Saturday, 28 May 2011

Letter to my 2 year old - Happy Birthday

Dear Miss C,

I can't quite believe that it has been two years since you came in to the world. It may be one of the biggest cliches but it still feels like it was only yesterday and it also seems hard to remember any time before you were born. I feel like you've always been here with us and I can't begin to imagine our lives without you.

When we found out we were having a girl, I don't honestly know what I was feeling. Excited. Nervous. Surreal. When I was pregnant with you, I could never bring myself to believe that you were a girl because I was sure they would have gotten it wrong. Your Daddy, of course, always knew you were going to be a girl in the same way he always knew your brother was going to be a boy. If only he could be that psychic about the lottery numbers.

Seeing you grow into a toddler has been a real pleasure; I've enjoyed every minute of it. You are so different from your brother which really proves that no two children are alike even when they are siblings. You love to explore the real world and play pretend with your teddy bears and baby doll. You are sweet and calm and very rarely have a temper although I'm sure that will change when you reach your teenage years. You love animals and always want to cuddle Casper the kitten. You love to copy your brother, always trying to attempt one of the crazy jumping stunts he's into at the moment and quite often succeeding in your attempts. You are cheeky and always makes us laugh.

I hope you have a lovely birthday today surrounded by all of wonderful family and friends. We all love you very much and I thank all my stars that you are with us. My beautiful little girl. xxx+o

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Gallery - My Backyard

This is what our back garden used to look like...

It was a mess, although this photo was taken just before Husband took on the gruelling task of re-doing the full garden. Wee Z was a few months old when he started and after just being made redundant, Husband needed a project. I needed a safe place where Wee Z and I could eventually go to play and enjoy the sunshine.

My idea of a dream garden is one with no work involved. I don't mind a few flower baskets and a plant or two in a plant pot but grass was a big no-no. I didn't want to have to be responsible for the upkeep of it.

The days were long and hard and with us deciding we wanted a decked area to sit in, Husband dug, hammered, cleared and lay the foundations for the decking. He had help from friends and my FIL, but most of the work he did himself.

After a few days, the garden really started to take shape and I was really proud of the great job Husband and his helpers had done.

Our garden is our little haven where the kids can play outdoors in the privacy of our home. I love watching the kids running around, jumping on the trampoline and playing hopskotch whilst I'm cleaning up after dinner. At night, when the kids are asleep and the sun is still shining, it's a really lovely place to sit in and listen to the sounds of dusk around you. There may be a glass of something involved too.

Although if Husband could work miracles and make my garden look like this, then I'd be a very, very happy lady!

This post is for The Gallery. The theme this week is My Backyard. Go check out the other entries!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Outdoor fun with the kids - The Park

One of the best things about summer is being able to spend the day outdoors enjoying the sunshine and gorgeous blue skies. We are very lucky to live near some beautiful parks and we often pack a picnic and head to one of them for the day. The kids love to run around, chasing a ball or each other and us adults love to sit on the picnic blankets, working on our tans.

One day last year, we took along Wee Z's pop up tent so the kids could play in it but also to provide some shelter from the hot sun. This tent was like bees to honey with all the other kids in the park and at one point there were 5 kids in this tent that didn't belong to any of us. Wee Z and Miss E loved going through the tunnel to get from one tent to another and Miss C and Wee L enjoyed sitting in the tent together, pulling their sun-hats off.

Our park has plenty of nature trails and walks so after our picnic we took a walk along the river and passed the horse stables. Miss C and Wee L were in their pram but Wee Z and Miss E walked together pointing at trees and the horses and chatting happily. The trail brings you out at the play park and petting area so we went to see the new lambs and piglets, which Miss C loved. Our day out finished with us getting an ice cream cone and the blokes taking Miss E and Wee Z through the forest to see if they could spot the Gruffalo.

