Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 Most Read Posts!

Hi There!

Firstly happy new year. Secondly may 2019 be filled be happiness and love for you!

2019 has been a life changing one for our family with the addition of Annabelle. This time last year we were 3 months pregnant and unsure of what 2018 would bring. It has been a roller-coaster of a year with so many highs but also quite a few lows. 

Looking back we have so much to be grateful for - our family near and far, our friends old and new and for the love, kindness and support we have received. Thank you to anyone who sent well wishes, congratulations or thoughts our way, we will never take this blog for granted as a way of staying in touch and keeping everyone updated.

So on that note here are the Top 10 posts from this year (lets say the baby featured heavily):
Baby Blogging - Where It All Began: A quick recap on how we got pregnant and the first few weeks!

Review: Upper House and Spa: This getaway on the Welsh border was one of the years highlights and a great place to enjoy some fresh air as a family.

Three Strangest First Trimester Symptoms: Nothing too unusual here but enough to keep Laura entertained and amused!

Baby Blogging - Newborn Photo Shoot: At 11 days old we took our baby girl for her first photoshoot - she slept through it but we had a great time.

Blog Takeover: The 5 Year Interior Itch - Top Tips For Freshening Up Your Home: While we were bust getting used to being Mum's we celebrated 5 years in our home so this guest post arrived at the perfect time with useful hints and tips!

Baby Blogging: 10 Reasons My Wife Is Amazing: I was well and truly looked after during my pregnancy by Laura and here's why.

Annabelle's Birth Story: Thankfully Annabelle's arrival was a quick and easy one for me but here are all the details. 

Review: Serenity Beauty This West Midland beautician was the perfect person to visit for my first trip out with Annabelle, I cam backed feeling refreshed and with glowing skin!

Baby Blogging - It's A.....: At 20 weeks we had it confirmed that we were having a girl, here's how we found out and shared the news.

Baby Blogging - Weeks 6 - 12: The start of our pregnancy was a whole new world from symptom spotting to getting excited, then nervous, the excited again - who knew that would continue trough out!!!

Baby Blogging 13 - 19: From Cornwall to Wales and plenty of place in between we made sure to keep busy while we waited for our baby girls arrival. Here's what weeks 13 - 19 held for us.

We can't wait to see what 2019 as a family of 4 has in store for us!

Friday, 28 December 2018

Four Years Of Bisbee!!

4 years ago we bought home our first family member, a fluffy bundle that we know and love as Bisbee. Four years on we still count Bisbee as one of our best decisions. EVER.

The love we have for this dog is boundless, bountiful and best of all it is reciprocated.

We knew this year would be an interesting one for Bisbee especially with Bisbee becoming a big sister. A role she has taken very seriously. We even included her in Annabelle's naming day (post on that here). We have also jampacked Bisbee's year in other ways too, this post is just a quick run through of some of the highlights!

Everyone we know had two concerns 1) How would Bisbee react and 2) Would Bisbee like the baby. Well if you saw this post about having a baby and a dog you'll know that everything has worked out just fine. Our adaptable, loving Bisbee has welcomed Annabelle and enjoys having the extra attention when guests arrive. I don't think she minds me being at home more either!

At the start of this year we took a family trip with friends up to Scotland and spent time walking in snow covered mountains, taking in stunning scenery and adding a first for Bisbee - a dunk in an icy lake! The poor dog was investigating the ice when *crack* in she went. Laura and I both reacted by grabbing her out of the lake - a moment our friend caught on camera. We are kinda glad as it's the first time anything like that has happened and I'm sure, if Bisbee has anything to do with it, it'll be the last.

That trip was also fun for Bisbee as we took a boat to a secluded island in Loch Lomond for a walk, it turns out the island is home to deer and Bisbee and Farley (our friends dog) had a wonderful time chasing them. All we saw were flashes of Bisbee's pink coat. By the time she realised she'd never catch them it was time to get back on the boat. We were then heading home and Bisbee slept the entire 4 hour journey!

Deer weren't the only thing Bisbee chased this year, on our trip to Wales we came across sheep on one of our walks and Bisbee tried herding them. As they took off up the hill all we could do is watch and holler to try and get her back.

It is fair to say we have two Bisbee's. While the chasing exploits suggest an energetic dog who loves to be out and about the otherside of Bisbee is the opposite. Most days she'll be found asleep on the guest bed if the sun is bathing the bed. Or she'll be asleep under Annabelle's cot or on the couch next to us. On some days we have to physically cajole her out on a walk. A walk she loves once we're out but it's still a performance getting her there.

We have also had it confirmed that Bisbee definitely doesn't hate having her photo taken. At points in the past we thought we may be pushing her but as we set up photos with Annabelle who should appear - Bisbee! She can pull out a pose quicker than Annabelle. In fact we often have to give Bisbee treats for staying out of the photo!!!

