Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Baby Blogging - It's A......

Okay, okay, so if you follow us on any other social media you will have seen already, we are having a GIRL!!!!

And, much more importantly, she is looking healthy, with all measurements coming in where they should be. The scan lasted about 40 minutes as she was a fidget, or 'Bridget the fidget' (a name possibility maybe??), as the midwife dubbed her. Every time she was in the right position to be measured, she'd move. It was entertaining at first but after 20 or so minutes of having my belly pushed around, I really needed the loo and felt like I had been in a fight. We all decided that it was best to take a break, for me to walk around and get chocolate - that's right, I was instructed to get chocolate- as a way of getting her to move.

Thankfully it worked and when we went back in she had moved and was in an much easier to measure position.

We had been partially prepared that we might not find out the gender in the scan, our focus was on making sure everything looked healthy. We barely slept the night before. It felt like the most important part of the pregnancy so far. The list of things they look for and measure was significant and scary. Every time the midwife went quiet we would look at each other, every time she said everything looked good we would breath a sigh of relief.

When it came to seeing the gender, our little girl was ready to accommodate and the midwife could confirm easily. Hearing 'you are having a daughter' will remain one of our life's biggest moments. As we started to refer to the baby as her/she, it became so much more real. I can't explain the feeling. We both cried. Every time she moved and we saw a new body part we would say 'there's her arm/leg/head' - it is amazing to think in 20 weeks we will be able to kiss and love all those tiny body parts on the outside!

I'm not sure I recall us leaving the hospital. In a blur we got an 'It's a girl!' balloon so we could video call our parents. We just kept repeating 'our daughter' and 'our baby girl'. And 'your granddaughter!' 'Your niece!'

I know it's cliched to say that we just wanted it to be healthy and didn't mind if it was a boy or girl, but truly we did. We did both think it was going to be a boy though, so were totally shocked when we were told otherwise!! We have since asked each if we were disappointed that our thought of it being a boy wasn't the case - but I can honestly say my overwhelming feeling is just relief to know. And excitement! And overwhelmed at all the possibilities of what she will look like and what she will enjoy doing and what she will do when she grows up, and on and on!

Turns out, the internet guessed better than our friends and family!

It's so strange in a way that while we have said that if it's a girl we won't go overly pink, because girls can wear anything, we have since both picked out pink baby items on our trip to the shops yesterday evening. I think we will have to embrace the fact that we like pink! So many cute things are pink and that's okay. We'll make sure to add lots of other colours to the mix, but we are pleased to have our hearts and unicorns - things we, as adults, totally love.

We are already so excited to meet her, to know that she has so many wonderful role models in our family and friends and that there will be so many opportunities in life for her.

Everyone we told was over the moon and so excited for us. Which brings us to the next question - we don't have a name picked out! We had one for a boy, but totally undecided for a girl! While we don't have a name chosen, we can at least start to narrow it down, chances are we will keep it to ourselves though, to see if it suits her when she is born.

So there you have it, our little Smith girl gang is getting another member. Come July, we will have a daughter to raise. We couldn't be more excited!

We are still working on convincing Bisbee it's a good thing :)
(Also, excuse Laura's weird arm!)

Friday, 16 February 2018

Baby Blogging - Boy or Girl?

Can you believe we are 20 weeks pregnant?! I mean we're shocked and we've been living it. Some how we are halfway through and in 20 weeks we will have a new bundle of joy.....scaring, exciting, overwhelming, dumbfounding and a whole host of other emotions are happening over here.

On Monday we have our 20 week check up and will find out firstly if everything is okay (fingers and everything crossed) and then if it's a boy or a girl. We honestly have no preference except for a happy, healthy baby but we can't wait to refer to Tater Tot with a gender. 'It' sound so strange.

We thought it would be fun to do all the old wives tales to see if there was any clue, here are the results.....

We are also doing a poll between friends, family and anyone who fancies joining on Instagram. Check out the latest @sarahpluslaura

Turns out the split results and responses mean we will be walking in completely clueless......

Drop us a comment if you have a guess!

