Sunday lunch at The Pig on the Hill

We are regular visitors to North Devon and we’re always looking for new places to eat while we’re down there. I’d heard that The Pig on the Hill in Westward Ho! was worth a visit, so while we were down over February half term we popped in for lunch following a happy morning pottering about on the beach. We were so impressed that we immediately booked again for Sunday lunch.

The Pig on the Hill is a pub and restaurant just off the A39 near Westward Ho!, it has a clean, modern look with the odd quirky touch. It has a well stocked bar, a decent wine list and a menu which boasts so few food miles most of the things on it could walk to the kitchen themselves. There’s plenty of parking, an outdoor play area for kids and a selection of farm animals milling around an enclosed paddock. It is pretty idyllic, more so in the sunshine I imagine.

We arrived for Sunday lunch and as we’d been warned when we (thankfully) booked, it was heaving. As we were driving home to Manchester straight after we decided not to have a starter and just dive straight in and have a roast. Despite being a vegetarian I do enjoy a veggie roast dinner, if I’m honest I was disappointed that a veggie roast wasn’t available. There were a couple of veggie options (an open vegetable lasagne or arrancini with mushrooms and blue cheese) so feeling a little disappointed I chose the lasagne.

The boys went for the local ale and treacle braised brisket (£9.95) and the baby roast brisket (£5.95) all served with duck fat potatoes, seasonal veg, Yorkshire puddings and gravy. My open lasagne contained chantenay carrots, red onion, wild mushrooms, apple-wood smoked cheddar, served with a green salad and garlic bread (£13.25).

The Pig on the Hill

The roast dinners arrived quickly, the plates dominated by huge, puffy Yorkshire puddings, being northern we are often disappointed by flaccid southern Yorkshires, but these were beauties. Husband declared the duck fat potatoes to be almost as good as mine, which is praise indeed. The generous portion of beef brisket was soft, tender and yielding, just how brisket should be. There was plenty on the plate and both the boys were very satisfied with their meal, declaring it the best roast dinner they’d eaten in a restaurant.

The vegetables were perfect, decent sized portions of cauliflower cheese, braised red cabbage, broccoli and perfectly seasoned carrot and swede mash. I managed to try a little of each before they were gobbled up by my two hungry boys and they were all excellent.

As for my lasagne, I’m happy to say my initial disappointment quickly evaporated once I tucked in. It was an excellent lasagne, with all the vegetables perfectly cooked and flavoursome. Served with a well dressed  green salad which served to cut through the dense richness of the lasagne. It was a huge, greedy portion of pasta which I didn’t manage to finish, preferring to leave a little room for pudding instead.

When we’d stopped by for lunch earlier in the week we couldn’t resist trying a pudding. I’d had the seasonal crumble which was perfectly poached pink rhubarb and apple, a pud which though simple completely blew me away. With a recent record of perfection etched in our memory, pudding-wise The Pig on the Hill had its own big shoes to fill.

Husband opted for the “Piggy Mess” which was layers of meringue, seasonal fruits, brownie and lemon curd (£6.45) and I once again went for the seasonal crumble served with custard (£5.95).

The Pig on the Hill

This time the seasonal crumble was rhubarb and pear, which despite not looking as prettily pink as I’d hoped, was almost, almost as good as the first time. Generously topped with a ridge of warm, toasted rubbley crumble and served with a little jug of piping hot vanilla flecked custard, it was pretty close to pudding perfection for me.

Husband ended up sharing his “Piggy Mess” with the boy. I managed to snaffle a little of the meringue, which was crisp on the outside, but with a satisfying chew on the inside. Each spoonful contained different surprises, chunks of hidden brownie or popping candy on the lemon curd. For me there was a little too much happening on the plate, but the boys loved it.

With lunch over, we paid the bill and hopped in the car for the long (very long) drive back to Manchester. As we visit Westward Ho! and North Devon on a regular basis, we’ll definitely be popping back to The Pig on the Hill next time we’re down there. Their menu changes all the time and the Sunday lunches are different each week. We were incredibly impressed with The Pig on the Hill, it’s not often you stumble across a restaurant of that quality, especially one down a windy road, seemingly in the middle of not a lot. We’ll be back!

You can find out more about The Pig on the Hill, Westward Ho! on their website.

paid in fullNote: We were not invited by or asked to review The Pig on the Hill, we paid our bill in full (which included several soft drinks and excellent coffee), which came to a grand total of £46.75.

