Thai Cookery Lessons with Thaikhun Guildford

January. Christmas is over and the weather is dull. And cold. So flipping cold. And what better way to warm up a cold, miserable day, than with some warm, soul comforting food. I’ve spoken on the blog before about the restaurant chain Thaikhun and when they asked me to come along and sample their new Thai cookery lesson at the Guildford branch I leapt at the chance. I couldn’t think of a nicer way to banish the winter blues.

We arrived to a delicious Mocktail and a bowl of spicy prawn crackers, while Map, our host, explained the structure of the evening. We would be watching the chef cook a two course menu, before having a go at preparing the same ourselves. All ingredients, equipment and aprons were provided and the chef was set up at a station away from the kitchen so we could all crowd round to watch.

This was fascinating, however I would mention that this course involved a lot of standing and watching. If you go, don’t do what I did and wear heels! Comfy shoes all the way!

Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls

The first course he, and then we, prepared was Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls. I love spring rolls and had no idea they were so simple to prepare! We shredded and cooked the filling, then wrapped the rolls and deep fried them. It was so obvious and the preparation so straightforward, but I would never have considered making them at home had someone not shown me how to do it!

Skills! Plus, I want a knife like this!

Watching the prep of the filling. Frenetic!

The cooking area was set up with four burners and prep stations. This was based on eight participants (the most the classes usually take), with two to a burner. This would make it a really fun activity for couples or a couple of friends to do. Unfortunately on the night I went I was the only lone participant in a group of nine. This was OK to begin with though as some other friendly bloggers let me muscle in on their rolls!

Then it was our turn!

Deep Fried!

Once the spring rolls were cooked, we sat to eat them, while the ingredients for the main course were prepared. It was lovely to sit and chat with the others in my group while we ate and it really broke the ice that we’d all just cooked the same thing for the first time!

I cooked those!!!

Thai Green Chicken Curry

The main course was Thai Green Chicken Curry, a real favourite of mine! The chef explained the preparation of a real curry paste. However, due to time constraints (making a real paste from scratch, with a pestle and mortar, can take hours apparently) he was choosing to use a bought one. I was a little disappointed at this. I mean the paste was wonderful and gave a fantastic flavour, but it would have been fabulous to see, and use, a real homemade paste. Even a ” here’s one I made earlier” one.

Chef explaining the process of producing green curry paste and prepping the vegetables.

When it came to cooking the curry, the head chef took over. It was so interesting and fun to watch him work!

Then it was our turn. However, I didn’t feel as comfortable muscling in on another couple’s curry so I just watched.

A green curry paste and coconut milk base

It was a shame I didn’t feel like I could get involved, However Thaikhun were most apologetic and have suggested I go back another time to get the full experience and I’d love that!

As I hadn’t helped cook anything I didn’t feel I could ask to eat it either. So, rather cleverly I thought, I asked if the bowl of curry the Head Chef’ had cooked was still around. And it was. I may not have got to cook it, but I did get to eat bowl of Head Chef prepared curry to make up for it. And boy did it! We all sat back down together and were given bowls of rice to go with our curry. Delicious!

Thai Green Chicken Curry

All gone!

At the end of the meal we were given the opportunity to ask any more questions and given, what I thought, was a really thoughtful gift bag, complete with a bottle of Fish Sauce, Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk, along with some vouchers for money off in the restaurant and printed recipes for the dishes we’d prepared. Lovely!

Thoughts

It really was a shame I wasn’t able to get involved in the cooking of the curry. Asking more than two to share a burner is never going to work, even if they were all friends. But as long as the numbers attending the course were kept low, this would be such a fun thing to do.

The restaurant have been these running cookery lessons for a while now. However, the Guildford branch is starting to host theirs from February 2017. They will be running them from 11am-1pm on the 2nd Sunday of every month. The cost is £50 per person and includes everything you could need, including ingredients, expertise and a full meal at the end of it. You can book the course on their website.

The course was so much fun and I learned a lot about Thai flavours. So much so in fact that I’ve been totally inspired and have cooked the spring rolls and curry at home already. The rolls were so good. I may have to knock some up tonight as it goes.

Anyone want to come to dinner?

 

 

Thank you to Mapp and everyone at Thaikhun for a lovely evening.

I was invited to the course as a guest, however I was not paid to write this review. As always opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Hotter Shoes – can footwear really be comfy AND cute?

