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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Christmas has arrived in our house and it is my most favourite time of the year! After having a challenging week last week we are on the mend - Caleb is improving and his remaining cough is gradually getting better. He has just had his first immunisations so is back to not feeling his best but the light is at the end of the tunnel!

Erin's 3rd birthday is this coming Sunday, so amid my huge pile of presents to wrap I also have a Tinkerbell cake to make! The sponge is cooked and in the freezer, so on Saturday I'm quite looking forward to crafting it all - although I am cheating a little and have bought some Tinkerbell figures.

This year I haven't made anything for Christmas that is ready-homemade yet. Last year I made a Christmas cake, cooked my roast potatoes in advance, made some cranberry sauce... but I bought Erin's cake!Lol! We haven't really had our evenings with Caleb being so little so I've not had a huge amount of time (or energy) to do anything. My plan is to get a load of housework and things done at the weekend so we can relax from Erin's birthday on. We have Christmas with our close friends this year, and we are all about having an easy and relaxed day - with plenty of food and enjoying a glass of wine or two!

I made Christmas Sacks last year, which have now got the children's names on (having made an extra one for Caleb this summer!) and now I'm wishing I'd made time to make the stockings too - project for next year I think.

We have also been thinking about traditions, and this year I have started a few. We have a new Mince Pie plate for Santa and Rudolph, we have letters from Santa to be received on Christmas Eve with a goodie bag from the elves containing new pyjamas and a new story book. We are also taking the plunge getting rid of Erin's dummies! She only has them at bedtime, but as she is turning 3, I have decided that the Dummy Fairy is paying us a visit. So the day before her birthday she will receive a letter from the Dummy Fairy explaining she will be a big girl and asking for Erin to leave her dummies in a special bag. Then in the morning, the Dummy Fairy will have left a special present, and a certificate... and then we go cold turkey... I'm dreading it!lol!

I'm desperate to give this blog a bit of an overhaul and re organise it, adding in some new pages but I just haven't got the time yet - it's on my 2014 list!

What I have come to realise is that Christmas time can motivate me to do almost anything, and although I love the present giving, family time and traditions, I find myself thinking we must ensure that we bring the children up to appreciate the real meaning of Christmas. To be thankful for all we have, some years we will have little and some we will have plenty. To know that God has our best interests at heart and loves to see us being child like when it comes to him - the excitement we have for Christmas as children should be the excitement we have when it comes to God.  Not always easy when you've had tough times, but even more reason to put things in perspective.

If this time of year is difficult, or you are feeling heavy with pressures that are currently going on in your life, then take some time to rediscover your excitement, for Christmas, for God, for good times to come - have faith in Him that the new year will bring new adventures, challenges, and ultimately bring you closer to Him.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Crunch Point - where do you turn!?

The last week has been rather difficult in our household - both girls have stinking colds and Caleb was the most settled he's ever been last Tuesday... until about 4pm that day. He suddenly seemed to progressively get worse with his reflux with no obvious trigger or reason why. After a couple of days I decided he was getting quite bad and called the On Call GP who agreed to prescribe some medication but wanted Caleb to be checked the following morning. As those of you with children will know, if they are really poorly, an overnight wait can be agonising and we had a difficult night.

The GP we saw was fantastic, and after consulting with the local hospital to make sure the dosage was right, we got some medication for Caleb. He seemed to have caught the girls cold and we still couldn't work out whether it was just his cold or the reflux. As we could hear his reflux regularly, we thought that we would have to give him medication even though the prescribed formula we had recently started had been sufficient up until this point.

Caleb seemed to get worse, and after a delay waiting for the medication to arrive at the pharmacy we were finally able to administer it. That was Friday.

I went out on Saturday and took over from Mr Strong with the kids mid afternoon. He was due to go out to a work Christmas Party in the evening. Caleb seemed a little worse but not massively noticeable. At 6pm Mr Strong went out and I got the kids in bed, Lara was really unsettled as by this point she was tired and feeling quite ill. Caleb kept coughing, and was starting to wheeze quite badly, more so than the past few days. I gave him his dose of medication and expected to have a quiet night to myself.

An hour later Caleb was struggling, I gave him a bottle as he wouldn't settle and afterwards he seemed to get worse. He had a coughing fit a few minutes later, went bright red gasping for breath and his lips went blue. He couldn't breathe, and I started praying fast for his airways to open and for him to just breathe. Just breathe!! My prayer was answered and he then threw up and settled slightly. I put him in his cot to let him rest whilst I quickly asked advise off a close friend and checked the side effects of his new medication.

The instruction leaflet told me a very rare allergic reaction was difficulty breathing, wheezing and tightness of the chest. Bingo I thought and called 111. By this point Caleb's breathing was rapid and after being asked a few questions they advised that they were sending an ambulance! I burst into tears, called our close friend and neighbour to come over and text Mr Strong to come home ASAP.

The paramedics arrived and assessed Caleb who had calmed down a bit by now, but took us to A&E nonetheless. At the hospital we were told it wasn't his reflux or his medication, but a viral infection that to children and adults is just a bad cough and cold, but to babies it was serious. This RSV infection had given Caleb Bronchiolitis, and he was given an inhaler to try and bring down his rapid breathing.

He was admitted that night, tube fed to give him rest, and given oxygen to bring his levels back to normal. He was discharged the following afternoon as he had made good progress and they had determined that the infection had probably peaked at home and he would be on the road to recovery. This is a very short and simplified version of what was a very emotionally difficult time!

It's a real test of faith when your child stops breathing and you need to act fast. What would your instant reaction be?! I wasn't sure what mine would be if I'm honest, but it was turning to the only thing I know is dependable and steadfast. God.

Caleb is by no means recovered, and I think we have another week or so of getting him back to normality, but once again I can thank God for his hand over us. It has honestly been such a battle at times to help Caleb - we now have a referral appointment for mid January for his reflux to be assessed, and I am praying that this infection clears up fast. It's awful when you just can't do anything... but prayer can break down what seems like the thickest wall, the biggest hurdle, and the most complicated of situations.

Take time this week to think what your foundation is, who your support system is when you have a time of need, and what you rely on when it comes to the crunch point. If you aren't a Christian, then you might not understand how faith can be such a crucial factor in times like these, or how you can depend on something you can't see or feel. If you are curious, then I am hear to answer any questions, or if you have any friends or people who know who are Christian's then I know they would be happy to tell you how their life has changed because of their faith. Wherever you are, whatever point or stage in life you are currently in, God doesn't change, and all it takes is a moment to say "God I'm here, show me how I can know you".

When it comes to it, I am thankful that I have God to rely on, because in my own strength there are lots of things that I simply cannot do!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Giving up isn't an option

Today I find myself weak and frustrated. I find myself holding back the tears and pressing on through the day. I haven't given up, because that's not an option. Giving up says that you don't care, that you choose to walk away, that you honestly believe that leaving is going to make it better or that there isn't any other way.

We are 6 weeks into having a family of 5, and our gorgeous little boy is suffering. We have had the diagnosis of Reflux, and he is struggling to feed, keep his milk down, cries in pain often and is at times completely inconsolable. As a mother it is heartbreaking. To see your child in a situation and not be able to do a thing about it, to be the only one fighting for them at times when you are disregarded that there is nothing else that can be done.

We are currently waiting for a referral to a paediatrician, as the GP told us there wasn't anything else she could give him or suggest. I have not settled for just waiting, and I have requested different things to try and help Caleb in the interim. But when he is suffering the majority of the time, when he's so tired and can't get himself off to sleep because lying flat is impossible, or when he is hungry but if he feeds until he is satisfied it comes back up, it's soul destroying.

When you pray that there will be an improvement, but are waiting on that prayer to be answered. When you pray and believe in healing, but see no breakthrough. It's tough.

When as a mother, your job is 24/7, you don't get the daily commute to zone out, you don't get a lunch break to have some peace, you don't get a chance to drink a hot or even luke warm cup of tea... because your children are your priority, and you wouldn't have it any other way. But sometimes, it's like climbing a mountain in flip flops!

