Thursday, December 01, 2016

first things first

The first of December.

This month will be a special one, it will be our first Christmas as parents, and we will soon be heading on a trip to the Lake District with my family, which will be our first holiday as parents too. We did a similar trip last year, and days before we went we found out that I was pregnant again and so this feels like a very poignant time of year. From those tentative first days of knowing, it is incredible to see the three and a half month old little boy in front of us and see how far we have come.

Yet again, this is the first post in a long time. It feels like there is so much to say, but I have realised that in the absence of being able to say everything, it is better to write to something rather than nothing. In a bid to get this post written it is the first time in years I have used the Blogger app to write a post so apologies if the formatting is a mess!

These first few months of parenthood have been incredible, and I still can't quite believe I am lucky enough to be his mummy. Somehow when I come to write though, I feel like everything is too mundane, acutely aware that my days are filled entirely with motherhood, which, while fascinating to me, is not the most interesting reading. The mammoth undertaking that is a walk to the library or a trip to the swimming pool fills a whole morning but leaves me with not all that much to say.

Most days I feel like I'm doing a half decent job of being a mum, though today has been an exception where I have convinced myself I'm not doing the "right" thing with naps and sleep, whatever that might be, and Google has proved, as always, the perfect source of confirmation for my fears! That was then compounded by the fact in one of my two minute bursts of productivity, between letting Millie out, making a drink and tidying the lounge, I had felt super organised as I put baked potatoes into the oven for dinner, only to return an hour and a half later to realise I had forgotten to turn it on.

I'm trying to work out where the person I was before fits in these days, and I am on a learning curve trying to find out how to keep some sense of myself along the way. So many of the things that I enjoyed, cooking, baking, photography, trying to run, reading, all feel like luxuries I don't know how to fit in any more. I remember the first week after I gave birth coincided with the first episode of Great British Bake Off and in blissful naivety I bought the ingredients to make the first technical challenge, hoping to join in as I had last year, and quickly realising that was a somewhat unrealistic aim. 

This is the first time since I was seventeen I haven't had some kind of paid employment, and the first time since goodness knows how long I haven't been working towards some kind of exam, or qualification or training. I've discovered that becoming a parent teaches you quite quickly about your self-identity, as the first few months have been given over to looking after another person, completely dependent, you gradually notice what you miss. I'm not altogether sure where this post is going. I'm conscious it sounds negative, when I genuinely couldn't feel luckier to have my baby boy, and I would hate to think in years to come he would read this and think I didn't adore being his mum. I'm just at the point of starting to work out how to be a mum and be myself, finding out what I can happily let go of and what I want to hold on to. I suppose taking half an hour to write something here is a step towards holding onto this blog, holding on to a little bit of who I was before, holding on to my voice. Yet just as one part of me holds on to some threads of who I was before, another holds so tightly to that little boy who clings to me, grabs at the joy of being his mum, being there for him wholeheartedly, and seeing what we both can become.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

first things first

The first of October.

The first blog post in a little while, and predictably, I am starting posting again at the start of a new month. Today also marks 6 weeks since our son was born, and so we celebrate the first 6 weeks of parenthood.

These weeks have been full of firsts, big and small. It feels like he has been a part of our lives for a long time, and yet life seems to be flying by at an alarming rate. Having spent so long knowing that our baby would be born in the summer, it was shock to realise that we have now already moved into Autumn. In the last few days we have found that some of his first outfits no longer fit, and that is frankly far too soon for him to be growing out of things!

The first weeks are somewhat of a blur now. As well as the overwhelming mix of emotions of those initial days as new parents, my grandad had an emergency trip to hospital in the first week, I was a bridesmaid for a close friend two weeks after the birth, my stepdad also had an emergency trip to the hospital, and there have been numerous birthdays in recent weeks, including The Husband's. Life has felt intense recently, to say the least. Gladly, everyone is doing fine, and we are settling into our new normal.

The Husband went back to work in mid September, and so this will be my first full month of maternity leave without him at home during the week. I have already realised how lucky we are to have family and friends so nearby, their support has made such a difference as we grow accustomed to life with a new baby.

This first blog post is not coming easily. I have found that the right words often evade me at the moment, and so trying to sit and write sentences is less more challenging than previously! I feel unable to do justice to these first weeks, to the incredible elation, the highs and lows, the overwhelming love and the waves of deepest gratitude. I can't explain the new ways in which I see my husband, as he becomes an amazing daddy to our son, or my parents, as they dote on their grandson with such tenderness. Whatever I write won't capture fully the experience, and though countless others have been through it before, it is somehow, at the same time, entirely unique to us.

