Jennie & Andy: Diets and Brows!

jennie&andy‘We’re getting married THIS year!’, is probably the most over-used phrase in our house at the moment. Since the moment the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Eve I have said it to Andy more times that I can count. Now we’re into April, it seems like we’ve suddenly gone from having a wedding ‘next summer’, to having a wedding only a few short months away. The six months to go mark seems to have sailed way past, and now we’ve got less than 150 days until the big day! I’m ridiculously excited, but slightly terrified too!

This turning of the year has got me back into the wedding frame of mind. I slipped out of planning mode for a bit at the end of last year; the big things were booked, it was too soon for the little details, everything seemed so far off. Suddenly though, I’m gripped with a new sense of urgency. There’s lots to do, and lots to do now! I’m back pinteresting like crazy, hunting down the perfect way to decorate a jam jar, attempting to draft wedding invites, and trying to learn how on earth paper pom-poms are made. I’ve started a wedding ‘to do’ list, to try and make sure everything gets done before the big day. It’s a very long list….!

The first thing on my list was tackle the Dreaded Wedding Diet. I know Paris got onto this months ago, so I’m a bit behind, but now we’re well into 2016 is here, it’s time to get wedding dress ready!

The wedding diet had been a bit of a joke, usually only referred to as I was tucking to a massive curry (with all the added extras) or a slice of cake. Now though it seems time to actually do something. I don’t have a particular weight in mind, I’m just hoping for a few less lumps and bumps under my wedding dress.

The first thing I did was tackle a Whole30. The idea is for 30 days you eat ‘clean’. No grains, no dairy, no alcohol, no sugar, no additives. It sounds absolutely horrendous when you see it on paper like that, but in reality it’s not that bad. I did a couple of Whole30s two years ago and lost about a stone and half and felt really good. Weight loss aside, it left me with more energy and better skin. No bad thing in the wedding run up.

The thing I like best about Whole30 is that encourages you to eat. As long as you follow the rules you can eat as much as you like. Hurrah! I’m not good with restrictive diets. I get hungry quickly (Andy’s taken to carrying emergency snacks around with him), and I’m not a nice person when I’m hungry! I would be horrendous to live with on something like the 5:2 diet. Similarly I’m not very good at the ‘a little bit of what you fancy’ rule. When I fancy pizza, I usually fancy the entire pizza.

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The lack of pizza was a bit of a challenge, but otherwise I quite enjoyed the food, and I’m trying to keep the rules up as much as possible now I’ve finished my 30 days. My freezer is chock full of individual portions of soup, vegetable curries and stews cooked up in big batches. I’m eating lots of courgette noodles and cauliflower rice (see above). They’re surprisingly satisfying so I’m not feeling deprived. The hardest bit I found was breakfast; my usual porridge or cereal was swapped for eggs, eggs and even more eggs. I got so sick of them some days I could easily have just skipped breakfast entirely. All those eggs were worth it though, and I finished the plan a stone lighter. Part of that could be due to the be due to the food poisoning we both picked up on our Christmas holiday in India though, so I guess I can’t take all the credit!

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Photo-bombed in India.

Three weeks ago I finally bite the bullet and joined a gym. I’d been putting it off for so long because gyms in Hong Kong are veeeery pricey. The cheaper ones, like one I used to go to, are full of aggressive sales staff, pushing you to sign up to personal training by attacking you with comments about how fat you are, and how you’re doing everything wrong. I struggle to motivate myself to exercise at the best of times, so knowing that I’d have to face that every time would usually be enough of an incentive for me to stay at home. I decided this time it was worth paying a little bit more for somewhere I’d actually enjoy going to, and so far its paying off. My planks and squats might be rather pathetic, but I can feel myself getting stronger already.

The next thing on the list ended up there a little by accident. A few weeks I popped into Benefit for an eyebrow wax. I usually just tackle my brows myself with tweezers, but I had a discount coupon so thought I’d treat myself. I mentioned to the brow technician that I was trying to tidy my eyebrows up a bit because I was getting married in the summer. She let out a gasp. There was panic in her eyes. When in the summer she asked? June? July? When I told her August she actually sighed with relief. That’s fine, she said, that gives me time to sort this out!

