Review: The Bush Inn

We were excited to go to The Bush Inn, a place that always has a picnic bench afternoon tea; such a fun concept must be a really fun place. And the fact that it’s so popular must mean that they are doing something well right? Well… in my opinion, not really. I mean. It looks the part, and the concept is fun and they change the table to match the season. But, for me, that’s where it ends.

I was wary after the phone call to book to be honest. I called and asked if they had availability for the date I was interested in, I was asked if I wanted afternoon or evening, I said afternoon would be preferable and was met with “well we only have availability at 5:45pm, so you have to come in the evening” I was a bit taken aback, and didn’t instantly respond. And was met with an exacerbated, “hello!”, but I swallowed what I felt was a complete lack of customer service and told them that we were coming for someone’s 30th birthday and continued with the booking none the less.

Upon arrival it was clear that the whole restaurant was booked out for these benches all night. And it all felt very crammed and very rushed. No sooner had we sat down, someone was out to check if we had any dietary needs and then bam! It was on the table. The atmosphere didn’t feel relaxed, it felt packed and crammed and like the night was all about cramming as many in for as maximum profit as possible.

This also came across in the food. We had the valentines bench which consisted of:
Savoury:
Fries – slightly on the dry side
Chicken Lollipop with sweet chilli sauce – again, slightly on the dry side as if it had been sat out under a heat lamp
Aberdeen Angus slider burger – the best thing on the picnic bench. Succulent and juicy, very tasty.
Mini Lasagne – it seemed as if they had been mass prepared and frozen (I could be wrong) but the moment I put my fork in it, it collapsed and it was very watery. I have only experienced this with frozen lasagne hence my conclusion but yes. It wasn’t very good.
Sweet:
Valentines Cheesecake in a shot glass – was quite bland. Not a great deal of flavour. Was a nice texture though.
Banoffee Pie in a shot glass – much like the cheesecake, very little flavour
Rolo Rocky Road – to be honest – I didn’t get around to eating this so I can’t comment
Belgian Brownie cake pop – fairly dry, but had a good flavour
Jammy Dodger Blondie – very bland, exceedingly stodgy (in a dry kind of way).
Mini bottle of pink lemonade – tasted very yummy.
Mini raspberry mojito – had a nice flavour, but I don’t think it could be classed as a mojito; it did have a sprig of mint in, but I couldn’t taste mint in the drink, only raspberry, and considering mint is an essential part of a mojito…

They didn’t skimp on quantity but in short, it felt like it was very much about the gimmick of the bench, that it was catered rather than freshly prepared, with mass production and low cost playing a higher priority that maximum quality and taste on the output and like we had to rush rather than relax and enjoy.

Also, given that, at the time of booking I made it clear that it was a 30th birthday, it was a little upsetting to see everyone around us have candles in their cakes, and none arrive to the birthday girl on our table. At £18 per person, I would say it’s over-priced. That you are paying purely for the gimmick. Definitely not great value for money. I would be hesitant to return.

Review: Sea Legs Puppet Theatre

We are a bit late reviewing this as, well…. Winter in this house is just so difficult… but it’s important to me that we do this. So here it is, better late than never hey?

The children were absolutely desperate to have a birthday party, but it just wasn’t feasible; they are coping better with parties, but not with being centre of attention in groups. So I was trying to come up with a SEN/sensory friendly alternative. I came up with the idea that a story teller/puppet show would be a great alternative. A little bit of research and some questions asked in the correct direction, and Sea Legs Puppet Theatre was one of the companies shortlisted. A brief email exchange filled me with the confidence I needed to decide “yes, this is it!” So, it was decided that they would come to our gathering to perform “The Selfish Giant”.

Rob was very approachable from the outset and was understanding and accepting of the needs any of the children may have. And very clear about what we could expect on the day, 2 hours to setup, 45 minute show, 15 minutes to meet the puppets afterwards and then up to an hour for take down. He brought along some rugs, and had already suggested we setup some chairs for the adults. We brought along a load of scatter cushions too for added comfort.