The great thing about going to the park is it costs nothing (apart from the ice cream!), it's a fun family day out and the kids get to be out in the fresh air, which is FAB for tiring them out. If you have any tips or stories for outdoor fun, then head over to the Tots 100 blog-hop and share them!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Silent Sunday

Celebrating and Remembering

We're off out for lunch today to celebrate my Father-in-law turning 60. My niece Miss A also celebrates her 5th birthday today and Husband's step dad is celebrating his birthday today too, although he is sadly spending his day in hospital after having major surgery.

Today is also a day where I'll be remembering my own Gran who, you guessed it, would have celebrated her birthday today. How coincidental is that? Four members of our 2 families sharing the same birthday! 

My Gran would have been 83 I think. I often wish my Gran was still around. She was some character and I remember she used to love to write too. She had a notebook that she used to write little poems in and she used to go to a writing group. I remember reading a poem that she had written about not being able to sleep because there were gales outside and her telling me that her group laughed when she read the part about waking up the next morning; clearly she found sleep.

Little memories of my Gran make me happy. She was really important to us and I just wish I could have been there to look after her more. She deserved it. So when we toast my Father-in-law this afternoon, I'll be toasting my Gran too. Happy birthday Gran, I hope you're partying with the angels.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Gallery - Mustachioed

There's nothing quite like chocolate spread on children to make them look like they've been "mustachioed".

This post is for The Gallery. The theme this week comes courtesy of Laura from Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? who really does love a good 'tache. I wonder if she likes beards...? Then I could have used this photo:

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Legoland Discovery Centre - Our day trip

We love Lego in our house however our buildings and creations are nowhere near as intricate and detailed as some of the amazing displays we saw at Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester. We took advantage of being near the Trafford Centre whilst visiting Bella and Pops and decided to take Wee Z and Miss C to Legoland.

As we walked through the gorgeous marbled corridors to go to Legoland, our excitement was building. Music was being played by the piano ghost and really setting the mood that we were going to be seeing something quite spectacular when we finally reached our destination. When we got to the end of the corridor there were escalators to go outside and when we reached the bottom there were more shops. Where is Legoland? I was thinking to myself. Then we spotted a yellow and red sign tucked away in the corner, not looking quite as grand as I'd hoped it would be. Wee Z was more excited by the huge bungee trampolines!

We didn't have to wait long and I was quite glad we had our 2 for 1 vouchers as it would have cost us £50 for the 3 of us to get in with Miss C being free because she is under 3. As we walked through to take the factory tour we saw a life size Lego Buzz Lightyear. He looked amazing! The factory tour lasted about 10 minutes and we were shown how the Lego was made and given some free Lego as we were leaving. The good thing about the tour was the interactive bits the kids got to be involved in such as pulling levers and pressing buttons and the guy that took the tour was really good.

After the tour we went on one of the 2 rides at the Centre which is a laser quest style shooting game where you have to save the Lego Dragon from the Lego baddies. Wee Z really enjoyed himself, shooting baddies and scoring points. From the laser quest we took a short walk into a room filled with landscapes made entirely from Lego. There was the Blackpool tower, the Trafford Centre and the Lake Districts to name a few and the detail and work that had gone into them was amazing. I was really impressed!

From the landscape room you come into the main area which has the cafe and plenty of play areas for the kids to enjoy. There are 2 soft play areas, a princess palace area and a racing car area. This is also where the second ride in the Centre is which is a Harry Potter themed flying ride. The queue was quite long so we decided not to bother with the ride and instead opted to go and see Bob the Builder in the 4D cinema. Whilst waiting to get into the cinema there is an area where you can build Lego towers and then test their strength on an earthquake style pad which shakes the building to see if it will fall so of course Husband and I had to try them out. We were both successful in not having our towers tumble to the ground.

The highlight of the day was seeing Bob the Builder in 4D. The kids sat with their glasses on from start to finish and Wee Z was getting really into the movie and shouting "naughty Spud" when Spud knocked something over. When water would splash in the film we'd get wet too and when it started snowing at the end of the film it started snowing all around us. It was really fun!

