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Kitchen Essentials

Recently, I’ve been writing quite a lot about the different things I like to make in the kitchen and one question that keeps popping up is where to buy all of the different and more unusual ingredients. So this post is going to be about store cupboard supplies and essential kitchen equipment.

Because a lot of the recipes I make now are on the healthier side, I think it pays to have a pantry well stocked with some of the following items;

Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Hemp seeds
Chia seeds
Sesame seeds

Almonds (flaked and whole)
Pine nuts

Dried Fruit

Dry Ingredients
Cacao Powder
Cacao Nibs
Couscous (wholewheat or normal)
Wholewheat pasta

Condiments/Wet Ingredients
Nut Butter
Coconut Oil
Olive Oil
Sesame Oil
Unsweetened, Plant – based milk (almond/hazelnut/cashew/rice/soya)
Maple Syrup
Vanilla Extract

Sweet Smoked Paprika
Chilli Flakes

These are all things that I have I the kitchen all the time, I just check my stock levels before each food shop and make a note when I run out or am getting low on something. I also keep all of the seeds, nuts and fruit in glass jars so that they're easy to access and I can see easily what I have. Of course, to go out and buy all of these things at once would be quite an expense so it may be easier to just buy stuff as you need it. Especially the more obscure or less used items but I’d definitely say it pays to have a decent supply of nuts, seeds and dried fruit.

Now, as far as where to buy these items, it all depends on what you have access to (do you drive for example) or which shops you normally visit. I shop at Lidl and Sainsbury’s every week. I ALWAYS have a meal plan and a list, which I’ll write more about in a separate post, so I go to Lidl first then only buy in Sainsbury’s what I can’t get in Lidl. Usually more specialist items or branded items such as baby food and formula. Lidl is very good for certain items such as dates, nuts and various seeds and spices. It might not always be the cheapest but it’s convenient if you want to buy as you need it.

If you want to stock up and buy more “bulk” items, I’d recommend Grape Tree. There’s an outlet shop at Dalton Park near Seaham or you can order online. Also, like most things, if you sign up to their newsletter, they send you offers based on the things you buy. Holland and Barrett is good for more specialist items but can be on the pricey side. They do have several good sales throughout the year (the penny sale especially) however there is also an outlet shop at Dalton Park and if I remember correctly, everything is buy one get one half price. I’d say when you’re buying online, it’s a good idea to partner up with a friend wanting similar items as these websites often have really good offers for buying a few of the same item. Also, paying for postage can really hike up the price so by buddying up you can order more and get free postage (Grape Tree offer free postage for orders over £35) or split the postage cost.

A quick word on nut butters. The most common brand or the one you’ve probably heard of is the Meridian range. I however prefer the Whole Earth range which is available in most big supermarkets. You can also buy directly from their website where there is a wider variety but you can often get good offers in Sainsbury’s and the like. I especially love their three nut butter which is cashew, hazelnut and peanut. Of course, you could always try making your own nut butter, something that I’ve never gotten around to but wouldn’t mind trying.

Something else we use a lot of in our house is yoghurt. The kids love it and we have it a lot in savoury food as well as at breakfast. If this applies to you, I would really recommend the EasiYo Yoghurt Maker. My mother in law gave me one a few years back and I used it sporadically. Now though, I use it a couple of times a week. It’s really simple to use, you basically mix a sachet with water and stand it in the yogurt maker with boiling water for a few hours. And it’s much more cost effective than buying yoghurt in the shops. For example, Sainsbury’s own brand of natural yoghurt is £1 for 500g. Now I recently discovered a website where you can buy heavily discounted Easiyo sachets, you can find it here. Currently, you can buy 12 sachets for £5.49 which works out as 46p per sachet and each sachet makes 1kg of yoghurt. That’s 46p per kilo compared to £2 per kilo for your supermarket own brand. The catch with these cheap sachets is that they haves shorter expiration date on them however, from my own experience, you can use them for up to a year past their best before date. Probably longer but I’ve not tried. This website does charge for delivery (£4-5 I think) so this is when buddying up would serve you well as they offer free delivery for orders over £40. I actually just bulk bought a load for myself but if you don’t use as much as we do then partnering up could be really useful. For the actual equipment set itself, you can get a complete set for as little as £11.99 on the official website or you can head over to QVC for different bundles and offers. I swear, once you go Easiyo, you don’t go back!

So, moving on to equipment. As well as the yoghurt maker, there are several things in the kitchen that I couldn’t live without. To start with, it’s really important to have a good blender. What I have isn’t a blender as such, more of a multipurpose food processor called a Ninja. Another present from my mother in law and another QVC find. I don’t think the set I have is available on QVC anymore however there are different sets out there. I’m not saying at all that you have to go and splash out on something like this, this is just the one I recommend. I like it because it has three different sized jugs which all run from the same motor and the blades are super strong. Something that I don’t have but will be investing in soon is a spice blender. A lot of Rick Stein recipes call for whizzing up spices and the Ninja blades and jugs aren’t small enough so I often end up using my pepper mill.

One of the most extravagant things you can buy for your kitchen and something that I was very lucky enough to be given by my husband a few years ago is a KitchenAid. For those of you that don't know, it's a free standing mixer and is pretty much the Porsche of kitchen gadgets. The one I have came with two different sized metal bowls, a dough hook, a paddle beater and a whisk. It's amazing for making your own bread as it cuts the manual kneading time in half. I love it because I can put things in it to mix and get on with doing something else, I've found since having kids that this is invaluable. There are a few optional extras that go with it but the ones I have are the pasta machine and the multipurpose slicer. The pasta machine is the best. Having used manual pasta rollers before, they can be a pain to keep steady on the counter top and then there's the added chore of physically rolling the dough yourself. Not with the KitchenAid, it literally does all the work for you, all you have to is feed the dough through the machine. And the pasta it makes is amazing! Super thin and just perfect! The slicer is also the nuts as it slices the vegetables much thinner than you'd be able to do manually and in a fraction of the time. So, if you're feeling flush or someone owes you a really good present, you know what to do.

This one is a no – brainer but good knives are really important. You don’t need a big fancy set but I’d say at least 3 different sizes and one bread knife. It’s also important to keep them sharp so you’ll probably want to invest in a sharpener. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy or electrical, just a basic manual one will do. I often see good offered for Jean Patrique knives, these are the ones we have.

A really good, non-stick frying pan is a must and will save you so the time and heartache of scrubbing burnt on food away. We got a brilliant one in Sainsbury’s which was half price. I think it was around £30 so £60 full price. I’d say it’s a good idea to try and still spend a good chunk of money on something that’s half price as you’re definitely getting more for your cash.

Lots of plastic containers! I like these ones from Ikea as they’re really good value and you get a good variety of sizes. I use the larger ones for storing things like rice and oats or things I make in bulk such as the Granola Dust. The tall ones get used for my overnight oats and the small ones are really good for freezing things in. For example when I make any or Rick Steins pastes, I always make double and freeze half so that next time I want to make that dish, I’ve got paste ready made. The small ones are also good for putting kids snacks in when you’re on the go.

A decent set of weighing scales. I prefer digital scales as they’re more accurate and its easy to switch to different units of measurement (grams, millilitres, cups etc). It can be a pain changing the batteries but I think it’s worth it.