Bisbee even dressed up for Laura's 30th princess party - as Cinderella!

At Halloween we went to Dogbeth Dining Club, an event with street food stalls for the humans and treats galore for the dogs. The dogs also had a fancy dress parade - we didn't enter - but it was great seeing all the costumes.

We walked 8 miles around Manchester in search of bees! Our post on the day is here.

We met Santa as a family and Bisbee got to play in fake snow.

On top of all of that we have a seriously loyal dog - unless my Mum is around then we're dumped - but this was highlighted recently when I was fighting my way into a rose bush to retrieve some items thrown in there after being stolen (a story for another day unless you saw it on our Instagram stories). After 10 or so minutes of fighting through to get to the centre I look up and who should be there - Bisbee. Our silly dog was soaking and had side stepped thorns and sharp bushes to be right beside me. It made my heart happy in ways only Bisbee can.

A final thought. When we got pregnant we were told that our love for our child would eclipse anything we've ever felt - including the love we have for Bisbee - but I can honestly say those people were wrong. Of course we love Annabelle wholeheartedly BUT our love for Bisbee hasn't changed, if anything it's increased. We don't love them differently. They are our family and we love our family as a whole. Bring on so many more years of our family adventures filled with love!

There you have it 4 years of Bisbee. Another wonderful year packed to the brim of wonderful memories and moments with our amazing pup.

If you want to check out last years Bisbee post or any Bisbee posts click here.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Recipe: Chicken, Leek & Sweet Potato Pie!

This time of year is for enjoying yourself, stuffing your face and generally being a little indulgent - or it is in our world!

One of my highlights of this time if year is Laura's cooking. Throughout the year Laura will create all kinds of masterpieces but this is pie season and my wife makes a wonderful pie. 

Last year Laura perfected a chicken, leek and sweet potato pie and this year upped her game and made it for a pre-family gathering we hosted for 6 people. Here is the recipe for 4 people:

Click to enlarge
To increase the recipe for 6 people Laura roasted a whole chicken then used the breasts and thighs. The juices from the chicken were then added along with the chicken into the mixture of sweet potato, leeks and sweetcorn. 

For 6 people we used 6 small/medium sweet potatoes and 3 leeks. 

Depending on how you like your pies (we like ours encased in pastry) a roll of pastry was used on the bottom and another on the top. If you just like a pie with a top (is it a even a pie????) then just use the one roll on top. 

The original post can be found here.

Enjoy and if you give the recipe ago let us know how you get on :)

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Baby Blogging: The Sleep Situation!

I had a Keep In Touch day at work today and one of the questions I was asked was 'what's changed the most?' After pausing for thought and considering the fact that I now have a tiny human dependant on me, that everything takes longer, that my day isn't complete until I get a smile from Annabelle or (the one I decided wasn't work appropriate) that my boobs start to really hurt after a few hours of not feeding, I went with sleep.

Now when I say sleep has changed the most I think it's because over the last 5 and half months my sleep has changed numerous times. I can definitely say my sleep has changed from before Annabelle.

Overall I think we have been super lucky with Annabelle and her sleeping. At the start she required feeding fairly frequently but as she grew so did the periods between feeds. At best I think we have had 7 hour of undisturbed sleep - a regular night for us before having a baby.

As Annabelle hit 3 months we were consistently getting nights where only one or two feeds were required, those feeds were quick and she'd often go straight back to sleep. She also really started to like a lay in so we wouldn't get up till 9am.

Then 4 months rolled around and we hit sleep regression. By hit I mean sleep regression hit us, like a steam train. We were unprepared for it. Our great sleeper decided she hated sleep. She hated naps, she hated going to sleep and once asleep she hated staying asleep and would be awake within 20 minutes. After 3 days we were exhausted.

Of course we hit Google and other blogs and asked for advice on Instagram and messages were clear.
1. Whatever you do now will set how she sleeps moving forwards so start a schedule
2. Stick to the basics - or go back to basics. In our case swaddling

We worked together and fought Annabelle's ninja like legs and arms into a swaddle and it worked. Her first nap in a swaddle went from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. Sadly it wasn't always plain sailing and with teething happening too it sometimes took physically weighing her down to get her to sleep. Once swaddled we would sit on our knees by the cot and gently hold her legs and arms until she settled. It thankfully worked.

Once we had the day time naps happening it made nights easier too. It is fair to say that in Annabelle's case the better she sleeps in the day the better she'll sleep at night.

This change also enforced us into having a nap schedule. Up to 4 months we'd let her nap anywhere and everywhere, there was no routine as such and it worked for us. At 4 months we switched to making sure she was able to nap in her cot every two hours. On more than one occasion that meant rushing out of a class or play date to get back in time. If she fell asleep in the car on the way I'd just stay in the car until she woke up but she definitely prefers her cot.

