11 years ago my life changed forever. I not only moved to Manchester, started uni, and began a new chapter of my life, but more importantly I met my best friend. Miss Katy G stood next to me in the queue to collect our accommodation keys. If I remember correctly, we were both with our Mums and we began gabbing away. We parted ways to go find our new rooms only to meet again ten minutes later as we both pulled up outside the same building and our rooms were practically opposite each other.
I had moved in to a house with nine other girls, but it was Katy that I clicked with instantly. Once we started chatting, we discovered we lived just 20 minutes from each other. Katy had gone to the same college as my sister and even sat next to her boyfriend in one of her classes. Small world! We became inseparable at Uni, living together for the entire duration, never missing a night out together and even working together. But when the time came to graduate, our lives lead us down different paths. Katy stayed up north in Manchester and bought a house with her then boyfriend, whilst I moved down South to start my career in the Big Smoke.
Eight years later and our lives are still on completely different paths, yet we still remain the best of friends. After partying my way through my twenties, I am now settled in London, living with my Fiance and our Baby Boy in our family home, attempting to juggle motherhood with my career in advertising. Katy settled down for a few years, but in 2012 she made a life-changing decision to go jet-setting around the world. She has since travelled around Asia, moved to France for 18 months, learnt the language, bagged a new French boyfriend, and both can currently be found somewhere in South America. Who knows where she will end up next (hopefully within visiting distance).
We may be miles apart, but the one thing I do know is that no matter where in the world we are, when we get together to catch up (even if that means having a cuppa together via skype) it’s like no time has passed and we spoke just yesterday. A chat with Katy is like therapy for me, she is always honest, she always knows what to say, and never fails to make me laugh! Together we’ve been through heartbreaks and holidays, house moving and house buying we’ve been there for each other through the career bumps and the career triumphs (me with a recent promotion and Katy writing her first book!) and now, even a Baby.
I was lucky enough to get a fresh dose of ‘Friend Therapy’ recently when Katy and Greggers (the French beau) stopped over with us for a few days before they jetted off to Rio. With all the change in my life recently – going back to work, introducing Harry to nursery, turning a year older – it was the perfect timing for some much needed ‘Friend Therapy’. I needed a good old chinwag, and having Katy around for the whole weekend really did the trick. We didn’t do any overly exciting (well except for meeting Katy’s book mentor!!), just stayed in, drank lots of tea and lots of wine and played with Harry, just normal things best friends do.
Roll on the next 11 years of Katy and Jen’s adventures!!
(To follow Katy on her South American adventures, follow her blog NotWedordead)
So I have been awful at keeping my blog updated, my little sister would not be happy that I have not blogged for 6 weeks!!! In my defence I started back a work full-time in September, and have been trying to get Harry in a new routine of going to his Nanna’s and starting Nursery. Plus we had 8 family birthdays in September, including mine, so big party month!
Trying to find time to write over the past few weeks has been really hard, I have started a new role at work, and really struggled with being away from Harry four days a week, and we have had birthday celebrations most weekends. Once I lost the momentum a little, I got a bit scared of what I could write about. Guess i stuck my head in the sand.
After a month of chaos, I am ready to start the next chapter of life as a working full-time mum. I am settled in to work (in a new job), Harry is getting settled, and my sister has kindly taken Harry for a walk, so I can get cracking on some new posts, here goes…..
So my biggest social media weakness is probably Instagram. I can’t help myself, I love looking at other peoples pictures, and I can’t resist sharing photos of my adorable little man (follow me and Harry here), but I didn’t realise how beneficial Instagram could be.
I’m sick of trawling high street shops and online sites for something different and new, only to end up in the same outfit as everyone else. I keep seeing the same styles everywhere, and I’m so over worrying that I’ll find myself in the same dress or the same top as someone else at the office? Anyone else having this problem?