After playing in the play area for a little while we had to leave to go and meet Bella and Pops. We must have spent about 2 hours in the Centre but that was long enough as you could fit everything in to see and do in that time. With the cafe being there you could spend a full day in the play area and have lunch but having a look at the prices, they weren't cheap and with loads of places to eat in the Trafford Centre, I think you'd be better off going in the morning for a few hours and then coming out to eat lunch or vice versa.

As you leave the Centre, you have to go through the Lego shop and pass the amazing Lego Darth Vader. There are plenty of souvenir toys as well as your Lego sets to buy but again, the prices weren't cheap and I've definitely seen their sets cheaper in other toys shops.

Overall we had a fun time at the Centre but I don't think I'd go back again. The map on their site gives the impression that the place is much bigger than it actually is and for the price we paid to get in, I felt there could have been more things to do or more rides or tours to go on. I think our next trip involving Lego will be to the Legoland in Windsor as it seems there is plenty more to do there.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Sunday Lunch with the Family

Whilst visiting Bella and Pops, they treated us all to a lovely Sunday lunch at the restaurant, Joshua Bradley in Cheshire. It was a beautiful sunny day, if a little windy, so we decided to walk to the restaurant. We were running late but that was understandable when we had 3 children to deal with getting ready.

The restaurant looked like it could be a hotel from outside as it was really quite big and set in a gorgeous brick house. We were sitting in the sun room and instantly we all felt really warm and the air conditioning was on full. However, I couldn’t fault the surroundings. The room was bright and simply decorated with plants and pictures on the wall. It felt really homely and welcoming.
I always worry about taking my children out to a restaurant not because they are misbehaved but there is always a chance. Children have the habit of being unpredictable that way! We decided to let Miss C sit in a proper chair because I knew she’d get fed up sitting in a high chair and luckily just outside the sun room was a beer garden so we sent the men with Wee Z and Miss C outside whilst we waited for our lunch.

We all ordered Sunday lunch apart from my sister, who is vegetarian and ordered vegetable cannelloni. The menu looked really good and £8.95 for a Sunday roast, I thought, was quite reasonable. The children’s menu was quite good too and we went with chicken pie for Miss C and sausages for the ever fussy Wee Z. I asked the waitress to bring their food as soon as it was ready and she was very accommodating to my requests. Whenever we go to a restaurant I always ask for the children’s food to be brought out as soon as it is ready; they take longer to eat and they tend to get fed up if they have to wait too long.

Miss C’s pie was delicious. I’ve never tasted a pie that good before. Wee Z was delighted with his sausages and chips and wolfed them down after seeing another table being served desserts. I have never seen a lemon meringue pie that big was huge! I wish I could have taken a picture but can’t imagine the woman eating it would have been pleased and I forgot my camera...Grrrr!
It was quite busy but still our lunch seemed to take ages to arrive. Wee Z and Miss C had almost finished their lunch by the time ours arrived and I’m really glad I asked for theirs to come as soon as it was made. I had roast beef with all the trimmings whilst Husband had roast lamb. The roast potatoes and veg were really yummy and the beef was fairly nice, maybe a bit overcooked for my tastes. I tried a piece of Husband’s lamb and wished I’d ordered it instead. It was really tender and juicy...sorry any veggies reading! The only thing I didn’t like on my plate was the homemade Yorkshire pudding; it was disgusting! Wee Z decided he wanted ice cream for dessert and wanted chocolate with a wafer and again the waitress was very accommodating to his requirements. The dessert did not disappoint but I felt was rather large for a child of Wee Z’s age; not that that stopped him devouring it all.

My sister was given peace by Miss Baby K to enjoy her lunch but when she started to stir we decided to head back to the house. Bella and Pops decided to stay for dessert – Pops has a real sweet tooth – and so we left them too it. I heard my Mum ordered the lemon meringue pie and was quite gutted I didn’t stay. However we did return to our Krispy Kreme doughnuts we bought from Selfridges the day before and enjoyed them.