When I was a little girl, shoes were something of an obsession for me. I loved shoes. Looking at shoes, trying on shoes, playing with shoes. I loved everything about them. Except having school shoes fitted. Not because of the experience itself (which obsessive wouldn’t love going to a shop wholly dedicated to their passion?) but because of the shoes that I was invariably made to have. And not because my parents were hell bent on me having strong, supportive shoes (I mean they were, but…) No, I hated the inevitable tears and heartbreak when I couldn’t have a pair I liked because a) my feet were too wide (seriously I was an H fit child) and b) they weren’t supportive enough for my pretty bad pronation. I would have given anything to leave with a pair of  Clark’s delicate, single strap Magic Steps. Remember Magic Steps? With the hidden key in the heel? But no. I would come away every time with a face full of tears and a pair of T-Bar, if not double buckle, T-bar shoes. Double Buckle? Oh the shame!

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Double buckle Tbar shoes – oh the shame! Image courtesy of Pinterest

Now I’m a parent I feel for my poor mum, having to dash her little girl’s dreams every shoe shopping trip. And I also feel for her, because as soon as I was old enough to chose my own shoes, all thoughts of supportive footwear, that fit properly, flew out of the window! Most children grow out of their pronation, but not me. Likewise most children’s wide feet slim down as they grow. And once again, not me. It doesn’t mean my love of beautiful shoes has changed. I still struggle to find shoes I like that fit. I usually have to get my boots and shoes either from plus size retailers such as Evans or I buy cheap shoes that I don’t mind painfully stretching, often beyond recognition. It’s been that way for such a long time that I never really considered that there was an alternative.

Hotter Shoes

When I was invited to Hotter Shoes in Guildford to take a look at their AW16 range I was skeptical. I had heard of Hotter. I was pretty sure I knew the kinds of shoes they stocked and was also sure I wouldn’t be interested in the styles they sold. Turns out I was wrong.

Firstly I didn’t realise they were a British company who make all their shoes here in the UK and have been for over 50 years! The family run company began in the slipper game back in 1959 and gradually moved into the comfortable shoe market, selling via mail order and in garden centres, over the next 50 years.

Hotter Shoes started in 1959 selling Slippers, which still form part of their core stock

Hotter Shoes started selling Slippers in 1959, which still forms part of their core business

It wasn’t until 2010 when they opened their first shop, that they really started to expand into fashionable styles, without compromising their unique construction and quality. Hotter shoes all have air bubble filled soles and use super soft leathers. They also use a special process to create flexible soles that are molded to the upper, meaning there is no sole unit to come away from the upper. Genius! Waterproof and flexible they also have “special grooves that yield and support your feet as you walk and pillows of cushioning create a slipper like feeling underfoot”. Fancy!

The look

OK, so that sounded lovely and all, but what’s the point of having lovely comfy shoes if they look like the very devil? So the lovely ladies at the Guildford store gave us a chance to explore the shoes for ourselves and I can’t tell you how shocked I was.

Yes Hotter have a core stock of exactly the kind of shoes I was expecting to see.

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But they also had a range of the most beautiful boots and dress shoes. I was gob smacked. But the biggest shock for me was the fit. I mentioned to the store manager that I have (and always have had) wide feet and she sympathised. She explained that much of their stock came in three width fittings, but suggested I try on the standard fit, as I might be surprised.

The fit

I chose several pairs of boots and honestly expected to have to also ask for the wider fit in all of them. However, turns out Hotter’s standard fit is wider than most high street stores, and is in fact closer to Clark’s Wide Fit. Every single pair that came out, bar one, fitted first time. Shocked Face!

Surrounded by boots that fit!

Surrounded by boots that fit! I cant tell you how rare an occurrence this was for me!

And even better was that I liked every pair. I loved the high leg “Mystery” boots (although I found they fitted my huge man calves better in the wide fit) and was seriously tempted by the gorgeous “Lotty” boots that I’m wearing above. I couldn’t believe how comfy they were, and yet how good they looked. They actually made my feet look narrower, despite not pinching anywhere. It was a revelation in boot shopping. I tried on so many pairs and except for the beautiful brogue Chelsea Boot “County” (which was just a shade too narrow and doesn’t come in the wider fit) they all fitted so nicely.