Fortunately, my social media vice has saved the day. Instagram is not only great for style inspiration, but I have found it is a great platform for brands. And I’m not talking about your go-to high-street brands, I’m talking about fabulous fresh designers. I recently came across a few brands that I had never heard of before; all reasonably priced, all different styles, and all a welcomed change from my usual Topshop or River Island hauls. I was delighted! And all thanks to Instagram.
So is Instagram the new window shopping? If it is, then no more afternoons being pushed and shoved in Westfield’s, you’ll find me curled up on my sofa scrolling my way through beautiful dresses, cute skirts and to-die-for shoes. Here are a few of my fave brands whom I recently started following
I actually came across one of their dresses on Danielle Lloyd, I loved it and thought it would be way out my price range. When I visited the site I was pleasantly surprise and I loved the whole collection. Dresses range from £75 – £100 and are very much neutral colour, symmetrical and simple.Here are some of my favourite pieces
I think someone regrammed their accessories, and a dress or two, and they really grabbed my attention. I started following them on Instagram and it never crossed my mind to actually look at their site. I adore the simplicity and neutral colours with the odd bit of print and pattern thrown in. I particularly like the print dresses. These clothes are ideal for a day in the office, slip on a pair of heels and drinks in the city. Again modest prices, a dress is between £40-£60. I particularly like the Oxblood Red and Monochrome looks.
Lavish Alice also have a promotion on with Now Magazine. Receive 25% discount on all full priced items, all you need to do is sign-up and use the promo code NOW25 at the check-out.
I actually came across this designer via an old school friend tweeting about her wedding outfit. Kirsty Doyle is a fellow scouser, and her style is very similar to Victoria Beckham’s, but with a more affordable price-tag. A couple of her items are a little on the pricey side for me, but out of all the new sites I have found her designs are by far the most interesting! Plus I don’t mind spending a little extra to support a fellow scousers. Kirsty also designers and makes great bridesmaids dresses, and i think i have already spotted the one I want for my lovely maids of honour. Below are some of my favourite pieces!
There are plenty more out there, you just need to have a good search. A couple of others I also recommend are @Kandeeshoes have fabulous shoes and bags, their instagram is better than their site, and @Baublebar do great accessories.
I would love to hear of any other brands / designers that people have found that I can add to my window shopping list.
So I promised I would update on my fitness progress after my June update. So here I am!
A new baby can be so consuming, and it is easy to forget the relationship you had before they came along. We try our best to get time together, either a day out, or going for a meal, but it can be quite hard when you don’t have a long list of babysitters to call on.
Rich was given tickets for the Red Bull Air Race at Ascot Racecourse. We were invited as ‘Friends of Red Bull’ (FORBS), which included complimentary food and drink all day, the best view of the race course, and all day entertainment. We packed Harry off to his Grandad’s for the weekend, and managed to squeeze in a visit to the cinema on the friday, two lie-ins, and our day out to the air race.
Red Bull, as usual put on a good show. The whole set-up was vintage / retro themed, with all the staff dressed up, the interior of the FORBS section was fantastic, the cocktails flowed (all Red Bull based of course), the food was never ending and we had a front row seat to the air race.
The whole day was great from start to finish, to relax with a morning cuppa in bed, take my time to wash and style my hair, do my make-up and have breakfast together. The day at Ascot was such a treat, and we managed to talk about a lot more than just Harry. We finished the day off with a visit to the local Chinese, just like old times. However I do think I had a little too much Red Bull, as the insomnia kicked in soon as I leapt in my bed.
After a whole weekend without my baby, on Sunday I was like a kid waiting for father christmas, I sat looking out the window, waiting for him to come back! I was so excited to have him back in my arms. I thought him going away would get easier, but I think it is getting worse!
“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” —Sophia Loren
Lots of people who have had children are so excited when you’re pregnant (Which I now understand, as I have pregnant friends, I am bursting with excitement for them), however no one ever tells you how hard the first weeks of having a baby really is. In prep for this post, I decided to speak with a few friends who have all recently given birth, and find out what they thought were the hardest things.
