Sunday, 23 November 2014

Dealing with grief

This post has been sitting in my drafts for such a long time. It's something I want to talk about but I'm not sure how and I don't know if the words are going to come out right. November is a hard month by all accounts. The weather turns that little bit colder so that the wind just starts to nip at your fingers and the rain turns icy, the nights are so much longer and the lead up to Christmas can be an incredibly stressful time. November is the worst month in my calendar by far, it's an anniversary for my family and I but not one to be celebrated. On the 26th November this year it will be 3 years since my younger brother died. He was 21 at the time, he hadn't been ill, we weren't expecting it. It was huge shock and a massive loss.

I don't want to talk about the reasons behind his death, I want to remember him as he was, kind, funny and one of the best friends I've ever had. Although we bickered like cat & dog we had a bond only people with a sibling will understand. And the day that bond broke so did my heart a little. I was six months pregnant with Ava at the time and I truly believe that she saved me. I don't know what I would have done had I not had her to focus on.

“The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we'd done were less real and important than they had been hours before.” 
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

This post is incredibly hard for me to write as I don't like to talk about my feelings. I've always been one of those people who hates to cry in public and although I love to talk about my brother I never talk about how it's affected me or my feelings. The reason I am writing about it now is because, well sometimes it's good to get some things  off your chest and I feel like grief is a subject not often broached. People seem to avoid it and it's almost become a taboo subject which it shouldn't be at all.

People say that grief comes in 5 stages- denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance, but for me it didn't happen that way. Although I still think I'm going through it, it's never something that you get over, you always bear the scars. As I was six months pregnant at the time it was an incredibly stressful time. I bottled up all of my anguish and grief and got on with it. After being rushed to hospital the day after my brother died with stomach pains I was terrified. I was told it was down to stress and I vowed for the sake of my child not to let my grief consume me. When Ava was born it was hard, having a newborn is difficult enough without all of the mixed emotions I was feeling. I was scared of getting post natal depression and willed myself to stay strong. I'm proud of myself for getting through that time but it was hard. What I've learnt is, grief never goes away, you get to a stage where you can cope with it but I'll never be able to stop grieving for my brother because I'll never stop loving him, and grief and love come hand in hand.

"If there ever comes a day where we can't be together, keep me in your heart. I'll stay there forever."
- A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

The loss of my brother has changed me in so many ways. When I look back to 2011 I can't believe how upset I used to get over the smallest, most insignificant things. Nowadays I find it hard to accept other people's problems. I guess the loss has hardened my heart a little and when I hear of people getting upset about insignificant things I think "If that is really all you have to worry about then you are awfully lucky" but I have to remind myself that before all of this, I used to be the same. I also have to remind myself that I am extremely lucky and so many people have suffered much worse heartache than me. It's changed the way I behave as a mother, it's as though I'm constantly holding my breath, waiting, wondering what the next bad thing will be. I want to wrap Ava up in cotton wool and never let the wind blow on her but I know I can't do that. Grief has made me so much more aware of the fact that something can be taken away from you so quickly. Life is so fleeting.

But grief has also made me count my blessings. I'm so lucky to have had Nathan by my side throughout. He's always been my rock and I'll be forever grateful to him. It's made me appreciate my family, and my parents and I've realised how incredibly strong they are. It's made me appreciate the little things in life, to take a moment and look around because once a moment has gone, it's in the past.

Grief has also made me unafraid. I'm not afraid of dying because I know I'll have someone waiting for me when my time comes and I just can't wait to see him.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” 
― Anne Lamott

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Clean meal ideas

If you're a regular reader you'll know that for the past 5/6 years I've suffered with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after countless visits to the doctors only to be sent away with various medication to control the issue rather than resolve it I'd had enough.

I've tried countless remedies and last week I took the matter into my own hands. After eating clean before my hen do in Barcelona I decided to take it up again. I've still been treating myself occasionally but on the whole I think I've been pretty good. I've stayed away from bread and pasta and have been drinking a lot of green tea & water.

Here are a few meals that I've been enjoying (excuse the picture quality, the lighting is awful in our house and these were taken on my iphone).

Honey roast salmon and spinach omelette with homemade guacamole & green tea.