Now, I know my eyebrows are a little bit scruffy, but I never realised my eyebrows were that bad. I went through the standard faze of terrible over plucking in my teens (I’d share a picture, but its just too embarrassing!). At one time they were so short and pointing my brother took to calling me ‘Spock’. Another time I started plucking between my eyebrows and went a bit far one way. Tried to even it out but went to far. Tried to even out the other side and so… you get the idea, until I had a less than attractive two-inch gap between my eyebrows. Thankfully those days are long gone and these days I don’t do too much more than a little bit of tweezing. Even this, apparently, is too much. My eyebrows are a point of horror for brow technicians. I left the shop under strict instructions not to touch my brows in any way, and to go back to benefit every month to let the stylist fix me.

So that’s that, the next few months will see my To Do list ticked off with hopefully a slightly slimmer, slightly fuller browed me!

Jennie x

The Mummytime Pop-Up Event

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A few weeks ago, I was very lucky to be invited along to the first ever Mummytime pop-up event that took place at the Carnegie Hall Library in Herne Hill, south London. The brainchild of first time parents, Lucy and Galina, Mummytime was created very much with new  mums in mind, giving them a couple of hours to focus on themselves- whether that be with a back massage or manicure in the pop-up spa, joining in with a discussion group, or, (my nectar) tea and cake- all whilst their little ones are cared for in the on-site creche.

IT SOUNDED RUDDY FANTASTIC.

So off Frank and I trotted one dismal Tuesday morning. Horrendous south-circular traffic aside, we arrived only 20 minutes late, and once I’d got rid of my sodden coat (drenched from the 30 second walk from car to venue), stuffed all my various parenting paraphernalia in to the Babyjogger, sorted Frank out, retrieved my camera and parked up in the buggy park, I was able to take a deep breath and let the me-time begin.

I’d been booked in for a pamper package at 12.30pm, so had a good hour and a half to wander round and see all that was on offer. First stop was the Bundle of Joy stand, which we’d been made aware of prior to the event. A local initiative to the Herne Hill community,  Bundle of Joy is designed to redistribute outgrown children’s clothing to support families in the local area, and although this didn’t apply to me, I was more than happy to help so had come armed with a small bag of good quality clothes that Frank had outgrown.

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Relieved of the extra weight (I had a camera on one shoulder and a 16lb heffalump on the other), Frank and I wandered from stall to stall, chatting to the local artisans who had been invited along by Lucy and Galina to show off their wares. From vintage homeware items and antique jewellery, to posh soaps, textiles sourced from Ethiopia, a garden designer and a cake maker who was raffling off a ‘cupcake bouquet’ later that day, I thought the stalls were unique, interesting and relevant to the local community… if a little out of my pathetic statutory maternity pay affordings. A thoroughly enjoyable half hour was spent none-the-less.

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After all that nattering (and posing of a grumpy Frank in the baby photobooth area), it was time for us both to eat. AYA Cafe had come along to provide an impressive array of sandwiches, cakes, fresh juices and hot drinks, and my chicken, cheese and chutney grilled sandwich on homemade sourdough bread was fantastic, if a little sloppy to eat with Frank on my lap. Step in a fellow mummy called Jo who was sat close by and offered to hold him whilst we compared parenting notes and I very inelegantly stuffed the delicious and dripping concoction down my throat. Thank you Jo. And apologies you had to watch me cover myself in hot chutney.

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Finally it was time for the main event, the part I had most definitely been waiting for… my Chilled Out Chica pamper package. For a £50 ticket there were a selection of pamper packages available (singular treatments were £30) and included entry to the event, use of the on-site creche, and access to the expert talks on nutrition and personal fitness that were taking place throughout the morning- although I didn’t get a chance to partake in these. The Chilled Out Chica consisted of a 25 minute back and shouder massage, and a 25 minute reflexology session- all whilst Frank was having fun (for the best part) courtesy of Harmony at Home who were running the pop-up creche in the room next door.

Now, with the whole event taking place in a library, I wasn’t expecting lush spa surroundings, but the team from Return to Glory had done a pretty good job sectioning off a large and unremarkable library room in to calm and private treatment areas. My therapist, Jacquie, was lovely, and the back massage in particular was brilliant. I got a little distracted through the reflexology session as the wails of my child from the next room gently (and then not so gently) drifted in. He was well overdue a nap, so I found myself thinking things like “I hope they’ve found his dummy in the bag I left with them”, and “I should have told them he likes to be rocked”, as opposed to, “Oh my goodness, what are you doing to my little toe? That feels DIVINE.” Anyway, 10 minutes before the end the wails stopped, and I emerged, bleary-eyed and dodgy-haired, to a quiet Frank conked out in the arms of an (exhausted) creche lady. A success, I’d say!

