Thursday, 31 October 2013

Cara Box Exchange

Today has been another one of those days.... after a run this morning, and a lovely catch up with my friend, Siena remembered she was right in the middle of the Terrible Twos and spent the rest of the day driving me crazy! On top of that Hugo is teething so crying a lot because of the pain. Thursdays Barry also has his evening course, so I was busy trying to cook dinner for him before six. Then was feeding Hugo, Siena and myself all at the same time... Needless to say it's been a long day!
But then, during dinner, my Cara Box arrived from the loveliest lovely Amanda from Rhymes and Ribbon! I decided to wait until the kids were bathed and in bed so I could truly appreciate each item, and when opening the box, I had a permanent smile on my face! Thanks Amanda, just what the doctor ordered!
Before we dig in, I hear you ask What is a Cara Box? Kaitlyn from Wifessionals is the amazing lady behind these, and describes them as:
Awesome things in the mail + Meeting new women + Encouragement = Cara Box
As a result, I was to receive a box from Amanda, and I have sent a box to Laura from Well My Angels May Leave Too. Having reviewed my box, I hope the one I made for Laura lives up to its expectations!
So here goes... the theme this month was "Fall", as the American for Autumn, rather than falling... ;)
Amanda had wrapped every single item, and put a little post it on each packet to explain the link with the theme and why she picked them for me. It was amazing reading through these as Amanda has obviously been following me on my blog, facebook and twitter, thereby really putting in a lot of thought in each item! It made me so happy discovering each item, she has done an amazing job!
I really feel like I have made a new friend in Amanda. During our email exchange, we found that her boyfriend supports the same team as my family (a big thing as they haven't done great for a while now!) and his grandparents live not far from me, so we'll hopefully get to meet up in the near future.
An amazing experience all in all, and I look forward to the next exchange!





Would you like to take part in the next one? If so, follow Kaitlyn's blog on and look out for the next exchange :)

Cara Box

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*All images unless otherwise noted are my own, so please do not use them without my permission.*

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Running... [Out of excuses]

So you might remember that I've recently signed up to run a marathon in Paris on April 6th. Since then I've also signed up to the Bath half in March. I'm also thinking of running a Santa dash in December with my beautiful sister (you get a free Santa outfit which everyone must wear!!). We also want to do Parkruns, which are free 5k runs across the UK.
I have the trainers (two pairs in fact!). I have new leggings to fit my post pregnancy body. I have a headband as my hair is still short and not quite ponytail length. I have bought reflective gear to run safely in the mornings as it is so dark now...
I have good music on my (green) iPod.
All I need to do now is actually go for a run!! I'm great at finding excuses (I was on night shift for feeding Hugo, I'm really tired, it's very dark, I have a cold, blah blah blah).
I have been swimming this week thank to my lovely friend Laura, but as of yet no running. It's getting rather ridiculous... So I will be going tomorrow morning before Barry goes to work...I will, I will, I will! 
Have you got any training advice for running in the winter? have you ran a marathon before? I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

I ♥ Bristol

As the summer comes to an end, I realise that I have now been in Bristol for over six years... six years people! I absolutely Bristol! It has all the advantages of a City, but is also right next to the countryside for some lovely walks. It has amazing festivals in the summer, especially the Balloon Fiesta and the Harbour Festival with French markets. This appears to have now been recognised nationally as it has been voted the Best City to Live in, in the UK.

What are you favourite things about where you live? Have you ever been to Bristol?

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*All images unless otherwise noted are my own, so please do not use them without my permission.*