We are so very lucky, and while I won't pretend we haven't had plenty of tough moments, curled up, as I am, with the dog draped across my legs, and The Husband next to me cradling our baby boy, I am very content. Our first baby, he has made parents of us, he has made life richer by far, and brought our family so much closer, he is so very lovely and so very loved. Welcome to the world my darling son, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

word of the week

A fairly alliterative word of the week post, brought to you by the letter W it would seem, although the overriding word has to be waiting. Today brings us to six days after our due date and the baby is still content to stay put. I keep reminding myself that anything up to 42 weeks is normal, but it has been such an odd week, such a strange feeling.

Each night I go to bed wondering if tomorrow will bring news, waking overnight and lying there trying to guess whether anything has changed, whether anything feels different, getting up each morning and accepting that things are just the same. It is hard not to watch every twinge, every tightening, hoping that it might possibly be the start of something. It is hard not to worry, which is generally my way, trying to reassure myself that the baby is safe and not focus on concerns that something might go wrong.

I have been doing lots of walking (and eating pineapple, making increasingly spicy curries, bouncing on a birthing ball, and following midwife advice trying acupressure and aromatherapy oils). We had a trip to the beach yesterday, and I took Millie and some music on a long walk across the fields on Friday (can you spot her in the above picture?!). It is tricky not to succumb to the sense that there is something I could, or should, be doing, and I am trying, but mostly failing, to not get frustrated at the inquiries from people pointing out that the baby has not arrived yet.

It has been wonderful to have my mum so close, to accompany me to appointments, take me out on spontaneous trips when it becomes clear that another empty day stretches ahead, and to give fabulous foot rubs too. Soon enough things will change, although I am trying to adjust to the idea that it may not happen spontaneously! Hopefully, this time next week I will have different news to share, but for now I wait, and wish, and wonder when we will finally meet our baby.

The Reading Residence

Project 52: Week 32

Yesterday we ventured out for a trip with Millie and headed for the beach. One of our nearest beaches, although still a bit of a distance away, is home to Antony Gormley's Another Place. It is somewhere we go once or twice a year, having taken Millie there on her first journey out as a puppy, and I love being by the sea. We timed it well, arriving to blue skies and a gentle breeze, as the tide was ebbing. We spent a happy hour gently chasing it out along the sand. The statues are always eye-catching, and this barnacled one had emerged from the water.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Project 52: Week 31

This week I spent a lovely few hours with my mum and Grandad, wandering around a local art exhibition and going for lunch. The entrance to the building includes a reconstructed industrial tower, and this was the view upwards as we left.

word of the week

It has been a week of contrasts, seven days spent in an odd limbo. Tomorrow is our due date, so the week has been a bizarre blend of getting on with life as normal, whilst waiting (impatiently!) for something that has not yet happened.

The days have been restful, plenty of relaxing, yet with an underlying restlessness that finds me pacing the house in the early hours. Looking back, it has been a nicely busy week. I have done lots of cooking, had days out with my mum and Grandad, coffees, lunches, an art exhibition, shopping with a friend, walks with Millie. Yet there is that sense of not having achieved the biggest thing, of waking up each morning and wondering what the day might have in store.

I feel ready, each evening I say to The Husband that I feel we are as prepared as we can be, I just want to meet our baby. Yet we both know that we can never truly be ready for the change that is coming, that it is beyond what we can imagine, and when things eventually start happening I expect the calm confidence I have currently will quickly disappear!

The weekend has been gentle, but with an undercurrent, perhaps more for The Husband, who has not known whether he will be going back into work tomorrow or starting the week on paternity leave. For now, there is no suggestion that the baby is on the way imminently, the alarms are set, and Monday will bring the start of another normal week, much like the last. And yet, there is the promise of this being an extraordinary week indeed.

The Reading Residence

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: July

I'm afraid that in the great phone calamity I lost the pictures of the meals that I made for this month, and, typically, I hadn't instagrammed them or sent them to my mum! So, you shall have to believe that I did make the dishes, and accept an attempt at some artfully arranged herbs, that I still have leftover from the recipes.

Excuses out of the way, I decided to venture back to Jamie Oliver, and after my experience of the 15 minute meals, give the 30 minute meal book a try. I suspected that the recipes would take longer than 30 minutes, if the previous experience was anything to go by, and having long wanted to use this book I thought it might be realistic to do so before the baby arrives!

While both of the recipes took longer, between 45-60 minutes, I was really impressed with them both. The recipes are not without their downsides, they require lots of ingredients, and the cost mounted up. They also require more time than I would usually spend, and many more dishes and utensils, to the extent that when I was making the second recipe, The Husband came and cleared up after me as I was cooking just to try and get a head start! The book is clear at the outset about the equipment needed, and my long-neglected food processor was hoisted out, which again felt like excessive effort for saving time slicing a few vegetables instead of using a knife. 

