Thursday, 15 March 2018

Baby Blogging - Weeks 13 - 18!

For any of you following the blog you may notice this post is firstly out of order (as we shared news of our 20 week scan here) and also a bit behind (as I am at 23 weeks currently) but nevertheless I drafted this post at the time and thought it was worth sharing.

Starting the new year pregnant involved sleeping intermittently between 10 - 12pm, waking up for the London fireworks on TV, toasting the new year with Appletiser and then heading to bed. I'd lie if I said it wasn't my ideal way to celebrate.

We were in Cornwall at a lovely cottage with friends and we had spent the few days before exploring the local area and eating a lot. It was a great way to send out our last child-free year.

After our new year mini-break it was back to work. I'm lucky enough to get to work from home so the transition wasn't as bad as it was for Laura who had to get dressed and go to her office. On the Thursday I did venture into London though and remembered to order my 'Baby on Board' badge.  While 13 week pregnant me had no limitations getting around I thought it was getting in case I needed it later on.

We also were lucky enough be lent a doppler by Laura's colleague so we could hear Tater-Tots heart beat at home. Our first attempts were not hugely successful but over time we have figured out where Tater-Tot is hanging out and manage to find it first time - turns out they are super low, like just above my pubic bone. The bump is just all my organs being pushed up as the placenta grows. Fun fact.

January also sure a trip to Birmingham Women's for the first time for a blood test. Sadly the nuchal translucence reading at our first scan hadn't been conclusive - Tater-Tot refused to lay still making the reading hard. The visit in itself was crazy. Turns our Birmingham Women's isn't just for maternity - as I had first thought - but all kinds of women's things. That led to the car park being manic.

After parking Tater-Tot and I had a quick jog to the hospital but that was just the start. On arrival reception sent me towards maternity, that desk sent me towards pre-natel, they sent me towards the baby unit who eventually pointed me towards an area where I had to grab a ticket and head to waiting area for blood tests. My fit bit step count appreciated the tour, I did not.

For the 15 minutes of walking the wait for the blood test was almost 45 so I was well and truly rested for my 2 minute blood test. Then a quick sprint back to get to the car park 2 minutes before my hour expired and the ticket price went up from £2.60 (extortionate) to  £5+ (super extortionate). Hopefully all future blood tests can happen at our local doctors.

It's definitely more of a mind screw than I thought. Without any real way of telling if Tater-Tot is developing as they should. I really freaked out after reading an article on how you shouldn't eat ham - I have eaten a fair amount of ham as a source of protein. Then there was the article that said don't eat any sandwich meat without heating it. How are you meant to survive business meetings where the only option is sandwiches?! These last few weeks I have panicked more about the fact that I could have eaten the wrong thing and impacted Tater-Tot more than anything else. It doesn't help that there is so many mixed messages either.

As we headed to Gran Canaria to meet my parents for a weeks break I made a list of everything I planned to eat that week, other than meals out I was sticking to a breakfast cereal then toast, eggs and canned spaghetti with a dessert of yogurt. It may not have been the healthiest but it was nutritious enough to cover the basics and avoided eating anything I shouldn't.

For meals out I was more adventurous and after a long debate even had a Chinese buffet. We had selected a restaurant based on reviews but on turning up that restaurant was closed so we picked another one that looked super busy - meaning the food would be quickly replenished, avoiding the 'don't eat food that has been sat out for too long' rule.

The holiday itself was a lovely opportunity to relax. The weather wasn't great but we explored a lot of the island at a relaxed pace and it was nice to be away, you can get read all about it here. I even got to feel Tater-Tots move for the first time while laid out on the sunbed. Another personal highlight was the ability to swim, I wished I could get my butt in gear and go in the UK, but it was nice to take advantage while away.

After a week back at work we were lucky enough to have a mini-break in Wales courtesy of Upper House and Spa. It was so good to get away just the two of us (plus bump and Bisbee) and explore a new place. We had arrived Friday evening after a 2 hour drive and were immediately welcomed by our host Emily. After showing us around the property we then had a treat of an afternoon tea set up. All food was pregnancy friendly and so, so good - a perfect - well fed start to the weekend.

As Upper House and Spa was well located to explore the local area we took advantage by making a short drive out to the local town to see the castle and walk around. In all honesty though the barn was so cosy and comfy that we were more than happy to relax there. With a log fire, kitchen and TV with wide selection of channels it was everything we needed. The other benefit was the onsite spa - that Laura got to use - it was small cabin with beds positioned to overlook the surrounding valley. Although as we visited in the evening it was an opportunity to star gaze.

It was like a baby moon and gave us some much needed time together. We can't thank Upper House and Spa enough. You can read the full review here.

We are so looking forward to the 20 week scan to make sure everything is okay and to see how big Tater-Tot has got.

