingham REP

    This is a press review of the 11.30am performance of Little Gift at The Birmingham REP on 23 February 2019.

    If you read my February children’s theatre post, you’ll know I was particularly excited about seeing Little Gift, the latest touring production from M6 Theatre, performed by Guy Hargreaves, someone I’d had the privilege of working with many years ago through the National Youth Theatre. Sometimes, I can get an idea in my head of what a theatre production might be like before I go (rightly or wrongly), and it can often set me up for a fall – anticipating the show to be one thing, when the reality is quite different. Not this time. read more

    Aged 2+, Culture, Days Out, Parenting, Reviews
    / February 24, 2019
  • Our Date in Birmingham

    This is a collaborative post with Hotels.Com

    High on my priority list for this year are date nights. Or date days. Since becoming parents, the quality time I’ve spent with Little Pickle’s Dad has sadly dropped, and now that leaving Pickle with a babysitter is a lot easier, it’s something we want to really dedicate more time to. With that in mind, when Hotels.Com challenged us to spending the best day in Birmingham we could think of, we jumped at the opportunity. It was the perfect excuse to spend our January date in the city we love – I just wish we’d have had even longer. Next time, we need to look up some hotels in Birmingham to really make the most of it, especially as I spotted some amazing looking places for breakfast or brunch. read more

    Days Out, Dining Out, Lifestyle, Marriage
    / January 24, 2019
  • Little Angel Theatre's Sleepyhead - Dada attempting to put Baby to sleep

    Theatre Review: Sleepyhead – Little Angel Theatre at mac birmingham

    I’m sure I’ve written before about the special place in my heart reserved for mac (Midlands Arts Centre). It was where I worked my first arts job after graduating, and I spent a very happy year there – even if the commute killed off two cars (the stop/start traffic through Kings Heath is not kind on old knackered bangers). They have some of the best family programming in the region, and it’s always a delight to visit the arts centre as a family.

    This week, we bundled up warm and braved the traffic to watch one of mac’s two children’s Christmas offering’s this season: Little Angel Theatre’s Sleepyhead. After loving Little Angel Theatre’s Me last year, I knew we’d be in for a treat and I wasn’t wrong. Sleepyhead follows the night-time antics of Baby, who successfully brushes off all of Dada’s attempts to get them to sleep and has a magical midnight adventure instead.

    Mix in some magic, a pinch of circus and a large dollop of silliness and you have the recipe for a little adventure with a lot of laughs!

    Little Angel Theatre’s productions are masterclasses of puppeteering, with each little detail carefully contributing to gorgeously realistic movement: a perfect example is the small up-and-down movement of Baby, curled up hiding on the carpet, the talented performer quite literally breathing life into the performance. It’s these details that create characters everyone in the audience could relate to – the parents laughing along at the baby’s antics and seeing themselves reflected in the playful bumblings of Dada. I’m sure I speak on behalf of most parents whose children struggle to get to sleep that seeing Dada try all his tricks (magical or not!) raised a chuckle or two of recognition. As different as all our parenting styles are, there are some things that I’m sure we all do from time to time… and falling asleep whilst putting our children to sleep must be one of those parenting levellers, a real rite of passage.

    This playful production kept Pickle captivated throughout (without me having to resort to snacks to keep him sat still – which says a lot). I hope I always remember how lovely it was to snuggle up to each other whilst sat on the front row. It was beautiful to hear him properly giggling at the action, finding such joy in the slapstick humour. It’s been quite a few months since his last theatre visit, and his speech has come on such a long way during that time. I absolutely loved chatting to him about the show afterwards – he loved reminding me that the Baby did a big poo (!!!), and he babbled away telling Little Pickle’s Dad all about how the Baby wanted cake and thought carrots were ‘yak’ once we got home.

    The production is aimed at 2-5 year olds, and our audience certainly had children from both ends of that range – with giggles and squeals of delight coming from them all! We had a lovely school group in our performance which really added to an excited and energetic atmosphere which I’m sure also helped contribute towards the merriment. I’d wholeheartedly recommend Sleepyhead, and strongly encourage you to book tickets if you’re looking for a special pre-Christmas family treat.

    Sleepyhead runs at mac Birmingham until Sun 2 December 2018, with two performances a day (one in the morning, and one in the afternoon to help you choose whichever best fits in with naptime!). There is also a relaxed performance on Friday 30 November 2018, with BSL interpretation. Tickets cost from £9.50, and in my opinion, are worth every single penny. For more information and to book tickets, take a look at the mac Birmingham website.

    Disclaimer: we were invited to this production of Sleepyhead for press review purposes. All opinions and views remain my own.