We had a great Sunday lunch together and it was really lovely of Bella and Pops to treat us all. Its days like that that makes me wish we did live closer to them all.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Gallery - Chilled out

Chilled out. Hmmm. Those are not 2 words I could easily put together let alone feel sometimes with 2 children running around causing havoc. My days are usually filled with endless requests to "get off that" or "stop doing that" or "put him down". These are not sentences a "chilled out" person would use...I don't think.

When I'm baking I feel really chilled out. Actually my height of "chilled outness" is achieved when I eat said baked goods. A good cake makes me feel all warm inside and not in the slightest bit guilty. One piece of chocolate or carrot or any sort of cake and I can feel the stress of the day melting away. Ahhh, if only I could find a more healthy way to relax...

This post is for The Gallery. The theme this week is Chilled Out.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Come Dine With Me Pt 2

Last month Husband and I kicked off our Come Dine With Me night and breathed a sigh of relief that it was over for us. We'd done our cooking, our hosting and the clearing up afterwards. We were now free to enjoy the rest of the nights. And that we did when Cupcake neighbour and her partner hosted their night a few weeks ago.

Cupcake neighbour had suggested we host the Come Dine With Me nights and I'm glad she did. It has been a great way to get to know our neighbours and enjoy some good food too. A week before their night, Cupcake neighbour dropped the menu in and it read very well.

On the night, Husband and I headed up after settling the kids in bed and we were welcomed with French Martinis. Well, I had initially decided that I would not be drinking so I could drive my brother-in-law home as he was looking after the kids. That idea went straight out the window after making sure Husband had change for a taxi. These cocktails were delicious and I was soon on my merry way. The food was served, the drinks were flowing and the chat was great.

The evening was a really good laugh. Cupcake neighbour had pulled out all the stops including sparklers and fireworks (which didn't go down well with some of the other neighbours) and those Chinese lanterns that you can light and set off into the sky. They had really thought about and planned their night very well. I had a really, really good time.

I did suffer the next day though.

Monday, 9 May 2011

My thoughts are with you all

It is such sad news to hear about Kelly Brook losing her baby. She knew she was having a girl and announced her pregnancy on twitter back in March. I also saw pictures of her recently and she looked absolutely gorgeous, as always.

The first time I heard about pregnancy and understanding what it meant was when I was in school in Mexico. One of our teacher's, in her late 30's, had fallen pregnant with her first child. I must have been about 7 or 8 at the time. She shared her news with us and was really excited about becoming a mum. I can remember her sitting at her desk during our lessons, eating tomatoes sprinkled with salt. I remember her showing us some of the little knitted cardigans she had been given in their lovely yellow tones with cute white buttons.

Sadly, that teacher lost her baby. I don't remember how far gone she was but I remember one of our teachers drawing a picture of a baby on the chalk board in a sack of waters and her explaining through this drawing how the sack had broken too early and the baby had been born but had died soon after. I don't know how many of us understood what had happened but I know we were very sad for this teacher. I don't remember her ever coming back to school.

Dealing with a loss will be hard for anybody but when it is a baby it's extremely hard and even harder to have to go through it in the public eye. It just makes me really sad to hear things like this and my thoughts are with Kelly, her partner and her family at this very sad time. Reading this story will surely bring memories and feelings back to a lot of mothers (and their partners) that can be very hard to deal with. My heart goes out to all those people.

Bath time, skin care time, Johnson's time

As a present for my sister when Miss Baby K was born, we bought a large Johnson’s toiletry box filled with Johnson’s bath time goodies and accessories she would need. Johnson’s is so recognisable amongst the baby and parenting world and I was happy to receive some products to review having used Johnson's since before Wee Z was born.

From body wash to shampoo, moisturisers to oils there really is something for everyone from the Johnson’s range. Their products are known for being mild enough to use on the most delicate skin and I love their shampoo for their no more tears formula. No stingy eyes here!

