Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A letter to my 40 year old self

The eve of your fortieth birthday is a time for reflection for lots of people, and why should I be any different. Life didn't take the path I thought it would take, but when I stop to evaluate , I realise that I got to exactly where I hoped I would be. 

I've achieved so many things on my bucket list, yet I always seemed to see the negatives, focussing on what I hadn't done, rather than the things I had. Nothing was ever good enough. I was never good enough. I wept and wailed over expanding waistlines, lost loves & opportunities missed. The grass was always greener in my neighbour's yard. 


I've travelled and lived in far flung places. 

I've swum with dolphins and had a hedgehog for a pet.

I've kissed a cowboy and watched the rodeo.

I've stomped grapes with my feet and driven a streetcar.

I've met a ghostbuster 

and visited Laura Ingalls Wilder's prairie home. 

I used the flag on a mailbox & rode a yellow school bus

I've cut down my own Christmas tree

I've ridden the broken horse on a carousel at the foot of Sacrè Coêur.

I met the man of my dreams, we had a gorgeous wedding and now are parents to the most wonderful, smart, funny affectionate Lil toddlebot. 

I've done loads. More than one person could hope to achieve. After forty years of diets, hair cuts, colours, style changes and fashion disasters, I've finally become comfortable in the skin I'm in. This body is mine. It may be falling apart at the seams, but it made and is still sustaining another life...not so useless as I once thought! 

The grass isn't greener anywhere else. I'm not rich, famous or skinny; I don't live in a mansion with a small fleet of servants at my beck and call (a girl can dream, right?) but I have a warm roof over my head, a loving family, a beautiful son who lights my world with his smile each and every day and food in my belly. For several wonderful people I am special, I am loved and I am important to them. And that's enough. 

I am enough. Enough for me, enough for my boy and enough for my family. 

I am good enough exactly as I am.

Bring it on forty...I cannot bloody wait to see what else is in store.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Summer loving

I recently headed to the big smoke with my sister to attend London Edge & get a good look at what's available in the Spring/Summer collections of my favourite brands. We had a blast stroking all the beautiful fabrics, and chatting to other bloggers. I thought you might be interested too so I've gathered some of my favourite items below. 

I love love love the Seamstress Of Bloomsbury clothes and have long lamented the fact that they don't go up to my size. They are a small company offering excellent quality products and so many of them are feeding friendly. I've been lusting after their gorgeous blouses forever, so I was thrilled to hear they are slowly expanding their range of sizes to include some larger ones, going up to an 18 in some dresses now. Fingers crossed the 46/48" busted blouses will soon follow and I can finally add that unicorn to my closet! 

Peggy Wrap Dress


Grace blouse


You all know I'm a huge Collectif fan. They've always been one of the few feeding friendly vintage styles that I could actually fit into and these two dresses and cute cardigan would make an excellent addition to any summer wardrobe. The Carly cardigan is the cutest summer cardis I've seen in ages, and I adore the current Caterina dress I have, so I'm really hoping these are still available in my size when I finally get paid again. Easy to dress up or down, that mint green is timeless! 

Carly Cardigan


Janet Dress


Mint Caterina


Hell Bunny have some beautiful things, as always, but not much of it is feeding friendly this time around. I love this button front paradise dress but I so wish they had gone for working  buttons on the front as they are so much more practical 😭

Paradise Dress


You can't go wrong with their tops though and these cuties will see you through any season, just layer with a cardi for cooler weather.



Witchy blouse


Mouricette top


Lady Voluptuous is a fantastic brand, and while I didn't see them at London Edge, they are a must have entry for any feeding friendly wardrobe. The Ada dress is great for those who prefer less fullness in the skirt whilst still retaining the fabulous v neck that makes the boobages look so good. 

Estella does need to have the cross over on the bodice unpicked to make it feeding accessible, but that doesn't take long and how cute is this olive print? Finally, I'm in love with this lotus print Lyra. Can you get any more summery? I'm hoping it's still around when I finally have some pennies again as if it's anything like the other two I already own it will be fab! 