It's not the tasks that are difficult, or your children themselves (although they can be monkeys at times!), but that it is CONSTANT. No sooner have you sat down having completed one task, than another presents itself, none that can be left. For example, I found myself the other day settling Caleb who was going mental because he had hiccups (as only babies can do!), Erin had climbed onto the window sill, and Lara had got herself wedged under the stair gate!! Really!?... Really.

But each day I drag myself out of bed, having ignored the now two alarms I have to cause me to stir, to the point that "Snooze" isn't an option. I have a quick shower, pull my hair back into a pony tail, ready for the battle to commence, and pull on some unattractive but practical clothes. I have no time for make up, I don't always remember to put my wedding ring on (I hate not wearing it!), I would love to wear my nicer clothes but I'm thwarted by the post pregnancy body I have at the minute! Glorious! But even if I could breathe in my nicer clothes... (!!!)... I would only get them covered in snot, sick or dribble.

I love my children. I love my husband. I love my family. But sometimes I wish I could just walk out of the house without worrying if I have snacks / dummies / travel potty / Lara's favourite toy mouse / "insert similar item here". I have the luxury of going Christmas and clothes shopping this weekend... ON MY OWN! I might faint from the excitement before I leave the house... and if Mr Strong even remotely suggests that it might be nice for us all to go... well it wouldn't be appropriate to write here what my honest response in my mind would be!

Life is real. Life is hard. Life doesn't give lucky breaks or "Move straight to GO" cards. It is in the struggles that we find hope, and in the hope that we find, we find God is and has been with us all the way. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Transformation In Progress

It's been a while... a ridiculously long time!
Having survived the last few months of what has been my most challenging pregnancy physically, and now having welcomed our lovely little (well, he's not little - born at 9lb 10oz!) son Caleb into the world, we are now almost a month into being a family of 5!

We are adjusting to the demands of our new life as a completed family, and slowly finding a new balance. Transformation is in progress of what I believe will be the grounding of something wonderful to come.

We are finding, as all new parents do, that there aren't enough hours in the day, and that somehow we are managing to just about keep afloat of the important household chores and responsibilities. Having had a c section, I am recovering well, although I am finding it frustrating that I have to take things a little easier than I would like - patience has never been one of my virtues!!

I took all three children out earlier in the week, this being the first week I have been on my own since Mr Strong returned to work, and as the day was going well I figured it'd just be the cherry on the top. Well. It. Was. A. NIGHTMARE. After a number of tantrums, and me completely overdoing it, the outcome was a very stressed out and sore me, and a very distraught daughter.

Knowing that the biggest challenge would be the logistics of having three young children and only one pair of hands, my fears were realised as I found I couldn't handle it and would need to drastically rethink my approach. Practically, I need to make adjustments, but all in time.

Right now, I am looking forward to the weekend and finding a peaceful place and just being on my own for a while!lol! I'm sure any parent can relate to this, and I don't feel guilty for saying it!!

Now that our family is complete, I find myself gearing up for the next phase - until Christmas we will be in survival mode but in the new year I want to re focus. There are a number of goals I have for next year, and those I will share with you another time, but it's time to be refreshed and transformed ready for what is to come!

But for now, it's nearly 4pm on a Friday afternoon, and that means it's nearly the weekend! Have a good one x

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Choices, Honesty and Hindsight

Today's post is written with the wonderful thing that is hindsight. And also an enormous amount of honesty. As those of you who regularly read my blog will know, I have been wrestling with thoughts of missed opportunities and how the choices I have made have impacted what my life looks like now. You will also know that I have no regrets, and that by considering what I might have missed out on, has enabled me to realise that I have by far the best outcome.

I am now 34 weeks pregnant, and my hormones are in full swing when it comes to giving me vivid dreams. I have found that over the last few weeks I have been dreaming about things that are obviously on my mind but perhaps subconsciously.

I woke up this morning from another very vivid dream. After Mr Strong and I had recently had a conversation about "broken families" (I hate that term!) and what can go wrong in a marriage if one person doesn't do what is right, I found myself dreaming about relationship breakdown. If I'm completely honest, this has been something I have dreamt about an awful lot recently, and I think that is most likely because I couldn't be without Mr Strong!!

In my late teens / early twenties, I had two relationships which I considered serious at the time. The first was with J, a boy who I was part of the same friendship group as during sixth form. He was considered one of the "bad boys" and made me laugh, and I was shocked when it turned out he liked me! I was a bit of a geek, overweight and generally not cool!lol! (Some things never change!) We started going out and when I told my parents, my Dad strictly forbid me to go out with him - something he hadn't ever done before, probably because J was the first boyfriend I took home! J was not a Christian, and my parents had a strong belief that I should be with a nice Christian boy.

For the first time, I went against my parents wishes and carried on going out with J anyway and we were together for about a year if I remember right. J lived with his older brother, his Mum had moved abroad with her partner and his Dad lived in another county. They didn't have much money as they supported themselves, living in a rented house which was not in great condition, and generally their life circumstances weren't what my parents wanted for me, as much as they had grown to like J.

The relationship ended when my best school friend at the time had realised that J wasn't happy any more and was considering breaking up with me. She persuaded him that if he wasn't happy he should break up with me there and then, and she comforted him in his decision. It turned out my best school friend liked J herself, and had done before we had started going out. A day or so after we had broken up, me still being really upset, she asked if she could have my blessing to go out with him!!!!!! He thought he liked her and wanted to give it a go. I said I couldn't stop her, but that ended our friendship almost instantly. I never spoke to her again, and her and J were together for a few years before it ended, as I knew it would eventually.

My next serious relationship was just before I went to Uni, and came unexpectedly. A group of us from our church friendship group hired a caravan at a Butlins site and went away together. Myself and another girl were in the double bedroom and all the boys slept on the lounge floor or in the twin room as church protocol called for separation of boys and girls. A new boy to the group, and to the church was invited, and he barely spoke English. His name was H and he was from South America. He was funny, and different, and a Christian, and I had always wanted to be with someone who wasn't English!

Over the few days we were away, he made it clear that he liked me and after seeking my friends advice, we started going out. My parents were very dubious, although he was a Christian, but thought it would fizzle out. My Dad helped him when it came to him wanting to work in this country after his Visa was permitted. He sorted out tax codes and NI, and my parents came to really like him but with doubts still in the back of their minds. H very quickly became a good English speaker and now you wouldn't know he had arrived knowing very little.

We continued our relationship into my first year of Uni, and had spoken about him wanting to return to his home country one day. I had agreed that if he wanted to he could, and I would stay and finish my degree and then join him. In my mind, I would marry H, and had started to learn Portuguese, his own language. The relationship came to an abrupt end when he decided he wanted to end it, and broke my heart.

The following day he had realised that he had made a huge mistake and so we carried on going out for a couple of weeks. During this time, I became bottom priority, and he had made a number of mistakes during our relationship. He had come out on an important birthday night out and drank so much alcohol he was almost paralytic despite me warning him he was over doing it. He had also been out dancing with other women and to this day I am not sure he was faithful. After the two weeks of not knowing whether he could be bothered to come and see me at Uni, I ended the relationship for good. I was beyond heart broken, despite knowing it was the right thing to do.

It sounds so juvenile in hindsight, and I know that although I thought I loved them, it was nothing compared to how I felt when I met Mr Strong. I know that if I had married either of them, it wouldn't have lasted, and the relationship would have become self destructive. I dreamt last night that I was in one of these relationships, experiencing it's breakdown, and woke up feeling dread and despair. Thank goodness I quickly realised it was a dream, and my reality was a completely different story!!!!

I learnt a great deal from both of those relationships, but I also gathered a huge amount of emotional baggage in the process, something which I had to battle with during the time Mr Strong and I were together in the early days, and to a certain extent, the first year or so of our married life.