All of this meant that I partially expected the recipes to be a let-down, I thought they would have to be really successful to feel that all of that had been worth it. I was, however, proved wrong, and was really impressed with the outcome of both. In fact, I went to the lengths of ordering some replacement parts for my food processor that have been lost at some point, which I think is clearly a sign that I was converted.

So, on to the actual recipes. The first was super-fast beef hash, with jacket potatoes, goddess salad, and butter beans and bacon. A few people have blogged the recipe previously. This was a serve it in lots of big dishes recipe, like most in the book, and it was a real success. Microwaving the baked potatoes then crisping them up on a hot baking tray in the oven worked really well, the hash was lovely (although the absence of the right attachment meant my veg were chopped much more finely - hence the new purchase for future attempts!), and The Husband has discovered a love of butter beans too, although I couldn't convince him to try the avocado dressing or salad.

The second recipe was the mustard chicken, quick dauphinoise, greens and black forest affogato. I will confess to leaving out the anchovies, and also knowing The Husband would not want cherries in the affogato, I replaced them with some frozen raspberries in mine that I already had in. This was a great dish, all of the parts were beautifully flavoured, and the dessert was simple but something a little different. 

What I really liked about both recipes was that they felt like complete meals, with plenty of vegetables, making them well balanced. I also found that there was a good amount of food, with the dishes that served four feeding us both well with more than enough for a second meal for two for the freezer. I enjoyed the salad for lunches for a few days after too. The recipes do require lots of ingredients, but the different condiments and herbs do seem to bring the flavours together well, and using the shortcuts such as the food processor and the microwave does make it possible to have dishes that would normally take a lot longer. I still don't think they are realistic for everyday cooking, or for week nights, but I do think, with time, they wouldn't be far off the 30 minute mark, and the results are well worth the effort.

It might be a little while before I get around to picking this book up again, as I guess our weekends might be somewhat different in the coming months, but I do look forward to trying some of the other recipes, and have already bookmarked a few that really appeal. I have picked a book for August, and for now am hoping to make the recipes, but watch this space! In the meantime, do follow the link below to Penny's blog and see what everyone else has been up to this month.

Monday, August 01, 2016

first things first

The first of August.

Which also means it is the first day of the August Break, the photo project organised by Susannah Conway. I have joined in on the blog in previous years, but this year I will do the daily posts on instagram, as I anticipate my capacity to take part might reduce over the coming weeks! The first prompt was Morning Light, and above is a version of the photo I chose.

This month should also be our first as parents, which is an unbelievably exciting thought. Although, with my fondness for firsts, I had liked the idea of our baby arriving today on the first day of the week, and the month, the midwife has assured me this morning that it is showing no signs of making an early arrival just yet! It is exactly a week until the due date now, though I am anticipating we may go past that point. It is strange to think that the next time I do one of these posts, our family will have expanded, and our much longed for baby will be here.

This is the first Monday in a while that we don't have an antenatal class too. The sessions covered all sorts, although there was no sitting on the floor practicing breathing and panting, which disappointed The Husband a little as he had been fully expecting it to go down that route. Instead we have had a myriad of things, including fabric babies with a placenta attached by a press stud, knitted boobs, relaxation exercises involving magic carpets, and a tour of the various delivery rooms, which made everything feel rather real. It has, in the most part, been reassuring, though having booked on to the classes many months ago, it is strange to feel that we have now attended them all, and that the baby could arrive any day.

As tonight will be gentler than recent weeks, where we had to dash out as soon as The Husband got home, and try to squeeze in a meal somewhere along the way, I am planning to make gnocchi for the first time today, as well as homemade pesto. I think my nesting instinct has been mostly focussed on the kitchen (unsurprisingly) as I am getting the urge to batch cook, and try new recipes, which unfortunately tends to have the opposite effect of making the place messier rather than the typical approach of intense cleaning!

Right now, I have a dog snoring gently beside me, flowers in front of me, and a wriggling baby in my belly. I think I shall have my first cup of tea of the day, and enjoy the peace while I can. Whatever August may bring us I am sure it will be full of incredible firsts, and for now I am excitedly anticipating each and every one. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Project 52: Week 29 and 30

I know I keep promising pictures of something other than Millie, but after the disastrous deletion of all my photographs, I had to use one of the pictures I had sent to The Husband so that I could rescue it from his phone! This is a good representation of my early mornings of maternity leave, The Husband heads to work and Millie takes his place, keeping me company as we listen to the radio and I get ready for the day.