Ada dress


Olives Estrella 


Lotus Lyra 


My beloved Miss Candyfloss never fail me and their housewife collection is to die for. The Mariana, with its adorable scalloped detail collar, is already sold out of most sizes in the mint green so I'm very glad I got my order in early. I can't wait to get my hands on it and the other items I've ordered, which include this cute sundress and the Gigi jumpsuit in green. I honestly think that every mummy, breast feeding or not, NEEDS this jumpsuit. Yes, it's not cheap, and Maternity pay is either non-existent or Shit, but to be blunt, you cannot put a price on the body confidence it gives you. 

As I step into the voluminous legs that cinch me in at the waist, before blossoming out at the pleated bust, and pull that zipper up, I transform into a goddess...capable of anything and everything, in control of my destiny and woe betide anyone who gets in my way. Buy the damn suit people, I really doubt you will regret it! 

Mariana dress


Gigi jumpsui




So what's on your radar for the new season? What can you just not wait to get your hands on? Hop on over to my Facebook page... ...and let me know. Spam me with your favourite finds! 

**links and photos are from the brands own sites and not my own. I have not received anything from the brands listed above, this is purely my own opinion based on items I have seen or bought myself. 

Peggy Wrap DresMint CaterinaWitchy blouseLotus LyraLotus LyraLotus LyraGigi jumpsuit

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Red Peril of pregnancy


Like many viewers in the U.K. And across the world, I'm a big fan of Call The Midwife . I had read Jennifer Worth's memoirs and was thrilled when the BBC announced they were embarking on a drama series based on them. I've followed the seasons faithfully, first of all watching with interest and longing, but no real understanding. By season 5, I was finally expecting my own bundle of joy and my emotions swung widely as I journeyed through the stories each week, but none of the stories resonated as much as last night. Season six, episode four. 

We had been left hanging last week with Sheila in a hospital bed, the future of her pregnancy uncertain. That alone had hit me hard, as I have found myself identifying with her character a lot already (no, I've never been a nun, though I may have felt like one at times), but this week saw Sheila, and her ward mate Gloria Venables dealing with antenatal bleeding and late term miscarriage.

 This one hit so very close to home. People don't talk about infertility or miscarriage much in our society, despite how common it is. So many women are left feeling like the only person in the world who has ever felt that way, hugging their fragile and complex emotions to them like a comfort blanket. Yes, many women are putting off attempting to conceive later and later, but not all women are conceiving late out of choice. Society tells us we should wait. We are expected to have a career, contribute to the world before starting a family, yet infertility can make you feel as though you are being punished for doing the right thing.

 In my case, despite my childhood dreams of an early dazzling career, picture perfect wedding at age 24 and cherubic babies by 25, I didn't actually meet my husband until I was 36. However, from my very first period at 17, I'd had problems. I was the poster child for PMS. Backache, cramps, nausea, mood swings, acne...if there was a period symptom, I had it. I was literally floored for a week each month, curled double in agonising pain. It took 3 years, numerous GP appointments and finally a private laparoscopy before I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Over the years I tried every contraceptive on the market, desperately trying to keep my many symptoms at bay. 

At 35, whilst on a teaching exchange to Birmingham, Alabama, I started my period as usual in November...and it was still going by February. Non-stop bleeding for over three straight months. Hell On Earth. But you don't talk about it. Women are expected to just put up with painful and problematic periods as their lot in life. Not Me. 4 days after caving and seeing my GPu, I was talking to a gynaecologist. He did an ultrasound then and there, telling me that I needed surgery to remove a degenerating fibroid. He didn't pull any punches. An ultrasound isn't set in stone, and can't tell exactly what is going on in there. There was a chance that it wasn't a fibroid and that he may have had to remove more than just that. 

The surgery took longer than anticipated, and my mum (who had flown in to be with me), my US mama (my exchange partner's parents had taken me under their wings and treated me like their own, god bless them) and my good pal Ashley, who had driven down with her son to be with me, were all waiting patiently for my return. Mum is a nurse, and god bless her, she may be wee, but she is fierce. She peppered the doc with questions, the most pertinent being "can she still have kids?". I was incredibly lucky. When I returned I was told that had I been in the UK, they'd have just done a hysterectomy and made no attempt to remove the fibroid. According to my gynaecologist while I may find it difficult to conceive, I should be able to carry a child but, due to my many surgeries over the years, I'd have to deliver via Caesarean section. I was thrilled with that. I may have been single, but at least I was still hopeful that I may have a chance for a family in the future.

