Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Theatre Review: Hair The Musical

We were lucky enough to be invited* to watch the musical Hair last night, which is touring the UK for its 50th Anniversary after winning the 2018 WhatsOnStage Award. We saw the show at our favourite theatre in Birmingham, The Alexandra, where the show is playing until Saturday the 4th May 2019 (so get your tickets quickly if you are in the area!).

As a huge fan of the movie version of Hair (since I was around 16!) I was so excited to finally see the stage production. The musical follows a group of politically (and sexually) active hippies in New York City, leading a Bohemian lifestyle, when one of them, Claude, gets drafted to serve in the Vietnam war. He then has to decide if he is going to dodge the draft as it isn't what he believes in, or serve his country in a war he doesn't agree with.

From the moment we sat down in the theatre, we were transported to 1967, with the music and backdrop of the hippie camp. It was truly an immersive experience - we felt throughout the first half that we had been thrown into the '60s, being introduced to the characters and learning about their stories. The psychedelic music, the fast pace at which scenes moved, and references to drugs taken made us feel, well honestly, like we were having some sort of trip ourselves!

We thought it was really interesting how they brought the subject matter up to date during the introduction by playing clips from President Trump's rallies and speeches - it really made us think about how history repeats itself and how relevant many of the issues tackled in Hair are relevant today.

I think I came at a slight disadvantage having seen and memorised so much of the film version of Hair, as it turns out that it's actually quite different from the show. For instance, in the musical, Claude is part of the band of hippies who is rebelling against his parents to live the 'free love' lifestyle. This is stark contrast to the film, where Claude arrives in New York City as a clean cut kid ready to enlist in the military. Also, one of the main characters plays a completely different role - so I think if I'd realised before or read up on the differences between the versions, I would have been able to just 'go with it' a little more. My fault! Despite this, I still found the show very enjoyable.

The second half of the show ramped it up a notch, which we didn't realise was possible, as it included a very detailed and intense hallucination Claude had on the night he had to decide whether to enlist. Possibly some of the show is slightly confusing at first watch, but the show quickly answered our questions and we were entranced. The hallucination scene was so colourful, so strange, so out there. I won't spoil the ending, but I've never seen a finale like it!

Jake Quickenden as Berger was really likeable, he captured the character very well!
Our favourite thing about the show was its cast. The singing was absolutely unreal. There were two former X Factor stars (Jake Quickenden, who plays 'Berger' and Marcus Collins, who plays 'Hud') who were great, and our favourites were Daisy Wood Davis (Hollyoaks) who plays 'Sheila', Natalie Green, who plays 'Cassie', and Aiesha Pease, who plays 'Dionne'. What vocal talents! Honestly, the show is worth seeing for the songs and singing alone.

Overall, this production of Hair is quite an experience. It is immersive, all encompassing, and quite strange, with a very talented cast and plenty of amazing and funny songs.

Hair The Musical is in Birmingham at the moment, as previously mentioned, and then will be continuing on its UK tour until August this year. Take a look at their site (HERE) for a full list of dates and links to where you can purchase tickets.

*We were gifted tickets to see Hair the Musical, however all opinions are our own.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Baby Blogging - Breastfeeding (an almost) 10 Month Old - The Truth!

If you ever attended a prenatal NCT or NHS (or equivalent in your part of the world) you were probably told 'breast is best' and that you should breastfeed as long as possible. We were told in our class that the worldwide average was 3 years!

In reality breastfeeding isn't possible or practical for many people. I have been fortunate that Annabelle latched instantly and hasn't stopped, and thankfully neither has my milk. I think thankfully!

I shared this post back when Annabelle was first born on what I wished I'd known about breastfeeding, click here.

And this post on my continued journey - the positives and negatives, click here.

Anyway that brings us to now. Annabelle is about to turn 10 months and somehow we are still breastfeeding. I say we as it is a joint effort. Unless I am on a train first thing I always breastfeed Annabelle before she heads to nursery or my Mums. I will do whatever it takes to be home for bed time so I can do the last feed and in between, well good olde expressed milk does the job.

These hugs are the best
One interesting discovery is that Annabelle is not a fan of drinking her milk at nursery, they struggle to get her to have 2oz's. We think it's that she's not 100% comfortable there yet as she drinks it when my Mum is feeding her. Thankfully she LOVES food and eats the meals and snacks they provide so isn't going hungry. Laura then feeds her a bottle when she gets home, and she drinks the whole thing!