Then yesterday I made a start on replenishing my photo collection, and took this as we walked Millie across the fields. She loves to go bouncing through the crops, which is a very welcome sight after she was poorly last weekend, and a clear sign she is back to her normal self.

word of the week

It has been tricky trying to sum up the recent days in a single word, and in the end I have opted for "change".

Since I last blogged, maternity leave has kicked in and there has been a real change of pace! Funnily enough, having never been a morning person, I am suddenly up with The Husband as he heads to work and pottering around the house from quite early in the day. Not, unfortunately doing anything overly productive, the nesting instinct has been stronger in The Husband who is cleaning and sorting things at an alarming rate, but it has been nice to make the most of the mornings, with the radio and the dog for company.

There have been some lovely days with family and friends, including a surprise spa day with my best friend just over a week ago, a fabulous afternoon tea with my Grandad, and a few trips out to garden centres. After the spa day, I also got the courage to visit the local pool this week, and really enjoyed swimming a few lengths and being in the water after so long. I've also got back into the habit of planning meals, enjoying stocking up the freezer and trying some different recipes, like the onion bhajis I shared on instagram. Tonight there will be toad in the hole, with Grandad joining us, and potatoes from my parents allotment - it's all very domesticated around here isn't it!

I also treated myself to a new radio and bluetooth speaker for the conservatory, and once that arrived I splashed out on some new storage baskets which I have been meaning to buy for years! It is one of my favourite rooms, especially in the summer, and it is lovely to sit in there with Millie and enjoy the peace and quiet.

There have been a few unwanted changes too, like this time last week when our food-obsessed beagle suddenly stopped eating and starting being sick. We were having a lovely day celebrating my mum's birthday, with presents, a family meal, and a successful attempt at an eton mess cake creation, but she definitely wasn't quite herself. After lots of watching and waiting, we finally succumbed to a trip to the emergency vets late on Sunday, and after some injections (and giving thanks that The Husband is on the ball with pet insurance, because I definitely am not) we were sent home with a rather lethargic dog to look after. After a few days of rice and some paste from the vets which she seemed to adore, she is entirely back to normal. It's funny that we spend so much time telling her not to jump, lick, bark, and so on, but when she stops doing all those things we desperately want her back to her mischievous self!

Then on Friday, when I was already having a day fretting about whether the baby was moving enough, I inadvertently wiped my whole phone. Despite The Husband's extensive efforts on Friday night, the photos and messages were not retrievable, and I learnt the hard way about making sure you regularly back up. I was pretty devastated on Friday, there were (perhaps a slightly disproportionate amount of) tears, and I generally was feeling rather sorry for myself, especially to think I had lost the pictures from the last eight months, particularly with it having been my 30th celebrations, and the duration of the pregnancy. Gradually though, The Husband and my mum set about sending me photos that I had shared with them, and pictures they had, and there have been more than enough to fill the void! It was also lovely to look back over them all and reminisce about so many happy occasions, and realise how many wonderful memories there have been. In that spirit, the picture above is one from the collection I have re-acquired in the past few days, taken from the birthday meal my parents treated us to at Northcote.

So, while not all of the changes this week were particularly planned, and in some cases, weren't that positive, I'm glad to say I end the week feeling very happy indeed, with our beautiful beagle, as giddy as she can be, with the wonderful memories we have made over the last year, with the fabulous family we have, the new addition that will soon be joining us, and for tonight, with the prospect of toad in the hole and good company!

The Reading Residence

Sunday, July 17, 2016

word of the week

It has felt like there have been a number of small milestones over the last week or so, and the days have, as a result, been filled with flowers, which is my word of the week. 

Just over a week ago I finished work, for what will be, hopefully, a year of maternity leave. This last week has actually been annual leave, so I don't officially start the maternity leave until tomorrow, but my last day in work for rather a long time has now passed. As The Husband has been off this week too, it hasn't quite registered yet, but I imagine as he heads to work in the morning it might suddenly start to be a little more real! I actually left my placement permanently, as when I return I will be starting somewhere new, so there was an added sense of finality. My colleagues had very kindly got us a gift, and a bunch of flowers, to mark the occasion, and I left with promises to return soon, with our new arrival.

The following weekend involved an afternoon tea with my mum, and a few lovely ladies who happen to be our neighbours. It was the second time we have had a gathering in recent months, and it was another lovely afternoon. The icing on the cake was when my best friend arrived as a surprise to join us, it was lovely to see her, and she had also brought me some flowers to celebrate the start of my leave.

