A Lush Stay at Chicheley Hall

We recently had a lovely family weekend break at Chicheley Hall. I’ve raved about getting away as a family before, even if it is only for a day and a night. I know prepping to leave for a night away with a baby can be a bit daunting – but it’s so worth it!

Even one night away allowed us to recalibrate and reconnect as a family, minus all the distractions of every day life. Especially after a prolonged back injury that my other half has had. Luckily, the drive wasn’t too far from us – with Chicheley Hall being in the lush green countryside of Buckinghamshire. We passed through some cute villages en route too and I even drove on the motorway for the first time!

Our first impressions upon arrival was how charming the grounds and drive to the house was. Chicheley Hall is a gorgeous English Baroque style country home which promised a lovely stay.

SLEEP

Each bedroom is named after a distinguished scientist. we stayed in the Bohr room – he developed the structure of the atom and was a major contributor to quantum physics. I felt this added a little quirk and uniqueness to Chicheley Hall. Our room had stunning views of the grounds. It’s always so lush to wake up to big windows overlooking beautiful grounds in the morning as the sun creeps through.

We had a baby cot provided, but as usual he works his way in between us during the night so it didn’t get much use! Arthur loves a good roll around the bed so he had endless fun wriggling about and playing with the velvet cushions. Who needs toys?

We had a handy sofa in the room also which was nice to chill and read a book while Arthur napped. There are lots of interesting reads available in the hallways.

EAT

Chicheley Hall are somewhat forward thinking with their menu. They are purposefully improving this to be more inclusive for certain dietary requirements, particularly for vegans. It’s always reassuring when the menu specifically states vegan. Additionally, with Arthur having potential allergies, the listed allergens are highly important for us.

Afternoon Tea

We were treated to a beautiful afternoon tea soon after arrival. It was perfect timing after our drive there.

On the vegan platter I had a selection of sandwiches, cakes, puddings and fresh fruit. I was especially impressed with the lemon drizzle cake as this is my favourite! This was closely followed by a gorgeous coconut pudding.

We enjoyed this afternoon tea by a gorgeous bay window as we unwound after our drive to Chicheley Hall.

My other half, who is not vegan had a massive tray to get through and would have been ideal for sharing.

Afternoon tea with a very wriggly and active baby proves interesting. Getting my hot drink and shovelling cake down my face while bouncing an almost 11kg baby is quite the skill. Although there was a high chair provided, he didn’t last in it very long so was on Mumma’s lap trying to grab my cup and everything in sight.

Dinner

It’s always so lovely going out for dinner and even more so that Arthur could be by our side for our evening meal. We keep meaning to have a date night by ourselves. For the first few months of being parents we couldn’t bare the thought of leaving him at night. That along with the tiredness, I’m not sure we’d even manage to get out the door.

The restaurant began serving at 19:00 which is Arthur’s bed time usually. However the restaurant itself was fairly quiet meaning he slept soundly in his pram without disturbance. This gave us some quality time to munch, chat and get a little merry on the vegan wine.

I was really impressed with the bar staffs knowledge on vegan drinks. He knew which wine was vegan – which typically not many people are aware of this. He too showed a keen interest in certain allergens with minimal prompting.

The service is great at Chicheley Hall, with our needs being tended to diligently. I had a delicious, creamy parsnip soup to begin. This was followed by a flavoursome main course of Gnocchi and rocket salad. Although this was the only vegan option, I was totally satisfied with it. I am certain that if I wasn’t happy, it would be no hassle in requesting something different.

 

Room Service

After our two course meal felt like blobbing out on our massive bed and getting Arthur into his. We were delighted to get our desserts delivered by room service a short while later. This vegan dessert was like a flavour explosion! A trio of sorbets with fresh fruit was the perfect end to our evening of food.

Breakfast

For breakfast, the usual buffet is available. With hot cooked foods, cereals, fruits, breads and juices. Although not exclusively vegan, I always know the stuff to go for! Namely beans and hash browns which are my go to for a hot savoury breakfast. The buffet mushrooms were cooked in butter so the chef, without even asking made me some vegan ones.

One thing I will admit to missing was having a choice of milks for breakfast. I am usually an oat, coconut or nut milk fan over soya. The manager seemed quite receptive to this idea, so I’m trusting my feedback might contribute to their progress in further veganising the menu.

Afternoon Stroll

Chicheley Hall is typically hired for weddings. This really isn’t surprising as it’s beautifully kept English baroque style grounds makes a lovely backdrop. We had a nice afternoon stroll after lunch, taking in all the fresh air and even saw some spring flowers come through. The nearest large town to Chicheley Hall is Milton Keynes. We weren’t keen to leave however as we just wanted to settle and take things slowly.

 

Overall, we had a lovely stay at Chicheley Hall. We felt completely comfortable and at ease, from the great service to chilling in our lush room with our robes on by Saturday night.

We stayed here for one day and a night which was the perfect amount. It was like a country get away where we could forget about our chores and just relax. We can see how Chicheley Hall would make a special location for an event like a wedding and equally for a quick family break.

Disclaimer: Our stay at Chicheley Manor was hosted in return for an honest review. All words are my own.