I think I will be taking a pack lunch with me for the foreseeable future as I can't take the pressure of making a wrong choice.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Review: Rub Smokehouse, Birmingham, UK

You know when you really look forward to visiting a restaurant as there has been some hype around them, they have great marketing and their menu looks awesome. This is Rub Smokehouse.

We visited the Birmingham restaurant on the 12th March 2018 for a friends birthday and our experience was an interesting one.

There are plenty of gimmicks - you can win a prize when you book online, ours was a mystery prize that ended up being 10% off or a free cocktail or free dessert.

There is the Nugzilla, a giant chicken nugget:

And the birthday cake burger, that is a burger in a birthday cake - with added meat and marshmallows:

The menu changes so it is worth checking online before you go: Menu with the latest version launching on March 13th. Having a read through they still have similar items and the ones we tried. What we did find interesting is they market themselves as 'Serving low n slow authentic American bbq food' but this is only a small portion of their menu, and if anything misses out the interesting parts - the 'EPIC' selection. I mean is it us or are smokehouses so 2017?! But how many places do a double cheeseburger in a calzone? Or a nugget birthday cake?

So here's the rub, excuse the pun, on our visit to the Birmingham restaurant:
  • Service was slow, and there were only 5 tables filled so it wasn't busy, it took them almost half an hour to get our drinks round sorted

  • The menu looked full of potential and between 5 of us we ordered quite a selection including the birthday burger, a taco pizza that came in a VW bus and a number of starters and sides
  • Starter sizes were fairly small for the price
  • The taco burger was dry, it needed melted cheese or something as it was also fairly tasteless - but looked EPIC
  • The birthday burger would have been better without the middle layer of cake, it became dry and thirsty work
  • Strangely the tap water, when provided was super cloudy - now we appreciate it's just minerals but wouldn't you let it settle before bringing it to the table? Cloudy water is never appealing!
  • The burger with melted cheese wedges was overcooked and the wedges appeared reheated - the cheese was solid rather than melty
  • The cheesy chips barely had cheese on them and were cold
  • The battered prawns were delicious though and most of the food had potential, just on this occasion it didn't deliver
  • For the cost there are places you can get a better meal and better service. It isn't a place for those who like great value
The potential for Rub Smokehouse is huge. There are tons of ways to engage with them - and not just on social media. If you are someone who likes to eat, a lot, you can take part in their food challenges like there Nugzilla challenge here. It certainly looks like a fun place, although maybe avoid Monday's - it's too quiet to have any atmosphere.

They also have deals for meal and a cocktail for £10 or a bottomless chicken tenders party where the person who eats the most baskets can win £250. 

Plus their desserts sounded delicious but we were too full to even attempt them. 

It also looks like a great place to go as a large group. For 5 of us the wait for drinks and then food was passed with plenty of conversation but as a date night it would have made things super awkward. Plus, and this may be because I'm pregnant, but when I have eaten a large meal I like to recline in my seat. Here the seats are bolt upright wooden palates so there is no sitting back and relaxing. In fact we decided if we were going to get dessert we would go to somewhere comfier. 

We wish Rub all the best but it doesn't make our recommendation list!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Baby Blogging - 10 Reasons My Wife Is Amazing!

There are so many reasons my wife is wonderful and since being pregnant, she has been absolutely amazing, so I wanted to dedicate this post to Laura with the top 10 reasons why she has been extra wonderful recently.

1. For almost 7 months (since we started trying) I have had a freshly made smoothie made for me daily, full of the good stuff.

2. The selection of healthy, home cooked meals is endless. I'm a fairly fussy eater and Laura has a way of sneaking all types of veg into meals in ways that mean I don't even notice. I've also been lucky enough to have a few batches of cookies made - not so healthy, but SO good!

3. Every night before I go to bed Laura supervises and advises me as I complete a stretching/exercise routine that means I can sleep better and wake up without back ache- she's researched everything so well.

4. The exercise routine is followed by a back massage from Laura  - which used to be a treat - but is now something I am lucky enough to experience nightly!

She's always got my back!
5. While spa music plays on Alexa, our nighttime routine finishes with a belly rub with bio oil to (hopefully) save me from stretch marks.

6. Thankfully, the main side effect of my pregnancy has been tiredness; it's improved in the second trimester, but Laura has been amazing, making sure when I do get tired she takes care of everything. She even preempts when I may get tired and makes sure I have a snack and drink ready.

7. Laura has always been organised and since we started on this journey it has been so useful. While I am capable of adding key appointments to my calendar, Laura makes sure I am heading to the right place at the right time, with the right information.

8. The further along I get in this pregnancy the more I realise I don't know, and thankfully Laura really knows how to calm me down. She is reassuring, knows how get me to focus and is ready with a soothing hug on so many occasions.

