Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 Most Read Posts!

Hi There!

May your new years eve celebrations be full of fun, happiness and love.

Ours will be a low key one in a cottage in Cornwall with friends- just the way we want it. We'll have a meal of raclette and enjoy Appletiser instead of Prosecco.  A perfect tater tot friendly evening.

The day has already been a great one with a beach visit and pit-stop in Padstow for pasties, fish and chips and ice cream.

A relaxing evening is also a chance to reflect, 2017 has been a busy one. We have been on amazing trips in Sydney in February, Vegas in May, Lake District, Hebden Bridge, Brighton, Cornwall, Oslo in Norway and plenty of day trips around the wonderful UK.

That brings me to our year in review and the top 10 posts from this year, so from January 2017 to now here's our list:

Why Lesbian Loving Is The Best: I think the title says it all!

Happy Valentine's Day - Love really is all around- our Australian wedding organised as a surprise by our lovely Aussie friends.

Top 10 Travel Tips: Planning on taking a trip in 2018 you have to check out this post!

10 Tips For Your Santorini Trip: I don't think Santorini will ever not be a top destination to visit. It's beautiful, the weather is stunning all year and there is plenty to do - what more can you ask for?

Growing Up Isn't So Bad - Right? How often do you take a chance to reflect on just how far you have come?

The Average Girls Guide To Yoga: we started Yoga in 2017, we kept it up all year and this post shared our experience getting started.

Travel Round-Up: since starting this blog we have traveled Europe, Australia, America and beyond. This post rounds up our travel highlights!

The Worst Thing About Being A Lesbian Couple: Okay so there aren't many things that we can complain about but this one things is the worst!#

5 Reasons To Visit The Lake District: This beautiful part of the UK has so many reasons to visit and so many different places to explore, we had a challenge to narrow it down to 5.

If You Wear Contact Lenses You Need To Read This: Seriously this is a lesson I hope no-one else has to learn!

We Have Exciting News: If you have read the blog in the past few days you'll have already read about this, if not click next post :)

We can't wait for 2018. Happy New Year!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Baby Blogging - Where It All Began!

Blogging can be a strange one at some points. While the 'New Post' blank page is so full of opportunity, it can also be intimidating. Not just from a 'what am I going to write?' perspective, but also because once I hit publish, it's out in the world forever more.

Sometimes sharing experiences make for an easy blog post - we did this, this was how we found it, go do it or don't. It's a record of an experience and it's nice to look back on as well as highlighting great (or not so great) places to others.

Then there is the sharing of personal experiences like coming out, being in a lesbian relationship, the relationships with loved ones, our wedding, etc that are a little harder to write. They share things that we wouldn't necessarily tell friends unless we were having a deep and meaningful. They are things that capture thoughts and feelings at a particular moment that may not remain true over time.

And then there is this. Pregnancy.

That's right! We. Are. Pregnant (in case you missed the previous post :) ).

We have been pregnant for 13 weeks now, and it's scary for me to write that.

It involves me confronting something that internally I am a mess about. Swinging from complete excitement and skipping around the house to being overcome with emotion and bursting into floods of tears at an emotional song. And then there is the fear. At first the fear was, what if the pregnancy is ectopic? What if it disappears? Now it's what if something isn't right? What if it's fine now and then something goes wrong? As much as I try to silence it, the worry is ever present.

I think it's because, for the first time, I have to give up control. No amount of exercise, eating the right thing, sleep, reading the internet - anything, will change the outcome. Absolutely, it might help - and as I have done pregnancy yoga, dancing around shaking my hips and filling up on smoothies with 'super foods' for pregnancy - it better help. But I know deep down that this pregnancy will go in whatever way it is meant to. We hope that means that we get a beautiful, healthy baby, but never has July seemed so far away.

Our baby's first photo!

This post will cover week 0 to week 6 and we'll be back with more at some point soon.......

So here's the short version. I, Sarah, am pregnant. We went with  IVF after originally planning to go with IUI. We started with consultation for IUI but my cycles seemed to go from low fertility to peak fertility within a day which meant planning anything became difficult - especially with work. Frustratingly I was away with work when our best opportunity arrived. It was at that point that we decided IVF would provide the much needed predictability we needed.

We picked an anonymous donor from a sperm bank recommended by our fertility clinic. We found a donor that shared traits with Laura and after that things were straight forward.

