Tag Archives: Starbucks

The holiday starts here

Our trip to London to see the World Athletics had been planned with careful precision to fit in with our much-longed for summer holiday. Whilst we usually try to fly from our local airport, which is a mere 10 minute drive door-to-door for us, we took advantage of being in the London area and instead arranged flights from Gatwick for early on the Sunday morning. I scoured the internet looking for a nearby hotel and parking package, which would allow us to get a few hours sleep before we travelled and included parking for the duration of our holiday. Much to my delight, I managed to find a fantastic deal giving us a night’s stay at the Holiday Inn Worth and valet parking at Gatwick’s North terminal – ideal when your Sunday morning flight requires you to be at the airport for around 2.45am!

It took us a little longer than hoped to journey across London from Stratford and out to Worth, so by the time we arrived, all we really wanted to do was move a couple of key belongings from one case to another, pack our hand luggage for the flight and have dinner before heading to bed for as much sleep as we could manage ahead of our middle-of-the-night wake-up call. Whilst I sorted the cases and G and M emptied, sorted and repacked their backpacks, Mike was tasked with the job of investigating the hotel restaurant to see if we could just stay put and successfully feed both children there, or if a quick internet search was required to find somewhere safe to eat in relatively close proximity. Thankfully the hotel restaurant, Lytton’s Bar and Brasserie, assured us they could cater for both children, despite the seeming lack of allergy-friendly options noted on their menu and so we settled down for an early dinner.

G opted for her perennial favourite of a medium steak with salad and chips, which we had confirmed would be okay for her, whilst the chef worked his magic to prepare grilled chicken with pilau rice and a side of cucumber for M. For those slightly more eagle-eyed amongst you, you might notice that there were some peas mixed into M’s rice, something that is definitely not yet on his safe foods list. We had agreed with our local gastro consultant that we would relax M’s restricted diet a little when away and whilst we might not have necessarily chosen to kick that trend off before we even left the UK, sometimes you just have to go with the flow and live life to the fullest. By the time we got to the end of the meal, both plates were more or less cleared and we were delighted to have once again found a great option for an allergy-friendly meal without too much hassle.

Mike quickly fell asleep, but the children and I decided to lie in bed watching the relay finals and celebrated quietly the huge success of the British squad, whilst commiserating over the unexpected injury of Bolt, who we had seen perform to his usual phenomenal standard that very morning. Excitement over, we drifted off to what little sleep there was left to grab before my alarm went off 1.35am and our holiday really started. We made it to Gatwick in good time and got ourselves checked in without too many problems around the extra suitcase of food and medicine that we had once again arranged to carry free of charge with Easyjet. Both G and M managed extremely well given our early start and we were soon to be found sitting in the airport Starbucks, enjoying our drinks of choice and playing a few rounds of the newly acquired Marvel Avengers Top Trumps and other travel games. Our holiday adventures were about to begin!

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My name is…

14141873_10153684384151123_244385722473814537_nI have a confession to make. In the grand scheme of things, it’s no biggie and it certainly won’t come as any great surprise to my nearest and dearest, but I have to admit that…

my name is bluesingingdragon and I am something of a coffee shop addict.

Admittedly, I’m not yet at the stage of needing a daily fix of my favourite flavoured drink, but when the opportunity arises to partake, let’s face it, I’m not likely to say no. Days out often involve a quick game of “hunt the coffee shop for Mummy” whenever possible and travel breaks are carefully timed to match our approach to a service station housing either a Costa or Starbucks, depending on my current preference. Is it wrong to love that my kids know to order me a “decaf vanilla latte”? I don’t think so, especially when it has saved my drink on the odd occasion that Mike has forgotten one crucial element or another from my order.

img_12061My coffee shop of choice does change on a fairly regular basis, depending on the time of year and the flavoured drinks on offer. For the last couple of years, Starbucks has held the monopoly on my business from the end of September until Christmas, thanks to their Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Black Forest Hot Chocolates, which have unfailingly kept me going during M’s GOSH admissions. As for the rest of the year, well if I’m perfectly honest I’m fairly ambivalent to where my decaf comes from most of the time, but whenever G and I are having some much-needed girls time, Costa always wins hands down. Our recent trip to London for the last YPF meeting proved to be the perfect opportunity to try out a few of the free-from foods that Costa has to offer and we weren’t disappointed.

img_12511G always chooses a small soya hot chocolate* with marshmallows and loves nothing more than accompanying it with a gluten- and dairy-free cake. However, this time we were travelling late afternoon by train and I wanted to pick her up a light tea for the journey home. As well as the obligatory drink and cake, G also chose a gluten-free roll and packet of crisps to complete her meal. I was interested to find out just how much she enjoyed her sandwich and whether she’d be happy to eat it again. To be honest, G was a little uncertain about the sandwich as she’d picked a chicken salad roll and she wasn’t impressed that there was tomato in it too, img_12081but once I’d removed the offending item, she was happy to give it a go and ate the lot, telling me that it was surprisingly filling. The crisps rapidly disappeared as did the mini pecan pies that rounded off her supper beautifully.  All in all, G gave her meal 8/10, a decent score given the disappointing inclusion of tomatoes in her sandwich.