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It was a very lovely way to spend a morning, and although the location wasn’t brilliant for me personally being based in Kent (the south circular is one of my most hated things in the world), I absolutely love the whole idea behind Mummytime. It is an enormous and exhausting job being the full time parent, and though it seems awfully decadent to spend a morning being pampered, it is something all mums deserve once in a while. And whilst £50 is a lot of money on meagre maternity wages, I think that for two treatments and good quality childcare, it’s actually incredibly good value. Something I’d certainly ‘encourage’ Paul to treat me to anyway…

As the very first event, there are a couple of teeny tiny things I think could be improved to make this excellent venture even better. Perhaps the stalls could be a little more relevant to mothers and babies- a clothes and toys swap for instance? A local sling library? And although Carnegie Hall was beautiful and tranquil (and is unfortunately due to close this month, hence why Lucy and Galina wanted to support it by holding the event there), the toilets/baby changing facilities weren’t ideal with it being an older building.

A calm and relaxing morning with a community feel; I’m pretty sure the ladies of Herne Hill will be looking forward to the next event should it take place in that area again, and I hope that Mummytime is something that will start rolling out across London (and eventually the country!) soon. Having spoken to Lucy and Galina, I know that ticket prices may vary depending on venue/location, but you can sign up here to be the first to hear about the next pop-up event, and if you visit them on their Facebook page, they’re currently running a competition to give away a free ticket to the next event if you tell them where it should take place and share their page!

What do you think? Is this something you’d like to do as a new mum?

Til’ next time you lovely lot…

Sama xx

(On a side note, I know it has been AN AGE since I’ve checked in properly. I’m actually off to Canada tomorrow to introduce Frank to my Mum’s side of the family, but when I’m back I promise a big Frank/life update. Can you believe he’s SIX MONTHS this week?? I can’t. I actually can’t.)

 

 

 

 

 

Paris & Joe: Photos, Food & Invites

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My oh my it has been a busy few months in our household. From engagement photos, food tastings, invite designing, calligraphy classes, Hen Do bombshells and being a bridesmaid it has felt like I have had hardly any time to sit down and write. So I call this my January to March roundup…

From the moment that we got engaged and started taking horrendous selfies to capture our newly-engaged happiness, I knew that I wanted to do an engagement shoot. Generally it takes me a good 10 shots before I look like a normal sane human being in a selfie, and sometimes even then it does not happen (apologies to Joe for the 11 consecutive selfies taken outside the Colloseum in Rome, zero of which feature me with both eyes open, looking at the camera and not appearing to be on the verge of some kind of seizure). I wanted something that looked a bit more natural where we could just do our coupley thang.

So in January we headed over to Ramsgate beach with our lovely photographer Rebecca Douglas. We spent a good hour and a half walking and chatting and doing a few natural poses. It was absolutely painless and we ended up with some really fab pictures – although I am laughing like an idiot in 99.9% of them. Still, an upgrade on the Colloseum shots, eh?

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Beautiful images by Rebecca Douglas Photography

At the end of January we went to a tasting at the Lobster Shack, which was great fun. We were served mini portions of all the starters, mains and desserts, as well as helping ourselves from big bowls of the salads and pastas that come as part of the BBQ, hog roast and buffet options. They had laid out how all the dishes would be presented on the day and served a heap of yummy canapés. My personal low point was pretending not to have already tried the duck and mango filo pastries, twice, in order to have another portion.

The food was completely delicious, particularly the seafood options. Crisp, fluffy batter, homemade mayonnaises, fresh local fish. The highlight of my night was Joe trying a Bloody Mary oyster shot – his first ever oyster and immediately chased down with a good glug of beer. His expression kept me amused all evening.

Prior to the tasting we had pretty much decided on an old school boxed option of fish, lobster, sausage or stuffed pepper ‘n’ chips. Possibly a starter, possibly not. And a HUGE dessert table filled with cakes and donuts. Basically, a mountain of comfort food.  With only 7 months to go until the wedding, there is no longer room for big movement in the budget. Which is where the food dilemma begins. We started to ask ourselves: can we have a BBQ? Will Grandma really want to queue up for a burger? Could we have the boxed option and starters? Do we really like the starters? Could we serve plated fish and chips and not have the lobster as an option? Should we not have canapés? I feel like we came away with more questions than answers!