I had previously wanted as natural a pregnancy as possible so had wanted to avoid the injections, hormones and meds but it was not to be, thankfully the side effects were minimal for me. In fact, my stress level reduced as I was able to plan for the month. My visits to the clinic for follicle scans were mainly early morning and our egg collection day was narrowed down to two days.

Image: Etsy
We got 5 eggs on our Friday the 13th of October collection, all 5 fertilised and 4 made it to blastocyst. They picked the best one of the 4 to implant. That one is our baby!

For the first few weeks, it was hard to even contemplate that I may be pregnant. We focused on believing we were. From the moment of embryo transfer we Googled everything! What will be happening at day 2, at day 4. We checked every symptom on numerous sites. I became hyper aware of my body - was that a twinge, did I cramp, why do I need to pee so much and why am I falling sleep watching TV (that's never been me before this!). Am I drinking enough, what should I be eating this - all of it. Never have I ever been so aware of what was going into my body. I became a health freak - Maccy D's - get that away from me!

Going out to eat became a minefield and Laura downloaded an app that meant I texted her with every meal option when I was out to eat. I'm in Pret - should I have the Mac and Cheese or the Duck wrap - what's safest, what's got more nutrients - argh! Mac and cheese wins but the prosciutto has to be removed. Pics of menus, and pre-checking where I'm going, happened daily. I even convinced colleagues to change our lunch destination as I couldn't find anything easily acceptable on the first menu. Growing up as a fussy eater has given me plenty of practice in avoiding food but this takes on a whole new level of importance.

And then as you check the symptoms and read the blogs and forums you start thinking maybe we are pregnant. You read stories of those who got positives and start looking for the similar symptoms. Then when you have a day without symptoms you start convincing yourself you're not. The phrase 'roller-coaster of emotions' was so, so applicable.

When the end of the two week wait finally arrived and we could do the pregnancy test, we woke up at 4am - the need to pee was overwhelming but I crossed my legs and we Googled if a 4am pee counted as the first pee of the day, and would it be long enough since my last pee to have the pregnancy show up if it was there. It was. I've never been so nervous to pee.

In no time at all, two lines appeared. But one was faint. Was it too faint? Google it. Find images upon images of varying degrees of strengths and then decide that as long as it's two lines it positive. It's positive! WTF! First time and it's positive. But wait, is one test enough?! It's 4am, what shops are open? Should we do more? Why didn't we buy more? Why were we so unprepared?!

So it's 4am and the waves of excitement are now more than any worry. We spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the stick. We wake up the dog - she's not impressed. We try to sleep and fail. We sit and talk and get excited, the dog grumbles and we try to sleep again. It's almost 6am at this point. We doze until 7.30am.

We wake and it doesn't feel real. Thankfully we have a clinic appointment for a second test at 12.30pm. Never has a morning ever felt so long. We get there at 12.20, we wait, we wait more. It's Halloween and the TV has some costume thing on Loose Women, we try to focus on that. It doesn't work. We get called in, we give the pee sample and we wait. We wait for almost 10 mins and then we get it....confirmation....we are pregnant!

Returning to work my head was a blur. How had we got so lucky. Was it the yoga? The dancing to 'Faith' by George Michael? Or the smoothies? Or luck? Whatever it was, we were grateful. Although shock prevented any further emotion. I just spent the day in some sort of weird trance.

The we had to wait again - for the first scan, when we would hopefully be able to detect the heartbeat. The wait to the scan is strange.

After weeks of symptom tracking, my cramps eased up. I got the odd twinge as we approached 5 weeks but nothing like before. I felt nauseous and then decided I was just hungry. My need to pee calmed down and the bloating I initially felt eased. In fact, I felt great most of the time. There are a few moment of wanting to curl up as my insides were doing somersaults but that only seemed to hit late in the evening - maybe it's the lack of space for dinner and the growing uterus. Whatever it is, it usually eases with a back rub and water. OMG the amount of water consumed is insane. I am at least 75% water at all times! Oh and the heat - I feel hot, a lot! I spent fireworks night in a strappy top as I was so hot, quite the sight as the wife was wrapped up in her winter finery.

At week 5, in some ways I felt less pregnant. And that in itself was a cause for great joy and great worry. Joy as, for the time, I didn't need to plan my day around bathroom locations and I was actually feeling on top form. After the odd snivel, but it's winter and compared to the other people on the train coughing up their guts or blowing their noses I felt lucky. Then worry - do the lack of symptoms mean Tater Tot isn't developing?! Google more....

