Dinner At Marco Pierre White Steakhouse | Just Add Ginger

For the past couple of years, Ryan's birthday has been slightly overlooked. First it was because we were on the cusp of getting married and then I was ready to drop. So when it came to thinking about his birthday this year, I knew I wanted to make it extra special for him. And after looking at the menu online several times, I knew that a trip to the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse in Liverpool city centre would be the perfect place to kick start the celebrations. 

interior of marco pierre white steakhouse liverpool
Image: c/o Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill
booth table inside marco pierre white steakhouse liverpool
Image: c/o Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill

The restaurant is located in Hotel Indigo on Chapel Street, just a hop skip and jump away from Moorfields station so if - like us - you live outside of the city centre it's relatively easy to get to. The restaurant and bar isn't the biggest, but with contemporary decor, elements of the industrial, atmospheric lighting and a bar and dining area that have been really well thought out, the dining area evokes the perfect balance of space and intimacy. We had an early reservation but the restaurant was still busy. However we still managed to maintain a high level of privacy and not worry that Eric was disturbing other diners (he's at the 'I know if I drop toys someone will pick them up' stage). 

Right from the start the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. From helping Ryan down the stairs with the pushchair to bringing him a complimentary glass of prosecco to including Eric in the dining experience they really went above and beyond to add to our visit. 

In typical me fashion I had already taken a look at the menu beforehand so I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to eat. But imagine my delight when investigating the drinks menu I realised they sold Veuve Cliquot (my favourite fizz) by the glass. So naturally I ordered myself one to slowly sip during my meal.

Sourdough bread and pot of butter on wooden board

man holding glass of prosecco

garnished smoked salmon with brown bread and lemon wedge

tempura calamari and squid on plate

And as for food? To start I went for the 'properly garnished' smoked salmon (the description did tickle me a bit) and Ryan chose the calamari and shrimp tempura. We did also ask for the warm baked sourdough to share but Eric demolished most of that on his own (he was so hungry that day). My salmon was just beautiful and the garnish went so wonderfully with it. The calamari and shrimp also went down a treat. Both dishes came accompanied with half a lemon wrapped in muslin which I thought was a genius idea - there's nothing worse then getting a rogue lemon pip on your food! Even though the food was just too good to share between us we did offer Eric some to try and he seemed to enjoy everything too. He may only have one tooth but as parents we always like him to sample everything we have in the hope that he starts to develop a sophisticated palate and isn't afraid to try new things.

For mains both Ryan and I went for steak, with him choosing the T-Bone and me the fillet. Since investing in a sous-vide wand Ryan has become a bit of a meat snob but he thought his steak was cooked perfectly, pink edge to edge and really well seasoned. My knife glided through the fillet with ease and the pieces melted away in my mouth like butter. The steaks were both so tender that even Mr One Tooth could manage eating small pieces that we handed him in between munching on the cheese omelette we'd ordered him from the childrens' menu. The only negative thing I would say about the dish is that the chips were a little too salty. Other than that everything was perfect.

fillet steak with tomatoes and chips

t-bone steak with tomatoes and chips

Something that was highly appreciated by us was the fact that we did not have to wait long in between courses. It's really tricky dining with a toddler (especially one in a bad mood) and having only a short wait before our orders came out meant that Eric was entertained for just the right amount of time without hunger or boredom paying a visit.  

chocolate mousee in a martini glass

creme brûlée

As this was an extra special meal we had every intention of treating Eric to a pudding but by that time came he was starting to get quite upset. So Ryan and I took it in turns to eat our desserts, with one of us eating whilst the other pushed the buggy round the bar area and vice versa. This meant that both our sweets were a little rushed, however both my choice of the Classic Dark Chocolate Mousse and Ryan's Cambridge Burnt Cream with a side drink of a Marc Me White went down a treat. 

With our child getting more and more irate and us being aware that a huge meltdown could be on the cards Ryan and I decided to make a swift getaway. We bundled E up in blankets and they both headed outside whilst I settled up the bill. I explained to our server about the swift exit and he was really apologetic for our wait which was lovely but completely unnecessary. Every one of the staff members who had waited on us had been attentive and offered brilliant customer service, looking after us and making sure we had everything we needed. 

I am so glad we waited for a special reason to go to Marco Pierre White Steakhouse. The food was brilliant, the ambiance warm and welcoming and the staff were excellent. I was initially slightly worried that we would feel out of place or awkward to have a baby with us but my fears were instantly put to rest. Having said that I would really like to go back as just a couple so that Ryan and I can enjoy everything at a more leisurely pace (there are also a few drinks on the wine and cocktail list  that I'm desperate to try). 