The difference is amazing though. She wakes up from every nap SO happy!

And then 5 months arrived and as Annabelle's rolling improved we used the swaddle less, just focusing on swaddling her legs but then the biggest change of all came. The insert we had used from birth (it's mentioned in here) to keep her on her back suddenly became pointless. She rolled right out of it. So now our big girl is without insert, without swaddle and is sleeping for 45 minutes every nap and for 8 hours at night with one or two feeds.

How was she ever that small?

See ya insert!!!

I have no idea if we are doing, or have done the right thing but it's worked for us so we are counting it as a win.
And no we didn't leave her like this!

To add to all of that sleep has also changed the most because if I sleep to heavily I wake up panicking that Annabelle's not okay. I am now capable to changing a nappy is a sleepy haze. I can move, feed and replace Annabelle without really waking up. We have ended up with Annabelle in our bed if she won't settle and I have been able to sleep balancing on one arm to keep away from her. I can fall asleep quicker. I sleep deeper. I know that a lay in once Annabelle is awake won't happen. I also know that if I sleep too long I miss her. Crazy right?!

Anyway I'm off for an early night....and to get some sleep :)

Review: Buckt - A Great New Way To Explore Birmingham And Beyond!

You may have read our review post for Buckt when we got our first subscription box, if you missed it you can check it out here.

That was a few months ago and since then we have used the subscription box to discover whole new areas, new activities and even discovered things we enjoyed so much we are going back!

With Annabelle being so young, and some of the activities being a bit 'grown up' for her we have also given family and friends the opportunity to review some activities on our behalf. There were a few October activities that we skipped all together due to being complete wusses - notably the Scare Maze at Walsall.

Of the last couple of months highlights have included:
Ice Hockey at Coventry Blaze - we went as a family of 3 and even though we missed the first third (as Annabelle was napping) we had a really enjoyable evening. The rules were easy to understand and the crowd was welcoming. Annabelle was mesmerized watching the players rush up and down and we loved seeing her face light up.

It reminded Laura of home and as it was easy to get to, easy to park we have decided to head to another game just before Christmas!

Magic Lantern Festival at Birmingham Botanical Gardens- we had been to this event before and really enjoyed it. We thought the lights would be something Annabelle enjoy, sadly though she slept through the whole thing, we still loved it though, you can see our full previous review here. Knowing what to expect we had planned to book tickets until we saw the £20 price tag so when our Buckt box turned up and included tickets we were so pleased. We even invited my parents along for the fun!

Walton Lion Air Rifle Shooting - was at a Social Club in Great Barr, on arrival there is a safety briefing and lesson on how to shoot by a club member. The pellets were unlimited and you have two tasks - the first is simply shooting at a paper target, the second is shooting through a hole from 10m away - do it and a bell rings!

There is a bar, it's cash only, that you can relax at afterwards and in great news after shooting we were told we could back and shot on any Tuesday for free. It was fun, everyone there was welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable. It's definitely worth trying out if you want something different to do.

Kitchen Garden Cafe Gig - Garry Colvin. An intimate venue in Birmingham and perfect for watching this kind of band play. The music was brilliant, the singer especially was very funny and made this much more than just 'watching a band'.

There has been so many other great activities included and we still have most of December's box to use. In just a few short months Buckt has shown us more of the local area than we have seen on 5 years and we have plenty of things to recommend to others. If you are looking for a great Christmas gift or want to discover more to do in the area check out

A single box is £12.50 - that's it! A dual box is £25. That's right, as a couple, your entire month's dates could cost you less than a dinner. Plus, if you use our code SARAHPLUSLAURA you get 50% off your first box. Oh and you can get them as gifts if you want to make someone's Christmas. It's on our wish list :)

Friday, 14 December 2018

Review: Is Rugby Family Friendly?

You may have seen that we were invited to a rugby match as part of us 'finding things to do as a family'. As Laura and I both come from football families we were intrigued to find out if heading to a rugby match was anything different.

The match started at 5.30pm on Saturday evening but we were invited into the Clubhouse for pre-match drinks and to check out the facilities on offer at Ricoh Arena, Coventry.

We paid for match parking that was 20 minutes walk from the stadium. At £10 it seemed a little steep but the car park was well lit, manned and seemed to have a lot of fans parked there so we had plenty of people to follow. My Dad always says a pre-match walk is good to warm you up before sitting down and I have to agree. By the time we reached the stadium we were toasty.

Rather than walking around the stadium to the Clubhouse we cut through the part that hosts events and it is well worth checking out. With Christmas almost upon us, the area was packed to the brim with lights, trees and strange Christmas elves greeting everyone. It was like wandering into another world.