I had a natural birth, and felt fortunate to only needed gas and air, and came through it with one or two stitches, some cuts and bruises. It was only the next day that the adrenaline started to disappear, the painkillers wore off, and the tiredness kicked in. My whole body started to ache, it hit me like a brick wall. I had pushed a baby out after being awake for over 36 hours, barely eating for 24 of that, and not had any solid sleep since Harry arrived. I just hadn’t expected to be in so much pain, you think you do the hard bit by giving birth, but oh no, there is more. I just kept taking the painkillers, and telling myself that in a week or so I would be healed, and i would be fine…but then came breast-feeding!
One of my biggest challenges, and I am sure many will agree was breast-feeding. I tried, it was hard, very painful, I got mastitus (breastfeeding infection), but I worked through it, and fed Harry for 16 weeks, but I did have cracked nippled for at least 8 weeks, and no one can explain how painful they are. However I do know many people who have wanted to stop, and were told by their health visitors not too, that it wasn’t healthy for their baby to be fed formula “breast was best” apparently.The pressure for women to breastfeed is completely unnecessary, I believe it should be up to the mother if they decide to breast-feed and their decision when to stop.
I recall a moment when Harry was about 2 weeks old, it was 2am, and I was up feeding him. I had gotten about half hours sleep. I was so tired I could barely hold my head up, and I remember thinking “I am never going to sleep properly again”, I felt overwhelmed by my emotions, so happy to be feeding my baby, but so desperate to sleep longer than an hour. It only dawns on you once your baby has arrived, that you may not get uninterrupted sleep again and you will never have a day off from being a mum….’weekend’ for mums don’t exist.
I was warned a little about this by a one or two friends, they told me “five days in and you will cry, ALOT, for no reason”. Yes this happened, I would just burst in to tears, for no reason. I think everything kicks in, the sleep deprivation, the breast-feeding struggles (buckets of tears over this), the enormity of the challenge you have taken on, the post-birth pain, no wonder your body doesn’t have a clue what to do. The crying did ease for me after about two weeks, and most of the time i cried, i would have no idea why, but knew it had to be my hormones as i certainly wasn’t sad.
A few of my friends mentioned in their responses how they struggled once their partners had gone back to work, and were alone with their baby most of the working week. One of my friends (who must be wonderwoman), had twins, and her husband worked away during the week, and that not only did she miss the support, but it was difficult for her partner to bond with their children. Luckily she had her family close by for solid support, and her partner has managed to changed jobs, so he is back living with his family.
What I really struggled with, was the fact our relationship was no longer just us, and we couldn’t watch TV together in the evenings, go see a film etc, we had a third person, who seemed to be hogging all the couple time. I started to miss my boyfriend, even though we lived together, slept in the same bed, I missed having a conversation and staying up to watch tv with him in the evenings, but I was so tired, I would have to get some sleep before Harry woke again.
There are so many more that I want to write about in this post, but it is already getting far too long.
Even after all of the above and more, nothing can compare to the incredible love and affection you feel for your baby, and at least you can feel much more prepared for baby no.2.
Huge thank-you too Julia, Jane, Keri and Kate for your help!
p.s. I love this quote!
“It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it.” —Dorothy on The Golden Girls
A lot of people, admittedly me being one of those prior to having my own baby, thought mums who stayed at home had loads of time on their hands. How wrong was I!
I am sure all mums would agree, taking care of a baby 24/7 is a lot harder than it seems, and one thing you never catch, is a break. What I mean by a break is your little one being the responsibility of someone else, be that your partner, a family member, so that you can relax, and know they aren’t going to wake-up just as you sit-down.
Yes the baby will go down for naps, sometimes a few times a day, so why don’t you get a break whilst they’re napping? Perhaps because you always find a million and one things to do round the house. There are always bottles to wash and sterilise, if you’re weaning, there is pureeing and cooking to do, cleaning the house, which seems to get messier now your on maternity leave as you are there all day! If like me, my hair started dropping out 4 months after giving birth, i was hoovering and sweeping everyday. You now have twice the amount of washing and ironing…. the list is endless.
