Monthly Archives: February 2018

27th February 2018

Currently Loving… February 2018

As I type this, the window next to me looks out at a garden blanketed in snow – but despite that, my mind is very firmly fixed on spring, which is definitely reflected in a few of my choices in February’s ‘Currently Loving’. I can’t wait for milder temperatures, lighter evenings, and possibly even bringing a few of my summery clothes out of the spare wardrobe (is it too much to hope for? possibly!) But whether we’re going to be feeling wintery for some time yet or not, it’s time to tell you about my picks – so here are the things I am loving or coveting this month…

1. Olivier Baby and Kids. The new spring/summer collection is out and I am coveting so many pieces for Mabel, including this ditsy floral Tilly dress. I’m imagining some metallic sandals and this floaty dress on warm days – and with tights and a cardi on chilly days. Shop here.

2. Converse. How cool are these rose gold glitter Converse? I mean, I just wish they came in adult size too. Shop here.

3. Jasper & The Firefighting Dragon by Val Blackburn. I’ve really enjoyed reading this new book to the boys and Mabel over recent weeks. It’s about Jasper; a dragon that breathes water rather than fire. I love the fact it encourages children to realise that being different isn’t always a bad thing, whilst being a really lovely read with beautiful illustrations. Shop here.

4. Next. This dinosaur top caught my eye when a friend’s little boy wore it recently. It’s from Next and it’s very affordable at just £6. Shop here.

5. The FMLY Store. I’m loving this new collaboration between Giovanna Fletcher and the FMLY Store. Not only is the boyfriend sweater super stylish, but it supports MOTHER2MOTHERS, who employ, train and empower mothers living with HIV, called Mentor Mothers, to end paediatric AIDS. Shop here.

6. Hush. I’m a little bit in love with Hush at the moment and want to own their entire spring/summer collection – but top of my list is this long double star necklace, which I would pretty much wear with everything. Shop here.

7. Etsy. This print jumped out at me while I was browsing Etsy recently – perfect for hanging in the downstairs loo to remind my pack of filthy animals to wash their hands. Shop here.

8. Amazon. You will probably have seen this dinosaur light pendant on my social media feeds this week, as I just added it to the boys’ room. They love it – and it’s such an easy way to transform a nursery or bedroom. Shop here.

9. H&M. These textured trousers for little girls are so simple, but so sweet. I’d team them with pretty floaty tops in the spring. Shop here.

10. T-RQ Adult Gummies. I’ve been taking my T-RQ Hair, Skin and Nails Gummies every morning for over a month now – and I’ve noticed such a difference. It’s hard to explain in writing, but my skin just looks glowier and healthier, I’ve noticed a shiny gloss to my hair, and my nails are growing really quickly. I will definitely be replacing the bottle when I am finished. Shop here.

11. notonthehighstreet. Scroll down to my last blog post to see more about this wonderful necklace from notonthehighstreet which features a handwritten message from my eldest child. I LOVE it and will treasure it forever. Shop here.

12. Zara Kids. I can’t resist the Zara Kids collections at the best of times but this spring, it’s better than ever. I mean seriously, how stunning is this dress? Shop here.

 

 

Some links are affiliate. 

Written in collaboration with T-RQ

 



26th February 2018

My perfect early Mother’s Day gift from notonthehighstreet…

For me, the perfect Mother’s Day present has to combine two things:

A bit of effort from the husband.

And a bit of effort from the kids.

It could be as simple as a homemade card, a bunch of flowers that they’d gone to the shops and picked out together, or a breakfast-in-bed that the kids had their hand in.

But if it’s something I can keep forever, as a souvenir of this exact moment in my life, it would be even better – and that’s exactly why I fell head over heels in love with this necklace by Minetta Jewellery at notonthehighstreet, which features your own child’s handwriting.

I think it makes the most wonderful gift for any mother or grandmother, who can keep it forever and wear a totally unique and personal message. I love the style of the necklace too and have been wearing mine layered with different length necklaces in shades of gold and rose gold.

To start the process of designing my necklace so I could show you all, I asked Stanley to sit down and write me some messages. His Daddy sat with him, helping him with spellings and ideas. He was so proud of his messages and when he’d finished, he asked me to pick my favourite.