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Review: Upper House and Spa A Perfect Getaway

The UK is beautiful. In fact, there are so many beautiful parts of the UK that it's hard to know where to start when deciding on a weekend away or your next holiday. Sure, the weather can be a little 'interesting' any time of the year but as my Mum always says, there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes! So pack a coat and wellies and you'll be fine - anytime, anywhere.

For our latest Great British winter getaway we went back to what is fast becoming a favourite location, the Welsh/English border. Whatever location you pick along the border you can be assured of 5 things:
  1. Stunning views
  2. Peace and quiet
  3. Lovely pubs that serve delicious food
  4. Great walks
  5. Sheep - there are other animals roaming free too but always sheep!
We were lucky enough to be invited to visit Upper House and Spa located in Craswell and nestled into the Black Mountains that form the border of England and Wales.

Having taken Friday afternoon off so we could arrive in daylight we made the 1 hour 40 drive from Birmingham to . With the majority of the journey on the motorway it was a quick drive, until the roads leading up to Upper House where the term 'country road' became relevant. We made good time though and on arrival were really impressed as the location opened up around us. The views were breathtaking.

With February weather providing snow, rain and beautiful sunshine within minutes, we unpacked the car hastily and switched from 'work week' mode to 'relaxing' mode as we moved into the Hayloft. The fresh air and views made it an easy transition. It was made even easier by the afternoon tea that awaited us.

Our host, Emily, had kindly organised the afternoon tea for our arrival, set up in a small cottage at the edge of Upper House. The cottage itself was decorated in a way that made us feel like we were stepping back in time. The kettle gently boiled on the stove, there were fresh flowers on the table and homemade cakes to eat. Add to that the quiche and scones warming on the stove and we were in heaven. I mean, seriously, we could have stayed there forever. The food was all delicious and what we couldn't eat we took back to the barn to enjoy over the weekend. It was perfect start to an amazing weekend.

As we walked back to our barn, we were mesmerized by the clear skies and bright stars. We stood until we were too cold, just gazing. Thankfully the area is safe and enclosed enough that Bisbee was able to run free - she didn't have quite the same interest in spotting constellations! We later found out that the Brecon Beacons, a short distance away, became the first area in Wales to be awarded the status of 'International Dark Skyes Reserve' - effectively meaning it's the least light polluted. The darkness means the stars really do perform.

Upper House and Spa is made up of two restored barns, The Hayloft (where we stayed) and The Long Barn. Also on the estate is the addition of a Spa cottage. The Hayloft works perfectly for two but fits 4 and is self catering, oh and dog friendly! We found the downstairs area was great as the split level meant one of us (Laura) could prepare dinner while still being in the same room. The large, comfy sofa was ideal for snuggling up watching the roaring fire and TV. As they had Netflix, we found the new season of 'Queer Eye' and binged watched the whole thing - what are holidays for, right?!

Now, the first thing I do when I arrive just about anywhere is check out the guide book if one is available. For a start, if the host has gone to the effort of putting it together, it usually contains some great info. From the simple 'how do I' to the 'things to check out', the guide book here was great. It even provided a break down of breakfast/brunch/dinner places or places that delivered food. By the time I had read it cover to cover we had the weekend planned.

Saturday: a rainy morning scuppered our plans of a walk so we decided to have a slow start and head to Hay-on-Wye for lunch. A recommendation of 'The Swan' was our first stop to refuel. The food was made fresh and tasted delicious. Bisbee slept at our feet the whole time and allowed us to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

On the 25 minute drive to visit Hay we actually crossed the border into Wales. It's a small market town most famous for the amount of bookshops it has - and it has a lot! It also has a Thursday market that has run for over 700 years and the Hay Festival in late May. We wandered the town before heading to the Wye River where we strolled the river side path (newly shingled) back to the castle and then the car. After our 3 hour visit we just wanted to get back to the barn.