The set was really quite spectacular, the puppets were exceedingly intricate and the show was very well thought out. Everyone loved it, adults and children alike. Since the party, we have had so many comments over how different, but great, it was to attend a birthday celebration where even the adults were able to be involved, entertained and happy to go back and repeat the experience. 25 3-14 year olds, all of whom were fully engaged for the entirety of the performance. They were all very excited to have the opportunity to meet the puppets at the end. All the children have since expressed how they loved it (all of them), and several have asked when the next show is. Which is entirely a possibility for the coming year.

NYE 2017

Knowing that the children really don’t cope with busy, choatic, loud party scenarios when they are anxious we always have a celebration at home that allows them to still experience the “New Year thing”. So we set them challenge activity bags, or envelopes, a bit similar to our advent thing, but this time purely about the night.

So this is what we did this year too… we gave them an envelope, at midday, and inside was another envelope saying that they needed to decorate for a party, move the clock forward 3 hours and have lunch. The inner envelope contained all of their envelopes for the evening with the real time noted in red and the fake time noted in black. This meant they knew we weren’t lying to them, we knew they couldn’t stay up til midnight but we could pretend like when we go on holiday to a different time zone.

The order of events:`

12 midday (3pm) – set the clock forward 3 hours, lunch and decorate for a party (basically, put the christmas lights up).
1pm (4pm) – Present Exploration: Any new things they haven’t got to explore yet for Christmas can be checked out during this hour
2pm (5pm) – Games hour – board games, so the choices ended up being jenga, uno and draughts
3pm (6pm) – Gingerbread house – what family doesn’t enjoy the building a house out of ingredients that are tricky to hold together in a confined space right?
4pm (7pm) – Magic bath time (bath bombs… plural) – they love what Lush! products do to their bath water… so naturally as it’s NYE, we may as well double up right?
5pm (8pm) – Party clothes and face paints – as previously mentioned the children love any excuse to dress up fancy… but they also love face paints. Short time frame meant they just had NYE 2017, 3 balloons and 3 popping fireworks this year, but hey – we got back on track with our timings.
6pm (9pm) – Party Feast –  exactly as it says on the tin… a feast of Party nature.
7pm (10pm) – Chocolate fountain – melted chocolate, strawberries and marshmallows. Mmmmmmm!
8pm (11pm) – Disco time – main lights off, christmas lights on, music and not plugged in microphones (and glow sticks of course)
9pm (midnight) – Midnight mocktails and countdown orange and pineapple juice with grenadine and a netflix NYE countdown

They had a lot of fun, some envelope challenges ran past the hour, but it didn’t matter. we still read the next one on time and muddled our way through. and ultimately ended the year on a high.

 

What about my birthday? What about me?

As mentioned in a previous post (A birthday treasure hunt) my birthday is sandwiched in between Logan and Caitlin’s birthday. Last year was a “big” birthday for me, and I had been clinging on to that being a spectacular occassion where I could be selfish and let my hair down and just do “me” for a change.

I won’t hash out old information, but to summarise, 2016 was stressful. For the children, for me, for Bruce. There were some good points, but they were drowned amongst exhaustion, self harm, meltdowns, tantrums, professional services, judgement and other people’s misguided, but well meaning intentions.

This came to a head in the pre-Christmas birthday run, not just the three of us, but around 15 friends/family members – yes New Year vigour + Valentines Day has a lot to answer for. But none the less, it added further stress to an already stressful time for us. Which meant that as the bells rang to signal that I had not only become “old” but a milestone “old”, I was sat trying to mop up the blood off a self harming child and comfort them, whilst the other was in full swing meltdown destroying things and shouting.

“Happy Birthday Mumma” right?

I knew it was not personal, it was anxiety, and pressure and emotion being released, because emotional processing just isn’t a skill they have even begun to acquire – lets face it, those of us who haven’t been traumatised prior to gaining world understanding can struggle with this one.

So, what could I do differently this year. Well, even though it seems like my answer to everything – run away! Quite literally. If we go on holiday, there is no social pressure from anyone. The children understand that (to a degree – Logan has his need to please other people and show them he has a good life now, but if we don’t interact with others often, it’s fine). Staying in a hotel, having a focused set of flexible goals and some family time. No need to meet up with people, no requirements to hold it together. Just time and space and experience.

So whether crazy-mad, or not, we booked a weekend in Kent as a precursor to a few nights away at Disneyland Paris.