Whether you have a special occasion coming up or not, if you're a big steak lover or fan of fine dining you need to head to Marco Pierre White Steakhouse and experience it for yourselves. And with both a lunch and lounge menu on offer as well as the evening, it's the perfect little spot to pop into for cocktails, nibbles, or even for a cheeky post-shopping tipple.

Taste buds tingling? Head over to the Steakhouse Bar & Grill website to peruse the menus or make a booking.


Recharging My Batteries At Winona Retreat | Just Add Ginger

It's no secret that last year was one of the most difficult of my life in terms of my mental and emotional well being. After having Eric I spiralled down into a really dark place and it took me a while to get back out. Going through all of this made me realise that I needed to start being a little bit selfish and make sure I start taking some time out to focus on myself and practise a little more self-care. 

And one way that could guarantee 100% relaxation was booking myself in for a little pamper session.  I love a good massage and with the city centre seeming a whole other world away since we moved I was hoping to find somewhere a little bit more local. 

It was actually my parents who first recommended Winona Retreat. Although neither of them had never actually been themselves they know the owner and passed on her details so that I could peruse the treatment list and get in touch. After scrolling through the Facebook page and spotting a really great-sounding '3 for £30' offer I popped over a message to book myself in. 

spa treatment room with massage bed

spa treatment waiting room with wicker chair and sink

The minute you step into Winona Retreat you feel immediately at ease. Painted in a soft green and adorned with decor in soft colours it is evident that owner Christine has put a lot of thought into how the space is set up. The perfect mix of cosy and calming, instead of feeling like you are standing inside it is almost as if the room is just an extension of the grounds in which it is set. 

First up out of my three treatments was a back, neck and shoulder massage. After removing my top layer of clothing I hopped onto the treatment table and took a deep breath in. Even though the calming influence of both the room and Christine were inescapable I couldn't help but feel a little apprehensive. I'm not the best at being able to keep totally still during massages and as the muscles in my left side loosen I get extra fidgety and this can make me feel a bit awkward. All this can be misinterpreted as me not enjoying a massage and I just didn't want this to be an issue. 

Easing into the massage I could feel my muscles relax almost instantly. I carry a hell of a lot of tension in my right side (my shoulder especially) and it does take it toll, so having someone who knows what they are doing to work out the knots for me was incredible. With her hands gliding in a dance over my skin, Christine engaged me in gentle conversation. Her warm nature was such that I found myself opening up to her and talking to her as if she were a friend. 

Time passed so seamlessly that before I knew it it was time to move on to my next treatments - a facial and Indian head massage. Turning over onto my back, Christine covered me up in two thick blankets and propped my head up with a pillow. Now this was the part I was most excited for. I've wanted to try an Indian head massage for so long (I love having my hair washed at the hairdresser so I thought the experience might be similar) and have heard that they are really good if you suffer from anxiety so was seriously hoping having one would help me out.

Christine used the time to deliver both treatments simultaneously. The facial and the head massage were a great complement to one another and even though we were still engaging in gentle conversation I could feel myself becoming more and more relaxed. It was a feeling I'd never had before. Sometimes when I get massages I get an almost out-of-body experience that feels great but rather unnatural. But this was much better. I was calm, I was relaxed, but I was present

What was so nice about being at Winona Retreat was that I was not rushed. After the treatments were complete, Christine and I sat chatting away for ages. It honestly felt like I had known her for so much longer than an hour and felt so comfortable in her company that I ended up sharing a lot of things with her that ordinarily I might keep a little close to my chest around a stranger. 

Being at Winona Retreat was like entering into a bubble of complete and utter calm. All my worries and stresses from the outside world melted away and I totally switched off. It wasn't just getting some beauty treatments, it was a completely holistic experience in every sense and I loved my time there. Christine is such a warm, welcoming and inspiring woman that not at any one point did I feel uncomfortable or nervous. She worked around my needs and listened to me as I basically told her my life story, and offered advice and support in an entirely no-jugdgemental way, with discretion and confidentiality.

This was my first visit to Winona Retreat but it certainly won't be my last. For the rest of the day after my treatments I felt so carefree and chilled out and so much more relaxed than I have felt in a long time, with my left side feeling so much looser and all the tension in my back totally dissipating. 

Looking to take some time out and treat yourself to a little pamper session? You need to look into booking youself in at Winona Retreat. With incredibly affordable prices and run by the loveliest lady you will leave feeling fresh, phenomenal and without a worry in the world


Flexitol Hand Balm First Impressions* | Just Add Ginger

Being a parent means you have to do a lot of hand washing. Whether it's for bottles, bowls or after a nappy change it all starts to take its toll on your skin. And then you throw cold weather into the mix. Combine chilly weather and frequent trips to run your hands under the tap and it's just a recipe for disaster. My skin gets so cracked and sore that at the moment I can't wear my wedding bands - they only add to the irritation.

