Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Christmas at Courteenhall

On Sunday we popped along to a local Christmas event that had been in my diary for months. Ted's friend from school's family own the Courteenhall Estate one of the most beautiful manor houses and grounds in South Northamptonshire which has been around since 1572! 



We attended their summer fair this year and Ted and I enjoyed a tractor ride where we learnt about the Wake family farming and how they grow the wheat for popular breakfast cereals. When we heard they were hosting a Christmas weekend we were so excited. The estate is so lovely and the family and staff always make everyone feel so welcome. 

Entrance to Christmas at Courteenhall was £3 per adult in advance and the Santa Experience was £12 which included a Reindeer Ranger hunt, Christmas Decoration craft, reindeer dusk making and meeting the big man himself in his carriage. There were also stalls selling unique gifts and Lemon Zest catering had a cafe selling delicious treats. 

They also had real Christmas trees to purchase, we already have ours but they looked great and would have been a lot closer to bring it back home than the farm we got ours from last week (40 minutes with pine needles poking everyone in the sides). 



We loved the Reindeer Hunt around the arboretum, matching the deer to their favourite colours was great fun. Ted got super glittery making his decoration and was amazed by Santa in his carriage. It was dark in the grotto lit by fairy lights which made it all the more magical. Slightly star struck Ted was lost for words but managed to tell Santa he wanted a skateboard for Christmas...guess who is off to find a skateboard this week?! 

We finished the day off with snacks in the cafe where I had the best mince pie I have had all year and that is quite an achievement! We can't wait to see if they have an event next year. 



Wednesday, 5 December 2018

All About Me in Autumn

I have been tagged by the lovely Jules over at Pondering Parenthood in the "All About Me in Autumn" tag. I thought it would be a great opportunity for those of you that are new here to get to know me a bit more and my regulars (sounds like a pub!) to hear what we have been up to over the Autumn period.

NAME?

Jade

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR?

Grey, I know that is totally boring but it goes with everything and you will notice my text on the blog is dark grey rather than black as I find black really harsh. 

WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY?

Well I am writing this at 10am so Callie and I are sat chilling after a wet school run. The rest of the days plans involve housework, online Christmas shopping and some Christmas activities. A bit of a soggy day out so pootling around the house really. 

WHERE ARE YOU CURRENTLY?

In the living room on my favourite sofa. 

WHAT IS YOUR STAR SIGN?

Libra although I have no idea what that means. Joe is a Libra too as we are 8 days apart. Someone let me know in the comments if that makes us compatible or not! 
  
CAKE OR ICE CREAM?

Cake I guess although I don't actually eat a lot of either, rather a biscuit! 

FROZEN OR MOANA?

Moana all the way. You're Welcome! 

A NIGHT IN OR A NIGHT OUT?

Night in, I may only just be 30 but feel like I am past night clubs and late nights. Much rather have people over to us for an evening in. 

HOME COOKED MEAL OR TAKEAWAY?

See if the meal was cooked for me it would be homemade all the way but we are so shattered we end up with a takeaway maybe twice a week. I do cook the rest though and am quite a good cook when I have the energy to do it. 

PINEAPPLE ON PIZZA OR NO PINEAPPLE ON PIZZA?

I am one of those. I order a cheese and tomato pizza and add double pineapple. Judge me if you will...you are the ones missing out! 

BOOKS OR FILMS?

Films, I don't have the patience or time for books. Give me a few years when I have some time to read and I may answer that differently. 

AUTUMN OR SPRING?

Autumn. Our birthdays are in Autumn and it has Halloween and Bonfire night...what's not to love?

FLOWERS OR CHOCOLATES?

This has changed recently. Since we moved into the house I always have fresh flowers and swoon over vintage roses on instagram daily! 

FULL FAT OR DIET COKE?

Neither, I am a Pepsi Max girl. 

PHONE OR LAPTOP?

Phone, I do love writing on my laptop but my phone is with me constantly.

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE TV SERIES?

