Ribble Valley Sundays: The Aspinall Arms

Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Aspinall Arms at Mitton for Sunday Lunch. We had spotted this pub a few times, and from the outside, it looked lovely: a proper country pub, in a lovely rural setting, and chalkboards outside advertising food. It was one of the first to go on our list for Ribble Valley Sundays.

Although it was a cold, grey, January day, the pub was doing a good trade and the car park was busy – I was glad we had made reservations. The bar area was suitably traditional, with log fires burning, wingback chairs and dogs lying in front of the fire. Plus a few quirky little touches, like the dog biscuits and reading glasses on offer.

Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

The dining room is at the back of the pub, with huge windows that look out onto the River Ribble. There’s plenty of space, including a really large round table in the middle where a family was celebrating a birthday. I thought it would be a lovely place to have a multi-generational family celebration.

It being a Sunday, we skipped the starters, and went straight for the mains. I had the Roast Pork, which was excellent.

Roast Pork Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.comGenerous slices of pork, lots of vegetables and potatoes, and, of course, fabulous crackling. I know it’s really high in calories, but it was a treat!

Tim, being unconventional, had a burger.

Burger Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.comThere was also a good children’s menu, and Ben, to no-one’s surprise, confidently ordered his own pasta, which he wolfed down in about 3 minutes flat.

We stayed for both dessert and coffee, where Tim had sticky toffee pudding, and I had creme brulee. I really love creme brulee, and often order it if we’re out, as it’s something I wouldn’t ever really make at home. I can, and have in the past, but I haven’t done it for years.

Anyway, the Aspinall Arms creme brulee was lovely. It was definitely on the generous side though, and Ben may have benefitted from my shortbread.

Creme brulee Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.comTim’s sticky toffee pudding was delicious, but not quite so photogenic. In fact, with a lot of editing, it wasn’t very photogenic at all, so I’ve left the photo out. Instead, here’s a very Instagram-worthy photo of our coffee.

Coffee Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

I expect this place is teeming in Summer, with its views across the river, the picturesque bridge and it’s green tractor outside for children to climb over. Despite it being freezing, Ben (and Tim) were still keen to have a go before we left.

Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

I really enjoyed this visit. The Aspinall Arms is a proper gastropub, just what you want for a Sunday lunch. Yes, it was a bit pricier – £55.00 for the three of us – but it was really lovely. I may have my eye on that big table for a birthday later in the year.

Scores:

Food 9/10

Atmosphere 9/10

Service 9/10

Child friendliness 8/10

I’ll be honest – some of these aren’t 10 because I don’t want to go too high, too early in this series!

Aspinall Arms Ribble Valley Sundays itsafinefinelife.wordpress.com

Book Review: The Other Ida

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It’s been a while since I did a book review on the blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. In fact, I’m reading a lot at the moment, as we have a fantastic library in the village. It has a great library, and Ben and I walk down there most Saturday mornings. As well as a huge range of books for younger children, Ben has recently discovered the children’s DVD section. Borrowing a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD last week turned out to be a pound very well spent, as Ben is currently obsessed.

This means that I’ve been able to pick up the odd novel and also a few cookery books. The Great British Bake Off Christmas book is currently in my possession, and I’m tempted to renew it until the end of December. I’ve also joined a local book group run by the Library service. This is great, as it means I have to prioritise my reading – this is never really a chore.

So when I was asked to review a new novel which had won the Dundee International Book Prize, I was happy to agree.

The Other Ida, by Amy Mason, is a fast-paced, original novel, with a great main character. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d like Ida, the main character very much – she drinks too much, is hopelessly chaotic, and seems to be on a path to self-destruction. But actually, she is a really complex character, and her journey of self and family-discovery is a really good read.

One of the things I love so much about reading, and Literature in general, is that it can transport you into the shoes of another person. In Ida’s shoes, there is an element of discomfort. Her experience and history is so far removed from mine, and yet, I could really relate to her. In fact, it made me think back to my teenage self and made me realise how much we do change in those formative years in our teens and twenties.

Suffice to say, Ida’s own teenage years were chaotic, and traumatic at times. As an adult, she is experiencing the fallout from that, and hasn’t spoken to her alcoholic mother for years. When her mother, the writer Bridie Adair, dies, Ida has to return to the home of her teenage years to help arrange the funeral. Her relationship with her sister is fractured, to say the least, and the spiky dialogue between them is vivid and engaging.

I really enjoyed this book. It is the kind of book I would choose, but I have to say, I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. The non-linear structure means that the pieces of the puzzle fall together for the reader in the same way they do for Ida. Each evening, I couldn’t wait to find out just that bit more. Its fast pace kept me interested, as well as my real hopes for Ida.

I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher, but all opinions here are my own.

Book Review: French Children Don’t Throw Food

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This book was published in January 2013, and its title echoes the previously popular ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat.’ The premise is the same: the way the French seem to do things is so much better than the way the British or Americans (generalised with the term ‘Anglophone’) do it.

The author, an American journalist, lived in Paris while her children were small, and observed how Parisian women raise their children. She then turned these observations into the book.

There’s actually a lot of sensible advice in this book. I particularly liked the chapters on food, on childcare and on sleep. The general premise of it is: be calm, observe, remember that you are in control, but also that you are teaching your child to become independent. I loved the sense of ‘let children be children;’ let them discover the world, rather than hovering about anxiously monitoring whether they have reached the expected milestone by the expected date.

The chapters on feeding and food were interesting. Some particularly sensible advice, which in hindsight supports my own experience, was along the lines of feed on demand for the first three months, then ease them into feeding every three hours. Then move onto 4 hours as you introduce solid foods and gradually decrease milk feeds. Now, that sounds so simple and obvious. But a health visitor will never say anything so obvious to you. And for a sleep-deprived, anxious, new-mother, obvious rationality doesn’t come easily.

Yes, it does acknowledge that many Parisian women don’t breastfeed for long, if at all (they are more interested in regaining their figures, it seems). But we all know the benefits of breastfeeding, and in my experience, most women would if they could successfully. I will keep my thoughts on breastfeeding for another post. And possibly another blog altogether.

Some of the cultural observations were interesting. Her observations from the planning meeting for a nursery menu were amazing – the chefs spent hours discussing the different vegetables on offer to the babies. One dish should not be repeated from one month to the next. This led to the very sensible advice that children should be encouraged to try everything, even if they don’t like it.

Another observation which made me laugh was the description of parents describing everything that their child does – to the child! “You’re climbing up the steps, up you go. Now you’re at the top. Are you going down the slide? There you go, down the slide, weeee!” I’ve seen something similar myself, and have to stop myself from doing it.

Personally, I think the French thing is a gimmick. There are plenty of wise and astute anglophone parents doing exactly the same thing. But at the moment, parenting advice either seems to be strict Gina Ford-esque rulebooks or the complete opposite: respond immediately to your baby’s every demand until they are at least 5 years old. Neither of these will lead to happy parents, or happy children. This book strikes a happy balance between the two. Love your children, nurture them, encourage them, but don’t smother them with your attention or let them rule the roost.

I got my copy from the local library; I probably would have purchased it if they didn’t have it, so it’s worth checking.