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to receive some products from Flexitol. Immediately thinking of my poor hands I glady accepted and chose to receive the Hand Balm and Cuticle and Nail Cream. With both products promising to keep hands hydrated and moisturised, I was keeping everything crossed that they would turn mine from dull and dry to feeling soft and supple again.

tube of flexitol hand balm

The packaging is very no-nonsense and informative, with all the key points about the balm clearly indicated on the front, which is something you would expect from a pharmaceutical company. I really appreciated the way the iconography is designed in a highly accessible format, with the orange and green colour scheme highlighting the picture of the hand on the front and making it incredibly clear what the balm is for. 

The product itself has a very delicate scent which as a parent is really welcome. Even though I'm a sucker for skincare that smells gorgeous, when I'm around Eric I like to keep things as fragrance free as possible. I may love it, but I don't think he wants to put a highly perfumed finger in his mouth to chew on.

Rich and thick, you only need to use the smallest amount of the hand balm at a time because it blends into your skin really easily, leaving it totally grease-free. Initially I was a bit dubious about the 'visible results in 24 hours' claim made on the product's packaging, but even after the first application my hands felt so silky smooth, more than any hand creams I have used since having a baby - and believe me, there have been quite a few! 

In order to give the Hand Balm a proper test I used it continually over the course of a day after every hand wash. The cream absorbed into my skin really quickly each time and left them feeling really soft without having a tacky or greasy feeling. The appearance of my hands even seemed to improve, taking them from rather dull and line-ridden to younger and smoother looking. 

The Flexitol Hand Balm is a no-nonsense cream. It does exactly what it says on the label and is absolutely perfect for parents who need something that is baby-friendly, fragrance free and with a fast absorption rate. Since using the balm consistently over the past couple of weeks I have really started to notice a difference in my hands and am finding that this is the only product that is cutting the mustard when it comes to performance. The perfect size to slot into a handbag or backpack, this cream is also ideal for those of us whose skin gets sorely affected by the colder weather or if you have a job that is really hard going on your hands.

If your hands are in need of a little TLC then definitely look into trying out the Flexitol range. Not just offering products for hands they also cater for feet too. Available at stores and pharmacists or through the Flexitol website, I think they are well worth having with you for using at home or on the go. The Hand Balm would also make a really great present for a new parent or mum or dad-to-be. It's not the most luxury or obvious of gift ideas but one that would be greatly appreciated.

* I was very kindly sent the Flexitol Hand Balm and Nail and Cuticle Oil for review consideration. This does not affect my opinions. For more details please see my disclaimer.


My First Mother's Day | Just Add Ginger

Mother's Day last year was the day before I was due to pop. I was sitting out in garden, feeling massively pregnant and incredibly fed up. I was so disappointed to be missing out on having reason to celebrate so when it came to Mother's Day this year I knew I wanted it to be extra special.

The day started out with a little bit of a lie in and the cards and presents in bed. For his first Mother's Day Eric really excelled himself and bought me a ring light. He was too excited for me to open it so I'd actually already opened it a few days prior but I had a lovely little extra surprise gift to open that he had made with the childminder.

Next up was breakfast - we all had a little dance party along to Dolly Parton, Beyonce and Harry Styles while Ryan made me pancakes with really crispy bacon and blackberry jam (sounds weird but trust me it'll change your life) and a "proper" coffee with extra frothy milk. Ryan and I had a ball boogying round the kitchen but Eric was already getting tired by that point so sat in his high chair looking at us in bewilderment. However he rallied himself enough to enjoy a small serving of pancakes and jam before heading upstairs for a nap. Jumping on this opportunity to sneak in some writing I switched on PLL and immersed myself in blog post writing for a good hour or so which felt bloody amazing. It was so nice not feeling guilty for foregoing housework, ignoring everyone and just throwing myself into something I love. Time is never something I have much of and to be honest having it was the best gift.

baby playing with toys in high chair

pancakes, bacon and jam

Once Eric woke up from his nap we bundled into the car and headed to Acorn Venture Urban Farm in Kirkby. It was our first family trip out to a farm (E has been before but not with us) and I was really excited to see what he made of all the animals. I was also hoping to get some decent photographs of the two of us together. I'm normally the one behind the camera so have missed out on so many good photo opportunities and I really wanted to have a couple of snaps of us while he is still a baby.

purple spring flowers

mother and son looking into distance

Even though the sky was pretty grey and ominous the weather stayed quite clear for us whilst we were at the farm. It was quite difficult to tell whether Eric was happy or confused by all the animals but we went round and made all the noises and pointed everything out. He has several books that feature farm animals so I tried to reference these as we went round all the pens. We did have to get Eric out the pushchair several times - now that he is walking being cooped up for too long just gets him too frustrated - but I think having him on my hip gave him a better view of all the animals anyway.