Mental Health Update: Opening up old wounds

After languishing for an epic 19 months on the psychological services waiting list, my day finally arrived. I was called up for an appointment with a psychiatric nurse who was going to assess me, I’d still have to wait months and months to receive any treatment, but it was a very slow step in hopefully the right direction.

With anxiety being my middle name, I sat in the waiting room struggling to breathe, tears pricking my eyes and a huge lump in my throat as I struggled to stay calm, or calm enough to articulate myself properly. I just wanted to make myself heard and after 19 months I felt I needed to be heard.

Over those 19 months I’d been left to cope on my own, leaning on a select bunch of close friends for support when I needed it, retreating into myself when I had to, and trying to manage my behaviour and change the way I coped with things to make them less harmful and more positive.

I have struggled to curtail my go to solution, which was to drink copious amounts of alcohol, I’ve started to try and eat better and take some exercise when I felt able to, I’ve largely stopped self harming, and when I feel myself dropping down into depression, or swirling into anxiety, I’ve reached out to friends to help centre me. These are all quite positive steps. Steps I’ve learned to take myself having had no support from my GP or local mental health services during that time.

It’s not all been good though. In order to cope on a daily basis I’ve returned to old habits, swallowing down my feelings, burying them away so I can’t think about them and I can’t acknowledge them. I had no outlet for them, no one qualified to help me deal with them, process them, accept them and move on. So they have been locked away, with a few extra shards of pain added over the years for good measure.

My appointment was the first part of a two session long psychiatric assessment process. The nurse (who was lovely) had a big file of paperwork to go though, but allowed me to talk at my own pace about what my problems were, asking some questions and wanting more detail on certain points.

I had a big snotty cry for a good hour, which was basically the whole of my psychiatric assessment. Thoughts and feelings which I’d locked away and kept hidden from myself for so long were suddenly naked and exposed to the light, highlighting my shame and self hatred. Today I touched on pain I’d not acknowledged, or allowed myself to acknowledge for years.

I know I need to open myself and my problems up to the light, but it is so incredibly painful and I wonder if some of it will do more harm than good. I’m writing this 12 hours after my appointment, I feel drained and a bit confused. When I got home I hastily shoved everything back in the box and buried it all deep down again, I just can’t let it escape, not yet, not without someone there to catch me.

I’ve got the second part of my psychiatric assessment next week, I’ll open that box again and I’ll cry my little heart out. I know it will be months and months before I can access some help. But until then I’ll carry on as I have been doing, because despite everything I’m actually doing ok.

psychiatric assessment

Time for a kitchen upgrade

During our half term holiday I managed to pin my Mister down and have a proper talk about the house. We’ve lived here for nearly four years and there are two rooms which remain untouched and I cannot stand them. One of these rooms is our kitchen diner. In our old house the kitchen was the size of a cupboard, so when I clapped eyes on our current kitchen it was love at first sight. It’s big and light and airy.

The problem is whoever decorated this big, light, airy space decided to tile the floor with black slate tiles and the walls in a selection of dark, dingy coloured tiles. It’s never been what I would choose, but I can live with it, it’s not terrible, it’s just not making the best of what’s there. New kitchens are not cheap.

Kitchen

I long for a bright white kitchen with tiling which makes the most of the light available. I want a lovely chunky light wooden worktop, white walls and splash backs which bounce the light around and are easy to clean. I’m not sure about what to do about the floor tiles though, the black does suck up all the light, but it is really practical and hides a multitude of muddy boot prints and dirty dog paws (we do clean it regularly, fear not).

So decision made, whilst we can’t afford to do anything massively drastic with the tiles or the actual cupboards, we can it least paint the walls a bright white colour and get a new fridge to replace the one which moved with us in 2011 and is currently in its death throes.

I’ve long had my eye on a Panasonic American fridge freezer, something we do have the space for and with two hungry boys to feed, a bigger fridge is what I need. Plus I’ve always fancied having one of those integrated cool water dispensers. Sad I know, but it’s the little things.

I’m hoping the Mister will remember his holiday promises to me and that by Easter I’ll have a kitchen I’m much happier with.

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My Sunday Photo 22.2.15

Padstow

The wrecks of Westward Ho!

We’ve been visiting the beach at Westward Ho! for many years. It’s a stunning beach, around two miles of lovely sand, popular with surfers and a great beach for collecting shells. Like most beaches on the North Devon coast its character can often be changed by the winter (and summer) storms; the fierce waves shifting the stones and sand, hiding and revealing features.

When we last visited Westward Ho! in June 2014 there was nothing of particular interest to note, it was the same as it’s always been, sandy and flat, with a bank of stones against the shore. In February 2015 it was at first glance the same. We took a stroll along the beach hoping to collect some nice shells to take back to school when I spotted some pieces of wood sticking out from the sand.