The Husband and I have both been off this week, partly to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. We went away for a couple of nights, not too far from home, and it was lovely to spend a few days together. As the traditional gift is fruit or flowers, some of my presents were floral themed, including a lovely notebook and pen, and also some specialty flours (great minds think alike Tess!). We returned home to a chilli plant from my parents, and the beautiful roses you see above from my Grandad. Then, on Saturday, a knock at the door brought a bouquet of roses from The Husband too, who hadn't wanted to let the occasion pass without buying me actual flowers too.

So from tomorrow, I shall be 37 weeks, which is officially full-term, and officially on maternity leave. There are a few small trips planned this week, so my days aren't looking too empty, and when I am at home, I am lucky enough to have a house filled with flowers to keep me company too!

The Reading Residence

Project 52: Week 27 and 28

Week 27 was another Millie photo, this time of her cuddled up in The Husband's arms, and slowly drifting off to sleep.

Something a little different for week 28, we went away for a few days for our anniversary and had a look around the beautiful Chester Cathedral.


Sunday, July 03, 2016

Project 52: Week 26

I must try and take a better variety pictures, Millie seems to be the dominant subject these days, but with a face like that can you really blame me?! 


word of the week

This week has been all about preparation. Preparing to finish work at the end of next week has meant plenty of long days getting things finalised. Gladly, after starting last week feeling like there was a lot to get through, plenty of progress was made, and hopefully this week should be a gentler final few days.

We had an antenatal class this week, and have subsequently gone into a flurry of activity packing a hospital bag and buying some additional bits and pieces that we hadn't yet got. I still don't think I have got to the point where I believe that we will be lucky enough to have a baby soon, but with tomorrow marking 35 weeks I guess it will be sinking in in the not-too-distant future!

The baby, however, is not preparing, and is still happily doing somersaults around on an hourly basis. It was breech at my last midwife appointment, and still seems to be regularly switching between various positions at the moment, so we shall keep our fingers crossed it is taking after its mum and leaving things until the last minute!

I've also been trying to prepare for our forthcoming wedding anniversary but it is proving tricky to buy a gift for The Husband when the fourth year tradition is fruit or flowers. He is somewhat averse to fruit, and I don't think he would share the same appreciation for a bouquet as I would! If we had an endless budget I would go for some variation on the theme and buy him some kind of Apple product, but as it is I might have to think a little more creatively. If I come up with anything ingenious I shall be sure to let you know.

Hope you all have a good week!

The Reading Residence

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: June

In June, I decided to extend my cookery book collection, by opportunistically raiding my mum's selection while they were piled up during some kitchen renovations. I had flicked through a few of mine without much inspiration, many of the remaining ones seeming to be full of recipes with excessive lists of ingredients, and I think the hope of warmer weather also making me feel less inclined to spend an age on hearty recipes.

So it was that I gathered together a small pile of tempting looking books, and for this month I went with My Kitchen by James Martin. There were lots of appealing recipes, and I liked that the book was arranged seasonally, allowing me to pick from the spring and summer sections in an unfortunately unsuccessful bid to lure the warmer weather.

The first recipe was pan-fried pork fillet with smoky tomato sauce. I halved the ingredients down to just serve the two of us, and added some rice too. The tomatoes were scorched before roasting, and a lack of gas meant that I still didn't get to break open the mini blow-torch which has been in the cupboard for years. However, the grill did just as well, and you may have seen my picture recently of the result. 

There was a lot of sauce, and the flavour was lovely. I did find that there was quite a lot of meat in the recipe, you can't quite tell in the picture as most of it is covered with sauce, but the recipe called for half a pound for each person, which seemed quite a hefty portion, though The Husband was more than happy with that! I did think another portion of vegetables would have made it a little more balanced, although I'm not sure I would have had the appetite for them.

The next dish was wok-fried chicken with ginger, chilli and wild garlic. Unfortunately I couldn't find wild garlic when I did the shopping, but the recipe did suggest spinach as a substitution. This was a really quick dish, even with a step of "velveting" chicken which was a new one on me. It involved coating the chicken pieces in cornflour and blanching before transferring it to the wok. The flavours were really strong for such a quick dish, and we really enjoyed it. Again, it felt like a lot of meat, and that the dish could have taken some more vegetables, but I already have plans to make it again this week, so I will be sure to add some then!

I was very pleased with my borrowed book, and think I might keep it on an extended loan (hi Mum!). I'd definitely be tempted to try more recipes and spotted quite a few that appealed as a I flicked through it. I haven't picked July's book yet but I'm looking forward to browsing through some more of my newly acquired options. The very first book I used for this challenge was Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook and I have to mention that in the last week I have rustled up three quick bakes from it, all with great success. I adapted the victoria sponge to a lime version, made the vanilla muffins, and today whipped up a batch of chocolate cupcakes in double quick time. I do love the reliability of the baking recipes, and it is definitely becoming my default choice when I want some speedy inspiration. Hope you are enjoying the challenge if you are joining in, do visit Penny's page to find out more. 