The farm wasn't huge so we did a few laps to make sure Eric had seen all the animals and we used up all of the feed we'd bought. We stayed for a couple of hours, nipping into the cafe towards the end of our visit to get Eric something to eat and shelter from the raindrops that had started to fall from the sky. We then headed back to the house so that he could have some time to play and toddle about before we went out again. Once we did get home we rang MG for a catch up but Eric was definitely ready for another nap so Ryan took him straight upstairs afterwards for some shut eye.

baby in pushchair looking at a pig

mother and baby boy laughing

While the baby settled I slowly sipped on another hot coffee (now such a luxury) and got in a little more laptop time. However Eric being Eric he spent about twenty minutes rolling round his cot trying to get comfortable and eventually drifted off five minutes before we were due to head out of the door. Not wanting to wake him too soon we decided to let him sleep for ten or so minutes and set off later to the meal Ryan had booked us.

Just after 4pm we got back into the car and headed to Yukti for a meal with Ryan's parents. The restaurant were running a special offer to mark Mothering Sunday so I got to enjoy a cheeky little glass of fizz with my meal. Eric munched on poppadums and some of the pre-starters we got and it was just really lovely spending time together and indulging in some really good food. Yukti are always so welcoming and very unexpectdly gave us some complementary side dishes and an extra dessert, all of which were so greatly appreciated.

I was having such a lovely day that I honestly didn't want it to come to an end and by the time we got home and put Eric to bed I started to feel really sad. Ryan and I spent some time having a snuggle on the sofa and having a bit of a catch up. He works so much during the week that even though we see each other we don't really spend very much time together so the moments we do get where it is just the two of us with no distrations doesn't really happen that much. Normally he comes home and I talk at him trying to catch him up with everything that happened that day. Having actual conversations are a rare occurance and it was brilliant to talk about other things rather poo, nappies and nap time

I don't really know what to expect for my first Mother's Day but I had a fantastic one. I don't think it really would have mattered what we did. Just being together was enough and actually having time in the day that was wholly mine. Even when I do have a spare hour or two I find it so difficult to loosen the reins and remove my mummy hat but by letting Ryan take the lead we managed to have a fun family day and I got so much done and I loved it. 

What did you do for Mothering Sunday?


SlimLine Wine Super Sparkling White Wine* | Just Add Ginger

If you caught my 2018 resolutions post then you'll know that this year I have decided I want to climb Snowdon. In order to do this I need to shift the last 18lbs I'm holding on to from my pregnancy so that I can a) fit back in to all my walking clothes and b) feel like I am in a better place fitness wise. I've really made a conscious effort to tune into my body and find the best way to do this (I find it incredibly hard to lose weight) and have adapted my eating habits and diet accordingly, cutting back on red meat, midweek beers and lots of 'heavier' foods during the evening, but one thing I could never let go of are my glasses of fizz on a Friday night (I think watching Tangled ten times in one week means you are entitled to these)! 

bottle of slimline wine super sparkling white wine

I'm always open-minded when it comes to trying new wines and when SlimLine Wine got in touch and asked if I was interested in trying one of their zero sugar, zero carb wines I jumped at the chance, totally intrigued and very, very excited. A zero sugar, zero carb wine? Was that even possible? 

Tearing open the outer packaging I couldn't wait to see which of the wines I had been sent. Over the years my preferences have changed but now I am older and wiser I have an appreciation for reds, roses, whites and sparklings, modifying my choice of grape to suit the occasion. But if I had to decide my heart will always be with fizz. As I pulled out the bottle I discovered that I had received a bottle of the Super Sparkling White. It was as if SlimLine knew. I was delighted! 

First off, the bottle itself is really sleek. Before the wine arrived I had visions of it having really cheesy packaging that made you cringe every time you spotted it in your larder, but the design of the bottle is really sophisticated and one that I would be proud to pass around during any social gathering. The subtle branding and iconography of the label also means that you can be a clandestine slimmer amongst any party crowd too.

I popped the bottle in the fridge and waited for the end of the week to arrive. As soon as Ryan gets home on a Friday night I know I am on the wind down for the weekend. My mummy hat comes off for the night and I get to put my feet up for a few hours and relax. The pjs come out, Friends goes on, we cook a nice meal together and then clink our champagne glasses together to ring in the weekend.

bottle of slimline wine super sparkling wine and chanpagne flutes

man pouring a glass of slimline wine into champagne flute

Taking the first few sips of the wine I could hardly believe this was zero carb and sugar at all. It was sweet (but not overly saccharide), with a subtle hint of vanilla and full of mellow notes that made it incredibly palatable. In short, it was bloody delicious! If you are a fan of Prosecco or Asti Spumante then this wine is definitely for you. 

