The great Easter treat off #fiveforfriday

Something quite shocking happened to me yesterday evening. I headed to our local Tesco on a special Easter chocolate run and – gasp – discovered that they had SOLD OUT of mini eggs.

What?!

I’m still not sure how such a thing can happen. Do the people in our area eat a ridiculously large amount of mini eggs? Was there some kind of mass panic buying of mini eggs before Good Friday arrived? Either way, I was obviously not happy. It reminds me of the Great Easter Disaster of two years ago when the husband and I left our egg shopping until the holiday weekend and couldn’t find anything apart from Kinder eggs. I should have learnt my lesson…

Not that I have been completely deprived of mini eggs this spring. Or any chocolatey eggs…

In fact, with such a huge variety of Easter confectionery around these days, I’ve been conducting an unofficial taste test of several of the treats on offer. Purely for research purposes, you understand, to decide what is my Easter chocolate of choice. A sort of Treat-Off, if you will. 

It’s been tough but I’ve come up with my top five…

1. Mini eggs
One little mini egg doesn’t feel too wicked. Except one egg leads to another and before you know it, the whole tube has gone…

2. Creme eggs
It’s always very egg-citing (sorry) when these appear on the shelves. If, like me, you’ve thought how amazing a giant creme egg would be, check out this one on Pimp That Snack.

3. Ferreo Roche mini eggs
For when you’re feeling a bit posh. 

4. Malteaster 
Yummy bunny.


5. Lindt chocolate carrots

They look more like chocolate umbrellas than carrots but are so cute either way.

As you can imagine, it took a lot of painstaking research to come up with my top five. What would win your Easter treat off? Just don’t ask me to choose between mini eggs and creme eggs…

Happy Easter :)

#fiveforfriday is my weekly round up of all sorts of bits and bobs – from blog posts I’ve been reading to themed crafts and activities to favourite products to the random things I’ve been pondering!

#fiveforfriday

Advertisements

Dreaming of holidays… #fiveforfriday

Following our recent weekend away, I’ve been reminiscing about some of the holidays I took BC (Before Children).

As I was writing about our weekend, it got me thinking about how different it is to go away with a baby/toddler in tow! I’ve been lucky enough to visit some amazing places, destinations that I can’t imagine doing right now with our young family. (That’s not to say you can’t travel with little ones; there are lots of people who do. But we’re not quite at the point of wanting to attempt long haul or anything too adventurous at the moment!)

It’s hard to choose an absolute favourite holiday but having given it some serious thought during a couple of nightfeeds, the ones below are probably my top five.

1. Canada – Toronto, Niagra Falls, Montreal, Quebec, Prince Edward Island
Oh, how I loved this whole holiday but most especially visiting Prince Edward Island. Where I’d wanted to visit since reading Anne of Green Gables as a child. Where the husband proposed. Definitely top of my ‘special holidays’ list.

Beautiful Prince Edward Island

2. New Zealand
I’ve got relatives in NZ and have made it over there three times. It’s beautiful. Best bits: colourful volcanic weirdness at Roturua; stunning scenery at Queenstown; amazing, pouring with rain boat trip on Milford Sound; beautiful Bay of Islands. When can I go again?

Milford Sound rain

3. Boston, Cape Cod and Maine
This was a brilliant, healing holiday following a tough time. I’d love to return one day. When I remember it I think of brownstones, boat trips, whales, wooden houses, white Aidorondack chairs, beautiful beaches, lots of fresh sea air. Oh, and Hurricane Earl, which we were more than a little worried about, being from the UK with no experience of what to do if caught in a hurricane (the Great Storm of 1987 doesn’t really count!).

Cape Cod amazing beaches

4. Croatia
Sailing around the islands off Croatia on a beautiful (crewed!) wooden sailing boat – just bliss. Best bits: sitting for hours on deck, occasionally managing to tear my eyes from the beautiful water and coastline to read a page of my book; atmospheric Dubrovenik; diving off the boat for ice cold swimming; great company in fellow passengers, amazing food.