Why we are a nursery loving family

I have been on maternity leave since May. When I went off work, Siena was taken out of nursery so she could stay at home with me, partly for financial reasons, but also so we could spend time together. For the most part, it has been lovely. I went back to work full-time when she was three months so I was glad to spend some time with her one on one before Hugo arrived, and then as a little threesome when he was born.
During this time, she never asked to go to the nursery, or "big school" as she calls it. I thought she might, considering how much she has always enjoyed going. She would constantly tell me about us about her friends at nursery, both the children and the staff. The staff are absolutely lovely, clearly loving Siena and being really good with her. I cannot rave enough about the nursery and how it has helped Siena's development and language skills. But overall, she seemed happy being home with me.
Yes, these last few months have been lovely. But then, with Hugo turning three months old, I have been finding things a little more difficult day by day. Siena would ask me every single day if we were going to go and see her friends. She's really sociable and loves being around other kids. However most of her friends have now started school or preschool, whereas in the summer holidays they would usually be around playing in their gardens. She is also almost three and in tantrum-mode full-swing! I know she is only testing boundaries, and probably frustrated when she can't do all the things she wants to do. I try and be patient, and explain things to her calmly. But then being sleep deprived with a young baby can make that difficult.
I openly admit I am not very good stay at home mum. I rarely have dinner on the table for when Barry comes home from work. The house isn't usually spotless. And as much as I love going to playgroups, the park or the library, I quickly run out of ideas to keep Siena busy and entertained. Even though I genuinely believe it is good for children to know boredom to encourage them to find ways to amuse themselves and increase their imagination, I have to say I do not think it is always fair on her when it seems to be more often than not that I ask to play with her toys or do some drawing while I tidy/empty the dishwasher/sort out the laundry/feed Hugo....
Dare I say it, I think Siena is in a much better environment at nursery. There. I've said out loud. (awaits backlash!). Now, please don't get me wrong. I am not saying all children would be better off at nursery. I am just saying this works well for my family.
This week, I have met with work to discuss returning to work in the new year. Since this meeting, I am starting to feel more in control, as I know what I am working towards. Granted, when I do return to work, I will probably complain of how difficult I find being a working mum as Barry helpfully reminded me. Apparently I thrive under stress, or so he tells me.
When considering our options on my return to work, Barry and I have gone through our accounts to check what we can afford. Indeed, the cost of childcare is so high that we have to check that I can actually afford to work... ridiculous! Anyhow, ideally, the best scenario would be for me to work my full time hours over 4 days, or for Barry and I to both go part time, thereby reducing the need for nursery.
Alongside this, Siena had her first day back at nursery. We have decided to put her back in for two days a week for the time being. Barry takes her in the mornings and picks her up after work, giving me the whole day free with the bambino! Lovely! When I told her about it last week, she did this cute little face she does and said "thank you mummy!" over and over again while hugging me. As much as I'd like to say I was upset that she didn't seem to show any upset of not spending as much time with me, I was glad to see that she still looked forward to going to nursery. Then on the morning she was going back, she woke up and told me everything she was going to do "I am going to see my friends, do some painting, read some books, do some counting..." and she almost ran out of the door! When she got home, she told me about her day with excitement still. Barry said she ran through the gates when they got there and got stuck in. Not only am I glad that we get our money's worth, but more importantly, I love that Siena loves being in an environment where she is surrounded by other children, and that she loves learning new things.
Now I am thinking maybe it would be better for Siena (and then Hugo) if they went to nursery four days a week when I go back, so they don't miss out...
As with all topics concerning parenting and raising your children, I have received and/or read a lot of lovely (!) comments over the years concerning our decision to place Siena in nursery full-time:
"well if that's what you want for your children. I just could never do that to my own children"
"you will miss so many of your child's major milestones by going back to work full-time"
"you must find it so hard having to work full time rather than look after your child"
"what's the point of having children if you are going to keep on working full-time"
Ah, how I love these comments. It is as if there is only one mould for the perfect parent, and if you are not from this "mould", then you might as well walk around with "I am a bad parent" written on your forehead. In flashing lights. I honestly do not think there is only one way on how to be a good parent.
The way I see it, I work because I want to. I am about to qualify in my role as a lawyer, which I have spent over ten years studying and working for. Throw in the fact that in that time, I've not yet turned 30, I've had two children, bought a house, taken the slightly scenic route to qualifying, I would say that's not bad. In fact it's pretty damn good!
I hear some people thinking that that's all about me, but nothing about the children...
Well, personally, Siena has an incredible vocabulary for a two year old, even if I say so myself. This is especially impressive to me as legend is I did not talk till I was about 4, and even had tests done to check whether all was "normal"... (before you ask, all was fine! ;) Siena is also a very curious little girl, eager to learn and understand how things work. She knows more about gardening than I do from helping Barry in the garden. She comes up with new words daily, whether it be combination or fortunately. She thanks me for every single meal I cook her by saying something along the lines of "thank you mummy. This is really delicious". She loves her brother and is always kissing him (when she isn't randomly roaring right up in his face that is). She never ceases to amaze me.
I am not going to say that Siena is a genius child (however much a secret part of me thinks she is!). I'm sure this is how most toddlers are.  But what I am getting to, is that by attending nursery on a full-time basis, rather than more time at home with either me or Barry, she has nevertheless developed into an amazing little girl, and I am very proud of her. She does not come across as a child who feels deprived of love or care.
Barry and I also make sure that we leave work on time, which at times is easier said than done, especially in my case. We make time for Siena in the evenings, chatting to her while she has a bath, reading her stories at bedtime. And at the weekends, we rarely stay in. We are usually out and about exploring, going for walks, meeting up with friends. Therefore in my opinion, she has the best of both worlds.