I was really curious about what they were and they seemed to be attracting attention, so we walked over to have a closer look. What we found was the ancient hull of what is thought to be a barge trading on the Bristol Channel, but has also known locally as a ‘Viking Ship’ or ‘Spanish Galleon’, we called it a ‘Pirate Ship’ because the small boy is currently obsessing about pirates.

The wreck is an oak-framed vessel which is around 25 metres long and 7 metres wide. It is thought that the wreck could be one of two boats wrecked nearby, the ‘Salisbury’ of London, lost in March 1759 on Northam Burrows or the ‘Sally’ of Bristol, which was wrecked on Northam Sands in September 1769.

This large wreck isn’t visible very often, so it was a real privilege to be able to see it. It’s usually buried deep in the sand and it might be a number of years before we get to see it again. I took the opportunity to take some pictures of it for prosperity.

Westward Ho

Westward Ho

Westward Ho

A bit further along the beach we came across another wreck, this was much smaller than the first, measuring just over 15 metres in length. The remains of the wreck were not as complete as the first. This wreck is thought to date from the late 18th or early 19th century and is likely to be a Polacca Brig, a style of sailing boat which was used to trade limestone, coal and other goods across the North Devon coast, Taw Estuary and to the Bristol Channel.

Somewhere under Westward Ho! beach lies a third wreck, but that hadn’t been revealed to us by the shifting sands. We felt incredibly lucky to have seen the two skeleton wrecks which had been uncovered over the winter months and we’re hoping to visit again later in the year to see if they are still visible or not.

Note: All images are my own, they must not be used elsewhere without my written permission.

Tackling limescale with Durgol Universal

Coming from Manchester we are used to delicious and soft water flowing from our taps, we don’t really suffer from limescale build up at our home in the glorious north, but here in our uncle’s holiday cottage in Devon I’ve never known anything like it. The kettle is furry, the taps have crusty white deposits on them and the shower head is the worst. We’ve been coming here for years and each year we try to clean the shower head of its limescale build up. Over the years we’ve tried vinegar and a range of descaling products, all with mixed amounts of success.

I was sent a bottle of Durgol Universal to try out. Durgol is a liquid decalcifier from Switzerland, which is designed to remove limescale from kettles, coffee machines etc as well as household items such as shower heads.

Costing £9.99 for a 500ml bottle I was expecting really good things from it. The instructions suggested a ten minute immersion in undiluted Durgol for our shower head. Knowing just how bad it would be I gave it 15 minutes and then rinsed the shower head throughly in cold water. We tried the shower out the next day, it was vastly improved, but as I still had the bowl of Durgol I decided to give it another soak, so I popped it back in the undiluted Durgol and left it for another half an hour. I then tested it again and it was almost like new.

Having previously tried a number of other products of this ilk, I was impressed with the Durgol. Sure it took a bit longer than the instructions suggested, but the limescale was thick and years old. The bonus was that we were still left with the bowl of Durgol, so waste not, want not, we cleaned the sink and taps with it, which left them very clean and limescale free, a little in this instance, does go a long way.

For such a powerful liquid you expect it to smell quite potent, it didn’t, it had a neutral smell, not chemically or bleachy at all. I think Durgol Universal is a really useful kitchen maintenance product, we re-used the solution once we’d soaked the shower head, so we made it go further and therefore we thought it was good value for money.

I think if you live in an area prone to limescale build up, then maintaining your appliances is essential and can keep them in good working order for longer. It’s a case of spending a little to save money in the long run.

You can find out more about Durgol Universal and other Durgol limescale products on their website.

Durgol

Note: We were sent a bottle of Durgol Universal free of charge for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Appy Juice – a review

My brother and I grew up in the 1980s. A time when food covered in neon orange breadcrumbs was the norm (crispy pancakes anyone?). The juice we drank wasn’t fresh, but came in huge bottles and was essentially orange flavoured chemicals, designed to make children bounce off the walls and their teeth turn a funny colour and then fall out. Thankfully times have changed. As a nation we try and eat and drink good things, and as a parent I try and give those good things to my son.

We were sent a selection of juices to try from Appy Food and Drinks. I’d never heard of them before, so I did a little reading (I Googled them, no one reads anymore, sheesh). They’re a pretty new company, but they make all of the juices from natural ingredients and strive to make them low in calories, low in sugars (they sweeten with stevia) and free from artificial colours and flavourings. Their juices are approved by the Vegetarian Society, are vegan friendly and are approved by leading nutritionist Jenny Tschiesche.