A decent supply of good quality freezer bags for any smoothies you want to prepare in advance or, if like me, you buy reduced berries in the supermarket and freeze them.

The following things aren’t necessary but are just good/nice to have;

A decent griddle pan
An ovenproof frying pan
A selection of chopping boards
A selection of mixing bowls
A pestle and mortar
A spiraliser
A box grater
A set of measuring jugs

I also think it’s really nice to have some lovely bowls, plates and platters to serve your food on. I treated myself to a pretty set from Sainsbury’s last year and now everything matches, which pleases me greatly.

So there you have it, my kitchen and store cupboard essentials. I really hope this post helps you to be more organised and adventurous and most importantly, helps you to love cooking.

Enjoy xxx

Birth Second Time Around. 

For those of you that have read my earlier post, Labour and Birth First Time Around, which is all about the birth of Oliver, you’ll remember it was quite the ordeal. With your first baby, you have no clue what to expect, although your head tends to be full of unrealistic expectations. You have all these grand ideas of water births and zero pain relief, intending to just breathe your way through it. But once the gravity of reality hits you, you’d do anything short of killing yourself to make it stop.

Because I had such a terrible, drawn out time with my first son and ended up having a Caesarean, I decided to have an elective section the second time around. I came to this decision for a number of reasons.  

1. The simple fact was that I just couldn’t face going through the all that suffering only to end up in the position of needing a section again. I know, I know, no two births are the same but I just wasn’t willing to risk it.  

2. Already having a child, opting for a planned caesarean meant being able to arrange childcare in advance. My parents booked two weeks off work to help with Oliver and the new baby.

3. It had been explained to me by the consultant that, because of how my first labour ended up, I’d need much closer observations while in labour this time around. That would mean being strapped to a heart monitor and confined to the bed the entire time. This was not appealing to me given that lying down was the most painful position to be in the first time.

4. With my first birth, by the end I felt completely out of control. I’d always had horrors over assisted birth with forceps, after reading several stories of this procedure going wrong. But when I wasn’t progressing with Oliver and they said they’d try and get him out with forceps first, I was just too exhausted and out of it to argue. Had I had my wits about me, I might have insisted otherwise.

5. These two words; Scar Rupture.

So, we had our date, the 24th of November, meaning we could get our affairs in order so to speak. All of Oliver’s baby things were retrieved from the loft, dusted down and put in place. The Chicco Next To Me crib was attached to the bed and the changing table was fully stocked. As the date was a Thursday and Oliver attends nursery on a Wednesday, I’d compiled a long list of last minute jobs to get done the day before.  

I started the day having coffee and cake with my lovely friend Sarah, we were so excited it was like Christmas Eve! I intended to have my pre-op at 2pm then go and get my eyebrows threaded. Then my sister in law would come over in the evening to shave my undercut then I’d enjoy a long, peaceful bath, shave my unmentionables, wash my hair, then retire to bed early to make the most of my last uninterrupted nights sleep for a while! Sounds perfect right? 


Pre-op was going great, the midwife had explained in detail, everything that would happen the following day with, what turned out to be fairly precise timings, and everything. I was first on the list which made me even more excited as it meant that, all being well and there being no mothers needing emergency procedures, we’d have the baby by mid-morning. Everything was going brilliantly until she said “I’ll just check your blood pressure before you go home.” Those of you that have read Pregnancy the Second Time Around may remember that my bloody pressure had been a pretty contentious point through this pregnancy, resulting in me spending lots of time in the PAU strapped to a monitor. It also almost cost me the Jack Savoretti gig id booked ad hoc and it was only down to Sonja the midwife, abandoning protocol to stay behind and check it again herself rather than seeing me to the hospital. “Your blood pressure is dangerously high, I’ll have to get the consultant to come and take a look at you.” She announced. I wondered at this point what was the worst that could happen. That I’d have to stay for another hour or so while they monitored it? I’d still have plenty of time to get home, do all of my last minute bits and finish my half packed bag.  

The consultant arrived and conceded with a grave face that it was indeed dangerously high and that they would have to admit me for monitoring. So when could I go home? I was trying to remember when Superdrug closed and trying to calculate if id make it before then. Then I’d still have enough time to go and see Oliver, who was staying at my parents’ house that night. The consultant gave me a look of what I swear, was pity and said “Well, after you’ve had your baby. You’ll need to stay in tonight so we can keep a close eye on you. If it gets any worse we may have to perform your surgery early.” These were not the words I wanted to hear. I was gutted and surprised everyone in the room, including myself, by bursting into tears. I’d been so pleased with myself for being so super organised in the final days leading up to his arrival. I was embarrassed, I’m not a pretty cryer but I couldn’t seem to get a hold of myself so I took myself into the bathroom leaving my bemused husband with the doctors, and gave myself a talking to. Still a blithering, puffy wreck but somewhat composed, I emerged and asked if I could at least go home for an hour so that I could whip round and do the really important stuff? I couldn’t. And the consultant seemed frankly incredulous that I wasn’t happy to just do what was best for my baby. Of course I was and even though he didn’t use those exact words, he did say it was in the best and safest interests of both myself and the baby if I stayed. At that point I realised I was being ridiculous and managed to calm the fuck down. I was given some medication to try and control my BP and taken to a a private room.  

I was still pretty worried about my hospital bag as I’d only managed to half pack it and would now have to try and remember what else I needed so that James could go home and get it. I was concerned he might not be able to find stuff and that I’d forget something important with it not being right there in front of me. Plus I’d need lots of extra things as I’d have to have my shower in the hospital now. I sent James home and told him that I’d compile a list and text it to him as there was no way I’d be able to remember everything I still needed in that second. So off he went and I text everyone to inform them of what was going on.  

The list I sent to James was a long one but he somehow managed to find everything that I needed and made it back to the hospital in quick smart time. Not only did he bring everything on the list, a man after my own heart, he brought me a HUGE bag of snacks! Cheese, meats, crackers and crisps to have for my dinner the lots of chocolates and biscuits to see me through was what surely going to be a long night. He also brought me the beloved Ipad complete with some of my favourite films; Stand By Me, Gone in 60 Seconds and Legends of the Fall. Some of the family came to visit, all just as excited as we were. I managed to have a pretty decent shower once he’d brought me all of my bits and pieces although, I didn’t have a hairdryer or straighteners, so my hair was a bit of a state. James also insisted on taking photos of me in my final hours of pregnancy which, even though I look horrendous, I’m going to include! Soon 9pm came and James had to leave, he had to get home to sort the dogs out anyway but I was nowhere near tired. I had to be up early the next day to take the last of my medication and to get prepared for the surgery, so I knew I should have an early night but I was just too excited. I settled down to watch Stand By Me and eat my hoard.  

By 10pm I was getting sleepy so decided to turn in. For anyone who’s stayed in hospital, you know that sleep doesn’t come easy. It’s never 100% dark and there’s so much noise with all the comings and goings of staff and patients. The call button alarm seemed to be going off pretty constantly and I thought I’d never get to sleep. It was also about 90 degrees in the room so I had all the windows wide open, much to the horror of the midwife who woke me up just after 11 to administer medication I’d already taken. It had only taken me an hour to get to sleep. I sent a quick text out to see if anyone was awake but they weren’t so switched on my iPod as listening to music often helps me to drift off. It did the trick and after a few middle of the night disturbances, it was morning!  