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“Mystery” Boots by Hotter Shoes

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“County” boots by Hotter Shoes

But when it came down to choosing a pair, I decided to go with the ones that made me happy. The ones I just adored on sight. The cute ones I would never have bought myself. The impractical suede ones, that make me feel a hundred foot tall. The ones that made me smile the most. I chose my grown up version of my Magic Steps, but without compromising on fit. I chose a black pair of “Vanity“.

"Vanity" Boots by Hotter Shoes

“Vanity” Boots by Hotter Shoes

Thoughts

I love my Vanity boots. They go beautifully with leggings or tights, and just as well with skinny jeans. The heel is probably as high as I can take these days, but it’s chunky and sturdy. That coupled with the cushioned insole, make these some of the most comfortable heeled boots I’ve ever worn. And what with the Christmas season coming up, wear them I will. I tell you now, I’ll be the last one on the dance floor, that’s for sure!

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My grown up version of Magic Steps. I got the ones I wanted!

They completely typify the kind of footwear I had no idea Hotter made. They’re comfortable, but they’re also beautiful. Who knew that could even be a combination? Not me.

I’ve had my eyes opened and I’ll definitely be back. Or maybe I could ask someone else to go back for me?

Now listen Santa, I’ve been very very good this year…. 😉

 

EDIT:

Hotter have very kindly sent me a code for £10 off a pair of shoes or boots, plus FREE delivery. So if you are tempted to try them out then now’s the time to do it!

Code: PQBTPD

T&C’s – £10 off plus FREE delivery is for first orders only. You are entitled to £10 off the total order value of any full priced items in the Hotter range (excluding shoe care products) plus FREE delivery.  This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotional offer or on Sale or Factory Clearance items and gift vouchers. Expires 29/1/17

 

 

 

 

Thank you to Hotter Shoes and the lovely ladies at the Guildford branch for a super evening. I was given a pair of boots for the purpose of this review, but was not paid for this post.

As always all opinions are honest and my own. 

 

Thaikhun Restaurant Children’s Menu – A Review

In May I was invited to the launch of a new restaurant in Guildford, specialising in Thai style street food. Thaikhun (pronounced Tycoon) are a small chain with 8 branches across the UK. I had a lovely evening at the launch, meeting the joint owner Kim Kaewkraikhot. We talked all about her life in Thailand, making award winning noodles. How when her now business partner, tasted them, he was inspired to invest in her and develop Thaikhun in the UK. Such an interesting story!

The Look

The decor of the restaurant is fantastic. Authentic and fun it’s designed especially to remind diners of the street markets of Kim’s home country. She even explained how she hand picks many of the items used for decoration on her trips back to Thailand. It was clear to see the time and thought that had gone into it.

A replica of the cart Kim sold her food from. Every restaurant has one to remind them of where the idea for Thaikhun came from. You can see the 'train tracks on the floor too. These run throughout the restaurant. Many of the markets in Thailand are built over train tracks and have to be picked up periodically to let the trains through!

A replica of the cart Kim originally sold her food from. Every restaurant has one to represent Thaikhun’s humble beginnings. See the ‘train tracks’ on the floor? Many of the markets in Thailand are built over train tracks and have to be picked up periodically to let the trains through!

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The decor is authentic down to the old sets playing Thai TV in the corner!

The Food

I love Thai food, but I don’t get out to eat it much since moving away from London. The food I tried at Thaikhun was hands down some of the best I’ve had. Noodles, of course, but also curries, salads, various stir fried dishes and options from the grill. The enthusiastic staff seemed keen to explain that Thai food doesn’t just begin and end with Pad Thai. And I’m so glad they did. It’s the thing I always order in Thai restaurants, partly because I love it and partly because it’s the dish I’m most familiar with I guess. However, when I was given the Pork Belly with Green Beans in Red Curry Sauce (Moo Prik King), well, all that changed. Juicy pork, with a flavoursome heat and crunchy beans!  I could have eaten a bucket of just that. With some sticky rice perhaps. Delicious!

Starting the meal with spicy crackers and a cocktail in a box? Yes please!

Starting the meal with spicy crackers and a cocktail in a box? Yes please!

Starters

A selection of starters. The Fishcakes were gorgeous little morsels!