Yes there are the nice things you get to do, like coffee with other mums, shopping, walks in the park, but you’re not relaxing, as you still thinking about the next item on the schedule, well when will the little one need a feed, and do I need to change his nappy, do I want him to fall asleep in the pram or in the car…it is mentally draining.
I have come to realise (only taken me 7 months), that mums need time off too, the same as other people do from their jobs. Sometimes just an hour away from the house, away from other responsibilities, a couple of drinks with a friend, go for a swim, pop round your mums for a cuppa. These are such simple things, that can be overlooked, and I confess I took having ‘me-time’ for granted before having Harry.
I’ve found my blog has been a great escapism. For example today – Saturday, I have been with Harry all week, and unfortunately my partner had a super busy schedule, and so he has been away most of the week. I think this really took its toll on me, being responsible for Harry all week, alone, especially after a 10 day holiday and having support on a daily basis. So today I have been in a funny mood, I had a lie-in which was great and I woke up feeling positive and ready for the day, but as the day progressed, and Harry decided not to have his nap, I’ve become anxious, and snappy, unfortunately taking it out on my partner. Both my baby and his daddy have now gone for a nap, and I have been able to just chill-out (opting to do no cleaning, no cooking, no washing), just me, my blog, and I am about to treat myself to a fresh juice! I feel so much better for just having this past hour, to collect and download my thoughts.
Don’t misinterpret this for me being ungrateful, I love my baby more than anything in the world, but I need to be Jen as well as mummy.
I am going to try and make sure each weekend, I take myself out for a coffee, get my nails done or see some friends, letting the boys have some ‘father and son’ time, and allowing me to have a bit of time to be Jen and not mummy or wife (to be).
It would be great to hear anyones thoughts on how they relax, or have created their own time away from being a mum?
It took us a long time to find a cottage / Gite to stay in. We had a huge list of things we wanted but the main things were a pool or close to a beach so we could take Harry swimming, a garden for us to spend our evenings in, and close to a bar, bakery or shop so we could walk each morning to get breakfast, and possibly somewhere for a drink in the evening.
I soon realised we were asking a lot for our small budget, so we eliminated the pool, and focused on having a garden and preferably not being to far from basic amenities Neither of us had really been to anywhere in France since we were children, with the exception of Paris, so trying to narrow even Brittany down to a good location was really difficult.
I ended up contacting the owner of a few gites, with questions about the local area, distances to shops etc, and also asked Katy and greggers for some recommendations. They said St-Malo was really pretty and lots to do, so this tipped our choice to our little Gite in Roz sur Couesnon.
I booked it via homeaway.com, it was two bedroomed with a garden, and was close to a couple of beaches and 30 mins from St Malo! Perfect.
When we arrived, we were really surprised with our Gite, it was much larger than the pictures showed. We LOVED it. The owners welcomed us, they didn’t speak much English so it was a brief show around. They left us with a lovely bottle of local cider and biscuits. I was totally taken back by how much history was on the walls in the garden, and that they trusted people with such treasures.
There was an open sitting / dining room. All the furniture was old, but so comfy, covered in thick throws and loads of cushions. It had the biggest open fire I have ever seen, and was surrounded by amazing collectables and antiques. The walls were covered in so many historic pieces, all with a fire or nautical theme.
The kitchen was modern, but again, with lots of wall features. They had all the essentials kettle, coffee maker (we got used to having fresh coffee every morning at Sylvies), microwave, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer (always handy when traveling with a sick baby). They provided the basics for staying, coffee, sugar, oils, herbs etc.
The garden, which was much larger than we imagined, had a big table, could easily fit 6 or more around it. The garden was so pretty, and the nautical theme was carried through, with fishing netting, lights, shells, baskets, it was amazing. They had a herb garden, which the owners gave us permission to use, a sweet little BBQ, and a shed full of games, badminton, hula hoops, football, it was fantastic. Plus it was enclosed so if you do have young children or pets running around, they are safe. The garden was also surrounded by farm land, to one side we had 2 sheep, and another 2 beautiful horses.