And this was the one I loved most…

This message means a lot to me because my kids LOVE ice cream – and I feel like it was such a big part of our life when we lived in Dubai, because we always followed trips to the beach with gelato and often celebrated the end of the week with a trip to scoff ice cream on the way home from school. So the fact he’s written that they love me more than ice cream is just lovely – and I feel like it’s perfectly capturing something that is part of family life for us. It’s very personal and means a lot.

So once I’d chosen, I sent a picture of it over to notonthehighstreet (just taken with my iPhone)  – and within days, a package arrived on my doorstep. Inside was the most beautiful box – and inside that, was my totally unique, totally gorgeous necklace.

 

I couldn’t be more delighted with this necklace – and I think it would make the very best Mother’s Day present for other lucky mothers or grandmothers. It’s thoughtful, stylish, and so personal – and I know it would bring a smile to anyone’s face when they opened it on Sunday 11th March.

You can order your own here – www.notonthehighstreet.com

 

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored, but Not on the Highstreet gifted me the necklace so I could share the gift idea with you.



22nd February 2018

“Everyone hates the newborn stage,” she said, looking at her friend directly in the eyes…

“Everyone hates the newborn stage,” she said, looking at her friend directly in the eyes. “And if they tell you otherwise, they are lying!”.

Her friend nodded – and as she placed her cup back on its saucer with a noisy clunk, I flinched.

The coffee shop was busy, but I was on my own with Mabel (who was carefully picking up the raisins on her highchair one-by-one and dropping them silently on the floor) and I could hear every word of their conversation as they chatted away on the table next to me.

My lips pursed, desperate to turn to them – but knowing my eavesdropping would never be welcomed.

Because the thing is, I didn’t hate the newborn days.

And I’m really not lying when I say that.

I remember the difficult bits. The sleepless nights that feel like they’re going to break you. The belief that you will never, ever stop having to change those giant maternity pads. The pain of breastfeeding in the early days – and the constant worry that they aren’t getting enough. The pain that tore through my body when I forgot about the stitches for a moment and moved too freely. The unexplained crying that had you googling at 3am wondering what the hell was wrong with your baby.  I remember it all. I haven’t forgotten.

But those heavy cuddles, the milky smell of the back of their heads, the chance to stare at their faces as they slept after months and months of dreaming, and the adrenaline and excitement of a complete shift in our family dynamic – that was enough for me. That was enough to make me look back with the fondest memories and wish I could keep doing it, over and over again.

Through the buzz of the café, the voices on the next table drifted in my consciousness again.

“It’s when they walk and talk that I start enjoying it,” she continued. “They become little people and I can finally breathe. That’s the best bit. That’s when it gets good.”

Right on cue, Mabel launched the empty packet of raisins across the room and demanded ‘UP UP UP!” As she attempted to fight her way out of the high chair straps to stand up, I sighed. I was only halfway through my cup of coffee – and after at 4.30am wake-up that morning, I was exhausted by her endless energy, her sass, her determination. I adored her – oh gosh, I really adore her – but just for a moment, I wished she could be a sleepy newborn alongside me in her basinet.

We left that café shortly afterwards and I thought about that conversation quite a bit over coming days. I knew I wanted to spin the way I felt into words – as I so often do as a writer – but I couldn’t quite work out how to tell the story without making it sound like I wasn’t enjoying Mabel at this age.

Because there are parts of this stage that I just adore. I go to bed every night laughing about her latest antics, flicking through photos of her beaming at me on a swing, and chatting to my husband about the new words she has suddenly blurted out or new skills she has suddenly acquired. In fact, I often utter the words: “I wish I could freeze time so she stays like this forever,” before yawning on the sofa and falling asleep.

But the truth is that I’ve always found motherhood a bit easier when my toddlers turn 3 years old and I’m able to communicate, negotiate, and explain. And not having to worry about them falling down the stairs, running off in the park, or trying to scale the tallest slide in the playground. I find it less physically exhausting when they master sleeping through the night, entertaining themselves to some degree so I can tidy the kitchen, and not having to lug a giant bag out with us wherever we go.

I think my point is that we are all different as mothers. And because of that, we find different parts easy – and different parts hard. We have different newborns, different toddlers, different patience levels, and different personalities.

And what one mother tells her friend, while sipping a coffee in a busy café, can be completely different to what another feels, eavesdropping on the table next door.