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Take your pick. A selection of mains including the ever popular Pad Thai

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My new favourite Moo Prik King. Pork Belly with Green Beans in Red Curry Sauce. Amazeballs!

While I was chatting to the management I asked whether they felt the restaurant was suitable for children (once a mummy blogger always a mummy blogger after all!) I could see there were plenty of high chairs and a changing facility, but wondered if the busy decor and bustling feeling might be too much for some children. They told me that they were actually working on their children’s offering and asked if I would be willing to come back when it was launched to let them know my thoughts. I said I’d love to.

High chairs

Plenty of (decent) high chairs!

Children’s Menu

I have to admit I was concerned whether Oscar would cope with the busy decor and the unusual food. His autism means we can never be sure how he’ll cope in new places, so to be sure I could offer a fair review I actually took him for lunch a few weeks beforehand. He did brilliantly and loved the busy decor, especially the Garfield Phone! We ordered the PopCorn Chicken from the old children’s menu and I gave him some of my rice. He tried it all, including the spicy prawn crackers. I actually thought the children’s options were pretty good (and tasted lovely!) The only niggle was that I had to ask three different people to bring him crayons to colour his menu mat and by the time they did he’d lost patience and wanted to leave.

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What else do you do with the cloche over the condiments?

The Garfield phone went down a storm!

The Garfield phone went down a storm!

Going back he was much calmer and knew where he wanted to sit. It was interesting to see the new menus. They had retained the Pad Thai and Pop corn style chicken and rice options, but had introduced a Mix n Match option. I loved this idea as it allows children to pick the elements they liked and mix with a choice of three sauces, making the dish as flavoursome or not as taste dictates. Brilliant!

The new Thaikhun Children's Menu

The new Thaikhun Children’s Menu

All children’s meals start with crudités (vegetable sticks), then I chose him the plain noodles, the char grilled chicken and a nut free satay sauce. My thinking was that he likes chicken, occasionally eats noodles and adores peanut butter! It came, not on a plate as before, but in a yellow version of the compartmentalised school dinner tray, with plastic cutlery. I couldn’t really work out why, although I know some children prefer the compartmentalised approach to food, so maybe it was that. I have to say it didn’t really add anything to the experience for us.  The chicken was lovely  and the noodles were, well, noodles. He wouldn’t add the sauce to them, which was a real shame, as I think it would have been much tastier if he had! Ahh well that’s my boy. Maybe next time. But all in all I loved this idea. Children love control over the food they eat and this hands it to them nicely.

Child's meal tray

Children’s meals come in these trays. Great if your child likes to keep their food separate, but plenty of room to mix it up if they would prefer.

As a bit of fun the restaurant also serve all children a small pot of ‘creepy crawlies’ or Buffalo Worms as they’re actually called, to try. Oaty in flavour they were perfectly inoffensive, but Oscar would not touch them, telling me “You don’t eat worms Mummy!” Far too sensible my chap 😂. The dessert for the set childrens menu was a Mini Milk Lolly. Which I have to say I wasn’t sure about. A branded lolly, very squarely aimed at young toddlers, in a culturally specific restaurant, after a meal aimed, I would say, at children of all ages. It felt a bit odd to me, but the boy didn’t seem to mind and it would have meant we could have taken it with us if we’d needed to leave in a hurry, something I’m always appreciative of!

Buffalo Worms to try.

“You don’t eat worms mummy!” Buffalo Worms to try.

Green tea ice cream

The Boy got a Mini Milk, I got Green Tea Ice Cream. Mummy wins this one kiddo!

Thoughts

I like Thaikhun child’s offering. The food is well pitched and can be adjusted to how adventurous the child is feeling! The only thing I was a little disappointed with was what came with the food. On the new Menu it talks about “Fun Facts and Activities with National Geographic”. I like this idea. Something more than just a colouring option would definitely raise it above other children’s dining options on the high street. However other than the worms, we saw nothing of these. Oscar was just bought an old menu to colour, albeit much quicker than before. It was perfectly nice and all and I don’t have anything against colouring as an activity. I don’t know, maybe I was just expecting something a little bit different.

Maybe I was just expecting more than an old menu and some crayons.

Maybe I was just expecting more than an old menu and some crayons.

Would I recommend it as somewhere to take children?

I like that the children’s menu is flexible and the staff have always been unremittingly helpful and warm. If you have a child that is happy to veer away from the beige choices of potato based meals, then I would absolutely recommend it.