Mama the hero
I was thinking the other night, during one particularly long evening feed, that there are definite pros and cons to breastfeeding this long and here's my thoughts:

  • It's convenient
  • It allows Annabelle and I to have some time, just us
  • It's comforting for her and a relief for me
  • It nutritious
  • It's free
  • It's a great time to relax and be present

  • When I am away from Annabelle I have to set up a production to be able to pump every 4 hours (think sterilizer, bottle parts, pump, container for milk, cool bag and to carry that stuff requires it own bag - it's a lot)
The wellness room/cupboard at work where I go to pump
  • Not pumping is not an option (see previous posts but it is AGONY)
  • Less feeds mean longer feeds, where we used to be done in 15 minutes it can now be 30 mins and no position is comfortable for that long, especially with a wriggly baby - plus relaxation turns to creating to-do lists and thinking about all the stuff you could be doing
  • Annabelle is now big enough, and capable enough, of wriggling free, sitting up, grabbing my arm, hair, belly and it hurts, her trying to get my boob from all angles hurts!
  • Teeth - nuff said - Annabelle has 8 and knows how to use them!
She may look charming!
  • It can get lonely, that's weird to say but sometimes when things are going on elsewhere - like friends are over and chatting downstairs, or a family gathering is happening where you can hear laughter. I am sat in a quiet room with Annabelle, who in most cases is dozy so I don't want to chat to her and wake her up, on my own with nothing to do but listen to what I am not a part of

Although I can list out cons, easily I'm afraid to admit, I wouldn't change the fact that we have made it this far, I'm proud of us! I thought we would quit it at 6 months, definitely be over it by 9 months, and going back to work while breastfeeding seemed absurd - and it is! - but we are pushing through and making it work. So as I write this I am thinking we might stop at 12 months - that's my thought for now anyway :D

We got this!

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Baby Blogging: The End of Maternity Leave!

It's been 3 days of being back to work after maternity leave. My wonderful wife helped me time my return so that I had a bank holiday at the end of my first week and start of my second. So even though Annabelle and I have had 3 days apart we will have 4 days together to make up for it.

How have I felt? Well where do I start. Emotional. Pleased. Sad. Positive.

I had grand plans to be in London twice in the week to see my team but last minute the company who acquired us announced we had a company day in Bournemouth on the Wednesday. On reading the email my heart sank. I had prepared myself to head to London for the day and race back to see Annabelle at bedtime. I hadn't prepared myself to be away overnight immediately.

After a few deep breathes, a lot of tears and a period of gathering myself Laura and I started on a plan for the week. If there is one thing Laura does so well it's plan. And once a plan was in place things didn't seem so bad.

Lovely good luck messages
Rather than heading into London on Tuesday I would work from home clearing my inbox and completing eLearning. The urgency of seeing my team was lessened as they would all be in Bournemouth the next day. Laura dropped Annabelle at nursery and she popped home for lunch. We went to pick Annabelle up together so we could both get the low down on her first day at nursery. My first day was a dream.

Heading to nursery
The good news is nursery went well. We have video access that means we can log in and see how she's doing. We saw her eating, sleeping and crawling around the place. No tears and no drama. She is a superstar. Laura and I on the other-hand had a kind of heavy sadness and missed her all day. The sadness only lifted when the nursery staff said she had a great day.

After I finished work we spent the evening as a family, this included bathing Annabelle as she stunk of the mackerel she'd had for snack at nursery. We played, we made her smile and it felt so good to be back in our bubble. After getting Annabelle to bed I then hit the road.

A three hour drive from Birmingham to Bournemouth meant I arrived at my hotel at 10pm. Well I say my hotel.....they had no record of my room being booked and there were no rooms left. After 45 mins and the receptionist rushing around looking stressed they found me a room and I fell into bed at 11.15pm.

My trip to Bournemouth left Laura to get Annabelle up and ready the next morning. Not a major challenge except as I have never spent the night apart Annabelle has never had a bottle in the morning - first thing feeds are our thing. Laura rocked it though, after initial tears Annabelle took the bottle and made it to nursery in time. Laura is a hero!

My all day meeting in Bournemouth had an end time of 4pm (and then drinks which I skipped). As soon as I could I rushed up to my colleagues room where I had my bags and where I been pumping. Turns out breast feeding and work - especially all day meetings - are not good combinations. I had to leave the meeting twice (although timed one pumping session for lunch) and pumping is not a 2 mins task. Each time I was gone for almost half an hour. What with the sterilising and the prep and then the pumping. Oh and then having to have storage - I went with bags and ice packs that the hotel kindly kept in their freezer.