Once we did find the Clubhouse we were greeted by a host and shown through to the bar area. We walked in with eyes and mouths wide open. The space was like a sports bar in Vegas. High ceilings lined with massive TV's all playing sport and then as the game approached the pre-match TV programme. There were baby changing facilities and toilets available but our first stop was the bar!

With drinks in hand we were able to find a table towards the back allowing me to give Annabelle a quick pre-match feed. She was far too interested in the TV screens to want a feed but we persevered!

After the main crowd headed out to their seats we followed. One thing for the Ricoh Arena is that it is great for a work out! That stadium loves a staircase. I don't think I would have noticed before but with Annabelle attached they suddenly become a work out! Our seat was behind the goal about halfway up giving us a great view. Annabelle would rate the seats highly as we were right in front of a giant screen so when she wasn't watching the match she had her eyes on the screen! Win-win for entertainment value!

The game was enjoyable and the fans were lovely. In fact it was the fans sat by us that made the game more enjoyable as they explained the rules and what was happening when the play stopped. I think we could have figured some of it out but I'm glad we didn't have to.

So in summary yes rugby is family friendly. From our experience the fans are welcoming and happy to chat. We enjoyed the celebrations when Wasps (the home team) scored, they were fun to join in with and had Annabelle smiling. The stadium is impressive and easily accessible. And the food is pretty yummy too - well the pies at least!

If you enjoy rugby or want to try something new we would definitely recommend trying a game with children of all ages!

Monday, 10 December 2018

Our Welsh Getaway!

There are so many reasons we love living where we do. Birmingham has so much to offer but one of it's greatest attributes is its location within England....or in fact the UK. We are the furthest from any seaside but that's okay as we are so close to so many beautiful places to visit. That includes Wales!

Our best friend was over from Australia and before she headed home we wanted one last hurrah so a mini-break seemed the best idea.

At the start of November we headed so an unpronounceable Welsh village (Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant) just over 2 hours from our home and on the edge of Snowdonia. The majority of the journey was on A roads so we made quick progress, the last part was proper country road. Single track with low visibility and limited passing spaces so we had be ready to reverse at any point. Nothing makes it feel like an adventure like those roads.

Our welcome to the Airbnb
We arrived at our Airbnb late Saturday afternoon and checked in, started the fire and unpacked. The owner lived in the cottage next door and gave us a quick tour of the property that included a lovely garden overlooking a river. There was also a footpath we could take to cross the river to explore the hills on the other side.

As it was firework night we decided to head to Oswestry, our nearest main town 20 minutes away. Even though it was a 'town' it was a fairly small town and it wasn't hard to find the fireworks as everyone there seemed to be heading that way. We were fairly surprised at the £5 per person entry fee for a fairly basic display though.

Annabelle and Bisbee really enjoyed the event though. Bisbee loved the fact that one family shared their sausages and Annabelle was mesmerized by the bonfire and the flashing lights of the fireworks.

After the fireworks we picked up fish and chips for dinner and settled in at our home for the next few days. Breakfast the next morning included food provided by our host - fresh eggs and homemade bread. It set us up perfectly for us to head out and explore.

We knew things would be different traveling with Annabelle, things would take longer, we'd have to adjust our expectations but we didn't realise what she add. Her wonder at simple things, her smiles when she sees things she like, it's adorable and heartwarming.

Our first days activity was a walk around the local countryside, the guide had said it would take 40 minutes, it took us almost 3 hours. Our paced was slowed by adjusting the Ergobaby every time someone else carried her, two nappy changes, one feed and the photos - so many photos. The area was just too beautiful to not capture.

Our second day was more dramatic than planned. We were 4 minutes from our Airbnb when I hit a rock and punctured a tyre! Not great in an area with no phone signal. Thankfully a lovely couple stopped to help us and we were back up and running with half an hour and on our way to the UK's largest single drop waterfall. It was only 15 minutes from where we were staying and well worth the visit.

The third day we went to Lake Vyrnwy to check out the dam and its beautiful scenery. The weather had taken a turn so we had to be quick with our walk and we ended up in a cafe on the side of the lake. The drive back involved us stopping at the tallest tree in the UK and taking a dip in the river. A great experience to end our mini break.

The drive back was around 2 hours and Annabelle decided she was not a fan of the car seat at that point so our drive was accompanied by almost constant crying until we stopped at a lay by and fed her. We learnt that journey that it is worth always having a rattle to hand as that does seem to calm Annabelle down. We now have battery powered fairy lights surrounding her mirror so it's not so dark and we now have toys that can be attached so she can't lose them. So far it has made other journeys easier.

We also learnt that as long as we have the Ergobaby and nappy bag we can handle any situation. Thankfully there were no poo-plosions but even a simple nappy change on a thin wall is a challenge with a baby that can roll so it took teamwork and keeping calm.

We can't wait for our next adventure and will definitely take the lessons we learnt this trip!