And if you’re taking them, it means you get to have Moo Prik King. You lucky thing 😉

Happy boy = Happy Mummy

Happy boy = Happy Mummy

 

 

Thank you so much to Thaikhun for their generous hospitality. I was not paid to write this review and as always all opinions are my own.

You can find your nearest Thaikhun here

More than just shopping

So last week was a bitch. Apologies if that offends you but I seriously can’t think of a better word to describe it. I’m not sure if it was that Oscar was struggling with being off preschool. The week before had been half term and while he seemed to cope ok with that, this past Monday he had to miss it again, while he had his Speech and Language assessment at my favourite place, Royal Surrey County Hospital. So maybe it was that? Or maybe he was just sick of the sight of me and bored out of his mind. Either way the pair of us just seemed to spend the week miserable. By the time Friday rolled around and it was time for him to go back to preschool we both cheered as we arrived. One day I hope to enjoy my child’s school holidays, but for now I enjoyed it most when it was over.

So anyway last week left me feeling completely battered and in serious need of some time alone. It just so happens that next Saturday we have a weekend away in Devon to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of Ben’s maternal grandparents, and blow me if I didn’t need a new dress for the occasion. It’s been a while since I went actual clothes shopping. I mean yeah I got my new jeans recently and the occasional top, but it’s mainly been online or a ‘run in run out while the boys wait in the car’ job. And while it can achieve the same objectives, it just really isn’t the same.

So Saturday morning found me up and ready pretty early. I got the train to Guildford and made the decision on the way, to challenge myself. Since losing over 6 stone, clothes shopping has become much more fun that it ever was, but I do tend to gravitate to stores I know and feel comfortable in. And while I don’t think this is wholly unusual, I decided on Saturday that enough was enough! I was going to go in AND try things on in at least two shops I’d always been too scared to go in before. I mean it sounds rediculous. Who was ever afraid of a shop? I admit I was. But no more.

My first stop was a new Phase Eight store that has opened since my last trip to Guildford. I would never normally go somewhere so dressy, but it was a dress I was looking for, plus I’ve never been there before making it the first of my two ‘new stores’. While their stock was lovely, some of it was much more mother of the bride than I was looking for. I did try a black and white shift dress on, however even in the 18 it squashed my boobs flat – no mean feat in itself. I left, but not disheartened. I was thrilled I’d gone in and tried anything on at all. Sad I know!

The second shop was faithful old Monsoon. You may remember I got my dress for Ben’s Christmas party 2013 there, when I’d been losing weight for less than 6 months. I was thrilled that day to fit into a size 22 and wore that dress with such pride I was bursting (and not out of the dress!!) This time however I tried on a beautiful lace dress in a size 16! I was just as proud, but this time knew I had more possibilities to try. That while this was a beautiful frock, what if there were others out there I could fit in to? Other beautiful dresses still to try on. I left it behind the counter, just in case, and carried on.

The socks really set this Monsoon dress off dontcha think?

The socks really set this Monsoon dress off dontcha think?

Took me days to notice, but my sister in law pointed out how clear my collar bone is

Took me days to notice, but my sister in law pointed out how clear my collar bone is here!

And carry on I did. I checked out Jigsaw and Jack Wills, having been in neither shop before, although I didn’t try anything on as neither had anything that spoke to me. I then tried on three dresses in my beloved Joules, but none were right. I remained too scared to go into LK Bennet, but I think that had more to do with the price tag. What if I fell in love with something and just couldn’t afford it? I decided it was just best to move on!!

I’d been in Anthropologie several times before, in fact I discovered it in the States in 2008 and bought a beautiful leather handbag there, but I’d never bothered to look at their clothes. The biggest size they’d had in anything was a 16, so I’d never had reason to. Before now. Granted a lot of it was not my style. A bit on the Hipster side. And very expensive. I did find one dress in a print I adored, but luckily they didn’t have my size (I just couldn’t have justified the £148 price tag).

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Dress in Anthropologie. Not in my size luckily

But I did try on a couple of things. A grey midi dress with a slash neck and long sleeves (just not me at all) and this shirt. Oh my god this shirt. How gorgeous is this shirt? At home I’m Mama Bear and here I was depicted on a shirt with my Daddy bear and cub! I loved it. And had it fitted better on the bust I’d have paid the £68 they were asking for it. In fact the more I think about it the more I’m tempted to go back and make it fit 😉 !