Mr Strong was my parents dream, a nice Christian man, a few years old than me. Owned a house, a car, had a good professional job, had good prospects and was from a good Christian family. We often joke about our "first date" - the first time I had ever gone on a date, let alone been picked up, and the family "welcome" Mr Strong received (my Mum blurted out that I wanted 6 children - something I neither wanted nor had EVER said - majorly awkward moment in which I thought my chance had been lost - but that's another story!). My mum recalls knowing when Mr Strong turned up on the doorstep, and replying that he knew I was out but could he have a word, that he wanted to marry me. They couldn't say Yes quick enough!!

If you'd have told me during either of the relationships with J or H, that I would end up with someone as wonderful as Mr Strong, or have told me that in our first 5 years of marriage we would have 3 children, I wouldn't have believed you. The choices we make have huge repercussions, most of which we have no idea about. We can't predict the future, and we most certainly don't have all the facts each time we make important choices in our lives, but we do know what is the right choice to make.

I thank God that He guides me in which choice is right, and I am even more thankful that He closes doors on certain things when needed. In hindsight, I honestly don't regret those two earlier relationships, because although I came away hurt and damaged, I learnt some of my most important lessons from them. And if I hadn't, I wouldn't have taken a chance on Mr Strong - who will always be, in my eyes, just too good for me to deserve. I thank God, that He gives us far more than we deserve on a daily basis, in the full knowledge of who we are, our faults, our weaknesses, our downfalls, yet He still loves to lavish His blessing on us anyway.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Life Unknown

Mr Strong and I had a rather serious conversation last night, about jobs, finances, things we want to teach our children, and opportunities we want to be able to give them.

For us at the moment, it is quite frustrating that things are financially tight, and will remain so for another couple of years if we are realistic. It's very easy to see what other people are doing, and feel like we should be able to do the same things.

We know that this season is not an easy one, from what has already happened and what is likely to happen over the next year. We are tried and tested, and we are stretched. We have to remind ourselves that we cannot plan for the future at the moment, but all we can do is make wise decisions for the next three to six months ahead of us, and continue to do so as best we can.

We have now been in Norfolk for just over a year, and eighteen months ago would not have predicted we would have made the move. The doors opened at the right time, and we believe God was in the decision completely - guiding us through the details as we sorted out uprooting our family from what was familiar.

Things will get better, we are certain of that, but wasting time trying to plan ahead when we don't know what God has in store for us is foolish. Concentrating on the here and now, particularly as we have a baby due in less than 2 months is our priority... in fact making it through until then is my only focus at the moment! Baby brain allows for little else!

There are a number of things I had planned in my head that I wanted to achieve by now. But life hasn't turned out that way. These things were planned when I was starting my independent life not long after completing my A-Levels and then going off to Uni. The world was my oyster and it is very easy to feel right now that I have dashed all of my hopes of achieving any of those things on my list. Priorities have shifted, and life has brought along choices, of which none I regret.

I have just over a year until I turn 30, and I am in a completely different place than I would have predicted. I am one for organising everything I can, I'm not a fan of surprises purely because I like to know I've organised everything!! Life isn't like that!

Being spontaneous and recognising the opportunities in front of us is what it is all about, and making sure that ultimately we are putting God's plans for us first and letting the rest slot into place behind. Let's face it, His plan is far better than ours, and has no limits - we can limit ourselves without realising. And that's the crucial point we mustn't miss - we have no idea what the plan for us is, and we have no idea how mind blowing it is, but we have to keep reminding ourselves of that when we are finding our current situation difficult. Whether that is because it hasn't aligned with our own plans, whether things are stretched, uncomfortable and out of our comfort zones, or even if things just seem to be sailing along nicely and we are aching for adventure.

We are living in the unknown, whether we like it or not! The best thing we can do is make wise decisions for the foreseeable future and not forget there is a bigger picture, we can only guide our next steps so far and then we must rely on God to do the rest. I'm just REALLY glad that there is no one better to put our trust in than Him!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Home Alone - What did we do before children!?

Well this last weekend has been a real eye opener! After confessing to my close friend last night that both I and Mr Strong were struggling with exhaustion and had a long list of tasks to complete, she offered to have the girls for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. I gratefully accepted, despite my usual "thanks, but we'll be ok" response coming to mind, I knew we needed a break! She then offered to give them tea and have them overnight - tea was accepted but I declined overnight, convinced that Erin wouldn't settle.

The girls love the family in question, and they have a daughter who is between Erin and Lara's ages so they all play together often. Lara being in a cot would be fine, but Erin in a single bed, in a room of their eldest daughter who had lovely things to open and get into... I wasn't convinced she'd stay in bed without ransacking the room first!Lol!

When Saturday came, and the offer of overnight was repeated, I considered it again, explaining my only reservation was Erin's likelihood of getting into mischief! My friend quite rightly said it would be their problem to sort out as we wouldn't be there! So, I gratefully accepted!

Mr Strong was over the moon and I have to say I was relieved to have some time to get on with our "to do" list! So we set off working our way through the jobs and I spent about 4 hours ordering the vast amounts of children's clothes we had in the garage - ones the girls had outgrown and ones we have been given for our little boy who will arrive in October. The sense of achievement was amazing! I had forgotten how much I can achieve when I have no interruptions!

We had a relaxed tea, and then went out for a walk - trying to remember what we did in the evenings before we had children was amusing! We had the freedom to do whatever we liked but our minds went blank!!

It was eerily quiet in the house whilst the girls were away, and it felt very empty. The only time I have been away from them overnight is a couple of times I have visited my parents for the weekend (whilst Mr Strong had the girls) or when I was in hospital having Lara (so I wasn't technically without one of them!). Both of us said we weren't sure we liked it!! How I have craved peace and quiet this last few months, and now we had it, I wasn't sure I liked it!lol!

...When my alarm sounded the following morning, and I realised I didn't actually have to get up, the bliss of ignoring it and turning over was immeasurable!!! I leisurely got up, trying to keep quiet so Mr Strong could stay in bed but at 8am whilst I was in the shower, Mr Strong had got up and started hoovering! The house was tidy, and clean, and it was lovely!

I collected the girls and was so grateful to our friends for the much needed break. Since Saturday I have felt tons better and back to my normal self. I hadn't realised how much everything was getting to me, and now realise the importance of making sure we have a break every few months, not only for our own good but for the knock on effect it has on the girls too.

Whilst still feeling the usual tiredness from pregnancy, I'm finding things manageable, I think because my head is now straight and I can think rationally again. I am almost 32 weeks pregnant, and will be having the baby in 8 weeks time. I finally feel like I can cope with this last stretch!

It's amazing what some peace and quiet, and a little time to yourself can do to revive the soul!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Can we be loved for who we really are?

I have recently got into the habit of checking a newspaper website on a daily basis to read all the latest celebrity gossip. Not because I am particularly bothered, but whilst I am 7 months pregnant and sat at home most of the time, it's nice to read about other people's lives! I'm not proud of it, and I know most of it is complete fiction, but it's a bit of a guilty pleasure!

What has struck me recently is how ridiculous the stories are, and how many of them revolve around weight and appearance. Currently feeling like a beached whale (and looking like one too) my self confidence is taking quite a nose dive, but that's nothing new. I have never been slim and have kept telling myself that one day I will get the body I so want to have. Now... that does not mean a size 6, or even a size 10 - I'm not built for that! But I can certainly improve on what I have!!

Once this baby is born, I will have spent the last 3 and a half years being pregnant and having children. With 14 months between Erin and Lara, and 19 months between Lara and the new baby, every time I have tried to get into shape I have fallen pregnant. This will be our last addition to the family, and I am already getting myself into the mindset that will be needed to get myself into shape in another years time. I am realistic enough to know until next Spring/Summer, I probably won't have the inclination to do anything!