It took time, and a prescription for Clomid, but I did finally conceive. I can remember leaping on the bed with the positive test, waking my husband from sleep. No special card or gift and a videoed reveal of his reaction, I couldn't wait for that. After so many negatives I was ecstatic and couldnt wait to take the next step. I saw the midwife at 8 weeks, was given my maternity pack and a timeline of appointments and I was thrilled. Finally! Finally my body was doing what it was supposed to do! Finally I would get my chance to be a parent! No more staring at pregnant women and wondering why them and not me. No more buying baby gifts for friends, stroking little vests and wondering if I'd ever get to buy them for myself. 

It was just a week later when I bled for the first time. 

Nothing can describe the feelings you get when you see that terrifying flash of red in your pants. The plummeting stomach. The surge of fear. The deep gasping intake of breath that seems to take hours but in reality probably happens instantly. What's worse is that all too often the early pregnancy unit can't  (or won't) see you straight away and you have to wait for a day or two, or even longer, not knowing whether you are still pregnant or not. Scared to go the bathroom in case you see more blood, scared to move or turn too fast in case you accidentally make things worse. Scared that you may have done, or not done something that you should have. As a woman, as the person who carries the child, there is such an intense sense of responsibility, that if something goes wrong it is your fault. Something you ate, or didn't eat. Was there wine in that sauce you had with your meal? Did you run up the stairs too fast? You question every little move you make. 

All in all I had six small bleeds over the course of my pregnancy. Six times I saw that crimson smear when I sat down. Six times I rushed to the hospital terrified each time that I would be told that I had lost my baby. Six times my husband held me while we waited and I sobbed my heart out, so fearful that I had failed in my task to safely carry and nurture our child. In the first trimester ultrasounds showed a small pool of blood near the placenta, but they couldn't find a reason for it, or give me any idea of what I could do to stop it. Finally it vanished....but still I bled. That was even worse as there was nothing to blame it on. No visible reason for the constant small bleeds I was becoming used to. I had so many scans. Sooooo many. I know many people wish they could have more, but at 15 altogether in the end, I could have handled a few less. 9 weeks, 10, 12, 15, 18, as the gaps between bleeds stretched, I tried not to get too excited, as the fear and disappointment each time I saw the Red Peril was horrendous. 

The last bleed was at 23 weeks. It had been five weeks and I'd begun hoping. I could feel him moving clearly now, and so could the husbeast. We were attached. The Tiny Dictator, as we had come to call him, held our hearts tight in his grip and I could not imagine what I would do without him. It was a pretty memorable occasion. It was World Book Day, when all teachers (and their pupils) are expected to dress as a book character. I'd originally intended to dress as Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but my not-so-burgeoning bump was never going to fit into that costume, so I'd ordered a character onesie from Amazon. As had become my routine since getting pregnant, as soon as the bell for break rang I legged it to the bathroom. Several people along the way reminded me that I needed to be on the playground for the group photo of us in all our costumed glory, but this mama had to pee! I was so happy that morning. The kids loved my costume, they were learning well, despite all the pressure from the government to teach a ridiculous amount of grammar, and I was full of the joys of life even though I was still puking my guts up often. I had honestly stopped expecting to see blood, so when it was staring back at me, my heart just sank.

 Luckily at that later stage of pregnancy, things are taken a little more seriously and triage saw me that same day. I couldn't think straight, and barely remember the 30 minute drive to the hospital. It's a wonder I didn't crash the damn car, I was so out of it. I didn't notice the strange looks from people as I hurried through the doors of the women's unit. The midwife didn't bat an eyelid as she did her checks, it wasn't until I was getting undressed to let the docs examine me that I realised I was still in my Winnie The Pooh onesie. I've never worn that suit since and don't think I will ever wear it again. 

I was exceedingly fortunate. The Tiny Dictator was burrowed in deep, and he managed to hold on for another 13 weeks, before being delivered safely 4 weeks early. I didn't have to say goodbye. I didn't have to face the worst news imaginable. We have been so fortunate, but each bleed left a small crack in my heart. Each dash to triage broke me a little, made me a little harder, a little colder and I am irrevocably changed going forward. 

