Welcome to the world!

image

On 18th December we welcomed our beautiful daughter Taylor Ann into the world! The best Christmas present we could ever dream of.

With Christmas and New Year festivities alongside getting to grips with parenthood and daily visits from family, friends and health visitors, I haven’t had a minute to myself. So I’m looking forward to getting into some sort of routine and enjoying having our little munchkin all to ourselves. Birth story post to follow but for now here are some shots of Taylor’s first two weeks…

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Is there really a baby in there?

Getting ready for labour

Throughout my pregnancy I’ve been known to repeatedly say things like ‘it just doesn’t feel real’, ‘I can’t really imagine it’ and ‘it’s going so quickly’ when asked about how I’m feeling. I think I presumed that the closer my due date got, the more I would feel like I was actually going to have a baby, rather than pregnancy just being a state of mind and a change in my body that I’ve had to get used to (Mr M has taken to calling me a ‘good vessel’).

But as I write this five days prior to my due date, I confess that it still ‘just doesn’t feel real’. Despite baby’s constant jabs in my ribs reminding me that she now has a mind of her own (thank you very much), despite the fact that we have a room in the house we’ve named and decorated as ‘the nursery’, and that I have something the midwives call a ‘hospital bag’ all packed and waiting for what will definitely be the most monumental day in my life, I just cannot imagine leaving the house as two people and coming back as three. All I know is that my life is going to change forever and for the next 18 years and beyond, I’ll be completely responsible for a life other than my own. I’m not sure anything or anyone can prepare you for that.

Of course I do this everyday...

Of course I do this everyday…

Friends keep asking me how I feel about labour but the truth is I don’t feel much – again I thought I would feel anxious, scared etc. so close to D-Day, but I’ve had none of that. I’ve found that everyone has their own little piece of advice to give, but the best I’ve been given is to just keep an open mind since things often don’t go to plan. I’m not very good at handling disappointment so my birth plan is that there is no plan. Other than very basic preferences (i.e. if I’m in immense pain give me whatever drugs I need to make it better) I haven’t been very prescriptive at all. As long as our little bambino is delivered safe and sound I really don’t mind how we do it – I feel like it’s very much out of my hands and she will come out as and when she wants to. I’m sure if I have a second baby I will likely want to be much more prepared, but that comes with knowing what to expect and, like everything, you need to experience it for yourself first.

I think the thought of labour doesn’t bother me as it will mean that I get to finally meet our little one. It’s strange, I keep thinking about her tiny little hands and feet but she is completely absent of any other identity in my mind – perhaps because the thought of mine and Mr M’s faces morphed into one is rather disturbing…We’re both hoping that she won’t be too overdue so that we can get her settled and enjoy her first Christmas together so I’m currently putting to the test all of the tricks in the book from drinking raspberry leaf tea, to taking lots of walks, having hot baths and bouncing on my birthing ball…Sorry? No, not that one.

Watch this space! x

10 side effects of pregnancy you need to milk

pregnancy hormones

So you feel like a beached whale, your brain’s gone to mush and you can’t get comfortable no matter what. BUT look on the bright side – there are some perks to being pregnant…

1. You can have child-like tantrums on a daily basis and people will just put it down to ‘hormones’

pregnancy side effects

What do you mean you don’t want dinner?

2. You only have three outfits to choose between each day. And one of them is your PJs

3. For once, people give your trolley right of way in the supermarket – and enough space to get a tanker through

positive pregnancy side effects

move it!

4. You no longer have to make up elaborate excuses to get out of  attending that event. You’re just too tired, too sick, not quite feeling up to it…

pregnancy side effects

5. Nobody will judge you for stuffing your face at every opportunity. Can’t choose between desserts? Order both!positive pregnancy side effects

6. The usually grumpy cashier at your local store decides to not only smile at you for the first time in five years, but engage in cheerful conversation about your due date, her children, her children’s children…

7. You don’t have to hold in your tummy after that three course meal – people just assume the food baby is real baby

good pregnancy

8. People tell you that you’re ‘looking really well’ on a daily basis – even though you feel like crap

9. You will never have to be designated driver ever again. Ever

10. And you can take delight from the green faces the morning after – for once, it’s not you with the hangover!

I'm feeling pretty darn smug today

I’m feeling pretty darn good today actually!

Have I missed any??

You Baby Me Mummy

DIY kitchen makeover (or ‘this nesting instinct is bloody great!’)