What saddens me, is that celebrities are constantly judged on how they have put on a few pounds, or perhaps even they have dropped down an amazing 3 dress sizes. How quickly have they lost their baby weight? How they have a new fabulous look? But how happy are they!? I have no doubt that most of them are happy with their status, but the pressure that comes with it must be awful. Britney Spears has "spent too much on junk food", Chantelle "needs to rein in her treats", and a member of Little Mix has "dropped down to a size 6".

No wonder we give ourselves a hard time about how we look, when everything around us suggests that there is nothing else we should be thinking about! How frustrating when there are far more important things in life. What's the bigger picture? Ok, so we need to be healthy and active, not only to look after the bodies we've been given, but to enjoy life and our families to the full. That doesn't mean that we can go to the gym three times a week so we can get completely wasted at the weekend. It also doesn't mean that we can make others feel uncomfortable when they don't lose weight as easily as others, or perhaps like the odd treat and work hard to earn it.

What really drives me crazy is how so many people forget that we have to live with the consequences of how we treat ourselves. Yo yo dieting, low self esteem, failing bodies because of binge drinking or drug abuse. The unrealistic social values that are set for us mean that we can have huge pitfalls in the long run due to the pressure we are subjected to.

Right, time to get off my soap box!

Why can't we live in a society that looks for the positive, that celebrates being the individuals we are, and when there are areas that we might be straying, to be gentled guided by caring advice meant to only build us up. Is that too much to ask?!

Here's to all the wonderful people I know, who I love just the way they are.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Easy-Peasy Rather-Lazy Roast Dinner!

I have to say, during this pregnancy, my desire to cook has seriously diminished! Especially during this very hot weather, the last thing I want to do is slave in a hot kitchen.

Nonetheless, there comes a point when you realise you haven't had a decent dinner for a while, but really can't be bothered to cook. So this is where this recipe comes in! It is my roast dinner at the moment, and satisfies the criteria of a decent dinner, that to me is near enough the full works to be enough for a roast dinner. It's also really easy, and is a "leave alone" dinner that can be done with minimal effort, but doesn't necessarily look that way when served!

So, here is my aptly named quick fix - it takes just over an hour to cook, but it really is minimal effort so bear with me!

Serves 4 (Large portions!)

  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 4-6 Large White / Baking Potatoes
  • Approx 100g Dried Stuffing Mix
  • One Handful of Long Grain Rice (uncooked)
  • Vegetables to serve 4 people (whatever you fancy, or frozen peas!)
  • Smoked Paprika, Garlic Granules / Chopped Garlic, Salt & Pepper, Vegetable Oil
  • Tin Foil!
  • Olive Oil or similar
  • Instant Gravy Granules (I like Bisto For Chicken!)
  1. Preheat oven to 200⁰C (or 180⁰C Fan Oven).
  2. Mix the stuffing up with boiling water, adding more water than the instructions to make it quite wet.
  3. Add the uncooked rice and mix well.
  4. Peel the potatoes and cut into 4 to 6 large chunks each (depending on the size of potato!).
  5. Put the potatoes in a roasting tin, drizzle with vegetable oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika, garlic (save a little for the chicken) and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Put in oven for an hour.
  7. Put a little Olive Oil or similar in another roasting tin or tray, add some salt and pepper, and the remaining (or a little bit if you have a whole pot!) of garlic.
  8. Lay out the 4 chicken breasts next to each other (about an inch maximum apart) in the roasting tin and completely cover with the stuffing and rice mixture.
  9. Cover the roasting tin in foil and put in the oven for 50 minutes - 1 hour (depending on how long it took after putting potatoes in!).
  10. Prepare the veg and leave in saucepan for later.
  11. Leave the kitchen and have a cup of tea / sit down for 20 minutes or so!
  12. With 25 minutes to go, remove the foil from the chicken tray so the stuffing can crisp up, turn the roast potatoes and put the veg on to cook. This gives enough time for the veg to come to the boil and cook, to lay the dinner table and to make some gravy.
  13. After an hour of cooking the potatoes should be very crispy, and the chicken should be done (double check by cutting a chicken breast in half to make sure it's cooked).
  14. Serve and enjoy!

Tip: Experiment with different roast potato toppings, or use frozen roast potatoes, or even do mash! Prepare the veg in the morning so that you can leave the kitchen for even longer whilst everything is cooking away. You could even have a steamer going with your veg in meaning you can let it do the work without waiting for the saucepan to come to the boil! Frozen veg cooked in the microwave is also another quick time saver!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Introducing "Baby" - Choosing baby names

So, we have entered in to Royal Fever in our household, checking the news regularly to see if there are any more updates on the Cambridge family.

I find it fascinating when parents don't have a name chosen ready for the birth of their child, or at least a shortlist that can bring a quick decision upon seeing their little ones face. I have never been in the camp of thought that I needed to see my children before I named them. To me, all babies look very similar when born and it's only when you get to know their characters that you know who they are, and by that point you can't have called them "the baby" for 6 months!

I like to think of myself as being organised by nature, and I like to plan ahead as far as I can (which isn't always possible!) so when it came to choosing the girls' names we were pretty sorted at least 6 weeks before I was due. We had found out they were girls at the 20 week scan, so it did give us more focus on choosing names. We couldn't really settle on a boys name, and both would have been Joel James had the sonographers got it wrong! These were the only two names we could agree on so I don't know what we would have done if both were boys!!

Girls name choices are abundant in lovely pretty names, unusual names and we found a number that we really liked. We have always looked at the meanings of the names and if not favourable or what we had in mind it was crossed off the list. Our girls are Erin Allegra and Lara Isabelle. Erin meaning "Peace" and Allegra meaning "Joyful"; Lara meaning "Cheerful" and Isabelle meaning "God's promise".

We believe that just as in the Bible, names bring about characters, that we wanted to name our children with intent. It was important to give their names purpose. Each of our daughters' names were chosen for various reasons at the time and we had a number which although we liked, just weren't quite right.

So when we found out we were pregnant again I was not looking forward to having to choose yet another name, especially if it was a girl - we were running out of options!! Never did I think we were actually having a boy, and nearly fell off the bed when the sonographer told us so!

Joel James has been thrown out the window, as we have come to the conclusion that reusing the name isn't very fitting and doesn't reflect the purpose we want to set right from the start. We have just about settled on a first name, with a reserve which I think we have realistically discounted, but the middle name is still a work in progress. However, by the time we get to 39 weeks (when I am due to have a planned section) we WILL have it figured out.

There is a lady I know at one of the Tots groups I go to who 5 days after having her second little boy, still wasn't sure on what his name was. Her partner was calling him what they thought would end up being his name but she wasn't 100% sure. Each to their own but for me I find it mind boggling having a child with no identity because they are nameless.

I feel for William and Kate, because there is such a huge responsibility to choose the right name, and it will be read into through history and in as many ways as people can, rather than them having the freedom to choose a name they "fancy". I hadn't realised until I read something online that there was a weeks wait for William's name and a months wait for Charles' name (I think I've remembered that right). Hopefully, given a few days to adjust to the enormous change having your first child brings, and with William being on paternity leave, they will have the peace and freedom to finalise their decision - ready for the waiting media!

I love the fact that we have such history in our country, and that we have a royal family adding to the heritage that our country brings. What I also love is how patriotic people are and how the royal family bring people together. We might have to put up with lots of memorabilia being produced, but when it's a cute as Tommee Tippee's new Limited Edition range, I think I might be indulging this time!!!

For more information on Tommee Tippee's new Royal Baby range, and to see the adorable "Princess" version, click here!

As a long time customer of Tommee Tippee I will definitely be going out to buy my Prince one of these!

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own, and are from a genuine Tommee Tippee customer.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Travel Potty Liners - Bargain home made!