Oddbox and Food Waste

Who are Oddbox?

Oddbox is the first social enterprise in London to deliver wonky fruits and veggies to home and offices. Oddbox provides a variety of plant based produce – a delicious box of rainbow goodness.

In the U.K. alone, thirty percent of fresh produce goes to waste due to very strict specifications the supermarkets demand. It baffles and saddens me that so much food goes to waste but also delights me that Oddbox are doing something amazing to prevent this. Their delicious misshapen plant goodness is sourced from farms from Lincolnshire to Kent – with seasonal produce selected when possible.

Additionally, Oddbox captures certain surplus and imported fruit, depending on availability. Some retailers over order or with sudden gluts in the market – lots of decent produce goes to waste.

I was keen to find out why the fruits and veggies are considered odd. Apparently it is the shape, colour or sizes of them which supermarkets won’t accept. This I presume is due to consumer demand for the “perfect” looking produce. Come on everyone – let’s grab that double whammy mushroom, that curly courgette and those giant carrots!

What fun did I have with Oddbox?

So much fun! Oddbox offer some recipe suggestions to match the produce delivered. I didn’t follow the recipes exactly but used two of them as a base which is always a help. I struggle to follow recipes but tend to use them as a guide based on what other ingredients I’ve got in the house. They also add a nice touch by telling the story of the food, why it is considered odd and was therefore saved.

The stand out for us in the box was the cavallo nero. I’d never eaten this before and loved its texture, much softer compared to its curly kaled cousin which can be quite jagged I find. We got so many meals out of this black kale and even baby Arthur got to try it out straight up.

What did I make?

Mediterranean soup with Cavallo Nero

This was one of the recipes provided – it was so good and not something I would usually make. We had leftovers the next day and the flavours had intensified!

Squash soup

This is always a winner for us, using the funny looking squash and giant carrots – I made this with fresh turmeric and ginger making it really warming and grounding.

Porridge topped with fruit

Featuring Oddbox pear and plum – the best start to the day. I even shared Arthur’s first pear and plum with him – it was such a lovely memory as he now loves pear!

Smoothie

Just apples, oranges, cinnamon, ice and water – this was so refreshing. We actually had lots of oranges and clementines to use up. It was like a slushy!

Some other great food created from Oddbox which I didn’t manage to capture:

  • Gram flour omelette – using the black kale, mini onions and pepper
  • Pasta with black kale and broccoli
  • Buddha bowl – with the big carrots, little potatoes and other goodness

What else about Oddbox?

Buying from Oddbox means you are reducing plastic waste often produced by supermarkets. So you are doubling up on saving food/plastic waste. Win win! You’ll also be supporting local growers. Oddbox donate ten percent of their produce to local charities.

The boxes are customisable based on your needs – from small, medium, large to fruit only boxes. Oddbox currently deliver around south London, however have a waiting list for people further afield for when they do eventually expand.

For vegans, it would be wise to request for your box not to be packaged with sheeps wool. This is used to keep produce fresh for further distances. Oddbox apologised for this and offer a service to take it back.

ORDER NOW

Oddbox are offering a whole 50% off your first box. Just use the code ODDELICOUS50 to avail of their offer.

Tips to reduce food waste

⁃ Store potatoes in a dark, cool space away from bananas and onions. This will prevent them sprouting.

⁃ Remove any plastic packaging on your produce before storing as this promotes the ripening process. Removing packaging also allows you to mentally clock exactly what you have to use up. It removes any preconceptions of use by dates additionally which are usually massively inaccurate with some produce.

⁃ Storing veggies loosely in the fridge can prolong shelf life, but ensure they are not too crammed together so they can breath

⁃ Store your bananas separately from other fresh produce. Bananas ripen other produce as it emits a gas called ethylene. This could cause spoilage in other fruits and veggies. However, if your bananas are too green, storing them in a bag can be handy to get them ripe and spotty quickly! If you have too many ripe bananas, make banana bread of freeze them for smoothies, nice cream or mylkshakes

– Made too much porridge in the morning? Why not keep it to make a no food waste banana bread or pancakes

– Freeze your veggie scraps in a container until you have enough to make veggie stock or pho. So satisfying!

– Make a smoothie – if you have fruit which needs to be used, blending it with ice and water can be a delicious way to save waste.

– Did you know you can freeze food in jars? Just leave enough space for it to expand slightly. This reduces the need for using plastic which is known to seep into our foods. Also getting more use out of those sweet jars. Great if you’ve made too much hummus or curry. Even if it’s only a little bit – soup, chilli, curry – you can use this as a base for your next one and intensify the flavours.

– And finally, use what you have at home – improvise new meals. Getting creative can save you buying once off obscure ingredients that some recipes call for and can be expensive. More often than not, we are fortunate enough to have plenty in our cupboards.

Have you got any tips or creative ways for reducing food waste? I’d love to know!

Disclaimer: Oddbox kindly offered me this box of fresh produce in return for an honest review. I would totally order from them myself. I support small businesses and think they are rocking it in saving food waste.