Shadow wave

5. Skopolos/Skiathos
The words ‘Greek islands’ do something to me. These are my absolute favourites so far, especially Skopolos, reached by boat. Cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings, breathtaking views, boat trips, cool bars with cushions on the floor for seats, delicious seafood… I could go on. This holiday came when I was very stressed at work and feeling low about my love life. And about a month or two before I met my husband!

Greece beautiful house

OK, I’m feeling all travel tingly thinking about these amazing holidays. I want to jump on a plane and go back to each one RIGHT NOW!

What trips would be on your favourites list?

#fiveforfriday

#fiveforfriday is my weekly round up of all sorts of bits and bobs – from blog posts I’ve been reading to themed crafts and activities to favourite products to the random things I’ve been pondering!

The List

A weekend away with kids

So, we’re back from our first weekend away as a family of four and it’s safe to say that the husband and I are pretty knackered!

Daffodils

Baby E has been teething (we think) and spent two out of the three nights not sleeping, including one long period of inconsolable screaming.

We carted there and back what felt like enough supplies and luggage to survive an apocalypse, even though we were only away Friday to Monday.

There were a couple of stressful navigational moments, plus a dinner disaster when we couldn’t figure out how to work the oven in our cottage, resulting in tea being an hour late.

Both kids ended up falling over, with Little Miss A sporting a bruised cheek almost from the point of arrival. Baby E wanted to use her newly acquired crawling and pulling up to standing skills at every available moment, generally in the most unsuitable and unsafe locations she could find, meaning that opportunities to sit still in the cottage were few and far between.

With all that, you have to wonder why on earth we would leave our perfectly nice house, which is perfectly geared up for our family’s needs and situated in a perfectly lovely part of the country, for a weekend away that most definitely could not be described as a relaxing break.

Well, relaxing it may not have been but it was fun despite the hard bits. From Little Miss A’s excitement to cosying up all together in front of the fire to animal feeding to playing in the on-site soft play to exploring new places together, we packed in a whole weekend of family experiences and memory making.

These are memories that the husband and I will always treasure, such as Baby E’s very first swim. We had the on-site swimming pool all to ourselves, which was wonderful. While Baby E bobbed up and down in my arms, her sister treated us to twirls in her rubber ring and squeals of delight as her daddy dived under the water or pulled her along on a giant float. It was a highlight of our weekend and all four of us had huge grins on our faces as we splashed around together.

Or Little Miss A looking like such a big girl on a pony ride around the courtyard, holding on and balancing all by herself. She risked a wave as she trotted past her daddy, shouting out proudly: “Look at me!”, a perfect mixture of concentration and happiness on her face.

When we came to drive home, she didn’t want to leave, declaring holiday to be ‘so much fun’. We had to agree. I’m looking forward to doing it all again in the summer – although next time we take our secret weapon, the grandparents, along too so hopefully we get to squeeze in a smidgen of relaxation as well!


Book love #fiveforfriday

I love nothing more than escaping into a good book. Even if I can no longer while away a lazy Sunday morning in bed with a book, I still prioritise reading, generally at least a few pages before I go to sleep. And often now during nightfeeds, thanks to the Kindle app on my phone!

These are some of my favourites from the last twelve months…

1. Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor
Loved it, loved it. Devoured it. Loved it. One of the best fantasy books (and series) I’ve read.

2. What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
I found this a really intriguing, easy and enjoyable read.

3. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
I was a bit late to this party! And had already watched the first two films. But I liked all the series, although maybe not the last one so much.

4. Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier
This was a fascinating read about fossil hunter Mary Anning. It made me want to head to Lyme Regis with Little Miss A to see if we can find any fossils together, and I’d love to poke around the museum there. We don’t live too far away, so one for our days out list this summer…

5. Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
There is something fascinating about the Tudor period and Henry VIII in particular. This is a wonderful peek into the politics of his court, focusing on Cromwell and the masterminding of Anne Boleyn’s removal. I found it much easier to read than Wolf Hall (although I’m determined to revisit that one).