Now, I cannot claim credit for this, someone I know recommended this way of saving money and I think its genius!
We are now only the second week of Erin being potty trained, and all is going well. Still the occasional accident but as we are starting to venture out more and more, it's really her learning to remember to go!
We bought a Potette Plus Travel Potty, as I decided with soon to be 3 children under 3 years old it will get well used, especially if we take longer journeys on holiday or days at the beach.
The liners are quite expensive, which didn't phase me to begin with as I knew having it would be worth it. However, on our first outing to the park, we went through 3 liners and were out for less than an hour. Erin hadn't even managed to get more than a drop in the potty at the time!! So it quickly dawned on me that this could be an expensive hobby!
I trawled the Internet to see what the best deal was, and then by chance a lady I know asked if she'd ever told me her trick! It flooded back that she had but the specifics were lost somewhere in my brain.
As we are trying to save money where we can, and it being near the end of the month, pennies are tight. I decided it sounded like such a good money saving idea I'd try it. So tonight I have just sat and made my first batch.
You will need:
10L Pedal Bin Liners (Value ones)
Size 5 Value Nappies
A pair of scissors!
  1. Cut the sides of the nappies off so you are left with the just the nappy pad.
  2. Cut this pad into 4 pieces (roughly squares).
  3. Place one square in the bottom of a bin liner - I have fully opened 3 liners to "load" onto the potty.
  4. Remaining liners - I have opened only one layer so there's a bit of a tube to push a square pad to the bottom, then folded it up and put them into a sandwich bag to store with our travel potty.
  5. That's it!!
I have yet to try one out, but already in comparison they look like they'll absorb more and they are a FRACTION of the price of the proper ones.
To be fair, if we were comfortable financially I wouldn't have even considered this as I am generally someone who believes it's better to get the proper products than try and "mackle together" your own. I am very glad I tried this out.
Give it a go - the worse that could happen is you don't get on with them and revert back to the expensive method!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Hot, pregnant and entertaining two toddlers!

So, as a true Brit, I have been complaining about the cold weather and wishing summer would finally arrive! And also as a true Brit, I have then complained now the warm weather is here because it's so flipping hot!lol!

Now, if I had a beach gorgeous body, time to read a book in the sun, perhaps perfect some lovely Nigella summer recipes, or even make my own summery cocktails then I wouldn't be complaining. I would have time to visit the beach and enjoy our life near the sea. Instead, I have the following to contend with:

  1. I am 6 months pregnant.
  2. I am therefore hot, and feel like a hermit trying to stay out of the warm weather in the cool of the house.
  3. I have swelling feet... and that's just not pretty!
  4. I have two toddlers who are equally hot and fed up of being inside.
  5. I have just potty trained my eldest toddler (YAY!) but I am too paranoid to make trips too far, let alone go out in the car for more than 10 minutes.
  6. My eldest toddler has also now found a new independence from ditching the nappies and therefore won't follow any request or guidelines I set.
  7. My youngest toddler is in the copying phase, mostly copying all of the non-compliance as above, and will just cry if she's not getting what she wants.
  8. Oh, did I add I'm 6 months pregnant and hot...!lol!
  9. My housework list is unbelievable and I haven't got the motivation or energy to do it at the moment.
  10. My toddlers are bored and don't know what to do with themselves because the best thing at the moment for all of us is to stay out of the heat.
In less than 3 months time we will have 3 children under 3 years old! And I am truely looking forward to that point. I am looking forward to us being able to enjoy our family and get on with family life. Having 3 children so close together means our life has been on hold to some extent for a while now. This will be our last child and I am thrilled that we are expecting a boy this time!

I have a number of sewing projects I want to complete before the baby arrives ready for Christmas, and have successfully written most of our Christmas cards with a blank area for the new baby's name!

This weekend myself and Mr Strong will be tackling the bedrooms - Erin will be moving into Lara's room, so we have time to de-pink Erin's old room and get the girls used to sharing before the baby arrives. Plus this will also solve the problem of the girls bouncing on the bed!! They will be moving to the downstairs bedroom - which is the best we can do with the house room layout. The lounge is upstairs so in the daytime I won't be, for the millionth time, shouting "STOP BOUNCING ON THE BED!". I dread to think what passers by think with me raising my voice so often! We may have to introduce a different method of discipline fairly soon!!

Erin starts nursery in January with her free 15 hours a week, which I am thoroughly looking forward to! She is bored being at home, we don't have a garden which is proving an issue at the moment, and I can't stimulate her enough with activities at home with a younger toddler and limited energy reserves.

I keep reading in the media about all these celebrities glowing with pregnancy, with their "tea dresses" and seemingly perfect complexions. I however, am red-faced and puffy, have swollen ankles by the end of the day, and I am trying to manage with a limited maternity wardrobe - none of which fits perfectly and I have one maxi dress which I could happily live in. I can't afford to go and buy nice new things perfect for any weather when the reality is this is my last pregnancy, and there are other more important things to buy at the moment like shoes for the girls etc.

We have been really busy with a number of things recently, and I don't feel like we've really stopped for months. However, we are now at a breathing point - although we have jobs to do, we only have a few things booked in for weekends in the next month or so and I am consciously trying to wind down. I would love to "nest" but as any of you with young children know, it's not always possible!

One day, somehow, I will get around to having some "me" time, and Mr Strong and I might actually have some spare cash to go out to the cinema or for a meal. But for now, I have to be content with what I have.

I am thoroughly looking forward to having three children, a bustling household, and when they are older, a house that is never empty. I love the idea of having our children's friends in and out of our house, it being open for people to pop in whenever they want, for cake to always be at the ready and the kettle always on! Of a childhood for my children that is plentiful - ok, it isn't always going to be plain sailing, and it isn't always going to be financially comfortable - but life would be boring if it wasn't challenging at times! I just have to keep reminding myself that the challenges are a good thing! Haha!

Enjoy the rest of your summers day!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The demands of a mummy!

Long time no blog!

I am now almost 20 weeks pregnant and if I said I am feeling exhausted, that would be THE biggest understatement EVER made!lol!

My last two pregnancies have been fairly text book - sickness until about week 13-14, tiredness at the beginning, again around 16 weeks and then towards the end, and some good days, and some bad days. Erin and Lara are 14 months apart, and when I was pregnant with Erin, our eldest, I thought I was having a tough time! Ha!!! I could have naps in the day when I needed to (when I wasn't at work! Those days were lunchtime naps!), I had a blissful maternity leave and managed to blitz the house and see my friends regularly for tea and cake.

Second time around, I found the demands quite hard. I found out I was pregnant not long after I returned to work when Erin was 6 months old, and my time wasn't quite so free and easy. I found myself having easy days watching a film and lazing around, whilst Erin was happy pottering around me. Then the inevitable guilt trip that I wasn't entertaining or stimulating Erin enough and was therefore neglecting my daughter.

Lara arrived and life stayed fairly quiet in terms of trips out of the house. I had c sections with both my daughters and so my recovery time afterwards was a time of just getting through the day. I had the car and could get out whenever I liked, even if I was shattered and take a trip to the local supermarket to have a change of scenery.

Third time has been completely different and I'm only halfway through. Having two toddlers to look after whilst feeling pregnancy exhaustion has been a killer, and the last two weeks I've barely ventured out the house. Mr Strong now has the car to get to work as we now live in Norfolk, and getting out the house involves far more motivation and effort. Erin and Lara play together really well, so it's not all bad, and despite there being times when it's a struggle to do anything, most of the time they are happy at home. On days where we have needed fresh air, we have walked around the block and visited the park just around the corner from our house.

I haven't had any sickness with this pregnancy, just nausea in the evenings from about week 7 until week 10. And I'm not "working" during this pregnancy. I've posted before about Stay At Home Mums here but we really don't get the credit for what we do! I find it much easier being at work! That said - I have had the option of staying in my pyjamas and lounging on the sofa if I've had a bad day, which I think has played a part in feeling like I've had less symptoms.

There will be 19 months between Lara and baby no. 3, and I am really glad now that it will be that way - I'm so glad we will have had our children close together even if it wasn't quite the timing we had planned when we first got married!! But having two toddlers and being tired constantly is taking it's toll, and I know it's only going to get worse.