By the time we hit 6 weeks pregnant my Googling was of most common time to have a miscarriage - turns out up to 6 weeks. At that point the blueberry sized embryo has a heart beat and once you get a heartbeat the changes of miscarriage reduce significantly. Week 5 was pretty easy, in fact only one sickness incident and that was at home in the evening - turns out you can call that morning sickness too! And a 4th pregnancy test on the Friday morning confirmed - still pregnant.

Week 5 had also included a mad search for maternity jeans, not because I was showing but because the significant amount of time on trains and sat down means regular jeans cut in at just the wrong point so I might as well be comfy. Oh and 'the pregnancy photo' outfit has been bought. Got to prep for when a bump appears right?! What's a pregnancy without bumpie photos?

Thank you so much for all the love and support so far - we look forward to sharing the journey.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

We Have Exciting News.....

It's been a very Merry Christmas for us, we hope it has been for you too.

We have been able to spend time with both of our families, eaten way too much, received some amazing presents and had the opportunity to relax. All super important things.

Anyway, our news!

So we had the option to write an epic blog post about this announcement but it's Christmas and when the UK gives you snow sometimes you have to take advantage so without further ado.....

We will share blog posts with our updates and the journey so far over the next few days.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Three Years Of Bisbee!

Three years ago we picked up the best Christmas gift we have ever gotten - Bisbee. Our festive treat!

This year Bisbee has received a haul of Christmas cards and presents that rival ours and we can only imagine it's because everyone who has met Bisbee loves her just as much as we do.

It's fair to say three years in there aren't too many firsts left for Bisbee to experience - but we've continued to travel together, attend numerous pub quizzes, markets, day trips, new cities, new villages, we've been on road trips and stayed over in cabins, houses and flats. It's fair to say wherever we go, if we can, we take Bisbee.

However this December Bisbee did experience her first proper snow.

After initially loving the snow and running around like a crazy thing it didn't take look before the weight of the snow started weighing her down. The snow packed around her tag and before long even her Equafleece was started to turn white. It was at that point that loving went to loathing.

And she got meet Santa Paws for the first time......
It was at Birmingham Dogs Home  who kindly organised a charity day where we could pay a small donation for Bisbee to meet Santa. There was also stalls and entertainment put on to make the 45 minute wait more enjoyable.

It was quite the festive treat - although we may have been into slightly more than Bisbee. I don't think the wet weather helped, as Bisbee isn't the biggest fan of rain at any point. 

As my (S) parents have moved closer to us we even have extra support and Bisbee is loving overnight stays - where she gets her own bedroom as my parents have a spare room.

We can't wait to have many more years with this fluffball - she really is a joy.

Here are just a few posts about Bisbee:

  • Our first day video post is here
  • A month in and how we were getting on post is here
  • Two years of Bisbee post is here
  • The moment you realise the love for your dog has reached a new level post here
  • Things to consider when getting a dog post here

So there you have it....Merry Christmas from us and the Bisbee

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Thanksmas 2017! A Festive Tradition!

For 7 years we have held an annual Thanksmas gathering at some point between late November and early December. This year we held the festivities a little later in December due to other commitments but the result was the same. An evening of great food, great company and a fair amount of merriment. In some ways the later December date added a little extra Christmas sparkle to the evening.

Thanksmas, for those new to the blog, combines all the greatest things about Thanksgiving - think American food, focusing on thankfulness and then Christmas - think the roast dinner, the crackers, the festive dress.

The menu this year:
  • Turkey
  • Green bean casserole
  • Honey roasted parsnips and carrots
  • Bacon tossed sprouts
  • Corn bread + cornbread stuffing
  • Roast potatoes
  • Candied yams (sweet potatoes + marshmallows)
  • Mac & cheese
  • Chocolate tart
  • Pumpkin cheesecake

We catered for 12 friends and this year had an added extra of snow! That's right Birmingham brought the snow....for those guests leaving that night it wasn't a big deal. For those staying overnight it led to us digging out their cars the next morning! A first for Thanksmas.

The queue to take a seat in our lounge!