My alarm went off at 6 as that’s when I had to take the last of my pills. James had been instructed to arrive not a second later than 7:30 as they would be starting to get me ready just after. I text my dad as I knew he’d be up early as he is every day and we had a brief, giddy exchange. James surprisingly arrived on time and as promised, things were underway soon after. I got changed into the requisite white, chequered hospital gown and James changed into blue scrubs. Several team members including a consultant, my midwife for the day and the anaesthesiologist, stopped by to give me a run through of what was going to happen. I remember when the latter popped in, I thought she was lost. She was very quirky looking and reminded me of Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter, sans jam jar bottomed glasses. She was so lovely and would be a complete hoot in the operating theatre. 

Then it was time!  

We walked down to the theatre, me in my brand new Marks and Spencer’s dressing gown to protect my modesty and I was very aware that everyone was looking at me. Of course in my head it was because I was wearing no makeup so I obviously looked a fright, but in reality it was more that people knew where I was heading and were looking at me in solidarity. We arrived at the theatre waiting room where there were lots of fit, young doctors milling around…why does that sort of thing have to happen when I’m wearing no makeup?? And into theatre we went. I’m sure there were other things that happened leading up to that point but I can’t remember as I was just too damn excited! And nervous. It wasn’t until then that the nerves started to kick in. What if something went wrong? What if there was something wrong with the baby? What if there were complications in the surgery and I ended up having to pee in a bag for the rest of my life? What if I died?? All of these things were running through my mind as I left James behind in the waiting room to go in and have my spinal block. It’s standard protocol that the birthing partner waits outside while this is going on, probably just so that there are no distractions and they can get through all of there pre-surgery checks. One of the team members was actually an intern who had only seen one caesarean performed and that was 2 years ago. He was mega grateful for the opportunity and kept expressing how kind of me it was to let him watch. I then regaled him with my love of Grey’s Anatomy and how I was aware that everyone had to learn…as long as he wasn’t going to be operating on me, I nervously added. The surgeon in charge actually mistook him for my husband which made me chuckle.  

I expressed my concern that the spinal block wouldn’t be enough to ensure I wouldn’t feel anything, told them about my last section and how I felt like I was starting to feel stuff by the end. They assured me this wouldn’t happen but IF it did, then just to speak up and they would quickly top me up. Professor Trelawney administered the anaesthetic into my spine while I was hunched forward and then instructed me to swivel around and lie down. Again, I expressed my trepidation that this was never going to do the trick as I could still feel my legs, when the nurse announced that she’d inserted my catheter. Ok, so I’d didn’t feel that, I think we’re ok. They all laughed. Suddenly James was there and we were underway! 

The nurses pulled up the large, blue drape and the surgeon started cutting. It’s an unusual feeling, you can definitely feel that something is going on down there but obviously there is zero pain or discomfort. I remember thinking how this was such a world away from the experience I had with my first son, when the surgeon announced that he was about to pull the baby out, did we still want the drape lowering. Yes Yes Yes! We’d already pre-arranged that this would happen so that we could actually see the baby as he was coming out and I tried to steady myself for the moment… 9:20am drape was lowered and there he was. I burst into tears along with James as they held him up for us to see. He was tiny, pink and shocked looking. Then the drape was replaced. I kept saying over and over that I couldn’t believe how tiny he was even though the midwife assured me he was a normal size. They weighed him and he was 7lbs and 1oz, which was exactly what they’d predicted he’d weigh! I said he was tiny to us as my first son had been a whole pound heavier. They wrapped him up and he was laid on the pillow next to me. He wasn’t as beaten up as Oliver was when he came out but his eyes were swollen shut and he was indeed tiny. We kissed him and cuddled him and cried some more. This was such a world away from Oliver’s birth as I cant even remember crying when he was born. I think I was just so relieved that it was over and I was so exhausted that I had nothing left to give. Also, when oliver was born, I only saw him for a minute and then he was whisked away, with James and I was left alone to be cleaned and stitched. This was not a pleasant experience and I was adamant that this was not to happen this time. And it didn’t, James and the baby were with me almost until then end and even when they were ushered out, I was so high that I coudnt stop talking! I did start to feel a bit sick and a bit uncomfortable so I was given a small dose of pethadine just to see me over the finish line. 

There’s no feeling in the world that compares to being wheeled into the recovery ward and seeing my husband cradling is new son. In that moment he looked proud, elated and relieved that everyone was ok. I mirrored those feelings, especially the relief as the surgeon said the procedure doubts have gone more smoothly. I was still alive, I still had all of my reproductive organs and most importantly, we had our healthy baby boy. As James wasn’t allowed to bring his phone into the operating room, there are no photos from the initial time after the birth but here are lots that got taken once we were back on the maternity ward.  

Texts were sent, phone calls were made and LOTS of photos were snapped. I found it amazing that it was only 10am and I had my baby! Once everything calmed down, I used that time to reflect on the differences between both of my births. I cannot commend the staff at the UHND enough. Everything went so perfectly to plan and I couldn’t believe that the timings were all pretty much what id been promised. There was no trauma, no panic and no pain during the birth, everything was exactly what id hoped it would be. I still had the recovery to come and that would be prove to be tougher and more painful, the second time around. I’m still however, happy and confident that we made the right choice for us. For those of you who are face with choosing between a VBAC and an elective caesarean, let me tell you there is no shame in choosing the latter. There’s just no need to put your body and mind through unnecessary suffering unless its something you really want to do. It’s not a cop out, its certainly not the easy option as recovery is arduous. And don’t ever, ever let anyone…and there might be someone one day…tell you that you didn’t really give birth as you didn’t labour. You have grown a baby and tha baby has exited your body. Whether that was via your vagina or your sunroof, you have still given birth.  

You are a mother and you are amazing!  

We Don’t Need Romance, We Only Wanna Dance. 

“Hen Night- A party for a woman who is about to get married, to which only her female friends are invited.” Cambridge Dictionary

In the UK it’s a hen night, the Americans call it a bachelorette party, South Africans call it a girls night out or kitchen tea. Whatever the name for it, it’s a widely accepted idea of a celebration given in honour of the bride to be. The practise of throwing a pre-wedding party, goes back centuries. In it’s modern form, the bachelorette party may have begun during the sexual revolution of the 60’s. The general opinion on these celebrations is that displays of sexual freedom, getting drunk and enjoying male strippers, are the norm.  

And that is exactly the kind of thing that I didn’t want! Right from the off, let me tell you that it’s perfectly ok, expected even, for the bride to be to have a hand in planning her hen do. In my case, I specified the location, gave an idea of what activities I would like and I booked the accommodation myself. I wanted a sophisticated, grown up hen do which focused mainly on food, drink, dancing and laughs, with all of my favourite ladies. I left the rest in the capable hands of my sister Ashleigh and sister in law to be, Katy. Having visited my chosen city of Leeds with both of these girls on separate occasions, I knew that I’d be more than happy with whatever they planned. I like Leeds because while it’s a big city, I know my way around it pretty well and most of the trendy bars are down on Call Lane, one street not far from our apartments. You don’t have to spend half a day travelling to get there and, like I said, having been before, we already had a good idea of where we wanted to go. 