We paired the wine with a big hearty bowl of pasta and meatballs but I think that the versatility of this white would lend itself to a whole multitude of dishes - from fish to frittata and even the perfect accompaniment to a cheeseboard. 

I have to say that going in to this review I was pretty dubious as to what the SlimLine Super Sparkling White would taste like and I have been completely blown away. It really does taste fantastic and if you went to pour yourself a glass without prior knowledge of the brand, there's no way you'd be able to tell that it low in carbs and sugar. 

clinking champagne glasses

Not a huge fan of whites? No problem! SlimLine Wine also offers a 'Really Red' and 'Super Sparkling Pink' alongside the Super Sparkling White and a 'Crisp White' too. They are not yet available to buy in stores but you can purchase through the SlimLine Wine online shop. Cost per bottle varies from £8.99 for the white and red to £10.99 for the two Super Sparkling options, so a little bit on the more premium end, but in my opinion, well worth it!

If this review has left you itching to know more, head over to the Slimline Wine website to learn more about the brand, the wines on offer and to check out their shop. Tried any of the other varieties? Let me know your thoughts and recommendations in the comments. 

* I was very kindly sent a complimentary bottle of Slimline Wine's Super Sparkling White Wine. This does not affect my opinions. For more information, please see my disclaimer


A Birthday Treat For Eric From Totally Bows & Co* | Just Add Ginger

If you read this post earlier in the month then you will know how, for Eric's first birthday, Ryan and I have decided to steer away from buying him toys and instead mark it by doing a few things as a family that will help create some really special memories and give us some keepsakes that we will be able to have forever. 

A few months ago, I applied for the opportunity to have a personalised bib made for Eric by Totally Bows & Co to mark his first birthday and to my absolute delight I was chosen! After Ryan and I discussing what we should request to have on the bib, and after a few e-conversations with shop owner Joanne, we decided to go for a design that he could carry on wearing long past his first birthday.

baby boy smiling

baby pulling tongues

Right off the bat I was incredibly impressed with both how thick and soft the bib was. Eric suffers from very mild reflux and is cutting his first tooth at the moment so we get through bibs like crazy. Having ones that are really good quality and last just that little bit longer is really important because otherwise - if it's a really bad day for dribble - we get close to running out. Eric has worn this bib a few times already (I just couldn't wait for his birthday) and each time it has survived really well, absorbing everything but keeping Eric's clothes nice and dry.

The bib fastening is a small piece of Velcro that is positioned at the nape of the neck. Ordinarily I shy away from bibs that are done up like this because in the past they have irritated Eric's skin. However with this one it is not an issue. The fastening has been placed just behind the inner seam at the neckline, meaning that it is well out of the way. 

The fit of the bib on Eric is a little generous but I don't mind this. The tooth that is working its way through is only Eric's first and there's no way he can stop wearing them any time soon (he is a walking dribble factory anyway) so this bib is going to last him for ages. Of course, fit is something that will vary from baby to baby so depending on the build of your little one this may sit higher or lower on their chest. 

Baby boy reading a book

baby boy looking at camera

Design-wise Joanne hit the nail on the head. Nicknames to do with bears are a bit of a thing in our house so that fact that Eric's bib has a little bear cub on it could not be more perfect. The colour choices make it easy to pair the bib with any of his outfits too (most of Eric's clothes are blue, earthy-toned or monochrome). I also love the fact that the fabric is 100% cotton - he may be older now but I still am really careful about material that could irritate Eric's skin.

Ryan and I wanted to have little mementos to keep from Eric's first year and this is such a perfect way to do it. With a design that isn't too over the top and a fit that is built to last the long haul, our little man is going to get so much use out of this bib. Throughout the whole process Joanne was really receptive to my ideas and tried to accommodate them as much as she could and I would not hesitate to think of ordering from her Etsy shop. Aside from personalised bibs she offers a whole host of beautifully crafted goods - from tutus to bows and bags, so whether it's for a birthday or simply 'just because' there is a lot to choose from. And everything is at a really reasonable price point.

Want to take a look for yourself? Why not head over to the Totally Bows & Co shop or check out the Facebook page

* Totally Bows & Co very kindly made a personalised bib for Eric in exchange for this blog post. This does not affect my opinions. For more information please see my disclaimer.