So despite my tongue wanting to leap into action to turn to them and say: “IT’S NOT TRUE! I LOVE THE NEWBORN BIT! MY GOD, I WISH I COULD GO BACK NOW AND DO IT ALL AGAIN! THIS IN THE HARD BIT! THIS IS THE BIT THAT DRIVES YOU TO THE BRINK OF MADNESS” I was right not to.

Of course I was.

I was right to stay quiet, pick up the raisins from the floor, and leave that café muttering ‘well, everyone is different’ under my breath.

 



17th February 2018

Dear Fitness-App-Thingy…

Dear Fitness-App-Thingy

Every day, I log in. You congratulate me for doing so. I crave doughnuts. You tell me they are too high in fat. I count my steps. You tell me I should be doing more. All these things happen like clockwork, every single day.

But listen Fitness-Tracking-App-Thingy, I am a mum-of-three – and sometimes I feel like I don’t fit into your world. In fact, I think you might be due a bit of an update to become more suitable for mums like me. And here’s are a few questions you might like to use as inspiration…

1 – How many calories do I burn when I chase three children around the house trying to get them dressed in the morning?

2 – Is it true that calories consumed while finishing off my kid’s tea don’t count?

3 – Is my step-count still accurate if my toddler steals my phone and legs it around the house for half an hour?

4 – Could you please add ‘wrestling a 16-month-old on the floor, attempting to change her nappy, while she’d much rather be stealing her brother’s toys or hiding the remote control under the sofa’ to your list of exercise activities?

5 – Does lugging three bags of laundry upstairs count as ‘weight lifting’? How about throwing the cushions back on the sofa 2,851 times a day? Or collapsing the buggy and heaving it into the boot, trapping my finger in the process? Really?

6 – You know the ‘sleep tracker’ function? Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Is there any way that I can delete it?

7 – Does it count as a workout if I wear activewear on the school run? What if I have 7 different bags, two coats, two bits of toilet-roll artwork, and a trainer from ‘Lost Property’ in my hands while I’m doing it?

7 – Is there any chance that you got the calorie count for doughnuts wrong? Any chance at all?

8 – Do I still have to log the glass of wine in the evening if my children drove me to it? It seems a bit unfair.

You’re welcome.

Yours, Louise



6th February 2018

Dear first-time pregnant mummy – I remember being you…

Dear first-time pregnant mummy,

I remember being you.

In one sense it feels like yesterday that I was stroking my bump and trying to resist the urge to let my eyes dart to the calendar on the wall and count the days to my due date.

In another sense, the six years that have followed have been such a whirlwind of changing nappies, sterilising bottles, picking up cushions from the living room floor, and barking ‘IT’S TOO EARLY! GO BACK TO BED!’ when a child appears at the door at 5am, that it feels like it’s been forever.

But if I shut my eyes and really think about it, I can remember exactly what it felt like. The sheer volume of overwhelming advice, the texts pinging on my phone that demanded ‘ANY NEWS?’, the googling of labour symptoms, and the staring at a cot lying in the corner of an empty room and finding it very hard to imagine a little person lying inside it.

And if I take myself back to that room, all those years ago, here is the advice I would very much like to pass on…

1. Don’t ask the question ‘Can anybody recommend a buggy?’ on an online forum. You will receive approximately 74,000 replies, each telling you why their model is the absolute best. And after reading all 74,000 replies, you will feel like your head is going to explode. Instead, pick a mother of several children that you trust implicitly and ask her instead (she will probably have trialled at least 3 or 4 of them and have plenty of tales to tell). And failing that, simply walk into a large baby store, try a few, and pick the one that feels best. Just whatever you do, step away from the internet. It won’t help, I promise.

2. Stay in your pyjamas. Do this for the last bit of pregnancy – but even more so, for the first few months of your baby’s life. When your little person starts to crawl and then walk, you will find it very hard to stay within the confines of your living room for any length of time – and when that times comes, I guarantee that you will miss the pyjamas. And if they’re maternity pyjamas with big, wide, elasticated waistbands? Even better.

3. Don’t pack your hairdryer in your hospital bag. Greasy hair will be the least of your problems, believe me.

4. Dress your baby in onesies. Fashionable little outfits with several layers, shoulder poppers, and bows to tie might look adorable while you are pregnant – but in reality, they are going to stay in the drawer. Imagine getting a wriggling octopus dressed, while being totally paranoid about snapping all of his arms, while operating on about 2 hours (broken) sleep – and you can see what I’m getting at. It’s just not worth it. Stick to the onesies.