So after getting all my stuff together it was 4.30pm. A 3 hour drive - at rush hour - made the likelihood of getting back for Annabelle's bed time unlikely. I was devastated. I had consoled myself on missing the morning by being home in time to see her face before bed. Throughout the journey the traffic got worse, then better, then worse, then better and then by some miracle cleared so that my journey took 2 hours 48 and got me back for 7.20pm. Laura had kept Annabelle awake and it was so worth it. The smiles and hugs were amazing. My heart was so happy.

And then as all my team stayed down in Bournemouth it made my Thursday trip to London  redundant as there was no-one there to see. Instead I worked from home getting myself set up for the next week and getting all my log-ins restored. It meant I could have from 7am until 9am with Annabelle before my parents took her to theirs. It made up for the being away from her the day before.

I know the whole work/life balance is a challenge for everyone and our challenge isn't unique. What I am proud of is the way we handled this challenge. I know we are 3 days in and it's nothing to get excited about BUT Annabelle got on well at nursery, Laura managed to manage everything and I managed to go to work. We managed, we succeeded and we survived without too many tears! And our reward - four glorious days together, back as a four, back in our bubble, back being us.

The new us can wait a few days, we'll figure that out soon enough!

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Annual Bloggers Bash - We've Been Nominated - Please Vote!

Hello there!

How are you?

This post is going to deviate from our usual posts. Rather than sharing our experience of life, travelling, recipes, wedding guides, fun facts, pregnancy, motherhood or LGBT info this post is a simple request, a request for your vote.

Last week we were informed that SarahplusLaura.blogspot.co.uk has been nominated for best lifestyle blog at the Annual Bloggers Bash.
We are up against great competition and are one of 30 blogs in the category so even being nominated is something of a shock.

So if you have ever read anything on our blog and taken anything away; a bit of advice, a smile, the feeling of 'me too' or that you aren't alone then please give us a vote. If you have ever learnt something - a travel hack, a fun fact or something about LGBT rights then please vote. If you stop by here frequently or this is your first time (stick around a while) then please vote. If you like our pictures, our stories or just our approach to life then you know what we'd appreciate the vote.

And here's how you vote, just click this link it'll take you to the official voting page. Once there you will see a list of categories and the nominated blogs. Find the lifestyle category about halfway down and Sarah Plus Laura towards the bottom of that list.

Simply select the circle by our name and job done! You voted and we are super grateful. 

The closing date is the 24th of April

For anyone who has followed our journey from the very start when we were called Sprezzatura (appreciating the little things) to our name change to SarahplusLaura, from our getting together in London in 2009, to moving to Australia in 2010, getting engaged in 2012 and married in 2014 (twice), getting Bisbee and buying a house in Birmingham and then adding Annabelle to our girl gang in 2018 - thank you for being part of it! For anyone who has joined us along the way - thank you too! And if you are just joining us, well hi! Our blog may not be the best organised (we are working on it) but it is full to the brim with posts on so many things, so we hope you find something of interest.

Blogging is our hobby, a joint effort to help us track our life, but also to share things we have learnt along the way, especially lessons and insights we think will be useful to others. It has presented us with amazing opportunities and we have met wonderful people, for that we are always grateful. It's helped us get to know the great city we live in and have experiences that we never expected. In no way did we start it to get awards but as with most things in life the unexpected can be a great (and pleasant) surprise.

And so if you did vote, thank you. If you didn't vote then no worries we hope you come back and find a post of interest some other time. Or if blogs aren't your thing find us on Instagram (and Instagram stories where you'll see all sorts), Twitter or Pinterest just search SarahplusLaura.

Laura on the right and Sarah on the left, not our usual order :)

Ah that's better!

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Baby Blogging: How Do You Feel About Going Back to Work?

With my impending return to work only a week away 'how do you feel about going back to work?' is the only question anyone wants to ask at the moment. On one hand I get it - returning to work is going to be the biggest change our family has been through. On the other hand I am doing my best not to acknowledge it. So answering the question is always a hard one.

For 9 wonderful months Annabelle and I have got to spend almost all day everyday together and I am working hard to convince myself that it's the right time for us both to take our next steps. My head says that it'll be good for Annabelle, nursery has the safe space to crawl around, the social interaction with the other kids, the opportunity to develop new skills. My heart just doesn't want to acknowledge she's growing up and already at the age where she needs to be out in the world.