Not every pregnancy ends well. When you see that woman, stroking her bump and looking wistful, it may not be dreams of the future. She may be praying and wishing and hoping that her child clings to her, clings to life. So spare a thought for the ones who could not cling. For the babes who just weren't able to last the full forty weeks. Spare a thought for those who have to say goodbye once, or over and over and over again. 

I know I do. 


Friday, 10 February 2017

The 8th month sleep regression...or tenth circle of hell?

Yes, I've been MIA again. Firstly, I haven't quite cracked this blogging lark and thought I'd scheduled a post to go up automatically last week...but that clearly didn't work. Secondly, we are neck deep in another growth spurt/sleep regression/leap whatever you want to call it and it is taking a toll. 

I love my kid. Truly I do. I know I'm biased, but I think he is pretty bloody awesome as teacup humans go, however this past week I have been sorely tempted to leave him out for the wolves. Up to 4 months, I was feeling pretty good about this whole parenting lark. He would sleep at night in 3-4 hours bursts, and as we breastsleep, he would roll over, grab a boob and feed, then roll back all without ever truly waking. His day time naps were pretty regular too. At least an hour, sometimes more, both morning and afternoon. We had it made! 

Then plaguegate happened. 

Things never really got back to normal after that, but we were muddling along until this last month. Suddenly, naps stopped. Unless he was literally on me, or I was right beside him, he wasn't napping during the day, and for us that meant crappy nights too. The expression that "sleep breeds sleep" is definitely true for our minibeast and well sleep hasn't really been happening. He's been feeding hourly all night, and napping for 10 minutes if I'm lucky during the day and now I finally understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. 

Thanks to him still refusing bottles (😳 I have no idea what I'm going to do when I go back to work in a few weeks...answers on a postcard please?) all night feeds are my job, though if the other end needs sorting, that's the husbeast' job. I'm running on empty. My hubs is awesome, and tries hard to help out, but he sleeps like the dead. The other night, the lil bird decided that 4am was play time. He wiggled sideways in bed and was repeatedly kicking my husband and yelling "Dad, Dad, Dad" at the top of his lungs. I tried kicking him too. Not even a murmur. Next morning he said "you should have woken me". Don't worry, I didn't smother him in his sleep. Maybe next time?

But Jamie just seems to want mama, and only mama, and well....mama is a little touched out. How do you do it? How do people survive on so little rest? I genuinely would love to know, especially as I don't drink tea, coffee or cola so I can't even rely on caffeine to see me through. I find myself getting frustrated and irritable over the teensiest of things. Tiny molehills have become the highest mountains and my mental health is taking a bashing. I'm lucky that I have a good tribe, and plenty of support around me, but I can easily see how mums struggle and give up on breastfeeding at this point. I mean I find it hard enough to deal with when we share a bed. It must be ten times worse when you don't have that option, and not everyone does. 

For now, I'm existing on the glorious morning smiles, frequent cuddles...and cookies. Lots of cookies. See the recipe below for my super quick, easy cookie recipe that makes just enough to gorge on without feeling like a total heifer. Or maybe that's just me.

Chocolate Fork Cookies (makes 8 palm sized cookies)

Preheat oven to 180 Celsius 

Using your stand mixer (or a fork and bowl) mix together the ingredients below until they form a dough.
100g butter or margarine (I prefer real butter)
50g caster sugar
120g self -raising flour 
15g cocoa powder (I do a heaped tablespoon)

Split your dough into 8 pieces, roll between your palms to form balls, then place on a baking tray well spaced apart. Press the top lightly with the back of a fork. 
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes  in the centre of your pre-heated oven. ,

Leave to cool on their tray for 5 minutes before trying to move them as they will fall apart otherwise.