Eventually we decided on a two course plated option with oyster canapés. The cake and donut dessert table would just have to wait until the evening to make its appearance. My mum was disappointed enough with our lack of starter option that she offered to pay for the upgrade, and we weren’t going to turn down an offer like that! So three courses and oyster canapés it is.

The final week of January brought a Brighton Hen Do for my lovely friend and bridesmaid, Sophie, in which we were taught the Beyonce Single Ladies routine and I discovered my inner Sascha Fierce, strutting around with serious sass… at least in my head. Her wedding two weeks later was just brilliant, featuring ten bridesmaids in floor length black gowns and some seriously chic décor. Did I mention she planned it all in four months?

And finally, for the past three months we have been designing our invites, which have now been sent off to print! Yay! I am so grateful that we were introduced to Sophie’s sister who is a graphic designer and has managed to turn our stationery dreams into reality for a fraction of the prices we had previously been quoted. Unlike our bold and bright save the dates, I have gone for much more neutral colours for the invites, and of course they feature a fitting seaside stripe and our lobster logo. The only thing to do now is decide on the perfect shade of green for the twine or ribbon to tie them together. Having already spent more than an acceptable amount of lunch breaks in the local haberdashery, it may not be as easy as it looks. Teal, turquoise, emerald… too many greens!

In usual Drew-Wooldridge time keeping, I had hoped and failed to get the invites sent out on the 6 month count down. The new mental deadline is the 3rd April but I am not holding my breath. AND YES, WE HAVE PASSED THE 6 MONTH COUNT DOWN! Where has eighteen months of engagement gone?! I hope the last 6 months do not go quite as quickly as I am starting to worry that I could run out of time… does anyone else feel this disorganised??

Paris x

The Frank Diaries: His Bright & Bold Bedroom

What feels like many, many moons ago, when Frank was just a plum in my tum, I started dreaming about his nursery having found out we were having a boy. Having pinned like a demon, I deduced that my ideal baby boy’s room was not very babyish at all. Instead I wanted a room that he could grow in to; a stylish, fun, eclectic space full of colour and pattern. I planned to share the various stages of progress with you, but here we are nearly six months later and I’m skipping straight to the finished product. Meh- who likes the middle stages anyway?

Shall we have a quick reminder of the room when it was essentially just a bland, beige dumping ground?

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But now… Ta-da!

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Now, I’m no interior designer and I’m sure I’ll be adding and tweaking as time goes on, but both Paul and I are thrilled with our (mainly my) efforts. Frank’s pretty indifferent but that’s to be expected.

The first big decision after painting the room white was the triangle feature wall. I knew I wanted a feature wall of some kind, and had considered stars, polka dots and just a simple block of colour, but it was triangles that seemed to fit my brief the most. They’re fun, modern, stylish and just a little bit masculine. And being stickers they’ll peel off easily when Frank decides he wants to cover his walls with Arsenal and car posters instead. Sigh.

I ordered the stickers from Etsy, and Paul and I spent an August afternoon applying them. Paul was just going to ‘supervise’ seeing as this bizarre triangle wall was all my idea, but ended up masterminding the insanely complicated pattern, and doing the majority of the labour seeing as I was 8 months pregnant and had a good excuse. The stickers were easy to put on (and take off when we went completely wrong with the pattern), and we probably had the wall done in about 3 hours.

On the opposite side of the room is the changing corner. I went for the ever-popular Hemnes chest of drawers from Ikea, and this houses all of Frank’s clothes. Next to it is a simple and not so attractive Argos storage unit containing his ‘toiletries’: nappies, wipes, creams, cotton wool etc. And yes, that is a portable cd player you see on top. I’ve gone old school.

The multi-coloured string lights are from Cable & Cotton, and are probably my best purchase of the whole room. Frank can’t get enough of them and we’d often take him up to the changing table when he was going through a particularly miserable phase, just to stop the crying. You can’t see it so well but there’s also a black and white mobile hanging  in front of the mirror. It was a gift from a friend and the spirals and stripes also have Frank squealing with delight. Never has having your bottom wiped been so much fun!