I still have to entertain my daughters, I still have to cook dinner, do the washing, do the cleaning, avoid the ironing (which I never do anymore!), have a social life, spend time with Mr Strong, figure out why the fish tank is leaking, and pretend that I have every intention of having smooth legs permanently throughout the summer!!LOL!

I am so looking forward to meeting our new addition, and in just over a weeks time we will hopefully find out what gender it will be. A number of people reacted negatively when we announced our pregnancy, and although it wasn't planned, we are over the moon! One person seems to feel like we are being completely irresponsible by having another, and has given the impression that we'll "just have to deal with it" but it will be "very hard work". Come on!!!! There are so many people out there that would love to have a child, whether that's because they are having fertility issues, or cannot afford to have another, via social pressures aren't able to or in third world countries would love to have the safe environment and security we have.

We have SO MUCH to be thankful for! My life might be demanding, and I might have days where I think all I would like is to sit someone in silence with a book, a cup of tea and a slice of cake, and let the day drift on by. And whilst that would be amazing... I would be bored!lol! Once you are a mummy, that's it, life changes dramatically, for the better, and it may not feel like that sometimes, but it becomes part of who we are.

So when I have days when I am feeling completely overwhelmed, I dream of big family Christmas' in years to come, of having children's friends in and out of our house, of not knowing how many are staying for dinner, and of future Mother's Day cards with scrawly writing in but with words of love inside.

Life is good, we just have to alter our perspectives sometimes to see that :-)

Happy Tuesday! xxx

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Announcing Baby No. 3!

I have just realised, and it was not intentional at all, that I haven't blogged for a while!!

The one thing that I have wanted to write about for so long, and what sparked my Reflection post - very much talking to myself as well as my readers - is that we are expecting baby No. 3!!

I am almost 15 weeks pregnant, and it was a bit of a surprise but we are happy to be expanding our family!

After having Erin and Lara so close, 14 months apart, I have to say I was mildly terrified to think we will be having another who will be 19 months younger than Lara. That means for 2 months we will have 3 children under 3!

We won't have a break between teething, and Erin will be starting Nursery part time when the baby is nearly 3 months, so the timing means we will just keep going! We have come to the conclusion that by doing it this way we will be doing the hard work all in one go and reap the benefits as they grow up close together.

We had been discussing whether to have another in the future (perhaps when Erin goes to school) and I had decided I would be disappointed if we made any decision that took away the option of having another in the future.

We had agreed to keep our options open for another couple of years just as I started to feel not quite myself. I was completely shattered which was the first "warning" sign. And I felt a bit queasy but nothing that stuck around for too long. After a week or so, I realised I couldn't remember when that time of the month was due and started to suspect! I kept it to myself, because I've been wrong before but after another couple of days I voiced my thoughts to Mr Strong. The next day I felt fine and decided I was being silly again. That night I had a dream about mouldy bread, and woke up feeling SO SO SO sick! The dream was very vivid and I put it down to that. Mr Strong later admitted that was the confirmation for him!! A couple of hours later, I decided to take a pregnancy test just to rule it out. HA! Within 30 seconds I had a big fat line showing a positive pregnancy test!

I have come to the conclusion that God stepped in, and that he wouldn't give us something we couldn't handle, and there was obviously a bigger picture. Despite feeling very daunted, I am excited to meet our new son or daughter, and excited for the future - the idea of having a big family is something I love, and I am looking forward to lots of great family times together.

Having had an Emergency C Section with Erin, and then an Elective C Section with Lara, we knew I would inevitably have another Elective C Section. We have had the scan, all is fine, we have seen the consultants and I am booked in. I won't go into the very long story, but it was a battle last pregnancy and I was worried throughout. I didn't have very nice consultants and it wasn't until I was nearing the end of pregnancy that we knew what was going on. So I'm really pleased everything is sorted so early on - Thank you God!

I am so pleased that God knows what he's doing and has everything planned out. And I am trusting in God that this will be a great pregnancy and birth. Already, I have had almost no sickness, and only really had some nausea and tiredness, which is tons better than my last two pregnancies - especially as I have two toddlers to look after!

Hope you are all having good weeks, I can't wait for the weekend! Friday tomorrow! And I am loving the weather we are having - it smells like holidays outside!


Thursday, 11 April 2013


Where are you now? Sitting on your sofa, with a hot drink or perhaps having a quick break? Is the room quiet, do you have company, or are you avoiding the screaming children as they fight over another toy for a hundredth time this afternoon?

Are you calm? Are you sad? Are you holding onto something that you know you need to let go of but can't quite make it to that point?

I find myself sitting in peaceful silence, with just the noise of the water trickling in our aquarium. The soft sound of Erin's lullaby mobile as she drifts off to sleep. It's not very often that I find these moments.

If you'd have said to me 6 years ago, that I would be sitting here, as a wife and a mother, living in Norfolk and being married for nearly 4 years I probably would have laughed in disbelief. If you'd have told me that I gave up all my career prospects to start a family I would have told you that it was highly unlikely. If you'd have told me that I would be sat here, very thankful for all I have but still wondering where I was heading, I probably would have reeled off my 5-10 year plan and said I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve.

I sit here with, if I'm being completely transparent and honest, some regrets. I regret that I feel my life is on hold. I regret that I feel my day to day life is meandering through circumstances out of my control. I regret that I was so set on what I wanted to achieve that I missed the bigger picture.

I know God has plans for me, and for our family. And some of those are starting to move into view. I know that my silly 5-10 year plan, that I sometimes daydream about, really wasn't ever going to push me to my full potential, or challenge me the way my life does now. I also know, that as cliché as it sounds, life is not solely about the destination, but keeping your eyes on the goal and learning through the journey.

My reality right now is being a "home maker". I recently had to fill in a form, which asked for me to state my occupation. I turned to the lady requesting the form to be filled in and simply replied "Occupation? I don't know what to put? What I used to do? I don't have an occupation now!" "Home maker" she replied with a smile.

"Home maker", not "Housewife" or "Mother" or "Dogsbody" or even "PA to my Family". I could have put "Cinderpoppins" as I like to refer to myself as - Cinderella and Mary Poppins all rolled into one.

"Home" - by definition according to the Oxford Dictionary is a place of permanent residence. But further down the specific examples of how it can be used it says this:

"Home - a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates" (

My occupation is to make a place where my family flourish, where they grow healthily, rapidly and successfully. Where something becomes so attractive it draws people to it. My life being on hold is a ridiculous statement when you consider the meaning of a home maker. That God has directed my life for this season to create, nurture and establish a home people are drawn to. To share life with, to share laughs with, and to share our love for God with.

No stage of our life is ever meaningless, and sometimes you have to look really hard to find the meaning, which you may or may not find. But what we can be sure of, is that EVERYTHING we do has purpose. Every decision we make leads us into something, and if we make those decisions with His wisdom at the forefront of our minds, then we can be sure we are stepping into something amazing.

Spring, seriously where are you!!??

So it's inevitable living in this country that we will have many miserable and overcast days, but seriously, where is Spring!!???

The beauty of British weather is that sometimes it can take just one day to switch seasons. We have been waiting for the day now, and we are almost half way through April with nothing in sight except a few daffodils!

I love Spring, it's warm and bright, and not too hot, and the air smells lovely! I am longing for the days when I want to be outside as much as possible, and able to take the girls for walks.

We moved to Norfolk in the Summer, and so by the time we had settled properly, we were entering Autumn. I can't wait to start exploring our new county in the nicer months, especially considering we have countryside surrounding us.

The estate we live on is new, and still being built. When we moved here our house way the only one completed on our street. We now have an almost complete street and they have recently laid the grass down on some of the properties - and it looks SO nice!