I was really lucky to get a good deal on some gorgeous, serviced apartments from City Base Apartments and they couldn’t have been in a better location. Walking distance to everywhere we wanted to go and not far from the train station. I’d worked out the sleeping arrangements beforehand as some people didn’t know each other and that worked out really well.   

So Friday morning, we were off. Myself, my mam- Tracy and sister- Ashleigh, plus Katy, Lyndsey and Mel, all travelled down at lunchtime. Rosie, Joanne and Victoria would arrive later that evening and Klare, who lives in Leeds, would meet us there. We would kick off at The Hilton for a spa afternoon. This was supposed to be a surprise but Katy put her foot in it on the train while complaining that she hadn’t had time to paint her nails but not to worry as shed do it in the spa. Everyone including herself and myself, froze. She tried her best to muddle her way out of it and I tried to pretend I hadn’t heard but it was no good, the game was up. After a few jokey punches from the rest of the group, all was well and we got back to our prosecco. We were all then presented with our official Hen Do t-shirts. Designed and printed by Katy, the t-shirts were yellow, depicting the Colman’s Mustard label. For those of you who’ve not read my About page, my maiden name is Mustarde, so Katy thought this was super original and hilarious. 

Arriving at the spa, we all went our separate ways to have massages and manicures, meeting up later in the jacuzzi. Unfortunately there was another group that epitomised everything I didn’t want my hen do to be. One of them was actually topless while the rest of the rambunctious group egged her on. Lyndsay went off to complain to the staff but I actually think they were enjoying it! As we were all beginning to prune from the pool, we decided to head to the apartments to chill, drink and get ready. Upon arrival, Katy produced champagne and presented us with a taste test. Could we tell the difference between the good stuff and the cheapo reek? Could we shite! But it was a bloody good laugh trying! A quick…well, quickish, there was only one bathroom in each apartment…change and we were off. As specified, there were no willys in sight but I had pre-approved a small, hair band veil and it actually looked quite cute with my new Karen Millen dress.

Our first stop was Revolution for cocktails, shots and a photo op with Ricky from Geordie Shore! Check me out fan-girling! I honestly can’t remember where we ended up in between but we finished the night in Norman’s a bar on Call Lane that Katy and I discovered a few years previous. A great mix of music and an excellent selection of drinks, we spent most of the night there. The only downside was that Katy had her bag stolen, not great but it was towards the end of the night so she’d spent all of her money and it was a cheapo Chanel knock off. Her words, not mine. Several bottles of champs, Rosie going home then reappearing later on, a pizza and a very personal conversation with a group of transvestites later and home we went.  

The next morning was ROUGH, for all of us except Rosie, who went for a run then returned to make tea for everyone. We spent the morning laying around, pissing our pants about the previous nights antics and trying to motivate each other to get dressed as we were off for afternoon tea!

We arrived at The Cosmopolitan Hotel all a bit worse for wear but none more so than Katy, who looked like she might end up face down in the sandwiches at any moment. She soon perked up when they brought out the champers though! Lots of sandwiches, a ton of cake and lots of laughs later, we were ready for the next activity which would be cocktail making! 

This activity was a complete surprise and I couldn’t have been more excited! I love cocktails, making them and drinking them of course! We all piled into the private bar of Chilli White and were welcomed with a glass of prosecco each. We would be making 3 cocktails each, a mojito, a cosmopolitan and one that I can’t remember…the point is, it was great value for money ad such a brilliant laugh! We took turns going behind the bar and making them, it made for some great photos. I really loved doing this activity, everyone really enjoyed themselves and we were all suitably tipsy.

Back to the apartments to get changed for our last night out. I’m not sure why I made the decision to take one pair of shoes to wear on the both nights but getting my feet into my sky high, gold stilettos was a bit of a struggle after dancing all night the night before. I managed though and we headed out to Las Iguanas for our dinner.

I couldn’t tell you where we ended up that night, a mixture of the cocktails, champagne and whatever we drank after that mean that my memory is very hazy. 

I do remember that a truly fantastic time was had by all. I love that all of the girls from my hen weekend, even the ones who didn’t know each other before that, are still friends now. And that makes me very happy indeed 😊. 


For those of you that enjoyed Labour and Birth The First Time Around, why not read about it from a different point of view. This account, as told by my sister, brings me to tears. When you’re in the moment, nothing outside of that hospital room exists. So it was amazing to know that there were so many people rooting for me! Enjoy 😊

Sweet Silver Linings.

When I think back to December, and all of the excitement I felt when my sister and brother-in-law announced their pregnancy to us, I still get butterflies. It was one of the most precious moments of my life. We were sitting around their table – me, Mam, Dad and my boyfriend – and just as her husband was filling our glasses with some fizz – not out of the ordinary when eating with them – my sister stopped him and said, “only a little for me, it’s bad for the baby.”

In that moment, our lives changed forever. Our conversation – I couldn’t tell you now what were talking about – stopped. There was a moment of silence as we digested what she had just told us. That moment of silence didn’t last long. We shot up from our seats. There were tears; there were handshakes and hugs; there was…

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Labour and Birth, First Time Around.

“Giving birth should be one of your greatest achievements, not your greatest fear.” Jane Weidman.

From a youngish age, or at least when we find out where babies come from, we know it’s a given that childbirth is the most painful thing any of us will ever experience. My mother described it as trying to push out a watermelon, an analogy I’m sure many of you have heard. What most mothers fail to tell you and something I’m sure to tell all of my expectant friends, is that while childbirth is indeed brutal, taking absolutely everything you have and more, its also the most beautiful, exciting and awe inspiring event any of us can hope to experience or bare witness to. My mother in law used to tell me that bringing new life into the world is the one, true miracle. And I don’t say this often, but she’s right! Birth and labour are very individual and unique to every woman, meaning its impossible to share what it’s really like.

With my first son, Oliver, I always had this unexplained feeling that he’d come early. It was probably wishful thinking as by 38 weeks, I was huge. Unable to put shoes on myself or stand up unaided, like most full term mothers, I was well and truly fed up.


Our once jumble of a spare room had been radically transformed into a Pinterest worthy nursery….see Happiness is Feeling Prepared to find out how we did this…and I’d sit in my IKEA Poang chair, wistfully stroking my belly, urging the little one to hurry along. Little did I know, he wouldn’t arrive for another month! 

Literally every twinge feels like the start of labour when you’re almost 42 weeks pregnant. I really didn’t want to be induced as I’d read that induction births were generally longer and more painful and because baby was lying back to back, it was already looking likely to be both of those things. So I was wiling to try anything to get this labour going. I invested in raspberry leaf capsules and tea, went for super long walks, bounced on a birthing ball, drank lots of pineapple juice, you name it we tried it. Well, apart from sex as my husband was too scared of my body at this point! I had all but given up on this baby ever coming out, deciding that being pregnant for the rest of my life wouldn’t really be the worst thing in the world, when on Thursday the 10th of July, whilst bouncing on my ball and watching Penny Dreadful, I finally felt my first contraction! I’d never been so happy to be in pain! I excitedly activated my contraction timing app, texted my mother, sister and best friends and hooked up my TENS machine. I can honestly say that realising you’re in labour is one of the most exciting things! Nothing beats the anticipation of meeting your baby and you think that the beginning of contractions means you’ll have them within the next 12 hours or so. Or was that just me?  