The final ‘zone’ is the reading wall. Once again, the picture shelves are an Ikea favourite (now discontinued), and the bear print is Not On The High Street. The white bench was part of an Ikea dining set and we keep it for when we have more guests than chairs, so to make a bit of a feature of it I sourced some colourful storage boxes for underneath which are currently full of toys, books and, erm, more baby wipes.

What else? I agonised over what rug to go for and ended up with two; a grey sheepskin rug for under the changing table and a pale blue one (featuring more triangles) for the middle of the floor. (I can’t remember for the life of me where it’s from, apologies.) And in terms of artwork I tracked down the Be Happy My Baby print having seen it on a Pinterest image, and both the Lion print and the Amazing Things Will Happen print were gifts from lovely friends.

It is genuinely a really happy, fun room to be in, and no matter how miserable I am when I’m having to change or feed Frank in the middle of the night, I always feel calm and content sitting in there with nothing but the fairy lights on. I am slightly nervous about him being overstimulated when he starts sleeping in there as there is lots to look at… but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

You like??

Sama x

 

 

 

Jennie & Andy: Let There Be Light!

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It’s been a surprisingly productive week in terms of wedmin. After the worrying, dithering and indecision of my last post I seem to have acquired a sudden decisiveness that’s most unlike me. On Tuesday I fell in love with some shoes for my bridesmaids, realized they were in the sale and about to go out of stock, and by Wednesday, after a mad dash around London by my bridesmaid Chantal to find the few remaining pairs, 6 sparkly pairs of heels were purchased. After months of going back and forth over where we’d spend our wedding night, we had a new idea, and had it booked and sorted within the week.

Back home my Mum’s cracking on with the decorations team. She had her group of ‘Stitch and Bitch’ friends over for a bunting sewing day, resulting in an enormous pile of over 500 bunting triangles! The jam jar pile is steadily growing, and we’re almost there with the vintage china collection.

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Ta-da!

The next job on my wedding to-do list is sort out lighting, and gosh there’s a lot of choice out there. I feel like lighting really is one of the big things that maybe we should have thought more about already. Firstly, for practical reasons, we’re going to be outside. The garden gets dark, and we’ve got a marquee with guy ropes. If we don’t get this one right we’ll have guests groping their way to the loos in the dark. We don’t want any disasters. Blood and wedding dresses don’t seem like a great combination… Secondly, for the more exciting reason, I love lighting. When I first started scrolling through Pinterest for wedding inspiration, some of the images I was drawn to straight away were off beautiful lighting displays, bare bulbs hanging in clusters over tables, tea light jam jars hung from trees, walls of fairy lighting twinkling into the night. I love the warmth and the atmosphere the right lighting creates.

As much as my decisions will be driven by what’s pretty, I’m trying very hard to keep in mind that whatever lighting we string up around the garden is going to have to be connected to a power source. That means we need to hire generators. I, like I’m guessing the majority of brides in my situation, don’t have the first clue about hiring generators!  Apparently you can also wire up strings of fairy lights to much more discrete car batteries, so I think planning that is a job that’s getting handed straight over to Andy or to my brother. Both far more technically minded than me! Any tips, hints or general ideas on this one are very much welcome!

Our marquee comes with a standard lighting package, which means simple up or down lighters from the main poles. Other than that we don’t have anything so far. Everything else we’ll have to add in, so now we come to the fun part – lighting inspiration! This is what I’ve thought of so far.

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Fairy Lights

First up, the classic – fairy lights. If I had my way, there would be fairy lights all over the house, all year round. As it is, Andy won’t allow much more than a string around the headboard of the bed. I’m thinking fairy lights are a must for around the poles of the marquee. They’d also be pretty wrapped around some of the trees in the garden to make everything glow once it gets dark.

Festoon Lighting

Ah festoon lighting, my newest love. There’s something really quite romantic about festoon lighting. I’ve seen pictures of the tent we’re having covered in festoon lighting and it looks absolutely stunning. I think there’s going to have to be some kind of lighting feature wall made out of either fairy lights or festoon lighting.

Lanterns

I’m a little bit in love with lanterns (can you guess a theme to this post!? ). Here in Hong Kong, we’ve just celebrated Mid-Autumn festival, which is a festival of lanterns. On mid-autumn night, children take their lanterns out onto the beach or into the park to gaze at the moon. It’s a hopelessly romantic festival, with the only light coming from hundreds of coloured paper lanterns. I would love to bring some lanterns into the day. I’m thinking of unlit ones perhaps hanging in the roof of the marquee, and maybe some lit with candles deeper into the garden.