For me personally I have been feeling ready to return to work for the last month. For me that feels like the need to have adult conversations, the need to feel like I am achieving and using my skills. I mean clapping and tower building are entertaining but I don't feel like I am putting my skills to best use. I also get the sense that my team are starting to need me at work, that's not a reason to leave Annabelle but it is assurance that I can also make a difference elsewhere. There are big changes at work, my company has just been acquired, and I want to be there. I want to be involved. Nine months has been a wonderful amount of time, I am so grateful to have had it, but it's the right amount of time to thankfully feel like I am not to out of the loop, or lacking the capability to jump back in.

In January I shared this post on my Maternity leave experience here.

Today, as I start to write this, Annabelle is at a trial session at nursery. We went as a family on Friday to spend time in the nursery space and Annabelle did really well. Within 5 minutes she was off playing with toys and barely noticed us sat in the corner filling in forms. Today did not start so well. I went into the room with her and another baby full on bawling had Annabelle on edge. I tried to be reassuring, I tried to stay calm and when the other baby stopped crying the room leader came and took Annabelle. I backed out quickly. Nothing. I backed up further....and the tears started. As I left the building she was full on sobbing.

Returning an hour and a half later the conclusion was that it did not go well.

There were a lot of tears, a little playing, some snack eating and then some more tears. Tears because she was tired. Tears because she didn't want her milk. Tears because she didn't want to be in the cot. Just generally a lot of tears.

I walked in when she was crying in the cot. As she noticed me she took a deep inhale, cried once more and then stopped. I never knew how conflicting it would be being the comfort that she needs. I love that she feels comforted by me but it is so hard to think that she needs that. I know it's just a phase. I know in time other people - especially her Mama - will also be her comfort. I know that before long she'll be racing into nursery to play with all the toys. But for right now it's hard. It's really hard.

And so to the other question that's come up 'what will you do when she's at nursery?'
Well I have partly answered that by saying I am writing the blog :) but in addition to that I plan to do household chores that are harder with the little lady on the move. Exciting right?! :D

We do this again on Thursday but for a little longer trial session. Fingers crossed it goes a little better. I am holding out hope that when she is used to people she seems to be happier with them so hopefully it's just a case of her getting used to the people there.

Bring back the smiles!
And so my answer, how do I feel about going back to work? I feel ready. I feel sad. I feel motivated. I feel torn. I feel determined. I feel a mess. I feel like there is no overriding feeling just a lot of feelings all at the same time and that I just need to accept that. I knew that motherhood came with it challenges and this was always going to be one of them. I just need to face it.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Baby Blogging: Nine Months of Breastfeeding and a Freezer Full of Milk!

I am so proud of my Sarah for so many things. She is an amazing wife and mum, good at her job and loved by her team, a thoughtful and loving daughter and sister, and always takes the best care of Bisbee.

But today I wanted to write a short little post to commemorate something for which I think she is amazing. 

Annabelle has just turned nine months old, and Sarah has exclusively breast fed her (besides the weaning food now of course!) for her entire life. That's nine months of time, of being ready on Annabelle's schedule, of pain sometimes (at first while she got used to it and now because A has 5 teeth!), of missing out and being sensible around alcohol at dinners and parties and functions, Christmastime, etc. Nine months of wrangling a growing and wriggly baby, of nighttime feeds which have only recently stopped, of having to rush to pump when she is away from Annabelle for more than a few hours to avoid painfully full boobs, of manually pumping at keep in touch days at work, and at weddings. 9 months of breastfeeding so many random places - side of a trail in Wales, on the street in NYC, on a park bench in Stratford-upon-Avon, on trains, the tube, a bus, in the car, on an airplane, in a restaurant in London, in plenty of other towns and places, everywhere we have been, she has fed our little girl.

She will tell you it isn't a big deal, that she is lucky that it came relatively easy to her and Annabelle, and that bottles would be much harder, and all of that is true - but I still think it is an accomplishment to be celebrated!

Also today we counted how much frozen breast milk is in the freezer, and there are 100 ounces! That is incredible, and has set us up well for nursery/Nanny which starts when she goes back to work this month. Thinking about the time it took her to pump 100 ounces of milk is crazy. A third of our freezer is filled with frozen milk. (Amazing but inconvenient) And that isn't even counting the plenty of milk she has pumped that we have used in this time.

Finally, I want to celebrate the sacrifice that is to come, when she goes back to work, and will be pumping on more trains into London, in her office, carrying around the pump and a cooler bag for the milk, and rushing home to us in the evening, just in time for Annabelle's bedtime. She is a superwoman.

All mums are amazing, we are strong, adaptable and relatively selfless beings, but I've got to say, I think Annabelle has one of the best in my Sarah.

Here's to you, my love, and nine months of breastfeeding!