Friday, July 01, 2016

first things first

The first of July.

The first day of the weekend for me, using up my last days of annual leave here and there.

Later brings with it the first massage in a while, finally using up the last of my birthday vouchers and hopefully a little relaxation too.

Then, tonight, a dinner with good friends for the first time in a while. In fact I think the last time we saw them we were in the early days of pregnancy where we knew but no-one else did, so they may be a little shocked at my progress! They have also bought and moved into their first house since we last met so there will be plenty of catching up to do.

This feels like it is the first day of quite a significant month. With maternity leave due to start later this month, it is the the beginning of around 12 months off work. We have been very lucky that I will be able to take a year off, but it is also the first time I won't have had some kind of paid employment since I was about seventeen! This week has been one filled with a real sense of having a very final deadline to work towards but I have made good progress and am hoping my last few days in work will now be fairly gentle and focused on tying up loose ends, and I anticipate a lot of sorting of the paperwork I seem to accumulate on an hourly basis!

It could, also, just possibly, be the first month that we become a family of four (including the dog of course!). With a due date in early August, and a baby that is still very much doing somersaults, showing no sign of being head down or settling into position, it is unlikely at the moment, but there is that possibility and what a thought it is! The Husband suggested that we might, perhaps, possibly, want to start thinking about packing the hospital bags this weekend, and it seems like that could well be a sensible plan.

July also brings with it our wedding anniversary, and it is the first time we won't be going away for a week, having moved our holiday to June so that we could travel a little further afield without worry that we were too far from home. We do both have the week off, and have booked a trip for a few days to celebrate, but only 30 minutes from the hospital!!

So July seems to bring a lot of lovely firsts. It is always a lovely month for us, with celebrations and holidays, lots of different annual traditions and occasions with friends and family that seem to fall over the next few weeks too. I hope your month ahead has some days to look forward to and some loveliness along the way. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

word of the week

Well where to start with this week, such a weird one it has been. The word in these parts has been results, of varying types, and today has found us curled up on the sofa, cuddling the dog and trying to escape from the world for a little while.

After an appointment just before we went on holiday, and then a few mishaps with cancelled tests, I have spent this week waiting for some results. It wasn't for anything major, just some episodes where my heart was racing a little too quickly, and although it was more than likely one of those odd pregnancy side effects, it was better to make sure there was nothing else underlying it. It meant that in the interim I was advised not to drive, just until anything more serious was ruled out, so this week has involved me getting well acquainted with public transport. It was fine, and the novelty of travelling by bus would have been even stronger had I not been quite so far along in pregnancy, and had it not typically ended up being a week where I was travelling to lots of different places, more so than usual.

Gladly the investigations were ok, and the symptoms have improved, so this week should not be quite so complicated as far as commuting goes. Some of the tests did flag up a few co-incidental findings that will need another look at when I am no longer pregnant. Again, although nothing serious, it has made me feel a little cautious, and whether it is exacerbated by the idea of becoming a parent, but I have had an increased sense of needing to look after myself, and to ensure I am doing what I can to keep myself well. However, the need to eat more healthily and indulge in fewer treats is one the I find challenging, enjoying cooking and baking, and subsequently eating! I still found myself baking this morning, however I then quickly boxed everything up for The Husband to take to work, and delivered the rest to my parents, to remove the temptation to sample everything I had made!

Then, of course, there has been the EU referendum result. It feels too significant not to acknowledge it here, but, as I have said before, I tend to avoid too much in the way of serious discussion on this blog. However, particularly having revisited my old blog when I was looking for something recently, I realised that I used to write in a different, perhaps more involved, way and it made me feel keen to strike a better balance. I can't easily verbalise how I feel about the result, it was not the one I was hoping for, obviously that leaves me with a sense of disappointment, and I must admit to being fearful for the future. Having tried to inform myself as best I could, I also find it disconcerting to feel that my views are the (slight) minority, and to comprehend what that means about society. I do believe in democracy, and accept that the result is what it is, and that people on both sides of the debate have made decisions for a variety of reasons. What I struggle with is the amount of misinformation in the lead-up, the propaganda and promises that are now so quickly being denied, and although that has long been a facet of politics, it feels to me at odds with the idea of a democratic vote when people struggle to make sense of the facts in the process of trying to make such a decision.