We are actually enjoying Shark Tank reruns on Netflix but Doctor Who is one I look forward to at the weekends. Also waiting for Friday Night Dinner and Plebs to come back soon! Love a good British comedy. 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE THING TO DO IN AUTUMN?

Stockpile pumpkins and squashes around the house!

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT FOOD TO CRAVE?

Right this minute? Because it was mentioned above...pineapple pizza! We do LOVE a Five Guys though so never a time when I couldn't murder one of those. 
  
DO YOU HAVE ANY PIERCINGS OR TATTOOS?

I have 2 studs in each ear but am yet to brave my helix piercing and tattoo I have been wanting for years. Bit of a wuss with a low pain threshold and only just started getting my eyebrows waxed last year which was enough for me.

ARE YOU AN INTROVERT OR EXTROVERT?

Tough one. I would say since developing my anxiety I have become more of an introvert but I am actually quite sociable and will always make the effort to go to events to be polite. However, I find myself talking way too much to overcompensate for nerves then beating myself up about it on the way home over analysing the whole event and wondering what people thought of me. 

WHAT IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVOURITE HALLOWEEN FILM?

Probably something lame like Hocus Pocus because I get scared easily. My inlaws are huge horror fans but I can't sleep at night if I watch anything too intense. 

NAME YOUR TOP 3 FAVOURITE ARTISTS/BANDS.

McFly, always.
James Morrison
Ed Sheeran

Can you tell  I don't listen to a lot of current music? I also quite like Years and Years.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FEARS?

Death. I have a lot of anxiety surrounding losing people or something happening to me and not being around for the children. I get panicky as the years pass that one day I will have to say goodbye to someone I am really close to and I am not sure how I will cope. 

DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER LOVE?

I do. Although I don't think I have ever felt love like I have now with Joe but my logical mind knows that if we were ever not together I have my children to keep going for and everything happens for a reason. That said I hope that never happens, can see myself growing old with that silly man. 

DO YOU HAVE ANY CHILDREN? (OR ANIMALS YOU TREAT AS YOUR BABIES).

Yep Ted (5) and Callie (2) they make me so incredibly proud and despite the general difficult nature of children they are awesome kids.

WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOUR FUTURE?

To be happy, healthy and live a long and forfilled life. I want to see my children grow up, maybe have some grandchildren and be that couple that spends retirement touring the world hand in hand. 

BE HONEST, WHY DID YOU START BLOGGING?

Everyone was doing it. For different reasons to what people do now though. 8 years ago blogging was for fun, to share stories, enter competitions and join in with tags like this. Times have changed and I feel so much pressure to get good stats but essentially I still write to document our life and share cool things we find along the way. 

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?

In life, my children. Callie's birth is something I am so proud of myself for. In blogging, I think being nominated for any award is pretty cool so my BritMums BIB's nomination a few years ago was pretty cool.

WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS WITH YOUR BLOG?

To continue to write because I love it, I don't earn money from the blog at the moment but collaborations are brilliant opportunities. There are so many amazing brands I would love to work with in the future and maybe I can grow my following along the way. 

IF THERE IS ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO CHANGE ABOUT YOUR BLOG WHAT WOULD IT BE?

To reach more people. Times are changing and algorythms on social media make it so hard for people to find me. I love writing about food so I guess to reach more people with my Slimming World posts would be fab. 
  
HAVE YOU ACHIEVED ANY BLOG GOALS YOU SET OUT TO DO THIS YEAR?

No, at the start of the year I wanted to post more and grow my following but then we reserved the house and it all went out of the window. I have spent the past few months playing catch up but I will get there in the end! 

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE IN 10 YEARS TIME? 

Here, sat on my sofa but instead of writing I will be working hard running my own business. I have a dream of running my own design company and fingers crossed it will be a success!

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM HOLIDAY?

Easy. 1 month touring Australia visiting all of the top restaurants. Been wanting to do it for the last 10 years since watching Masterchef Australia. Zumbo's Just Desserts on Netflix has fuelled the passion even more...to meet Adriano himself would be amazing too. 