At Upper House & Spa, both barns have access to the onsite Spa, complete with sauna, walk in shower and beds that allow you to lay out and enjoy the view - or the stars in our case. Thankfully our hosts had warmed up the sauna for our arrival back so it was ready to use. As being pregnant meant the sauna was a no-go for me, Laura enjoyed it by herself while I relaxed and read a book - ultimately falling a sleep due to being so relaxed! The short walk back the barn had, as Laura referred to it as Norwegian effect, as the cold fresh air was a refreshing blast after the heat.

Sunday: In the guide book the walks that were suggested were hard to pick from. As 'all of them' wasn't an option we decided to go with one called 'the yellow route' that took us into the fields above Upper House. The morning started with snow, continued with sleet and had brief spells of sunshine. It didn't deter us though. Wrapped up and with Bisbee in her Equafleece we headed up. The first part was on roads and a drovers lane (that Laura found out was a road they take cattle along, not a lane named drovers). Following the painted poles we found ourselves in a snow covered field with the Black Mountain getting closer. We debated continuing the ascent so we could enjoy the view at the top but alas snow reappeared and while non-pregnant me would have persevered, pregnant me decided it was safer to head back. The views we had already seen made us want to come back when the weather was a little friendlier.

From rolling hills

To climbing mountains

Upon returning to the barn we warmed up by the fire and I enjoyed a nice long bath. Laura and Bisbee napped before we decided we should venture our for a Sunday lunch. Our stop this time was The Bridge Inn at Michaelchurch Escley, a quick 5 minute drive away, or 30 minute walk. A traditional pub that served a hearty roast and a delicious gingernut and white chocolate cheesecake. Bisbee spent the entire meal with her nose in the air trying to get a whiff of the food but had to settle for some leftover carrots.

On the drive home the tired puppy slept and we talked excitedly about how we would love to return in the summer.

If anything we wished we could have stayed longer. Stay. Revive. Experience is the perfect motto for the Upper House & Spa. We would highly recommend it for all or just one of those activities. We definitely had an experience that left us revived after the stay. As a winter break there was so much to do and having an on site spa was an added bonus. We could have easily spent the entire weekend on site and still done plenty, sure some of the walks are a little boggy and the evenings get dark a little too early but they are reasons to take full advantage of the accommodation. I am convinced we should get a log burner to turn our nights at home into romantic escapes.....maybe not with the baby though.

What we would say though is if you are looking for a place to escape that's accessible, then Upper House is it. If you want somewhere to chill out and relax Upper House is ideal. If you want a base that allows you to roam, explore and stretch your legs in stunning scenery Upper House can be that. Or if you want a getaway that provides a mixture of comfort, things to do and an opportunity to relax, Upper House gets our vote. In fact, Upper House would be great for any and all types of getaways.

We can't thank Upper House and our hosts Emily and Adriaan enough, we felt welcomed from the moment we stepped out the car and truly appreciate the wonderful weekend we got to experience.

Disclaimer: We were invited to stay at Upper House and Spa as their guests, however all views, experiences and photos shared in this blog are our own. 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Baby Blogging - The Buggy Debacle!

There are three things in life that make me especially happy. Actually, make that 4. No wait, 5. There are 5 things that make me happy, in no particular order:
  • Doing anything with Laura
  • A bargain or deal
  • Research
  • Time with Bisbee &/or family
  • The baby
This post is about an event that included almost all of the above.....the buggy/stroller purchase.

I'm not sure if we have mentioned this in a previous post, but we are fairly clueless when it comes to babies. No-one in our real life has a baby, the last time I held a baby was maybe 2 years ago, Laura has never changed a diaper, and no-one we know is pregnant. Therefore our guides are online forums/ Apps, social media friends and Laura's particularly helpful colleague, Lizzie. 

I should note, our parents are always a great source of advice, but as it's been more than a few years since they had a baby around, their advice is great for general health and well-being but less so when it comes to kitting out a baby nowadays. 

And so to the buggy/stroller purchase.

On reading the newspaper, I saw that our local Toy 'R' Us store was closing down and there was a minimum 30% off everything. Sad for the store and the staff, but an opportunity for us as they have a Baby 'R' Us part to the store too. We headed there after dinner with an hour till closing. 