 If you are interested the history of our Thanksmases can be found here.....
The first Thanksmas post is here
The second Thanksmas round up is here
The third Thanksmas and first in our Birmingham home is here
The sixth annual Thanksmas details are here

And so the tradition is over for another year. I t took us three days to eat the leftovers and get the house back to normal but we loved it and can;t wait to do it all again in 2018!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Laura's Much Requested Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Every year, at every festive event we throw or attend from November onwards, we are asked to bring one of my signature recipes - the runaway favourite dish from Thanksmases past, Green Bean Casserole. I know it's past Thanksgiving, but Christmas is still to come, which is a perfect opportunity to add this recipe to your family dinner. It is easy, delicious, and a side that we start talking about/looking forward to in like September, so for Brum Blogmas today (the brief is winter warmers, of which this definitely is one!) I thought I'd write down the recipe as I do it. Also, so I don't ever forget it, I'd be so upset!

I've done the recipe to serve 8 people, full disclosure I usually do double this, but it's because I feed like 14 people and want leftovers.

Laura's Slow Cooker Green Bean Casserole
Serves: 8
Takes 4 hours on high or 6 on low

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/4 cup onion needed)
1 cup sour cream
6 400 gram cans of green beans, drained
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I use extra sharp)
1/2 cup Ritz crackers or similar, crumbled

1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter into a large pan over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth, cook for one minute.
2. Stir in the salt, sugar, onion, sour cream. Add green beans and stir to coat. Mix in half of the cheese.

3. Transfer the mixture to your slow cooker, pack and flatten top. Crumble Ritz crackers on top to cover, you're looking for about 1 cm cover. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, to cover the crackers.

4. Put lid on slow cooker and let cook for 4 hours on high, or 6 hours on low (I usually set it up in the morning on low!)


See, it's pretty easy, but will have your friends/family coming back for seconds!

We have Thanksmas on today, cooking for 14 people (and three dogs in attendance!) - wish us luck, and leftovers, and follow our day and preparation on our Instagram Story!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

10 Reasons To Visit Oslo, Norway!

If you follow us on Instagram you may have noticed that we recently spent a long weekend in Oslo, Norway. Thanks to some friends recently departing London for Norway's capital city we had a great excuse to make a quick trip over.

It would have been quicker had Brussels Airlines managed to get a flight on time but you can fly direct from London in a few hours. We went from Birmingham to Brussels to Oslo. We certainly wouldn't recommend Brussels Airlines if you can avoid it.

November is not the recommended time to visit Oslo, according to their tourist guides.They recommend summer where you can enjoy the stunning countryside for all it's glory, not cram all your sightseeing into the few hours of light that you get at this time of year. That didn't deter us though.

View from our friends apartment
For us it was perfect. Oslo was finishing it's roll out for Christmas. The markets were in full swing, the buildings decorated, we even got to take part in a Santa greeting parade that involved getting a bag full of fruit, nuts, an advent calendar and a candle.

Oslo was feeling festive!

We also got super lucky with the weather. Our first day was cold, crisp and sunny. The blue sky was the perfect backdrop for the days activities. And the early sunset was great for pictures over the fjord.

Our second was cold, misty and an ideal day for our Thanksgiving festivities that mainly involved eating. Although a chilly evening was lovely for wrapping up warm and exploring the Vinterland market in the centre of Oslo.

The third day was a mixed bag. We started the day under clear skies but by lunchtime the sky had turned a shade of grey and we had snow flurries on and off for most of the afternoon - amazing!

So with the weather summary sounding like a lot of places in late November here's what we managed to fit in and why you should visit Oslo.....

1) It's stunning - it's Nordic for sure, with houses in all shades of colour (although mainly blue, orange and yellow) dotted around the city, there is no uniformed design but you can tell you aren't in mainland Europe. It reminded us a lot of Reykjavik in Iceland.

2) The city buildings are artwork in themselves or at the least the sides are. Building sides are covered in full sized paintings of all kinds of things. Flowers, people, creatures, landscapes. There is no rhyme or reason but it makes walking around interesting.

3) There are sculptures everywhere. Oslo has two well known sculpture parks but you don't need to visit them to see sculptures. You'll find them in parks, in the street, in shopping areas, in areas you'd least expect them - they pop up everywhere!

4) It's super easy to get around. If you purchase a metro pass (90 Norwegian Krone or £9 for 24 hours) you can hop on and off every mode of transport - metro, tram, bus and boat. Yep the boat across Oslo fjord can be taken at no extra cost. And is a MUST! The city is manageable enough that you can cover a lot of it in 24 hours.

