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Mum in the hood: Grace Willis of Milton Keynes

Each month we feature a London mum who shares her favourite places in her community. This month we talked to Grace Willis who runs Happy Little Eaters – a blog which helps reduce food fussiness in kids and promote happier family mealtimes. Today we venture a little out of London to the tranquil village of Aspley Guise. Grace tells us what she loves about her area:

Tell us a little about yourself…

My name is Grace Willis, I have 5 year-old twins and have been with my wonderful husband, Simon, for over 20 years now!  I have a blog on Facebook called Happy Little Eaters where I write posts on reducing food fussiness and promoting happier family mealtimes.

When my son was around 2 years old, he was diagnosed with oral aversion and Selective Eating Disorder by  paediatric dietician Judy More who we saw when we were living in West London.  We learnt so much from Judy on how to make mealtimes calmer and the advice has since saved us hours and hours of not stressing!  It sparked a real passion in me to read up on the subject of fussy eating and the different ways of managing it and I am now keen to share my thoughts and ideas on the subject. My approach is practical and is largely based on exposing kids to particular food many times over, thinking more long-term about eating habits and realising it is a process, eating together as a family as much as you can and focusing on the social side of mealtimes.

Which area do you live in, and what do you love about it?

We left Chiswick in autumn 2017 and now live in a village called Aspley Guise about 20 minutes south-east of Milton Keynes to be closer to my husband’s job.  It was the right move for us; more space for our kids and dog to run around, lots of activities for everyone to do and I get to see my husband more.

 

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Where do you like to hang out as a family?

We like going for walks in nearby Aspley Woods to get both kids and our dog exercised all in one go!  Weekends are the time when we usually eat out.  As any parent I’m sure knows, eating out isn’t always the most relaxing with kids, but we come equipped with card games such as Uno and Old Maid and really enjoy that time together without interruptions.

We have been making the most of the attractions around here such as Top Jump, Hollywood Bowl and the indoor water park Splash Zone.

What is/are your favourite family-friendly eateries?

We started taking the kids to Wagamama about a year ago, I wasn’t sure how they’d fare without the usual burgers and nuggets in other restaurants (!) but it has broadened their palate so much.  The vegetables that are served with the kids’ meal (sweetcorn, grated carrot and cucumber) are always fresh and presented so well, unlike other eateries where the attention is not the same on vegetables for the kids. I think it is a great family place, not to mention quick!  Pizza Express is another place we have always enjoyed going to; fresh veggies to start with (it is here that they first tried tomatoes in the little veggie starter they get) and lots of colouring and activities provided to make it a fun experience.  The pizzas are consistently good too.  A more local, independent choice would be Sorelli’s Café in Leighton Buzzard.  The food is incredibly fresh and caters well for children too.  We are fortunate to live near a pub that does the best Sunday roasts I have ever tried!  The Three Locks at Stoke Hammond.

 

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What local activities do you and your family take part in? For example, kids’ classes, fitness etc.

Now my kids are at school, they do a lot of their activities there, however at the weekends, my son plays football organised by MK Dons and my daughter goes to First Avenue Ballet in Bletchley.  It is doing wonders for her confidence and the owner’s passion is clear to see.

Where’s your favourite place to escape in your area for a little me time? A shop, spa, café etc..

I sound like an old woman saying this, but I love going to my local garden centre, Frosts!  To be fair, it is more of a destination and has amazing food, gifts and just about anything you could wish for.

 

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Where’s the best place(s) for date night? Mums’ night out?

A friend and I have recently got into going to garage brunches; the music – nothing to do with garage sales, as some of my friends thought!  Garage music from the 90s is played over brunch and there’s dancing afterwards. I listened to this music in my teens and I still love it.  They are held in different locations in London and lots of fun it’s a great way to let my hair down and still be home for bedtime.

Is there a little hidden gem in your area you’d like to share?

Since moving to the village, I discovered last summer there is a cherry farm two minutes from the house.  The cherries have the most incredible taste and I am looking forward to the summer already thinking about them! For a small village, we have an exceptionally good Thai food restaurant, The Blue Orchid.  In the summer, you can eat outside and you could be in Thailand with all the music and water fountains around you! I also feel very fortunate to live next door to a home bakery, Akey Bakey.  Jolene makes the most delicious cakes and bread and I love the fact I can support a local, independent business.

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