I’ve been banging on about how much I disliked our kitchen ever since we moved into our house this February. The whole house needed a complete refurbishment and, to be fair, we’ve done a pretty good job so far, completing the majority of the house to our taste within the first six months. But upon finding out I was pregnant we decided that the kitchen would have to wait since it’s by far the biggest project to take on and the biggest expense…DIY kitchen makeover

However, when my maternity leave began a couple of weeks back I decided that I could use this time to give the kitchen a bit of a makeover…If I’m honest, I was only planning to paint the tiles in the first instance and replace the lights. And then I decided that it wouldn’t be too much trouble to give the walls a lick of paint before I got slightly (very) obsessed and – to the groans and concerned protests of friends and family (“now is the time you should be resting”) thought it would be a great idea to tackle the units (since “what’s the point in me going to all that effort if the cupboards still look shit?”)

I’d opted for a plain white Ronseal One Coat Tile Paint to freshen up the tiles and Dulux Egyption Cotton emulsion for the walls. I wasn’t overly confident about the Ronseal tile paint – I attempted to paint our garden fence last year with their pressurised sprayer and learnt the hard way that their products certainly do not always do ‘exactly what it says on the tin’. However this brand seems to have completely monopolised the shelves in the likes of B&Q and Homebase so I decided to give them another chance.

The results were pretty good to be fair. The tiles did need two coats and the finish is slightly linear in places where you can see the brush strokes, but it looks like they’re supposed to be like that (or so I tell myself!)

Two coats of tile paint, and two coats of emulsion on the walls later, the kitchen did look much better to me, but I could tell that hardly anyone else noticed. There were just so many brown units in the way… I needed to do the cupboards.

Mr M insisted that my efforts were the equivalent of me trying to polish a turd and thought painting the units was one step too far, but he came to realise that you can’t get in between a pregnant woman and her cupboard paint…

Not really one coat cupboard paint

Not really one coat cupboard paint…

Sugar Soap

You need this in your life

Again, I opted for Ronseal since they were the only brand that was in stock in the colour that I wanted. Anyway, I needed to get home in time to paint as much as I could before Mr M got home so there could be no going back. Sneaky.

I didn’t bother sanding the melamine units, but used Sugar Soap to remove all of the dirt and grime which I’d seen done on a YouTube video. I’d never used Sugar Soap before and to say that I was amazed is an understatement – it’s so easy to use and literally makes cleaning a doddle (I’ve since used it on the ceramic floor too with great results).

Again, the units did need two coats of paint and in some places three, but I’m really chuffed with the results.Blackboard paint

I finished it off with some blackboard paint and added this typography with a chalkboard pen to create a bit of a feature.

The final results are well worth a couple of weeks of graft to get a kitchen which feels much more like my own – even if it will be ripped out in 12 months!

Now, how do I get Mr M to change that worktop?

 

Baby showers, how un-British of us!

Baby shower cupcake

A long-standing trend in the US, baby showers have seen a huge rise is popularity over the last few years here in the UK. Yet despite the Daily Mail (who else?) reporting this week that  mums to be are totting up to £10,000 on the celebration with professional planners, lavish venues and expensive gift lists, there’s something about the baby shower which seems rather un-British. For a start, we are utterly useless at self-celebration and I for one start to noticeably squirm whenever I’m the centre of attention in a large group.IMG_1853

So the idea of all eyes being on me whilst gracefully accepting gifts from all of my guests wasn’t instantly appealing to me. But my lovely friend Jo offered to arrange mine for me – and I’m so glad that she did! Having a baby is the biggest event to ever happen in your life, and after having now had my baby shower, I can’t actually think of a more fitting way to celebrate. Spending £10,000 to turn it into a self-indulgent reflection of the mother-to-be is not necessary, however a low-key affair with close family and friends to enjoy together is what every British mum-to-be needs in her life.

So thank you Jo, for arranging my baby shower and thanks to my lovely mum who relished the opportunity to bake ample cakes, scones and make the sandwiches.

The food

Fit for a Queen

Fit for a Queen

With the celebrations commencing at 12.30 on a Sunday afternoon, we decided on an afternoon tea theme for the food. After each enjoying a glass of pink cava (myself excluded – bah!) we tucked into mum’s feast of mini sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, cake, cake and more cake.

Mum even insisted on bringing her own tea cups and saucers (I did tell her I have some more than adequate mugs but apparently they need to match for such an occasion). She also brought some posh miniature butter knives and forks – the type that only your mum has and that you only ever see on Christmas day (or at baby showers apparently).