    Culture, Reviews
    / November 23, 2018
  • LPD having fun looking at the menu and trying to decide what to eat at Bar + Block Birmingham

    Date Night at Bar+Block, Birmingham

    You may have noticed LPD (Little Pickle’s Dad) and I have been making more time recently for ourselves. We had a fantastic first weekend away together since being parents at Cornbury Festival earlier this month, and this week we treated ourselves further to a date night in the city: a three course meal at Birmingham’s Bar+Block Steakhouse.

    It’s privilege to live close enough to the city that it’s an option for an evening’s date night. A quick hop on the train from Redditch, and we can be there within about forty minutes. Arriving at New Street feels like we could be a million miles away, and there’s something about walking the streets of the city centre that makes me feel younger, cooler and more free-spirited. There’s so much choice for places to eat and drink, but it’s going to take a lot to find anywhere that offers steaks like those we had at Bar+Block.

    A post shared by Bar + Block (@barandblock) on

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    Bar+Block is part of the Beefeater family, taking the best of the Beefeater values but appealing to a younger, edgier crowd, with a more upmarket vibe. Upon arrival, I liked the feel of the place: it was vibrant, colourful and with a variety of seating options it seemed like a place that would welcome you whether you wanted a quick bite to eat, a full blown dining experience or just a drink. In fact, whilst we were there a noticed an express menu option for those wanting a quick meal (served within ten minutes) for under £10 – making it a great option for your lunch break.

    In no time at all, we were sat in our own booth at the front of the restaurant, with a lovely view of the open plan kitchen at the back and a pot of beef-dripping popcorn to try. I always trust a restaurant with an open plan kitchen – I don’t know why. There’s no where to hide is there? And I think it’s important for customers to see the chefs at work. You can hardly complain about how long it takes for your meal to properly cook when you can see exactly how hard-working they are.

    Beef-dripped popcorn is something I would never have ordered on a menu, but as a little pre-dinner taster, I was pleasantly surprised. It was delicious! I’m a bit of a sucker when restaurants give you little extras: like popcorn, bread rolls, or handmade lemonade, but I was also pleased that the waiter brought us over a bottle of chilled water for the table too without us asking. We ordered a beverage each (glass of wine for me, cider for LPD) and perused the menu.

    Starters

    I knew I was having a bit of a blow-out tonight, so in order to at least get some vegetables on my plate, I went for the chargrilled vegetable topped houmous whilst LPD chose salt and pepper squid. Bar + Block usually recommend three of the grazing plates but knowing we were going all out with mains and pudding to follow, we played it safe and just ordered the two. In hindsight, I’d have loved to try the Asian Crispy Beef as recommended by Lucy at Real Mum Reviews – but maybe that just gives us a reason to go back in the future?

    The starters were brought out and put in the middle of the table, and we were both given side plates to use. I don’t know if this shows how uncouth and common we are, but we just ate off the central plates anyway! The houmous was gloriously fresh, and the flatbread must have been good as I almost had to physically fight LPD for the last piece of it. The Salt & Pepper squid was a real hit too – with a hint of heat with a cooling mayo dip to round the taste off.

    Mains

    Although I did strongly consider some of the other options on the menu, LPD and I both couldn’t resist trying a steak each for our mains. After all, it is a Steakhouse. I wouldn’t call myself much of a meat connoisseur, so I asked our waiter for his recommendation. If I was left up to my own devices, I’d have probably just gone for a plain rump steak and not been very adventurous at all so I was really happy to go along with his suggestion of the Churrasco de Chorizo, a 10oz sirloin spiral cut steak marinated in garlic and parsley. LPD didn’t need long to decide on his pick: Deconstructed Beef Wellington, which sounded like some kind of epic Masterchef creation.

    Both of our steaks were melt-in-the-mouth beautiful. In hindsight, I wish I’d have ordered a bit of side salad to just add a few extra vitamins to the plate, but the meal itself was quite filling, and I was saving myself for a spot of pudding! Our mains were really full of flavour and rich tastes, and I am so glad I asked our waiter for his recommendation. Delicious!

    Desserts

    Does anyone else check out the menu about a thousand times online in the week preceding a restaurant visit? Although I couldn’t choose between a lot of the dishes in advance, as soon as I saw the Mixed Berry Pavlova on the dessert menu, I knew I’d have to have it. I love pavlova. And my Grandma makes the most amazing raspberry pavlova (she made one for our wedding as I knew our dessert table wouldn’t be complete without it – and it was the only cake I ate that day!).

    This mixed berry version at Bar+Block didn’t disappoint, although I would have preferred it if the fruit hadn’t been swimming in syrup but that’s just a personal preference. We rounded our dinner off with a coffee for LPD and a cup of tea for me and we left three hours after we arrived with lovely full tummies and a lot more relaxed.

    Was it worth it?