Well, he wasn’t born within the next 12 hours. Or the next 24 or even the next 36. In fact, it would be almost 60 hours before our little man would make an appearance, keeping me waiting in true, Wolsey fashion. 

We were back and forth from the hospital, which is luckily only 5 minutes down the road, 3 times over the next 2 days. I was in and out of a warm bath which helped to soothe the pain. Sleep was impossible as even though I was exhausted, every time I drifted off, a contraction would wake me. Plus, lying down was the most uncomfortable and painful position due to the back to back position of the baby. At one point I had every scatter back cushion from the sofa stacked behind me to see if I could sleep sitting up. I couldn’t. It was literally The Worst. Finally at 6:30am on the Saturday morning, I was admitted at 5cm dilated. Over the last 24 hours I had dreamed of getting to hospital and having some drugs so that I could sleep, but getting to my room, I got a second wind. 

My Mam arrived at 9 to support us both through the birth and when the midwife examined me again at 11:30, I was almost 8cm and the baby had turned around the correct way. She couldn’t believe that I’d gotten that far with only a TENS machine for relief and she said that at this rate it was more than likely he’d be with us just after lunch. Then she said the words that would change everything – “Do you want us to break your waters to speed things up?” I was giddy, of course I bloody did. I honestly thought that if this was as bad as things got, I’d d be able to do it without any pain relief at all.  

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. The breaking of the waters wasn’t bad at all, in that it didn’t hurt a bit. Although, I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I wasn’t ready for the flood that was about to evacuate my body and I remember wondering what I’d d have done if this had happened in public. Probably died of shame, is my best guess. With every contraction, more liquid gushed forth. I was mortified. James was banished to the corner, he didn’t need to see me like that. Mam was trying to mop it up with those disposable pads they put on the beds but it was no good. I had no choice but to sit on the toilet for ten minutes until the waves abated. When I emerged, I was hooked up to a drip which was designed to speed up the contractions. From then on, everything was hell. Like, The Worst. 

The pain got so bad so quickly that I thought I might pass out. Not only that, but the contractions were coming so close together, that I hardly had a chance to breathe after one before the next one would crash over me. The pain was like nothing that I’d ever imagined. Like, imagine how bad you think it can get, triple it and you’re somewhere in the neighbourhood. I was quickly given Diamorphine and with that, came the sweet relief of sleep. I can’t tell you how long I slept for, probably a couple of hours, but when I woke up, the drugs were wearing off. Then someone said the E word. The midwife, my second of the day, asked if I wanted an epidural and I shouted yes before she’d even finished asking the question. James asked if I was sure as I’d always said that I hated the idea of them. I told him that that was back when I knew nothing. Now I knew and if I was told I could have the epidural only if I shot him in the foot….well, you get the idea! The downside of an epidural is that you have to remain perfectly still for 20 minutes or so while they administer it, a toughie when you’re having contractions every 90 seconds but we get there in the end and my god, it was worth it. It’s like when you’re ill, the most poorly you’ve ever been in your life and you can’t imagine ever feeling better again. Having an epidural is the moment when you wake up and realise you feel normal.  

I can’t remember what time it was at this point but we must have been somewhere in the mid – afternoon and I felt like I’d been in hospital for my entire life. Everytime someone came to examine me they’d say “All good, will be back to check again in 4 hours” FOUR HOURS! Let me tell you, when you’ve been at it as long as I had, 4 hours felt like 24! Cue another shift change and the arrival of Pat. I remember thinking that she seemed really stern. She admonished us for plugging phone chargers in, while none of the others had bothered. Mam cracked a joke about the plugs having been Pat – tested. Little did I know, she’d be an absolute rock when I heard the worst words of my life.  

Midnight came and I was ready to push. With Mam on one side, James on the other and Pat down below calling out instructions, I pushed for all I was worth. And pushed. And pushed. Mam told me that she kept expecting Pat to say that she could see the head, but that moment never came. I wasn’t progressing, contractions were slowing and so was my baby’s heart rate. The room filled with people who seemed to have come from nowhere and that’s when I started to get scared. The doctor examined me and decided it was best to go to theatre and see if they could deliver him with forceps. Failing that, the next step was a Caesarean section. We said yes, because yes is what you say when a doctor tells you that this will save both of your lives. He quickly explained the possible complications but the only words I heard…remember, the worst words of my life…were “we may have to perform a hysterectomy.” I can’t remember the context or why he would say such a terrible thing but that’s when I started to cry. And that’s when Pat came into her own. She held my hand and explained everything again, slowly and simply so that we could all understand what was going to happen. I felt better but still terrified, it had never even occurred to me that I might have to have a section. It had never even registered as a possibility.  

Mam had to leave us here as only one birthing partner was allowed to attend the surgery. Once in theatre, things happened very quickly. As it turned out, the baby had turned around into the back to back position again, inconveniently pulling my cervix closed at the same time. So all of those contractions, you know, the ones that went on for days, had been for nothing. A section it would be. They simply topped up my epidural and away they went with what can only be described as washing machine feeling of pushing and pulling, to find this baby and yank him out. It’s very strange indeed to have several peoples hands rummaging around in your abdomen and I actually felt a little bit sick. And after what seemed like only a moment, he was here! All 8lbs 3 ¾ ounces of him. The relief was immeasurable. Relief that he was finally here safely, relief that we were both still alive and that the ordeal was finally over. Well, for him at least. I still had to endure, and endurance was what it was, the cleaning and stitching up. Having never had major surgery before, I had no idea if what I was feeling was normal or f the epidural was wearing off. Not pain, so to speak but a large amount of discomfort followed by extreme queasiness and fairly severe trembling. James and the baby had been ushered out at this point so I was all alone while they talked above me. I know now that I should have spoken up, but I just wanted it to be over as quickly as possible.  

After what felt like an eternity, I was wheeled into recovery. Seeing my Mam and my husband gushing and cooing over this tiny, brand new life, made everything id just gone through seem insignificant. Our little boy had red hair, blue eyes, 10 fingers and 10 toes and a V – shaped mark between his eyebrows that, even though they said would go, still pops out when he’s angry.  

We loved him and we loved each other and that was all that mattered.  

“A book is a dream you hold in your hand.” 

They say that as a writer you must also be an avid reader. And that, I’ve always been. I was reading by the age of 4 and was always a step or two ahead of my classmates on the school library reading scale. I loved nothing more than to spend afternoons in my bedroom getting lost in Enid Blyton’s world – The Magic Faraway Tree was a firm favourite and I still have my battered, doorstep of a copy on my son’s bookshelf, hopefully waiting to be loved once more. The Twins at St Clares is another series I remember fondly. I dreamed of being able to go to boarding school with Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan with my trunk and tuck box in tow.

As I got older I discovered Goosebumps, Christopher Pike and the Point Horror series. The scary tales from R.L.Stine, Diane Hoh and Richie Tankersley Cusick would keep me awake at night well into my teens. They’re still available on Amazon for something stupid like a penny each and I’m actually thinking of buying a load for my sons before they become obsolete. With my love for horror well and truly ignited, at 15 I became familiar with Stephen King, who I’m sure most would recognise as one of the true, horror masters. Nothing gives me the shivers quite like Annie Wilkes from Misery or Gage Creed in Pet Sematary. I haven’t been able to muster the courage to read The Shining or IT, just thinking about the film adaptations makes it impossible for me to sleep.