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Candles

A Pinterest obsession of mine at the moment is candles; Candles in jam jars hung from trees, candles in paper bags lining pathways; Tall white pillar candles on tables; the list goes on!

Disco Lighting

As we’re (probably) not having a DJ or a band, this is another area that won’t just sort itself out. Do we want any sort of disco lighting? I’m not really sure. On the one hand, strings of festoon lighting are much prettier than swirling techno colours all over the ceiling, but then on the other hand, is it really a party without them? If we do decide we want them, then where on earth do we go to hire them? It’s not the sort of thing stocked in the pretty vintage hire companies we’ve used so far!

Fire Pits

I’m not sure this really falls under the category of lighting exactly, but I would love a fire pit. I’ve got visions of cozy blankets for the evening, a roaring fire and plenty of toasted marshmallows.

So that’s it, lighting ideas so far. It’s all so pretty I have absolutely no idea how to choose. Would it be over kill to just have it all!?

Jennie x

The Frank Diaries: Surviving the Newborn Stage

Hello you ruddy marvellous lot. Happy 2016 and and all that. We had the most un-celebratory New Years Eve on record I think. Homemade pizzas (one of which we forgot about and completely decimated), the last episode of the Agatha Christie that was on over Christmas, and the London fireworks on our phones whilst in bed. Watching the clock on Big Ben count down from 60, whilst simultaneously hearing the fireworks from 11 miles away due to the time delay, was a slight anti-climax though. I won’t lie.

Christmas was equally as low key but very pleasant indeed as we travelled round various parts of London and Kent visiting our four families. Other than dressing him in the obligatory Santa outfit, we didn’t make a huge fuss about it being Frank’s First Christmas™. Paul and I didn’t even bother getting him a present (shock horror!), although he did get some lovely bits from doting grandparents, aunts and uncles. And I enjoyed copious amounts of cheese, chocolate and alcohol. As I said, low-key but satisfyingly pleasant.

To accompany this blog post I thought I’d share some pictures that were taken at my Mum’s house over Christmas by my brother in law. He is by no means a professional photographer, but likes to sit and quietly click away on his fancy Dan camera. I love seeing the day from a reportage point of view, and as most of my photos of Frank are iPhone selfies enhanced by a clever Instagram filter, it’s truly lovely to now have some more natural images of him (and my gorgeous nephew, Eithan) that capture the ‘every day’. So thank you very much, Colin:)

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But anyway, this post isn’t about Christmas or the New Year. It’s about survival. Frank turned three months last week, which means as we enter 2016 I no longer have a newborn baby. My mind is boggled. In many, many ways it is a huge relief to be in the ‘infant’ stage. He’s still very young and vulnerable, but now that he sees so much more and his synapses have gone in to overdrive, his personality is really starting to emerge and he’s just so much more enjoyable. He’s also chubbed out big and is cultivating quite the double chin, which is super cute.

Frank was not an easy newborn. I don’t think I had unrealistic expectations, but he did (and still does, to be honest) cry an awful lot. See, there are babies who whinge when they want something and whimper when they’re unhappy, but are generally happy to gurgle and look around in blissful unawareness. But then there are babies who fly in to inconsolable rage at any given moment, turning purple in the process, causing the cat to fly out the cat flap in fear of his life, and stopping only to eat, sleep or poo. Frank was most definitely the latter.

In the depths of the night feeding sessions I would more often than not find myself asking the internet a desperate question. Why does my baby cry so much? How do I get my 4 week old to sleep for longer? Does my baby have reflux? What is colic? Baby forums became my sanctuary, and I’d scour the posts looking for other new mums who had asked the same questions, eagerly reading the answers and words of advice from those who had been there, done that.

But the problem with babies is that they are extremely changeable and totally unreliable. What seems to work one day might not work the next, and what might work for one baby may have the complete opposite effect on another. So it’s all trial and error, this baby rearing lark. However, three months in I’m pretty sure I know what my baby likes and doesn’t like now. We have a bit of a routine going. I’m down with the kid.