IF YOU HAD AN ENTIRE DAY TO YOURSELF WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

I don't even know. I don't really do well on my own, if Joe was with me though I would be chuffed. Lazy morning with brunch out, a mooch around a garden centre then back home for a movie afternoon and a takeaway in the evening. Easily pleased but the main thing would be child free. We rarely get time just the two of us but to just not have to adult for the day takes a huge amount of pressure off. 

I was going to tag some other bloggers but being as I am late to the party with this one I think I will end it there and let you carry on with your Christmas preparations. I would love to know what you got up to this Autumn too. 






Thursday, 22 November 2018

What has she got to be anxious about?

She has a a big house, beautiful family, doesn't have to work and her house always looks spotless! Isn't it funny what people see from the outside? What are your assumptions of me? 

I saw a great post on Instagram recently about anxiety and how it keeps you awake at night. I don't talk much on here about my anxiety because I think it is still somewhat of a sensitive topic. I mean...ill mental health, that's just for nutcases right?

No. It totally isn't. Some of the strongest people I know battle with mental health issues and I genuinely think you have to be a pretty strong person to keep going despite battling those inner demons. 

My inner demons are certainly well hidden from the world. I do a bloody good job of putting on a brave face and plastering on a smile which is not actually a good thing. By not opening up about anxiety I have found myself feeling quite isolated. Nobody is intentionally ignoring me or isolating me, it is mostly in my head but because I smile and pretend all is ok nobody knows any differently. 

My friends and family are often quite surprised to hear I have had regular panic attacks in the past. That on a daily basis my brain is running at 100 miles an hour over thinking every situation. I hide it so well but that is a heavy weight to carry alone. 

My panic attacks started in pregnancy. I was suffering badly with hyperemesis and constantly missing days off work due to sickness. I felt a huge amount of pressure to be in work and when I wasn't well enough the panic set in. Endless back to work interviews where I had to explain my absence as well as the worry for myself and the baby was just too much. I put  it down to Braxton Hicks at the time but the palpitations and fear weren't normal pregnancy symptoms and it wasn't until after Ted was born and I had one that resulted in a hospital visit (heartburn and post cesarean panic made me think I was having a heart attack) that I realised it wasn't the pregnancy doing it. 

It died down a bit after that and I managed a good few years before the anxiety reared its ugly head again. We started trying for a baby which sadly resulted in a miscarriage and my world tumbled down. I was fragile and didn't know where to turn. I got on with my life and pushed the emotions deep, deep down. Plastered that smile back on and pretended it hadn't happened. I thought I had done the right thing and actually it worked. Until our world got turned upside down again and Joe got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called a sarcoma. He was in and out of hospital with operations to remove the tumour and I was juggling life with our then 3 year old, planning a wedding and carrying little Callie who blessed us with her presence at the worst possible time of our lives. 

When Joe was ill I really had to think about what I would do or how I would cope if the worst happened and we lost him. I thought about how I would tell the children, pay the bills, what it would be like never sleeping next to him again. My brain hasn't ever switched off from that and that is where the majority of my anxiety comes from. My brain is preparing me for the worst before it has even happened.

I have been to a councillor for a few sessions and probably should go back but she started digging a bit deep and I bottled it. I have always been a worrier. I was that kid that said she could smell smoke at bedtime or had a meltdown at bed time if the light was turned off. I would drive my Mum round the bend panicking that the stomach ache I had was something more sinister. All this was anxiety at its roots but childhood worries are so common I guess it was just put down to me being a hypochondriac and dramatising everything. My sister was really quite poorly when I was about 8 so it is easy to assume that set off my nervousness but my Mum will agree I was a worry wart before any of that happened. 

I don't like to think my childhood was anything to cause my anxiety as I had a pretty good upbringing. My parents did everything they could to provide us with a great life and when the counsellor started saying my early life could hold the answers I felt quite sad. I know people who have been through a lot worse than I have and genuinely think being an anxious person and suffering from genuine anxiety and panic attacks are different things. My anxiety definitely started in adulthood and I need to address those issues with someone who doesn't want me to write a letter to my 8 year old self in order to move forwards. 