Much as I was delighted to be able to buy a complete light meal that was safe for G to enjoy, I was disappointed by the limited choice, which seemed to ignore what can be the simpler tastes of children. I know that G would have been much happier to have a plain ham roll, but the only sandwich available was the chicken salad roll and that had been challenging to find as it was hidden amongst the other sandwiches, wraps and paninis available in the fridge, something I’ve found to be true in every Costa I’ve visited in the last few months. Likewise, as fantastically delicious as the pecan pies are, they are the only safe cake available as the gluten-free chocolate brownie contains milk and their fruity flapjack contains oats. They did previously sell gluten- and dairy-free mini bakewell tarts, which were another huge hit with G, but those were discontinued and replaced by the pecan pies, something that G still grumbles about these days. I love that a mainstream, high street coffee shop is trying to cater for those with food allergies, but I think there’s still some work to be done to make this a really great elevenses or lunch-time option.

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*Costa states that milk is present in the manufacturing site/factory/supply chain of their soya hot chocolate and that there is a significant risk that this allergen could cross-contaminate the food. Do not choose this if you have a severe dairy-allergy.

The Start of a New School Year

In barely the blink of an eye, the summer holidays have disappeared amidst a blur of activities, work and holidays and as we say hello to October and the occasional pumpkin spice latte, we’ve already put the first month of the new school year behind us. This year September has been a little different to most with G moving up to her secondary school and M heading into Year 5 and all the new responsibilities that have accompanied both those events. It’s been a month of mixed emotions as the realisation that my babies are no longer that has hit. They’re growing up fast and whilst it’s been wonderful to see them stepping out with a new-found confidence, there’s been the inevitable tug on my heartstrings as I’ve realised that we’ve moved on to the next stage of parenting, especially when it comes to our little Miss.10865938_887210898036761_1768009436261476122_o

For G, she seems to has quite literally grown up over the summer holidays and now stands a good 2 inches or so taller than her closest friend, whilst developing a new sense of independence too. Every morning I drop her at the local corner shop, where she meets up with a couple of friends for the walk to school. They leave laughing and chatting and seem to pick up various classmates and friends along the way. She’s loving all that her secondary school has to offer, even the drip-feed of homework on a regular basis and is fast learning the importance of being organised and keeping track of her things when there’s no peg or drawer in which to abandon her belongings. Every afternoon she meets M and me at our agreed meeting place, strategically positioned between the 2 schools and is keen to find out how M’s day has been as well as sharing parts of her own.

9781408847558And every evening, once she’s tackled her homework and played outside with M, G spends time helping prepare her packed lunch for the next day and chats away with either Mike or me in the kitchen, giving us precious insights into how things are going as we prepare M’s feed or dinner or sometimes both. Some evenings she’s tired and emotional and a little worn down by the events and demands of the day, but on others she’s buzzing with excitement about what she has learned and the things she has done. I’m so proud that she’s choosing to tackle some of the extended assignments she’s been given in class and her latest effort, to write about why she’d like to have lunch with author, Huw Powell, reaped a much-deserved reward at the start of the week when she and 5 other pupils were selected to actually have lunch with the author himself. It’s wonderful to see her blossom so much in her new environment and I can’t wait to see what the year ahead has in store for her.

M has similarly settled well into his new class and is enjoying being back at school, although he’s not such a fan of the increased homework load that Year 5 has brought with it. He struggled on his first day back, sorely missing G’s reassuring presence at the Junior school with him, but he has soon got used to the new reality and looks forward to meeting up with her every day after school. 9781426755514Despite the hopes and original plans of our gastro team at GOSH, M’s NG-tube is still in place and seems likely to be so for the foreseeable future. His friends continue to take it fully in their stride and are happy to help him remember to bring his feeding pump home at the end of each day, something he still struggles to do even after 9 months of having it in place. We’re not 100% sure of all the challenges that this next school year will bring for M in terms of his health, but we know without doubt that there will be some and are glad to still have our wonderful school and staff supporting him each step of the way.