Let's hope we haven't got long to wait, and that by the time it arrives, we will have continues nice weather until Autumn!!!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Meal Planning and Bulk Cooking

Meal Planning... I know... Boring!! But trust me, for the 30 minutes it takes to plan a whole month, it is well worth it! I'm confident it has contributed to our reduced food bills and it's actually made life much easier.

I had a friend when I was at school who had parents that were about 10 years older than mine, and his mum meal planned rigidly. She always needed a good 24 hours notice MINIMUM if he was going to have someone staying for tea - she had no problem in people staying as long as she had lots of notice. I always thought I was glad my mum wasn't like that because she would happily let friends stay for tea and would adapt what she cooked depending on who was in the house. My mum usually decided what we'd have for tea about an hour before she started cooking, and it depended on what food we had in the house.

I also regularly thought "What if I don't fancy that meal on that day?!" There's no way I could plan for what I fancied a month in advance. I think that was our downfall when we were engaged and newly married, we tended to go and buy what we particularly wanted that night rather than use the food in the cupboards - not always but often. (And inevitably buy more things we'd see on offer that we didn't NEED to have.) I suppose it's the student mentality that we both had and although I've always been organised, I've become more so as our family has grown.

I have to say, I don't rigidly stick to what I plan - if we really don't want something, then I switch it with another nights. On the calendar we have 5 columns, the last one being "Meals" so I cross off each one as I've cooked it. That way I can keep track of what meals are "spare" or need to be cooked later on. It's more to limit what we have in the cupboards/freezer so we aren't spending more than necessary.

To be fair, I have gone slightly overboard this month, and bought about 4 joints of meat that were in Aldi's Easter offers, plus we did have left over in the freezer last month. I always plan every day, and as is usually the case, we get invited out to meals or if it's been a long week we treat ourselves to the Chip Shop so there's usually a few spare meals.

Now, what I have been doing the last few weeks is bulk cooking. The girls have been particularly trying recently, and I haven't felt 100% so have been trying to make life a little easier where I can. So if I'm cooking something I'll try and cook two meals at once. Today, I cooked 3, which will probably stretch to more like 4 days worth of meals as my Shepherd's Pie is quite big!!

I went out and bought some new plastic food containers (and sorted out the old ones so I had a top for every container!) and have then frozen meal portions for 2-3 of us. If it means I defrost a whole bag of chicken breasts, and then cook a curry, chicken in black bean sauce, and a sweet and sour, then everyone is a winner! I chop a whole load of onion and pepper, and each meal has the same veg in but a different sauce. All the chicken is cooked in the wok, and then divided between 3 saucepans to have the specifics added for that meal. It takes exactly the same time to make one meal as it does to make three this way.

Obviously that's an example where I haven't made my own sauce, but there are some things that just don't taste the same home made! It then means for 3 nights a week, all I've got to do is defrost the meal, and cook some rice, noodles or whatever with it and actually it makes a HUGE difference if I've had a stressful day.

It means we're not spending lots of money on fast food or takeaway, or even going to the supermarket again for something "quick" to eat - which again means you'll just add another few things into the basket/trolley that we're on your list.

It sounds boring, I know! But try it one week, even if you have time to cook everyday, it means you have more time to play with / tidy up after / put on and off the naughty step with your child (!!!) or catch up on a cup of tea and a piece of cake / book / TV program you recorded last week and still haven't got around to watching.

I'm all for making life easier where possible at the moment, because actually the constant and endless list of jobs to be done can really get you down. And I know for me, in this stage of my life, my list is NEVER going to be completed, my house is never going to be completely clean and spotless, my bedroom is going to be piled high with dry clean washing that I must get around to folding away... and most of all, the toys will still be all over the lounge floor because I've refused to tidy them for the 6th time that day. That's life! I have given up feeling guilty about it, and now accept that one day, I'll look back and think "How on earth did we manage!?"

Monday, 1 April 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Well we've had a busy but great Easter and it's not quite over yet. We had some friends from the Midlands stay with us, and on Good Friday went for a walk and had lunch with our growth group at church.

We have had such busy weekends recently, we've not really had time to stop. But it has been great to be doing things and spending quality time with our friends. After having the girls, each time it took a while to come out of the "baby bubble" and get back into the habit of having people over. Despite having days when I wish we had no plans, those days tend to be full of guilt of what cleaning etc I "MUST get done"! Which inevitably don't!lol!

I want to have a culture with our friends that they can just drop in, or even better just walk in our door shouting "Hi" and put the kettle on!Lol! I'm sure I've posted before about this culture seeming to have disappeared in our generation, but it's important to be in and out of each others homes and lives regularly to build community with each other.

We have been so thankful to have so many people come and visit us since moving to Norfolk, and we are continuing to see people more than when we lived there - as in quality time, not saying a quick "Hi, good week!?" at church or in the street.

I am very thankful this weekend particularly for all we have and all Jesus did for us in order to have the freedom and choice to live our lives, ultimately to live it for Him.

For me, Easter has always been a time for friends and family, much like Christmas but without copious amounts of food and presents. A time to share a meal, share some time, have some fun and remember that He did not have to die for us - but out of Love He chose to save us.

I am so looking forward to the weather improving as I'm sure most of us are! When time with friends can be longer, out in the fresh air, picnics on the beach, walks in the countryside, and most of all, the feeling of an easier life that summer seems to bring.

Whatever you are doing this Easter, have a good one, make time for others and enjoy the wonderful life that we have been given out of Love.

Thursday, 28 March 2013


Good afternoon all!

It has been a very long time since I've had my blogger hat on, but stay posted I'll be back in the next week. Full of fresh posts, recipes and general ramblings!

Lots has happened since Christmas, so much that I've wanted to post about but not found the time. I have uncovered my desk this afternoon - my laptop hasn't seen the light of day in quite a while so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in.

Most of all, I'm really hoping the Spring arrives very soon and this ridiculously long winter ends! With a chilly Easter ahead of us, all I am going to do is brace myself and hope for the best!

Happy Easter to you all this weekend, hope it is full of friends and family, good times, fresh air and time creating memories.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Under Attack

As I sit and type this, I am coughing and spluttering, can barely talk, can't really hear, definitely can't smell or taste and look like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards. My ears are ringing but my head is clearing slightly, enough that I think I can just about manage a blog post. I am surviving on very little sleep and taking a number of pills and potions. The cause - a viral infection.

Myself, Erin and Lara all seem to have this viral infection that I think is doing the rounds. Since last Friday I have felt progressively worse as the days go by, and after a trip to the doctors on Monday evening, was told that they couldn't give me anything - just keep talking paracetamol, ibuprofen etc.

Sunday morning was mega busy at church, I was leading the youngest kids work group, Ben was shadowing on the PA as he is due to start on the rota, and our small group was also on Teas and Coffees. I was just praying that my voice would hold out enough to teach the children about "Kindness", after miming the worship songs, and that we would all make it to lunchtime without disaster.

Lara had been unwell on Saturday, but seemed to be coping, and Erin seemed very sleepy and not quite herself so we dosed her up and carried on.

Making it through church and the tasks we had, we came home and had a fairly laid back afternoon. Mr Strong went out with his brother to pick something up and although feeling quite rough I decided to try and make some dinner.

Lara was with me, and Erin was upstairs in the lounge watching a DVD. I heard Erin crying, an unusual cry, and ran upstairs. I found her slumped in her Peppa Pig Chair, having been sick and was shaking. I tried to pick her up and realised she was completely limp and wasn't responding to me. I ran downstairs, grabbed Lara and made sure she was secure and safe upstairs with us and rang a close friend unsure of what to do. She immediately advised ringing 999 and came over within minutes to take care of Lara.

Erin was having a seizure. The paramedics quickly turned up, did an assessment, and as Erin was still unresponsive we went into the ambulance and were taken straight to A&E. Just before we left our road, Mr Strong returned home and we agreed to meet at the hospital.

Trying to keep my composure and if by any chance Erin could see my reaction, I didn't want to worry her. Our journey picked up pace, and ended up with lights and sirens as Erin continued to be unresponsive. By the last part of the journey she had opened her eyes but wasn't focussing on anything or anyone.