This one was made on a whim one evening after grabbing some bits of honey roast salmon that were reduced in the Co-op. I made an omelette using 3 eggs and a handful of spinach and cooked it i some coconut oil. The guacamole was simply mashed avocado and a squeeze of lime juice. It was delicious and definitely one I'll be making again

Lemon and garlic chicken with mashed sweet potato and kale.

This one was so simple and packed full of flavour. I simply crushed some garlic that I smothered on top of the chicken breast, popped some lemon juice and coconut oil on top and baked until the juices ran clear. I served it with some boiled kale and mashed sweet potato. I honestly wasn't expecting much from this dish but it was so nice! The chicken was so lovely and tender too,

Stuffed mushrooms with baby spinach salad

I'm afraid these aren't my own creation they are from Aldi but they are amazing! They're stuffed with cream cheese, red onion chutney and topped with breadcrumbs and are only 130 odd calories each. Baked them for 20 mins and I served them with a simple baby spinach and baby tomato salad with balsamic dressing.

Lemon and garlic chicken with Uncle Ben's Mexican rice

This is the same chicken recipe as above but I served it with Uncle Ben's Mexican rice. It such a quick and easy meal!

Fluffy American pancakes

These were a Sunday treat but as they're homemade I still think that their healthy. I love making these pancakes on the odd occasion and I served these with fresh berries and honey.

So there you have it, a few, super simple and tasty meal ideas if you're looking for some healthy dinner (and dessert) inspiration.

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Ava wears- Dr Martens & Pandas

I thought I'd do a quick little outfit post today (also it was my blog's second birthday yesterday! Where has the time gone?!)

This weekend was a very lazy one in preparation for our busy week next week, you can read more about that here. Ava had been up town with Nath on Saturday morning and I decided to dress her in something cute.

Trench Coat- Zara Baby (Similar here)/Hat- M&Co/ Mittens-Tu @ Sainsburys/ Leggings-M&CO/ Jumper (just seen)- Next

You may recognise the trench coat. It's from Zara Baby and it featured in the first outfit post that I ever did last year. It's size 12-18 months and is a little on the small side so I'm sure that's the last time she'll wear it, although it's something I'm planning to keep.

The panda jumper she picked herself from Next!

I can't believe Ava has had these Dr Martens since September and I'm yet to put them in an outfit post. If you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen them numerous times now but as the weather is getting colder I love popping her in them. They are so cute and versatile!

So there you have it, one of Ava's regular, casual outfits. Perfect for this weather.

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Friday, 14 November 2014

The slump

Do you know what I've realised ? In a few days time I will have been writing this blog for 2 years! I can't quite believe where the time has gone. Although I've got to say I've never been one of the more "consistent" bloggers. I do try, I have ideas but then I seem to hit this slump. Where I feel uninspired and it's SO frustrating.

So in a bid to get me out of my slump I thought I'd do a little life update for you all.

I'm feeling very slumpy (not a word but I've just made it into one) in general at the moment. I'm not sure if it's the cold days (and even colder nights) that are just making me want to hibernate and drink hot chocolate... I'm trying to get myself out of this lethargic, slumpy mood I've been getting back into fitness and healthy eating. I'm planning on going to see a dietician soon as my IBS seems out of control at the moment although I've cut out wheat which I thought was my main nemesis! Clearly it's something else.Frustrating.

This time of year also brings around the anniversary of my brother's death. This year it will be 3 years since he died and it doesn't get any easier. If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know that we spend the week down at my mum's in Milton Keynes, this anniversary date looming probably has something else to do with my sombre mood.

We do have some fun things on the horizon though, Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland is definite high point during the year. We've been for the past 3 years and we love it. I'm also planning some more trips to National Trust sights after the success of last time. I want to visit one around Christmas to see it all decked out in all it's Christmas glory.

Talking of Christmas how it is only 6 weeks away? Last year I seemed so much more organised!! I've only bought 3 presents so far and am even struggling to think of things to buy for Ava!

There are some big changes for us in the new year, we're going to be moving house and hopefully, sometime next year, we'll be buying our own house. So exciting!

Have you got anything exciting planned in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Win 1 night stay for two people at a Travelodge of your choice.