I imagine the cottage originally only had one level up, and the owners have created a second floor to create more bedroom space. The first floor had a large master bedroom, bathroom and separate toilet. The second floor had an open staircase up to it (no doorway), and contained 3 single beds. Its really catered for a family. The second floor was very spacious and airy, it felt huge. I think if they had closed this off with a wall and door it would of taken all that away.
Overall the space was a perfect size for us, Harry had the top floor all to himself, and we were able to have our own room. We really chilled out here, and spent each evenings having BBQs, and chatting, drinking, and playing some of the games. The only issue was not having a bath for Harry and he really didn’t like taking showers.
The gite is attached to another gite that sleep 4, there is an internal door, which i assume lets bigger parties stay, this would be ideal if you decided to go with family or friends, then you could just share the garden and kitchen etc.
The owners came to see us off on the final morning. unfortunately we had an accident and spilt red wine on their white curtains!! They were super about it, and we offered them Euros to cover the cost, which they accepted.
I would without a doubt book this again!! (if they’ll have us back).
They charge around £435 / 550 Euro for the week, we obviously paid less, as we only stayed for 4 nights, but this is a bargain compared to some others we looked at.
I will be the first to admit I am a sun worshiper, 99% of my holidays have been about sitting in the sun, reading a book with a glass of vino, working on my tan. I would possibly dedicate one day to either shopping or sightseeing…if the weather was bad. Well I can kiss those holidays goodbye for the next 10 years….at least!!
We decided for our first holiday with Harry we would drive to France. Contemplating having to get all of Harry’s stuff on a plane made me want to cry , whereas driving we could shove it all in the car, stop when we wanted, and do everything at our own pace.
We opted for Normandy / Brittany as the drive wasn’t to long, and my best friend lives in Normandy so we were able to stay with her for a few days for a real French experience. We had 5 days in Fecamp, a small coastal town about 2 hours south of Calais. We stayed in a typical French home, ate fresh croissants each morning, and stuffed ourselves with bread, cheese, meats and wine for lunch. Sylvie (whose house we stayed in, and she spoke very very little English) was an excellent cook and made us a homemade cheese tart, it was divine, and I think rich will definitely be trying it at home.
We spent our days relaxing, and catching up on some sleep, visiting an old Mill recently bought by Katy’s family, checking out the local markets, also we had a day trip to Rouen and a walk through Fecamp and along the promenade.
Rouen’s famous gold clock / our trip to the mill / Rouens beautiful architecture /date night!
Each evening we did something different, we attended a French birthday BBQ, where we were taught how to lasou, had meat fondue (not sure it was my cuppa tea, but glad I tried it), went to a steak restaurant where the meat was cooked in front of you on an open fire (this tasted AMAZING), had another BBQ, and our final night we ate so much at lunch we couldn’t face another meal, so had a lovely date night whilst Katy babysat Harry, and we went for a few drinks.
We decided to take the scenic route to our next stop in Roz sur Couesnon, until we saw it was a 7.5 hour drive. So we took the motorway to Caen (our half way point), and then took the scenic route, admiring lots of tiny French villages along the way. We had rented a cottage for 3 days / 4 nights, based in between Mont St-Michel and St-Malo. We spent a day at each of these locations, and then a day in the cottage when we had the best weather (make sure to read my blog post about the cottage we rented, it was wonderful and a reasonable price). We’d not had the best luck with the weather so far, but on our last day we had glorious sun, and were able to get the paddling pool out for Harry, and being typical Brits, soon as he was down for a nap, we were out trying to catch what we could of the sun, so at least we come back looking a little healthier.
All-in-all we had a great time, but I must admit going on a holiday with a small baby was much harder than I thought despite packing our car so it was bursting with all his stuff. Harry really missed his jumperoo, and I think just having playtime, as a lot of time was spent out and about so he was either in his buggy, his car seat or the sling.