5. However sure you are that you have baby wipes in your bag before you leave the house, check again. And then again. It’s important.

6. Enjoy the cuddles. This one sounds a bit obvious, but when you have a newborn attached to you for 24 hours a day, you will start to fantasise about the day when you might be able to put them back down again. But believe me – in what seems like the blink of an eye, they will turn into a toddler that sits on your lap for approximately 4 seconds, before struggling to get down, stealing your phone in the process, and giving you glares from across the room as they work out how to video call their grandma.

7. Enlist help. You are an independent, feisty female, ready to take on the world. You can handle a baby! And I get it, because I was one of them once too, utterly determined to do it on my own (and then some). But the truth is that independent, feisty females still need sleep. And food. And wees and poos. And showers. And sometimes (shock, horror) a little time to themselves to stay sane. So if somebody tries to take that baby from your arms, whether it be husbands or boyfriends or grandparents or aunties or best friends or nannies, just let them. For a little bit, at least.

8. Take photographs. A little voice in your head will say ‘Am I taking too many photos of the baby? Maybe I should calm down a bit!” Ignore it. In fact, double your efforts. Those bow lips, and chubby wrists, and curled toes won’t last forever and you will treasure those photographs more than you ever imagine.

9. Slow down. Your newborn doesn’t need to learn sign language or be held in your arms as you dance around the room to piano concertos. There is plenty of time for that. For now, feel no guilt for sitting still and watching entire series back to back on Netflix.

10. You don’t need a nappy bin. Believe me. Once you remove it and bag it up, you aren’t going to want it anywhere near your house. Steal an extra wheely bin from a neighhour* and leave it just outside the back door so you can sling them out in your slippers (*just joking. kind of. actually quite a good idea).

 

Love from Louise x



4th February 2018

Six months in the UK – an update…

It’s Sunday evening and the kids are about to go to bed. My feet are in slippers, the central heating is cranked up, and a furry blanket is covering my knees. Outside, the temperature has plunged to 3’C and when I open the back door to throw a nappy in the bin, my breath smokes and dances in the air.

This isn’t where I expected to be in February. I expected to be in my dusty desert home in Dubai, enjoying after-school playdates to the park, planning weekend trips to the beach, and feeling smug about the perfect winter weather. After all, that is exactly where we have been for the last 7 Februarys. And being there at this time of year is the only real normality I have known as a mother. It was my ‘normal’.

But not anymore –  because after our last-minute decision at the end of summer to bring our return to the UK forward, we have now been here for six months. It’s the longest I’ve been away from Dubai since my husband moved there in 2009 – and sometimes, the place I used to call ‘home’ feels so far away and so distant that it feels like it was all just a dream.

I’m not going to lie, the first six months back in the UK were hard – but this was kind of our own fault for making the decision without any forward planning. I’m sure that we’d have found it all a lot easier if we’d shipped our things back to the UK when we first left in July and found a family home to move in as soon as it reached us. Instead, it took us a while to get our bums in gear, choose a shipping company, have my husband single-handedly pack up our villa in Dubai, and then find somewhere to live in the UK that was close to school and would fit all of our children into. It wasn’t easy, but we managed it – and in December, a truck pulled up to our new home in the countryside and our belongings (all those “things” I hadn’t seen since we left for Dubai Airport in the early hours of July 7th 2017) came tumbling out the back and into the place we would now call ‘home’.

Christmas and New Year arrived very quickly after that, making it feel a little bit like we were on holiday – but as soon as we returned home from skiing and settled into a routine with school and work, life started to feel normal again. Not the “normal” I was used to – but a “new normal”. And very quickly, it started to feel right that we were here.

In the darkest hours of the last six months, I thought we’d made a big mistake. So many times, I told my husband I wanted to go back. To turn back time. To re-register the kids at their school, to resume the play dates with the friends that felt like family, to be reunited with our nanny, our favourite weekend spots, our favourite malls, our favourite restaurants, and the life that I had loved so much. But since we settled into this new house in the UK countryside, I have realised that I wasn’t really missing many of those things at all – I was just missing having my life in order. I wasn’t missing Dubai – I was missing the feeling of normality, of security, of having my feet firmly planted on the ground.  The exception, of course, is my friends – but I’m no stranger to missing the people that I love. I’ve been doing that for the last 9 years and I can handle long distance relationships better than anyone.