What books have you been reading lately?

#fiveforfriday

#fiveforfriday is my weekly round up of all sorts of bits and bobs – from blog posts I’ve been reading to themed crafts and activities to favourite products to the random things I’ve been pondering!


Things I miss from my pre-mum days

Being a mum is hands down the best thing I’ve done with my life but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a nostalgic moment or two for my pre-parent days. The ones where I (hardly ever) doubted I was going to get less than a full night’s sleep. When I had bags of time to myself that I could waste without doing anything much in particular. When I could hold an entire, articulate conversation without forgetting what I was talking about half way through.

After a few years of doing this mummy thing, I’ve finally allowed myself to admit there are things I miss from before – and that this doesn’t make me a bad mum or mean I love my children any less. Even while knowing that I would never swap what I have now, there are moments (usually following a few rough nights and/or tantrumy days) when my former life takes on something of a rosy glow.

So, perhaps it’s time to examine exactly what I really miss from that heady, carefree time…

1. Sleep
The obvious one but all too true. It’s been around four years now since I had a proper, deep, amazing night’s sleep and oh how I miss it. Even when our sleep settled down after baby number one, it was never quite the same; I will wake at the merest hint of a rustle from Little Miss A’s room these days, or a random noise in the house that could either be the central heating or a burglar/pack of wild animals trying to get in.

2. Huge long lay ins
I was really very good at laying in at the weekend. I loved that luxurious feeling of waking up and realising there was no work to go to and I could just snuggle back down and doze for another hour or two. Or get a coffee and some toast and laze in bed with a book. Or watch a bit of Saturday Kitchen tucked up under the covers. Or cuddle up to the husband for a while. Sigh. I think I might miss my lay ins even more than a full night’s sleep!

3. My boobs
Even when I lost all the baby weight first time round, my breasts stayed about a cup size larger than pre-pregnancy, which was, quite frankly, annoying as I was completely satisfied with their size before. Will they ever be the same again? I’m yet to find out for sure but I fear not.

4. Heels
Aside from the practicalities of flats for running around after a toddler, I physically can’t manage heels for any length of time any more without them killing my back, maybe a legacy of SPD in pregnancy. I wasn’t even your stereotypical ‘love to go shoe shopping and own about a billion pairs’ girl, so it’s surprising how much it bothers me. There are a pair of knee high boots, a pair of ankle boots and some gorgeous sandals that I mourn wearing in particular, all with what now seem to be ridiculously high heels – how did I wear them all day? – and all tucked carefully away in the hope I will be able to reclaim them one day.

5. Spontaneous nights out
The ones when you get home from work and can’t be bothered to cook and decide to just pop out for dinner instead. Or when you’ve gone out for what you think will be a quick drink and it turns into the most unexpectedly, brilliantly fun night ever. When the conversation is witty and the wine flowing (or the flowing wine makes you think the conversation has been witty, at any rate). When the food and company is good and can be lingered over without any thought of your toddler providing a 6.30am wake up call. We still do attempt the odd spontaneous dinner out as a family but it takes considerably more effort and it’s not quite the same without all the wine when you have to be back by 6/7pm for bedtime.

6. Conversations with my husband
Real, proper conversations about life, the universe and everything. As opposed to attempted conversations punctuated with interruptions to deal with a toddler, where one or both of us end up loosing track of what we’re saying and give up. Or attempted conversations after the day is done when really we’re both so exhausted we’d rather just cuddle up and zonk out in front of the TV.

7. Whole chunks of time doing nothing much in particular
What did I used to do with my evenings and weekends? I wasn’t out partying all hours, had a select few hobbies and didn’t spend a lot of time being organised doing practical chores and errands. I can only conclude I wasted a lot of time faffing around, maybe watching some TV, maybe keeping my books and CDs in alphabetical order, maybe taking long hot soaks in the bath with candles and relaxing music. Who knows? Free time now is at such a premium that the idea of not using it productively seems both wasteful and wonderfully decadent at the same time.