Our favourite bath wash is the Bedtime Bath. When added to warm water it releases calming aromas and has a subtle lavender smell which is known for helping you to relax - even I feel sleepy when we wash the kids. Along with the Bedtime Lotion, Johnson’s believe it helps babies become calm and have trialled with results showing it helps babies to sleep better. I don’t use it often because the kids do have quite sensitive skin, but I do notice them feeling a lot calmer after using it and a friend recommended it to me when I first had Wee Z saying “it really does work!”

After I have a bath, I love using Johnson’s baby oil or gel. I find it works best when you use it in the bath or shower (just be careful you don’t slip!) but I've used it after I'm dry to make my skin soft and shiny; great for showing off a tan. The only downside I've found is it takes some time to dry so you can’t get dressed straight away. I do suffer with dry skin in the winter and using the oil really helps improve the condition of my skin.

I also received some Johnson’s new nappy cream for Miss C. I've been lucky that she hasn't had really bad nappy rash but when it does flair up I tend to use another popular brand. I tried some of the Johnson's nappy cream and it absorbed much better, was much easier to apply but I didn't feel it cleared it up quite as quickly as the other product I've used. It comes in a handy tube so it can be easily stored in your nappy bag without taking up much room.

I love the Johnson’s range and would definitely recommend it to anyone. And although when you hear Johnson's you immediately think “babies”, you don’t have to have children to buy it. I've been using it since I was young when my Mum used to buy it and love using it on myself. Their products feel great, really work and smell lovely too.

This is a review post. For the purposes of a review I received a selection of toiletries and skin care products from Johnson's. This has not influenced my opinions in any way.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow wrote a cookbook?!

I love gazing slowly at cookbooks, reading recipes and looking at beautiful pictures of tasty looking food. I'm always on the lookout for a bargain cookbook when I'm shopping and when I heard Gwyneth Paltrow had released her own book, Notes From My Kitchen Table, I was intrigued and delighted to receive a copy to review.

Gwyneth Paltrow is an Oscar winning actress known for films such as Shallow Hal and Sliding Doors and for previously dating the gorgeous Brad Pitt. She is married to a very talented musician, Chris Martin of Coldplay fame and caused some raised eyebrows when she was one of the first celebs to set the unusual baby name trend when they called their first born Apple. Gwyneth seems to be a very private person though and I think this is what made me very intrigued by her cookbook. I’ve often read in magazines that Gwyneth likes to eat healthily and keep fit so I think I assumed she’d have someone there to prepare her meals for her and no time to spend cooking herself.

The book is split into 10 categories from soups to salads and main courses to desserts. The recipes are well written and easy to follow and some of them include photographs of the finished dishes so you get an idea of presentation and how it should look when you’ve made it. There are 150 healthy recipes to choose from with handy picture guides for recipes you can make ahead of time or in one pot. There are also vegan variations or “Make It Kid Friendly” tips too.

What I really loved about this book was the way Gwyneth talks about each recipe. It may only be few words about how she makes her salad dressing that proves to be very popular with her friends to sharing a childhood memory over eating tinned canned soup for Sunday dinner with cheddar cheese sandwiches. Gwyneth’s love of food has developed over the last 10 years but has been with her since she was young and talks openly about being inspired by her father. Being in the kitchen makes her feel close to him since he passed away and she enjoys cooking with her 2 children and encouraging them to eat healthily and enjoy preparing and eating food together.

My favourite chapter in the book is titled “the well-stocked store cupboard”. Gwyneth lists items that every home should have in their cupboards such as rice, pasta, oils canned goods and spices. The book also includes recipes to make a basic tomato sauce and your own stock.

Gwyneth comes across very personable in this book and just like any other mother who wants to cook and feed her family healthy food. This is definitely a book to add to your cookbook collection.