Nowadays, with uninterrupted reading time as precious as it is scarce, I love a wide range of authors and genres. For a light, fairly easy but satisfying read, I love the chick lit penned by the likes of Marian Keyes, Jane Green, Cecelia Ahern and Diane Chamberlain. I become completely immersed in Jodi Picoult’s legal dramas and in tales of kings and queens by Phillipa Gregory. One of my many, many goals for 2017 is to concentrate a bit more on nonfiction and I’m currently on Helter Skelter – The True Story of The Manson Murders. It’s pretty grisly and so jam packed full of information that I may finish it by the time Oliver starts school!

So here is a list, in no particular order, of my top 10 books of my life so far:

1. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume.

“For a moment it’s as if they were never apart. They’re still Vixen and Cassandra, Summer sisters forever. The rest is a mistake, a crazy joke.”  

I’ve read this book so many times over the year I practically know it by heart. My old paperback copy is so well worn it’s practically falling apart. It’s the ultimate coming of age tale where Vix and Caitlin’s worlds collide. Opposites in so many ways, this story takes us through their teenage years with all the fun, tears, angst and love we’ve come to expect from Judy Blume. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what makes me love this old faithful so unconditionally. I think perhaps I relate quite closely to Vix – always the sidekick, usually in the shadows. I was never a Caitlin girl when I was growing up but I had my share of Caitlin friends. Girls who were cooler than me, prettier than me, more popular than me, who would take me under their wing and make me popular by association. Whatever the reason, this book fits me like a pair of comfortable jeans. 

2. White Oleander by Janet Fitch.

“Isn’t it funny. I’m enjoying my hatred so much more than I ever enjoyed love. Love is temperamental. Tiring. It makes demands. Love uses you, changes its mind. But hatred, now, that’s something you can use. Sculpt. Wield. It’s hard or soft, however you need it. Love humiliates you, but hatred cradles you.” 

This is another firm favourite of mine, one that I go back to time and time again. White Oldeander follows Astrid Magnussen, a 12 year old girl thrust into the American care system when her mother, the beautiful and icy Ingrid, murders her lover. We see Astrid grow over 6 years or so, in and out of numerous foster homes and several stints in a group home. We meet a complete spectrum of would be parents, all of whom seem to have their own agendas. This book really hits home for me, everything you’d imagine “the system” to be. It’s poignant, deep and heartbreaking and I defy anyone not to fall in love with this book. 

3. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans.

“I guess that’s all forever is. Just one big, long trail of nows. And I guess all you can do is try and live one now at a time without getting too worked up about the last now or the next now.”  

I first read this book when I was 15 and immediately fell for Tom Booker, hard. The man that would save Pilgrim and his family, the Macleans, after a devastating accident one quiet, snowy morning. The events of that morning threaten to tear them apart forever and only the cleansing ritual of getting back to nature and finding themselves again might save them. Part coming of age, part romance, if you have any interest whatsoever in horses, then this book is for you.  

4. I Am legend by Richard Matheson.

“ He stood there for a moment looking around the silent room, shaking his head slowly. All these books, he thought, the residue of a a planet’s intellect, the scrapings of futile minds, the leftovers, the potpourris for artifacts that had no power to save men from perishing.” 

After watching the Will Smith film, I was so excited to discover it was actually an adaptation. One of several in fact, others being; The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man and I Am Omega. The story of one man, alone in a post apocalyptic world, barely surviving from one day to the next, ensuring never to be out after dark when the creatures roam. I was surprised at the differences in the endings and while I thought the film ended well, I couldn’t believe they’d changed it so drastically. It’s a great example of man’s ability to survive in a desolate world and demonstrates very effectively why mankind requires human company to thrive.  

5. Misery by Stephen King.

“ I am your number one fan.” 

As I mentioned earlier, I discovered King when I was 15, truly terrorising myself with the thriller that is Misery. It’s psychologically disturbing, terrifying as it’s something that could actually happen. When Paul Sheldon wakes up, he’s in Annie Wilkes’ isolated home, following an accident in the snow. He is bed bound with numerous injuries but seems to have the perfect nurse in his Number One Fan. All he has to do is wait out the snow before he can be airlifted out of there, right? Annie Wilkes does not, at first, come across as your typical villain. She’s caring, attentive, an ex- nurse who knows her stuff. How much harm can Paul come to?

6. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. 

“ Don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to just be okay for your whole life?”  

I read this book over two days whilst on holiday in 2012. I could not put it down, I was completely enthralled by this magical tale of Henry and Clare, the very definition of meant to be. I’ve always found the notion of time travel ridiculous, I’ve not even seen the Back To The Future movies, much to my husband’s disbelief. But Niffenegger makes it feel not only real but possible. We follow Clare and Henry through the years and the numerous trials of being in a relationship where one of you can disappear at any time, without warning and for no given amount of time. This book made me laugh and it made me cry and I can’t expect much more.  

7. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

“ I think grief is like a really ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it; you can slap a doily on top of it; you can push it to the corner of the room – but eventually, you learn to live with it.”  

From the off, this is not the kind of book I should have enjoyed. It focuses a lot on clairvoyance, a subject I am very skeptical about. Having read all of Picoult’s other novels, I expected that this would have a similar, legal theme with lawyers and a big court case. Not so. This novel tells us of Jenna Metcalf, a 12 years old girl who is searching for her mother – Alice – who went missing years before, whilst running an elephant sanctuary. She enlists the help of two chalk and cheese allies, Serenity Jones; a disgraced psychic and Virgil Stanhope; the original police detective from Alice’s missing persons case. This book will teach you a lot about elephants and leave you reeling them the end. I promise.  

8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“ I’m sure there is Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us.”  

I haven’t read this book in a very, very long time but it was such a favourite of mine when in was a teenager. The tale of 10 year old Mary Lennox who comes from India to Yorkshire after her parents are claimed by cholera, to live with a cold and distant uncle whom she’s never met. We see how Burnett presents the transformation of a sour, contrary girl into an adventurer who sets about discovering the mysteries of the Craven mansion and becomes an advocate for a sick young boy.    

9. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

“ Better never means better for everyone…It always means worse, for some.”  

I studied Atwood’s dystopian chiller at A- Level English and was immediately drawn into a world where men rule and women have a variety of subservient roles. Servant, nurse, wife, baby maker. All are forbidden to read or have interactions with other women. It’s not a horror but there’s definitely something horrifying about a world where women are treated as lower class citizens and as with Misery, the scary part is that it could really happen. We meet Offred, literally Of- Fred, who is one of the women, or handmaids, kept solely for reproductive purposes. She is one of few women who’ve not been left infertile by pollution and sexually transmitted diseases. She gives us an insight not only into her life before the reformation, but into this new hierarchical regime. I urge you to give this book a read, Atwood’s writing is outstanding and the way she presents this totalitarian world is authentic and believable. 

10. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Wisenberger

“As I raced out of the office, I could hear Emily rapid-fire dialling four digit extensions and all but screaming “ She’s on her way – tell everyone!” It took me only three seconds to wind through the hallways and pass through the fashion department but I had already heard panicked cries of “ Emily said she’s on her way in!” And “Miranda’s coming!” And a particularly blood curdling cry of “She’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!” 