A Vegan Pregnancy – My Experience

Lots of people asked during my pregnancy whether I would continue being vegan. Many also asked what I will do when raising my little one. People have expressed a genuine interest in how my vegan pregnancy was and I was overwhelmed with the positive intrigue many had on the matter. I must honestly say I only experienced a couple of comments from over opinionated people on the topic of raising my child vegan. I feel like I have so much to say on both, so I will start by discussing my personal experience of a vegan pregnancy.

First and foremost, my vegan pregnancy was absolutely, perfectly healthy and magical! I have been vegan for almost four years and considering the multiple benefits I had been rewarded – I couldn’t see myself ever not being vegan. In fact I wish I had gone much much sooner in life. As I was feeling calmer, more energetic and healthier overall, I felt these benefits would be transferred to baby. I felt it was a no-brainer to continue this good vegan life throughout my pregnancy. I just couldn’t ever revert to my old ways. EVER. 

vegan pregnancy

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Having experienced Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) for a number of years, we succumbed to the fact that we needed some support with conceiving. It was over a couple of years we had been trying with no results. We were totally surprised rocking up to an appointment at the fertility clinic for an invasive procedure only to be told that it can’t go ahead – because we were pregnant! It was totally out of context and caught us by surprise as we were there to seek support in conceiving. Further investigations and scans confirmed the pregnancy and the fact that my ovaries were no longer polycystic. I believe this was down to many vegan whole foods are of a low glycemic index which helps manage my PCOS. Ironically one of the symptoms of PCOS is a pot belly, so I had many years of people asking was I pregnant – it was amazing I could finally say yes! 

Vegan Pregnancy
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Nutritional problems have never been an issue for me since going vegan. I have always been mindful of and interested in my own nutrition since going vegan. Like any pregnant Mumma, I gave careful consideration to my food and supplements during my vegan pregnancy. I maintained my vitamin B12 supplement which supports a healthy nervous system, while taking up the recommended folic acid supplement. In addition to this, I ensured I was eating a varied whole foods diet. Iron deficiency has never been an issue as many of the nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and greens are rich in iron. That’s not to say I didn’t eat other foods like vegan pizza and mayonnaise (I could have killed half a jar of veganaise with nachos). It’s all about balance after all and once your all tanked up on nutrients, that gives way for other treats.

Vegan Pregnancy

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physical

I fully believe maintaining veganism actually benefitted my pregnancy. No morning sickness. No real heartburn. Sleep was good. No weight gain, besides the usual baby bump! My vitamin and mineral levels were all normal, definitely not lacking in anything. I understand every pregnancy is different – and my next one could very well include all of the above. I do however believe veganism has contributed somewhat to a relatively easy pregnancy.

Emotional

That’s not to say everything was plain sailing. The main issues in pregnancy I experienced were emotional and stress related. I was tearful at times with the odd mood swing and tiredness. that is to be expected with the rapid change of hormones and the growing of an actual human! Contributing To some of this to a high intensity job as a community mental health nurse and other general life stressors. Reflecting back on this period now and I barely even recall being hormonal, but it’s still very vivid for my other half. I think he might be traumatised! I love how my maternal instincts allows me to forget some of the rocky and painful bits which I feel is preparing me for baby number two!



Truth

My initial switch to veganism, I must say how it has massively benefited my mental health. Previously prone to stress, migraines and feeling a bit low and vacant. Veganism gave me a sense of clarity and serenity that I’ve never felt before. I believe there’s real value in you are what you eat. Veganism gave me more of a purpose and made food a thousand times more exciting!

And let’s face the realities of what is actually in meat and dairy. Ample amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, the hormone that causes stiffness and rigamortis when death sets in. Then whatever chemicals they use to make the corpse floppy again, antibiotics, blood, puss etc. I certainly did not want to feed my tiny growing baby these. What I chose instead is vibrant, alive, whole rainbow foods. There’s nothing more satisfying than a bursting, colourful fridge full of fruits and veggies after a market haul. 

Pregnant women are advised to cut out so many foods due to risk of salmonella to baby. These include mayonnaise (contains raw egg), shell fish, raw fish, rare and bone cut meats, soft cheeses. Helpfully though, being vegan means you will not miss any of these because you don’t eat them anyways! The only thing I had to be careful of was beansprouts due to risk of listeria.

A New Beginning

After a whopping forty one weeks pregnant…

vegan baby

… we were blessed with the most special little boy on the 24th July 2017. Super chilled and a week late, our healthy vegan baby Arthur Bear landed earth side a whole 9.9lb. We were blown away by how big he was (no pun intended in relation to my vagina) and he is a real testament that vegans are not lacking, we are not weak, we are not wasting away! Instead we are pumped full of the plant goodness and absolutely thriving!

It’s also important to remember to trust your own motherly instinct. People are so quick to offer judgements and advise once you have a baby, so take what you please from this and remember Mumma knows best!


Here he is three months old and packing the pounds so much I’m struggling to lift him!

Looking forward to sharing more on what specific plant based foods were a favourite for me during my vegan pregnancy, postpartum and for breastfeeding. I am excited to share more with you about vegan parenting life.

Please do let me know if you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you.

Disclaimer: this is not intended to be medical advice