This is a review post. For the purposes of a review, I received a copy of Gwyneth Paltrow: Notes From My Kitchen Table. This has not influenced my opinions in any way.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Meeting Miss Baby K

As Prince William and Kate Middleton set upon their journey of married life together, we set upon a journey of our own to Manchester to visit Bella and Pops and meet Miss Baby K for the first time.

The roads were very quiet as most of the UK were glued to their TV screens enjoying the nuptials so we made it down the motorway in good time and arrived with Bella and Pops at lunch time. Husband went for a sleep having come off night shift that morning and Wee Z and Miss C went to visit one of the neighbours and his chickens. This neighbour has a pond in his garden too so Miss C and Wee Z kept a watchful eye on the pond to see if any of the fish came up for some food.

After a short sleep for Husband, it was finally time to go and meet Miss Baby K. We were all very excited in the car and when we arrived, the kids were running to their Aunty P's house, desperate to get in. I'd hoped they were excited to meet their baby cousin but to be honest, I think they were more excited at the prospect of some chocolate fudge brownies we had made at home and brought with us.

My sister was looking great having given birth less than 2 weeks ago and suffering with lack of sleep. Setting eyes on Miss Baby K for the first time in person was surreal. You forget how tiny newborn babies can be. Her daddy offered me a cuddle with her and I think I may have grabbed her from his arms. She was just perfect. She was fascinated with her Uncle though and kept staring at Husband. Miss C wasn't too bothered with her and happily munched on a chocolate brownie whilst Wee Z gave his little cousin a hug. He didn't seem too phased by her crying her head off at him - we just told him she must like him!

All too soon our visit came to an end but it was OK because we would see them on Sunday for lunch with Bella and Pops. We said our goodbyes and although it was lovely to have a cuddle with a tiny baby who can't answer me back or shout or fight, it was nice to know that I could hand her back and be able to sleep all night after our drive.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Gallery - April

April is one of those months that just passes me by without much thought. My Gran passed away on April 13th so April isn't exactly a month to celebrate anything...until a few weeks ago that is.

Meet Miss Baby K.

She was born on April 17th at 10pm weighing 6lbs 13oz. This is our little niece and baby cousin to Wee Z and Miss C. Isn't she just gorgeous?

We went to meet her last weekend and her mummy and daddy have done so well to make such a beautiful little girl.

This post is for The Gallery. The theme this week is April.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Annabel's Kitchen - My First Cookbook

April saw award winning children’s food expert, Annabel Karmel join up with CITV and a couple of penguins, to release “Annabel’s Kitchen”. This series is a 30 part entertainment cookery show for children. We’ve been sent the book from the series, Annabel’s Kitchen – My First Cookbook, to review and find out more about her show and the recipes she’ll be cooking.

This book is filled with a variety of dishes from sweet beetroot chocolate cake to savoury lamb biryani. The ingredients for each recipe are listed along with a picture of each individual ingredient which I thought was quite good if you were unsure what an ingredient was or looked like. The preparation and cooking instructions are then listed in easy to follow steps and accompanied by beautiful photographs; always handy for presentation tips!

Throughout the book, Jimmy Annabel’s penguin helper pops up offering helpful tips, like knowing when to flip a pancake or planning ahead for parties and storing food properly. I’m a big fan of Annabel Karmel having used her cookbooks throughout the weaning stages and I continue to use them to prepare delicious and nutritious meals for Wee Z and Miss C. This book is another fantastic addition to our collection.

“Annabel’s Kitchen” airs on CITV twice during the week at 12pm and 3.30pm and on weekends at 7.10am on CITV and ITV1. You’ll be able to catch Annabel and her penguin helpers, Jimmy and Pearl along with children helpers cooking up some of her recipes and hopefully inspiring your children to make their favourite meals and trying something new. The book, Annabel's Kitchen - My First Cookbook is published by Ebury press and available to buy now at a RRP of £12.99.

This is a review post. We have received the Annabel's Kitchen - My First Cookbook for review purposes however this has not influenced my opinion.

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