This book is my guilty pleasure and before you tell me that you’ve seen the film, it’s not the same, as adaptations rarely are. I get so excited reading about those gorgeous designer clothes and shoes and waste a lot of energy planning my own, designer laden walk in. When Andy Sachs takes on an unexpected and, some might argue, unsuitable internship at Runway magazine, headed by the infamous Miranda Priestly, what she doesn’t expect is the wildest, craziest, soul destroying rollercoaster of her life. We follow her as she tried to get to grips with the fashion industry, making head nor tale of Gucci and Dolce and Gabbana (“can you spell Gabbanna”) all the while trying to juggle her increasingly strained relationship with both her boyfriend and her friends. And while the film isn’t as good as the book, Meryl Streep makes it more than bearable with her outstanding performance as The Dragon Lady. 

So there you have it, my top 10 books of all time. Of course there are others that I love but these are the books that I could read over and over. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll give one or two a try 😊. 

“A book is a dream you hold in your hand.” Neil Gaiman


Happiness is Feeling Prepared.

Finding out you’re pregnant for the first time is usually one of the most exciting times in your life. You’re prompted to pee on a stick by any number of factors. One friend told me she knew she was pregnant because her pee smelled funny. Another had a constant metallic taste in her mouth. One nutcase took a test every day after they started trying. Luckily she got pregnant straight away or that could have been expensive! For me, the fridge started to smell funny. I thought it was just my nose being weird until food that tasted fine to everyone else, was rancid to me. As mentioned in Baby, Baby, Baby Ooo, I was feeling tubby the second time round.

However you find out, nothing can beat that fluttery, excited, first day of school feeling. It can take a while to sink in, at least it did for me. Having a baby seemed like the most grown up thing I could do. I explained it to my sister by saying that everything else in your life, be it a job, a house, a spouse, you can walk away from. Having a baby means you’ve created something that no matter what, is yours for the rest of your life. Also for me, it solidified my relationship with my husband. Making the decision to have a baby was, in a way, more of a commitment than our marriage vows. It was us saying to each other that this is us, forever. No matter what happens, we are intrinsically linked for the rest of our lives. And let me tell you, it’s a rush!

So, once the giddiness wears off, it’s time to get practical. From cots and prams, car seats and sterilisers, changing bags and bouncy chairs, the list of “essentials” is endless. And don’t even get me started on clothes, blankets and nursery decorations! It’s impossibly easy to get carried away and if, like me, you have a mother who is out of control, you can end up with an obscene amount of stuff. A quick note on nappies – I made the small mistake of stocking up on a certain brand of nappies that, as an inexperienced parent, I thought were the best. This wasn’t the case for me and I learned that you don’t always get what you pay for. I have friends who swear by the top brands but for me, I found the likes of Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Boots own brands to work best for us. Lesson learned? Stocking up on nappies won’t necessarily always save you money in the long run, it’s best really to wait and try a few different brands before committing. Wipes on the other hand….buy every packet of those that you see, trust me, you’ll need them!

Now, back to the fun stuff! In my case, we were lucky enough to have two boys, meaning it would all get used again. There were an awful lot of things that didn’t’t even get used first time around and I’m ashamed to say, a lot of clothes still had the tags on. This was partly due to my own chaotic way of organising his clothes by size and not outfit and type. But mainly because Oliver was born in the height of Summer. Most days, the temperature was reaching the mid – late 20s meaning he was much more comfortable in just a nappy. The key really, is to rotate clothes so that everything gets worn and not to stick to your favourite items. Of course, it would be better to not have so much stuff in the first place. I actually loaned all of my boys clothes to one of my best friends when she had her son, meaning my stuff has definitely been well used. And, it’s been really lovely getting all of Oliver’s clothes out of storage and reminding myself of my own good taste 🙂 Of course it’s been very cost effective not having to buy a whole new wardrobe because, hello! Have you seen how much more stuff there is for girls?? In the shops there’s always triple the amount of clothes for girls as there is for boys. Of course had I been expecting a girl, I wouldn’t have been able to show an ounce of restraint and I’m pretty certain my mother’s head would have exploded.

What did I buy this time then? Not much to be honest with you. I got a couple of blankets and odd bits of clothes that I saw and couldn’t resist. My sister in law is really into vintage clothes and has several of her own mother’s dresses in her wardrobe. I really like this and love the idea of my sons having their own items to pass on to any children they may have. So apart from one or two blankets and teddies, everything else is a hand me down. Here are some of my favourite things that I had for my baby boys, some of which I bought myself, others were gifted or loaned from fabulous friends!

1. Hot Air Balloon Cushion from Nuppi on Etsy. They specialise in nursery and kids room decor and have a gorgeous range of cushions, wall art, cot mobiles and much more.

2. This gorgeous, plush rocking horse was also from Etsy and gifted to me by my lovely friend Sarah. Unfortunately the seller is no longer on there but you can find something similar here.

3. Hot Air Balloon Wall Decals by PersnicketyWallVinyl on Etsy. These were so easy to apply and are still going strong 3 years later!

4. My husband made this hot air balloon light from an Ikea Regolit light shade, a small, plastic plant pot and some twine.

5. The parasol and toy are both from Mamas and Papas but when the shade arrived, I accidentally cut a hole in it when taking it out of the packaging. That’s where my sister in law from KatysCraftCupboard stepped in and created this adorable, twin patch.

6.  Wiener Dog Softie from Friends of Socktopus on Etsy. They specialise in handmade plush creatures and toys and I loved this dog so much I purchased a second one for my second son!

7. This gorgeous Hot Air Balloon Cot Mobile from BeeJanie on Etsy is a real showpiece. One of the most expensive items I bought for Oliver’s nursery but by far my favourite. She also makes toy plushies, name banners and other nursery decor.

8. Nursery Rhyme canvases featuring Hey Diddle Diddle, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Humpty Dumpty from jiddumdesigns, are just adorable!

9. The cot, changing top and toy are all from Mamas and Papas. The cot actually converts into a toddler bed and I would very much recommend going for this option as it grows with your baby. The blanket is actually the christening that my Mam made for me when I was a baby. It’s practically an antique!

10. Freddie the Firefly. Lamaze really do have the best toys for babies, they’re usually made of lots of different textures with rattles, squeakers and teethers attached. My second son loves this toy just as much as my first!

11. Fisherprice Kick and Play Gym. This isn’t the one we have but it’s very similar. Again this grows with your baby from lying down to sitting up. Great for developing their hand eye coordination and strengthening their back and neck muscles.

12 and 13. The Baby Einstein Jumperoo. This is one of the best purchases you can make. We actually borrowed this one first time around but bought one second hand for the second. This gem of a product is great from about 4 months old when they can comfortably support their own head but aren’t quite sitting up yet. My first son Oliver (pictured) would happily sit in this while I had a shower or cooked dinner. You can hook all sorts of things onto the frame for them to play with and the musical features are fab!

Really though, you don’t need as much stuff as you think. Babies don’t care what they wear and are much more comfortable in onesies and vests as opposed to those cute little outfits that catch your eye in Marks and Spencer’s. Also, I’d definitely recommend trying to borrow anything expensive so that you can try it out before spending a fortune on something you or your baby may not even like!

Pregnancy The Second Time Around.

“Pregnancy is a process that invites you to surrender to the unseen force behind all life.” Judy Ford.