There is far more I could say, but others have said it far more eloquently than me, and I ultimately respect everyone's right to vote in the way that they wish. I am shocked at the outcome, and only hope that the result will not lead to some of the more extreme repercussions that are being heralded in some discussions. I hope that in time a way is found to move forward that doesn't revolve around the us and them mentality that seems to persist currently, and that somehow leads to positive change rather than the negative consequences that are currently filling the headlines, but that feels a long way from where things are at the moment. I must say that I have found the blogging community to be of comfort, to read posts from a number of people, and realise that despite the majority vote being to leave, there are a great many people who share similar sentiments to me. I find it reassuring to know that there are plenty of others out there who share the same view. It is not because I think everyone should be the same, but because, at a time when things feel fractured and divisive, it is good to feel united with others; that sense of belonging brings with it hope. 

The Reading Residence

Project 52: Week 25

As you may know, I have been taking part in Penny's fabulous Cookery Calendar Challenge this year. Over the weekend I cooked up both of this month's recipes, and loved the look of these tomatoes, scorched under the grill and ready for roasting. I was a little disappointed that the fancy chef's blowtorch we own doesn't actually have any gas in it, as that would have been the perfect chance to use it, but the grill did a good job (once I remembered to turn it on!). Pop back at the start of June to see what I rustled up with them, and which book I chose this month, 


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Project 52: Week 23 and 24

Having been away on holiday and thoroughly enjoying getting away from it all, I didn't post last week's photo. This was taken in the orchard that was attached to our holiday cottage. It was lovely to wander there for a walk each day, to sit on the bench looking out over the greenery, and most enjoyable was the fact that it was fully enclosed so Millie could enjoy running around off her lead to her heart's content. If you look very closely you may well be able to spot the beagle shaped blur dashing towards us.

As part of our trip we visited Stratford races this week, and although the weather wasn't the best, we had a brilliant day. The centre enclosure allows you to drive on and also to take dogs, so we could shelter in the car with our picnic and walk Millie between races as we went to place our bets. We had a great view, just near the finishing post, and even won on one or two races, the fact that we only ever wagered one or two pounds doing nothing to dampen our excitement!

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky


word of the week

After going away for our holiday last Friday, I think the word of the week has been "peace". We escaped with Millie to a beautiful cottage in Gloucestershire, and had a wonderful trip. The setting was idyllic, and I do have plans to post separately about our accommodation, I was that impressed with it. The week included plenty of walks with the dog, a day at the horse races, a farmers' market, board games, jigsaws, lots of books and leisurely days.

The secluded setting meant that we woke each morning to birdsong (occasionally drowned out by Millie's barking!), and the cottage was a lovely home from home. Days were spent pottering around, wandering for walks with Millie, curling up with cups of tea and enjoying our own company. In what seemed to be a particularly violent week as far as news goes, it was jarring to be enjoying such tranquility yet to be greeted with relentless bad news on the radio each morning. I was grateful for the space and calm we had, and was even more appreciative of the peace in the wake of so many different tragedies.

I was thankful to have the time together, our little family, and without the demands of work or the chores of home it was a gentle reminder of how happy we can be just sharing our days together. It is exciting to think that our next family holiday could well include another member, and that it may be a very different experience as a result! Perhaps peace might not be as suitable a word then, but hopefully no less enjoyable! 

The Reading Residence

Monday, June 06, 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: May

For May I picked a much neglected book from my shelf called "200 Four-Ingredient Recipes". I have no idea when I acquired this book, or where from. It seems familiar, as though it has been in the family for a while and I think I brought it with me when we moved into this house, but it is not very well-used. All of the recipes include a maximum of four ingredients, with the exception of seasoning, although some include suggestions for additions too.

I was intrigued to see, particularly after some of the complex recipes from other months, whether ones with only four ingredients could really compare. The trickiest part was finding recipes that I felt would suffice as a meal, as many were for soups, smoothies and juices. Also, many of the main courses would have needed other side dishes to go with them. I could have made a main and two side dishes and still used less ingredients than some other recipes but I was keen to see if I could make a substantial meal from one recipe.

The first recipe was fettuccine alfredo, and was simply parmesan, cream and butter over fresh pasta. Whilst it didn't win any prizes for colour, or for vegetable content, it was a really lovely dish. I think it was a definite success as the recipe for four people disappeared, with The Husband having a rather large portion of seconds. While I do think it would have benefited from a salad on the side, the simple, classic flavours worked really well.