I am yet to find the right counsellor or treatment to help me but after a really tough week being in tears every night I really need to reach out for help. I don't want anyone else to feel how I do in those moments. My emotions take over and I say and do things that really aren't me. At my worst this week I was fighting my urge to either punch the wall or walk out on the family and people that know me will know neither of those things are my usual personality traits. All reasoning goes out of the window and every thought in my head is scrambled. All I can think is I need to get out of here, I need this to stop. 

I opened up to Joe about everything and we have talked about it in the past. It is so hard for him to understand exactly how I feel but he has been through his fair share of crap too so understands how intrusive these thoughts can be. We just need to support each other and reach out for help when things are getting tough. I need to take my barrier down and tell people  when I don't feel 100% because they won't know to support me if I hide it all. 

Anyway that is a bit of a look behind the instagram 'perfect' life that you may see from the outside. If I can ask you to do one thing today it is not to assume everyone is ok all of the time. Ask if they are ok, check in with people you haven't heard from for a while and please, please be kind. Don't judge because you don't know what demons other people are fighting behind those smiles. 


Monday, 12 November 2018

5 Self Care Ideas


As a mother life is about taking care of others. Making sure everyone is fed, clean, clothed and happy. Juggling school admin, medical appointments, family commitments and generally running round like a blue arsed fly keeping things ticking over. It is easy for your own importance to slip to the bottom of the pile. 

When I feel like Mum life has got on top of me I like to do a few things to take care of myself both physically and mentally. These things are guaranteed to get me back to myself again. 

5 Minutes Peace

Sometimes it is hard to find big chunks of time to take out but just 5 minutes a day can really help. When Joe gets in from work and is able to watch the kids I take myself away. I will either practice my brush lettering (a new hobby) enjoy a cup of tea in peace or just sit in my bedroom and scroll mindlessly through Instagram. It really doesn't matter what it is but just those 5 minutes away to gather my thoughts, take a few deep breaths and clear my head help massively. Try it, just 5 minutes a day! 

Retail Therapy

Every once in a while I will arrange a shopping trip, often with my Mum or siblings. Joe will have the kids for the day and I may not even spend a lot of money but lunch is always on the cards. Nothing nicer than lunch without shouty children and shopping without a toddler fighting to get out of the pram! 

Home Spa

This one sounds posher than it is. I basically run a bath with lots of bubbles, dig out my favourite bath products and unwind. This is usually once the kids are in bed and I will catch up on my favourite YouTube videos in peace. I love to warm my towels on the radiator too to make them extra snuggly when I get out. Add some candles and soothing music if you like but just lay back and wash away all of your worries. 

Date Night

We don't get these very often but when we do I make the most of them. Our favourite place to eat  locally is Miller and Carter where the food is good and my favourite Summer Sling cocktail awaits. I pop on a nice dress, curl my hair and throw on a bright lippy. It is rare to get a chance to dress up so I embrace it. We don't stay out late but being just the two of us reminds me of who I am without the children and I remember that as much as I love them, I am more than just a mother. 

Eyebrows/Hair Appointments

I love getting my brows done. I have only been having them done for a year or so but feel so good once they are tidy. Getting my hair done is great too, especially if I pick up my favourite coconut latte beforehand! I only get it done once in a blue moon (probably 6 monthly!) but it never fails to perk me up. 

These things aren't huge, expensive (except Miller and Carter but you can eat somewhere else) or hard to plan. They can be added into your daily lives with minimal effort but trust me, maximum effect! If you feel overwhelmed try the 5 minutes a day and build up from there. Make time for yourself because if you aren't feeling 100% then neither will everyone else. 

Have I been missing out on any other ways to take care of myself? Let me know if you have any recommendations. 