As I’m expecting a girl, the theme for the food was of course generally pink! Mum baked the most amazing chocolate fudge cake encircled with Cadbury chocolate fingers and topped with strawberries and white chocolate buttons. Jo added to the spread with these adorable teddy cupcakes made at a local bakery – almost too cute to eat!

The decorations

Whilst mum set about turning my kitchen into the Ritz, Jo busied herself adding some sparkle to our living room with balloons, confetti, banners, and – to everyone’s glee – horrendous baby photos of us all which she hung on the walls.

I hope my baby looks cuter than I did...

I hope my baby looks cuter than I did…

As not many people knew each other this was a great way to break the ice, and also formed the basis for a couple of games we played later on. If you fancy going all out on your decorations there are loads of companies now specialising in baby shower themes and decor from bunting to table centre pieces. You might want to start with the following links for some initial inspiration:

Alternatively, you can pick up various items on Ebay and Amazon and the supermarkets also sell a great range.

The games

Knowing that I’m expecting a baby girl meant that all of the ‘guess the gender’ type games were out of the window, but there are still loads of fun games you can play. Here are some of ours:

Baby shower game ideas

Fun quizzes –   Jo had arranged some fun quizzes (celebrity babies and nursery rhymes). Needless to say the mums in the room were much more clued up on the nursery rhymes than the rest of us – I had better swot up on those!

Match the baby photo – Everybody had brought along a baby photo of themselves and we had to guess which photo belonged to which guest. This definitely created the most laughs and brought out the competitive side in us all.

Guess the size of Nat’s bump – Cut the ribbon to guess the size of the bump. Apparently I look humongous as everyone’s guess was pretty much twice my size! Fails all-round.

Jo had also brought along a chart for everyone to fill in their guesses of baby’s size and name. The chart was made out of sturdy card and guests used a cute stamp for their chosen date, so it will also serve as a lovely keepsake – I might even frame it for baby’s nursery.

Did anyone get it right?

Did anyone get it right?

Afterwards came the opening of the gifts (everybody was far too generous!) with even more tea and cake.

The day left me feeling warm and gooey inside and even more excited for baby’s arrival. It also made me realise what a fantastic support network of great friends and family I have around me and admittedly, I actually enjoyed being the centre of attention for the day!

So, thanks America for introducing this great celebration to the UK. And Brits – loosen up and indulge in some self-celebration!

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Review: The Club & Spa at The Cube, Birmingham

Birmingham Club & Spa, the Cube

To celebrate turning the big 30 this year, two of my close friends from school and I decided to treat each other to a spa day, rather than buying presents. With my due date looming ever closer, Sal and Paula were lovely enough to make the trips from Manchester and Nottingham to come see me in brilliant Brum.

The Cube, Birmingham

The Cube, Birmingham

We decided on the Club & Spa at The Cube. I haven’t had a pamper since being pregnant (and never had too many before that!), so I was really looking forward to it and spending some rare quality time with the girls.

I chose the Mother to Be Day Spa Package for £115 which included:

  • Full access to the spa facilities
  • Light lunch
  • Mother to Be Full Body Massage
  • Robe, towels and slippers for the day

The spa is really easy to get to, just off the A38 with convenient parking (I parked at the Mailbox which is just next to the Cube) so makes a great place to meet.

We arrived at 10am and were given a tour of the facilities which include a fully equipped gym, a champagne nail bar, canal side lounge (for lunch), a vitality pool (with saunas and steam room) treatment rooms and a relaxation area.

On arrival you’re provided with the lunch menu options to choose from which has something for every appetite – from fish finger sandwiches, baked potatoes and pepperoni pizza, to chicken caesar salad and deli sandwiches. The deserts are even more tempting with options including New York vanilla cheesecake, maple syrup pancakes and hot chocolate pudding. As I’m on a health kick I of course opted for the healthier choices of pepperoni pizza and maple syrup pancakes…

After choosing our lunch options and touring the facilities it was time for my Mother to Be Full Body Massage. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, since every other massage I’ve ever had has involved me lying on my front! If I’m honest I was also yet to have a great massage in the UK so I didn’t have high expectations for this one (not that I didn’t think they existed, but like I say I don’t get pampered that often and whenever I have, it’s been a little underwhelming).