As I have started to do with the Cookery Calendar Challenge, the second dish was The Husband's choice, and we had a broad bean and pancetta risotto. The ingredients were risotto rice, herb stock, frozen broad beans and smoked pancetta. This included a suggestion to add parmesan shavings, and as I had some leftover from the pasta dish I decided to make it a five ingredient recipe! It was the first time I have used frozen broad beans, having enjoyed cooking with the ones from our vegetable patch last year. We decided to remove the tougher outer shells after cooking them, though I'm not sure that was necessary, and this was a really nice, filling dish. The leftovers made a very hearty lunch portion too, but I was glad to have added the parmesan as I think it made it a slightly richer dish.

Overall, the four-ingredient approach was a success, and I think I may well revisit the book in the future for some simple recipes that are a bit different to what we usually make. The book for June hasn't been chosen yet, so pop back next month to see what I went for. In the meantime do visit Penny's blog (click through the link below) to see how others are getting on with the challenge, and to find out how to join in too!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

word of the week

This week's word is "celebrate". Although work is fairly hectic at the moment the weekend has been a happy one. We have celebrated my close friends 30th birthday with a small gathering on Friday night followed by a surprise party on Saturday. Luckily we managed to get through Friday night without any slip-ups and she was well and truly surprised the following day.

I did a little baking, some lemon and lime cupcakes, to take on the Friday. As my cousin and his family were visiting from London we also saw them for an hour or so on Friday before the party, and happily there were spare cakes to take to my parents' house and share. Although it wasn't any particular occasion, having tea and cake and catching up, especially when we don't see them very often, felt like a celebration too.

Another close friend has had some brilliant news from work, achieving amazing progress despite some tough times in recent months. We popped by today with a bottle of bubbles and a card to congratulate her. Then it was home for a dog walk, where we saw the ducklings above, and a gentle afternoon celebrating the sunshine with an ice cream and a sit in the garden with my parents and grandad. 

The Reading Residence

Project 52: Week 22

Bank Holiday Monday included a wander through the craft and food fair that was held in our local town, luckily right on our doorstep. Amongst the wicker baskets, paintings, and ferret walks (!) there was a falconry display. We didn't get too close as we had Millie with us, but I did manage a few snaps, and this was my favourite.


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

first things first

The first of June.

The first day of summer, I heard on the radio this morning, apparently according to the meteorological calendar. The solstice isn't for a few weeks yet, though. Either way, we had a glorious bank holiday weekend which certainly felt fitting for summer time, and despite the clouds overhead, my walk with Millie tonight proved we are definitely in no jacket required territory now.

Summer is also the season when our first baby is due to arrive. Having first found out in late November, the due date felt so very far away, especially as we spent those first days of knowing curled up in a cottage in the Lake District, surrounded by the floods and storms that hit late last year. Summer seemed so distant, almost untouchable, and yet here we are with just weeks to go. It still feels just out of reach at the moment, not quite real somehow, though the acrobatics that have been happening in my stomach all day are certainly helping it to sink in.

This month also brings our first holiday since the trip we went on for my birthday in February. With all the bank holidays recently it hasn't felt like a particularly long time since our break, but as the weeks go on, and especially with work being busy these last few weeks, I have been increasingly excited at the anticipation of our time away. We are renting a cottage in Gloucestershire and taking Millie for a week of peace, quiet and walks. We've also got tickets for a day at the races, having found out that Stratford racecourse has an enclosure that you can drive onto (a picnic in the car is planned), and that dogs are also welcome. 

The first weekend of June includes celebrations for a wonderful friend's 30th birthday and hopefully a catch-up with my lovely cousin and his family too. There will also be a trip to the hairdresser, I have been doggedly growing out the short crop since February, but while pregnancy is making my hair thicker it doesn't seem to be helping it grow longer. I am at the mullet stage, and had warned the hairdresser that I might get it all chopped off again and undo the months of persistence just to have it feeling something more than a mop on my head, but she did warn me that she wouldn't let me, so we shall see who succeeds!!

I think that is enough firsts for now, as an hour on the sofa with The Husband, Millie and a cup of tea beckons. Hope you all have a lovely June.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

word of the week

The word this week is definitely "out". The lovely socialising of last weekend continued, with a trip to the theatre on Tuesday to watch Daniel Kitson, and a night out watching Bruce Springsteen with The Husband, my parents and my brothers. 

We had also had art class on Monday, so Thursday night was a designated easy night! We still got out, taking Millie for a walk in the sunshine before a quiet night in.The bank holiday weekend has been lovely so far, with a long lunch with friends yesterday, and then a few hours sat in the sunshine this afternoon round at another friend's house.

I've also been out at two maternity appointments this week, a vaccination on Monday and bloods on Wednesday. Monday is officially thirty weeks, so after that, our weekly countdown will be down to single figures. Time seems to be flying by! 

The Reading Residence