Side note - I love doing anything with Laura. This is so true when it's mundane things like watching TV or food shopping and it is definitely true when putting a plan into action.

I had discovered the shop closure while on a train home and wasn't exactly sure what we would find on arrival. Laura had researched far more practically and got a list from Lizzie of key things to look out for. 

This store was filled to the brim with bargains - some better than others, and after an initial raid of the very cute baby shoes (we got sneakers with a USA and UK flag on) we refocused and headed to the bigger ticket items - the buggys and car seats. 

The choice for car seats alone is mind blowing, let alone travel systems!

Each buggy we came across, one of us started searching reviews - the good, the bad, the confusing. To give you some idea of the bizarre world of buggys, here are a few things to consider:
  • Width of buggy (needs to easily get in the door)
  • Weight of buggy
  • Age duration buggy can be used for
  • Additional features (rain cover, basket etc)
  • Ease of putting down/up
  • Ability to lay baby flat or sit child up
  • Wheel durability
  • Wheel flexibility
  • Wheel lock capabilities
  • How tall is it/does it extend for tall people (like Laura)?
Okay I'll stop, you get the idea - it's a lot. And for novices like us, walking in to find a bargain, we were under prepared! 

This may have been the most amount of research I have ever done on a product. The research was worth it though. We found one that ticked all the boxes we had decided were important while standing in the middle of store. It was reduced from £150 to £104, which satisfied my love of a bargain, and got 4.8 out of 5 on the buggy review website most trusted by Mums. Hopefully that is good enough for the baby.
Pic courtesy of toyrus.com
There was only one final thing - did it fit in the car boot?

While trying to find a member of staff to ask if we could take the buggy to the car, Laura and I fired off a pic of the buggy on WhatsApp to get feedback on whether we were mad or it was a good idea. The consensus was it was a good idea. Thank goodness the buggy did fit in the boot - poor Bisbee had no idea what was going on as we angled the buggy in the boot as she sat and watched. 

Sadly we didn't have any luck with the car seat and the buggy we went with doesn't have a detachable car seat, that was one of the compromises. We played through scenarios and were happy with our decision that a separate car seat will work for us. 

I tell you though, if this is what it took to buy a buggy, my love of research may quickly fade. It's not so much the time it takes, it the conflicting info. I appreciate it's the world we live in and I'd much rather be over informed than not, BUT OMG there is sooooooooooo much. How do you know who to believe and who's just selling to you? How do you avoid preachy mum blogs to find good, practical advice?

This is a whole new world and I am super glad to have Laura figuring it out with me. I kind of wish we had pics of us trying to collapse the buggy in the middle of Toy 'R' Us - it's a memory that will have me chuckling for a while....'push that, no that, wait click that or that, oh hold on, try that and that, wait that with your foot and that with your hand, no, no wait - start again, pull that up, push that in and push. Viola :D

But we have a buggy so yeah!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Gran Canaria: 5 Things You Should Know!

Gran Canaria is one of the Canary Islands located off the coast of northwestern Africa and was the destination for our winter sun break.

My parents have visited the island for 2 weeks each January for the past 15 years and this year we decided to join them. Cheap flights from Birmingham to Las Palmas made for a cost effective break and as my parents had hired a car the island was super accessible when we wanted to explore.

As the Canary Islands are owned by Spain you can expect similar benefits - the locals speak good English and are always happy to help, Paella and Sangria deals are available at most restaurants and Euro is the currency. Oh and it's warmer than the UK at any given point.