I guess it also didn’t help that Harry had a stomach bug for the first week and projectile vomited multiple times over Sylvie’s sofa, which I might add is black. It rained for our first two days, Harry screamed for 2 hours on date night, so we nearly never made it out, and to finish it off, we spilt red wine down the cottage’s white curtains on our last night, and the owners didn’t speak English so trying to express how deeply sorry we were was very hard.
Would I do it all again? YES! Spending a week with my boys and a few days with my best friend was totally worth the hard work.
Despite our child being ill, and vomiting everywhere I would like to thank Katy, Greggers, Sylvie and Katy’s family for making us feel soooo welcome! We had a great time and a true French experience.
When allabouttink tagged me in this, my response was “but I don’t travel, what do I have to write about”, but then she kindly pointed out, so far this year I have been to Paris, Cornwall, and tomorrow I will be driving to and around France for 10 days! I stand corrected.
I guess as I haven’t done the typical ‘traveller’ journey to Asia, Thailand and Australia, I didn’t think I could answer the questions. I was wrong, I have been lucky to travel a lot from a young age, so here my answers….
1. You most treasured passport stamp?
Without a doubt New York, this is my dream destination, and I was lucky to be taken by my mum when I was 18. I haven’t been that many places that actually stamp your passport, but i think this will remain my most treasured.
2. Can you recite your passport # from memory?
Nope, ask me to recite my bank card, I think those numbers are ingrained in my brain…perhaps too much online shopping.
3. Preferred method of travel: Planes/Trains/Automobiles?
I have always been great with planes, but now having a baby I think automobile it is! Plus this way, we get to take the scenic route, and stop off at the cool secret places on the way!
4. Top three travel items?
Firstly my phone, I know this is a bit geeky, but combined in this one item is my banking, a camera, a phone, a notebook, my kindle, my boarding passes, currency convertors, translators, the list is endless, second my passport, as this is essentially my ticket to the rest of the world, and finally some cash. I am the worst for carrying cash, I just charge everything to my card, but when I am abroad, I don’t feel comfortable unless I have a little cash on me.
5. Hostel or hotel?
I have only stayed in a hostel once, it was a uni trip to Prague, fantastic, but I would always opt for a hotel if only the two options were available. I haven’t been traveling, and if I ever did i would opt for hostels, mainly due to cost, but also you meet people, and make friends so much quicker. I would probably choose neither, my preference is to rent an apartment, villa or house, this way you can eat out, or stay in and cook, and now having a child, having somewhere to prepare food is essential.
6. Are you a repeat visitor or do you explore new places?
I would say up until a couple of years ago, I was a repeat visitor, but I think that was because I didn’t have too many holidays, maybe one every couple of years, so if I was going away, I would want to know I was going somewhere I was definitely going to enjoy. As I have been able to afford more holidays, I definitely want to go to new places, and see more of the world. Even though we have Harry, I am hoping this doesn’t restrict us, and we can share our new experiences with him.
7. Do you read up on your destination (culture, history, safety) or do you wing it?
I read up places of interest at my destination, and when I have been places such as Marrakech, I did a fair bit of reading about what clothes we should wear, and what the rules are for women. This was so we didn’t get ourselves into any trouble, and so we were respectful of their culture. If i was going somewhere very touristy, such as Marbella, I wouldn’t do any background.
8. Favourite travel website?
The best flights site is Skyscanner.com, there is an app, and it is easy to use. I run everything I book by tripadvisor.com. I know you shouldn’t get bogged down in other peoples reviews, so I try to look mainly at the positives, and just read one or two of the negatives, if there are any.
9.Where would you recommend a friend to visit? Name a place and why?
Without a doubt New York, or Paris. I have always been a beach lover, and never one for trekking around cities, but these two are so dreamy! I was never fussed about seeing the Eiffel Tower, but when I walked up to it, it took my breath away. New York, what is not to love, the people are great, the food is fab, the whole city is just so chic and effortless.
10. You’re leaving tomorrow, money is no option. Where would you go?
The Maldives, to stay in one of those huts with the clear blue water below, and white beaches.
As I am so new to this blogging, I don’t have many bloggers to tag, but here goes