But I want to stress that this is what works best for us. I am not casting any judgment on parents who decide to stay at home rather than work, as I know everyone has their reasons behind the choices they make. Whether working parent, stay at home parent, bit of both, we could really do with supporting each other more and stop judging each other over our lifestyles and decisions. Especially if the children appear bright and happy. Isn't that what being a parent is all about: ensuring that you provide a loving upbringing for your child? 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

What if my child is gay?

Since becoming a mum, I am very conscious of the little beings who are becoming their own little persons with my help. I remember when Barry and I went to register Siena's full name at the Registry Office, it felt very important: we had carefully chosen the name she would be known as and would carry through with her her whole life. But this was just the first step of many. Every day I see Siena developing into a beautiful but very strong minded little girl! And Hugo is already showing signs of his personality even though he is only three months old.
A song that gets me emotional every time I hear it, is "Same Love" from Macklemore.  Not only do I love the video, but also the lyrics. If you have not heard this song, or seen the video, it is about homosexuality and society.

As with a lot of people, I'm guilty of using expressions in the past which I am not necessarily proud of. I put it down as part of growing up and not necessarily realising the impact it could have had on certain people. That doesn't fully excuse my behaviours, but we all make mistakes and as long as we learn from them, I hope that it can be forgiven.

I know that as Siena and Hugo grow up, I will recognise parts of Barry and I in their personalities and person. However, I also know that they may grow to have completely different taste in music or fashion. They may have a completely different approach to life than I have. We are going to disagree on a large number of life issues. We will fight. Hopefully not too much. And not too seriously. But we will. However much I hope I can be the bigger person and reason every argument or accept my children's views and arguments, I know fights will happen. I think they are part of life and growing up.

The thing I want most in life is for my children to know they are loved and supported, and for them to have a good life. I know this is one of the hardships of a parent, especially if I do not fully understand what they are experiencing. Using the above song as a reference, if Siena or Hugo were to tell me they are gay for example. I have not had to deal with this personally growing up, so may not always get it right when trying to be there for them. I may not say the right thing, or act in the right manner. In fact I am very good at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, so tend to remain quiet in some scenarios. Hopefully I can get better at this. But I truly hope that despite my possible failings, they will know that they can still come to me. And this is not limited to their sexuality, but pretty much every aspect of their life, as they get to find out who they are when growing up. Just as importantly, I want them to grow up respecting other people, no matter what their background, sexuality, race etc might be.

I know I will not always approve of their friends, their boyfriends, their girlfriends. I know at times I will struggle to understand their decisions, their choices. I also know that they will go through stages in their lives where they feel lost, alone. More than anything, I hope that I can always be there for them, and let them know that whoever they become, whatever their fears and their hopes, whatever difficult decision they need to make in life, they always feel that they can come to me for comfort and reassurance that the world is full of love and brightness. And that I will always love them.
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*All images unless otherwise noted are my own, so please do not use them without my permission.*

Thursday, 17 October 2013

What's the story {six years... and still waiting}

Barry and I celebrated our six years together yesterday. We had an amazing meal at Piccolino's in Bristol. I think we have definitely found our new favourite! and the fact that we had vouchers for £40 off last night made it even better! As much as I knew it wouldn't happen then, Barry did not propose to me last night. Have I mentioned we've been together six years?
I do not consider myself the patient type, but I consider six years, three moves, one mortgage, two children, countless holidays etc a good sign that I have been very patient. In my drunken state last night (I did have two large glasses of wine afterall... kerazy!), I did blurt out at the end "you know I want to get married don't you?"... Subtle. As always. Especially as I had asked him out of the blue a few weeks ago in the middle of the night whether he still wanted to get married. Like I said. Subtle. As always, he told me to be patient. It will happen when I least expect it. Considering I expect it pretty much any time we go out, this is going to be very difficult! I even tried Siena's approach "But I've been a good girl. I want a preeeeeeeeeeeesent!". But to no avail. "Be patient" he said.
Anyway, back on the photo! This photo was taken the weekend before our first date. Every Friday after work, a small group of us would go and play snooker, have a few drinks at the Commercial rooms, then go out dancing somewhere cheap where the music was good! Barry and I got on really well from the start and he eventually asked me out. Although he did text me the night before our date to say "You do know tomorrow is a date?"... I did not. Until that text. Obviously. Nevertheless to the date I went and here we are today... six years later!
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*All images unless otherwise noted are my own, so please do not use them without my permission.*

Amazing Artwork required

The house is slowly but surely coming together, with only a few pieces of furniture needed for the living room, the hallway to be painted and some frames to go up in Siena's room. But one room I am a little stuck on at the moment is Hugo's. We have not had to redecorate it from when it was Siena's, as we had already painted it blue. However, there is a big magnolia-ish wall above his cot. This makes the room look really bare and I would love to display either one big piece of artwork, or a mix-match of various prints...
Do you have any suggestions?...