And of course there will be days in the road ahead where I miss that old life with such intensity that it takes my breath away. Yesterday was one of those days. I pined so much for those friends, those old haunts, and the feeling of sunshine on my skin that it nearly brought tears to my eyes. But by bedtime, I was OK again. And I know I need to accept I’ll feel like that occasionally  – and that it’s OK to look back and say ‘Wow, I loved living there. I really did!”

There are so many things I am enjoying about being back in the UK. From the impromptu visits to grandparents to feed the children their tea, to ordering weekly Tesco deliveries to our door, to the weekends suddenly having this incredible possibility (“Shall we visit a 15th Century Castle today, kids? Why the hell not!”), to getting invites from my school friends to birthday parties and baby showers and being able to type back ‘YES!”, to holidays being about where we want to go now, rather than spending all our spare money on flying back to the UK.

For a long time, I didn’t think I’d be as happy as I was in the sunshine in Dubai – but I know now that I can be.

I will be.

I am.

As soon as we became expats, I knew I’d always love two places, two sets of people, two homes – but the easiest way to describe it is that finally it feels like we’ve got it the right way round.

The right way up.

And I am sure, finally, that we made the right decision back in late August.

I know we did.

It just feels right.

 



2nd February 2018

Mabel Tries: Annabel Karmel Chilled Toddler Meals and Finger Foods

Before I had children, I always thought I’d be the mum that prepared three meals a day from scratch. I’d only use fresh, organic ingredients (locally sourced, obvs) and I’d sit down in my floral pinny and watch them gobble up my creations with smiles on their little faces.

And then, I actually had children – and things weren’t quite what I’d imagined.

Meals were usually prepared with at least one child clinging to my legs shouting ‘MAMA MAMA MAMA!’ whilst the other two were having a full-blown fight in the living room over who gets to hold the TV remote. And when I finally managed to knock something edible up and dish up onto three plates, at least one of the would declare that they weren’t hungry – which then resulted in a stand-off that lasted up to an hour and often resulted in tears (usually mine).

So do you know what I did? I started relying on convenience food more and more. I just didn’t have the energy or time to do that 7 times a week. But as easy as feeding them fish fingers and pizzas a couple of times a week was, I always got an attack of the mum guilt that they weren’t getting enough nutrients and veggies in their little bodies.

So when the team at Annabel Karmel asked me if I’d like to try their range of Chilled Toddler Meals – with delicious sounding dishes like ‘Lovely Beef Lasagna’, ‘Mild Chicken Tikka and Rice’ and ‘Tasty Spaghetti and Meatballs’ – I jumped at the chance. Because not only can these individual meals be stored in the freezer and prepared in a matter of minutes, they also contain all the good stuff that I was worried they weren’t getting when I donned that floral pinny and chucked a pizza in the oven. Each meal contains up to 3 of their 5 a day, low in salt, with no artificial additives or preservatives – and most importantly, taste very, very yummy (and we can take Mabel’s word for that).

For the five days, we’ve been trialling a different meal every evening – and here is what was on the menu for Mabel…

Day 1 – Tomato & Mascarpone Pasta with Hidden Veggies

Day 2 – Mild Chicken Tikka and Rice

Day 3 – Mighty Meaty Bites

Day 4 – Lovely Beef Lasagna

Day 5 – Beef Cottage Pie with Five Veggies

Without exception, she gobbled up every single one. In fact, the curry was so popular that the boys got jealous and wanted a quick taste – and then Wilfred was so miffed that he didn’t have his own portion that I had to promise to buy him a meal the next day, which he didn’t forget! The meals are so easy to make, literally taking a few minutes from chilled or 5 minutes from frozen. And I love the Mighty Meaty Bites too, as they can be popped on an oven tray and either given as a warm meal for dinner or as party of a snacky tray for lunch or a snack. On that evening, there were enough for the boys to have it for dinner too – and one pack fed all three of them, with a few other bits on their tray like cheese, cucumber, and tomatoes.

How much do they cost?

Currently only £2.30 at Tesco per meal, which I think is such a bargain. You can buy them in bulk and store them in your freezer too, which means you always have a healthy meal to hand when you are rushed or just don’t have the energy to don that floral pinny.

Highly recommended by Mabel – and most importantly, by me!

You can find out more at the Annabel Karmel website here – https://www.annabelkarmel.com/products/chilled-toddler-meals/

Post sponsored by Annabel Karmel