8. My really nice coats
I have a couple of lovely winter coats, the kind that are fairly smart and look flattering and aren’t waterproof but that’s alright because you have an umbrella and don’t spend much time in the rain anyway. They are packed carefully away with my heels. Now I wear my ‘mum’ coat: waterproof and warm (i.e. padded and unflattering) as I seem to be exposed to the elements much more regularly these days, usually tussling with carseats and pushchairs. And with a hood because I need both hands to manage the toddler, baby and all necessary equipment.

9. Sleep
I know I included this one already but I miss it so much I think it’s worth mentioning twice. Sleep deprivation isn’t used as a form of torture for no reason…

What do you miss (trivial or otherwise!) from your pre-children days?


Parenting posts to inspire #fiveforfriday

I’ve been going through a tough parenting phase these last few months, mainly caused by extreme lack of sleep and week upon week of illness. Throw in some dark, cold winter days and add a dash of adjusting to life with two kiddies and you have the perfect recipe for feeling down and dreary.

Thankfully, things are looking brighter again now. At the time, though, it felt relentless; I was struggling to find any enjoyment in my days and I was constantly doubting my abilities as a good mum.

One of the things that really helped me to get through was reading blog posts acknowledging the hard parts of parenting. It’s not easy to admit when we’re finding things tough but, wow, it makes such a difference to realise you’re not alone in struggling sometimes. I found the ones below to be particularly inspiring, so I thought I’d share them here.

1. I came across this blog post on rediscovering happiness in motherhood at exactly the right time. This was the article I needed to read, not least as I could have written the first part, which made me feel a whole lot better and less alone. Plus I loved the ways she rediscovered her happiness; the idea of recognising which season of parenthood you are in was like switching on a lightbulb for me.

2. This is such a moving post on leaving the baby and toddler years behind. I can relate so much as it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot as Little Miss A approaches 4 and school age. I often catch myself looking at her in awe these days, wondering where my baby went and feeling so proud of the girl she has become (despite the exasperating moments!). And it’s a great reminder as we weather sleep deprived baby days second time round to hold onto the precious moments even amidst the tough spots.

3. This post is called When does it get easier and it brought tears to my eyes. First, as I really had been asking myself that same question for a month or so. Then in recognition at the truth of the words of this experienced mum. And finally with the truth that parenting is overwhelming at times no matter who you are and there is a solidarity in the universality of that experience.

4. I love finding posts like this one on when you are tightly wound. The whole thing resonates but this part jumped out at me in particular: “By 9pm, I have no words left. I just want to sit in the dark… and not have to think any intelligent thoughts.” It may be a physical impossibility but I have been both so tightly wound and wrung out by the evening lately that it is all I can do to collapse in relief on the sofa. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this. And: “You can never turn parenting off”. Just so true.

5. It’s their day too is a great post to read when you need a shift in perspective. I often feel like I’ve got to the end of the day (week… month…) without achieving a huge amount. This really made me stop and think about my expectations and what I define as a ‘good’ or worthwhile day. I may not always be super organised and productive. We might not be laughing and doing fun activities from dawn to dusk. But every day has valuable moments. And, if nothing else, I think this sums up perfectly some of the core essentials of a parent’s job: “I kept two kids alive and fed, and we played and both of them are sleeping safely in their beds tonight and that made it a pretty good day.”

Have you read any inspiring parenting blog posts recently?

#fiveforfriday

#fiveforfriday is my weekly round up of all sorts of bits and bobs – from blog posts I’ve been reading to themed crafts and activities to favourite products to the random things I’ve been pondering!

 


My mama feelgood mission

I’ve got that tingly, ‘almost spring’ feeling, the one I get every year as I wait impatiently to cast off winter. It makes me want to run around, find armfuls of daffodils and throw open every window in the house in celebration of the new season.

This is even more the case this year. It’s been a long few months, with lots of illness and little sleep. I’ve got through mainly by eating copious amounts of chocolate and cake…

It can be easy to loose yourself as a mum sometimes, especially when the going is tough and you retreat into survival mode. Well, no more. I’m ready to reclaim ME and have set myself a series of mini missions to find my feelgood factor again.