Having been pregnant before, I assumed my body would just know what to do and that I would emerge after 9 months relatively unscathed. Just like the first time if you don’t count 58 hours of contractions and an emergency caesarean. Leading up to the birth of our first child, everything was lovely and rosy and calm. According to all who know me, I looked fantastic and was positively glowing. I had zero pregnancy complications and aside from a massive belly and the obligatory heartburn, I didn’t even feel pregnant.

My second pregnancy was classed as high risk from the off due to the emergency nature of my previous birth. This would mean that even though I’d still see the midwife regularly, my care would be consultant led and generally a closer eye would be kept on me. Helpfully and somewhat ironically, I was in the best shape of my life prior to getting pregnant. Therefore the assumption that I’d sail through wasn’t a wild one. But as it turned out, Mother Nature had other ideas. I don’t suppose you’d really call them complications but definitely inconvenient niggles.

Firstly, my blood and urine samples indicated a deficiency in Pregnancy Associated Plasma Protein A – also known as PAPP-A. Having already been blessed with a healthy, strong baby boy, I was already worried that my quota of luck had been spent and that my baby would be born with a tail at the wrong end. So the words “ PAPP-A, at 11-13 weeks gestation is associated with still birth, infant death, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm death and preeclampsia…” are big and scary and not really something you ever want to hear. I was assured by Heather, the midwife, that this was nothing to worry about, it just meant that I’d have to have frequent growth scans to ensure the baby was growing as it should be. Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting getting to see the baby more often but of course every appointment was at the hospital, meaning an average of 2.5 hours out of the day plus £2.50 in parking. By some rotten luck, we were always last on the list. This would drive James up the wall and in the end I decided it was a lot less hassle to just leave him at home.

Secondly, my blood pressure was all over the place and at one point I ended up in the Pregnancy Assessment Unit for a whole afternoon, strapped to a monitor that was checked every hour. Not fun really. Every check up thereafter would see me sitting, using calming breathing techniques to slow my BP so that I wouldn’t have to end up in the PAU again. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Next, we had glucose in my urine which can be an indicator of gestational diabetes. Booked in for another trip to PAU where I’m a frequent flyer, for more tests and monitoring. The worst thing about this particular hiccup was that I was forbidden to eat after 10pm, terrible as a LOVE a bit of clandestine chocolate under the covers. Not only that, I had to miss breakfast which was a damn shame as breakfast is my FAVOURITE meal of the day. The only meal in fact, where we’re encouraged to stuff our faces, in the name of sustenance you know. It was literally The Worst. Anyway, that turned our negative and all was well with the baby yadayadayada…pass me the croissant!

I ambitiously purchased Jack Savoretti tickets for a week before my delivery date. For those of you unfamiliar with this godlike being, here is a link to one of his most recent performances on The Graham Norton Show. He’s utterly divine, with a voice like silky chocolate, he’s my dream lover! So off we went to Newcastle in sensible shoes, for the gig at the 02 Academy. The night almost passed without incident. I’d booked seated tickets so as not to wear out my fat, sausage feet and Jack was his usual, scrumptious self. Walking back to the car however, I felt a small and sudden gush. Running (well, waddling really) to the nearest loo, I realised I’d pretty much wet myself. I txt my friend Abby who is wholly knowledgable about all things pregnancy and she instructed me to go straight to the hospital as it was possible I was leaking fluid. Having been told that day that I’d need another growth scan as the baby appeared to have stopped growing and now with this new information, it was apparent that the baby might want out.

Baby didn’t want out. What baby did want apparently, was for me to be strapped to a heart monitor for 3 hours, just to be on the safe side. James, who was suffering a particularly potent bout of man flu, was doing nothing but moan because it was awfully inconvenient to be stuck in the hospital at 1am especially when he was feeling so terrible. For the safety of our unborn son ya know!! The moaning soon stopped when the nurse produced the speculum. Yes. Anyway, all was well. I wasn’t leaking fluid, I just had thrush. Off you go home, its 3am!

The first time round I’d smugly managed to avoid most of the usual aches and pains. Apart from a touch of sciatica which was mainly from standing on my feet for 9 hours a day, I was pretty pain free. Not. This. Time. The heartburn was so bad that I had to sleep pretty much upright so that I didn’t feel like I was choking on bile made of fire. The ache in my hips was indescribable but could only be likened to the bones being popped in and out of the sockets. All in all it was not what you’d call plain sailing. Obviously I know a lot of women have it far worse than me, I’ve been very lucky to have two pretty normal pregnancies. But when you’re awake in the middle of the night, unable to sleep due to some pregnancy related affliction or other, or you’re spending hour number 172 in the Pregnancy Assessment Unit, it can be hard to look on the bright side.

Then there was the pre-op the day before my surgery. But that my friends, is a story for another day.

Baby, Baby, Baby Ooooo….

James and I always intended to have more than one child, several in fact. We already had one beautiful son and, with a temperament to match his wild, red hair, we knew he’d need at least one live in playmate.

Our first pregnancy was carefully planned as I myself have a January birthday and know, all too well the misery of trying to organise post Christmas shenanigans. With everyone suffering an emotional and financial come down, rounding up folk to celebrate with can prove challenging at best. So preferably we’d have no more winter birthdays in this house and sure enough, on one of those rarest of occasions, things went perfectly to plan. I fell pregnant in November 2013, due the following July. Hurrah!

I’m sure that those of you with children will empathise with the notion of time just slipping away. It must be all the fun we’re having with sleepless nights, projectile vomit followed by a poo-nami and wondering where our abs have gone. Long term contraception fell by the wayside along with teaching my son to self soothe and my roots. Of course we took other precautions but as with most things post kids, we got a bit lax.

Cue Easter weekend 2016. I’d just been on a bender of a hen weekend a week previous and James was currently on a golf weekend. A weekend that started on a Tuesday. Yes, I know. I attributed my tiredness and general feeling of being run down on two things; the epic chest infection Oliver developed as soon as daddy left for the airport, resulting in zero sleep for either us for the best part of a week. That and my ongoing hangover…who knew that hangovers after 30 lasted all week?? Speaking to James on the Saturday evening, I mused about our gym sessions becoming less regular recently and how I was feeling tubby. No sooner had that the thought entered my mind; it was replaced by a much scarier one. I shrugged it off, not mentioning it to James and went to bed. The first night in a week that Oliver had actually slept and I was wide awake all night.

Bright and early the next day, I welcomed my husband home with a screaming toddler and the news that we were expecting again. Shock befell the Wolsey household and the next few days were spent in an endless daze of walking around, bumping into each other, muttering in disbelief about whose fault it was. I took three more pregnancy tests…did you know that you have a 3% chance of a false positive? So of course I was pregnant again and due in late November. This unfortunate baby would be forever doomed to hear the words “I’d love to go out for your birthday but with Christmas so close, I just can’t afford it.” We decided this wasn’t the end of the world as surely before Christmas was better than just after. At least people would be gearing up to the festive period and wouldn’t yet have exhausted their Christmas spendies, emotional and otherwise. Silver lining, you know.

So the Wolsey’s were set to become a 4 and of course once the shock and terror wore off, we were thrilled. A 2.5 year age gap seems about average and Oliver would be young enough that he would never remember it just being him, therefore accepting his new sibling with the minimum of fuss. Right?