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Lazy Mother's Guide To Cake Making - Unicorn Cake


Callie turned 2 last week. I can't believe how quickly she is growing up...I am convinced she is almost 3 already! When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday the reply was quick and seamless....CAKE!

I always try and make the kids birthday cakes but my way of making cakes is to make them look pretty, on a relatively low budget and with minimum effort. Cue The Lazy Mother's Guide To Cake Making...



I decided I wanted to create one of those fancy pants unicorn cakes you see all over Pinterest but no way was I baking the actual cake from scratch and then decorating...with a toddler in tow. So I cheated. I picked up a Betty Crocker Red Velvet cake mix and a tub of the cream cheese frosting for around £3.50 in Aldi. I figured at least I would be baking the cake even if it was just a box mix. 

I scoured supermarkets for yellow labels and was able to find a pack of ready to roll icing for £1, a pack of shimmery Jelly Beans for 75p and some Pink Panther ice cream cones for 30p (for 20!). I then popped to Hobbycraft and picked up a base for the cake and a tube of black icing (these could be found online cheaper but I was short on time) and to Poundland for some tubes of pink and white icing with nozels.

I think the grand total was under £15 for the whole cake which given it ended up covering 2 parties I think is really reasonable. 




Anyway...I baked those cake mixes, sandwiched them with cream cheese frosting, crumb coated (I know, I am just showing off now) and covered in the white icing. With the remaining icing I made ears and curls for hair and allowed them to dry before moving on to the main event...the horn. 

I dipped a pink ice cream cone into melted white chocolate and covered in the sprinkles from the cone pack (it came with free sprinkles too for 30 flipping pence!) let it cool then pushed it into the middle of  the cake. Securing the ears and 3 strands of hair with white frosting, I moved on to piping pink and white "rosettes" around them all and alternate colours around the base of the cake. 

Each base rosette had a shimmery jelly bean pushed in and I sprinkled the hair with edible glitter I had in the cupboard. Not essential but it was there. The inside of the ears were white chocolate coloured with pink food colouring but could have been left white too. All of these touches were literally what I had in the cupboards but didn't need to be there.



Finally I iced the eyes with black gel icing and attempted to write Callie across the side...it wasn't my greatest lettering work but it did the trick. 

Overall I was so impressed with the cake and got some great feedback and I don't think I could have got a better cake from a supermarket. It just goes to show it doesn't have to be difficult just play around with what you have and if in doubt...cheat!

Let me know if you want to see more lazy birthday cakes...I have a Cheetah, Candy Cake and a rather impressive Octopus one I could share with you. 


Thursday, 8 November 2018

Slimming World and Me - November

Slimming World and Me is a new feature I have wanted to start for a while now. Those of you that have followed me for a while will know I am almost 2 years into my weight loss journey and my life has been transformed massively. I have lost nearly 3 stone and feel so much happier and healthier for it. This series will be my place to document my journey as well as sharing any tips, tricks and favourites from the month. 


Lets kick off November with a bit of an update. I am currently 10st 4.5lbs and have been teetering on the edge of target for months and months. I only weigh 6lbs or so less than I was this time last year which is frustrating but if I am honest I rarely follow the plan 100% and have been too flexible with it to deserve target. Since we moved in June I have really struggled to get into a routine. I left my job last month too which has been very stressful and I went off the rails with my eating. Fortunately for me I rarely gained more than 2lbs in a week and somehow lost the next week so target isn't any further away. However I have been paying to attend group for 6 months and not really gotten anywhere so I either call target and save myself some money or pull my finger out and lose that last bit of weight.

I am really not keen on calling target. I gave myself a nice (not so round) figure of 10 stone for my target weight. I will have lost 3 stone then and I am pretty hard on myself, not getting to 10 stone will now feel like I have failed. Anyway enough rambling on about it, that is where I am. So close to target but faffing about! 

Foods I am loving this month...