9. As we are both super excited to welcome our little girl, it's fair to say we talk about it a lot and thankfully Laura gets to talk about it with super helpful colleagues who are ready with advice, willing to answer our many questions and have even given us a few essentials to borrow. Laura is way better at asking all the right questions.

10. As we go through this journey, Laura is also remembering to keep track, with (almost) weekly photo shoots and I couldn't be more grateful. Time flies so fast and I am so glad she is thoughtful enough to make sure we have the memories.

I am a lucky wife and our little lady is super lucky to have Laura as a Mama.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Review: A Long Weekend In The Cairngorms!

Our visit to the Scottish Highlands was epic! And we would highly recommend a visit.

We stayed at Inverahavon Caravan Site in Wildcat Lodge a mile or so from the very centre of Scotland - marked by a large stone that we visited on one of our road trips. It was part of the Cairngorms national park.

The view from our caravan/cabin site

Our journey started on a Friday evening, we drove 7 hours from Birmingham to Glasgow (it should have taken 5 1/2) and arrived to a home cooked meal at my Aunts. After 2 hours of catching up we headed to bed ready to hit the road the next morning. With a delicious Scottish breakfast filling us up we headed North.

It only took 2 and a half hours from Glasgow to Inverahavon, a stunning drive that took us via Perth. Knowing Perth was our last stop with a supermarket we stocked up before driving the last bit.

On arrival we were greeted by a fairly isolated campsite with a few cabins, thankfully we found our cabin easily and were able to unpack quickly. Charlotte and Hannah were driving up from Norfolk and would arrive later that day so we took the opportunity to unpack and explore the site and let Bisbee stretch her legs.
Celebrating our arrival
The cabin had everything you could possibly want including an outdoor hot tub. It was a perfect base for exploring the highlands and a great location to take the dogs.

Day 1:
Our first activity was to head to Nevis Range where we got a cable car to the ski resort at the top. As the cable cars (£16 per person) allowed the dogs we were able to reach the snow covered top and head off and explore. There are a number of tracks to follow, once you get out of the main ski lift area, although the amount of snow meant tracks weren't the easiest to find. We just headed in the direction that other people seemed to be walking.

The two main walking paths headed out towards different vantage points, one over looked the valley and loch below, this is the easier walk taking 40 minutes for the round trip. The other is to a spectacular view of Ben Nevis, this one heads off across ski slopes and takes just over an hour for the round trip.

As the gondola was working on an off-peak timetable we had be on our way down by 5.30pm. It allowed us to watch the sun-setting, which was well worth doing, but get down before it got too cold.

Dinner was a local pub The Tipsy Laird that had a fairly small menu but came recommended on Trip Advisor and had enough choice for us. We went for a Mac & Cheese and Fish & Chips.

Day 2:
After a relaxing start we drove half an hour north to Aviemore and Loch Morlich. The loch came recommended as we could walk the 4 mile circumference in 2 and half hours. In the end we only walked half as both dogs decided to take a dip in the ice covered loch and we all needed warming up. Thankfully there was a lovely cafe at the halfway point that was dog friendly so we could grab a drink before starting the walk back.

We picked up dinner at La Taverna, an Italian restaurant that did takeaway and headed back to the cabin to enjoy a restful evening, hot tub and games time and start our packing.

Day 3:
As we had to drive home later in the day we had an early start, our first destination was Loch Lomond, 2 and a half hours south. We headed to Balmaha Boatyard where we paid £5 per person to take a small boat (with the dogs) across the loch to Inchcailleach, a small, un-populated island that provides stunning views of the surrounding loch.

The island takes around and hour and a half to walk around, with clear signage for the different routes, although we somehow managed to take almost 2 hours. Partly that was because we couldn't stop taking pictures and partly because the dogs decided to chase the wild deers so we had to wait for their return. Thankfully Bisbee was in her pink equafleece as she managed to chase the poor deer towards the top of the island, if she wasn't bright pink we would have never seen her.

We experienced all weather conditions while on the island, beautiful sunshine, wind, fog and hail and snow. In fact our boat journey back was in hail - an experience we won't forget in a hurry.

From Loch Lomond we made the 5 and a half hour trip back to Birmingham through varying degrees of snow. The Beast from the East was starting to impact the main roads and we had to make a few pitstops to rinse the windscreen as our water was frozen. We were certainly glad to make it back without any drama.

We would recommend a trip to The Cairngorms if you love getting outdoors to explore, stunning scenery, long walks, holidays with a dog(s), fresh air and good food. The national park is well signposted and good roads make it easy to get around. We would recommend having a car, even though we got lucky with the weather it was a relief to be able to transport all the coats, hats, scarfs and snacks with us easily.

Without a doubt we will head back, there's still so much to explore!