IMG_1760

If only every day was this easy…

Well, I have to say that this massage definitely exceeded my expectations and was worth every penny! My therapist, Charlotte, went through everything in detail beforehand and really helped me to relax and understand how it would be beneficial. Instead of lying on my front, I lay on one side first when she massaged my back, shoulders, and legs and then turned over for the other side before shifting onto my back so that she could focus on my feet, arms, hands, neck, scalp and face. I had ample blankets and cushions all around me to keep me warm and relieve any pressure so felt super comfortable and cosy throughout. The entire 1hour and 15mins was pure bliss. I’ve been having trouble relaxing in the third trimester of my pregnancy being eternally restless and (I admit) rather irritable, so this was exactly what I needed!

After the massage, we relaxed around the vitality pool and I took the opportunity to swim some lengths whilst the girls enjoyed the saunas and steam room.

Relaxation area - avoid sitting down in these when pregnant, you won't get back up!

Relaxation area – avoid sitting down in these when pregnant, you won’t get back up!

Our lunch was booked for 12.30pm, when we made our way up to the lounge area which overlooks the canal. The lounge has a relaxed and contemporary feel to it, perfect for eating lunch in your robe. As the chefs already had our order, we didn’t have to wait long at all for our food to come out. My pepperoni pizza was just what I fancied – big and filling with ample topping! I put it down to too much talking, rather than food defeat, but I actually couldn’t finish it all. Paula chose the fish finger sandwich, whilst Sal opted for the Penne pasta – both of which looked yummy and were polished off.

Lunch at The Club and Spa Birmingham the Cube

No caption necessary…

My appetite miraculously returned once the maple syrup pancakes were placed in front of me – served with fresh fruit and toffee sauce they were absolutely divine!! The girls selfishly enjoyed some Prosecco with their desserts whilst I stuck to my beloved English Breakfast tea (only four more weeks...)

After lunch we relaxed some more in the pool area before making full use of the changing facilities. The changing rooms are equipped with ample mirrors, hairdryers and hair straighteners so (if not pregnant) you could get yourself ready to hit the town straight afterwards if on a weekend break, hen do etc.

All in all, we had a fantastic day and left feeling totally relaxed and pampered 🙂 Now let’s plan the next visit!

Club-and-Spa-Entrance

Recipe: Pregnancy health kick – Roasted red pepper and tomato soup

 

I’d like to be able to say that all of those burgers, pizzas and Haribos I ate recently are due to pregnancy-related ‘cravings’, but if I’m honest, I ate them because I wanted to and I’m a bit greedy like that (especially with a totally insatiable appetite!)

roasted red pepper and tomato soup recipe

So, to make myself feel better about that fact, this week I decided to cook something boosting with nutritious joy. My step-dad, Mike, emailed me this recipe when I first started taking an interest in cooking in my early twenties and I always pull it out whenever I feel a health kick coming on. His side notes to the novice cook that I was back then always make me smile (yes, I probably would’ve used salad tomatoes, let it burn and used dried basil to serve had he not made these points explicit).

It’s also a great starter option for dinner parties if you just want something deliciously tasty and guaranteed to impress without going all-out fancy.

Recipe for Mike’s roasted pepper and tomato soup*

Mike's recipe

Recipe from Mike

(*It most likely isn’t Mike’s recipe at all, probably a Nigella or a Delia, but since Mike introduced me to it, it seems only fair that he gets the credit)

Serves 8:

  • 1kg of ripe plum tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine (In Mike’s words – DO NOT USE SALAD TOMATOES AS THEY HAVE NO FLAVOUR!!!)
  • 2 sweet red ramiro or red bell peppers, halved, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves are garlic halved
  • 4 shallots quartered
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Teaspoon of sugar
  • Good squeeze of tomato puree
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • Basil olive oil, or ordinary olive oil if you have no basil oil
  • Salt and black pepper for seasoning
  • Fresh basil leaves

1. Pre-heat oven to 220C. Toss the tomatoes, peppers, shallots, garlic and oil in roasting tin. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper

well on your way to your  five a day

well on your way to your five a day

2. Roast vegetables for 30 minutes turning occasionally (note from Mike – “CHECK THEY DO NOT BURN AS THIS IMPAIRS THE FLAVOUR!”)

3. Whilst the vegetables are cooking, make the stock using 0.5ltrs of water

4. Tip the vegetables into a large pan, add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and vegetable stock. Blitz the vegetables with a blender until they are fully pureed, adding more water if necessary (“DO NOT DILUTE TOO MUCH”)

5. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer

6. Serve with fresh basil leaves (“DO NOT USE DRIED BASIL AS THIS DOES NOT WORK”)

Enjoy!