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The cutest shirt. Damn you big boobs!

It seemed my bust was just against me on Saturday. Nearly everything I tried on was scuppered by my double Fs. I tried on a gorgeous spotty dress in Cath Kidston that, even in a 16, wouldn’t go anywhere near me. Clearly Ms Kidston cuts her clothes for those with a much smaller cup size. I didn’t leave too disheartened though. I did purchase 2.5 meters of the cutest fabric. I’ll have me a Cath Kidston dress even if I have to make it myself*

(*I’m not making it, my amazingly talented husband is. Is there anything this guy can’t turn his hand too. Website one day, summer dress the next!)

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Can you see me in this print?

So taking into account the boob situation I decided to give Pepperberry another whirl. You may remember last year I had no luck at all in the store where everything is cut to fit different chest sizes. Either nothing fitted or the styles were all wrong. But I’m all for second chances, so went in and grabbed a couple I liked the look of. I tried the first one on and that was that. I just knew this was the one. It made me giggle and smile and well you just know don’t you? It’s smart enough for a celebration meal, not not so smart that I look like I’m going to work, fancy enough to feel special, but not so fancy I look like I’m off to meet the queen and sassy enough to suit me, but not so sassy I look inappropriate! And the best bit was the size, a 16, but cut generously over the boobs. Means it can be fitted, but without restricting my lung capacity!! And I already have shoes and a bag to match, so all in all it’s perfect!

I promise I will post a picture of me wearing it after the event, but you know me, I like to keep a special dress for the special day. If you really can’t wait, here’s a picture of the dress on the Pepperberry site.

I spent the rest of the afternoon, well just happy, I guess. Relaxed and a little bit giddy at the same time. I bought a couple more bits in some old faithful shops. Jeans and sweater for Oscar in Next, some soap and shower gel in Lush. If you follow me on social media, you’ll now how much I lamented the come back of 90s fashion everywhere. Man, I wish I’d kept all my teenage wardrobe, I’d be making a killing on eBay right now. And if you ever wore a choker back in the day, guess what, they’re in again. Dig them out, you’ll be right on point! You shouldn’t laugh, but I couldn’t help myself! I went in Topshop for the first time in 19 years and funnily enough very little had changed! Did you know DUNGAREES were back in fashion, god love us!

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But then I realised I hadn’t technically achieved my goal for the day. I’d been in new shops and I’d tried on clothes in familiar shops for the first time, but I needed to bring the two together one more time to complete my challenge. Which is how I came to try on a fabulous coat in Mango. In fact I liked a lot of the stuff in Mango and despite it being a shop I have literally never been in, I definitely would again. Ahh well, next time.

(And did you know Mango had a plus size section on their website? No me neither! Wonder if it’s new. Typical, now I don’t need it!)

Not normally into text on t shirts, but I really liked this

Not normally into text on t shirts, but I really liked this

I may not have had a great week last week, and my weight loss motivation may have been stalling recently, but a day alone, fitting into clothes I’d never dreamt would fit, in stores I was too scared to go in, well it’s cheered me up more than any cake could do. And the feeling of achievement I came home with has seen me through this week too. I wish I could afford to do it more often! I just can’t wait to wear my beautiful Pepperberry dress on Saturday.

I’ll let you know how it goes down with la familia.

xxx

Mama and More

 

 

Til you drop (a dress size)!

I know this is normally the time I write about mummy type things, but the most exciting thing happened to me this week, it had nothing to do with being a parent and I just can’t not write about it.

I don’t want to generalise, but guys you might want to switch off now, because hey, I’m gonna talk about shopping. And in particular shopping for clothes. Whether your opinion is “arrrggghh, shopping” or “mmmm, shopping” at some time or other we all have to buy new (whether they are new to us or not) clothes. For me, it’s been a while.

I’ve had a rocky relationship with clothes shopping for many years. I love it, I really do, but sometimes it just doesn’t love me back. Having been a plus size for most of my adult life, I have come to know which stores cater for me and which don’t. I know which town centres are worth me going to and which are not. Basingstoke stores carry plus sizes, Guildford stores do not. Partly due to my location and party due to lack of funds I have withdrawn further and further away from the high street. The little I have bought in the last few years has been online, either through eBay (a great source for buying plus size clothes cheaply), or from the websites of plus size retailers such as Evans, Simply Be and the Inspire range at New Look. I’ve become used to buying what fits, rather than what I necessarily like. It stopped bothering me that my clothes shopping was this restrictive.