Appy juice

We were sent four of their juice products to try –
Peppa Pig Apple & Summer Berries fruit drink (tetra pack)
SpongeBob SquarePants Orange & Pineapple fruit drink (tetra pack)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Apple & Blackcurrant fruit drink (pouch)
Dora the Explorer Mixed Berries fruit drink (pouch)

They were really colourful and obviously appealing to young children. Each day when I pick him up from the school nursery, I bring a drink for him to have while we walk home. I’m never really sure how much he’s had to drink while he’s there and I like him to have at least one portion of juice a day, as it counts towards his five a day.

Over a couple of weeks he tried them all, he really loved the Peppa Pig juice and the Turtles one, he liked Dora but was less keen on SpongeBob, but I think that’s because he doesn’t like pineapple, so I took one for the team and had those ones, they’re handy for taking out, for lunch boxes and the pouches stay cool for longer.

Appy juice

They were quite sweet and fruity, a bit too sweet for my own personal tastes, so we did decant a few into a big cup and water them down a little, which had the benefit of making them go a bit further. We’re used to watered down juices at home anyway. The juice boxes were a nice treat after a busy day at nursery and he liked showing off his Peppa Pig juice in the playground too.

Each 200ml juice box contains around 15 calories and the small boy really enjoyed them. I’ve seen them in Tesco’s and I believe you can also get them from Ocado and various other supermarkets and shops. They’re £1.99 for four juice boxes which seems a good price for something made to these standards, with no artificial colours, flavourings and natural sugars.

The packaging is incredibly attractive to children, I think the Peppa Pig one is his favourite because he really loves Peppa. The boxes the drinks come in have various cut out and colour in activities which does add a bit of value and interest. It’s all recyclable too.

We do really like the Appy drinks, I think we’ll buy them as and when we see them for our walk home from nursery. They are on the sweet side, but I find most drinks aimed at children are these days anyway. My tip is to water them down, it makes them go further and dilutes some of the sweetness.

Note: We were sent these juices from Appy Food & Drink free of charge for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

My Sunday Photo 15.2.15

image

How accurate is my Fitbit?

A couple of weeks ago I got the news that my spine was pretty much crumbling and I needed to lose weight to slow down the deterioration. I’ve pretty radically changed my diet, but I am limited in the kinds of exercise I can do. I decided to buy a Fitbit Charge. I wanted to get a baseline of my current (in)activity and use it to build on that. I’ve worn my Fitbit, an activity tracking device for just over a week now, but just how accurate is my Fitbit?

My activity tracking device is a Fitbit Charge. I paid for it myself and it cost £99.99. I needed a new watch anyway so I thought the Fitbit Charge would be a good multi-tasker as it comes with a watch and measures your step count, kilometres walked, estimated calories burned and flights of stairs climbed. You sync it with your phone or tablet (mine is linked to my iPad) and the app tells you how you’re getting on. If you wear it overnight it also measures the quality of your sleep and has a vibrating alarm which you can set to wake you up. I have a four year old so I have no need for any kind of alarm ever.

how accurate is my fitbit

Quite quickly I noticed a number of accuracy issues, here’s a bit of a breakdown;

  • Before bed I’d check my step count and then check it again when I woke up, most mornings I noted that I’d ‘walked’ around a hundred steps in my sleep without leaving the bed.
  • When I blow dried my hair I ‘walked’ another 100 or so steps, so I started taking the Fitbit off when I was getting ready.
  • About a third of the time when I climbed the stairs it didn’t register that I had done, so that wasn’t included in my daily activity.
  • I walked around a museum for three hours and it registered only about 1000 steps which I think was a gross underestimation.

So I think my Fitbit isn’t as accurate as I’d hoped it would be. Additionally when it tracks my sleep I think that it is very inaccurate. The sleep tracker tells you how long you slept for, if you woke during the night and how restless you were. For a few nights I’ve been concerned that it wasn’t accurately measuring my sleep, generally when I knew I’d had a terrible night and it told me I’d had a good 7 hours.

how accurate is my fitbit

My terrible nights sleep where I was active for half an hour which was recorded as ‘restless’ not as awake.

Last night the small boy wet the bed at 4am so I got up to deal with it, changed him and the bed and put him back to sleep, pausing to nip to the loo myself. I checked the time using the Fitbit (you have to press a button), before falling back into my bed exhausted. I was surprised this morning when I checked the sleep tracker that it told me I’d had a fairly good night and I’d only been a bit restless around 4am.