So despite not being on plan 100% I have still been trying to food optimise as best I can and one of the best things I have found is the Take 5 book from Slimming World. It is available to buy in group and is really similar to the Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients cook book but of course all low syn recipes. Our favourite recipe we have made so far is the Beef Casserole. I actually took the recipe in to group this week as part of a 'Show and Tell' type of session. We tweak the recipe by adding rosemary from our garden but it is so comforting and easy to bung in the slow cooker.

I always enjoy smoked salmon and poached eggs on toast so been having that when I can and when we are out I opt for a jacket potato with beans and cheese which satisfies my hunger without going too far off the rails (always hard to work out how much of the cheese is HexA but it isn't every day).

I have made this bread and butter pudding a couple of times too and discovered the wonder that is coconut milk lattes from Costa! When at home though the spiced orange Choc Shot is a great hot chocolate replacement and topped with light squirty cream for a couple of syns is lush. 



I also am obsessed with rich tea biscuits which can be dangerous to just have a few but at 2syns each I can have 3 or 4 and still feels like a treat. 

What's New?

So the Sticky Toffee HiFi bars from group didn't last long and are being discontinued. I like them but they are a bit sweet. It was leaked somewhere and our consultant let us know there is a Millionaire's Shortbread one coming in January! Yum!

I have filled out a little snowflake that is my Christmas wish. I want to get to target by Christmas and thought it would be easy but with 7 weeks to go (I think) that seems a bit harder than I anticipated. 

How do I feel? 

I honestly feel great. I have my wobbly bits but most of that is my Mum Tum and I have little control over. My size 10/12 clothes fit and I am totally ok with being this size. I have some size 8 clothes and some size 14 clothes so I am aware sizing is different depending on where you shop. I feel confident when I make the effort to dress up and overall am the happiest I have been in a long time. Perhaps that is why I am being a bit flexible and not being too hard on myself but at the same time it could easily go back on again so I need to keep a lid on the junk food. 



I guess that is it for this month. I will check back in for my December update before Christmas and hopefully will be closer to target and that Christmas wish! Let me know if you are a Slimming World member as I would love to hear from you and don't forget to follow me on Instagram for daily posts.





Thursday, 25 October 2018

Making Our New Build House A Home - Living Room Decor from Aldi


We have been in our new home for 4 months now and are gradually turning it from a big white box to a family home. Each room has finishing touches in and although there is still a long way to go before it is perfect we have put our stamp on it already.

My favourite room of the house has to be the living room. It is so much more spacious than any we have had in rental houses and the french doors are such a beautiful feature. Our colour scheme in here is grey, pink and blue. 




Our speckled grey carpets were the first thing to go down and the curtains, blind and lamp shades were chosen in varying shades of grey picked out from the carpet colour. We decided to avoid painting most of the rooms while the house settles so my aim was to inject some colour without painting the walls.

We put up some shelves and decorated them with frames in pinks and blues. A frame with postcards in sits in one corner and our beautiful copper lamp in another. We had our old L shaped sofa for a while but recently purchased these gorgeous scandinavian style sofas in grey tweed which I am in love with. Adorned with pastel pink and blue cushions to add further pops of colour they make the room feel so grown up. 



I have an old nest of tables split around the room, I plan to replace these pine ones with more scandi inspired ones in the future but for now they work. On top of these sit some books, trinkets and scented candles. My favourite way to make a room feel cosy is to add these little finishing touches. Lighting is also so important to add warmth, I have done this with twig lights, a glass jar full of fairy lights and lots of fake tealights dotted around the room. I love turning them all on in the evenings while we snuggle up in front of the TV.




Speaking of the TV we got a new TV unit with grey doors, this takes up a lot of space in the room and has huge cupboards in for hiding a multitude of sins including the kids toys which seem to take over the house!

Finally I have added two faux fur rugs nestled under each of the sofas to add some texture along with a couple of throws for curling up under on a cold night. I am so happy with how the room has turned out and it will be complete when I finally decide on some art to go on the internal wall...but that is a whole different blog post! 



We were sent the pink sequin cushion, twig lights and faux fur pink rug from Aldi as part of their Specialbuys. They are all great quality but really reasonably priced and are available in store and online now.