I know I found myself in this situation because of the choices I made. Through the decisions I took. No one else gained and held on to that weight for me. Believe me this is not a post berating the lack of plus size retailers, or critising the high street for not catering for me. Sure I would have loved the only plus size retailer in Guildford (Evans) not to close the week I moved to the area but this is not about then. This is about now.

As some of you may know, I recently took stock and changed my lifestyle, attending Slimming World and losing just over 3 stone so far. Others of you may know that I just inherited a little money. Some of you may also know that my birthday’s coming up 😉 . So last Saturday all these things conspired together and I found myself with a fitting appointment at the Guildford branch of Rigby & Peller – corsetiere to the Queen. There are certain garments no lady can be without and mine have seriously needed replacing for some time. And if you really know me you know this is not good. Not good AT ALL!

I wont linger(e ;)) on my purchases, needless to say there were two of them (one was a birthday present from Ben) and that I am much more supported than I was. I blooming love them!

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By Appointment

So anyway, all fired up by such a positive experience, I decided to try hitting the high street. Just to see, you know? I have no idea what size I am anymore. Maybe I could try on some “normal” sizes. Just to see.

I went to M&S. A good staple for basics I always find. But when I got there the weirdest thing happened. I couldn’t even begin to look at the clothes. I walked straight past the things I wanted to look at. I wandered around. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I ended up buying wrapping paper and cards! What the…..! I gave myself a talking to and went up stairs (up the stairs!) to look at the nightwear. I found myself going straight for the children’s section! Its been so long since I shopped in a store for myself, I honestly think I’d forgotten how to!

I came out of M&S with my paper, cards and a five pack of pants (same old style just one size smaller) and sat down on a bench. I was all a drift and felt slightly odd. I ate my Special K crisps in something of a daze. What had just happened? Was I really this bad at shopping? It was almost as if I wasn’t allowing myself to shop. I spent so long turning my face away from the disappointment of finding nothing to fit, that I was finding it really hard to turn it back. What could I do? I saw that I had two choices; slink away and feel confused and sorry for myself or straighten up, hold my head high and just get on with it.

So, I headed over to Gap, a store I haven’t shopped in since I was in my early 20s. I scanned the rails, and checked myself for feeling “in the way”. Then I picked up a lovely silver jumper. I took it to the fitting rooms and it fitted. I cried and cried (quietly to myself). I was so proud.

Selfie in the Gap changing rooms

Selfie in the Gap changing rooms

It didn’t really suit me, so I didn’t buy it. That felt even better – I had the choice not to buy it just because it fitted. I had options.

I felt a door had opened and I spent the rest of the day running round this new world. The changing room attendant in Next commented on the amount of stuff I had to try on. I just smiled. I didn’t stop smiling. I didn’t buy heaps, a couple of long sleeve t-shirts in Next and one in Gap, some socks, some make up, you know “normal” stuff. I smiled at everyone that day.

It was getting late and I was just about to head to the station, when I saw Monsoon over the road. I needed a dress for Ben’s Christmas Party and had seen some lovely ones on the Monsoon website. Again, not a shop I’ve considered in years. I only went in to see if they had this one frock, so I could look at it up close. They did and buoyed by the days successes I took it into the fitting rooms. I couldn’t quite do it up all the way on my own and didn’t want to force the zip in case I bust it. How embarrassing would that be?! An assistant came in to help me and I heard the zip slide smoothly up. It wasn’t tight in the slightest. I looked back at myself in the mirror. The dress had a real Mad Men vibe. I just knew Nanna would be thrilled to see me looking so elegant so I decided there and then to use her money wisely and to get it. I didn’t say anything, just smiled. As the assistant upzipped me she said “Well done”. Weirdest thing to say I know, but she was totally on the money. I left feeling like I’d won.

I’ve still got far to go but I feel like a really significant corner has been turned. in my mind as well as physically. Maybe clothes shopping and I might be getting on a little better from now on?

I can’t wait to find out!

Winner!

Winner!