Perfect with cold milk, but even better with a good glass of Bailey's or Coole Swann 😉

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Cheap Cheap Chicken Pie

I have always loved to cook, but pastry has never been my strong suit. I learnt to work with the ready to roll frozen stuff and this chicken pie is a firm favourite in our house. It's pretty quick to put together and generally looks like you've made more effort than you actually have. There is also the added bonus of it being ideal for baby led weaning. the sections of pastry and chunks of chicken are perfect for little hands. I always make too much mixture, so the quantities below will make two pies

All you need is:

two pack of ready roll shortcrust pastry (one per pie)
one tin of mixed vegetables
one tin of chicken soup
4 chicken or turkey breasts.

oven tray
parchment paper
a mixing bowl
a frying pan
a sharp knife
a tin opener
olive oil

Start by covering an oven tray in some parchment paper. I tend to use the foil backed stuff from Lakeland. That stuff is amazing and so useful for everything.
Once you've covered your tray, roll out your rectangle of pastry.
Using a sharp knife, draw (not cut) two lines down the length of the pastry to mark it into thirds.
Cut matching notches down each outside will use these to form your lattice.

Now open your tins of soup and veg and pour into your bowl.

Cut your chicken breasts into wee chunks and brown off in a tiny amount of olive oil

Once browned, pop them into the bowl with the soup etc and stir together. Spoon the mixture down the centre of your pastry rectangle then, working from either end, fold in your pastry strips at an angle to create your lattice top.

 Repeat for your second pie. Bake in the centre of the oven at 200 (180 for fan assisted) for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. If you have not used frozen pastry then you can freeze the second pie for another day.

I serve it with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. A big hit wit my lil guy! Not much left at all


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Cleaning the oven-Pinterest style

Well, I decided this year that I would attempt to actually try out some of the thousands of tutorials I have pinned over the years. Once a month might not whittle down the list that quickly, but I'd say its a fairly sensible timeline given that I have an infant who clings closer than a limpet.

To that end, last Sunday I made a start, and I cleaned my oven using this tutorial. Being me, I did kinda wing parts too, so I'll stick my step by step below, including the before picture. I should also point out that limpet baby is in residence so I did all of this with him strapped to my back in our trusty Rose & Rebellion carrier.

You see just before I left to visit my parents for Christmas we had a nasty overspill in our oven...and I didn't have time to clean it before I left. It was vile...see?

Before Christmas I'd looked through my vast array of pins and found the one that claimed to clean my oven without expensive cleaners or hours of scrubbing...cos I am nothing if not lazy. I needed to prep a little in advance though, so I dutifully collected the peel of 2 oranges and placed them into an old jam jar. I filled the jar with white vinegar and put it aside to 'perculate' as I keep calling it. The pin recommended leaving it 5 days, but we were away for 3 weeks...and have been back for 3 so this has been brewing for 6 weeks.
I acquired a spray canister from Poundland and used a small funnel to pour the vinegar mixture into the canister.

next I hauled out my bicarbonate of soda (baking soda for my US readers) liberally (very liberally) sprinkling it all over the bottom of the oven.
With the base covered, I sprayed the vinegar & orange peel mixture all over the it, over the bicarb, causing it to fizz and bubble. My instructions said to leave it for 20 minutes, but I decided to clean the rest of the kitchen while I was waiting so it was probably more like an hour.

After that, all I had to do was wipe it off with a sponge. I was sceptical. I won't lie. Surely something so simple couldn't possibly clean my oh so minging oven? But it actually did an incredible job! I was stunned to see how much of the dirt actually came off, and came off with little to no scrubbing too.OK, I think I'm going to need a second go, but then my oven was particularly dirty. I think a standard oven would have been fine. Chalking this up as a win. Cheap, easy to prep and worked like a charm. Winner!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Maiden Braids tutorial

So as you know, I have a lot of hair. So much so that despite it being past my shoulders, if I had just two plaits on either side of my head, they become these short stubby wee things that are maybe 2" long...utterly useless for pretty over the head maiden braids, hell they wouldn't even meet in the middle! So I have found a way to work around that. For me to have workable plaits, after creating a centre parting I need to split each side into three section and plait each of those having six working plaits to finish.

I then pin the back two plaits across the back

At this point I have two choices. I can either pin the middle section across the back too, or add it to the front. This time I chose to pin them back. 

Finally the two front plaits are pinned across the top. 

Use as many pins as you need to feel secure....which for me is about a million. Finish with a blast of your favourite hairspray and a pretty bow or flower. 

Et voila!