I then found this article on the BBC website about activity trackers being inaccurate, it makes for interesting reading. Essentially activity trackers generally aren’t that accurate, but the manufacturers are suggesting that we use them to monitor patterns of activity and sleep behaviours, and that variations in algorithms and the physical characteristics of the individual wearing the device, like height and gait, as well as wearing position, can result in accuracy differences.

That makes perfect sense to me, I need to stop obsessing that it’s inaccurate but use it to motivate me to do better. There are days I know I will be walking more, so mentally I set a step target to hit that day, the Fitbit will help me achieve that, even if it’s not strictly accurate. It all adds up and it all helps towards my ultimate goal of health and well-being.

So would I recommend the Fitbit Charge? Well yes, the app is a little buggy and as I’ve mentioned it’s not 100% accurate, but if you’re after a ball-park figure of what your activity level is it’s a good piece of kit. I think it’ll do the job for me, which is basically to motivate me to move around a bit more.

Do you have a Fitbit or other activity tracker? How are you finding it?

Half Term on the High Seas at IWM North

To my shame I’ve never visited the Imperial War Museum North. I remember it being built and everyone who has been has always had really good things to say about it but I’ve never made the trip. Now the Metrolink is nearby I have absolutely no excuse not to visit. We were invited to a preview of the War at Sea family activity week which will be running over the February half term. Between 14th and 22nd February family visitors can take part in a week of free activities to discover what life was like on the high seas. From submarines to sea mines, families can explore the past 100 years at sea through storytelling, craft activities and objects on display. Sounds good, so we thought we’d check it out.

We are lucky enough to have our very own salty sea-dog in our family, a Submariner from the Australian Navy and we thought he’d enjoy a trip out too. We arrived at Salford Quays and were mightily impressed with the tank outside, this was only a small taster of what we would see inside.

IWM North

We were taken to the main exhibition space and in a cosy corner we talked about the adventures of Able Seaman Wally Tobin in A Sailor’s Story interactive storytelling session. This was a lovely moment with all the children sat listening to the story and joining in when they could. It was a nice introduction to life on the ocean wave for the children and the small boy was gripped, though loathe to join in. After the storytelling we went back downstairs to the learning studio to make our very own message in a bottle.

The learning studio is a great place for kids, with things to look at and read, as well as comfy sofas, toys and a brilliant dressing up box. We played in here for a little while before moving back to the main exhibition space to have a proper look around.

IWM North was apparently designed to make you feel a bit disorientated and confused, much the way war would make you feel. The floor in the main exhibition space slopes by two metres, it’s dark and there are films and images projected against the large white walls. It is disorientating and I felt a bit wonky for a few hours after we left.

IWM North

The exhibition space is full of interesting artefacts and stories, from modern day conflicts right back to WW1. On the whole the collection is interesting, varied, fascinating, with lots of activities for children to get involved in along the way. I think we viewed it on two levels, for me I was incredibly moved by the steel from the World Trade Center and small trinkets of everyday life people had on the during the wars, items of clothing, precious things they made themselves in prisoner of war camps, that kind of thing. My son who is four loved the vehicles, the Harrier Jump Jet (how did they get it in there?), the small fire engine, the tanks and cars. He like the activities, smelling the less than lovely odours from the WW1 trenches. But I was very moved by the whole experience.

As we were getting to the end of the main exhibition, a warning came on that they were about to show a film and the lights would go out, we stuck around and we were really glad we did. A fantastic film flickered around us, projected on all those tall white walls. The film told the story of the Home Front in WW2 and it was fascinating. We felt utterly involved in the experience and were quite moved by it, even the small boy watched it, I think more for the whiz bangs than anything. It was an incredible, immersive experience.

We’d worked up an appetite for lunch so we went to the Watershard Cafe for a spot of lunch. The food was well priced and excellent quality. The boys had a rather excellent beef stew, mash and green beans, I had soup and the small boy had the “ration pack” lunch, which was five items of yumminess. We all really enjoyed lunch.

IWM North

After lunch we decided to take a trip up the Airshard which is a lift which takes you up 29 metres so you can view the city. Submariners are not known for their love of heights and none of the menfolk I was with fully appreciated the views from the (incredibly safe) Airshard. I took a few pictures but it was a cloudy day and Salford Quays, though always beautiful, was not looking her very best.

The IWM North is a brilliant free day out. There’s so much to see and do there and although we spent a good three hours looking around, we’re looking forward to going again and exploring some more.

If you’re local it’s well worth a visit to IWM North this February half term, there are lots of events and special activities planned during that week, you can find more information on the IWM North website.