I walked in a back door with the paramedics with Erin in my arms, and placed her straight on a bed where doctors were waiting for us. Erin had had a Febrile Convulsion caused by a high temperature due to the viral infection. She lay on the bed, fell asleep and gradually cooled down. After a couple of hours she came around, passed the doctors tests and after some juice and biscuits returned to more like the Erin we know.

She wasn't phased at all, commenting on the red light on her toe and the purple leaves on the curtains, and that was it. After such a scary few hours, our daughter seemed to be well on the way to recovery with minimal consequences. By biscuit number 3 her coordination had returned and we were released to go home.

We are so thankful to God that the community of friends and church family around us jumped into action so quickly, covering us all with prayer, practically helping with Lara, and rallying alongside us offering any help that we needed. We are even more thankful to God for keeping Erin safe and from harm.

I will continue to be away from blogging for the rest of the week whilst we all continue to recover. I hope you are having a much healthier time than we are! If you are in need in any way, call on friends and family who are always there when we need them, better still, call on Him, and He will answer. 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Whirlwind Week!

What an up and down week!
I started Monday feeling dreadful, but being a stay at home mummy I'm not entitled to sick days. Instead I spent most of the day in my PJ's and watching TV!
On Tuesday I didn't feel too bad and went out in the morning with Mrs Polkadot but made the MASSIVE misjudgement to try out the new buggy board with our single pushchair.
Lara was fine in the pushchair but after playgroup Erin was shattered and it was a LONG walk home! I made two giant chocolate cakes on Tuesday too, one for our church small group on Thursday night and one for Wednesday morning when a couple of us were having a play date.
So Wednesday was fine - it involved slabs of chocolate cake and good company! I also made the cupcakes for a church event we have on today, so made about 70 Wednesday night and put them in the freezer. Only 58 made it past quality control, I had been a bit over zealous and overfilled a few - those have stayed in the freezer to accompany custard at some point!
Thursday, I was grumpy in the morning, for various reasons and felt that doing my workout (which hadn't been done for 3 days due to feeling ill / not having time) would be beneficial. It was done before 8.30am - personal best - but my left leg muscle wasn't feeling right and after doing it made it worse!lol! So I looked like a wonky hobbling rabbit for the afternoon!!! (I haven't done it since - back to it next week!)
Friday (as Thursday was payday) was full blown shopping day! Girls needed new clothes, shoes, we needed food etc etc so spent most of the day visiting shops or in the car driving to a shop!! But I did then decorate the cupcakes - 3 hours later they were complete and I have to say I am pleased with the results.
So here we are, finally at the weekend! Mr Strong is out this morning at the men's session of the church event, he'll come home for lunch then I'll go to the women's session with Mrs Polkadot later.
We are entertaining Mrs Polkadot and her husband this evening (I still need to come up with a name for him!) and I am thoroughly looking forward to having a good laugh!
Tomorrow is Sunday, and after church I think I might start on a sewing project. I've had a number of things going through my mind and the most frustrating thing is not having the time to do any of them.
Best laid plans...! I might end up having an afternoon snooze!!
I hope you are all having lovely weekends - isn't it funny how some weeks seem to meander on by and others just feel like you've been stuck in a whirlwind!
Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Cake, cake and ... more cake!

So this week seems to have turned into a cake frenzy!
I decided to invite a couple of friends over this week and naturally made a big chocolate cake. In our small group at church that meets every Thursday evening we rotate who makes cake each week - it was our week so I doubled up and made two chocolate cakes at the same time. (I currently have RIDICULOUS amounts of chocolate buttercream in our fridge!)
We also have an event on at church and I was asked to make some cupcakes for it, so I am currently "mid batch" - I have 24 cakes cooling, 24 in the oven, and likely to have at least another 12 in once these come out.
As we are out tomorrow night at our small group, that means I have all of Friday evening to ice and decorate the cupcakes ready for collection on Saturday morning.
The best thing about making cakes is that you can ALWAYS make someones day, whether it's a "surprise knock on the door delivery", a "do you fancy a SLAB of cake!?" or helping out at a local event. Cake making is VERY easy once you know how, and with a bit of practice you can quickly find your speciality.
I have to say (unless it's a complete disaster) that I LOVE making cakes. There is no better feeling than having baked to your hearts content, to produce a wonderfully decorated cake for an occasion. It's also a really good and thrifty way of making presents.
There's nothing more rewarding than watching my mum open a tin of lovingly baked cakes, the twinkle in her eyes and the "Ok, just one more then...!" that comes with it. Below are a few of my favourites, and I haven't even really started making the themed childrens cakes yet!
Why not have a try at a new cake recipe this week, you might create a new favourite!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

War Paint

This morning as I was putting on my make up, I was thinking about how we constantly face feelings of inadequacy in such a perfectionist world.

Constantly subjected to images of thin, beautiful women (sometimes airbrushed), encouraged to change ourselves to be how others feel we should be.

When I was younger, I would rarely go out without make up. It made me feel beautiful, and confident, and helped to ease my feelings of wanting to be someone else. I vowed that I would never be one of those mums who "let herself go" - left the house without make up, in joggers, without styling her hair. THEN I HAD CHILDREN!!!

To have a shower was (for me) absolute minimum, but the rest was not necessary - if I had time to enjoy some peace and quiet - do my hair, carefully put my make up on, then that was a bonus.

How naively did I think that putting my make up on made me a better person. I often refer to putting it on as "putting my face on", which I'm sure will sound ridiculous to the girls in a few years time. It struck me this morning that I no longer put it on to make me feel better, but because I enjoy the process I take in doing it.

Whether I put my make up on or not, I do daily put on my war paint. Daily looking the enemy in the eye, who will try and make me feel inadequate. Who will make me feel like I'm not good enough, that I should be trying to be something else. Daily making the choice to accept who I am, and that I have been wonderfully and fearfully made in His image, from a blueprint of perfection.

In today's society, it is so easy to feel like we fall short in so many ways, and yes, we all have certain hang ups that we try to overcome. But it is so important not to lose who you are, and to be proud of what you have achieved... and if you're not, find someone to help you.

Unfortunately we are all required to put on our war paint everyday, but our reward is loving ourselves, just for being you. If you are struggling with this, find a close friend and share how you feel - chances are they will be able to tell you what a wonderful person they see through their eyes.

Week 1 - 30 Day Shred

I can't believe I'm posting this, but Week 1 complete!

I have actually done this 20 minute workout everyday since Monday and I am already feeling so much better! I have mostly done the workouts in the mornings, but yesterday in the afternoon and have just done it today (8pm).

Despite being out yesterday and today, I have made the time to do the workout. We were out most of yesterday but got back late afternoon - Mr Strong went outside to clean our car (it is Silver but looked black!) and the girls had their naps very late (surprisingly, I thought they would try and last without one!). But instead of sitting and enjoying the peace, I actually WANTED to do the workout.

Mr Strong was extremely surprised when he came in from cleaning the car to find I'd done the workout. I asked him if he was proud of me for doing it and he said he genuinely didn't think I'd stick to it and was completely astounded that I had. That made me feel good! I too, didn't think I'd do it!!!

I can feel the difference, my muscles feel stronger, I can do more of the workout without stopping for a rest, and the best part is I feel amazing for doing it! I finally feel like I can achieve my target of... Beach Gorgeous for 2014!lol!

I wish I had weighed myself before I started so I could keep a check of how I'm doing but did weigh myself this morning (I'm afraid I won't be sharing that with you just yet!).

I don't know whether it is the exercise that has made me feel better but I suddenly feel like my capacity is back. After having the girls I didn't feel able to do much, and I thrive being busy, juggling a number of things at a time. I finally feel able to do that and like I have got myself back. I know that sounds overly emotional, and maybe it is, but this is good progress!

Stay tuned for more updates!