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*All images unless otherwise noted are my own, so please do not use them without my permission.*

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Glorious Fruit and Vegetable box {and a great offer too!}

I'm always up for (trying) to be healthy, whether by exercising more (marathon anyone?) or eating better. However, being in the final year of my 20s, I now know a lot more about myself. I know that in order for me to stick to good habits, the easier and more convenient, the better. Otherwise, I will struggle to keep them up. Probably not my best attribute but there you go.
I had been considering signing up to vegetable boxes for a while but never quite got round to it, either because money was very tight or simply because my baby brain (this is a lifelong condition you know!) made me forget.
Recently, I have been in a very proactive mood, so I am slowly working through my never-ending list of things to do, and so I signed up for a weekly Medium Fruit and Veg box with Abel & Cole. As a result, I received my first box last week. I also received a free of charge copy of their "Veg Box Companion" cookbook, as part of their on-going offer (see below).
It is always exciting receiving a parcel, especially on a weekly basis. And this one did not disappoint as its' contents were so colourful and beautiful! Siena really enjoyed looking through the box with me, asking me what each fruit and vegetable was.
The main question I guess, is whether I have made good use of the box contents.... Well, I am glad (and impressed) to say that I did! I have to say that the cookbook is a great tool, as I am constantly referring to it for new ideas on how to cook the fruit and veg I have received. It is full of delicious and original recipes, making me really excited to try them all.
When ordering the box, you have the option of stating which fruit and veg you would rather not receive. I thought of going through the list, but then decided that actually, if I am able to cook them properly with the help of the cookbook, I might discover new vegetables and recipes I wouldn't normally eat. So I decided to let Abel & Cole send me what they think best, and so far, so good.
To date, we have enjoyed Roots Manoeuvre Curry (to which I added fish), sweet plum sponge cake, butternut squash risotto, stuffed squash with zingy tahini dressing (to which I added lamb mince), cabbage wedges (amazing with bangers and mash!).... some of the meals made had leftovers which I have either frozen or Barry has taken to work for his lunch. And I have already spotted lots of new recipes to try out with the box I received yesterday. You can have a look at some of their recipes on their website, by clicking here. Lovely, lovely food!
** OFFER **
Abel & Cole currently have a lovely new promotion called GOODFOOD.
Under this promotion, as a new (or returning) customer, you will be entitled to a free-of-charge copy of their Abel & Cole veg box companion cookbook ( and your 4th set fruit/veg box completely will also be free-of-charge. If you could also let them know that you heard of the promotion from my blog and quote ref: 621670, that would be greatly appreciated!
They also do a great deal of other products, as seen on their website. Make sure to have a look!
What is your favourite vegetable dish? Have you tried any from the Abel & Cole cookbook? If so, which one is your favourite?
Enjoy! x
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*All images unless otherwise noted are my own, so please do not use them without my permission.*

Monday, 14 October 2013

A lovely walk in the woods...

It's no secret from the posts in my blog that the last few weeks have been... difficult, to say the least. I think Siena and I were both desperate to get out the house for a little bit of fresh air. The weather appeared to be holding up on Saturday, and so we met some friends at Westonbirt Arboretum. When describing it to my friend, the best I could come with is "it has lots of trees but it is extremely pretty at this time of year"... Very poetic don't you think?
Although I may not have done it justice in my description, it truly is a beautiful place. It is extremely relaxing and there is something to be said about getting out of town for a long walk in the woods. Last year, we did the Autumn walk, which shows off nature's amazing colours. I've included some photos at the end for you to see. This year, we did the other side of the arboretum, which included a japanese garden.
After a few hours of walking and letting Siena run off some steam, we sat down for a cup of hot chocolate, tea and of course cake in the restaurant. We all felt a little tired from all the walking with our legs buzzing, but definitely refreshed and ready to take on another week. I would strongly recommend a visit if you are in the Bristol area.
 Autumn colours from our walk last year...
 PS - Guilty pleasure starting again tonight... woo!
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*All images unless otherwise noted are my own, so please do not use them without my permission.*
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