A Mummy Morning At Patisserie Valerie* | Just Add Ginger

2018 has so many exciting things in store. Eric's birthday is coming up in April and of course it is my first Mother's Day this year. And this is something I am so excited for. Last year it fell on my due date and I was sitting outside in the sun incredibly pregnant, with no baby in sight and feeling very fed up. With an invite for both me and MG to come spend the morning at Patisserie Valerie on Friday I knew this was something I couldn't pass up. Not only would it be lovely to see my own mum near Mother's Day, but it is her first as a grandmother too!

cup of coffee from patisserie valerie

After meeting Danielle and her mum outside we headed into Patisserie Valerie to get settled. MG wasn't having the best journey up to Liverpool and was running behind but Sarah from Carousel PR was really accommodating, helping me down the stairs with the pushchair and promising to keep an eye out for mum and show her inside (Mum and I are cut from the same cloth - running late makes us both really flustered).

Snatching a minute whilst Eric was happy in his highchair I made my way over to swoon over the two delicious looking cakes that were sitting on a table at the front of the table that had been set out for all the attendees of the event. I've been to Patisserie Valerie a few times before but have never actually sampled many of the cakes. Decadent, beautifully decorated and delectable, my heart skipped a beat and my tummy rumbled just looking at them. Why didn't we come here more often?

cakes from patisserie valerie

With our hot drinks ordered and everyone settled in, the morning started with a talk by Chelsea from Liverpool Girl Geeks who shared with us how the organisation began and how they strive to support and provide programmes to help women get into the technology sector. I only caught snippets of her talk and the stories she shared (Eric was getting a bit fussy and needed entertaining) but it was clear she is really passionate about what she does and the empowering message Liverpool Girl Geeks delivers.

After Chelsea's talk it was time to tuck into the slices of cake that we had so generously been provided with. Knowing Eric would get serious food envy I asked if we could order him some toast ('Jackie doesn't share food') and the staff kindly obliged and provided us with toast and butter free of charge. As E sat chomping away, Danielle, myself and our mums chatted away and it just felt really nice spending some time together. With Danielle helping in the entertaining of Eric I even got to enjoy a hot coffee -  boy have I missed that! The slice of cake (I went for the strawberry) was absolutely beautiful. The sponge was so light and fluffy that it melted away in your mouth, leaving a sweet aftertaste that enticed you to have one forkful more. MG opted for a slice of the chocolate and if I hadn't whipped a bit onto my fork to try she would have gobbled it up without offering me a bit to try. And who could blame her? Rich and flavourful with a creamy filling and a perfectly formed profiterole perched on top it too was absolutely delicious.

baby eating toast in a high chair

grandmother and baby

slice of cake and coffee at patisserie valerie

Trying to balance being a blogger and a mum is something I have been finding really difficult as I tend to miss out on so much, so having this time to reconnect with familiar faces and catch up really meant a lot to me. It was fantastic seeing Danielle, Helena and Pingkan and spending some quality time with my mum and Eric in a place that was so welcoming and flexible. Sarah and all the staff fell over backwards to lend a hand with getting the pushchair up and down the stairs which was just amazing. Finding new places to go when you have a little one with you can be really tricky and I wouldn't hesitate to head to Patisserie Valerie again. Especially because afterwards it's so easy to nip next door and indulge in some shopping in the Met Quarter.

cupcakes from patisserie valerie

As we were leaving we were very kindly given goody bags, which contained cupcakes, a voucher for more treats from Patisserie Valerie and the prettiest pink flower from mq flowers which Eric was rather taken with. It was so thoughtful that mums were included in the event and given a little something to take away with them, and I know MG was over the moon with her cupcake (I am still yet to eat mine). 

It may be Mother's Day but it's never too late to treat your mum and the Met Quarter is the perfect place to go for ideas. With the likes of Jo Malone, mq flowers, Mococo, Paperchase and of course Patisserie Valerie all in the same spot it's an ideal spot to shop til you drop and treat your mum to something she loves for Mother's Day or simply just because. 

* During this event we very kindly received a complimentary hot drink, slice of cake and a goody bag. Eric's toast was also free of charge. This does not affect my opinions. For more information, please see my disclaimer.


Pretty And Practical? Testing Mad Beauty's Disney Princess Face Masks | Just Add Ginger

I never make it a secret that when it comes to looking after my skin I am lazy. I don't have the time for a full-on skincare routine and more often than not I will fall asleep on the sofa with a full face of makeup on. Then I'll go upstairs, crawl into bed and end up using a face wipe as a quick fix. It's a habit I desperately need to break, but I just haven't found the right combination of products to make me change my ways. 