5) Okay so the fjords deserve it's own reason. Tranquil, beautiful and a great way to see all the islands that are home to Oslo residents summer houses. You can hop on and off to explore should you wish or do we what we did and spend the hour relaxing and enjoying the view from the water. In summer you can even hire a hot tub to float across the fjord.

6) Go high! So we mentioned that it's stunning but to really appreciate the city go high. You have a couple of options - the giant ski slope that provides amazing views on a clear day or the sculpture park in the woods that allows you stroll up high enough for a great view. We were lucky enough to be on the 14th floor of a tower block so got a great view from the couch.

The opera house is shaped like a ski slope but brave it for a great view of the harbourside
7) There is no shortage of things to do in any weather. Unlike the UK, Norway treats snow like any other weather - they grit constantly at this time of year so paths are safe to walk on with the right footwear (walking boots in our case). When it started snowing as we explored the Folk Museum it added to the experience rather than becoming dangerous.

If Folk Museums aren't your thing you could see 3 real life Viking Ships at the Viking museum, head to a number of art galleries, shop in the many, many shopping centres or find your way to a sculpture park. It would also be worth checking out the Opera House - built on the fjord front and looking like a giant ski slope. Or the Acker Brigen area that straddles the canal area and is home to lots of different outdoor activities (a screen showing Christmas films when we were there).

8) Norwegians are polite, unassuming folk. They don't like talking for no reason but ask then for help and advice and they will be happy to chat - and in fluent English! Having read about the 'Norwegian way' I am convinced I must have Nordic blood.

9) They LOVE hotdogs......cinnamon buns and other delightful bakery goods

10) The Trolls. Love them or hate them Oslo has embraced the troll as a symbol of the country. We weren't personally fans but they have a certain cute appeal....or so we're told. And you can find them in shops or just hanging around anywhere touristy.

One thing to note the rumours of Norway being expensive are true. Certainly the £ isn't strong BUT nothing is more than you would pay in London. Alcohol is expensive but if you plan ahead and pick some up at airport duty free in Oslo you can drink fairly cheaply. Also eating out you will struggle to find cheap eats - unless you really like hotdogs - but if you eat in for a meal a day you can limit your spend. We spent around £200 over 3 days.

A strange final point but there is also a lack of tourist trap shops. Not something worthy of note but it's not until you want to find a souvenir that you realise how hard that is in Oslo. Unless you want a troll or something with a moose on it or an expensive Norwegian jumper. Our choice of things that said 'Oslo' on to were limited to cups and hats. The airport does have a few more things on offer if you hold your nerve and wait till then.

So there you have it. We loved it. We'd love to go back in summer. But whatever season you go we're sure you'll find plenty to entertain you.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Day In The Life 2017!

Way back when we did a day in life video about our days in London, you can check it out here:

This year we decided to take part in Blogmas and post as many times as possible in December on a number of different topics.

The first topic was 'Day In The Life' and we thought we'd combine a Facebook post that asked us to compare our life's nowadays to a year given to us by a friend. Here's how's things have changed.....

Sarah: 2001 vs 2017
So 2001 was before I had Facebook but this is the earliest pic I could find :)

Then: VW Polo
Now: Toyota Yaris
Then: Student at Bournemouth University studying Retail Management
Now: Head of Relationship Management at Unicorn Training (eLearning & LMS provider)

Then: 18
Now: 34

Then: Single
Now: Married to the wonderful Laura

Living arrangement
Then: Sharing a hotel room as part of my student accommodation in Bournemouth
Now: A terraced house in Birmingham 

Then: None
Now: The lovely Bisbee

Was I happy?
Then: Absolutely not - I took a weekend job back in Reading so I could go home everything
Now: Absolutely, completely and utterly

Laura: 2011 vs 2017

Then: Toyota Corolla (2nd hand and super old)
Now: Toyota Yaris

Then: Receptionist at a PR firm
Now: Office Manager at a training company

Then: 23
Now: 29

Then: Dating Sarah
Now: Married to the wonderful Sarah

Living arrangement
Then: A flat in Fulham over looking the Thames
Now: A terraced house in Birmingham 

Then: None
Now: The lovely Bisbee

Was I happy?
Then: Yes
Now: Yes
enjoying our day exploring Gloucester with friends