So here's our advice on what you need to think about before going:
1. What do you want from the holiday? For a relatively small island Gran Canaria offers lots of different types of holidays:
  • Beach: want to turn up, lay on a beautiful beach and enjoy stunning blue ocean - Amadores is for you
  • Adventure: prefer to get out an explore, maybe take a hike up sand dunes or ride a camel - Maspalomas has plenty to offer
  • City / culture: if city breaks are more your thing than getting your feet sandy then Las Palmas, the capital city, is for you. Far more built up than the south this place has stunning buildings and more to explore
  • Night outs / days sleeping: While Gran Canaria doesn't have the reputation of being a party destination there are definitely places to entertain. Puerto Rico has a lovely white sand beach for the day but at night the main shopping area comes alive with restaurants, bars and clubs
  • Sophisticated: if partying the night away is not your thing then Puerto De Mogan might be for you. The town is filled with beautiful beaches, an idyllic harbour and white sand beach. With restaurants filling the streets and plenty of shops you can spend your days perusing and enjoy the calmer atmosphere
  • Mix up: Or you can do what we did and stay in Taurito, a small area built into a bay that sits between Puerto Rico and Puerto De Mogan. We mixed our days up with trips to other areas but most of days were in Puerto De Mogan and our evenings in Puerto Rico (mainly for the food :))
Amadores beach

Puerto De Mogan
Sand dunes at Maspalmas

2. What do you want to do?

From what we could tell there were a few main pursuits in Gran Canaria:
  • Cycling: the roads clinging to mountains make for amazing rides
  • Golf: Great all year round weather and beautiful courses make for perfect golfing conditions
  • Mini-golf: More my style and there were so many courses to choose from - we ended up favoring a course at Amadores but every resort had at least one course
  • Driving: The road system in Gran Canaria is fairly new and that's a benefit. Roads are easy to navigate and generally not too windy. You can cover north to south in a couple of hours and having a car means you can get out and see what the island has to offer
  • Sunbathe: Most apartments and hotels have pools and even if they don't most areas have easily accessible beaches so when the heat gets too much pick a spot and catch some rays
  • Shop: Not something for everyone but if you love to barter the tourist trap shops will happily entertain you or Puerto De Mogan has a Friday market that takes over the town with plenty to offer. Or for the traditionalists the small streets of Puerto De Mogan are home to traditional shops plying their trades. 

3. When do you want to go?
As mentioned at the start this was a winter sun break. The week before we arrived had been the hottest January week my parents has experienced in 15 years. When we arrived we had one day of sunshine before clouds settled in and we had 4 days of intermittent rain and overcast weather. Strangely at 4pm each day the sun appeared but it wasn't until the last day that we got a full day of sunshine - very hot sunshine.

The consensus was that we were unlucky - Gran Canaria hadn't had more than 2 consecutive days of rain for more than 5 years - but even on hot days the evening weather can be chilly so take a cover up if you go for winter sun.

If you go from April on-wards you should be able to guarantee warm weather so pack sun cream!

What I would say is the weather in the south is rumoured to be nicer than the north - always. On arrival at Las Palmas the skies were grey and wind cold, by the time we got to Taurito it was blue skies and 23 degrees Celsius. We also met a few people who had escaped the city to enjoy some sun.

4. Budget
No-one likes to think about money on holiday so deciding upfront if you want to spend out on an all inclusive hotel or create your own break from an airbnb will help. Gran Canaria has accommodation options for everyone. A lot of hotels offer all-inclusive or half board all over the island but there are also plenty of self catering apartments. If you go with the latter you won't be short of options when you eat out. A couple of recommendations from us:
  • Try the lemon cheesecake at the Irish Cafe in Mogan harbour
  • Try the Cabonara at Belice Cafe, Amadores Beach
  • For a traditional option Canarian potatoes are delicious and it's hard to find bad ones but the ones from Sabidan in Puerto Rico were our favs
Eating out is as expensive as in the UK, dinners will cost you around £15 for a main course and drink. Alcohol is reasonably priced and most restaurants have a mixed menu.

On a side note avoid El Pescador II in Puerto Rico as we had our first (and only) homophobic experience there.

5. Our suggestions:
You can find TripAdvisors recommendations here but based on our trip our list includes:
  • Boat trip from Puerto Rico to Puerto De Mogan (€11 each for a return)
  • Hike the sand dunes at Maspalomas - there's no entry fee and it's not a view you see everyday
  • Take in a sunset or two
  • Walk in the white sandy beaches and swim in the sea
  • Stroll the streets of Puerto De Mogan

If you have been and think I've missed anything, let me know!