Here’s what works for us:

Baby wearing

Whilst pregnant I knew that I wanted some sort of sling. The hippy in me wanted a wrap as opposed to a structured carrier so I bid for an Ergobaby Wrap on eBay and had fun practising the basic wrap for newborns before he arrived. At three days old and with Paul instructing me via a YouTube tutorial, we somehow managed to get Frank in snugly and I felt like some sort of Earth Mother Goddess. It soon became clear, however, that when I most needed the sling (i.e. when Frank was massively overtired and screaming inconsolably), the Ergobaby just wasn’t going to cut it. Too time-consuming and complicated to get on. Some quick research and a call-out on a baby forum later and I had a NCT Close Caboo winging its way to me which is SO much better. In the early weeks Frank would usually nap in this once a day when I would potter around making lunch, tidying up etc. I wouldn’t say he particularly loved or loves the sling. He nearly always protests as I put him in and will generally take 5-10 minutes of frantic jiggling and shushing to settle him, but there’s no denying the sling is a great tool in the early weeks for a baby who just wants to be close to you.

Swaddling

In the first month I put out a couple of desperate, baby-related pleas on Facebook and got a multitude of helpful messages from my mummy friends. SEVERAL people suggested swaddling but I have to admit I was really reluctant in the early weeks, and I’m not too sure why. I think I thought he wouldn’t like it. Eventually I gave in and it changed everything regarding Frank’s sleep. He had a pretty severe startle reflex and having his arms bound to his sides improved his sleep enormously. I started with a Gro-Snug which worked well initially but kept riding up around his face in the middle of the night, and am now on Swaddle Me blankets. I use them for every sleep, day and night. In fact, I rely on swaddling so much now that I am quite scared he won’t settle properly once he starts to roll over and we can no longer swaddle! But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…

Dummies

Ok, hands up who said whilst pregnant that they wouldn’t be giving their babies a dummy? I know I did. I’m not even sure why these little plastic wonders are frowned upon by many, but what I do know is that I’d bought a pack of two ‘just in case’ prior to Frank being born, and had effectively shoved one in his mouth within the first few days.

Nowadays his dummy is used as a sleep aid and I intend for it to stay that way. When he’s swaddled and on my shoulder, he’ll often start sucking on my jumper. In goes a dummy and he falls asleep fairly quickly, spitting it out just as he starts to fall in to a deep sleep.

White noise

Apparently it’s bloody noisy in the womb, so many babies are calmed by white noise. I use an app on my phone called Sleepy Sounds and Frank LOVES it. There are lots of different sounds on there but it’s the hairdryer he really responds to, calming in an instant if he’s hysterical, and sending him to sleep when it’s bedtime. I do have my concerns as it needs to be pretty loud to have any effect, and as it’s on my phone I don’t like having it too close to his head. But again, this is a big part of our sleep routine and something Frank struggles to settle without.

Rocking

Paul takes the mick out of me for calling Frank a ‘motion baby’ but he really is. Whether he’s rocked, bobbed, swayed or swung, Frank likes to move. However, I can already feel this constant motion already taking effect on my back and knees, and it’s only going to get worse as he gets bigger, which leads me to…

…The Swing Chair

A few weeks ago his napping was driving me absolutely mad, as he would wake- without fail- 30 minutes after going down. Every time. I’ve read a lot about it and realise now that it happens as he is coming out of his light REM sleep cycle. Whereas he should slip in to a deeper sleep at this point, the transition wakes him up and he can’t re-settle. You can’t get anything done in 30 minutes, and with me needing to get back in to Utterly Wow mode this month, I desperately needed a solution. The internet told me a swing chair would be my saviour, so we asked for one as an early Christmas present from his Nanny and Grandad, and I think I actually wept tears of joy the first time he napped in it and I had to wake him 2.5 hours later.

A few weeks in and it doesn’t work every time, but as I type he’s upstairs gently swinging away, having been down for 1 hour 4o and counting. The swing chair may be huge, cumbersome and ghastly to look at, but boy it delivers.

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So there we go. These are the tools that settle my demanding diva and have got me through the newborn stage. The ‘routine’ is quite extensive, and many a time I lament the fact that I have to do all these things to get Frank to sleep when other people seem to simply lie their angels down and walk away, but needs must. Some might say I’m ‘making a rod for my own back’ (possibly the most over-used sentence on baby forums), but I’m confident these are all just temporary solutions. As it happens, I’m pretty much following the method of American paediatrician, Harvey Karp who wrote The Happiest Baby On The BlockHis method is all about the 5 S’s: Swaddling (yep), Side or Stomach position (Frank goes to sleep on my shoulder or in my arms on his side), Shush (white noise), Swing (hell yes), and Suck (pass me that pacifier). And he’s a Doctor, so he must be right.