Something that Nath and I enjoy is spending the odd night away together at least a couple of times a year. It allows us to spend some quality time together and we get to enjoy a nice toddler-free meal and a well deserved lie in.

Manchester is one of my favourite cities. They have amazing shopping (a huge Zara!) and gorgeous restaurants. A few months ago Nath and I ate at Australasia which was lovely and had some drinks at Cloud 23 which is the bar situated at the top of The Hilton overlooking Manchester. So impressive! Manchester has a huge selection of Travelodges to choose from.

Big cities also have the most amazing Christmas markets around this time of year and are perfect for a spot of Christmas shopping.

Today I am giving away one night stay for two people in a UK Travelodge of your choice. Perfect for parents wanting to get in some early Christmas shopping or for a little new year break. Travelodge are currently refurbishing 500 hotels over the country so if it's a whistle stop city tour you're after or a relaxing seaside break, Travelodge can provide you with a bed for the night.

Please read the Terms & Conditions of this giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

*PR Collaboration

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A National Trust Day Out

When thinking of a family day out a National Trust site is probably the last thing on your mind but lately I've been dying to visit some of my local sites. I'm lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the country and I have 3 National Trust sites close to where I live. One of which is pretty much on my dad's doorstep and I'm ashamed to say I've never been to one of them.

During the Summer I was desperate to go but with the wedding madness it never happened, so with a few days off work I vowed that Ava and I would visit the trust site closest to us and I'm so glad we did! The castle over looks the stunning countryside and is steeped in history, I'm not ashamed to say I'm a history geek and I love a cream tea so this was pretty much heaven for me. Although I would like to go back perhaps without Ava to really take it all in and read up on the history of the building and the families who used to live there (I told you, geek!). I don't think we could have picked a better day to go. Although it was cloudy and it drizzled slightly it was so mild. And I can never get over the beautiful Autumnal colours.

Ava was so well behaved and really enjoyed herself, she kept saying that we were going on an adventure and loved the huge gardens, where I definitely burnt off the cream tea by running after her! The place is a real little gem and I've planned to visit the other two sites that are not too far from me soon, I used to think that National Trust sites were for the elderly but I couldn't have been more wrong. We had a lovely afternoon in a beautiful castle and now I really would love a National Trust membership card for Christmas (that's a hint to my mum as I know she reads my blog!)

If you have National Trust sites near to you they are definitely worth a visit & FYI the cream teas are unbelievable!

*I wasn't asked to write this post but we had such a lovely afternoon I wanted to share.

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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Ava wears- Oversized coats and cute shoes featuring Clarks*

I still remember buying Ava's first pair of shoes. We naturally went to Clarks where they turned the event into a really memorable experience. I've still got those precious first shoes, kept safely in a box, ready to bring out in a few years time to reminisce about how tiny her feet used to be.

Since then Ava has had numerous pairs of shoes from Clarks, it's a brand that I trust and that I find really reliable, plus the shoes are super cute!

I was recently asked to choose a couple of pairs from their Autumn/ Winter range and was spoilt for choice!

The first pair I went for were the Ella Glow First Shoes.

They are made from sturdy, grey, patent leather and come complete with glittery stars and, Ava's favourite feature, the flashing lights in the sole. With the velcro straps these are perfect for Ava to put on herself.

Her coat looks hilarious on her at the moment as it's far too big in the arms but I've been dying to get her to try it on and this picture is just far too cute not to share!

Coat- Zara/ Scarf- Oliver Bonas/ Leggings- Next/ Shoes- C/o Clarks

The second pair are the Dance Harper First Shoes in Tan.

I love the style of these Mary Janes and the colour is perfect for Autumn. Again they have the velcro straps which Ava will be able to do up herself.

Jumper- Primark/ Leggings- Mothercare/ Shoes-C/o Clarks

I personally love Clarks and think that they are great value for money. It also gives me peace of mind knowing that Ava is wearing the correct shoe that give her the support that she needs. I love seeing the new range every season and the Autumn/ Winter collection is really one that you should check out. You can find all of their range on the website.

*Disclamer- I was sent vouchers in order to purchase the shoes for this review.

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