Feelgood mission no. 1 – to eat more healthily

chicken dishes

I’m consciously avoiding the word ‘diet’ as I don’t want Little Miss A to pick up on it. But… I have three stone to loose to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and a family wedding in the autumn!

The easy place to start is to cut out all the sweet treats – well, easy to say, not so easy to do! The more tired I am, the more I crave sugar, and I’ve been bloody knackered recently. I’m slowly reducing the treats, though, and switching to healthier snacks such as fruit and nuts. I think it’s time to follow Slimming World again for some structure, which I found great after Little Miss A.

I’ve also been trying to cook more of our meals from scratch, as we’ve been relying on some ready prepared short cuts for dinner, such as jars of sauces, the odd ready meal, things full of sugar and excess calories. Our meals could do with a bit of a shake up, so I’ve had a look at all those recipes I’ve been pinning and have picked out a couple to actually make – this lemon chicken fettuccine, which looks like a delicious, fresh twist on our usual pasta dishes, and a healthy chicken fricassee.

This month’s challenge: Loose a stone (ambitious, moi?!) and try out those yummy looking recipes.

Feelgood mission no. 2: to start exercising again

My post-pregnancy body is more than a little creaky, especially my lower back. Thanks to some physio work after Little Miss A, I now know all about my core (the muscles around our middles that *should* hold us tight, like a girdle) and how a lack of strength there can cause all sorts of aches and pains elsewhere.

After all my previous hard work, it feels like I’m back to square one again (maybe square two). So, I’ve been trying to slot in just ten minutes in the evening of some of the initial exercises my physio suggested last time, such as this swimming kneeling move (or ‘Superman pose’, as my physio called it!) to challenge my core, the clam to work legs (plus core), the bridge, bringing arms up over the head (more core!) as well as a few squats for gluts (which will help my knees) finished off with some stretches, including this cat stretch.

I fell in love with pilates after having Little Miss A and it really worked wonders for me, so I’ve also invested in this 10 Minute Solution – The Pilates Collection DVD with a variety of ten minute workouts to do at home, until I have time to escape for regular evening classes.

This month’s challenge: Keep up the daily basics plus slot in at least one workout a week of pilates or my Davina postnatal dvd. I’ll be working up to more but for now my cardio will have to come from taking part in running races and dance routines (latest obsessions) with Little Miss A!

Feelgood mission no. 3: to get active outdoors

Fun at the beach

It’s been tempting to hibernate inside over the winter, especially when we’ve all been battling illness. But we’re really an outdoors family and Little Miss A is absolutely at her happiest when running free! I’ve been adding more outdoors time into our week again but best of all was a family trip to the beach, which really cleared the cobwebs. Little Miss A did some excellent rolling down the sand dunes and we had fun sloshing in the waves with our wellies on. Definitely good for the soul.

This month’s challenge: Get out and about whenever we can, plus visit somewhere new as a family (that should be easy at least as we’re off for a weekend in Cornwall soon!)

Sea

Feelgood mission no. 4: to look after my hair and skin

Months of sleep deprivation – check. Tired, grey skin as a result – check. To brighten it up a bit, I’ve been using an instant radiance facial exfoliator (from the Pure range at M&S) in the shower a couple of times a week, which really does leave my skin with a glow and feels lovely. Next on my list is to start using my eye cream (Clinique All About Eyes), which sits on my dressing table untouched every day!

My big obsession this year, however, is my hair. That post-pregnancy hair fallout has started happening and my hair has been feeling and looking noticeably thinner, agh. I’ve started using L’Oreal Elvive Full Restore shampoo, which I’m really impressed with. And I’ve hopped onto the coconut oil bandwagon a little late, investing in a jar of the stuff after reading how it can help improve hair health. We’ll see…

This month’s challenge: Try out that jar of coconut oil. Start using my eye cream regularly. Get more sleep. (The last one is just wishful thinking!)

Here’s to a feelgood few weeks ahead!