Right?

Sama xx

Paris & Joe: The One With The Wedding Dresses

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So I left my dress hunt having just had a wonderful, despite the bead-crushing, experience at Teokath in Canterbury. I knew the dress would be Jenny Packham but I didn’t want to go back to Teokath as I had my beady eye on a gorgeous number spotted on Pinterest, which I now knew they did not stock.

Unfortunately, it turns out the gown I was lusting after was actually a 2013 collection dress and I couldn’t find a boutique that stocked it, although I must point out that my “search” consisted of looking through each boutique’s online catalogue and you can take a guess at the accuracy of that. Eventually, out of sheer desperation, I emailed Pantiles Bride in Tunbridge Wells, a stockist of JP. Did they have the dress I was looking for? No. Could they borrow it? Yes!

And that was how the next phase of the dress hunt began, trekking up to Tunbridge Wells with my mum, maid of honour and sister on a Jenny Packham Designer Day, which not only meant heaps more Jenny Packham gowns than I could ever imagine but also a 10% discount if I ordered there and then. Imagine my disappointment when I arrived and found the one I wanted desperately to try had not arrived… Well actually I wasn’t that disappointed. It might have been the brightness of 30 glittering JP gowns, some I had never even seen, but I put the disappointment to the back of my mind and we got on with some serious dress trying.

Pantiles Bride is a genuinely stunning boutique, it’s all cream plush carpets, big thick drapes and you pad around in your socks. Fizz on arrival and (given that it was a rather cold day in April) the heating was on so I was lovely and toasty whilst hanging around in my beige granny pants. The thing I love most about Pantiles Bride, though, is Alex the bridal consultant who manages to inject a bit of humour and fun into what could be a really gushy serious affair. Don’t get me wrong I want the fluff that comes with buying my wedding dress, but I also don’t want someone who tells me I’m embracing all my bridal beauty when I clearly look like utter rubbish.

After much strutting and fizz guzzling we had managed to whittle the dresses down to two: Esme and Eden. Now these two are seriously stunning dresses and you only have to search “Jenny Packham” on Pinterest to catch a glimpse of the beaded beauties. But for some reason I just could not commit. I couldn’t pinpoint anything in particular but in hindsight I think I just didn’t feel a pull towards either of the dresses. Yes, they were lovely but I wanted to change little details and neither seemed like my perfect dress. We headed home on a promise to return at the end of the year, closer to the wedding when I might feel a bit more decisive and with an added bonus of Christmas shopping in Tunbridge Wells.

But it was not to be. I received an email from Alex in August to say that if I wanted the Esme dress I would need to place my order by the end of September as she was sadly being discontinued. All of a sudden the pressure was on. I began having Esme-related dreams and I knew I needed to go back and try it one more time, just to be sure.

So off we trotted on a sunny Thursday mid-September. By this point I was quite pleased having lost a stone since my last visit (I had also convinced myself that this was why I couldn’t make a decision) and the wedding was now less than a year away. Alex had told me that this time, the Jenny Packham I had wanted to try last visit would be in the shop. No pressure.

We arrived 10 minutes late, courtesy of Southeastern Trains, and at exactly the same time as my mystery dress. Alex had been hiding downstairs fearing my wrath at potentially a second disappointment of the dress not arriving. She took it out of its FedEx box in front of us and instantly I was in love. And luckily for me I loved it even more when I put it on! My mum had originally been rooting for Esme and my best friend’s vote was with Eden, but they both agreed that this was the best dress for me. Decision made, I couldn’t believe how easy that had been!

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Post dress purchase celebrations!

We dabbled with ordering it in Champagne, the colour that I tried it on in, but in the end my mum was quite set on Ivory and I didn’t care enough about having it in Champagne to dash her dreams of a blushing bride in white. I recently received a swatch of the material in the post and am super happy that I didn’t go for Champagne so I guess mum did know best.

I am now the most recent convert to believing in “when you try on the one, you’ll know”, having thought it was a complete load of rubbish before. Now I am just disappointed that I will only get to wear it for one day – I might have to organise an annual Friends-style gathering to stop the dresses gathering mothballs, or is that a bit strange??

Paris x