One of the birthday presents I received this year was a Topshop voucher and, having looked on the website and finding nothing that caught my eye, I stumbled upon these super-cute Disney Princess sheet masks from Mad Beauty. Sold individually, the voucher I had meant that I could buy four. One (Aurora) I used as a little experiment, and having not had any averse reactions, I popped the rest to one side ready to break out when my skin put out an SOS call. 

I don't know whether it has been the weather or the fact that up until more recently Eric hasn't been sleeping well, but over the past month my skin has been crying out for help. And whereas I'm still not the best at doing all I can to take care of it, I thought that with these masks sitting in my stash, I'd buck my ideas up and start paying it some attention.

disney princess facemasks by mad beauty

Enchanted Rose (Belle) - One of the biggest issues I have with my skin is that it looks lacklustre and tired most of the time. I have also had a few areas of redness that have flared up and just make me feel really embarrassed whenever I spot them in the mirror. With the promise that it is 'calming on the face' I tore the packet open, praying that it would do something to reduce some of the redness and breathe some life back into my skin. 

After adjusting the sheet mask as best I could (lining up the eye, nose and mouth holes was a bit of a nightmare) I waited for the recommended 10-12 minutes then removed the mask and rinsed away the residual products. 

My skin felt so soft. And to be honest I was really shocked. Not that I thought the masks weren't going to do anything but I think a part of my saw the packaging and thought there was the slightest possibility they were a gimmick. But this one definitely wasn't. There was also a touch more radiance to it but nothing jaw-dropping (I think that if you are someone who takes better care of their skin though this would be a bit more evident). 

The suppleness of my skin lasted for a good few days afterwards too and I was absolutely delighted. The weather has been so cold and the wind so bitter that I was sure my skin was destined to dry out but it didn't. 

With results that made me happy and a scent that is just divine, Belle, you get a massive thumbs up from me!

disney princess facemasks by mad beauty

A Whole New World (Jasmine) - After having such a great experience using the Belle sheet mask I had high hopes for Jasmine and waited until I had a spare half an hour where I could have a long soak in a hot bath and fully appreciate a good pamper. 

Just like Belle, Jasmine smelt amazing. The fragrance was strong but not overbearing and added to the home spa experience. I did slightly better with the alignment of the sheet mask this time too, although I did find that the mouth hole kept slipping down which - I'm not going to lie - was really annoying. 

Although the scent of this mask was great, I just didn't have as positive experience as I had with the first. Where the mask was slipping onto my top lip, it made the area a bit irritated and sore. And after rinsing away the remaining product, my skin didn't really show any signs of being refreshed and revitalised nor did it feel nourished. 

I wasn't too put off though. Not all beauty products are going to be right for everyone so it may be that I just don't have the right skin type for this mask to have any effect.

Jewel Of The Sea (Ariel) - Once a girl whose feet itched for a night out, opportunities to get dressed up and dance until my feet ache are a lot more rare now so I decided to save the final mask for a day where we had big party plans so that I could immerse myself in the getting ready process. Having had mixed experiences with both the Belle and Jasmine masks I went in half hoping to be pleasantly surprised and half extremely pessimistic. 

This time Ryan helped me line up the sheet to my face so everything was a bit more comfortable. However I really did not like the scent of this one - it was meant to be cucumber (which Ryan said it did) but to me it smelt incredibly artificial

I left the sheet mask on for just a little over the recommended time (about two minutes over) but again, similarly to Jasmine, the product started to feel a bit uncomfortable on the skin surrounding my mouth. Maybe the 10-12 minutes should be followed strictly and I brought that bit on myself but still it's something to be aware of. 

Considering this sheet mask was meant to hydrate and moisturise I have to say that my skin just didn't feel very soft afterwards. After rinsing any residual product and patting my skin dry it felt pretty dry and I had to put a layer of my own moisturiser on afterwards to get my face back to a comfortably supple state ready for me to start putting on my make up! 

Having never used anything from Mad Beauty before I went into this not knowing what to expect. And to be honest I still don't know what to think. I do know that I really enjoyed using the Belle sheet mask and that it gave me the best results out of the three. But I also know that I wouldn't repurchase any of the others because for me they just didn't deliver. It may just depend on your skin type and needs and mine didn't fit what the other masks were offering or it may be that they just weren't as good.

If you are a big Disney fan, have a girly evening planned or are a sucker for products with pretty packaging then I think you should definitely give these masks a go. However if you are looking for a sheet mask with a little bit more substance these I don't think these will be for you. Sure they are fun to use and will look super-cute in your beauty stash but you may be a bit disappointed if you are looking for something that will give you really noticeable results. 

Although I am holding my breath over the sheet masks I know Mad Beauty have a lot of other really pretty beauty products in their collections and I am really intrigued to try a few more (Belle's Beauty Dome is really catching my eye).