    We were very lucky to have been invited to try out Bar+Block, and so our meal was complimentary in exchange for this review, and whilst I didn’t add up what we would have spent exactly, I’d estimate that the bill would have come to over £100. For us, that’s a lot of money to be spending on one meal out, and we’d be more likely to only go for a one course meal to better suit our budget had we paid for it ourselves.

    Dining Out, Lifestyle, Parenting
    / August 7, 2018
  • Oasis Clothes Fashion Rail at BrumBloggers event

    The #BrumBloggers Oasis Fashion Event

    This is a sponsored post.

    We are so lucky in Birmingham! We have such a wonderful community of bloggers in our area, and I absolutely love when I get chance to hang out with my blogging colleagues. Earlier this month, I was invited to a fun fashion-filled evening at Oasis in the Bullring, to check out their new collections and take some much needed advice from their stylists Danni and Anty.

    If you’re a Mother reading this, I don’t need to tell you what a struggle it is to get your head around ‘fashion’ after you’ve had a baby. The whole ball game changes. Your body proportions change, so even if you’re lucky enough to fit back into your pre-pregnancy clothes, they just don’t look the same. Add to that the challenge of ensuring every outfit is ‘breastfeeding-friendly’ (a term I hate, by the way), and looking into the wardrobe every morning can be a bit of a frustrating experience. Or maybe it’s just me?

    For a long time, it felt like a wasted effort to even bother. I had more important things to worry about – like keeping a tiny human alive – and hey, even if I did wear something nice, it invariably ended up covered in spit-up, poo or milk. Seriously, what was the point? But now, I’ve realised the transformative power of a good outfit. I know how much of a difference it makes to my day, and to Pickle’s day, when I feel confident and empowered. I know it’s worth spending the time, and money, on.

    Oasis clothes have been a staple of my wardrobe for a long time. They just suit me, so being able to spend a couple of hours, child free, to browse the store was my idea of heaven. It was a treat. And I couldn’t believe how many pieces I fell in love with (that stripey skirt above is my absolute FAV). Anty, one of the stylists at the Bullring store, was brilliant – she just got me! I think we have very similar tastes in style so she was able to point me in the direction of the things she’d think I like, as well as steer me in some new directions I’d have previously cast aside as ‘not for me’. I still can’t quite make up my mind whether I like the hot pink jumpsuit. As a pastels-loving girl, I think I still need some extra confidence to wear such a bright colour… but the more I look at it, the more it grows on me.

    I’ve been constantly checking the Oasis website ever since. Waiting for payday to roll around so I can treat myself to a few new pieces to jazz up my wardrobe and my ‘Mum-style’. We’ve got a few summer weddings around the corner too, and Oasis seems to be the place for wedding guest outfits – I spotted so many Oasis outfits at the wedding we were at last night! Is that a bit sad that I’ve been looking at the website and in store so much that I could recognise them? I’m going to be booking in a proper styling session with the Oasis girls so they can get me sorted. Anyone else feel more of a pressure to not look drab and dowdy when you know you’re going to be with lots of your non-Mum friends? Especially as we’ll be heading to a couple of these weddings toddler-free, I just want to live the dream of sitting elegantly in some kind of beautiful orangery or conservatory, basking in the sunlight surrounded by lots of plants, sipping on cocktails with a sparkle in my eye and a little bit of sass in my walk.

    I didn’t know whether to share this either… wondering whether it sounded a bit silly or vain… but I cannot tell you how amazed I was during this event to realise I’d dropped a dress size too. I’ve been doing Slimming World for about a month now and I’ve been loving it. You can read a bit more about why I’m trying to live a healthier lifestyle, and even though I don’t necessarily buy into a number on the sales or hanger determining your beauty or worth, it felt like one step closer to regaining some of my old pre-baby identity back. That said, I couldn’t help but enjoy some of the delicious food treats during the event laid on for us by Bill’s Restaurant at the Bullring – where I’d had breakfast not long before with some of my Johnson’s Baby Ambassador pals.

    It was such a treat to see some of the #BrumBloggers lot again – the lovely Sarah Cale and Domanique who I’d met before, and I LOVE seeing Emily’s outfits on her Instagram, so really pleased to have had a chance to say hello – in a gorgeous Joanie Clothing dress, no less! I’m very much hoping to go along to another #BrumBloggers meet up this coming week – Ting does a great job at organising these and I love a good natter, even if it’s sometimes a bit nerve-wracking at first.

    Have you had a nose at the Natural History Collection at Oasis yet? What do you make of it?

    Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post, but I was not paid by Oasis or BrumBloggers for this coverage or for my attendance of the fashion event at the Bullring in Birmingham. All opinions and views remain my own, and as always, is 100% honest.

    Blogging, Fashion, Lifestyle
    / June 17, 2018