Talk to me in the comments guys - have you tried anything from Mad Beauty? What were your experiences?


Behind The Scenes At Eric's Cake Smash | Just Add Ginger

When it came to thinking about what to get Eric for his first birthday, Ryan and I found ourselves pretty stuck for ideas. We would think we had it sorted and then low and behold, we had to start all over again because Eric's tastes had changed or he seemed a lot happier trying to climb the chimney or chasing an empty bottle round the room. 

So instead we decided to make his birthday about creating memories. And one thing that was high up on my list of things to do was to book Eric in for a cake smash photo shoot. Our niece had one in the lead up to her first birthday and the pictures were so cute and I was keeping everything crossed that we might actually get some photos of E smiling for once. 

cake smash photo - rachel clarke photography

If you don't know what a cake smash is, it's pretty straight forward - you give a baby a cake, and then you let them go wild with it. They can smash it, bash it, eat it, bury their face in it and get as messy as they want and it's all part of the fun. It's something that's a lot more common in America, but the idea has filtered through over here and it's a concept I think is really cute.

So on Saturday afternoon we headed to Rachel Clarke Photography ready for our photo shoot. This is where my sister-in-law booked her little one in so we already knew a little bit about what the session would entail. Rachel had been really helpful in the week leading up to the cake smash, letting me know what I needed to bring and answering any questions I had.  

Rachel's studio is really easy to find whether you are coming by road or by rail, with ample parking on the road or in a car park opposite. The space itself is light and airy whilst still maintaining a level of intimacy that makes you feel cosy and comfortable. There is enough space to store the pushchair and a large squishy sofa sits off to one side where you can perch when changing baby's clothes or use to catch a break in between photos.

cake stand with cakes

rail of baby clothes

The session started out with a few portrait shots of Eric in the first of his outfits. Rachel set up the backdrop with a line of tassle bunting, blue balloons and a big glittery '1'. We were given a choice of three different colour backgrounds ahead of time but I opted for cream because I thought it would add some warmth to the photos whilst complementing the clothes I'd picked out for E to wear. Knowing how much he loves to move around I picked out something really comfy rather than clothing he would find restrictive, just in case he decided to set off for an explore.

baby photo shoot with rachel clarke photography liverpool

Having spent the past day testing out different techniques to get Eric to smile, when it came to it he was just too interested in the new setting to focus much on cracking a grin no matter how silly we all acted. However if you didn't have a baby who loves nothing more than to show you his best 'Blue Steel' impression as soon as they see the camera they would be in their element. 

The next part of the shoot - the actual smash itself - I was most excited for. I have been quite strict on Eric and the amount of sweet treats he has so I knew as soon as he saw the cake (which is included with the photo shoot) he wasn't going to know himself.

cake smash photo shoot with rachel clarke photography liverpool

blue cake smash cake

At first, Eric had no idea what the cake was. He just sat there looking confused until Ryan scooped some of the icing onto his finger and popped it into his mouth. It took a few seconds for it to register that this giant blue thing could be eaten but the minute it clicked the reaction was hilarious. There weren't many smiles (typical) but what we got instead was so much better and Eric absolutely loved getting covered in cake. 

Once Eric was showing signs of having enough of the smash and began to crawl away it was time for the last element of the photo shoot - popping him in the bath to wash off all the cake and icing. We took a bottle of our favourite Kit & Kin bubble bath to use (you need to take your own bath products and towel along) and plopped Eric into the cute tin bath to see what he made of it.

Water went everywhere. Bubbles glided in the air and the poor rubber duck went for a forced dabble. But Eric was loving every minute of it. I can't wait to see how all the photos turned out for this part because you could see how much he was enjoying being in the water.

baby photo shoot - rachel clarke photography

If, like us, you are a bit lost for ideas for what to get your little one for their first birthday then I think booking in for a special photo shoot is a really lovely idea. And if you are in the Liverpool area you need to check out Rachel Clarke Photography (links to her social pages are below). From start to finish Rachel made us feel completely at home, took into account all of our needs and was brilliant with Eric. The way the studio is set up is like being in someone's living room. There is nothing clinical about it and the space isn't crowded with equipment that you are scared of baby getting hold of. 

Not just offering cake smash shoots, Rachel also offers wedding, family and newborn packages, all at a reasonable price point. If you are on the lookout for a photographer then I cannot recommend her enough. She made our experience so special and memorable and I wouldn't hesitate to work with her again. Plus - have you seen how cute her photos from the shoot featured in this post are?

But don't just take my word for it, take a peek at Rachel's work for yourself on her website, Facebook and Instagram pages.